The Unexplained: The World’s Most Mysterious Manuscripts

Pages from the 600-page beautifully illustrated Voynich Manuscript.

Written between1404 and 1438, the Voynich Manuscript contains herbology, astronomy, medicine, cosmology, and biology. Alas, no one can crack the code.

What are the five most mysterious manuscripts in history?  Cracking their codes has not been successful thus far, and that is the mystery.

Ancient Egypt is known for its wonderful papyrus scrolls that were usually inscribed with words made from the first set alphabet developed in Ugarit, Syria.  The use of this alphabet came to the forefront around 1400-1200 BC.  Before that, the earliest writing was done on clay tablets using cuneiform pictograph characters.

In Ancient Egypt, The Book of the Dead and the Pyramid Texts were prominent literary contributions.  They describe effective spells and religious rituals concerning passing on to the afterlife.  The works also contain advice for good health and possible wealth and how to take out enemies with curses.

There is an outstanding 1300-year-old manuscript that is exceptional and clouded with mystery.    It is twenty pages long and on parchment in a Greco-Egyptian language known as Coptic:  The Egyptian Handbook of Ritual Power.  One of the most mysterious aspects of the book is the introduction of a character called Baktiotha.  He is described as “the great one who is lord over the forty, and nine kinds of serpents.”  There is no mention of this figure in any other Ancient Egyptian writings, or elsewhere.

Sara Marie Hogg

Baktiotha is involved, strangely, with Christian activities and is described as sitting side by side with Christ and other Christian figures. He walked alongside Jesus.   Adam and Eve’s son, Seth, is also mentioned.  Along with Christian traditions, the 20-page book also lists spells and curses that are described in other Ancient Egyptian writing.

The Grolier Codex is one of four Mayan books that have survived:  The Dresden Codex, The Madrid Codex, The Paris Codex, and The Grolier Codex.  The Grolier Codex was discovered in a cave in Mexico in the 1960s.  It was in a chest with a turquoise mask.  It was not discovered by archaeologists, but by looters who sold it to the highest bidder.  That is how it wound up in the Grolier Club in New York, and that is how it got its name.

Was it even real?  Was it a fake?  Recent dating has proven that it is an authentic manuscript from 1230, and Mayan.  Therefore it is the oldest book in the Americas.  What is it about?  It is hard to tell but it is largely about the planet Venus.  What was Venus doing in the night skies that required drawing and writing about?  It is full of drawings and texts, but twelve pages are missing which complicates figuring it out.  It is suspected that some of the figures in the book are unknown Mayan deities.

The Voynich Manuscript is a 600-year-old manuscript that now has a permanent home at Yale University.  It originally came out of the shadows in 1666 when it was given to an Italian Jesuit Library by a Prague bookseller.  He thought they would be able to translate the beautiful and mysterious volume.  Alas, they could not.

No one can crack the code to unlock its secrets or even identify the language, but it is full of magnificent illustrations of non-existent plants.   Written between1404 and 1438, it contains herbology, astronomy, medicine, cosmology, and biology.  There are recipes and formulas in the book.

The Rohon Codex:  in 1839 another indecipherable manuscript turned up in Hungary.  Count Batthyany donated it to the Hungarian Academy of Science.  It was written between 1529 and 1540.  Each of the 448 pages is watermarked with a mysterious symbol, a six-rayed star that contains a circle in the center with an anchor inside of that.  It is written with 200 symbols, all unknown.  It also contains illustrations about warfare with references to Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism.  There are theories that the book is linked with ancient India or Sumer.

Famed Elizabethan occultist, John Dee, acquired the strange volume, The Book of Soya in 1551.    It is 200 pages long and written in Latin, which has been easy to translate.  The Latin entries are descriptions of magic rituals and incantations.  Then there is this, the eerie part:  there are 40, 000 additional letters that don’t form words but are arranged in patterns across 36 tables.  What is it?  Dee could not figure it out and he was good at such things.

He enlisted the help of Edward Kelly, his assistant and a type of spiritual medium, to contact the archangel Uriel and have Uriel explain the mysterious parts.  Through Kelly, Dee was told that only archangel Michael could be of help in clarifying secret codes.  There is no more information on this aspect of working with the medium and John Dee misplaced the manuscript.  He found it once again after several years.  After he died the book disappeared again.  In 1994, it was discovered by a scholar in the archives of the British Library.  No one has ever been able to figure out the meaning of the mysterious tables.

For further reading on the Voynich Manuscript and John Dee, please go to the top of this site to the search window and search for two earlier pieces I have written that go into greater detail on these two subjects:

Can Anyone Crack the Code of the Voynich Manuscript, March 2019

What is the Mystery of the Hidden Skulls, January 2016

Search for these titles on the site using the search window, or search there using shorter keywords.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of Quite Curious, a collection of true stories about the strange and unexplained. Please click HERE to find the book on Amazon.

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