From The New Yorker:
The word “ink” is a child of the Latin incaustum, which means “having been burned.” In the Middle Ages, people thought that ink burned its way into parchment, because iron-gall inks go onto the page pale, then darken. This is not what’s happening, physically, but it makes sense as a metaphor: a medieval manuscript, because it was made by hand, is necessarily an original, even when it is a copy of something else. It cannot be standardized any more than a thing can be unburned.
The Voynich Manuscript is a special kind of original. We know, thanks to carbon dating, that it was put together in the early fifteenth century. But no living person has ever, as far as we know, understood it. Nobody can decode the language the book is written in. It has no title and no author. A new facsimile, edited by Raymond Clemens and published by Yale University Press, draws attention to the way that we think about truth now: the book invites guesses, conspiracy theory, spiritualism, cryptography. The Voynich Manuscript has charisma, and charisma has lately held a monopoly on our attentions.
The manuscript is two hundred and twenty-five millimetres tall, a hundred and sixty wide, and five centimetres thick. Yale’s new facsimile is somewhat larger, as it includes wide white margins for the amateur cryptographer’s own marginalia. The manuscript’s Renaissance-era cover (it was rebound) is made of what the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, at Yale, calls a “limp vellum.” The book has resided at Yale’s library since 1969.