Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: Display in Washington DC

I went to see the Voynich manuscript and all I got for you is this lousy picture...

In my defense, the photography was not allowed at the Nov. 11, 2014 event at the Folger Shakespeare library where in the next few months the Voynich manuscript will be on display. So I just took one 'please-don't-kick-me-out'-no-flash pic. 

 The public presentation by Bill Sherman and Rene Zandbergen was very interesting and fair to everybody who gave the VMs mystery a try. I learned new things (like how to pronounce the name Beinecke correctly :)

Seriously, there were news. Here is the summary that was prepared by Rene Zandbergen for the VMs list:
"On Friday 7 November the MS was in the conservation lab of the Folger library, and studied by several top American conservators and experts in other fields. In particular the sewing looks to be original 15th C but this is to be confirmed by more detailed studies.

The parchment is not top quality (has holes and stitches), however it has been prepared with great care and intensity, to the extent that it is barely possible to distinguish the hair and flesh side of the pages.

From protein analysis of several pages, it is known the pages are made from calf skin. The same analysis did not produce a result for the cover, but a professional parchment maker immediately recognized it to be goat. It would have required between 15 and 20 hides to create the MS as we
know it.

From multispectral analysis it was confirmed that the MS was created
on blank vellum, and the MS is not a palimpsest. The most unique part of the MS may not even be that it has illegible writing. It is the fact that it is a parchment codex with foldout leaves. No other example of this was known to the experts.
The trend of pseudo-scripts in paintings and statues of this time appears

The MS overall composition seems to be modeled after the Greek tradition
of a Iatrosophion.

One detail not presented: the 'gold specks' observed on one page of the
MS were looked at under a microscope, and turned out to be gum."
 Thanks Rene and Folger library! Let's hope some new scientific reports will be made public soon.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Voynich manuscript: Honey

Different interpretations have been offered for the marginalia on fol. 66r of the Voynich manuscript. The text was tempered with and it is hard to tell what was the original message. I'll speculate that the word above the pot with yellow substance is 'mel', which means 'honey' in Latin and many other languages.

There is also a yellow spot on the tummy of the figure next to the pot, so I'll speculate that the composition is a recipe for plaster based on honey.

There are few 15th century examples of such recipe, but I chose the medical treatment of St. Lidwina of Schiedam, because her illness was within the period the VMs parchment was dated (She died in 1433) . She had a bad fall while ice-skating as a girl and remained paralyzed for the rest of her life. She developed deep soars that were treated with plaster of honey and wheatmeal.

It would be very irresponsible to suggest that the figure in the VMs is St. Lidwina, but in a mysterious coincidence people from Schiedam, Netherlands show great interest for the VMs. Art exhibition inspired by the Voynich manuscript starts next month in Schiedam of all places.

The VMs expert Rene Zandbergen is born in Schiedam and lived there for 28 years.
Maybe St. Lidwina is calling :)

The Voynich Manuscript: the Purgatory

Couple of years ago I speculated that the illustration on fol. 79v of the Voynich manuscript may have been inspired by the Purgatory page of the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (MS 65, Condé Museum, Chantilly). It remains a speculation - all similarities maybe coincidental.

 The Purgatory illustration in the Très Riches Heures is believed to be work by Jean Colombe done in 1480s when he was commissioned by the Duke of Savoy to finish the manuscript.

We see couple of women being pulled up by angels towards salvation in heaven. The VMs lady with the cross at the top of VMs fol. 79v maybe reaching for heaven...

...while the woman being swallowed by fish maybe going to hell through the hellmouth...

Example of the hell's mouth being depicted as fish from Vaticana, Pal. lat. 412

 ... and the women in the middle await judgement...

Another example of similar layout is from 14th century Occitan (Provencal) manuscript - British Library Royal 19 C I - Last judgement - on top figure is holding a cross, on bottom is the hellmouth

 Again, this is just a subjective interpretation for the sake of a good story :)

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: Dotted Doodling

The initial on fol. 42v of the Voynich manuscript is decorated with dotted doodle. This kind of doodling seems to be found often in medieval signatures and also in decorating manuscripts (not the fancy kind of manuscripts). The examples below are from 15th century French manuscripts, but this doesn't mean the dotted doodling was not used in other places too. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: Geocentric Model

Due to the unfortunate involvement of Prof. Newbold with the Voyncih manuscript, the first rosette on fol. 68v became known as being a representation of the Andromeda nebula (M31).

However, there is another possible interpretation for this image and it is much closer to home. The VMs rosette carries resemblance to a geocentric representation of the world from manuscript that at the beginning of the 15th century belonged to the library of Jean Duc de Berry - Nicole Oresme, Traité de la sphère, BNF Français 565 ( visit here ). Similar to the drawing in the Voynich manuscript the model has T-O chart in the center - representing the Earth - surrounded by stars on blue background in a space with air/clouds pattern on the edge.

Minus the T-O chart, but from the same time and place Christine de Pizan is depicted in front of the model of the universe, British Library, Harley 4431 ( visit here ).

Another example from the 2nd quarter of the 15th century France - BL Harley 334 - Gautier de Metz l'Image du Monde. We have the T-O chart and the stars - no ripples on this one

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: Indigo Milk Cap

The indigo milk cap (Lactarius indigo) is edible mushroom. Like the rest of the genus Lactarius it exudes fluid (called 'milk' or 'latex'). The liquid of this particular mushroom is blue. The indigo milk cap grows in Eastern North America, East Asia and in Europe is found in Southern France.
I couldn't resist the temptation to add the indigo milk cap to my Voynich manuscript plant id list as possibility for the mushroom on fol. 99v (per Beinecke library). The VMs fungi also appears to be squirting something blue.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: the Pyramid of Khafre

The signatures on fol. 66v and fol. 86v of the Voynich manuscript appear to be written by the same person. Both are unreadable so speculations about them are pointless. True VMs researcher, however, cannot be stopped from speculating, no matter how pointless the exercise is - so here we go...

The second signature seems to be decorated with a pie-chart - the kind that was used to represent the world in medieval times. In this example from c.1400 the world is shown as half part water, quarter of earth and quarter of air.

The first signature, in my opinion, is decorated with representation of the pyramids at Giza.

On the top is the sloppy attempt of isometric drawing of the pyramid of Khafre - with its iconic 'cap'.

There is no way to know if the signatures were already on the parchment at the time the VMs was in Prague, but it is fun to imagine that the 'pyramid' signature inspired the remarks by Jiří Bareš (in his letter to Athansius Kircher - read here ) that the author of the VMs went to the Orient to learn about Egyptian medicine.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: Another Split Beard

The inner circle of the March rosette in the Voynich manuscript gives us second example of a guy with split beard.

Unlike the first one, where one can debate if we really see a split beard or not, this case is much clearer as the artist added few lines in the beard and the chest is properly set under the facial hair.

Although split bearded men can be found in different times in history, this style was fashionable in 15th century according to Alan Peterkin, author of 1000 Beards: A Cultural History of Facial Hair explains in his book:

In the 15th century, beards were once again routinely worn by nobelmen and elders to signify importance, dignity, and advanced age. They were curled with lead iron, parted at the chin, and plastered into submission.
Below are few 15th century examples.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: Glyphs

The glyphs on the first page of the Voynich manuscript a subject of lively discussion these day on the VMs-list. So I thought it is time to summarize my view of them. I will speculate that the three glyphs mean (from top to bottom) - recipes, astrology, astrological medicine.

The glyph on the top is similar to the French capital letter R in its variation that includes an element shaped like number 2. This variation of letter R was used in medical manuscripts as abbreviation for the word 'recipe', based on A. Cappelli dictionary.

Based on that, my opinion about the first glyph is that it represents the herbal section of the VMs, which could be viewed by the author as "Recipes" section.

The second glyph was found by D'Imperio in Elegant Enigma to represent Regulus or Month. P. Han found the symbol on 13th century astrolabe ( see here ). Richard SantaColoma has a nice article with examples of this 'bird' glyph being used as paragraph marker in Post-Columbian Spanish manuscripts. (links to more examples can be found in the comment section).

The reason I go with D'Imperio's astronomy instead of paragraph markers is because the latter means the symbol should be marking most paragraphs, which is not the case with this VMs. In fact, the last paragraph on the first VMs page starts with a symbol that is suspected to be a paragraph marker all over the VMs.

So I believe the 'bird' glyph represents the calendar/astronomy/astrology section of the Voynich Manuscript, which comes after the main herbal section symbolized with the "recipe' glyph.

The third glyph differs from the second one by having additional doodle on top. The wavy thing, could represent a snake - symbol of medicine (the stuff of Asclepius). That way the whole symbol may represent astrological medicine as a 'title' for the anatomy/biology/bathing section of the Voynich manuscript, which follows the calendar/astronomy/astrology section.

So the glyphs, I am speculating here,  highlight the manuscript content - the three major parts - Recipes, Astrology, Astrological Medicine. The last VMs part with possible recipes did not get a special glyph from the author - possibly just a paragraph marker :)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: Fish

I received a comment from fellow VMs researcher who is disappointed by the negative reactions toward Tucker/Talbert Aztec solution of the Voynich manuscript. So, I am trying to explain my reaction. The authors are scientists and experts and we expect them to know better. This is why it is hard not to voice concerns about their work. Shiny example of fishy logic is the following proposal:

"...The fish illustrated on fol. 70r are most definitely the alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula). This fish is very distinctive with its pointed snout, length/width ratio, prominent interlocking scales (ganoid
scales), and the “primitive” shape and distribution of the rear fins. The alligator gar is found only in North America... Curiously, there is an addition of what seems to be “Mars” (French, March?) in a darker, different ink and handwriting at this illustration..."

Most definitely? There are no other 'snouty' fish anywhere in the world? There is no way that the Limbourg brothers modeled their 1411-1416 Pisces after alligator gar and the 15th century French fish snouts are no smaller than the ones in the VMs. Maybe the Limbourg  the brothers were inspired by some pike or barbel on the menu - the fish seems to be posing from a platter :)

So let's see how 1. Aligator gar, 2. VMs fish and 3. Limbourg brothers Pisces compare with each other using Tucker/Talbert criteria.

Snout: check, check, check
Length/width ratio: check, check, check
Prominent interlocking scales: check, check, check
“Primitive” shape and distribution of the rear fins: check check, check

Let's add some criteria of our own.
Tail: check, check, nope
Fin on the back of the head: nope, check, check

Still no winner.
Pair of two fish: check (I've seen a photo), check, check
Ropes coming out the mouth: check (I've seen a photo), check, check

Then we have to consider circumstantial evidence.

Relation to France: nope, check (names of the months are written in French hand, but maybe not by the author), check (French manuscript)
Relation to Aztec: check (they have Aztec name for the gar), check (some similarities found with post-Columbian Spanish herbal manuscripts, but not related to this particular image), nope

I will weigh in the VMs blonde people, architecture (it points to Italy and western/central Europe); the similarities with other 14th/15th century European herbals; the fact that the Limbourg brothers drew their fish during the time period when the  the VMs vellum was produced. So, it seems to me that it is a bit more likely that the VMs artist had seen Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry than the Alligator gar. The artist also may have seen both or neither - the VMs fish may coincidentally remind us of the alligator gar or the de Berry manuscript.

In the blog-sphere we can speculate all we want, but we expect the scientists to at least pretend they made some effort to disprove their hypothesis before publishing it as 'most definite' (in this case explaining why similar European fish species should not be considered as probable). 

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: Tucker and Talbert

Distinguished botanist professor A. Tucker and former NASA IT specialist R. Talbert rock the news with their Aztec solution of the Voynich Manuscript ( read here ).

Can an amateur like me argue with experts and rocket scientists? There is no point.

Professor Newbold  had his VMs solution disproved by Professor Manly. I hope Tucker and Talbert will find their work reviewed soon by experts equally distinguished.

As non-expert, I will attempt to fight the absurdity with absurdity. Here is 'absolute proof' of the pre-Columbian North American origin of the Voynich Manuscript. It is self-evident in the oldest North American petroglyphs. They were carved 10 000 years ago on few boulders at the western end of lake Winnemucca in Nevada. Similarities are striking.

I am talking real Uto-Aztec culture here - not some post-Columbian Aztec-wannabe herbal manuscript drawn in the style of its European predecessors. If we are going North American - let's go all the way!

The Voynich manuscript: St Albinus of Angers

If we follow the 'fishy' logic behind the VMs April Fool's Day (French April Fish Day) then the figure for March 1 in the Voynich manuscript calendar will be located in the inner circle, next (going clockwise) to the figure facing in the opposite direction compared to others in the circle. The 'nymph' matching the requirement in the VMs March rosette is somewhat unique, because the drawing contains the only barrel in the circle that is not painted green.

March 1 is St. Albinus of Angers (Aubin d'Angers) Day in the French Saints Calendar. I will speculate that the VMs author left the barrel unpainted (white?) in reference to the name of St Aubin (name derived from Latin 'albus' meaning 'white').
This, however, is just 'fishy' logic. The author may have left the barrel unpainted for any other reason. His intent is still unknown.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: April Fool's Day

The Voynich manuscript often makes researchers feel like they are being fooled, so I decided to find out if April Fool's day has a place in the VMs calendar.

April Fool's day originated in France and was called April Fish Day - Poisson d'Avril. The earliest reference to this term is found in 1508 poem of Eloy d'Amerval who wrote: "maquereau infâme de maint homme et de mainte femme, poisson d'avril."

The first April rosette in the VMs contains 15 figures. In the inner circle 4 are facing counter-clockwise  and 1 is facing in the opposite direction. In the outer circle 9 are facing clockwise and 1 is facing in the opposite direction. It is possible that the odd facing figures are clue to where the count begins or ends. Next to the odd facing lady in the inner circle is one of most famous figures in the VMs calendar pages - the 'woman with the braid'.

There is something 'fishy' about this figure - it is the decoration of the tube. The waves are similar to those creating the fish-scales in the March rosette.

If we imagine that the figure represents Poisson d'Avril then the 'braid' may represent the bait on the hook. We can almost see the end of the hook coming out of the person's shoulder.

I like this interpretation, obviously, because it matches my theory that the Voynich manuscript is the book with naked women found in the tent of the French King Charles VIII during the battle of Fornovo in 1495. If the term 'poisson d'Avril' existed in France in 1508 - then 1495 (not far back) is possibility.

To everybody else: Happy Early April Fool's Day!