Friday, April 1, 2016

Arcimboldi

Did Rudolf II have the Voynich manuscript in his library?  Look closer at Giuseppe Arcimboldi's Librarian.


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Voynich Manuscript: Eagle

The plant on fol. 46v of the Voynich manuscript has one of the most fascinating roots in the book. D'Imperio describes it as "a bird with spread wings: an eagle!" in An Elegant Enigma. I believe the plant was meant to represent costmary (Frauenminze) - found in the old herbals as the herb of Virgin Mary.


So I looked around to see if I can find any connection in iconography between Virgin Mary and spread-winged eagle. Here are couple of examples.

1491 propaganda brochure by emperor Maximilian I tells the story of celestial vision at Constantinople described as virgin with wings held by three-headed knight. BSN cgm 598, Buch der heiligen Dreifaltigkeit, dated 'not before 1467' shows the Virgin and Jesus crucified in a form of double-headed eagle. Other alchemy manuscripts (15th-16th century) show winged Virgin as symbol of philosophical mercury.

So in late 15th century Germany somebody could have made association between costmary (the herb of Virgin Mary) and eagle with spread wings.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Voynich Manuscript: the Babenberg Family Tree

Among the simple joys of studying  the Voynich manuscript is researching castles, flowers, old books and... fashion.  Let' take a closer look at the VMs women headdresses. Probably the most weird is the one that looks like a roll on top their heads.

The closest I could find are couple of ladies from the Babenberg Family Tree triptych made around 1490 in the workshop of Hans Part for the Klosterneuburg Monastery, just north of Vienna.

The first example is with what looks like half roundel decorated with round pins at the ends with braided hair down.

The second one is with hair up and accessories hanging from the pins.

The hair roll appears to be trendy at about the same time - around 1490 - in Milan too. The example is from the Sforza Hours (BL Add. 62997)


The Babenberg family tree also features braided hairdo typical for the second half of 15th century Germany.

There are also some examples of fashion that was more widely spread in 15th century Europe - like veil over buns.

Some hoods...

Band with hair down...

At the same time (c 1490) the Bern Munster portal got its fabulous sculptures - including those representing the wise and the foolish virgins with their oil lamps. One of them has a big green hat...

  Similar hats can be found also in Germany in the first half of 15th century.

Back to Bern... some interesting headgear...

Renaissance Italy has a lot of nice examples of hair jewelry.

Moving to France... end of 15th century... we find jeweled coifs and the origin of the French hood made famous in the 16th century by Anne Boleyn...




Some pointy headdresses from the 2nd half of 15th century...

As always, these are just subjective interpretations, not facts in any way.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Voynich Manuscript: Winds

Wind diagram maybe part of the rosette on fol. 69r (per JD) of the Voynich manuscript. There is some similarity with the unique wind rosette in Oxford, St. John's College MS 17 (12th century, England, visit here ).

MS 17 has somewhat unusual wind rosette - it divides the winds into four groups of three.

The first set of dividers - those separating the quarters - are decorated with  stylized foliage and yellow borders. They may correspond to the green lines in the VMs drawing.





The second set of dividers - those dividing each quarter into three parts - may correspond to the blue lines in the VMs rosette.



To save you time, I counted the dotted bubbles decorating the border of the rosettes - 46 in MS 17 and 45 in the VMs.




Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Voynich Manuscript: Thunder

Among many stars in the Voynich manuscript there is an odd spiky symbol that resembles one found in early 13th century copy of Hildegard von Bingen's Liber Scivias.

According to the label this is a symbol for thunder  - tonitrua in Latin.
Similarity is probably coincidental, but just for fun I'll speculate that the VMs spiky star represents thunder. Let's see what's around it.


The drawing may represent the fact that the light reaches the person before the sound.
What could the cross-shaped device producing thunder and lightning be? Maybe a cannon?


To quote Roger Bacon's description of gunpowder (yes, that Bacon):

"From the violence of that salt called saltpetre so horrible a sound is made by the bursting of a thing so small, no more than a bit of parchment , that we find [the ear assaulted by a noise] exceeding the roar of strong thunder, and a flash brighter than the most brilliant lightning"

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Voynich Manuscript: Palm Sunday

While the West celebrates Easter today, the Eastern Orthodox Church commemorates the Palm Sunday, which happens to be my nameday :) Palm Sunday maybe the theme of the drawing on fol. 56r of the Voynich manuscript. Edith Sherwood and others suggested the plant is Sundew (Drosera). It also resembles a fan palm.

It could be that the Sundew leaves simply reminded the artist of a palm tree. Also in some Germanic languages (English included) the words Sundew and Sunday have a common ring to it (different meaning, of course)...Sonnentau/Sonntag... etc.
It is all speculation, but today I celebrate the Palm Sunday with the VMs Palm Sundew :)


.. and Palm Sundae


Friday, February 27, 2015

The Voynich Manuscript: Fleabane

Lori and Russ Holtman suggested on the VMs list that the drawing on fol. 46r maybe inspired by the Biblical story of the 10 plagues of Egypt. The leaves on the plant appear as if they are blown by wind (the East wind brought the plague of locusts and the West wind blew them into the Red Sea) and the roots remind of insects legs.

I like Lori and Russ's idea and based on it I will place Fleabane as plant id on my list. In the old herbals fleabane appear  by the name 'policaria' so I will go with Common Fleabane - Pulicaria dysenterica. The third plague of Egypt was lice/gnats/fleas and fleabane was believed to repel those parasites.

The French common name for Pulicaria is Herbe Saint-Roch. In the 15th century Saint Roch was evoked in case of bubonic plague.