Preparing the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library’s infamous Voynich Manuscript for a loan to the Folger Shakespeare Library involved much more than documenting condition and evaluating the facilities report. Folger conservators and curators planned to make the Voynich the focus of a symposium to be held in conjunction with their exhibition, Decoding the Renaissance, curated by Bill Sherman. Over the course of a year, YUL’s Assistant Chief Conservator, Paula Zyats, coordinated the gathering of as much information as possible about the manuscript and its material composition. This involved creating new high resolution and multispectral imaging of the manuscript, Raman spectroscopy for the media, and protein sequencing for the parchment. Zyats worked closely with scientists, Aniko Bezur and Jens Stengers, from Yale’s Institute for the Preservation of Cultural Heritage to carry out much of this analysis.
Early this month, Zyats, the scientists, and Beinecke curators joined the Folger’s team and other invited experts to review the data from the recent testing and from previous testing (pigment/ink analysis and radiocarbon dating). Although the discussions were informative and the data helped to rule out some theories, no one was able to crack the Voynich’s code.