Yale Publishes Mysterious Medieval Manuscript
If you were listening to NPR last Friday, you heard Assistant Chief Conservator Paula Zyats talking about the Voynich manuscript. Zyats and Beinecke Library curator, Ray Clemens, were interviewed by Davis Dunavin of WSHU. The radio segment highlighted a facsimile edition being released this fall by the Yale University Press.
The Yale Press edition includes articles from scholars, conservators, curators, and scientists. Zyats, who specializes in rare books and parchment, has worked with the manuscript over a number of years starting in 2009, when an Austrian film crew asked to make a documentary about the mysterious manuscript. Radio-carbon dating and ink analysis in 2010 added material evidence to place the manuscript in the 15th century. Zyats’ most recent technical studies of the Voynich involved collaborations with scientists Aniko Bezur and Jens Stenger at Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage. This work included additional ink and pigment testing and multispectral imaging.
Others in Conservation & Exhibition Services also contributed to the chapter published in the facsimile edition. Paper and Photograph Conservator, Marie-France Lemay, offered her expertise in medieval pigments and inks. Senior Conservation Technician, Karen Jutzi, created diagrams to illustrate the manuscript’s binding structure.
The timing of the release of the facsimile edition and the airing of the NPR interviews couldn’t be more perfect. Last week, Conservation & Exhibition Services marked one year working in the Gates Conservation Laboratory. Below are some photos documenting our work over the last 8 years with the Voynich. In all that time we haven’t cracked the code, but we did hit the conservation laboratory jackpot! Congratulations to everyone who made the Yale Press edition a reality and happy first birthday, Gates Conservation Laboratory.
Before treatment photodocumentation, bottom tail edge
Scientist Greg Hodgins and curator, Kathryn James discuss the C-14 sampling locations. Sterling Memorial Library
Zyats uses erasers crumbs to collect tiny parchment bits for protein sequencing.
Zyats looks at the Voynich with guests in the Gates Conservation Laboratory
Sampling for radio-carbon dating in the old lab in Sterling Memorial Library