The 15th Century Voynich manuscript, described by some as either the "world's most mysterious document" or an elaborate hoax, has haunted historians, cryptographers, and linguists for centuries. Although the manuscript was dated to the early 1400s, it virtually disappeared until 1912 when antique book dealer Wilfrid Voynich bought it in a group of other documents. Among the document's strange features are over 170,000 glyphs including exotic plants, stars, and mysterious human figures, as well as many pages written in an unknown text. It's believed that of the many encrypted texts since the Middle Ages, 99.9% have been cracked. The exception was the Voynich manuscript—until (possibly) now.
The theories attributed to the manuscript, other than the hoax theory, included everything from a cryptic language developed for a secret society, to Aztecs, to the lost tribes of Israel, to aliens (the UFO kind). But in February, Stephen Bax, Professor of Applied Linguistics at the University of Bedfordshire, announced he may have cracked at least part of the "code." He started by using medieval herbal manuscripts in Arabic and other languages and by identifying patterns in the text placed next to stars and some plants. His initial results lead him to believe the work is "probably a treatise on nature, perhaps in a Near Eastern or Asian language."
Although Bax's work may leave many people disappointed at the relative mundane nature of the strange document, it's only a partial de-coding, and many mysteries still remain: is it an encoded version of a known language or a totally invented language? Who created it? Many other scholars also aren't convinced Bax has really solved anything, and that we may never know the true secrets of the work. If you'd like to take a crack at it, the complete work has been digitized and is available online.