Wilfrid Voynich

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Wilfrid Voynich
A head and shoulders picture of Michael Wilfried Voynich
Wojnicz c. 1885
Native name Wilfrid Voynich
Born (1865-11-12)12 November 1865
Telšiai, Kovno Governorate, Russian Empire, now Lithuania
Died 19 March 1930(1930-03-19) (aged 64)
New York City
Nationality Polish
Occupation Revolutionary, Antiquarian Book Dealer
Known for Discovery of the Voynich manuscript

Wilfrid Voynich, born Michał Wojnicz (Telsze, 12 November [O.S. 31 October] 1865[1]New York, 19 March 1930), was a Polish revolutionary, antiquarian and bibliophile, and the eponym of the Voynich manuscript.


Wilfrid Michał Habdank-Wojnicz was born in Telsze (since 1918 Telšiai—a town in then Kovno Governorate, which was part of the Russian Empire now it's Lithuania)—into a Lithuanian - Polish noble family. The "Habdank" part of his surname is the name of a Polish heraldic clan.[clarification needed] He was the son of a Polish petty official (titular counsellor).[1]

He attended a gimnazjum in Suwałki (a town in northeastern Poland), then studied at the universities of Warsaw, St. Petersburg, and Moscow. He graduated from Moscow University in chemistry and became a licensed pharmacist.

In 1885, in Warsaw, Wojnicz joined Ludwik Waryński's revolutionary organization, Proletariat. In 1886, after a failed attempt to free fellow-conspirators Piotr Bardowski (1846-1886) and Stanisław Kunicki (1861-1886), who had both been sentenced to death, from the Warsaw Citadel, he was arrested by the Russian police. In 1887, he was sent to penal servitude at Tunka.

In 1890 he escaped from Siberia and got to Beijing and, returning to Europe, eventually went from Hamburg to London.

Under the assumed name of Ivan Kel'chevskii, he helped Stepniak, a fellow revolutionary, to found the Society of Friends of Russian Freedom in London.[2]

After Stepniak's death in a railway crossing accident in 1895, Voynich ceased revolutionary activity. In 1898 he opened a bookshop in London. In 1902 he married a fellow former revolutionary, Ethel Lilian Boole, daughter of the British mathematician, George Boole. Voynich was naturalised a British subject on 25 April 1904, taking the legal name Wilfrid Michael Voynich.

Voynich opened another bookshop in 1914 in New York. He became deeply involved in the antiquarian book trade, and wrote a number of catalogues and other texts on the subject.

Voynich died in New York in 1930.

Voynich manuscript[edit]

Main article: Voynich manuscript

The most famous of Voynich's possessions was a mysterious manuscript he said he acquired in 1912 at the Villa Mondragone in Italy, but first presented in public in 1915. He owned the manuscript until his death. It is written in an unknown script.


  1. ^ a b Деятели революционного движения в России: Био-библиографический словарь: От предшественников декабристов до падения царизма: [В 5 т.]. - М.: Изд-во Всесоюзного общества политических каторжан и ссыльно-поселенцев, 1927-1934. Entry on Voynich
  2. ^ Bernhardt, Lewis (Autumn 1966). "The Gadfly in Russia" (PDF). The Princeton University Library Chronicle. 28 (1): 2. 

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