Saturday, January 18, 2014

Gliding Over the World of Literature – Issue 38

Good day ladies and gentlemen, and welcome back for what is officially the thirty-eighth issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature. We have decided to write today’s issue while focusing on one single theme: ancient manuscripts. As it turns out, the world of books has more than enough material to keep us satiated.

We will start by looking at the Voynich manuscript and why many believe it holds an actual message. Following that, we are going to check out a bit of news in regards to the purchase of a Gospel manuscript by Cambridge University. Finally, we will cap things off by taking a brief moment to explore some of the most ancient manuscripts found on this Earth.

Voynich Manuscript – The Unsolvable Riddle

The Voynich manuscript is a work which dates all the way back to the fifteenth century, and it has the notable distinction of never having been solved. Though various experts have attempted to decipher bits and pieces of it, it remains largely unsolved and so far considered to be one of the, if not the world’s most complex language code. Though many say it is an elaborate hoax, there are those who believe that they can make a case for there being an actual message worth reading in there.
Mysterious Voynich manuscript has 'genuine message'
The message inside "the world's most mysterious medieval manuscript" has eluded cryptographers, mathematicians and linguists for over a century.

And for many, the so-called Voynich book is assumed to be a hoax.

But a new study, published in the journal Plos One, suggests the manuscript may, after all, hold a genuine message.

Scientists say they found linguistic patterns they believe to be meaningful words within the text.

Whether or not it really does have any meaningful information, though, is much debated by amateurs and professionals alike.

It was even investigated by a team of prominent code breakers during WWII who successfully cracked complex encrypted enemy messages, but they failed to find meaning in the text.

The book has been dated to the early 1400s, but it largely disappeared from public record until 1912 when an antique book dealer called Wilfrid Voynich bought it amongst a number of second-hand publications in Italy.

Marcelo Montemurro, a theoretical physicist from the University of Manchester, UK, has spent many years analysing its linguistic patterns and says he hopes to unravel the manuscript's mystery, which he believes his new research is one step closer to doing.

"The text is unique, there are no similar works and all attempts to decode any possible message in the text have failed. It's not easy to dismiss the manuscript as simple nonsensical gibberish, as it shows a significant [linguistic] structure," he told BBC News.
Read full article: BBC News - Mysterious Voynich manuscript has 'genuine message'

The 15th Century Voynich manuscript has been described as the world's most mysterious book, which could be a complex code, an unknown language or simply a hoax

A Turning Point for Knowledge

As this article is being written, the Cambridge University Library is campaigning to raise a total sum of £1.1m for the purchase of a single manuscript; the Codex Zacynthius, dating all the way back to the 6th or 7th century. What is so special about it? Well, scholars believe that it can serve as the key to understanding St Luke’s Gospel and the way in which it spread.
Cambridge University Library bids to purchase early Gospel manuscript
Cambridge University Library, renowned throughout the world for its faith collections, announced yesterday that it is raising funds to acquire a remarkable manuscript known as Codex Zacynthius.

Codex Zacynthius was deposited at Cambridge University Library in 1984 by the British and Foreign Bible Society, which has owned it for almost 200 years. At first glance the Codex is a text compiled in the 13th century from passages taken from the New Testament, but its true origins are much earlier.

The Bible Society wishes to sell Codex Zacynthius as part of an exceptional exercise to release funds to establish a new visitor centre in Wales. Conscious of the interest in the manuscript, the Bible Society has given the UL first refusal to purchase. The acquisition of Codex Zacynthius by the UL would allow scholars and public audiences to discover more about the history of one of the world’s most important manuscripts, by using science to unlock its ancient secrets.

The huge appeal of this unique item lies in its hidden backstory. Codex Zacynthius is a palimpsest: a manuscript from which the text has been scraped or washed off in order for it to be used again. The recycling of manuscripts was common practice at a time when writing surfaces were precious, few books were produced, and a tiny percentage of the population was literate.
Read full article: University of Cambridge - Cambridge University Library bids to purchase early Gospel manuscript

Traveling Back in Time

Ancient manuscripts are pretty much the oldest written records we have to use as reference to understand the events which transpired hundreds and even thousands of years ago. They could certainly be more revelatory, but the collection we have amassed has already proven to hold an unimaginable wealth of knowledge. And so, here is an opportunity to get acquainted with some of the oldest ancient manuscripts out there.
Get a glimpse of the oldest manuscripts in history
From the Daivagamam Bhasha of 1521 to Bhasa's Sanskrit plays, about 65,000 manuscripts are on display at the ongoing exhibition at the manuscript library at Kariavattom, near Trivandrum.

Did you know that in the olden times it was a practise to burn the manuscripts of subject experts along with their funeral pyre, so that exclusive knowledge does not get transferred? Though a lot of wisdom turned into ashes through this practise, and ignorance still poses a hurdle to many to hand over rare manuscripts for preservation, the manuscript library at Kariavattom, near Trivandrum, has managed to amass a good amount of knowledge bundles through extensive search. The ongoing manuscripts exhibition, which has on display the Daivagamam Bhasha of 1521 — a text on Mahayana Buddhism from Nepal written in Newari script — and Bhasa's plays, is proof enough.

About 65,000 manuscripts, including handmade paper scripts and transcripts, are on display, and the topics engraved on them range from spirituality and astrology to architecture and medicine. About 80% of the manuscripts are on palm leaves and the rest, on tree barks (of various kinds), copper plates and fabric leaves.

"Many of the manuscripts are 400 to 1,000 years old and this is the second largest collection of its kind in the continent itself," says Dr K G Sreelekha, head of the oriental research department. While the research scholars even from abroad flew down in search of these timeless treasures, the immediate neighbours hardly had a clue of their existence or importance. It is only recently that the university decided to conduct a yearly exhibition of this kind, to shed light on the scripts' relevance to the masses.

While the oldest, dated manuscript exhibited is Daivagamam Bhasha of 1521, the biggest is an astrology text, of which the age has not been determined yet. "Daivasangamam Bhasha was also named the most precious record in this library by the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM), New Delhi, which comes under the Cultural Ministry. A special ink was used to write on the doublesided 308 foldings of the manuscript," says Shaji P L, project assistant from NMM.
Read full article: The Times of India - Get a glimpse of the oldest manuscripts in history

And so comes to a close yet another issue of Gliding Over the World of Literature, and as is always the case, I truly hope that you were entertained, and perhaps even learned something valuable. We never know what path the knowledge of man will take, which bits will be revered and which ones forgotten; all we can do is try to progress on the basis of personal experience and previously-gathered information. Who knows, maybe in a thousand years one of your texts will be up for display in a museum… perhaps even this article (a man can dream)!

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