The Writing Hook
“Going through the books laying around in the attic your attention is drawn to an old-looking, hard-leather covered, thick book. The pages of the hand-written book seem to be filled with illustrations about astronomy, exotic plants, beasts and animals you’ve never seen before, pharmaceutical and culinary recipes, and, finally, some very odd looking cosmological maps. What is even stranger? The book is written in a language you’ve never seen anything like before.
Further investigation reveals that many of the 240 pages of the codex unfold to display greater detail and that some of the pages are missing all together. The book is written from right to left, which you’ve seen before but, surely, not in these lands.
If the codex is studied very carefully and over time, it is revealed that there are remnants of 2 ancient languages peppered around the book.
Can this book be the journal of a traveller from another world, or perhaps someone who went there and back? Could these cosmological maps be the key for a way to pass from this to that world?
The Historical Facts of the Voynich Manuscript
Cumque in mea Bibliotheca Sphinx quaedam, Scripturae incognitorum characterum inutiliter occupasset locum, … Ex pictura herbarum, quarum plurimus est in Codice numerus, imaginum diversarum, Astrorum, aliarumque rerum, faciem chymicorum arcanorum referentium, conjicio totum esse medicinalem;
In 1639 the Prague citizen Georgius Barschius wrote the above lines to the Jesuit Athanasius Kircher in Rome. He explained that he owned a mysterious book that was written in an unknown script and was profusely illustrated with pictures of plants, stars and chemical secrets.
The Voynich manuscript is an illustrated codex hand-written in an unknown writing system. The vellum on which it is written has been carbon-dated to the early 15th century (1404–1438), and it may have been composed in Northern Italy during the Italian Renaissance. The manuscript is named after Wilfrid Voynich, a Polish book dealer who purchased it in 1912. Some of the pages are missing, with around 240 still remaining. The text is written from left to right, and most of the pages have illustrations or diagrams. Some pages are foldable sheets.
Much of the early history of the book is unknown, though the text and illustrations are all characteristically European. In 2009, University of Arizona researchers performed radiocarbon dating on the manuscript’s vellum. The result of that test put the date the manuscript was made between 1404 and 1438. In addition, the McCrone Research Institute in Chicago found that the paints in the manuscript were of materials to be expected from that period of European history. It has also been suggested that the McCrone Research Institute found that much of the ink was added not long after the creation of the parchment, but the official report contains no statement to this effect.
You can find much more about the Voynich manuscript here: http://www.voynich.nu/
How would you use this writing hook for your writing or role-playing campaigns? How would you make this writing hook better? Let us know in the comments below!
Looking for more inspiration? Why not try last week’s writing hook, Writing Hook #6 The Werewolf of Bedburg