Gentlemen… Ladies… This is a, um… I would call it fascinating this… artefact, if it were not for its fearful contents. This is the original copy… This is a photo of the original copy. Take a look, please, it’s interesting. We will, of course, be working with a printed translation. But, of course, this, the original copy is very relevant to the work we will be doing.
It is, as you can see, a codex, five hundred pages in all, not huge. It is handwritten and encrypted. It came to the United Kingdom in June 1939, with the personal effects of a Polish refugee, a Professor Voynich, who until then had been a professor of Medieval Romance Languages at the University of Danzig, now Gdansk. It was stolen, yes, University property, but, by that point no one was really asking questions. Professor Voynich gave it to Oxford University. It was then taken, months later to the British Library, where it was transcribed for decryption.
The Professor was used to complicated translations but not to ciphers. He reckoned the base language was Florentine Latin, and he was proven right, but only after portion of the document was used to test the decryption machines at GC&CS, Bletchley Park. The first full decryption and translation was carried out in 1949. It was only then that anyone began to grasp the full import of this document.
To get to the point, this is a medical inventory, but with a difference. Now, the, uh, author, whoever he or maybe she was, they almost certainly lived in the Republic of Florence sometime during the Thirteenth Century. It’s possible that they lived somewhere else and spoke some other language and that may have chosen Vulgar Latin as a basis for their cipher. I doubt it. At the moment we are unable to deduce much about the author or their motives. But the truly remarkable thing about this book is references to diseases and treatments that the author could not have possibly known about; a simple example, smallpox, which the author describes as:
“A malady of Non-Living Replicates that is inhaled; similar to influenza, causing muscle pain, malaise, headache and prostration but leading to pox lesions and in extreme cases violent haemorrhage of the skin. It is fatal in one third of cases.”
It was a lucky guess as to the cause of smallpox perhaps… probably not though. The author makes frequent reference to “non-living replicates” throughout the manuscript, clearly referring to viral infection. As a matter of fact the author refers to the smallpox vaccine, calling it a “treatment through counter-malady using the pox common to cattle.”
I know what you’re thinking, this is prognostication; make a dozen predictions, get one right and you’re a seer, everyone forgets the rest. Even after close examination this appears, or appeared, to be the nature of the text. The cases are not ordered by subject groups, by alphabet or chronologically. In fact there are a number of entries that clash or contradict what we know about history, our history. There is, for example, a whole series of entries referring to biomechanical diseases and injuries, I’ll, uh, list a few: Tri-Spherical Cognitive Dissonance… Persistent Involuntary Gear Spasms… Progressive Arterial Plastination… These are all well and good but, according to this book, these conditions all arose in the nineteenth century.
So, for a long time, the manuscript has been a tantalising mystery. Possibly a vital resource, certainly a tremendous fascination, if only it could somehow be brought to some order. Well, what we have now, it’s a… it’s a recent development, only a model, developed by the nerds in Data Extrapolation over at GCHQ. Yet again it was a side-product of another project. The manuscript was used to test algorithms for mass data harvesting, the project coming out of the NSA, Full Spectrum Coverage. But in running this the nerds have stumbled upon a possible answer and it’s one that appears to work. It’s based on the nature of history and causality.
Human activity makes history. People act consciously and in doing so change things. Most human activity however is negated. Different individual actions cancel each other out. Time’s arrow means there is no way of establishing what a world-changing event is and what isn’t, we cannot go back and review, we cannot run experiments side by side… Except we sort of can. The book can be explained, although the explanation begs further questions, if we use four separate timelines. They are:
1) The Council of Nicea disbands without reaching agreement. Instead of establishing Catholicism the Western Empire develops early capitalism.
2) The Vikings remain in North America, establishing a permanent independent Kingdom of Vinland.
3) The Russian Red Army prevails in Warsaw and four weeks later makes contact with the Red Army of the Ruhr.
4) Our timeline.
How did we come by those four times lines? There are, surely, a practically infinite number of events to chose from. With so little to go on, we don't know who wrote the book and the University of Gdansk lost much of its records in the course of the war, the nerds went for the one solid set of facts they could use. Professor Voynich was of course debriefed by the military on arrival. He was also kept under MI5 observation for much of his life. Again there's a large number of possibly defining facts, however:
- He was a practising Catholic. He died in 1987 and is now buried in an RC graveyard in Kensnal New Town.
- His father was an ethnic Russian, as you can tell by the name. He was a travelling merchant representing a soap and perfume company. He met his future wife, as Norwegian woman, fifteen years younger than him, an heiress, onboard an Atlantic steamship.
- When Professor Voynich was younger her served in the Polish Army under Josef Pilsudski. He participated in the Battle of Warsaw.
If this is real, and we must keep our wits about us, there is, let me stress no way of proving it one way or the other, but, if it is real then it is the first glimpse of the predicted multiverse. If it is real then before long we need to get to grips with just how an unknown Florentine was able to perceive all this. I mean, given that events listed in the manuscript happen prior to what we know as the Renaissance. Perhaps whoever wrote this was copying from a previous source or sources, which would at least explain the non-linear nature of the text, not to mention the information within. There’s also the question of causality and the flow of information. In a unitary universe there is no way of sending information back in time. It would place effect before cause. Information can flow between universes however, we just don’t know how.
But there’s something more important. Speculations aside we must remember our loyalties, so to speak, to our timeline, to the people that live in it. The manuscript predicts both diseases and cures that have arisen in the course of our history. There is an entry, it is on the last page of the document that you should all have, the, uh, selected highlights I have been referring to, one that should be great cause for concern. It runs:
“This is a disease of a man-made Non-Living Replicate, one of the first. It had been designed as a weapon and forged in the biological workshops of Pan Slavia. It mutates at least once in every one thousand generations, making protein-treatment very hard to apply. It is borne in human fluid. It raises general body temperature. It drives the affected mind into a common frenzy. The afflicted are almost always compelled to violence, thus spreading the disease. They are capable of speech but cannot be reasoned with. Unlike most maladies this disease physically sustains, rather than degrades those afflicted, who remain constantly active, disdaining food and all forms of rest. During an outbreak there is no practical length of time in which this disease can be quarantined. The only sure and certain way of containing this blight is through destruction of the afflicted.”
According to the manuscript the first outbreak will happen this year. It may already have begun.