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.


  1. I just googled pdf voynich manuscript and you can get the whole book with excellent photography.

  2. It was incredible to read here about the decoding of the VM as bold headline. What have they done to claim something like that? If they have tried it with the European Voynich Alphabet, so they will not receive meaningful texts. For it is repeatedly the case that folks who have not decrypted the VM, here are speaking out "results" and set themselves up in public. Yale was informed by me almost a year ago that I have solved the code of the VM in 2007, but nobody wants to know something about the solution till today. It seems that it is easier to beleive wrong propthets instead to ask me some questions. For more information please visite my website

  3. Hi W Harley Bloodworth. I meant, pictures from the event - not pictures of the manuscript :)
    Hi Jutta Kellner, no decoding or solutions were presented during the event.

  4. A beautiful picture in my opinion. It makes me feel the smell of old paper, wax. I would love to work in a library ...

  5. New computer; new id requirements. This is a test. Back soon, I hope.

  6. In re the Folger exhibit, and its being Shakespearean in nature because of Mr. Voynich's unsuccessful attempts to 'decode', and Mr. Friedman's inability to decode, and Nick and friends being unable to decode --- I am now wondering when any of the experts are going to take a look at my translations of some 15 folios of B-408. B-408 is/was the personal diary of Bernardino de Sahagun. He began his notes as a novice monk while still in Spain. He wrote his notes on the vellum/parchment we are now calling the Voynich manuscript.
    We should be asking various experts why certain parts of the Badianus and Florentine manuscripts are being reported as no longer extant.

  7. Ellie, if you would like to become familiar with the story being told in B-408, you might enjoy reading a book "Nahuatl as Written" by James Lockhart. In the index of this book are references to Sahagun and his works --editions of the Florentine Codex (including book 6 & 12.
    I've just started reading the Nahuatl written excerpt from Book 12 of the Florentine Codex.
    The vocabulary is very familiar to me as same as the so-called "Voynich" manuscript. Ellie (& Jutta) I encourage you to compare Fr. Sahagun's and Juan Badianus (assistant to Sahagun?) to the contents of the so-called 'Voynich' manuscript. The language being written is 'Spanish-Latin' , also known as "Nahuatl". Pages 193-197 of Lockhart's book "Nahuatl as Written' translates the Nahuatl dialogue into English.
    Fascinating and most absorbing to me!
    beady-eyed wonder

  8. In re honey being used to make 'gold' lettering (usually a large initial letter): while I was investigating medieval inks and paints, I read that when real gold was not available, the scribes and illustrators would use saffron powder mixed with some type of gum. So, besides guar gum and tree sap, the New York City's Metropolitan Museum and Gardens demonstrated the use of saffron crocus sex parts, powdered and mixed with whatever gum was available. Honey is a gum. Thom Spande's daughter is/was a manuscript conservator who was educated in NYC.
    bdid1dr :-)

  9. Ellie,
    I thought you might be happy to learn that among the very few undyed goatskin bindings for manuscripts in the British Library database is one that is thought to have belonged to Marie de Medici, consort to Henry IV of France. It is dated 1611 - which ties nicely to the general idea that the present cover for ms Beinecke 408 was provided in the seventeenth century.

    BL shelfmark C69dd10
    author is Francois Pyrard. (sorry no cedilla)


    Diane O'Donovan

  10. Still trying out my new computer -- please bear with me while I work out the kinks for commenting with you. A couple of months ago Menno challenged me to translate one of the circular diagrams in the VMS. I chose the first which appears on B-408 (voynich ms):
    Turns out the discussion was about the propitiousness of the proposed marriage being portrayed. You should be able to see for yourself. I hope!

  11. Ellie, are you and Diane able to access Brigadier General Tiltman's DOCID files for the Voynich (as it was called on that side of the Pond). Apparently Friedman made several trips to Britain to collaborate in decoding the "Voynich" manuscript.

  12. This is the link to Tiltman's DOCID paper

  13. Ellie & Diane:
    At least three of the DOCID's were the "Pincushion Plant" " -- better known as Scabiosa causacica. The two others were the Turban Ranunculus, and the Dianthus.. At various times in the past year or so, I have written out a full translation of the Vms folios.
    There is an online biography of Brigadier Tiltman and his collaboration with Friedman (when Freidman was visiting the British Codiologist Bletchley Park Headquarters -- AND when Tiltman was working with Freidman's Codiology headquarters in the USA (National Security Agency). Fascinating!

  14. The Inquisition. Things pretty much fell apart for Fr. Sahagun when a couple of the monks working in South America implied (to the Head of the Inquisition in Spain) that Father Sahagun was being 'idolotous' in his mission and in his writings.
    So, it is no wonder to me as to why manuscript B-408 became separated from Sahagun's enormous 'encyclopedia' which was being handwritten on paper/amatl -- twelve 'books' . My favorite is "Sun & Moon". The series begins, however, with "The Gods".

  15. Ellie,
    I have a vague memory of your discussing the tower of Philip le Bel in Avignon. My memory may be at fault here - but if not, I'd be glad if you could add a comment to my latest post: 'Chronological strata ~ Avignon 1300s'. You know how particular I am about crediting precedents. :)

    Diane O'Donovan

  16. Also - the comment that it is a Byzantine medical work seems to come from left field. Could you tell us something more about the expert who offered that opinion, and what grounds she or he provided for the opinion? "Iatrosophia' is just a bit of technical jargon describing a genre of historical medical works. I don't quite see that the manuscript's content, or script, support the idea - but of course someone expert in Greek, and in Byzantine history and manuscript art, may have solid reason for the suggestion.

    Diane O'Donovan

  17. Hi Diane, I haven't discussed the tower, as far as I remember, so you are good.
    Regarding the iatrosophion - you have to ask Rene - he attended the expert meeting. I only went to the presentation at Folger and this was not discussed in detail there.

  18. 'allo Ellie (& Diane):
    If either of you are able to obtain a copy of Miguel Leon-Portilla's magnificent book "Bernardino de Sahagun - First Anthropologist" (translated by Mauricio J. Mixco) I recommend it for the top of my very tall stack of of books related to the earliest European visitors (missionaries) to Mexico. Of special interest is Fray Bernardino de Sahagun.
    I am still convinced that the so-called "Voynich" manuscript (Boenicke Manuscript number 408) is Fray Sahagun's earliest record of his travels from Sahagun Spain to Tlatlalco Mexico (before it was called Mexico).
    Somehow or other, we have to avoid the constant translations of many Mexica/Spanish/Nahuatl manuscripts and other documents which are constantly being translated in English.
    It is so sad that Fray Sahagun eventually came to the attention of the Inquisition. He was later excommunicated -- and much of his work ended up in pieces in various European and North American museums.
    Leon-Portilla's paperback book was printed by the University of Oklahoma Press (Norman, Oklahoma). In recent years UO has been publishing many softbound books dealing with the European invasions of North American and South American indigenous populations -- and deadly diseases the Europeans brought with them to the "New World" (courtesy of Queen Isabella, her husband Ferdinand -- and HRE Charles V (and his Hapsburg relatives).