From unbroken codes to containing deep, dark secrets, here are 8 of the most mysterious books ever written.
- The Rohonc Codex
The Rohonc Codex is a strange book with an unknown author written in an indiscernible language. The illustrated, handwritten manuscript is in some ways similar to the Voynich Manuscript. The Rohonc Codex was discovered in Hungary in the 1800s. Many believe it belonged to Count Gusztáv Batthyány’s library. The 448-page codex is shrouded in mystery. At first glance, it was assumed that it was written in Old Hungarian script. While it is not identical to the script, it does have some similar characteristics. In actuality, there are more than ten times the number of symbols in this book than any other alphabet in the world. This would leave one to believe that the language is very complicated or it is written in a combination of languages. Each page in the book contains a distinct watermark. The mark looks like an anchor within a circle that appears to be a six-pointed star. Along with text, the book has illustrations of military battles, landscapes, and religious icons. These icons suggest a variety of combined religions from Christianity to Islam to Hinduism. Translations of pieces of the book have been attempted but all are said to have had holes in them. Such as a Brahmi translation that is said to be a hoax. To this day, no one knows the true story nor the true meaning of the Rohonc Codex, and chances are…we never will. The complete PDF can be downloaded for free online, courtesy of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. If you are good at cracking codes, you should definitely give it a try!
- Codex Seraphinus
If Tim Burton and an alien had written a colorful codex, it might resemble Seraphinus. Codex Seraphinus is 300 pages of an imaginary existence. Hundreds of drawings and a unique language make this book unforgettable. But what’s even stranger was that it was written in the 1970s. The author’s name is Luigi Serafini who was born in Rome in 1949. This architect, designer, painter, illustrator, and writer has a mind of his own. It is said the man’s studio resembles Wonderland. Luigi wrote the book with no bigger motive and no deeper meaning. He claims there is no meaning to the script, it is simply a game. So there’s no use trying to decipher it. He wants the readers to feel like children who are reading a book for the first time. They don’t understand the words; they can hardly decipher the pictures as the stare at the unusual images. The author wants to bring this out of us, to take us back to that time. So in a way, it is a work of art. It may look creepy to you, but it is far more innocent and simple that you’d think. Lucky for us, the author is not only known, but still alive, unlike the authors of these other mysterious books so we can ask him any questions we want.
- Codex Mendoza
The Codex Mendoza, or La colección Mendoza, is an Aztec codex that was written 14 years after the 1521 Spanish conquest of Mexico. The purpose of the codex was to conceal the text to be seen only by the eyes of Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor and King of Spain. The Codex Mendoza contains a history of the Aztec rulers and their conquests, a list of the tribute paid by the conquered tribes and also explains what daily life was like for the Aztecs. It gives Aztec pictograms but explains them in Spanish, making them accessible to Europeans. When the Codex was ready, it was put on a ship for Spain. The fleet was attacked by French pirates and the Codex along with many other treasures, was stolen. The cosmographer to King Henry II of France, Andre Thevet kept it and wrote his name in 5 places in the codex along with the date 1553. It was deposited in the library at Oxford University and lost for several hundred years until it was rediscovered in 1831. Thanks to this codex, even if you had no idea about the Aztecs or the Spanish language, thanks to the Aztec pictograms, you can learn a lot from these pages. Masks made from human skulls were discovered at a temple in Tenochtitlan, Mexico over 30 years ago. As you probably already know human sacrifice was a large part of Aztec culture and tradition with people getting beheaded, their hearts taken out, fights to the death and getting thrown into fires. But wearing a human skull over their face was something new. The Codex Mendoza helped to offer some insight into this discovery and other historical mysteries.
- The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick is a 1984 picture book written by author Chris Van Allsburg. What’s odd is that each image in this book is seemingly unrelated and random. Rather than telling a story with words, each image has a title and a single line of text. Similar to a caption. But these captions have one interest in mind: to urge the readers to create their own stories from the images. This book has inspired famous authors to create their own stories from these images. In 2011 a new book titled “The Chronicles of Harris Burdick” was published. This book featured stories by Stephen King and Louis Sachar who were inspired by these images and captions in the original book so in a way this book helped to cure writer’s block! The origins of this book began when Peter Wenders, an editor, encountered an author and illustrator named Harris Burdick. Harris told him he had written 14 stories. He brought one picture from each story paired with a caption as an example to show the editor. Burdick leaves Wenders with his illustrations and captions, and says he’ll be back with the rest if Wenders approves. Burdick never returned for his drawings. For years, Wenders tried to find out who Harris Burdick was, but never could. In fact, no one knew who Burdick was and he was never seen again by anyone who had any contact with Wenders. Chris Van Allsburg visited Wenders’ office sometime after Burdick. Wenders showed Allsburg the illustrations. Allsburg decided to publish the samples to find out who Burdick was. They later found out that he had purchased an entire library. One item that was included was an antique mirror that an antique dealer showed Wellers. The mirror had portraits of characters from Through the Looking-Glass (you know, Alice in Wonderland). At the antique shop, it fell and busted, leaving an image identical to Burdick’s other works. This confirmed that Burdick was a real illustrator, though news of him was never gathered beyond that. Confusing and mysterious! Who was Burdick and what happened to him??