• <center><b>Potter & Potter Auctions:<br>Books, Manuscripts & Fine Art<br>October 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Oct. 18:</b> Ernest Hemingway. <i>The Spanish Earth.</i> First Edition. Cleveland, 1938. $1,500 to $2,500.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Oct. 18:</b> Toni Morrison. <i>The Bluest Eye.</i> First Edition. New York, 1970. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Oct. 18:</b> Charles Etienne Briseux. <i>L’Art de Batir des Maisons de Campagn.</i> Paris, 1743. $6,000 to $8,000.
    <center><b>Potter & Potter Auctions:<br>Books, Manuscripts & Fine Art<br>October 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Oct. 18:</b> Sadajiro Yamanaka. <i>To-so Seikwa: Select Relics of the T’ang and the Sung Dynasties from the Collections in Europe and America</i>. Osaka, 1928. $1,000 to $1,500.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Oct. 18:</b> Charles Dickens. <i>Bleak House.</i> First Edition. 20 parts bound in 19 issues. London, 1852-3. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Oct. 18:</b> Frederic Thrasher. <i>Chicago’s Gangland Prepared by Frederic M. Thrasher 1923-26.</i> Chicago, 1926. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <center><b>Potter & Potter Auctions:<br>Books, Manuscripts & Fine Art<br>October 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Oct. 18:</b> <i>Father Abraham’s Almanack, For the Year of Our Lord 1776; Fitted to the Latitude of Forty Degrees....</i> Philadelphia: Printed and sold by John Dunlap, [1775]. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Oct. 18:</b> Francesco Lana Terzi. <i>Magisterium naturae, et artis. Opus physico-mathematicum.</i> Brescia, 1684/1692. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Oct. 18:</b> Eglomise Silhouette Profile Portrait of George Washington on Glass. American, ca. 1790s/1800s. 15" x 13" $5,000 to $7,000.
    <center><b>Potter & Potter Auctions:<br>Books, Manuscripts & Fine Art<br>October 18, 2019</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Oct. 18:</b> William James. <i>The Principles of Psychology.</i> New York, 1890. Two volumes, First edition. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Oct. 18:</b> Roland Clark (1874–1957). <i>Roland Clark’s Etchings.</i> New York: The Derrydale Press, 1938. $3,500 to $4,500.
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions, Oct. 18:</b> Mexican-American War Recruiting Broadside. Akron, Ohio: ca. 1846/48. $1,000 to $2,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DE CORDOBA, JACOB. <i>Map of the State of Texas.</i> New York, 1866. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ARNOLD, BENEDICT. Autograph bookseller's receipt for Dr. John Dickinson, Signed ("B. Arnold"), February 1767. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. 4 Typed Letters Signed ("A Einstein") to Cleveland E. Dodge offering early reports on the meetings of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> EISENHOWER, DWIGHT D. Typed Letter Signed ("Dwight D. Eisenhower") to General Henri Giraud written from a secret bunker in Gibraltar on the eve of Operation Torch, November 4 [but 6], 1942. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> Early Broadside Printing of the GADSDEN PURCHASE, Puebla, August 16, 1854. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ALLEN, ETHAN. Autograph Letter Signed to Crevecouer during the Constitutional Debates in Congress, 2 pp, August 29, 1787. $30,000 to $50,000.
  • <center> <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana<br>November 6, 2019</b>
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> RATZER, Bernard. <i>Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767.</i> London: Jefferys and Faden, “Jan.y” 12, 1776. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [KELMSCOTT PRESS]. COCKERELL, Sydney C. <i>Some German Woodcuts of the Fifteenth Century.</i> Hammersmith: The Kelmscott Press, 1897 [issued 1898]. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [GOLDEN COCKEREL PRESS]. KEATS, John. <i>Lamia, Isabella, the Eve of Saint Agnes and Other Poems.</i> Waltham Saint Lawrence, Berkshire: The Golden Cockerel Press, 1928. $6,000 to $8,000
    <center> <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana<br>November 6, 2019</b>
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [GRANT, Ulysses S.— GRANT, Julia, First Lady]. Carved Applewood and 18-karat Gold Jewelry Suite, Browne & Spaulding, Jewelers, New York City, 1865. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [LINCOLN ASSASSINATION]. GARDNER, Alexander. <i>Incidents of the War |Sic Semper Sicariis</i> [caption title]. Washington, D. C.: Philip & Solomons, 1865. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> A COMPLETE COLLECTION of 115 titles published in R. R. Donnelley's Lakeside Classics series. Chicago, 1903-2017. COMPLETE RUN OF THE LONGEST-RUNNING CONTINUOUS SERIES OF BOOKS IN THE WORLD. $5,000 to $7,000
    <center> <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers<br>Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana<br>November 6, 2019</b>
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> GLEIZES, Albert. METZINGER, Jean. <i>Du Cubisme.</i> Paris, 1947. LIMITED EDITION, number 19 of 20 copies on papier d'Auvergne. $3,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [THE LITTLE REVIEW]. ANDERSON, Margaret, ed. POUND, Ezra, ed. HEAP, Jane, ed. <i>The Little Review.</i> Vol. I, No. 1 through Vol. XII, No. 2. 1914-1929. $3,000 to $4,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [MOUNTENEY, Leonard, binder]. LOUŸS, Pierre. <i>Songs of Bilitis.</i> Chicago: Argus Books, 1931. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 6:</b> [HANCOCK, John]. Partly-printed U.S. Loan-Office Transfer Certificate issued on behalf of Hancock. Sgn’d on recto by William Imlay, as Commissioner of Loans of Connecticut. 28 February 1793. $2,000 to $3,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2019 Issue

The Voynich Manuscript Code Has Finally Been Cracked...Or Not

4d7e605f-defa-48d4-be07-2e9befae4683

The Voynich Manuscript's bathing beauties.

It was a stunning claim, at least for one coming from a respected university, the University of Bristol. The Voynich Manuscript, whose indecipherable code has eluded translation by the greatest scholars and code breakers for a century, had finally been cracked. What's more, it had only taken two weeks to do it. The mystery that eluded academics for so long has finally been solved. Or has it?

 

For those unfamiliar with the Voynich Manuscript, its name comes from Wilfrid Voynich, an early twentieth century Polish bookseller who purchased the document in 1912. It is filled with color illustrations of plants and scenes, notably lots of naked bathing women scenes, and astrological types of symbols. The illustrations are accompanied by writing, and the language of that writing is what has eluded researchers. No one has been able to decipher it. It clearly appears to be a real language, symbols and words repeated as would be expected of a language, but their meaning has been elusive. The language is unknown, and a translation has escaped scholars, code breakers, even computer programs.

 

The manuscript is now held by the Yale University Library to which it was given in 1969 by bookseller H.P. Kraus. Kraus had purchased it from Voynich's widow. Carbon dating was performed on the manuscript's vellum which dated it to the early fifteenth century, specifically, 1403-1438.

 

The news release from Bristol University was enthusiastic. "A University of Bristol academic has succeeded where countless cryptographers, linguistics scholars and computer programs have failed - by cracking the code of the 'world's most mysterious text', the Voynich manuscript," it read. "Although the purpose and meaning of the manuscript had eluded scholars for over a century, it took Research Associate Dr. Gerard Cheshire two weeks, using a combination of lateral thinking and ingenuity, to identify the language and writing system of the famously inscrutable document."

 

The statement further noted that Dr. Cheshire's findings had been peer reviewed and published in the journal Romance Studies. That put it several steps above most of the theories that have come out over the ages. There have been many. One baffling aspect to the manuscript is that most of the plants do not look like anything known to Europeans in the 15th century. That led to a couple of recent theories, including one that it really was produced in the 16th century, based on a sixth of the plants looking like American species, the unknown rest likely explained by the artist's limited skills. Another followed the carbon dating by theorizing it was created by a persecuted sect that fled Europe and traveled to South America before Columbus. There have been many others.

 

The problem with all of the theories is that while interpreters might translate a word or two, or use the illustrations and appearance of the letters to reach conclusions, no one could take their code and actually translate the document. If they had broken the code, they should have been able to translate it.

 

Dr. Cheshire's excitement could also be seen, as the release continued, quoting him, "I experienced a series of 'eureka' moments whilst deciphering the code, followed by a sense of disbelief and excitement when I realised the magnitude of the achievement, both in terms of its linguistic importance and the revelations about the origin and content of the manuscript.

 

"What it reveals is even more amazing than the myths and fantasies it has generated. For example, the manuscript was compiled by Dominican nuns as a source of reference for Maria of Castile, Queen of Aragon, who happens to have been great aunt to Catherine of Aragon.

 

"It is also no exaggeration to say this work represents one of the most important developments to date in Romance linguistics."

 

The language, he concluded, was not some secret code at all. Rather, it was an extinct language, a proto-Latin or "vulgar Latin." It was an earlier spoken Latin, but not the version used in writing. It faded away as Latin morphed into the various Romance Languages found in Europe today.

 

However, Dr. Cheshire also was not able to provide a translation of the manuscript. He noted only that it was now open to scholars to study, but would take time and money to translate.

 

The following day, after the report hit the news wires, the University of Bristol withdrew its news release. Dr. Cheshire's claims had met with resistance. Seeking shelter from the storm, the university said the "research was entirely the author's own work and is not affiliated with the University of Bristol," and that it had been in a peer-reviewed journal. The update from the university continued, "Following media coverage, concerns have been raised about the validity of this research from academics in the fields of linguistics and medieval studies. We take such concerns very seriously and have therefore removed the story regarding this research from our website to seek further validation and allow further discussions both internally and with the journal concerned."

 

Among the more devastating comments the claims elicited was a Twitter response from Lisa Fagin Davis, Executive Director of the Medieval Academy of America. She wrote in a series of tweets, "Sorry, folks, 'proto-Romance language' is not a thing. This is just more aspirational, circular, self-fulfilling nonsense."

 

"It is not enough to accept a Voynich 'solution' on the word of the author, even if published in a peer-reviewed outlet."

 

"I tried several years ago to reproduce Cheshire's Voynich results, because initially I was intrigued. But when you apply his Roman-letter substitutions and then try to translate the result, you have no choice but to be subjective. It's gibberish. The methodology falls apart."

 

"Once the foundations crumble, everything built on them - which includes the published paper - falls."

 

Other responses questioned Dr. Cheshire's interpretation of symbols in the manuscript as being consistent with Romance languages.

 

So here we are, yet again. The mystery lives on. Whether Dr. Cheshire is at least partly on to something or completely off track is not yet clear. What is clear is that nothing is yet clear. We still don't know and maybe never will. What we can be sure is that scholars and amateurs will continue to attempt to break the code, and we hope someone finally succeeds. The curiosity is killing us.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers<br>Library of a Midwestern Collector<br>November 5, 2019</b>
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> DARWIN, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> London John Murray, 1859. FIRST EDITION. THE VERY FINE MELLON-GARDEN COPY. $120,000 to $180,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> ECKERT, J. P, H. H. GOLDSTINE, and J. G. BRAINERD. <i>Description of the ENIAC and comments on electronic digital computing machines.</i> N.p., 1945. FIRST EDITION, INSCRIBED BY GOLDSTINE. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> EUCLID. <i>Elementa geometriae.</i> Translated from the Arabic by Adelard of Bath. Venice: Erhard Ratdolt, 25 May 1482. FIRST EDITION. $60,000 to $80,000
    <center><b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers<br>Library of a Midwestern Collector<br>November 5, 2019</b>
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> [HAMILTON, Alexander, James MADISON and John JAY]. <i>The Federalist: A Collection of Essays…</i> New York: John and Andrew M'Lean, 1788. FIRST EDITION. $60,000 to $80,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> GALILEI, Galileo. <i>Dialogo...Dove ne i congressi di quattro giornate si discorre sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo Tolemaico, e Copernicano.</i> Florence, 1632. FIRST EDITION. $30,000 to $40,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> JOYCE, James. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris: Shakespeare and Company, 1922. FIRST EDITION, ONE OF 100 COPIES SIGNED BY JOYCE. $120,000 to $180,000
    <center><b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers<br>Library of a Midwestern Collector<br>November 5, 2019</b>
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> KEYNES, John Maynard. <i>The General Theory of Employment Interest and Money.</i> London: Macmillan, 1936. FIRST EDITION. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> NEWTON, Isaac, Sir. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica.</i> London: Joseph Streater for the Royal Society, 1687. FIRST EDITION. $150,000 to $250,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> ROWLING, J. K. <i>Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.</i> London: Bloomsbury, 1997. FIRST EDITION, SIGNED BY ROWLING. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Leslie Hindman Auctioneers, Nov. 5:</b> SMITH, Adam. <i>An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations.</i> London: for W. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1776. FIRST EDITION. $70,000 to $90,000
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Sir Isaac Newton, <i>Opticks,</i> first edition, first issue, London, 1704. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Johannes Jacobus Canis, <i>De modo studendi in utroque iure,</i> first edition, Padua, 1476. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Pope Clemens V, <i>Constitutiones,</i> Nuremberg, 1482. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Nicolaus Panormitanus de Tudeschis, <i>Lectura super V libris Decretalium,</i> Basel, 1480-81. $5,000 to $7,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Michael Faraday, <i>Experimental Researches in Electricity,</i> complete set, first editions, London, 1832-56. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> William Gilbert, <i>Tractatus sive physiologia nova de magnete,</i> Sedini, 1628. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> John Bulwer, <i>Philocophus,</i> first edition of the first book in English on the deaf, London, 1648. $1,000 to $2,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> James Cook, complete set, 9 volumes, London, 1773-84. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 24:</b> Nicolaus Bertrand, <i>Opus de Tholosano[rum] Gestis ab Urbe Condita,</i> with the earliest known view of the city of Toulouse, 1515. $2,000 to $3,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions