While writing A Skin of a Dragon I was reminded of something I had come across previously, but which had been tucked away into the half-remembered regions of my memory. It was one of those things that seems too strange to be true, a mystery that that continues to baffle to this day: The Voynich Manuscript.
The Voynich Manuscript is believed to have been written in Northern Italy during the Italian Renaissance, but what it actually says no one has yet been able to tell because it is written in an unknown writing system.
Professional and amateur cryptographers have tried but failed to decipher the text. The only clues to its meaning come from the beautiful hand-painted images which accompany the text. These include plants, flowers or herbs, symbols of the zodiac, and eerie, unfathomable images of dancing women, dragons and other mythical beasts.
Who produced the book, and why exactly they went to the bother of writing it in a text no one could read, is as mysterious as the book itself. One clue perhaps lies in the time in which the Voynich manuscript is believed to have been produced. During the fifteenth century, the Church held absolute power, with popes, cardinals and bishops being drawn from the ruling families of the city states that made up Italy. Anyone who held ideas which contradicted the teaching of the Church could be charged with heresy- a crime for which the penalty was execution. Perhaps the author of the Voynich Manuscript was writing something heretical which he or she didn’t want others to know about. I like to imagine he or she was a magician of some sort who chose to conceal their work from eyes which weren’t supposed to see.