Inside world of mysterious and ancient books
By Caroline Chebet
| December 1st 2021
Did you know there are four rare, old books that have continued to inspire research and curiosity more than six centuries later?
The original copies of these books are guarded at a university and the national libraries to which only researchers and scholars have access.
But Manuscriptum, a Polish publishing house, has replicated the copies of these books.
In the just-concluded Sharjah International Book Fair held in the United Arab Emirates, there were revelations that the copies are embedded in heaps of jewellery to emphasise their value and mystery.
At the book fair where The Standard came across copies of the books, it was evident that they were of high value, with those displaying holding them with gloves.
Known as the Big Four, the Most Important, Most Exceptional, Most Expensive and Most Mysterious manuscripts rank among the world’s most unique books.
They are described as precious, mysterious, hand-made art and are this year marking anniversaries running into centuries.
“However, the passage of time takes no mercy on them. Manuscriptum dares to replicate them in excellent quality, embayed in jewellery binding to emphasise their value and unique character of the written word,” the publishing house noted on its website.
“The pages of these century-old originals reveal knowledge that many times has impacted the history of the world... It has altered the fate of entire nations and affected the collective consciousness of mankind, inspiring people to change and to grow,” Manuscriptum notes.
The Most Mysterious Book of the World has only 600 copies worldwide.
Also known as the Voynich manuscript, the author of the 120-page book remains unknown as it celebrates its 600th anniversary since its manuscript creation.
“The manuscript is the most mysterious in human history, written at the beginning of the XV century by an unknown author in an unknown language. It is considered a fascinating artefact,” Manuscriptum says.
The manuscript is filled with an unknown language, with many incomprehensible illuminations divided into six sections, including what looks like botanic, astronomic, biologic, cosmologic and pharmaceutical.
The manuscript has become a central point to researches and scientific discussions of cryptologists, linguists and enthusiasts of mysteries.
The book was named after a famous Polish antique dealer from New York, Michal Wojnicz. The original book is in Beinecke Library at Yale University in the US.
The first owner of the manuscript was the alchemist, George Baresch, who lived in Prague at the beginning of the XII century.
“Till today, we do not know too much about this unusual mysterious manuscript,” the publishing house says.
The 72-page Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Codex Leicester’ has 199 copies remaining worldwide. It ranks as the world’s most expensive book, with the biggest sale made in 1994 by Bill Gates. Gates parted with $30.8 million (Sh3.4 billion).
The replicas of the book currently on sale are hand-made techniques using very time-consuming and precise methods of paper sculpturing.
“The artist used very complex methods of ageing, giving the replica proper colour, smell and structure. This copy is an ideal projection of the artist, holding the spirit and original character of the manuscript,” Manuscriptum says.
According to Manuscriptum, Codex was written between 1506 and 1510 and provides a rare glimpse into Da Vinci’s mind, complete with sketches, diagrams and early iterations of ideas.
The text is written in Da Vinci’s famous mirror-image style, meaning that the words are supposed to be read from right to left. The words are also written in an antiquated version of Italian.
“The Codex Leicester primarily focuses on Da Vinci’s thoughts relating to water – tides, eddies and dams – and the relationship between the moon, the earth and the sun,” Manuscriptum says.
In general, it contains texts and drawings on hydraulics, but also geology, astronomy, mechanics, palaeontology and other scientific and technical aspects.
Manuscriptum says the manuscript currently holds the record for the second-highest sale price of any book.
Among the Big Four, is The Most Important Scientific Book in the History of Humankind, written by Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus.
The book boasts a jewel ornamented cover adorned in precious 24-carat gold with its frame cover reproduction of a medieval decorative motif.
The portrait of Copernicus is hand-painted in oil. It is decorated with over 320 gemstones. The meteorite stone, ornamenting the cover is Muonionalusta, found in Scandinavia in 1906, the oldest ever found on earth – dating back to 4.6 billion years.
The book is titled De Revoluttionibus, which is selling at Sh825,510. The book, currently celebrating 500 years, documents the heliocentric theory – the discovery that earth revolves around the sun.
Although the idea was expressed long before Copernicus’ time, it was only him who proved it scientifically.
In 1999, the original work was entered into the Unesco list, “Memory Of The World”, and is kept at the Jagiellonian Library in Cracow, Poland.
Currently, there are 99 copies of the manuscript worldwide.
“This book represents an ideal, scientific copy of the unique original. The most important manuscript in history that changed everything,” notes Manuscriptum.
The 200-year-old Waclaw Rzewuski’s manuscript that documents the history of Arabian horse breeding is described as the most vital European Book about Arabic culture.
“This precious facsimile is covered in jewellery bindings full of gold/silver and gemstones, emphasising the value of the original. Striped flint, otherwise known as Polish diamond, adorns its binding, emphasising that the book is a bridge between European, Polish and Arabic culture,” the publishing house says.
The book is the source of critical historical information about the Arabian Peninsula 200 years ago. The original copy of the manuscript consists of 352 pages and 218,000 words alongside 65 charming sketches and more than 100 other illustrations and maps.
The manuscript is selling at Sh1.3 million, with only 200 copies available worldwide.
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