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Cryptographers assemble! Mystery text found in 16th century Homer

The University of Chicago Library is seeking help to identify mysterious marginalia found in a rare 16th century edition of Homer's Odyssey.

(Credit: The University of Chicago Library)

The University of Chicago Library is seeking help to identify mysterious marginalia found in a rare 16th century edition of Homer's Odyssey.

It's not quite the Voynich Manuscript, but some mysterious scratchings still have the University of Chicago Library baffled.

The notes appear in a rare 1504 edition of the Bibliotheca Homerica Langiana — the collected works of epic classical Greek poet Homer. More specifically, they appear in the margins of two pages of Book 11 of the Odyssey.

They take the form of an as-yet unidentified curlicue script, with words and passages of the poem underlined, as well as several notes in French. The donor of the book believes that the script may be a form of 19th-century French shorthand, but admits there is no evidence to support his hypothesis.

If you love a good mystery, he is offering a reward of US$1000 to the first person who can decipher the script — open to everyone who wants to have a crack at it. Obviously, this will involve knowing something about written Greek, French and shorthand. To claim the prize, the translator will have to identify the writing, provide supporting evidence and translate selected portions of the notes.

You can see the pages and find out more about how to submit your translation on the University if Chicago website. Who wants to get the wiki started?

Via www.lib.uchicago.edu