The world of literature is a never-ending, infinite, vast collection of knowledge put forth by brilliant, secretive, and strange minds alike. Some books are straightforward, their contents understood, devoured, while others seem to make next to no sense and are studied and mined for their meaning. This list brings to light some of the most mysterious and mind-boggling books known to humankind, from the coded to the confusing. Let’s take a look at some of the more perplexing books out there in the world today.
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5. Book of Soyga
John Dee, a mathematician from London, reported that on March 10, 1552, he had a conversation with an angel that led him to a meticulous study of the Book of Soyga. He picked and prodded at the 40,000 letters in the book’s manuscript and slowly began to realize that the writings were magical incantations written in code. The final 36 pages of the book stumped Dee, so he decided to ask for help from an otherworldly being. While traveling through Europe, Dee hired a medium to call upon the Archangel Uriel who told him that the book had been possessed by Adam in the Garden of Eden. He asked Uriel for assistance in finalizing the translation, but the Archangel told him that only Archangel Michael could help him with his quest. Dee was never able to establish contact with Michael, and he died before he could crack the code in the last pages, which is probably a good thing because legend has it that if you break the code, the book will kill you. It was lost for nearly 500 years until it was found in 1994 in the archives of the British Library, and there are now only two known copies in existence.
4. Voynich Manuscript
A book thought to be written in Northern Italy sometime during the Italian Renaissance called the Voynich Manuscript was purchased by a man named Wilfrid Voynich in 1912 and was subsequently named after him. It was carbon-dated to somewhere between the years 1404-1438, and was written in an unknown writing system, hand-written, and contains around 240 pages. Some of the original pages are missing, making it even more difficult to decode and understand. Researchers believe that the initial manuscript held upwards of 272 pages and that sometime throughout history the pages may have been reordered, so it may have read entirely different than it does today. It’s been thoroughly studied by cryptographers and codebreakers alike, but nobody has ever conclusively decoded the mysterious book.
3. Prodigiorum Ac Ostentorum Chronicon
French humanist Conrad Lycosthenes penned this mostly factual book in 1557. It’s also known by another name, Chronicle of Portents and Prophecies, and it details paranormal and other-worldly events since the time of Adam and Eve. It documented disasters, floods, Halley’s Comet, and other instances of Mother Nature wreaking havoc on the world, as well as UFO’s, monsters, and known stories from the bible. There are over 1,000 detailed illustrations that are woodcut showing the phenomenon. Copies of the book sell for thousands of dollars today.
2. The Smithfield Decretals
Done in a painstaking, expensive way, The Smithfield Decretals is an illuminated manuscript that combines calligraphy and illustrations with the lettering. It wasn’t uncommon for early religious texts to incorporate the style, known as illuminated manuscript, but what’s unusual about this book, in particular, are some of the illustrations found inside. Geese lynch a wolf in one drawing, humongous rabbits attack and decapitate people, in another, there are unicorns, witches, and what appears to be demons performing various acts. So although the text in the manuscript isn’t in itself strange, the drawings and depictions featured are, and they’ve earned The Smithfield Decretals a place on this list.
1. The Story of the Vivian Girls
A man named Henry Darger worked as a janitor for years in downtown Chicago, and during his employment nobody knew that he was working on a book that was 15,000 pages long, containing over nine million words. Darger died in 1973, at which time his landlord discovered the massive manuscript in his home. The original title is The Story of the Vivian Girls, in what is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Gladeco-Angelinian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion, a pretty lengthy title to go right along with the length of the book itself. It also contained over 300 watercolor illustrations traced from magazines and newspaper clippings, juxtaposed together. It is unknown just how long Darger worked on the project, and he apparently never mentioned his undertaking to anyone, making the found writings all the more mysterious.