The Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece on meta-books, or books about books. They’re the kind of book that appeal to people who are insatiably voracious readers - bibliovores. The lineage of the meta-book stretches back thousands of years. Jorge Luis Borges (previously mentioned here) forged his own writing on his encyclopedic knowledge of books.
Now here’s a mystery that would make Borges swoon - not to mention anyone who ever enjoyed bookish mysteries like The Name of the Rose, People of the Book, The Book Thief and even The Da Vinci Code. Arizona researchers have dated one of the most mysterious books ever known, the Voynich Manuscript. C14 carbon dating has narrowed the manufacture of the vellum paper between 1404 and 1438, making it all the more likely it is a genuine book, and not a hoax. But it doesn’t solve the book’s biggest mystery - what does it mean?
Believed to be written in code, the manuscript has been studied by all kinds of researchers, including British and American codebreakers, but all to no avail. Its lavishly illustrations depict “plants, astronomical charts and human figures bathing in – perhaps – the fountain of youth”. It’s presumed that the book was written in code to avoid charges of witchcraft or heresy. The manuscript is named after the antiquarian bookseller who discovered it in a chest of Society of Jesus books being sold by the Collegio Romano in 1912.