There’s No Place Like Utopia

As I pointed out in my It’s Fantastic! post, the Tower in the Hole from the rosettes page is often (always?) bypassed by those seeking a match of a building from the page to some real structure. But then, the rosettes map as a whole is also bypassed by those looking for a real location of the included structures. One quick look at the rosettes page might suggest the reason:
Rosettes Page
It is just plain bizarre. The page includes the Voynich’s usual disregard for scale, and it’s usual flamboyant decoration. But it is clearly a place, as it has towers, castles, houses, walls, terraces, walkways, columned buildings, courtyards, and what could be fountains.  There are terraced heights. It appears to be surrounded by water, making it an island, or an island continent. In my opinion, it is certainly not a not a real place, and not meant to be. But if it is not a real place, then it is fantasy place, or, “no place”. More exactly, it is a Utopia, because that is exactly what the word means, as first coined by Sir Thomas Moore for his 1516 book of the same name.

The points to this post are twofold: First, as I wrote, that I feel that the rosettes page is meant to represent a fictional place, and second, that such a concept was very familiar to, and reflected by, the people of my suspected circle of influence. Here are some of them, with copy and illustrations adapted from my page on Utopias. There are links to some larger versions on that page.
Utopia
Above is Thomas Moore’s Utopia from 1516, although I am not sure of the date of this illustration. Just like the Voynich’s rosettes map, you have Utopia surrounded by seas, with castles and buildings. Also of note is have the unique written language of the island, in cipher.
Civitas Veri
The above engraving first appeared in 1609, to illustrate the earlier Civitas Veri, or City of Truth by Bartolomeo Del Bene. We have here a utopia with towers, walls, castles, walkways, courtyards, orchards, and so on. From the excellent blog, Giornale Nouvo, which has extensive information on this work, and many others.
Christianopolis
Above is Johannes Valentinus Andreae’s Christianopolis. Published in 1619, but the date of composition is unknown.

I was first drawn to Andreae by a seemingly curious coincidence. He admitted to being the author of The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkrantz, published in 1616. This is the third of the three fundamental and influential works of the Rosicrucian movement. The fact is that the Chemical Wedding parallels my New Atlantis theory in a notable way: It is a book written in the early 17th century, but which was intended to look as though it had been composed much earlier… 1459 in this case. This is quite what I am proposing for the Voynich… that it is an early 17th century work, made to look much older.

Think of the coincidence: We have here a man who wrote his own utopia, and probably wrote one of the three Rosicrucian manifestos, when Francis Bacon wrote a utopia, arguably containing references to Rosicrucian imagery and themes.
City of the Sun
Above is The City of the Sun, 1602, by Tommaso Campanella. I have read somewhere that a man smuggled the manuscript for this work out of prison for Campanella, while he was incarcerated. The smuggler? Johannes Andreae.
New Atlantis
Above is an illustration of Bacon’s New Atlantis. I’ve been unable to find the original source of this image, or the edition of New Atlantis it came from. I do not know the date, but suspect it is much later… possibly even, modern, in a faux 17th century style. The artist attempted to include as many of the fascinating inventions and discoveries found in Bacon’s landmark utopia as possible: Telescopes, microscopes, automatic fountains, hybrid plants and animals, and much more. Also note the large central castle, which seems to be the House of Solomon.

Update, as of October, 2011: Dan Wilson tracked down the artist, and the source, of this New Atlantis illustration. It is actually a 1970 drawing by the artist Lowell Hess, and appears in the book, “Graphic Design for the Computer Age”, by Edward A. Hamilton. From the book, “A profusion of fascinating details in the picture at right represents scientific wonders mentioned in Sir Francis Bacon’s The New Atlantis. Artist Lowell Hess, simulating the 17th-century engraving style, has extracted from Bacon’s prophetic guesswork such surprising ideas as a telephone (n) and a laser beam (e). The drawing is lightly humorous.” Although the drawing is modern, I do feel that the spirit in which Mr. Hess drew it, inspired by Bacon’s work, may be a parallel inspiration to our unknown, Voynich artist. Be sure to check out Dan Wilson’s thoughts on possible sonic meanings in the Voynich, also, at his site.

As you see, representations of utopias were all the rage during the time frame I propose for the Voynich (1610 to 1620), or close to it. Only the original work by Moore predates that range by a significant amount. More importantly, the utopia was often used by the people of my circle, or reflected the sciences and tenets they held dear. I contend that it should not surprise anyone in the least to find one more illustration of a utopia emerge from this time, by these people, for reasons we already know motivated them in similar pursuits… and that the Voynich’s rosettes, which is arguably “a” utopia, may be a map of “the” utopia, Bensalem, from Bacon’s New Atlantis.

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4 Responses to “There’s No Place Like Utopia”

  1. Nick Pelling Says:

    Hi Rich,

    For completeness, let’s not forget Antonio Averlino’s Sforza redesign of Milan (A.K.A. Sforzinda), a Utopia which predates all of the above.

    For the massive literature on Utopias, you might find this link useful:-

    http://www.trin.cam.ac.uk/rws1001/utopia/syllabus.htm

    Cheers, ….Nick Pelling….

  2. proto57 Says:

    Hi, Nick: Thank you for the note, and the link… Later, Rich.

  3. ivailo Says:

    I think that in order to decipher something from Voynich cipher you need to dig through the ciphers of the large families in North Italy

    • proto57 Says:

      Sounds good… but be careful, if you invent a job, you might be the one to do it! Good luck…

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