The Yale Beinecke Library has put the entire Voynich online so that everyone can see this fascinating book. It was written in the late 15th and early 16th centuries and was once owned by Elizabeth I’s magician John Dee. The entire book is in code, and has yet to be deciphered, though many have tried over the years.
You can look at the book here.
If you go to the site you can get all the details and see each page. I heard about this book while doing research for The Hermetica, and used many of the ideas it generated as plot devices. The Voynich is full of plant drawings like this one:
And I thought, how strange that a Herbal needed to be in code. Then I realized that a Herbal did not. There were many Herbals at the time. They were very useful books as they were PDR’s before modern medicine. If it were not a Herbal…why all the plants? then I saw this image:
This drawing of many ladies in a cocoon of sorts with tubes leading out of their heads to…well…another place, made me think these plant parts were not being used to cure a cough.
I had learned from my research that before there was a language of science, there was no vocabulary to describe scientific principles. The ladies in the drawing most likely represent elements or ingredients for the recipe and the drawing is a representation like this one (not from the Voynich, but from a 17th century alchemy book):
Describing how they are combined and distilled. Even so, it is a rich area for the imagination that I mined for the plot of the novel. The secrecy and cryptic aspects make it fascinating. The plant mentioned above is obviously a lily or a lotus. These plants have certain intriguing qualities (from Wikipedia) :
Recent studies have shown Nymphaea caerulea to have psychedelic properties, and may have been used as a sacrament in ancient Egypt and certain ancient South American cultures. Dosages of 5 to 10 grams of the flowers induces slight stimulation, a shift in thought processes, enhanced visual perception, and mild closed-eye visuals. Nymphaea caerulea is related to, and possesses similar activity as Nelumbo nucifera, the Sacred Lotus. Both Nymphaea caerulea and Nelumbo nucifera contain the alkaloids nuciferine and apomorphine, which have been recently isolated by independent labs.
Other sources cite anti-spasmodic and sedative, purifying and calming properties.
Some of the recognizable plants in the Voynich have similar attributes. The alchemists made various elixirs for various purposes, we know that is true. I have a copy of a book called The Elixirs of Nostradamus which is very interesting, though I noticed the text at the end of the book specifically mentioned that some of his more “dangerous” concoctions were not included. Nostradamus travelled somewhere to gather his predictions. His body was in the tower, but his mind was far far away.
The alchemists were very busy in their towers. How about that first image from the Voynich? The blue circles? I wonder what the alchemists were seeing…