Ricci English

Seymour Ricci, Census of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the United States and Canada, 1935-40, II p. 1845

The Estate of Wilfrid M. Voynich, 45 Prospect Place, New York

The late Wilfrid M. Voynich was a book seller of a very unusual character. His enthusiastic nature served him well and was much appreciated by his many patrons. We are much obliged to the Administrators of his estate for welcome information on several manuscripts which he still possessed at the time of his decease and the ultimate disposal of which is still a matter of conjecture. [p. 1845]

[p. 1846]

8. Cipher ms. Vel. (date uncertain, authorities hesistate between the XIIIth and XVth c.; we suppose it to be not much older than 1500), 91 ff. [plus 7 extended ff. of 2 ff each, 2 extended ff. of 3 ff. each, and 1 folded f. of 6 ff.] (22 x 6 cm.), numbered in a XVIth century hand from 1 to 116, with a few gaps. Numerous drawings of 202 pages, botanical, pharmaceutical and astrological. The country of origin seems to be some part of Central Europe. The language and the script have baffled numerous attempts towards a decipherment. Limp vellum wrapper, apparently of the XVIth century. Paper and leaves possibly of the same date.

Attached to the binding is an autograph letter (Prag, 19 Aug. 1665 [or 1666]) from Marcus Marci, of Cronland, to the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher, which states that, this Sphinx having been bequeathed to him by its former owner, who had “relinquished only with life” the hope of solving the enigma of its cipher, he is sending it to Rome in the hope that Kircher may succeed in deciphering it. He further states, on the authority of Dr Raphael (1580-1644), tutor in the Bohemian language to Emperor Ferdinand III, that the ms. had belonged to the Emperor Rudolph II (1576-1612), who believed it to be the work of Roger Bacon and who had given for it the large sum of six hundred ducats. O nthe lower margin of f. 1r is the erased signature of the Bohemian [p. 1847] botanist Sinapius (Jacobus de Tepenecz). It was later in the Collegio Romano, in Rome, and was obtained in 1912 by W. M. Voynich.

There is a considerable literature on this ms., beginning with an unsigned note in the Bull. Art Inst. Chicago, IX (1915), p. 100. An elaborate (but hardly successful) study of the cipher will be found in the essay of William Romaine Newbold, The cipher of Roger Bacon, edited with foreword and notes, by Roland Grubb Kent (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, 1928.8o), xxxii-224 pp., on which cf. the criticisms of J. M. Manly, Roger Bacon and the Voynich ms., in Speculum, VI (1931), pp. 345-391; of Et. Gilson, Revue critique, XCV (1928),pp. 378-383; Raoul Carton, Le chiffre de Roger Bacon, in Revue d’histoire de la philosophie, III (1929), pp. 31-66 and 165-179; C. J(ohnson), English hist. rev., XLIV (1929), pp. 677-678. – On Manly’s article cf. R(ichard) S(alomon), in Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliographie zum Nachleben der Antike, I (London, 1934), p. 96, n. 386.

III [p. v]

With two exceptions, the indices, which constitute this third volume,have been prepared by Miss Anne M. Nill, who also collaborated most effectively in the editing of the Census, and who has devoted herself to the work in a manner that has placed all users of it in her debt.