Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Voynich manuscript: the Senses

Ear, eyes and nose may be represented in the drawings of fol. 83r and 83v of the Voynich Manuscript.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Doctor-Astrologer Jehan Michel

Jean (Jehan) Michel de Pierrevive was a poet,astrologer and personal physician of the King Of France Charles VIII.

Jean Michel is believed to be author of Mystery play about the Passion of Christ.

He made a great personal investment in the French-Italian War 1494-1495 by making a divine prophecy about Charles VIII success in the campaign. The prophecy survives in printed form (BNF Res. 4-Lb28-23 here ). The six-leaf work uses astronomy, astrology and propaganda to ensure everybody the future of the King is victorious.

The prophecy was fulfilled in half. Charles VIII reached Naples, but nothing great happened to him after that.

Jean Michel was his King's personal physician until month and a half after the battle of Fornovo. According to Andre de La Vigne (his contemporary): "On 23 August, 1495, there died at Chieri (Piedmont) Maistre Jehan Michel, first physician of the king, most excellent doctor in medicine".

So, if we speculate (just for fun) that the naked women book captured in the battle of Fornovo is the Voynich Manuscript and the doctor/astrologer/play-writer/prophet Jean Michel was the author, it would have been his last work.
UPDATE. Pierrevive family was originally from Chieri  (before settling in Lyon around 1470), so Jean Michel died somewhat at home. JM was one of four brothers who run their business in Lyon. His brother Amédée was apothecary. He also was tax collector and wealthy grocer (here).
Jean Michel got his training at the Medical Faculty of the University of Paris sometime around 1471.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: The Calendar Pages

The 'zodiac' or calender pages of the Voynich Manuscript are among the most popular features of the book. For some bizarre reason the pages for January and February are missing and we have extra folio with April and May. The idea that the Voynich Manuscript may be the book captured from Charles VIII at the Battle of Fornovo may provide a story behind the VMs calendar.

The Italian affair of Charles VIII starts officially in March 1494 when the French King declares his intentions to occupy Naples. The first folio of the VMs calendar is March/April fol. 70r/v.

At this time the French are stationed in Lyon, where they are preparing for the campaign.

The next folio represents April and May and is most likely misplaced - it was meant for April-May next year (1495).

The correct order, in my opinion, is fol. 70 March/ April followed by the foldout including May,June,July,August,September and October.

During this time Charles VIII receives the invitation from Milan with pledge of support so in August/September 1494 the French are crossing the Alps. Charles VIII becomes ill at the time of his arrival in Asti, but continues forward. In September he receives the title Byzantine Emperor from   Andreas Palaiologos (who later sells it again to Spain).

Next comes the VMs folios 73r/v representing November and December. 
Charles VIII entered Florence on November 17th and Rome on December 31st 1494.

Here comes the gap in the VMs callendar. Charles VIII stays in Rome for a month and it seems all is well and over. At this time the King of France (and new Byzantine Emperor) is living his imperial dream.

There is no entry in the VMs calendar for the next three months - January, February and March of 1495 when all is triumphant for the French - Charles VIII entered Naples  on February 22, 1495.

The calendar resumes with fol. 71r/v representing April and May of 1495. What prompted the resuming of the calendar? On March 31, 1495 the Holy League announces their challenge for Charles VIII - his return home will go through battlefields.

On July,6 1495 is the Battle of Fornovo where the book is captured.

It may not be what it is, but it sure makes a nice story.
UPDATE: Nick Pelling, who did extensive research on the order of the pages of the Voynich Manuscript, assured me that the calendar pages are in right order. Fol. 71 r/v is part of the same parchment sheet as fol. 72 r/v. So there is another reason for the extra rosettes for April and May.

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: The Book of Charles VIII

Christopher Hibbert - historian and biographer - writes in two of his books (The Borgias and their Enemies:1431-1519 and The House of Medici: its Rise and Fall) about a curious event during the battle of Fornovo. The Holy League under the command of Francesco Gonzaga is claiming victory because they captured the French King Charles VIII' baggage train. Among the trophies is a book depicting naked women.

Can this book depicting naked women at various times and various places be the Voynich Manuscript?

Before you start laughing, think on the following question: why none of the Prague correspondence regarding the Voynich Manuscript mentions the fact that the book does contain numerous naked woman  bodies?

The answer likely is that the Prague scholars were trying to present the book as favorable as they can in front of such prominent scholar as Athanasius Kircher.(Read all the letters posted on Philip Neal's site here )

Now imagine that Franchesco Gonzaga is holding the Voynich Manuscript after the battle of Fornovo and does exactly the opposite of the Prague scholars - he omits mentioning the herbal sections, because he wants to use the naked women painted at various times (the VMs months) and at various places (bathtubs and elsewhere) to degrade and insult the King of France Charles VIII. The attitude of the VMs ladies is declared lascivious and the anatomical drawings (among them male genitalia, supposedly) is declared to be 'sketches of intercourse'. Thus one of the greatest smears in history is commited.

The Book with the naked women is then presented to the Pope along with the relics. The Pope's name is Alexander VI - Rodrigo Borgia. He is Catalan, so is his son Cardinal Borgia. While laughing at the VMs and wondering what exactly the book represents somebody writes the name of the months in the Voynich Manuscript... in Catalan, according to Sean Palmer (visit his work here ).

Let's look at the map of Charles VIII Italian War - 1494-1495.

Among the first stops in the campaign is Pavia, where Charles VIII meets Ludovico Sforza, who is accompanied by Leonardo da Vinci, according to Charles Heaton's Leonardo da Vinci and his Works.

Imagine that you are physician and up until yesterday you were drawing knotgrass and cannabis pictures and suddenly you are in the middle of the meeting between Leonardo and Della Torre. This may inspire you to attempt some anatomy too.

The beginning of the Charles VIII Italian War is in Savoy. Just few years earlier the Duke of Savoy commissioned Jean Colombe to work on the unfinished manuscript Tre Riches Heures du Duc de Berry.

As a person with interest in nature you don't pay attention to the exotic clothes on fol. 51 of the famous book, but you notice the three animals painted on it.

So you draw the animals on fol 79v of the VMs. You also ad the creature painted by Jean Colombe on the Purgatory page of the Tre Riches.

Plus you have a taste for curvaceous women and Jean Colombe did paint the right curves for your taste.

Charles VIII campaign continues and all guns now are pointed at Rome where under the original ceiling of the Sistine Chapel - the stars on blue background - sits the Catalan Pope Alexander VI. Rome falls!

However, by the time the French reach Naples the coins start to flip and Charles VIII is now facing the Holy League on his way back across the Alps. At Fornovo your book is captured and used to smear publicly the King of France. It was supposed to be a treasury of natural knowledge acquired during long year of travel.

Now you can quit imagining and are free to go back to the boring reality - nobody knows how the book captured at Fornovo looked like. It is lost for the history.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Our Lady's Comb

Shepard's Needle, Venus' Comb (Scandix pecten-veneris) is traditionally included in the medieval Mary's garden plants list as Our Lady's Comb.  It may be represented on fol. 65v of the Voynich Manuscript.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: the Sistine Chapel

I was watching the French-German TV series Borgia and I noticed that Season 1 titles include what I guess is artistic interpretation of the original ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, which was yellow stars on blue background. The stars were painted over with the ceiling images we know today by Michelangelo in the early 16th century. Supposedly the stars represented the Virgin Mary. Such ceilings can be found from France (where later the stars were changed with Fleur-de-lis - also symbol of the Virgin) all the way to  Sweden and Washington DC. So I thought that the star 'tapestry' in the center of the the nine-rosette page of the Voynich Manuscript may be meant to represent such a church ceiling.

While the star ceiling of the Sistine Chapel existed for a short period of time between 1480-1508,  the ceiling of Sainte Chapelle in Paris, France was there since 13th century.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: the Aorta and the Heart

The drawings on fol. 77r of the Voynich manuscript probably represent the aorta and the heart in the human anatomy.

The Voynich Manuscript: the Brain

The pool drawing on the bottom of fol. 75v of the Voynich Manuscript may be meant to represent the shape of the human brain.

The Voynich Manuscript: the Kidneys

The two pools on fol. 78r of the Voynich Manuscript may be meant to represent the kidneys.

The Voynich Manuscript: Trachea and Lungs

The drawing in the top part of fol. 75v of the Voynich Manuscript may represent the air passage in human anatomy. The details in of the tube are similar to the trachea. The function of inhaling/exhaling may be the meaning of the fountain-like drawing. The ripples on the edges of the 'lungs' may be representing the alveoli.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Appendix

Many  observers note similarities between the drawings in the Voynich Manuscript and human anatomy. The intestines on fol. 77v are among most easily recognizable. The drawing on the top of the same page may represent the collar and shoulder bones and the top illustration in the left margin may be meant for bursting appendix.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Tarragon

Tarragon/Estragon (Artemisia dracunculus) may be the plant represented on fol.17r of the Voynich manuscript. Tarragon has mild menstruation inducing properties and was taken in the old times in case of late period. This may explain the similarity between the details in the roots of the plant on the drawing and anatomy of the female reproductive organs.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Schloss Lichtenstein

The Lichtenstein Castle in Baden-Wurttemberg is situated on a cliff. The castle's wall plan today has  remarkable similarities with the city-walls surrounding the 'tower-in-the-hole' from the nine-rosette page of the Voynich Manuscript. I color-coded the corresponding structures from the VMs and today's castle walls. At the beginning of the 15th century the Lichtenstein Castle would have been badly damaged after wars with rival city-states, so the similarities with the VMs are probably just coincidence.

The Voynich Manuscript: Cornflower

Common Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) may be the plant on fol.10r of the Voynich manuscript. The mountain cornflower (Centaurea montana) has wider leaves than the common one - so it may have been 'the model' for the drawing. The Cornflower was used to treat conjunctivitis and as wash for tired eyes. I believe the root formations on the VMs drawing on fol. 10r are pretty good anatomical representations of eyeballs.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Clematis Vitalba

Traveler's Joy (Clematis Vitalba) is my choice for plant Id for fol. 27v of the Voynich Manuscript.

The leaves and the fruits match the drawing and the root shape has some similarities to rope making tools. According to Johnson, Magnus, 2001, The Genus Clematis book the Traveler's Joy was used in Switzerland for rope making since the Stone Age. It is still reflected in the common names of the plant in Bavaria and Austria.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Following the Stars

The Voynich Manuscript contains many images of stars with a dot in the center. Following the stars brought me to couple manuscripts from the Universitatsbibliotek Heidelberg. The first one, Codex Manesse (written between 1300-1340) Cod. Pal. germ. 848 (visit here ) contains a drawing of seven-point stars with dot in the center on the coat of arms of person named von Trostberg and on the page dedicated to Kristan von Hamle. The manuscript also pictures very Voynichese cross-bow, crowns and a lady carrying a torch on the helmet of Ulrich von Lichtenstein (representing the knightly philosophy of 'Serving a Lady').

Naked lady with a torch also appear in Das Buch der Natur manuscript ( written between 1442-1448, Cod. Pal. germ.300, visit here ) in the same library along with other naked royalties covered with stars and mermaid swimming in green water.

Another coat of arms picturing a star with a dot in the center can be seen in  Chronik des Konstanzer Konzils (written between 1414-1422, XVI.A.17, National Library of the Czech Republic, visit   here ). The star belongs to Her Johannes Luti of Constance.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Great Masterwort

The Great Masterwort (Astrantia major/minor) was used in the Middle ages to treat the bite of a rabid dog, which may explain the animal in the root of plant drawing on fol. 34r of the Voynich Manuscript. The difference between Astrantia major and Astrantia minor is that the first has leaf with five points and the second has six and more. The VMs leaves on this page have five point so my placeholder for this page will be Astrantia Major, although both are very similar.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Wild Leek

Wild Leek is my favorite id so far for the plant on fol.55v of the Voynich Manuscript. It could be Allium tricoccum or Allium ursinum. They are very similar - the second one is favorite of the wild boar and a wild pig may be hidden in the roots of the drawing on this page.

UPDATE. Steve D suggested the Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) as possibility. So, the wild boar may be an elephant. Example from herbal manuscript of elephant drawing is the British Library Sloane 4016 (visit here). Nick Pelling saw the elephant root in 2003.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Ivy-Leaved Bellflower

The Ivy-leaved Bellflower (Wahlenbergia hederacea) is my choice for the plant on fol.32v of the Voynich Manuscript at this time.

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Strawberry Blite, Red Valerian

Strawberry Blite (Chenopodium capitatum) may be the plant on fol. 37r of the Voynich manuscript based on the berries.

Based on the leaves the VMs researcher Diane O'Donnovan places the same plant on fol.  96v.

Another interesting proposal for fol 37r comes from Theodore Petersen - Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber).

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Tents and Castles

I spent my day browsing through beautiful manuscript from the British Library -  Add MS 12228 here - late 14th century telling the story of Meliadus. Lots of knights battling and traveling - sea, castles, towers, tents and fountains - very VMs nine-rosettish.

What is really Voynichese  in this manuscript is the signature on the bottom of the first page, supposedly in 17th century hand, which reminds of the heavily damaged, yet still showing, signature of Jacobus Sinapius (of Tepenec). According to the British Library the signature reads T. de Metz - which with little smudging  can be turned into Tepenez. Most likely there is nothing to it. Just the preoccupation with the Voynich Manuscript skewing my perceptions.

You can read in dept research on the Tepenec's signature on Jan Hurych web-site here

UPDATE. Rene Zandbergen reminded me of his award-winning documentary The Voynich Code - The World's Mysterious Manuscript (see here) where the Tepenec's signature is displayed under special illumination. You can see that the name is spelled very similar to signature found in a book from the Tepenec's estate held today in the Clementinum library.

Rene Zandbergen also pointed out that next to Tepenec's signatures usually there is a number present and similar symbol for number and what is probably 9 appear under the signature in the VMs.
In light of all this research the T. de Metz signature seems to be just a coincidence.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Henbane

The Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) is placed by Ethel Voynich/Theodore Petersen on fol. 31r of the Voynich manuscript and I agree it is a valid possibility. However, I will move it one page to fol.31v because of the shape of the fruits and their position compared to the leaves. It is not a perfect match, but I will leave it there for now. Henbane was part of medieval anesthetics and was used to relieve  tooth pain.

Coincidentally the leaf pattern on fol. 31v reminds of the picture of medieval dental scrubbers from 1531 edition of  Chirurgia Argellata cum Albucasis, National Library of Medicine (here). Pietro d'Argelata thought at the University of Bologna and performed the autopsy of Pope Alexander V (Peter of Candia) on May 3rd, 1410. Argelata died in 1423, but his Chirurgia saw many editions during the following century of printed books.


The Voynich Manuscript: Narcissus, Snowdrop

Steve D originally proposed Narcissus as possibility for plant ID on fol. 94v(3) of the Voynich manuscript and I agree with him.

 Closely related in the same subfamily as Narcissus is the Snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis), so I will add it as second choice.

The Voynich Manuscript: Alpine Sea Holly

Eringium - Sea Holly - was originally proposed by Ethel Voynich as possibility for fol. 16v. of the Voynich Manuscript (Beinecke 408).  Eryngium alpinum - Alpine Sea Holly - the cut of the flower and the leaves match best the VMs drawing, in my opinion.