The Friar and the Cipher : Roger Bacon and the Unsolved Mystery of the Most Unusual Manuscript in the World
A compulsively readable account of the most mysterious manuscript in the world, one that has stumped the world's greatest scholars and codebreakers.The Voynich Manuscript, a mysterious tome discovered in 1912 by the English book dealer Wilfrid Michael Voynich, has puzzled scholars for a century. A small six inches by nine inches, but over two hundred pages long, with odd illustrations of plants, astrological diagrams, and naked women, it is written in so indecipherable a language and contains so complicated a code that mathematicians, book collectors, linguists, and historians alike have yet to solve the mysteries contained within.
The Goldstones, bibliophiles and authors of Out of the Flames and other books, offer a witty biography of controversial 13th-century Dominican friar Roger Bacon, whose Opus Majus "presented a way of thinking, of approaching science, that is virtually unsurpassed in the thousand years since its creation." According to the Goldstones, by challenging the accepted view of the Bible as the source of literal truth, it opened a schism between religion and science. The Church's response, recounted here, was filled with political intrigue, heroes and villains, and enough twists and turns to keep readers immersed. But this book's highlight is the story of a mysterious book discovered in 1912 and named for its owner, Wilfrid Voynich. The manuscript has a coded text enhanced by hundreds of illustrations depicting exotic plants, astronomical phenomena and strange "strings of tiny naked women cavorting in a variety of fountains, waterfalls, and pools." Various experts have attributed the manuscript to Bacon-but as it has kept its secrets from some of the world's greatest cryptanalysts, including some in the CIA and England's MI-8, as well as the largest supercomputers in the world, the attribution remains speculative. But these efforts make a compelling story for readers of the history of science and of code breaking. B&w illus. Agent, Jed Mattes. (On sale Feb. 15) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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1 . The Friar and the Cipher
Posted November 24, 2007 by jlfose , USAThis was an interesting and well researched book. If you like history, or information on encryption this will keep your interest. It mixes some aspects of Religion and Science and the contention between the two in the years since the 14th century to the present. There is less information and photos of the actual Cipher then I would have liked. What photos there were are very difficult to really appreciated on the Sony Reader 505, but at least they give you a good idea of the page.
February 15, 2005
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Excerpt from The Friar and the Cipher by Lawrence Goldstone
ROGER BACON WAS BORN IN SOMERSET, in southwest England, about one hundred miles west of London. There are no surviving records of his birth-the evidence for the date comes from Bacon himself. In a work known to have been written in 1268 he said: "I have labored much in sciences and languages, and I have up to now devoted forty years to them." What he apparently meant by this was that he had started what today would be the equivalent of an undergraduate arts course in 1228. Since the average thirteenth-century boy started college at about fourteen, this puts the year of his birth at 1214. He lived to be eighty, so his lifetime spanned nearly the whole of the thirteenth century.
Bacon came from a family of wealthy minor nobles. His father held no title and was probably a product of the new and burgeoning merchant class, men who worked their way into higher society by accumulating cash, which was then used to purchase land and a manor house. The most successful of these could buy castles and conduct themselves as genuine nobility, knighting their sons, but Bacon's family did not seem to fall into this category. He had at least one older brother, to whom he refers in his writings, but neither was ever granted a title by the king.
Bacon remained throughout his life a product of the England of his childhood, an England in the midst of great change and rife with civil unrest that would soon erupt into full-scale war. The year after Bacon was born, the hapless King John was forced to sign Magna Carta and thus introduce the first glimmer of representative government into Europe. It was the very weakness of John and, later, his son Henry that created a vacuum into which political, social, educational, and, most significantly, scientific innovation rushed in. The most basic assumptions were challenged, the most fundamental truths rejected. So unfortunate was John as a ruler that he did not need to be known as John I, as no other king in the ensuing eight hundred years of English history was ever given the same name.
John was the fourth son of the tall, intense, mercurial Henry II, under whose lusty hand the kingdom had grown to encompass not only England but most of France-Normandy, Brittany, Anjou, Touraine, Toulouse, and, with his marriage to the vivacious, wily Eleanor, the Aquitaine on the Atlantic coast. The official kingdom of France, on the other hand, was limited to Paris and its environs.