Monday, July 9, 2012

The Voynich Manuscript: the Coconuts of Jean, Duc de Berry

While reading by the pool under the Carolina sun, I discovered coconut recipe in the Voynich Manuscript. Experts in the field already think: must be the 100 degree heat!

The recipe is encoded in some Slavic language in every other letter on Fol 88v, first page, starts like this:

edlvoi os ceesriaice vlazen coco dv okoe likier oka ed voda ….
Edible .. fourteen moist coco two oka likeur one oka water….

If you care for details – let me know. The good folks at the Cipher Mysteries blog challenged me to prove that coconuts fit my story line so far. In short: the VMS is product of social mingling among royal and noble women between 1400 and 1410 during increased diplomatic activities in Europe dealing with the Great Schism and the rise of the Ottomans. The court of Jean, Duc de Berry was diplomatic and cultural center at the time.

The coconut was not common site at the beginning of the 15 century. So people of knowledge are skeptical that anybody around the Duke even knew what that is. The record, however, is clear. Duc de Berry was in possession of coconuts.

Donald Frederick Lach writes in his book ‘Asia in the Making of Europe: A century of wonder’:
That brought me to the actual inventory of Duc de Berry in which two items caught my attention (besides few mentions of Noix d'Inde). Number 167, which is something white with inscription in Greek letters. The next item, number 168, is 14 shells of nuts.

14 nut shells? The number is right but the nut is unidentified. Bummer! Still, coconuts being so scarce, what are the odds of Duc de Berry actually producing something eatable or drinkable out of them?
Umberto Eco and Hugh Bredin in The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas have this to say about the coconuts of Duc de Berry:

Unicorn horn? Talking about nuts… What did they do with the unicorn horns? According to Mark Kurlansky in ‘Salt: A World History’ they ate it:

If Duke de Berry was turning into spice something as precious as ‘unicorn horn’ he probably didn’t hesitate to crack few nuts open.
Ironically, if I had discovered unicorn recipe, instead of 14 coco, in the Voynich manuscript, it would have been easier to convince skeptics.
Anyway, coconut drink demands umbrella and I sure found one in the Voynich manuscript.

Cheers!

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