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The Friar and the Cipher: Roger Bacon and…
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The Friar and the Cipher: Roger Bacon and the Unsolved Mystery of the Most… (2005)

by Lawrence Goldstone, Nancy Goldstone

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
2 1/2 stars: I didn't particularly like it or dislike it; mixed or no real interest

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From the back cover: "The Voynich Manuscript, a mysterious tome discovered in 1912 by the English dealer Wilfrid Michael Voynich, has puzzled scholars for almost a century. Only six inches by nine inches, but over 200 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 mathemeticians, 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 Copernican astronomer, was its author and that the perlexing 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, as well as its journey across centuries, languages, and countries."

I find the mystery of the Voynich Manuscript to be fascinating. I only recently heard of it (roughly 3-4 years ago) but have enjoyed articles I have read and positing solutions. This book had many photographs, and its a very beautiful work. I read some wiki articles about other possible solutions. (And since this book was published, carbon dating its age has ruled out Roger Bacon, as the vellum dates from 1404 to 1438, well after Bacon's death.

I wish I enjoyed this book more than I did. While I found some parts of it somewhat engaging, overall it was tedious. It was not very much about the manuscript itself, and much more about religion and science and how the latter has at times been circumvented/ suppressed by the former. While that is a topic that can interest me, that was not what this book should have been about, nor was the history that interesting to me. It had hundreds of pages of background of religious and scientific scholars, from Thomas Aquinas to St. Augustine to Aristotle. I found myself flipping ahead, and ultimately I did skip at least a hundred pages.

A few quotes which I found interesting:

"Aristotle's method of viewing the physical and metaphysical has survived intellectual challenge, mysticism, religious conflict, ludicrous parsing, and misapplication. His influence is still felt today by every student, businessperson, and politician ---anyone who has ever written a book report or done an outline in bullet points or enjoyed Sherlock Holmes is walking in Aristotle's shadow. His contribution has become so basic, so fundamental to every aspect of scientific endeavor, that many of those reading him today might say "So what? Everybody knows that."

This section amused me, because it is so true today, but this passage is about life at a university in the 13th century: "Paris very quickly developed into a classic college town. Twenty first century parents will be interested to learn that university life has not changed very much in nearly a millenium. The overwhelming preponderance of letters home, for example, were please for money. Since many of the 14 year olds who arrived at the school had not yet had a chance to learn to write, there were the equivalent of form letters for the purpose of conniving money out of parents of patrons, with blank spaces for the student's name and his target. "A much copied exercise contained twenty two different methods of approaching an archdeacon on this ever delicate subject." ( )
  PokPok | Apr 4, 2015 |
Interesting book. I hadn't really read much about Roger Bacon or his contemporaries. There is a large section of this book that explains the back story on Roger Bacon and then it explains the story of a manuscript that appears to have been written by Bacon. But the mysterious book is entirely in cipher. Some of the best code breakers in the last 100 years have not been able to crack the cipher. The people that broke the WWII Japanese, German, and other Axis codes took a crack at it. Without success. It remains an unsolved mystery but I enjoyed reading about it and the people of the time that created the mystery. ( )
  Chris_El | Mar 19, 2015 |
I loved the biographies,but wished there had been more about the analysis and results. I suppose if there had been more, the book would not be so much of a mystery. The lives of the monks and academics was very informative, however. ( )
  Annmarie_Banks | Jan 26, 2014 |
Despite its title, this book probably devotes less than half its pages to the friar (Roger Bacon) and the cipher. What it does cover is the early history of universities, the church's influence on education/science in the late Middle Ages, and various important figures during that time period. Although it does not fully live up to its billing, I found this book quite interesting nonetheless. ( )
  crmass | Aug 9, 2012 |
Roger Bacon, an original ( )
  Savagemalloy | Feb 19, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0767914732, Hardcover)

A compulsively readable account of the most mysterious manuscript in the world, one that has stumped the world’s 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 Code—and will appeal to bibliophiles and laypeople alike.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:55 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"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 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."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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