Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Von der Universal Tinctur

While browsing the Europeana  database here I stumbled over 17th century manuscript Von der Universal Tinctur signed in 1677 by Christian Wilhelm, Baro von Krohnemann. The drawings include few alchemical furnaces shaped very much like the famous Voynich manuscript 'jars'.
16th century German manuscript here has furnaces with VMs-like stands.

UPDATE. Rene Zandbergen asked via the VMs mailing list: why would a section with herbal drawings include stoves?
It is not that unusual, in my opinion. Not all herbs were consumed raw. The 10th century Dioscorides in the Pierpont Morgan Library (MS 652 here) includes few stoves in its recipes section, so the Voynich Manuscript would not be the first one if some of the 'jars' turn out to be stoves or other heating devices.


  1. Hey, Ellie!

    Do you remember our various discussions about the shape of those "jars" (if they were even glass)? Previous to that discussion, I also referred to the color-coding (red, blue, green) for indicating the proportions of plant materials to liquid (water/maybe oil).

    Not too long after that discussion, you also showed us the backside of a set of tarot cards in D'Berry's collection.

    I am hoping to clear up the confusion of terminology: alchemy is usually interpreted as the methods of trying to change base materials (urine, lead, clay) into silver or gold. However, those same "ovens" could be used for make medicinal potions and salves.

    I haven't found any indications of "alchemy" in the Vms. I have found naturopathy in just about all of the Vms folios. Your downloads and discussions, here on your blog, are the most fascinating and entertaining anywhere on the WEB.

    I'm hoping you might find some back-up material for my discussion of the mandrake fruit illustration which appears on Vms f 83v.

  2. Oh yes, one more liquid: alcohol. Alcoholic beverages (beer, wine, brandy) were were also used. I commented several months ago, in Vms 86 r 3, on the dangers of mixing alcoholic beverages with a meal of mushrooms. That particular mix is probably what killed your "orphan" Pope.

    So, there were probably no references to "alchemy" at all in the Vms (Boenicke 408). When I' ve been researching the various folios, I also consult my Latin dictionaries and on-line discussions of the various botanical drawings. Nearly every discussion mentions people adding a particular botanical item to a mild alcoholic beverage to enhance its effects. There may have been bountiful sources of water for bathing, but not necessarily for beneficial drinking.

    Just another monologue (rant?) for your edification and enjoyment.


  3. Hi BD,

    I thought the 'color-coding' on the 'jars' is a clue to how to read the text, but not much success so far.

    Plus not all 'jars' look the same - some look like jewelry boxes I would like to buy :)

    The Visconti Tarot card have similar shapes in it. Richard compared them to microscopes very successfully.

    I am no expert. I would like to know more about these ovens. Where and when they were used and what were they used for.

    On 83v those could be fruits, I agree. Steve D from found couple of mushrooms on f99v
    All the best! Ellie

  4. Your "alchemy ovens/stoves" look somewhat like the beautiful beer stein that my brother-in-law gifted to my husband recently.......heh!

    Ein prosit! Ein prosit! Do you think there might be a coincidence as far as the alchemical stoves or ovens were distilling "something"?


  5. One more comment about "distilleries". At least one Benedictine monastery was famous for their Benedictine brandy/liquor -- a distillation of wine. Perhaps you may be able to fine more historic references to this latest donation of mine?

  6. Cheers BD,
    They do look like something I would put in a cupboard :)

    I guess distillates made folks rich back then so they kept their secrets - Sinapius was better off financially than the emperor :) Pretty much like today :)

  7. Instead of eating his food, Rudolph pretty much had to drink most of it. His Hapsburg jaw was so prominent, he would probably was able to masticate much of any solids. It may also have been why one of his favorite artists did a portrait of Rudolph where you see only his eyes through a mask of fruit. Fabulous!

  8. Garbled sentence: Rudy was probably NOT able to masticate.

  9. Oh Ellie!

    I am so pleased that Rene was able to contact you. I have so much admiration for his thorough research. At the same time I have been trying for months to alert him to the fact that folio 86 r 3 discusses the hazards of consuming "coprinicae" mushrooms (Shaggy Mane look-alike "Alcohol Inky", in particular) within 3 to 5 days either side of when the mushroom was picked.

    I was not able to "back up" Rene's earlier identification of folio 86r3 as being "cosmological".

    Ennyway, Ellie, I want to give a "heads-up" in re the webpage "That Which Brings Your Website to Its Knees". I am no longer posting there. Too much cross-traffic, so to speak, by another very long-time fan of Nick's. I'll try not to monopolize your blog.



  10. My compliments for your blog, Ellie! You provide a number of great visual parallels for illustrations in the Voynich manuscript!

    Here you linked a manuscript mentioned by Rene Zandbergen (BNF Latin 6823):

    I think that f163r makes an interesting parallel for one of the “furnaces” in the Voynich manuscript (f99r):
    Voynich f99r

    In both illustrations, a furnace is represented on the left, with a plant similar to Black Bryony on the right. BNF Latin 6823 is (mostly) a herbal (“Liber de herbis et plantis” - a Book about herbs and plants). The book seems to be organized as an alphabetic encyclopedia. f99r is about 1.Vetia (same as “avena”, “oat”?) 2.Vitriolum (“vitriol”) 3.Vitrum (“glass”) 4.Vitriola Canicularis (the plant similar to Black Bryony) 5.Vngula (“ungula” i.e. “hoofs”). The left column is almost entirely about vitriol, the right one about glass. The manuscript says that vitriol expels poison (hence the illustration of a snake on the page). The furnace represents the making of glass (“vitrum” in Latin). The red label on the right side of the furnace reads “h[e]rba un[de] fit vitru[m]” (the herb from which glass is made). Sodium carbonate is one of the elements used in the production of glass and it can be extracted from plant ashes.

    About the plant itself, the manuscript says very little (only two lines, mostly unreadable). I think it says that “Vitriola” grows in the same places as “Parietaria”. I think it likely that this herb could be the same referred to in the red label (possibly the same as the Latin “herba vitri”; “anarim” or “afarini” in Arabic).

    Anyway, I think the cylindrical objects in Voynich folios 88r-102r are not furnaces, but what they are usually supposed to be: pharmaceutical containers. I guess they represent materials extracted from the plants illustrated on the right, or drugs to be used in combination with the plants. In particular, the container at the bottom of f99r could be an ”Arbarello” or “Albarello” like this one at the British Museum:

    Thank you again for the great blog!

  11. Hi Marco, I agree that the containers look like Albarello. I have few favorites from the Met museum NY
    Thanks for reminding me about the furnaces in the Manfredus manuscript! I think it is possible that some VMs 'jars' are furnaces of incense burners maybe. The opening of the containers seems to be colored yellow, red, blue, green - maybe some kind of color coding according to the humors - or simply the color of the substance inside.
    Thanks for stopping by! Ellie

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  13. Hi Ellie,
    this divination manuscript has a page with a list (actually a circle) of spices. The jars in this illustration bear some resemblance with some of those in the Voynich ms:
    Ashmole 304

    Here is a transcription of the Latin text:
    Prenostica Socratis Basilei p.258

  14. Thanks Marco, I haven't seen these before. I agree, they look similar. Here is the link to the whole manuscript