Recently, in The New Yorker online, I read a fascinating article by Reed Johnson relaying his description of a rare and undecipherable manuscript said to have been written and illustrated more than six centuries ago. Reed tells the story of the modern discovery of the manuscript in 1912 by Wilfred Voynich, a rare book dealer who found the tattered manuscript in Rome. The wonderfully maddening aspect of this book is that, despite the best efforts of cryptologists and code breakers — not a word has ever been officially declared deciphered.
The manuscript includes muted watercolor drawings of plants, herbs, astronomical diagrams, and odd human figures that are as otherworldly as the undecipherable text. While some of the plants may appear familiar, we quickly realize that these illustrations seem to emerge and take shape from a Hieronymus Bosch-styled artist who lives in his own garden of earthly delights.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Foster and his wife, Teenuh, have been longtime collectors of self-taught art and vernacular photography. Their collection of anonymous, found snapshots has toured the country for five years and has been featured in Harper’s, Newsweek Online and others. More Bio >>
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