Within our world’s history, there remain many unresolved mysteries; many of which are hidden within the pages of ancient enigmatic books.

In Part 1 of this series, we will explore the first five literary mysteries. 

1. The Voynich Manuscript

(Public domain)

The manuscript is an illustrated codex with a writing system that has never been fully understood or decoded. The vellum on which it was written has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404-1438), it is thought to have been produced in Northern Italy during the Renaissance. The manuscript was named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish-Samogitian book dealer who bought the book in 1912. The entire manuscript was written on calf parchment or vellum. Although many pages of the text are thought to be missing, more than 240 pages of the book remain. The manuscript was written from left to right and most of the pages contain illustrations, charts, and diagrams, some of them being foldable sheets. The infamous manuscript itself measures 23.5cm x 16.2cm x 5cm. 

The manuscript has been studied by many professionals and amateur cryptographers alike, including British and American decipherers, yet to this day, no one has succeeded in decoding the messages written in the strange book. It has become the most mysterious manuscript in the history of human cryptography. The mysteries about the meaning and origin of the Voynich manuscript have aroused and stimulated the curiosity and imagination of many people, making it an intriguing popular subject in many mystery novels. Over the past 100 years, no hypotheses on the true nature of the manuscript have been verified by researchers.

2. Prodigiorum Ac Ostentorum Chronicon

“Prodigiorum Ac Ostentorum Chronicon” is a huge and influential Latin anthology of omens written by the French humanities researcher Conrad Lycosthenes in 1557. This book outlines the apparent pivotal events since the time of Adam and Eve, including natural disasters such as floods, meteor showers (including the Halley comet), sea monsters, UFOs, as well as various Biblical topics. The omens are described vividly and go beyond the physical space that present-day humanity can explain. In addition, the book contains over 1,000 woodblocks to illustrate many of Lycosthenes’s reports.

3. The Red Book 

(Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Carl Jung, the father of psychology,  became mentally ill in 1913. He began writing a book called Liber Novus at the time, which means “The New York” in Latin. This book with red-colored cover later became known as “The Red Book.”

It took Carl Jung 16 years to write this book, he said during that time he was facing his subconscious mind. Jung’s successor had been hiding the book for decades due to an unclear understanding of its content until 2009.

In the book are numerous paintings portraying his encounters with ghosts and gods on the way to hell. This mysterious book is considered by some to be a “crazy masterpiece”, but there are also those who regard the work as containing “infinite wisdom.”

4. The Ripley scrolls

George Ripley was a well-known monk and alchemist of the 15th-century. The Ripley scrolls are named after him. The content of the scrolls reveals the secrets of alchemy, which he discovered during his 20 years of traveling across Europe. Although the original copy of the book has been lost, 23 restored copies have been handed down. The largest scroll is up to 6 meters long and is covered with illustrations.

The images and texts of the book present the method for creating a witch stone, which is legendarily considered to be able to turn lead into gold. Some even say that a witch stone of his own making was the source of Ripley’s wealth, a wealth that enabled him to help the riders in Malta and Rhode Island.

5. Oera Linda Book

Page 48 of the manuscript of Oera Linda Book (Public domain)

This is a strange manuscript dating back to the 19th century, written in Germanic – the ancestor to the German language. The book describes the nearly 4,000-year history of ancient Friesland, its myth, and religion. It has been a controversial manuscript since its first appearance in the 19th century. The book also depicts matriarchal clans that ruled the ancient world, lessons for life and details on the sinking of the Atlantic. This mysterious book was once studied by the Nazis and is also colloquially known as “Himmler’s Bible.” Some of its content is closely related to reality. The book is deemed to have a magical power of predicting future changes.