The relatively low level of interest in the Voynich Manuscript in Italy has long puzzled me, when to my eyes (and plenty of other people’s eyes too), it looks to be an artefact grounded in some obscure byway of Italian Quattrocento culture. Perhaps they’re just too busy worrying about the economy or where they’ll find a Prime Ministerial ego extraordinary enough to replace Berlusconi’s to really be that bothered about the Voynich’s centenary this year?

Anyway, I’ve just had a nice email from Anna Castriota telling me about a new Italian Voynich novel she recently stumbled upon by the name of “I Custodi Della Pergamena Proibita” (The Keeper of the Forbidden Parchment), allegedly written by a priest pseudonymously calling himself Aldo Gritti.

As is grimly conventional for this kind of thing, Gritti’s grittily gritty story kicks off with three near-simultaneous murders in Florence, London and New Haven, where (surprise, surprise) “the victims were about to reveal to the world the true, shocking content of the dark Voynich manuscript, which for a century had resisted every attempt to interpret it. But [Inspector Elda Novelli] will be able to decrypt it by following the tracks left by the three dead researchers“.

Apparently Gritti’s story features not only the Titanic and the secrets behind several notable deaths of the early 20th century, but also the final revelation of the Voynich’s real-life secrets, hidden there by, dan dan daaah, Wilfrid Voynich himself. [SFX: Rizzoli’s PR people chortling into their hands] *sigh*

Well… if Gritti’s tiramisu of tragedy didn’t tweak your tarpaulins tighter, here’s another one to curdle your Kindle. “Voynich: Il Segreto Del Barabba (il più grande segreto su Gesù)” by Barbara Cesa wraps a Voynich Manuscript story around a three-chord eternal-guardians-of-the-heretical-secret Barabbas-twin-brother-of-Jesus murderous-conspiracy-brotherhood plot. You can also buy the first ten chapters for 0.92 euros (it says here), though doubtless you’ll then be so eager for The Big Plot Twist at the end that you’ll gladly pay the balance to Find Out What Happens At The End.

Regular Cipher Mysteries readers will already know how I feel: that there’s a corner of my soul that seems to die a little whenever I read yet another dismal Voynich novel plot summary, as if I’m using up one of my spare Chrestomanci lives. One day, though, I’m sure I’ll read a truly great Voynich novel, that will make all this treacle-swimming retrospectively worthwhile…

I can dream, can’t I? 🙂

17 thoughts on “Two Italian Voynich novels for you…

  1. I dream of some breathtakingly ordinary, laundry-list sort of book. So boring that it was enciphered as a way to stop anyone reading it just turning to stone from boredom. And a detective with a detective (BlackAdder+Ms.Marple) to explain it all at the end (the phenomenon, not the Voynich, naturally). What to call it… Perhaps: “The mystery of some Petrified Voynicheros”

  2. Blurb
    “…the victims were about to reveal to the world the true, shocking content of the .. Voynich manuscript, which for SIX centuries had resisted every attempt to interpret it.

  3. bdid1dr on February 16, 2012 at 1:42 am said:

    Sure! So long as you have a method for preventing the dream becoming nightmare. I promise not to write anything Voynich-related ennywhere else but here on your cipher pages.

  4. Middleman on February 16, 2012 at 12:47 pm said:

    Thanks Nick! it’s nice to see together two tricksters like Berlusconi and Voynich.

  5. Middleman: …but which is the bigger enigma? 😉

  6. Diane: no, I’m pretty sure they only put a single century because the novel’s conceit seems to be that WMV forged it. Oooh, I’m shocked! 🙂

  7. Yeh but mine says six because he didn’t.

  8. bdid1dr on February 16, 2012 at 9:44 pm said:

    Nick, Diane,

    Y’mean y’all actually read the entire thing? Guess who’s laughing hardest! (Can’t get my Smiley’s to portray tears of laughter.)

  9. The parchment is ancient but if the writing and drawings were made ​​in the twentieth century, probably from natural materials, according to ancient recipes of the time?

  10. Wotan: as recently as a decade ago, very little reliable information about the Voynich Manuscript was available – only ‘CopyFlo’ (basically, poor quality monochrome prints) were available to researchers, and hardly anybody had actually examined the manuscript up close. However, the high resolution colour scans put online by the Beinecke Library around 2004 gave researchers access to a wealth of detail: and this has revealed a complex 15th century inner life of the manuscript that was previously unknown.

    Similarly, I’m sure you already know that there’s a string of 17th century letters in the Kircher archives describing a mysterious document extraordinarily like the Voynich Manuscript: the presence of such letters rather undermines 20th century forgery claims. (It’s a shame that the sections with the copies of ciphers in were moved to a different archive over the centuries and lost, as that would have been a really solid link.)

    So yes, it’s still just about possible that Wilfrid Voynich forged it: but then again, it’s also just about possible that aliens channelled it to a 15th century scribe using some funky mind control technique. All I can really say is that from where I’m sitting, the two possibilities have broadly the same magnitude. 😉

  11. the truth is out of there

  12. For want of a better place to write: a large bookshop, to whom I recommended ‘The Curse of the Voynich’, with suitable noises about its relevance for the upcoming anniversary, has just replied that the book is out of print. Is that true?

  13. Hi, i’m from Italy…
    I read the book of Gritti and I would say to Nick Pelling that there is nothing to laugh…
    I suggest everibody to read the book and then judge. The author have some interesting documents in his hands…and the key of Voynich code.

  14. florinda on April 13, 2012 at 7:35 pm said:

    Hi, I’m from Italy too. I beg you pardon but I must tell you I agree with Luca. I really don’t understad why you are attacking Aldo Gritti’s work in such way without reading it. I think that scholars are so much fond of their studies that they can’t accept what could be the truth on the Ms. Voynich

  15. I agree with Luca and Florinda: Gritti’s book presents an interesting hypothesis, and you really should read it before criticizing it.

  16. Ada: I’m sorry to say that I’m getting a bit bored of this. I don’t believe for a nanosecond (a) that “Gritti” is genuinely a priest as opposed to someone pretending to be a priest for purely PR purposes, (b) that “Gritti” has even one secret document written by Father Joseph Strickland relating to Wilfrid Voynich in any way whatsoever, or (c) that any of his or her claimed ‘revelations’ (about Voynich the double agent, the sinking of the Titanic, etc) have even a shred of truth to them.

    What I find most annoying is that even though Voynich’s and Strickland’s families are all still alive and thriving, people like Gritti think that rewriting ordinary people’s histories to sell their novels is OK. It’s not. If “Gritti” has even a sentence genuinely written by Strickland or Voynich, then he/she should get on and show it (as promised at the recent Frascati conference). Anything else is timewasting PR nonsense.

  17. John on June 15, 2012 at 3:27 pm said:

    “And yet it does move”… I’ll put aside you last comment and cherish with care. Sometimes things happen that are like questions. One minute later, or years, and then life gives us an answer. It seems that you are not interested to know if those documents exist or not. For you are just nonsense. Perhaps, if those documents really exist, you would continue to say that they are only just nonsense. I read the novel of Gritti and the evidence is very convincing. Much more convincing of the hundreds of silly assumptions that are made. Perhaps it’s time to be a bit more cautious. Perhaps Gritti is a priest such as Nick is Orlando. Thanks for your hospitality. I apologize for my bad english.

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