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In the Name of God بسم الله

Manuscripts & Books

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It’s believed to be from the early 15th century, and was purchased in 1912 by a man named Wilfrid Michael Voynich, it’s a codex consisting of around 240 pages, handwritten in a language - which after countless attempts - no one has been able to decipher.

This has lead many to speculate its origin, author and the meaning of its content.

The text uses an alphabet of 20 to 30 letters - what’s strange, is that there are no words with fewer than two letters, or more than ten. The whole text seemed to be quite repetitive, as well, with some words appearing up to three times in a row, and some letters being found in the majority of the words throughout.

This, along with other aspects that makes it quite different from other European languages has led many to believe that it might actually just be nonsense.

Then again: Why would someone go through the trouble of writing a whole 240 pages, with the inclusion of elaborate graphics, if it doesn’t mean anything..?

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Edited by Simon the Canaanite
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Salams

To those interested in reading at manuscripts and learning about codicology many great resources are available to learn with for free. Two seminal works whose importance cannot be understated are Islamic Codicology by Francois Deroche and Arabic Manuscripts: A Vademecum for Readers by Adam Gacek (links to download both provided). The information in these works also is an introduction to the codicology of other languages working in a similar context, such as Persian. You might also wish to search for general introductory books to this science on the website as well. Another good free resource is this site of course notes on codicology along with a bibliography. You'll also wish to read manuscripts to get real experience and many libraries are working on digitizing the world's manuscripts. One great effort is by HMML in Michigan (a link to their website), a Catholic monastery which began digitizing Latin manuscripts in Europe during the Cold War (fearing a nuclear war) but moved onto digitizing Oriental Christian manuscripts, such as ones written Syriac, Arabic, Ge'ez, etc. They also went on to digitize Islamic manuscripts in Mali (largely Arabic but also "ajami" manuscripts -- written in vernaculars like Berber and Songhai). To read them all you need to do is create a free account, which you can very easily do on their website. You can also learn about paleography for free on their school website, the most developed sections are for Latin the Syriac (the former having lessons, exercises), they have also opened a new section for Arabic and are working on one for Ge'ez and Armenian (and I think Coptic as well). The Arabic section (as well as the Syriac one) are still works in progress so they'll continue to be developed, inshaAllah. There are other online libraries which have manuscripts and early printed books to read for free, the WDL, Google Books, and Archive.org. An example of manuscripts in an Arabic Shii context available to read online is this digitization of the works of Mirza Muhammad al-Akhbari (killed in Kadhimayn during exile in the early 19th century by an Usuli mob) which is available to read on archive.org. The more you advance with the study of this and it becomes a hobby or even something you pursue seriously, I advise a few things; keep some good dictionaries nearby, you'll need to look things up. Invest in a good magnifying glass, it'll really be your best friend. I use one I bought from a dollar store which had lights installed in it, it isn't the greatest but it gets the job done for the moment. Learn some general procedures of how to treat manuscripts, they're incredibly fragile and require a very delicate hand (hopefully a dry one as well, else use appropriate gloves -- though cut one of the finger tips so you can flip pages easily). I am strongly of the opinion that unless you have inherited your great grandfather's library, manuscripts shouldn't be bought and sold privately but rather available in a library so always work towards the democratization of knowledge. And have a care for the past, it is very humbling to hold a book which was once owned by great scholars or has been passed down over the centuries even by people who are otherwise unknown. The words seemingly permanent yet the book itself so fragile. Few things can compare I think.

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