The Voynich Manuscript

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The Voynich manuscript has been studied by many professional and amateur cryptographers, including American and British codebreakers from both World War I and World War II. No one has yet succeeded in deciphering the text, and it has become a famous case in the history of cryptography.

Because the text cannot be read, the illustrations are conventionally used to divide most of the manuscript into six different sections: Herbal, Astronomical, Biological, Cosmological, Pharmaceutical, and — Recipes.

The first confirmed owner was Georg Baresch (1585–1662), an obscure alchemist from Prague.
Baresch was apparently just as puzzled as modern scientists about this “Sphynx” that had been “taking up space uselessly in his library” for many years.
On learning that Athanasius Kircher (1602–1680), a Jesuit scholar from the Collegio Romano, had published a Coptic (Egyptian) dictionary and “deciphered” the Egyptian hieroglyphs,
Baresch twice sent a sample copy of the script to Kircher in Rome, asking for clues. Baresch’s 1639 letter to Kircher is the earliest confirmed mention of the manuscript that has been found to date.

Upon Baresch’s death, the manuscript passed to his friend Jan Marek Marci (1595–1667; also known as Johannes Marcus Marci), then rector of Charles University in Prague.
A few years later Marci sent the book to Kircher, his longtime friend and correspondent.
The letter was written in Latin.


Reverend and Distinguished Sir, Father in Christ:

This book, bequeathed to me by an intimate friend, I destined for you, my very dear Athanasius, as soon as it came into my possession, for I was convinced that it could be read by no one except yourself.

The former owner of this book asked your opinion by letter, copying and sending you a portion of the book from which he believed you would be able to read the remainder, but he at that time refused to send the book itself.
To its deciphering he devoted unflagging toil, as is apparent from attempts of his which I send you herewith, and he relinquished hope only with his life. But his toil was in vain, for such Sphinxes as these obey no one but their master, Kircher.
Accept now this token, such as it is and long overdue though it be, of my affection for you, and burst through its bars, if there are any, with your wonted success.

Dr. Raphael, a tutor in the Bohemian language to Ferdinand III, then King of Bohemia, told me the said book belonged to the Emperor Rudolph and that he presented to the bearer who brought him the book 600 ducats.
He believed the author was Roger Bacon, the Englishman.
On this point I suspend judgement; it is your place to define for us what view we should take thereon, to whose favor and kindness I unreservedly commit myself and remain

At the command of your Reverence,
Joannes Marcus Marci of Cronland
Prague, 19th August, 1665


The book was then given or lent to Jacobus Horcicky de Tepenecz (died 1622), the head of Rudolf’s botanical gardens in Prague, probably as part of the debt Rudolf II owed upon his death.



Brigadier John Tiltman 1967
Zandbergen, René (May 19, 2016). “Voynich MS – 17th Century letters related to the MS”

Schuster, 2009
Hogenboom, Melissa (June 21, 2013). “Mysterious Voynich manuscript has ‘genuine message'”
Jackson, David (January 23, 2015) “The Marci letter found inside the VM”
Knight, Kevin (September 2009)
Ensanian, Berj N. (February 27, 2007). “Archive of communications of the Journal Of Voynich Studies
Santos, Marcelo dos. “El Manuscrito Voynich
Neal, Philip. “The letter of Johannes Marcus Marci to Athanasius Kircher (1665)

Study of Clouds

John_Constable_-_Cloud_StudyJohn Constable, RA (1776 – 1837)


“The 18th century, the Age of Enlightenment, represented a period of exceptional creativity in Europe in the fields of literature, art and science.
This cultural movement touched on all areas of knowledge and tried to solve all the great fundamental questions which followed from the postulation of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz: “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

Astronomers thus searched to understand why the universe was organised, not chaotic, and musicians tried to explain why there was music, not noise.

The temptation to merge these two questions into one was too great and that is why such great names as Galileo, Kepler, Mersenne and finally Herschel at the end of the 18th century, continued the research of their distant precursors, Pythagoras, Plato, Boetius, Thales and Cassiodorus who, since earliest times, had already tried to unite their celestial and musical preoccupations.

William Herschel left his mark on his lifetime both as musician as well as astronomer and if history has only retained the latter aspect, this is due to the impact of his scientific work.”

Dominique Proust, translated by Gus Orchard  

Dominique Proust has both scientific and musical background. He is research enginner at the CNRS and works at the Observatory at Meudon where his work is orientated towards cosmology after his doctoral thesis. He has visited most of the international observatories and made observations using the world’s largest telescopes.     He studied organ with the organists of Notre Dame de Paris and Saint Sulpice. He is organist at Meudon and has given concerts in Europe, Canada, the USA, Brazil and Chile. He is a member of the Regional Commissions for organs and has co-produced and participated in scientific and music programmes on French Radio and television

Variations on an Ascending Scale

herschelFriedrich Wilhelm Herschel (1738 – 1822) was born in the Electorate of Hanover, part of the Holy Roman Empire, to Isaac Herschel and Anna Ilse Moritzen. The family were Lutheran Christians, probably descended on his father’s side from converted Moravian Jews. His father was an oboist in the Hanover Military Band. In 1755 the Hanoverian Guards regiment, in whose band Wilhelm and his brother Jakob were engaged as oboists, was ordered to England. At the time the crowns of Great Britain and Hanover were united under King George II. As the threat of war with France loomed, the Hanoverian Guards were recalled from England to defend Hanover. After they were defeated at the Battle of Hastenbeck, Herschel’s father Isaak sent his two sons to seek refuge in England. Although his older brother Jakob had received his dismissal from the Guards, Wilhelm was accused of desertion (for which he was pardoned by George III). Wilhelm, nineteen years old, was a quick student of the English language. In addition to the oboe, he played the violin and harpsichord, and composed music. After terms as first violin and soloist in one orchestra, and first organist at a church, he was appointed director of the orchestra at Bath, with his sister often appearing as soprano soloist, and three of his brothers as musicians.  His compositions include 24 symphonies and many concertos. Six of his symphonies have been recorded in the 21st century, by the London Mozart Players.
Herschel’s music led him to an interest in mathematics and lenses. He started building his own reflecting telescopes and would spend up to 16 hours a day grinding and polishing the mirrors they used. He began to look at the planets and the stars in 1773, and on 1 March 1774 began an astronomical journal by noting his observations of Saturn’s rings and the Great Orion Nebula. From the back garden of his house in New King Street, Bath, Herschel began a systematic search among “every star in the Heavens.” His theoretical and observational work provided the foundation for modern binary star astronomy. In 1783 he gave Caroline a telescope, and she began to make astronomical discoveries in her own right, particularly of comets. She discovered or observed eight comets, eleven nebulae and, at her brother’s suggestion, updated and corrected Flamsteed’s work detailing the position of stars which was published as the British Catalogue of Stars. She was honoured by the Royal Astronomical Society for this work. From studying the proper motion of stars, Herschel was the first to realise that the solar system is moving through space, and determine the approximate direction of that movement. Studying the structure of the Milky Way he concluded that it was in the shape of a disk. He also coined the word “asteroid”, meaning star-like to describe the appearance of small moons. As part of his attempts to determine whether there were a link between solar activity and the terrestrial climate, he collected records of the price of wheat, as direct meteorological measurements were not available. He theorised that the price of wheat would be linked to the harvest and hence to the weather over the year. In 1800, Herschel was testing filters for the sun so he could observe sun spots. He found infrared radiation in sunlight by passing the light through a prism and holding a thermometer just beyond the red end of the visible spectrum. This thermometer was meant to be a control to measure the ambient air temperature in the room, but after it showed a higher temperature at that end, he ultimately concluded that there must be an invisible form of light. Herschel also used a microscope to establish that coral was not a plant, as many believed at the time, since it lacked the cell walls characteristic of plants Despite his important scientific discoveries, Herschel was not averse to wild speculation. In particular, he believed every planet was inhabited.
Chamber Symphony in F Major: II. Adagio e cantabile