Described as "the world's most mysterious manuscript," the book takes its name from the rare book dealer Wilfrid Voynich, who discovered it in 1912 in the Villa Mondragone near Rome. He claimed the manuscript had belonged to the 16th-century Habsburg emperor Rudolf II.
The book's estimated 250,000 characters are totally alien and make "The Da Vinci Code" pale by comparison: arranged in groups like words and sentences, some resemble Latin letters and Roman numerals; others are unlike any known language.
Moreover, the puzzling handwriting is surrounded by intricately drawn illustrations: plants that can't be identified, astrological symbols, elaborate networks of pipework and naked ladies dancing or bathing in a strange green liquid.
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Modern scholars have thematically divided the manuscript into five sections: Herbal, Astrological, Biological, Pharmacological and Recipes.
"In spite of its unmistakable Medieval-codex look, the origin, purpose and contents of the Voynich Manuscript remain a deep mystery," Marcelo Montemurro, a theoretical physicist from the University of Manchester, UK, and Damian Zanette, of the Statistical Physics Group at Centro Atómico Bariloche, Río Negro, Argentina, wrote in a 2013 paper published in the journal Plos One.
Voynich believed the book was authored by Roger Bacon, a 13th-century English friar and scientist, but his theory was put to rest in 2011 as carbon dating established the book was penned on 15th-century pages.
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But the manuscript's true meaning remains a puzzle.
"Since the 17th century, numerous attempts at deciphering the script have led to a few claims of success, but none of them has been convincing," Montemurro said.
Speculations ranged from the manuscript being the secret work of a religious sect, the only remaining document from a forgotten language, an unbreakable secret code, and the recipe for the "elixir of life."
Using a computerized statistical method to analyze the text, Montemurro demonstrated the manuscript follows structural patterns of language, basically ruling out hoax claims.
The researcher extracted "clusters" of cryptic words such as shedy, cthy, chor, qotedy and qokeey.
Now some Voynich replicas will end up in museum collections and libraries in the hope that someone will finally crack the code.
"We will use the facsimile ourselves to show the manuscript outside of the library to students or others who might be interested," Raymond Clemens, curator at the Beinecke Library, told AFP.