The Friar and the Cipher

The Friar and the Cipher : Roger Bacon and the Unsolved Mystery of the Most Unusual Manuscript in the World

3.49 (259 ratings by Goodreads)
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A compulsively readable account of the most mysterious manuscript in the world, one that has stumped the worldÂs greatest scholars and codebreakers.

The Voynich Manuscript, a mysterious tome discovered in 1912 by the English book dealer Wilfrid Michael Voynich, has puzzled scholars for a century. A small six inches by nine inches, but over two hundred pages long, with odd illustrations of plants, astrological diagrams, and naked women, it is written in so indecipherable a language and contains so complicated a code that mathematicians, book collectors, linguists, and historians alike have yet to solve the mysteries contained within. However, in The Friar and the Cipher, the acclaimed bibliophiles and historians Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone describe, in fascinating detail, the theory that Roger Bacon, the noted thirteenth-century, pre-Copernican astronomer, was its author and that the perplexing alphabet was written in his hand. Along the way, they explain the many proposed solutions that scholars have put forth and the myriad attempts at labeling the manuscript's content, from Latin or Greek shorthand to Arabic numerals to ancient Ukrainian to a recipe for the elixir of life to good old-fashioned gibberish. As we journey across centuries, languages, and countries, we meet a cast of impassioned characters and case-crackers, including, of course, Bacon, whose own personal scientific contributions, Voynich author or not, were literally and figuratively astronomical.

The Friar and the Cipher is a wonderfully entertaining and historically wide-ranging book that is one part The Code Book, one part Possession, and one part The Da Vinci CodeÂand will appeal to bibliophiles and laypeople alike.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 320 pages
  • 142.2 x 213.4 x 27.9mm | 498.96g
  • Doubleday Books
  • United States
  • English
  • 0767914732
  • 9780767914734

Review quote

Praise for Out of the Flames

"I guarantee you won't read a more entertaining story this season – part biography, part history, part mystery, and part plea for justice."
– Peter Kurth, Salon

“Breezily entertaining…[Out of the Flames] gives Servetus the recognition he deserves as a martyr to the cause of free expression.”
– The Miami Herald

“Engaging….Enthusiasm counts for a lot in collecting, and the Goldstones have brought their share of passion to the exercise.”
– The Washington Post Book World

“Though once an influence on Voltaire, Jefferson, and Emerson, Servetus has received little attention in recent decades. This fascinating study should remedy that neglect.”
– Booklist

“The Goldstones offer both a portrait of an important but neglected Renaissance humanist and a testimony to the power of books to shape minds and hearts.”
– Publishers Weekly

“Out of the Flames is a fast-paced intellectual history that not only gives a fascinating lesson on the book trade but also skillfully navigates the crosscurrents of theology, politics, and science to give a portrait of an age when battles were waged as fiercely with books as they were with swords. A compelling literary mystery unfolds with impressive scholarship and sharp storytelling.”
– Ross King, author of Brunelleschi’s Dome
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About Nancy Goldstone

Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone are a husband-and-wife writing team and authors of Out of the Flames, a Booksense 76 Selection. They have also written three books on their book-collecting pursuits: Used and Rare, Slightly Chipped, and Warmly Inscribed.
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Rating details

259 ratings
3.49 out of 5 stars
5 14% (37)
4 36% (92)
3 38% (98)
2 10% (26)
1 2% (6)
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