The Birth of (yet another) New Mythology

Back in 2019 I outlined the process by which evidence supporting a genuine, and old, Voynich was created from whole cloth. This was the unfounded “evidence” that the Voynich was referenced in 1903.

But there have been many smaller cases of this being done to one degree or another, in the hundred plus years since the claimed discovery of the Voynich. As a result, the overwhelming portion of what people think they know about the manuscript is actually either provably false, to at best, merely opinions backed up by slim to no evidence. As a result, the present image of the Voynich is an almost wholly imaginative creation, with little to no bearing on any reality.

The first step in myth creation is to tentatively suggest that some small reference to some item of the past might be related to the Voynich Manuscript. This is done with disclaimers, which act as insulation for the discoverer. Terms such as that this item is “perhaps”, or “possibly” the Voynich, maybe even with “we can’t know for certain” it is the Voynich, or “we can’t say” it is, but that it “might be”. These disclaimers are then referred to if anyone challenges the claim in the future, in order to show that they were being cautious, scholarly and scientific.

The first instance of this process is probably found in the 1921 lecture by Wilfrid Voynich before the College of Philadelphia Physicians, when he suggested “his” Bacon Cipher might be the “Book of Hieroglyphiks” that John Dee sold to Rudolf II, according to his son, Arthur. Never mind that it is provable that Wilfrid himself knew this to be… ahem… “incorrect”, and that he would have known the book referred to was the Book of Dunston. The seed was planted, and for decades we have been saddled with the Dee myth. The bare and even contraindicating references in the Letters to and from Kircher would probably be another prime example, but there are many cases of this effect.

Step two is to reference the original vague claim, but refer to it in stronger terms… such as casually referencing it as a bit of factual evidence, one that “we all know” to be true. This transition is seen in the case of the 1903 myth. It is honestly claimed, at first, that, “… but unfortunately this is so unspecific that it would not have been possible to identify the MS by this description alone.”, but then in step two, the other external references later, that,

“In 1903 the Jesuits decided to sell a collection of around 380 manuscripts to the Vatican library. Mainly fifteenth-century classical and humanist works, the group also included two items from Kircher’s library, one of which was the Voynich manuscript. The entries in the catalogue prepared for this sale are very brief, and Beinecke MS 408 is describe as a miscellaneous fifteenth-century vellum manuscript: ‘Miscellanea / c[odex] m[embranacaeus] s[aeculae] XV”

You see what happened there? Now it is stated as fact that this entry is the Voynich. And this is by the same author as the original!

Step three is when “The Genie is out of the Bottle”, as the now claimed reality is picked up by the media and the general public. There are at least a couple of further references to the “1903 Myth” as factual proof of the pre-1912 existence of the Voynich. And there is no putting the Genie back in once it gets to this stage. Anything or anyone who rebuts this supposed “evidence” is considered as distasteful; while anything which supports it, no matter how improbable or demonstrably incorrect, it is latched onto, and promoted.

Well not to be disappointed, here is yet another, and recent, prime example of this effect, one which I watched unfold in real time in the recent November/December 2021 online Malta Voynich Conference. The presentation was titled Book Transactions of Emperor Rudolf II, 1576–1612: New Findings on the Earliest Ownership of the Voynich Manuscript, by Stefan Guzy (University of the Arts Bremen, Am Speicher XI 8, 28217 Bremen, Germany).

In his presentation, Mr. Guzy describes how he used references of the cost of various books and collections on record, in an attempt to match up the supposed 600 ducats “paid to the bearer” of the Voynich by Rudolf II to some historic citation of some real book. The “600 ducat” reference is from the 1665/66 Marci to Kircher letter.

Assuming this Marci letter is genuine (which I doubt), this is of course a clever idea. But it has its pitfalls, which heartily manifested themselves, especially when the investigator is intent on finding what they are looking for, whether or not they actually do find it. The obvious one is that price alone cannot identify any book, even if the time it existed is the same as another book, and the cost exact. Not at all. Many books cost the same, it is only in the description of them, if adequate, that we can claim it probably they are the same. If a matching cost was found, then the description of the book must be compared.

But the Guzy search was fruitless: not only did he not find a work of the same cost as the Voynich, he squeezes his square peg in the desired round hole by second guessing… and correcting!… he chosen sources to make it seem that he did (italics mine):

“The Widemann acquisition is worth taking a closer look at, since 500 thaler is the equivalent of 600 fl.: the sum mentioned in the Marci letter. It is unlikely that the manuscript was bought with gold ducats as the letter literally says, however, since
the imperial account books show that nearly everything was paid for in gold florin, using mostly Rhenisch guilders (Rheinischer Goldgulden, fl.) or Thaler (thl).”

Yes, forget what the letter “literally says”, and substitute one’s own version, to fit ones own desired narrative.

So through a very speculative path through various collections (far too convoluted to relate here, one must read the above linked paper and read it), and making many adjustments for what Guzy claims the sources “really” meant, what the amounts “really” were, he still can only “suggest” that there is any possibility that he has “found the Voynich”, and concludes that much more digging must be done, and suggests where.

In short, he did NOT find the Voynich. He did not even find “a book” which cost the same as the Voynich. And he certainly didn’t find any book with the same description that fits the Voynich. In clear terms, this search, this premise… hopeful and clever and well-meant as it was, failed. Well I wouldn’t say it failed, it just did not succeed in the way Guzy intended, or implied he did.

In any case, after hearing this interesting lecture, the conclusion of which is that nothing was found, I still realized… predicted, through experience… that reality was not going to stand in the way of a good story. But at least, by questioning the presenter, I could get that reality on record. Or so I thought. Below is a screenshot of my questions and answers, which were not shared with any of the Conference attendees. And the answers were not even by Guzy, but rather by Lisa Fagin Davis. She was not a co-presenter of the paper, to my knowledge, nor the moderator for this segment of the Conference.


So you can see from my “teeth pulling session” that it was finally admitted (“Sure…”) that no provenance was found by Guzy, only being told it does not matter that it was not found. Which is of course not correct, because provenance always matters, and not finding it matters, too. And, in fact, I would say the “not finding” part increases in importance as the search intensifies. This search has not only been intense, and decades-long, involving hundreds of participants from around the world, in an ever increasingly complete record on the internet, but more importantly it focuses in one, distinct, vein of interest: The world of the Jesuits, the writers of the Letters, and of Rudolf II, Prague, and Kircher. That is, I think there is a huge difference between looking all over the world, which Davis’s answers would be understandable in; and on the contrary, the actual case here, of looking in a specific area which they claim the Voynich must exist. A negative result in the first could be barely forgiven and explained; in the latter, it is damning.

But they don’t let that reality stand in the way of a good myth, and stage one was set in Guzy’s lecture and paper: The bare but apologetic suggestion that the Voynich HAS been found, albeit with disclaimers. Then, Step two is treating this as factual, that the Voynich had actually been found by Guzy. Not remotely possible from reading this paper, but it was done. This firming of the myth appeared in the comments of an article on Nick Pelling’s blog:


The comment is still slightly ambiguous, with a bit of “wiggle room”. But still, it logically implies that the Guzy reference was, indeed, the Voynich. And it serves that purpose, however worded, because it is done in a way that most who read this will believe that the Voynich was found by Guzy.

The logic of the comment connects from “the seller” (of the Voynich?), through a “probable” (is it?) equivalent of 600 florins to 500 taler, which is then claimed to be the “600 ducats” from the Marci letter (probably the amount). Clearly the implication is that Guzy did find the Voynich, that this is the same book. And then, the comment is capped with the non sequitur “… a portrait of Geizkofler survives, but none of Widemann”. This of course has no bearing on the preceding rationalization, which was meant to firm up a non-existent “finding”. Well tailored, but while all carefully worded to insulate from any claim this is what was being done here, it is obviously the point of the comment. It is also, in my opinion, quite a self-conscious attempt.

Of course I made another attempt to counter this this new myth, although by now I suspected it was not a single genie writhing from a bottle, but that they were now swarming like locusts from horizon to horizon, and over all Voynich scholarship. I respectfully and politely asked Rene, in a new comment, if he was suggesting that Guzy actually found the actual Voynich. But my question was censored by Nick, and never appeared in the thread. A good deal of other comments on this post followed, with a wide range of questions about the Conference, the Guzy paper, and so on. None, however, like mine, questioning the validity of this new claim.

But lest the reader think I am stretching the meaning of the comment by Zandbergen, we can see I am not, as he states on his own update to his history page (italics mine),

“[Guzy’s] first step was to visit the family archives of the Geizkoflers in Ludwigsburg, where he was able to find the transaction related to Widemann’s books from Augsburg. Here, the price was listed as 600 Rheinische Gulden, that is: 600 gold pieces!! Apart from the florin / ducat confusion, this matches the price quoted in the Marci letter, so we can now be reasonably confident that this is indeed the sale of the Voynich MS, with probably some additional books, to Rudolf.”

Zandbergen later somewhat couches the “reasonably confident” of the first part with,

“If this is indeed the event of the sale of the MS to Rudolf…”.

But “is indeed”, or “IF this is indeed”, we are told he is “reasonably confident” it is the Voynich, which alone is, in my opinion, totally unsupported by the Guzy paper. Also note the “gold pieces are gold pieces” contention, with no mention of the Ducats in the Marci letter.

This endorsement of the Guzy paper matters, and it matters a lot. For those not familiar, the pages of voynich.nu are the “go to” cited reliable source of all things Voynich. It is no doubt a magnificent website, but rife with unfounded claims, many of which are demonstrably incorrect. And the mass of the information is about those people, organizations and practices, which while complete, detailed and unassailable, can not be reliably shown to have a thing to do with the actual Voynich. Nonetheless, much of modern Voynich research is based on the “opinion stated as fact” from this website.

Well it was not long before “part three” of myth concoction reared its ugly head: The entering of this new myth into the mainstream of Popular Voynich Beliefs and Understandings, in the form of an online article in THE ART NEWSPAPER, titled, “Unknown history of 600-year-old, coded Voynich Manuscript revealed by researcher”.

Stephan Guzy is quoted in the article, “Almost all of the emperor’s money transactions were made in guilders (florin), usually Rhenisch guilders, with only very few in thaler or ducats; so I believe that the information in the [Marci] letter was just meant to be ‘gold coins,’ which both florin and ducats are,” Guzy says. “Even if a deal was made with ducats or thaler, florins were usually used for the final transaction.”

… thus once again, but even further, and with more resolve, Guzy has decided what was “meant” in Marci’s letter, therefore firming up this new mythology. Hey, “gold is gold”, never mind the value, the weight, the source, or how anyone described it in the past. They were, apparently, wrong. Never mind, even, what was bought with that adjustable gold-of-any-kind. If it is gold, in any type or amount, it must have been the Voynich which was purchased, right?

So there you go. It would already be impossible to correct this.  It is the fault of those, who, either innocently and inadvertently, or possibly knowingly and creatively, actually create these wholly undeserving images of the Voynich as an undeniably genuine, early 15th century, northern European cipher herbal. And the many thousands of good people, who are understandably excited about the Voynich, and would love to learn its true secrets, are all let down in the process. I think of them, and the time and effort they put into this, sometimes a lifetime’s worth. Many have died while trying, some of them friends of mine.

And worst of all, the path to the Voynich’s truths is increasingly clouded, ever lessening the possibility that whatever it really is, will ever be known.

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No Expert “Got it Right”

Number 9 on my list of Modern Voynich Myths states that when the 2009 radiocarbon test revealed a date range of 1404 and 1438, it showed the previous experts guessed the date correctly.

But this was, and is, utterly incorrect. As I wrote in Myths,

“Tallying the expert opinions, pre-C14, the majority of experts… I think it works out to about 14 out of 16 of them, by D’Imperio’s book, were dead wrong. In fact this was noted soon after the C14 was announced, in the 2009 ORF documentary, and its surrounding promotions: the results were touted as toppling the previous expert opinion, and being a total surprise. It was a surprise. But in a very short time, this reality morphed into “The experts got it right”, by using the two or so experts who did happen to have opinions near or in the C14 range, and ignoring the majority that were wrong. This new mythology is often used to support the false premise, “It cannot be a forgery, because how could a pre-C14 forger have happened to choose the ‘right parchment’?”. The thing is, they did not choose “the right parchment” for the work they laid on it, if forged.”

Despite this reality, I have continued to see this provably false claim pop up in many articles, blogs, documentaries and podcasts. And it is such a frequent falsehood, and buried among so many others, equally incorrect, and equally pervasive, that it no longer surprises me to see it. 

But when it recently popped up in a Facebook conversation with a friend of mine (a prominent Voynich scholar), I found myself compelled to revisit it. He told me that one of the reasons he believed the Voynich to be genuine was because of this supposed, correct, expert opinion. He wrote, “The [C14] dating of the vellum matches that provided by Panofsky to Voynich’s enquiry…”

So I referred to D’Imperio’s work again, and my old “list of experts”, to see exactly what Erwin Panofsky had to say. His opinion did not, in fact, match the dating at all, but gave a creation date 100 years later, of 1510-1520! Well he may have begun with an earlier date, as reported by Ethel after his first couple of hours with the manuscript, of “1410-20-30”, but he later modified his opinion to 1510 to 1520.

By 1954, when Panofsky was quizzed by William Friedman, he had “moved forward” from his two hour initial assessment, and gave his revised dating as 1510 to 1520. He did mention O’Neil’s sunflower identification in his final opinion. But the “sunflower” was not the only factor, as he wrote, “Were it not for the sunflower which, if correctly identified, would date the manuscript after 1492, I should have thought that it was executed a little earlier, say, about 1470. However, since the style of the drawings is fairly provincial, a somewhat later date, even the first years of the sixteenth century, would not seem to be excluded. I should not go lower than ca. 1510-1520 because no influence of the Italian Renaissance style is evident.”

On Rene Zandbergen’s site, Rene interprets both of Panofsky’s widely competing conclusions, “He believed the origin to be in the 15th Century, but allowed a later date in consideration of the tentative sunflower identification.” But I don’t at all agree with this conclusion, as we see Panofsky’s entire statement that it was not entirely about the sunflower to him: “… I should not go lower than ca. 1510-1520…”. The logical structure of that is clear… if he would not go lower than 1510, because “… no influence of the Italian Renaissance style is evident”, then we know the sunflower was a moot issue for him.

In any case, it is clear that Panofsky changed his mind, after that earlier, and brief, encounter with the Voynich.

So things were far worse for the already shaky myth than I had remembered, as we were left with only one pre-C14 expert who thought the Voynich dated from the early 15th century: Helmut Lehmann-Haupt. And he was actually not an expert in paleography, art history, linguistics, herbals, but a bibliographer. I mean, that’s fine as far as I’m concerned, but I point it out because the type of expertise applied to the Voynich problem is often used to inflate or diminish any particular chosen opinion by them. I think it might be hard to raise the bibliography of Haupt above, say, the respectable herbalist Charles Singer, for instance.

Here is a chart of the expert opinions, pre-radiocarbon dating, that I’ve compiled:

Pre-C14 Expert Dating


We clearly see that the experts not only didn’t “get it right”, but they actually all fell on either side of the C14 dating! That is, there is a desolate valley of 15th century opinions in the yellow C14 band, with mountains of opinions stretching out for decades both before and after it. Mr. Haupt is the lone resident of that valley.

Demonstrably, factually, the experts didn’t get it right at all, they got it very, very, wrong.

Or did they? And which ones did? Take your pick, that’s what everyone does. Those who chose to believe the Voynich is genuine, and from about 1420, defend their necessary rejection of all these experts on many grounds. I’ve heard many reasons given for ignoring their conclusions… this one was was not “really” an expert, or those ones were in “the wrong field”. They didn’t know enough, see enough. One contention I read was that Charles Singer’s work was really that of his wife’s! Well of course I disagree, but even if so, couldn’t his wife have been correct? In the case of Panofsky, his final conclusion is rejected, and replaced by his own, earlier one, which he himself had rejected! Well here is my compilation of these people, what their area of expertise was, and why they came to the conclusions they did:

Name

Area of Expertise

Dating

Reasons for opinion

Wilfrid Voynich

Bookseller

Late 13th century

Roger Bacon

Romaine Newbold

Philosophy, psychology of religion, cryptography

Late 13th century

Roger Bacon

Prof. Giles Constable

Professor of Medieval History, Harvard

16th century

 

Mr. Rodney Dennis

Curator of manuscripts in Houghton Library, Harvard College Library

16th century

Script appeared to be 16th century Humanist

Dr. Franklin Ludden

 

1475-1550

Style of drawings, features of nude figures, stylization of the botanical drawings

Rev. Theodore C. Peterson

A specialist in ancient languages and history, and an expert in religion, astrology and mystic manuscripts

13th to 14th centuries

The herbal with astrological tables, and comparison to works of Hildegarde of Bingen

Robert Steele

Expert on Medieval Mss., historian and Roger Bacon scholar, editor of Bacon works

13th century (reluctant?)

Felt the drawings have no Renaissance nor Medieval influence.

Hugh O’Neill

Prominent Botanist

Post 1493 (post-Columbian

Based on identification of sunflower and capsicum pepper

Helmut Lehmann-Haupt

Bibliographical consultant to H.P. Kraus

“… around, or a little after, the year 1400.”

 

Erwin Panofsky

Art Historian, expert on symbolism, iconography and iconology in art.

 “… no lower than 1510-1520.”

Based on character of script, style of drawings, and costumes.

Elizebeth Friedman

Cipher expert

“… certainly later than 13th century… … 1500, plus or minus twenty years.”

Citing consensus of expert opinion

Dr. Albert H. Carter

Cryptologic Historian

“… far later than the thirteenth or fourteenth centuries”.

He saw no Gothic forms, and the coloring of illustrations

Dr. Charles Singer

Expert on the world history of the Herbal tradition

1520 or later

Various style and content

Leonell Strong

Cancer research scientist and amateur cryptographer

1525 or later

Based on Strong’s opinion that Anthony Askham was the author

Robert Brumbaugh

American philosopher and a professor of medieval philosophy at Yale University

1500 at the earliest

Sagittarius hat, a “clock”, and other

Sergio Toresella

Expert on Ancient Herbals

late 15th century (1460-1480)

Comparison to other herbals

So herein lies the problem for anyone who wants to continue to claim the Voynich must be an early 15th manuscript because the pre-C14 experts believed it was: The experts did no such thing. This has always been a myth, and as it turns out, and even more vaporous one than I realized it was, back in 2015.

Those who hold onto this dis-proven belief… and believe me, they will continue to…  will be forced to bend themselves into pretzels by discarding a raft of impressive, valued scholars and scholarship, all earned with many centuries of combined studies, debate and real world testing and comparisons to the greatest collections of the world. They must all be called wrong… all the paleographers, botanists, herbalists, linguists, cipher experts, wrong, wrong, wrong…  and only Haupt, the bibliographer and book cataloger, correct.

And in addition, as is and has been done, they are replaced by post-C14, modern scholars, who have and will insist that they didn’t need to see the C14 results to know what all those old investigators didn’t know: That this is an early 15th century manuscript. Even, that it is immediately obvious. I was told, by one, that the C14 dating had no impact on their 15th century dating conclusions. But, respectfully, we can never know, because we live in a post-C14 Voynich world.

Well anyway, what do I think? Actually, I think they are all correct to some extent. Even the post-C14 experts. But how can this be? One reason that explains every opinion at once: The Voynich is a fake. All of what these experts thought they saw, and a great many amateurs also see; all the ages and purposes they opined on as being the Voynich, are, to some degree or another, in the Voynich. It all there because the Voynich is a forgery, and forgers are rarely good at getting it right. Their works are often rife with anachronisms and anomalies of all kinds, and the Voynich is a prime example of this.

The Voynich is a particularly sloppy stew, with content reflecting a very wide range of ages and styles, and so each person who examines must pick only one of them, or otherwise believe it a fake. It can’t be all these things at once, and still be genuine, or of any one time. The effect is like the parable of the three blind men feeling the elephant, each coming to different conclusions as to what it might be. It is only when one steps back, and takes in- and much more importantly, accepts all the evidence- that one can see this elephant for what it really is: A rather clumsy and inconsistent fake. That is what all this expert testimony actually tells us, without having to discard one respectable shred of it.

Posted in Dating the VMs, history & provenance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The 1910 Voynich Theory is Gaining Momentum

After more than ten years of researching the possibility that the Voynich is a circa 1908 to 1910 forgery by or for Wilfrid himself, many of the concepts I have originated, and which, in many cases, can be traced directly back to my own efforts, reasoning and discoveries, have entered the mainstream discussion as valid and plausible facets of Voynich studies. Among the original evidence for modern forgery I have discovered and/or proposed are: That many cylinders in the Voynich are representing microscopes; that Voynich had access to sufficient amounts of unused vellum from the purchase of the Libreria Franceshini in 1908; that he created the manuscript about 1908 to 1910; that he sold at least one other forgery, the Columbus miniature, to the British Library; that he hoped to get $100,000, and offered 10% of that to Newbold; that the Letters of the Carteggio “counter-describe” the Voynich (that the Voynich has NO provenance is an original concept); that the Letters would have been known of by Voynich, through Strickland; that we know he lied about the provenance as he gave three distinct origins (while known, not previously considered evidence of forgery), and more. There are many other points I could relate, some of which  both have and have not yet found their way into the more public discussions, articles or documentaries about the Voynich.

Left, Voynich cylinders. Center, 3D models of them. Right, 18th century broadsheet illustration of Opera Glasses

Along with my own discoveries and opinions, many of the points previous to my exposure to the Voynich have been carried along on the tide, such as: Voynich was a chemist; that the Voynich’s friend, the spy Sidney Reilly, took out a book on medieval ink formulas; that the Voynich may be gibberish; and others.

While the idea that the Voynich might be a modern forgery, even by Wilfrid himself, has been touched on in the past, the idea has usually been readily dismissed. So further to adding my own points of forgery evidence, I examined and addressed each of the reasons forgery was rejected. Each such point can be shown to be either outright incorrect, to leave room for a forgery verdict, or, at worse, be shown to actually support forgery and not genuine.

Nevertheless, the projection of the Voynich as an unassailable, genuine 15th century “something” still held sway during the last decade, with most of the baseless supporting “evidence” it was real, and old, being repeated in documentaries, articles, displays, websites and blogs.

This seems to finally be changing. My attention was first drawn to a recent museum display, by none other than the Spanish publisher of the most expensive and detailed Voynich replica, Siloé. As can be seen below, they have seemingly embraced my theories that many of the cylinders in the Voynich are not jars, but rather optical devices:

Credit Rene Zandbergen

This does not directly imply that the Voynich is a modern forgery, and I’m sure this is not what Siloé is implying by echoing this aspect of my theories. They are not seeking to sell a replica of a forgery, I am sure. But considering that some of the examples of instruments that are being displayed for comparison to Voynich “cylinders” in this Voynich exhibit are from the later 17th, through late 19th centuries, the obvious acceptance of them a huge stepping stone toward modern creation, and certainly would obviate the often claimed 15th century creation.

Of course one may say that Siloé came to the optical comparisons independent of my own work, and this is possible. I haven’t contacted them to find out. But in either case, independent conclusions, or through my own work, they agree: The Voynich cylinders probably represent microscopes, and this is a major step forward.

Also on the Ninja forums I was surprised to read the idea put forth, among genuine Voynich adherents, that the letters of the Kircher Carteggio might not describe the Voynich after all. Even further, that the content of those descriptions may actually work against the possibility they do mean the Voynich. This was under a topic I presented, pointing out that it is highly unlikely that of all the languages these men were baffled by, the Voynich remained among the few still unresolved. Whether this conversation was spurred in part or at all by my own work, I cannot say. But there was no time in the past, that I am aware of, that anyone who felt the Voynich was genuine would remotely concede the possibility the letters were not referring to the Voynich. It was the subject of many heated discussions. So to see some in the “genuine camp” now accepting this as an arguable possibility, meant that the needle shifted at least a small amount to Modern Forgery: For without any provenance- and the Letters are the only provenance the Voynich has- Modern Forgery becomes all the more plausible.

As I said, I can’t say this shift is entirely due to me, at least in this case. But I have been the early proponent of the argument. In Modern Voynich Myths, my blog post from 2015, I pointed out that the Letters did not definitively describe the Voynich. Five years later, after further research, and considering in more detail the Letters, I felt confident in asserting  that The Voynich Has no Provenance. Anyone who knows how fundamentally important these Letters are to the claim of a genuine and old Voynich,  will realize how bold and controversial claim this is.

So it was with surprise I saw the open Voynich discussion of this topic. But then another thing happened, which point more directly these and several of the other ingredients of my hypothesis. The History Channel recently released an episode of their show, “History’s Greatest Mysteries” (season 3, episode 9), which deals entirely with the Voynich. I was actually asked to be interviewed for this episode, but the request was unfortunately lost in my Facebook inbox, and the show was “in the can” by the time I discovered it (check your FB non-friend inbox!). But that is neither here nor there. The thing is, you can imagine I was very interested in seeing how they treated the Voynich problem, and if and how they would touch on the possibility of it being a Modern Hoax.

Much to my surprise, they went much further to explaining the possibility of modern forgery than I have ever seen. The first is not so obvious a connection to my own ideas, but relates to the possibility that when Voynich found the 1666 Marci letter, it inspired the creation of the forgery. For some reason they seemed to be unaware of the other letters, found in the Kircher Carteggio, and focused on just the letter which Voynich claimed to have found in the book. They also presumed, as many do, that this Marci letter is genuine. I of course think it likely that Voynich was aware of the Letters of the Carteggio, and this was the seed which planted the idea to create “a Voynich”.

Sami Jarroush, History’s Greatest Mysteries, S03E09

But then the question as to how Voynich would find enough old vellum to make the forgery, and historian Sami Jarroush went straight to my blog! No, he didn’t mention me or my blog, but it was clear that he used it as the source for his narration, as it is the only source. My February 2011 post entitled “Something Sheepy in the State of Denmark” describes how Voynich bought the Libreria Franceschini in 1908, and that it contained half a million items of all descriptions. The point being made by me, and related by Mr. Jarroush, is that this was a likely source for enough material to create his forgery. Voynich’s purchase of the Libreria effectively counters the pro-Genuine argument that Voynich could not have access to old vellum, as he was arguably immersed in it.

Further making the connection between this show segment and my own work, as outlined on my blog pages, Jarroush later brings up the point that Voynich had sold at least one forgery… the “Columbus Miniature”. This fact was uncovered by myself back in 2014, when I was researching the Spanish Forger, and discovered that Voynich was on the list of provenance for this forgery. And the source must have been my research, because it has appeared nowhere else on the web since my September 2014 blog post, “Voynich’s Forgery“. This information is not even on the the British Library listing for the miniature, they still (incorrectly) list it as though it were a genuine item.

The documentary even uses an image of this miniature which the show producers borrowed from my blog. It was cropped to avoid my own error in missing out the top right section of the frame, an error which does not appear elsewhere for this image.

One more aspect that ties points in this History documentary to my own work is the idea that Voynich hoped to profit from the forgery. To understand why this is key, I have to relate the fact that for the better part of the last decade my theory was rebutted with the claim that, paraphrasing, “Voynich never tried to sell it, therefore he would not have gone through the trouble of MAKING it”. However, in the Beinecke Libary Voynich archives I found the draft of a letter from Wilfrid Voynich, to Romaine Newbold, offering the man 10% of the first $100,000 realized in a sale of the work, and a further 50% of anything over that, should Newbold’s translation attempts lead to the selling of the work. The point being, he was clearly interested in profiting from it, which countered the previous claims he had no such interest. In the History Documentary, Journalist Amory Sivertson cites the figure “$100,000” as an incentive to forgery.

The show also discusses several points of possible forgery that predate my own research and hypothesis, as listed at the beginning of this post.

My writing this post, and pointing out the connection to my own, original work, is not entirely to claim credit, although that is of course part of it. A tremendous amount of effort and time went into assembling, formulating and testing my hypothesis, and many years of difficulty were experienced in explaining and defending it (when it deserved to be defended). As is often the case when one challenges a well-accepted paradigm, especially one held so dear by the scholarly and scientific institutions, the push-back will not be pretty. That is the way of science, and this should be understood going in, and I do. But understanding it does not alter the fact it is a difficult path to tread when you go against as powerful a status quo as the 1420 Genuine European Voynich Paradigm.

But nonetheless, credit or not, I am at the same time gratified to see my ideas, and these ideas, entering the mainstream. Because far more important than my personal dog in the fight is to cite this trend, this phenomena I have been noting lately, which is the understanding that modern forgery not only makes sense, that it makes a lot of sense, and even, the most sense. The gradual acceptance of the possibility the Voynich is a modern forgery seems to be asserting itself into the study of the work, more and more publicly, and at an increasing rate. This is something that I have predicted for a long time, because I believe that when all the evidence is examined with a fresh eye, without any agenda, bias or preconceptions, and when studied scientifically and critically for what all the evidence really means, a 1908 to 1910 forgery is not only the most likely answer, it is the only answer. I believe that Modern Forgery will one day be the The New Paradigm, and I do admit to a certain sense of gratification at being a key part of the ongoing process in that direction.- Richard SantaColoma

The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn


“Paradigms are not corrigible by normal science at all. Instead, as we have already seen, normal science ultimately leads only to the recognition of anomalies and to crises. And these are terminated, not by deliberation and interpretation, but by a relatively sudden and unstructured event like the gestalt switch. Scientists then often speak of the “scales falling from the eyes” or of the “lightning flash” that “inundates” a previously obscure puzzle, enabling its components to be seen in a new way that for the first time permits its solution. On other occasions the relevant information comes in sleep. No ordinary sense of the term ‘interpretation’ fits these flashes of intuition through which a new paradigm is born. Though such intuitions depend upon the experience, both anomalous and congruent, gained with the old paradigm, they are not logically or piecemeal linked to particular items of that experience as an interpretation would be. Instead, they gather up large portions of that experience and transform them to the rather different bundle of experience that will thereafter be linked piecemeal to the new paradigm but not to the old.”
― Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

“The decision to reject one paradigm is always simultaneously the decision to accept another, and the judgment leading to that decision involves the comparison of both paradigms with nature and with each other”
― Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

“Because it demands large-scale paradigm destruction and major shifts in the problems and techniques of normal science, the emergence of new theories is generally preceded by a period of pronounced professional insecurity.”
― Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

“And even when the apparatus exists, novelty ordinarily emerges only for the man who, knowing with precision what he should expect, is able to recognize that something has gone wrong.”
― Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

“Why should a change of paradigm be called a revolution? In the face of the vast and essential differences between political and scientific development, what parallelism can justify the metaphor that finds revolutions in both?

“One aspect of the parallelism must already be apparent. Political revolutions are inaugurated by a growing sense, often restricted to a segment of the political community, that existing institutions have ceased adequately to meet the problems posed by an environment that they have in part created. In much the same way, scientific revolutions are inaugurated by a growing sense, again often restricted to a narrow subdivision of the scientific community, that an existing paradigm has ceased to function adequately in the exploration of an aspect of nature to which that paradigm itself had previously led the way. In both political and scientific development the sense of malfunction that can lead to crisis is prerequisite to revolution.”
― Thomas S. Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions

 

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“Mysterious Steganography”- A Damning Observation

Of all the elements which make up my circumstantial case that the Voynich is actually a circa 1910 modern hoax or forgery, there is one that I have not explained in depth until this post. I think that it is a piece of evidence that would be difficult or impossible to be satisfactorily dismissed by those holding a genuine and old view of the Voynich.

This evidence based on the difference between what scholars knew, or would have known, in the 17th century, compared to what they knew by 1912. The two are obviously vastly different, I think everyone would agree. A majority of what was considered “mysterious” and “unknown” in previous ages was, by the turn of the 20th century no longer a mystery.

The particular case I want to describe is found in the set of descriptions, said to be of the Voynich, in a discussion by various scholars in a series of letters from the 17th century. This problem is seen in a comparison of what would have been an unknown script and language to 17th century scholars, to what would still be an unknown script and language to the scholarly community of 1912. The latter is of course the year the Voynich was claimed to have been found, and when it was first known to the world.

The writing and characters of this book were discussed in various 17th century letters to or from Athanasius Kircher, Theodorus Moretus, Georgius Barschius, Johannes Marcus Marci and Godefridus Aloysius Kinner. As I have previously pointed out in my post “The Voynich Has No Provenance“, these descriptions not only do not come close to fulfilling a proper description of the Voynich Manuscript we know today, but actually work against the Voynich as being the book they were discussing.

But what I am referring to in this post is an additional and more profound problem with one aspect of the descriptions in the letters.

First of all, let’s look at the ways that these men described the script/language of the book the they saw: Athanasius Kircher wrote to Theodorus Moretus that it was written in a “mysterious stenography” (1639), and Georgius Barschius wrote to Athanasius Kircher that it was a “writing in unknown characters” (1637). And that is it for the writing. Their reference to “chemical symbolism” is not referring to the script itself, but to some of the various illustrations. Calling it a “sphinx” is reiterating the confusion about the work these men saw in general, and of course includes the writing and the illustrations. But the writing  and script is described as “mysterious” and “unknown” to them.

So as hundreds have done before, we read these descriptions and say “yes, of course” they describe the script and writing of the Voynich perfectly, because those, too, are “mysterious” and “unknown” to us. But looking at this more closely, it is actually phenomenally improbable that they were describing the Voynich script at all.

First of all, as I stated earlier, with the progress and advancement of knowledge, most of what was a mystery in earlier ages became fully understood in later times. To the “men of the letters” a great many languages and scripts were baffling, and yet subsequently understood, at least in part, by 1912. As an example, Egyptian Hieroglyphics could not be read by them, although famously Kircher made a bungled attempt at it. There are a great many cases such as this. Here are some examples of languages which would have, and/or did, baffle our men, but which became understood by the year the Voynich was announced to the world:

Egyptian Hieroglyphics: Known of since antiquity, unreadable by the 17th century, then solved in the 1820’s
Coptic: Known but misunderstood by Kircher, solved in the 19th century
– Demotic: Deciphered in the 18th and 19th centuries
– Cuneiform Akkadian, Eblaite, Elamite, Hurrian, Luwian, and Urartian: Deciphered in the 19th century.

There are many more like this. Then there are various languages and scripts which I am not certain the “men of the letters” were totally familiar with, although they were still used in other parts of the world. They may have had knowledge and understanding of these, but it is unclear to me how well they  knew and could identify them, let alone read them:

Ancient Illyrian: In his 1639 letter to Moretus (Philip Neal translation), Kircher writes, “Finally, I can let you know that the other sheet which appeared to be written in the same unknown script is printed in the Illyrian language in the script commonly called St Jerome’s, and they use the same script here in Rome to print missals and other holy books in the Illyrian language.” That would be the “Glagolitic” script. Whether Kircher or the others could read this, I am unclear.

– Various Aramaic languages, such as:

West Aramaic: “West Aramaic dialects include Nabataean (formerly spoken in parts of Arabia), Palmyrene (spoken in Palmyra, which was northeast of Damascus), Palestinian-Christian, and Judeo-Aramaic. West Aramaic is still spoken in a small number of villages in Syria.”- Britannica

East Aramaic: “includes Syriac, Mandaean, Eastern Neo-Assyrian, and the Aramaic of the Babylonian Talmud. One of the most important of these is Syriac, which was the language of an extensive literature between the 3rd and the 7th century. Mandaean was the dialect of a gnostic sect centred in lower Mesopotamia. East Aramaic is still spoken by a few small groups of Jacobite and Nestorian Christians in the Middle East.”- Britannica

– Nabataean languages, Arabic and Aramaic

– Which brings me to Syriac: “… Semitic language belonging to the Northern Central, or Northwestern, group that was an important Christian literary and liturgical language from the 3rd through the 7th century. Syriac was based on the East Aramaic dialect of Edessa, Osroëne (present-day Şanlıurfa, in southeastern Turkey)…”

Would this have baffled our men?

There must be many more languages that were either totally mysterious to these men, or partially known but not translatable, and then some that if they saw them, they would be completely baffled. But any conceivable language and/or script of their time, that they would have been aware of in the 17th century, other than Linear A and B, had by 1912 their origins and meanings understood. So then in order for one to accept that the book these men were seeing and discussing was the Voynich manuscript, you would also have to believe (and many do) that it was the one language they encountered, which was both totally unknown to them, and then also, still totally unknown in 1912. I believe the odds of that differential are staggering to a level of virtual impossibility.

What is far more likely to me is that a forger in 1910, knowing of the 17th century descriptions in the letters of a book with “mysterious stenography” and “unknown characters”, and being fully aware that anything so described in the 1600’s would, by 1910, have been solved and understood, forced that forger/hoaxer to invent a language and script which would therefore still fulfill the descriptions from hundreds of years before.

The Voynich script could not be Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Coptic, Demotic, Cuneiform Akkadian, Eblaite, Elamite, Hurrian, Luwian, and Urartian, Aramaic, East nor West, nor Nabataean, nor any of the real languages and scripts I listed, or overlooked, that would have stumped Baresch, Moretus, Marci, Kinner and Kircher, because they were all partially or wholly solved by the time the Voynich hoax was really being made in 1910. None of them would do any longer, so Wilfrid needed to invent his own unknown script and language, which we are saddled with to this day. But the Voynich script’s false nature is betrayed by the very 17th descriptions which are improperly utilized in an attempt to validate it. Those descriptions actually, on critical examination, do entirely the opposite: they reveal the Voynich script for the modern invention it really is.

Some scripts and symbols mysterious to our men, but later understood

 

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The Long-Awaited Voynich Radiocarbon Report

For almost a decade now I’ve had express permission to obtain and disseminate the original 2009 radiocarbon report of the Voynich vellum samples. Nonetheless it has been a long, confusing and sometimes frustrating trail to finally achieving that goal. I’m glad to say it has finally transpired, and the report is now up at Voynich.net for download.


I’m not entirely sure why the report has not been released until now. In reading it, we can see… well at first, second and third reading, I still see… nothing in it that is controversial, or which counters the information which was released in dribs and drabs over the years. The reluctance to release it has made me wonder, no doubt. But on reading it, it still only reflects my understandings, and concerns, about the method of interpreting the measured data.

First, a little history: Soon after the 1010 ORF Voynich documentary aired, I requested a copy- this copy- from the Beinecke Library. They wrote back and told me that if I obtained permission from the producers of the documentary, they would email it to me. I quickly received that permission. I think the producers and I share a mutual friendship and respect, starting with their being intrigued by my cylinder-optical device comparisons, and so included me in their production. I still think this is one of the better documentaries on the Voynich… I would say the 2012 BBC version, and the recent Travel Channel segment, would be of similar quality and merit, although all with slightly different content and direction.

In any case, I wrote back to the Beinecke with those permissions, but did not receive a reply. Instead, it seems, they forwarded my request to an outside party, who wrote and told me “The C14 Report will never be released”.

To make the ensuing, very long story very short: One producer offered to send it, but then could not find it. I was also told there was no report. Then I was told “If you don’t trust the report [I did, and do] you should pay and have your own report done”.

Then I was later told the report had been published, but this claim of course turned out to be incorrect. During this time it became apparent that some who held the report were sharing it with selected researchers and bloggers, who, in some cases, published screenshots of parts of it.

Well that was all very odd, especially considering that the report holds nothing any more controversial than can be derived from the image I snapped of Greg Hodgin’s slide, presented at the 2012 Voynich 100 Conference, in Frascati, Italy. My shot was, for some time, the only source of the detailed data of the individual tested samples, which data would not have been known for several years outside the memory of the participants of the event.

My photograph of Hodgins Slide at Voynich 100 Conference, 2012

But so be it. It is all water under the bridge, as they say. But still, I do wish the data was shared as promised long ago. In fact I wish that all data was shared, completely and quickly, with all interested parties. There are a great many very brilliant people working on this problem, both professionals and amateurs in all fields. They are mostly earnest, educated, talented, and free-thinking people, who dedicate giant swaths of their lives to this quest. Some, their whole lives. It is only fair and ethical that they not be forced to rely on interpretations of a chosen few, because those interpretations and opinions are far from the only ones that can reasonably be derived from this precious source material… no matter what we are told. No matter how educated in any one or more fields related to the Voynich… botanists, mathematicians, physicians, astronomers, astrologists, linguists, herbalists, experts in alchemy… or, for that matter, those outside any perceived fields, such as accountants, psychologists, rocket scientists, roofers or car mechanics, you get the idea… they all need the raw data to properly assess what is true, and what is not, from their unique perspectives.

As Protagoras said, “Man is the measure of all things- what is, that it is; what is not, that it is not.” And that “measure” should be their own, and not solely based on the vicissitudes of opinions by others.

In any case, my personal opinion, on reading the report, remains: I fully trust and accept the results of the individual samples as tested by Mr. Hodgins, and the University of Arizona, as I always have. Please read that last twice, as it is often wrongly stated that I “question”, or “distrust” those tests. I do not, I accept them.

However, I do strongly reject the “combining” of those individual results on the “assumption” that the book was created within a span of ten or so years. I feel this is letting an unfounded subjective pre-conception of what the Voynich must be drive a result which is actually not known.

And this is obviously a problem, because then by using circular logic that neat and tidy result, “1404-1438”, is used to validate the unfounded claim that all the vellum was from the same time period! What was done was that we found a wide range of dates from the C14 testing of the samples, this ran counter to an “all at one time” creation, so then those results are “combined” to fit the “all at one time” creation opinion. Then it is that opinion which got and gets repeated, and reported, rather than the reality that the raw data actually informed us of. In almost every blog, article, and Youtube video on the Voynich, it is incorrectly stated that the C14 tests showed the vellum “was all from the same time”, which “proves the Voynich was made in a short period”. The further use of this erroneous conclusion is that it is evidence the Voynich is genuine. As I wrote on my Voynich Myths page:

“8) The C14 dating shows the vellum/parchment is from 1404-1438: The published range is actually a conclusion determined by combining the very different results of the four samples tested. But when looked at separately, as would have been done if not found bound together, nor assumed to be made as the same time, the results show they could be 50 to 60 years apart. And taking into account the extremes of the error range of the samples, they actually could date to as much as 132 years apart:

Folio 8: 490±37, which works out to 1423 to 1497
Folio 26: 514±35, which works out to 1401 to 1471
Folio 47: 506±35, which works out to 1409 to 1479
Folio 68 (cleaned): 550±35, which works out to 1365 to 1435

The assumptions used to combine the results were clearly explained by Rene Zandbergen:

“A combined dating of the Voynich MS

The dating of each folio doesn’t allow a very precise dating of the MS. The uncertainty in age for each folio is some 50-60 years, and in the case of fol.68 even spans two centuries due to the above-mentioned inversions of the calibration curve. The book production process is likely to have taken considerably less time than these 50-60 years. Under the assumptions that:

– The MS was indeed created over a time span not exceeding (e.g.) 10 years
– It was not using parchment that was prepared many years ago

each sheet provides a measurement or ‘observation’ of the MS creation. Since they are likely to be from different animal hides, these are indeed independent observations. Combining these observations leads to a combined un-calibrated age of 1435 ± 26 years (1 sigma).”

From http://voynich.nu/extra/carbon.html (explanation since removed). From the above, it is clear that various unknowns were “assumed”, in order to “combine” the results into one, palatable range. These assumptions included a short range of creation time, and the use of fresh vellum… both things we may or may not assume, at our discretion, and which are in any case, not known (see points #2 and #3, above).”

So I am glad that we do finally have access to the original report, and thank the Beinecke for sharing it. I am a great believer in the intelligence and good common sense of the average individual, and wish and hope that such a spirit of sharing will increase and continue, and that all data, from all methods of testing, chemical, multi-spectral, radiocarbon, or whatever is out there, and whatever comes, will be similarly trusted with the many well meaning and capable hundreds of people who make up the entire Voynich research community.

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Sources for the Voynich Forgery

In my last post, I explained the reasons I believe that the popular quasi-historical 1904 work The Follies of Science at the Court of Rudolph II served as the “primer” which was used to create the Voynich Manuscript. Although the forger didn’t use images from that work to copy, I contend that they used the stories and references in Follies as the chief guide for creating the Voynich. This was done to make a book that looked as though it came from the Court of Rudolph II, and probably at the hand of either Jakob or Christian Hořčický (although Christian, Jakob’s father, seems to be an invention of Bolton). This is before Wilfrid changed his mind about the authorship, and decided he would push it as a Roger Bacon work instead. My speculation as to the reasons for that change are subject for a future post.

The list below includes the Primer, and then a selection of other sources for the imagery found in the Voynich. They all have one or more of the below characteristics:

  • The item, person, activity can be directly traced back to Follies, the “Primer”, and or:
  • The item is in some work, or in a work by some person, mentioned in Follies of Science at the Court of Rudolf II, and or:
  • The item in the Voynich is related to the disciplines, activities, and items which would would reasonably expect to be found in the Court of Rudolph II, as imaginatively conveyed by Bolton in his faulty work.
  • The item would, by being in the Voynich, fulfill the goal of the forgery, i.e., to look as though the book came from the Court of Rudolf II. That is, there is a reason behind these comparisons, that supports them being correct.
  • Multiple comparisons sometimes come from single books as sources, further supporting the correctness of the hypothesis.

The fact that, through Follies, all these images from the Voynich connect to Bolton’s vision of the Court, and to each other, gives them context, and vastly raises the possibility that any one of them, or all of them, is purely coincidence, paradiolia, or wishful thinking. These connections, to each other, and the Court, strengthen these identifications of them in the context of my hypothesis.

The Follies of Science at the Court of Rudolph II, 1576-1612, by Henry Carrington Bolton (1904): Covered in detail in my last post, I believe this was the Voynich Manuscript “primer”. As I’ve pointed out, almost each and every one of the items, sciences, people, events, and more, which a great many people have suspected appear in the Voynich, can also be found in “Follies”, or as a discipline of someone mentioned in the book. It is not, however, a direct source for the images themselves. Follies was a very popular book, and many learned Bolton’s version of the colorful goings on in the Court of Rudolph II through it. It could be imagined that any equally colorful grimore which had been born in that Court would have had a great interest and value. And to this end, I believe this work was used as a guide to do just that, in the form of the Voynich Manuscript.

The Letters of the Kircher Carteggio: While the contents in these letters are a very poor and incomplete description of the Voynich, I still think they were part of the inspiration for creating the Voynich Manuscript. Forgers sometimes create items to fulfill a gap in history, such as an item which was referenced, but now lost. Doing this lends credibility to their creation because it creates instant provenance. The provenance here is actually very poor to non-existent, and even in some ways these descriptions against them being about the Voynich. But since many believe them to refer to the Voynich, thus serving the purpose of the forger (if that was the intent), I include them here as a possible source.


Without knowing exactly how Wilfrid came to know of the Letters, one possible scenario is through his friend Strickland, who was in charge of the Villa Mondragone at the time Voynich claimed to have found the manuscript there. Voynich was well known for “having his feelers out” for possible rare book finds, and he was certainly good at finding them. So perhaps one of the Jesuit professors, or Strickland himself, in studying those letters, realized some were discussing a now missing herbal, and this was imparted on Voynich. It could have been though any number of other possible means, however.

This of course excludes the 1665 Marci letter, which may be a forgery used to change alter the intended authorship of the Voynich from Horcicky to Roger Bacon, and cement a desired Rudolph II ownership. It is also important to point out that whether or not the Voynich was presented in the originally intended incarnation as a work created in the Court of Rudolph, or as presented, as a possible work by Roger Bacon, the Letters of the Carteggio would serve equally well to back up either story line.

Athanasius Kircher is mentioned on page 93 of Follies.

The Microscope And Its Revelations, William B. Carpenter (later W.H. Dallinger), 1856-1901: Long before I believed the Voynich Ms. could even remotely be considered a forgery, one image from this book gave me pause for concern: An engraving of a certain diatom, found in the 19th century off the coast of Japan, and magnified at 512x. It is so small that it could not have even been seen until microscope advances well into the 19th century.

Many before me have noted that many Voynich illustrations seem to be of microscopic cells, diatoms, and other plants and organisms. Most of these were not seen until the late 17th century with the invention of the microscope. In fact the diatom was not discovered until then.


All the major, and some minor features of this diatom line up very well with the features of the f69r wheel. The spokes, the central “star”, all diameters (including the outer “writing” on the Voynich image), and even the little “pod like” ring, all match up strikingly close to similar features on the other.

And there are several other comparisons from this book, but I’ll list one more, here: The odd “sunflower” root is strikingly similar to the marine organism found in Carpenter. The below scan of the organism is from a copy of Carpenter with colored plates, and both are green.

Nature Through Microscope & Camera, Kerr, 1909: Like the above book by Carpenter, this seems to be a source of several Voynich illustrations. For the example below, a wheat stem cross section, I think the use was to represent the concept of the microcosm/macrocosm. The stem was used as a farm, seen from above, as one of the rosettes. We know this as there are several figures in it, picking or holding some plant items. The farm would be the macrocosm, associated with the microscopic image of a grown plant. I think several of the Rosettes images can be similarly matched to certain wheels found in other places, for a similar purpose.

The Microscope, Jabez Hogg, 1869. There are several good comparisons from this one book.

It as though the Voynich illustrator assembled the f44r plant, above, from parts found on the plate from the 1869 Jabez Hogg book.

sponge_volcano
Above is another great comparison from the same Hogg book. The “volcano” is found on the rosettes pages.

And here, yet another, from the same book. The Voynich plant has standing leaves of similar shape, on a “floating” platform, with a similar-shaped flower pod. Is it an exact match? No, of course not. But the two concepts are very unusual in themselves, so to find those elements both from the same page of Hogg, and then find other good comparisons from the very same book, simply strains coincidence. And below is yet another comparison from Hogg. We have the “stars” from the Voynich, the source for same long sought after. Is this the actual source? Maybe those are not “stars” after all, and it is that the Jabez Hogg book was the source? Here I think they compare well to the Hogg images of Polypifera, which also have seven spikes, centers, and even the mysterious “strings” could be borrowed from the illustration on the right.


The above books on microscopy are not alone, but only a suggestion of possible actual identifiable sources. But a quick google search for antique microscopic images of all types… plants, animals, diatoms, cells… will offer up a dizzying array of “Voynich-like” images. And the idea that the Voynich seems to be filled with such microscopic representations predates my time on this planet by several decades. Why? Well, simply because they do like just like this, and look less like anything else suggested. And those alternatives suggested, I would further argue, do not have an overall context which explains them, other than, perhaps, the New World theories. But even those ideas leave many other images unexplained, and unaccounted for, which this theory does not.

The Green Microscope: I have long been intrigued by the striking similarity between this green microscope and a Voynich illustration… even the colors, proportions, and more. So imagine my surprise to learn, years later, that the actual device was a pleasant stroll from Wilfrid’s Florence Libraria, only a quarter mile away, while he was there! I also find it interesting that the colors do match, because of course in 1909 most books were in black and white, so most forgeries from books at the time got the color wrong. There are many cases of this, in which the forger only had a black and white engraving or photograph to work from, and so, got the colors wrong. The only way to know the right colors would be to see the object, or have it described. And in this case, and the f33v root, we have colored sources, AND similar Voynich images which are in the “right” colors.

Microscope Comparsion 1

Broadsheet of 1763, Pablo Minguet: There are many comparisons to parts of optical devices, both microscopes and telescopes, in the Voynich. But the one below is one of the most inclusive of all elements: Recessed tops, parallel sides, stepped sides, ringed ends. Even the proportions of both are very close. Yes, many Voynich cylinders also have legs, as seen below, but legs of this type are also a common feature of early microscopes. Furthermore, those real microscope legs are often in the “delphini” (dolphin) motif, which the Voynich legs often resemble.

Wow. If I didn't know better...

To further illustrate my point, I will show below my own attempt. I drew one of the 18th century opera glasses in (my imitation of) the style of the Voynich artist. OK not a great match to the “Voynich Style”, but I think it serves to illustrate the above point from the opposite direction: That these cylinders could be copies of the engravings I identify.

Amusemens Microscopiques, 1768, Martin Ledermuller. This particular instrument does not seem to appear anywhere but this volume. While some elements of it are different than the f88r Voynich cylinder I compare it to, it does share some very specific elements, as shown below. And it is actually a closer match to that Voynich cylinder than my 3D rendering of it (center image). My version is a bit wider than the Voynich cylinder.


Those are very specific, and also unusual, features. The fact that so many Voynich cylinders share so many such features with early microscopes, and that some of them are very similar to certain illustrated and actual models of them, is close to impossible to dismiss with claims of coincidence.

 

Why would optics and the things seen through them, be in the Voynich herbal? The motive would be because the Bolton vision of the Court of Rudolph was projecting a place and time of exciting and ground breaking experimentation in the proto-sciences. More specifically, Bolton includes discussions of Drebbel, Roger Bacon, John Dee, Baptista Porta, and Kepler, touching on, among other things, their interest, invention, experimentation and studies in optics. Anyone making a forgery to look as though it was born of Bolton’s court would want to include these optical references into it.

Conrad Gesner’s Historicum Animalicium:


Ah yes, the poor abused armadillo. Of many armadillo illustrations, I feel this Gessner version is the best overall match to the Voynich f80v animal. Note the upturned snouts, the pointy ears, the curved shape of the head. I thought this long before realizing that the book this is from is actually mentioned in Follies! From page 212,

“Conrad Gesner, Professor of natural history at Zurich, whose “History of Animals,” published in 1551, is the basis of all modern zoology; his younger contemporary, Ulysses Aldrovandus, who held the chair of natural history at Bologna, published six large folio volumes illustrated with wood cuts of many of the animals, his descriptions being in part taken from the work of Gesner.”

And yet again, as a guide the Bolton Follies would provide direction to a source for animals to include in a forgery “from” the Court of Rudolph II.

Adriano Cappelli’s Lexicon Abbreviaturarum: This book has often been cited as a great example of the Voynich’s famous “gallows” characters. These odd glyphs are really not seen anywhere else… although isolated examples of similar shapes have been found in scattered locations. One of these other examples has been noted by Berj Ensanian in the Journal of Voynich Studies.

However, I think the examples in Capelli may be the source inspiration of the Voynich gallows. And they were used incorrectly, wherever they are from: The usage of these gallows in the Voynich seems to be intended in a meaningful way, while the use in the 1172 contract was purely decorative. Cappelli’s Lexicon was published in Milan by Ulrico Hoepli. Hoepli was also a rare book dealer, and would have been known to Voynich.

Photographs of Stars, Star-Clusters and Nebulæ, Isaac Roberts, 1895: If, as many believe, the “wheel” on Voynich f68v/1 is a representation of a distant galaxy, by someone with advanced optics of previously unheard of power, then I would contend it is there to yet again meant to imply that the Voynich Manuscript was a document of the Court of Rudolph II. And as I wrote in my post, “Newbold’s ‘Nebula'”, the source is probably Isaac Robert’s Photographs of Stars, Star-Clusters, and Nebulæ

Follies of Science mentions optics, and specifically telescopes, in several pages. On page 87,

“The appearance of a brilliant comet in 1607 (since known as Halley’s comet) greatly alarmed the citizens of Prague and threw the credulous court of Rudolph into consternation; the Emperor sent for his astronomer, and from the balcony of the Belvedere they studies the celestial wonder with the aid of a powerful telescope…”

 

isaac roberts m51 and m100

Aztec Codices: Many have long noted similarities between illustrations and writing in the Voynich to various Meso-American Codices. In fact it forms the basis for several well known theories, among them those of Jim and John Comegys, who postulate that a form of Nahuatl may be the language of the Voynich. Jules Janick and the late Arthur O. Tucker identified hundreds of plants and other items as being Pre-Columbian New World species, in two works: The Flora of the Voynich Codex: An Exploration of Aztec Plants and Unraveling the Voynich Codex. Before that, Tucker worked with Rexfort Talbot with a similar theory linking the Voynich to Meso-American Codices, most notably the Badianus Manuscript. The researcher Stephen Bax was another, and there are several more. Inclusion of such references and influences in a Voynich forgery meant to look as though it came from Bolton’s Court of Rudolph II makes perfect sense. This, because New World plants, animals, medicines, and culture are all mentioned in Follies. As one example of this, on page 146,

“The little explored New World across the Atlantic had begun to contribute its valuable remedies, notably china root, cosa, sarsaparilla and tobacco”. 

And the inclusion of these items, for the purpose I content, is ther reason that many people have noted that said plants are in the Voynich. Not only that, but they are often closest to the versions of these plants as drawn in New World herbals. Below is a page from the Badianus Codex, cited by Tucker, Talbot, Janick, Bax and others.

But is it not only the plants, or the writing, or the animals like the armadillo. Another example is what I call the “Bird Glyph” on f1r of the Voynich. This is strikingly similar to the paragraph marker used in Aztec works, which of course were only known sometime after the early 16th century.

bird_glyph_compare

The Codex Cardona also has a “bird glyph”, and I think it is in others, too… while being a otherwise a really unusual shape. From the same Codex (to the right of the above clip) there is a very similar scene with a sick or dead man, by a pot, as seen below:

Other assorted Herbals: I can’t list all the herbals and botanicals that a great many experts and amateurs alike believe may have either been influences on the Voynich Manuscript, or used to make a connection to some genre in the field, or a geographical or chronological connection to it. The problem is, these herbal references are from all times, all places, by all people, of almost every plant known to man. So making such comparisons has not been helpful, to others, to determining the origin, authorship, geography, chronology, of the manuscript. Perhaps an exception is the case of the New World theorists, it has… and I agree… shown that this work must be post-Columbian, and contain American or Meso-American influences.

But the very fact that so many plausible, but highly varied sources have been identified, I contend points to the more likely possible that the Voynich is forged, and modern, because it cannot be from “all those things” unless it is forged.

I’ve already mentioned the Badainus Codex above. Alain Towaide wrote a section about the Voynich in the book, Villa Mondragone: Secunda Roma René Zandbergen wrote a review of that section on the site of the late Stephen Bax.  In that review are some of the illustrative comparisons made between two herbals and certain plant illustrations in the Voynich. One is the early 14th century Manfredus de Monte Imperiali Liber de herbis et plantis, the other the c. 1440 herbal known as Sloane 4016. And I would agree that there are similarities. René further wrote about the Monte Imperiale, on his own site, “One striking similarity between an illustration on f35v of the Voynich MS and one on fol. 60r of the Paris MS BN Lat.6823 has been noted by several people…”, and, “While the Voynich MS illustration clearly isn’t a copy of the Paris MS, it is also inconceivable that it was not in some way inspired by this or a similar illustration in another MS.”

And one might think, then, that due to the dating an origins of these two works, they are supportive of the Voynich being 15th century, and Italian. But there have been a great many other good comparisons, and they are from a very many other times and origins. Among them are Ashomole’s 1652 “Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum; Materia Medica of Dioscurides, and its copies; Anthony Ascham’s (or Askam’s)1551 “A Little Herbal”, and many more. To cherry pick those which fulfill one’s pre-conception for the possible dating of the Voynich is to ignore a great many other herbals, with very similar images.

The New Atlantis (and other Utopian sources): This 1621 work by Francis Bacon has so many similarities to the iconography of the Voynich, that it led me to wonder, for some time, that the Voynich might be a sort of “homage” to that fiction. I did abandon that theory long ago, but still feel that the New Atlantis was some influence. Among these are grafted plants, strange plants and animals, the Rosettes fold out as a utopian map, Rosicrucian imagery, possible glossolalia, and more.

I do still think that the Rosettes pages are an aerial view, meant to evoke the early concept of a Utopian city. For a selection of these, see my post titled There’s no Place like Utopia (get it?).


Francis Bacon is mentioned in Follies, too, although The New Atlantis is not. Still, anyone using Bolton as a guide would reasonably follow it to Francis Bacon, and so may want to use influences from The New Atlantis to color it out.

Atalantia Fugiens: This highly influential work by Michael Maier (1568-1622) had several publications. Here are some nice scans of a 1618 edition. The similarities in the style of some illustrations implies to me that this book was a source for several Voynich illustrations. But two of the birds in Atalantia is a speficially good one, even beyond the look and style (which is close to begin with). The possible association is further implied, as the birds are in the same context… sitting in and flying from a mound of some sort, while in the Voynich f86v illustration, one bird is on a mound, and the other is flying above it. But more importantly, in Atalantia Fugiens, the birds are used to illustrate the elements of Air and Earth, as they are flying and nesting. The Voynich birds are arguably also representing Air and Earth.

And Maier is mentioned on several pages of Follies, and an imagined conversation is related between him and several others. Atalantia Fugiens is mentioned on pages 161 and 164. The elements are discussed by Maier and the others, although they mention a different Fugiens illustration of them than the birds: four naked men carrying fire, air, water and earth. And Follies even has an illustration from Atalantia Fugiens.

So here we have yet another case of many, in which an illustration in the Voynich is very similar to content discussed or referenced in Follies of Science at the Court of Rudolph II.

John Dee’s Diary, biographies, & possessions: Many have noted that the Voynich f57v “wheel” may be some sort of “magic circle”, as used by alchemists, physicians, astrologers, and prophets. And John Dee and his activities are related in several places in Follies.


The f57 wheel has several other possible implications, all of which I will not go into here. But one I consider of great interest is the man who is holding up a round object, and seemingly peering at it. That looks to me quite like a “skryer” peering into either a speculum (mirror), or “shew stone” (crystal ball), the practice and devices being heavily tied to John Dee and his notorious sidekick, Edward Kelly.

So is that Edward Kelly, holding up Dee’s shew stone? Well if it is, in this case we actually have the scene illustrated in the Voynich, described in Follies! See below:


OK it does not say he held the shew stone up in the air, as I argue is being done on f57v. Our f57 is “gazing” at something in his hand. I think this is a small point, and that the device and scenario is a very plausible one. And as described further down on the above page 38, Kelley is peering into the stone, while Dee jots down his utterances:

“After a devout invocation to the Almighty in which Dee besought the good will of the angelic host, Kelley, with halting speech and monotonous drawl, began to dictate both the visual and oral mysteries revealed by the spirits in the shew-stone. At first he recited a chaotic mass of absurd rhapsodies in an incomprehensible jargon well calculated to mystify the credulous Emperor…”

 

Think of this story, related in Follies. Think of Voynich knowing this book by heart, how it was one of his favorite books. And in that context, now think of how many times have we heard the story which is also related right there, in Follies, but about the Voynich Manuscript? That the manuscript was sold to Rudolph on the premise that it held some important and mysterious knowledge? That it was Dee who sold it to him… a part of the provenance sold to a slavish public by no less than Wilfrid himself? And many later theories hung onto this part of the lore, that this was a plot by Dee, and Kelley, to separate the Emperor from his golden Ducats. Well why? Because the work gave people that impression. Because of the story by Wilfrid. And lo, and behold, the actual incident is outlined in the very book I believe was the primer it was modeled after.

Perhaps Charles Singer made the same connection, for similar reasons, as I do, above. In D’Imperio’s “An Elegant Enigma”, the author writes, “Dr. Singer, in a letter to Tiltman (12 November, 1957) expresses the opinion that the origin of the manuscript was somehow related to Rudolph’s court and to John Dee.” She goes on to wonder if Singer was sharing similar ideas to Robert S. Brumbaugh. So I went to my shelf and looked in his book: Yes, he does… and what does he use as a source for his information about John Dee and his associations with Rudolph II? You guessed it… Bolton’s “Follies of Science at the Court of Rudolph II”. He actually refers to it in this context, as a reference for his belief the Voynich is connected to the Court of Rudolph!

I say it is no coincidence that both I and Brumbaugh saw Bolton’s Court in the Voynich, because the Voynich is based on Bolton’s Court.

Selection of Assorted Possible Sources: The below are not all by any means certain, and far from complete. But these some of the many images that I think may have been used as sources for the illustrations in the Voynich. My candidate for forger of this manuscript was, after all, a prolific book dealer, surrounded by masses of sources in his book store stock. He was well traveled, and must have seen many thousands of other books, outside his own, in libraries and museums in England, Italy, France. So it is plausible to me that many of the similar images we see were copied and used in the Voynich.


The “Kunstkammer”, or “cabinet of curiosities”. There are many such images. The above is not Rudolph’s, but the general theme of these images, lists and descriptions were, I believe, used as sources for the Voynich. The above one has an armadillo, in fact. The Kunstkammer is discussed in Follies.

Thomas Vaughn, “Lumen de Lumine”: This book (seen here) related various Rosicrucian and Paracelsian themes. Gaspar Schott later copied the image, seen center. The flowers the woman is sitting on, and holding a garland of, are probably roses. The rose and the rose garland are of course symbols of Rosicrucianism. Now look at the Voynich f85v/1 “Garland Girl”. I believe it possible that this illustration is derivative of the image from Vaughn. But it goes further: It has been suggested by others, and I agree, that there ARE Rosicrucian imagery in the Voynich, and also, that this particular page of the manuscript is referencing this. Not only with my supposed rose garland, but by the inclusion of a fleur-de-lis. I also think it possible the man at the top of the center circle is meant to be Martin Luther, who wore a ruby rose ring. For more detail on this, read Is that you, Martin Luther?.

Deliciæ Physic-Mathematicæ, 1636: This book by Daniel Schwenter (1651 reprint here). My hypothesis does not live nor die by dozens of images that are similar to illustrations in the Voynich. When they have no context in the scope of this theory, there is really no way I could use them to effectively use them as any sort of evidence. But in that light, there are some which, due to some mutual level of peculiarity, I do suspect were in books that surrounded the forger. And the below image, from this 1636 book, is one of those that shares two comparisons with the f79r “floating person” image, specifally the object he/she has their arm wrapped around. If this was the influence for the VMs floating man image, the artist got it wrong: It was meant to be wrapped around the waist, not used outstretched as this one is.

The picture puzzle: Not a specific source, but I feel that the very close similarities between the f27v “root”, and a puzzle piece, cannot be a coincidence. As a root, anyway, it makes no sense. It is a flat slab. I believe this was a little taunt by the forger, realizing that their innate human desire to solve mysteries would see this as a puzzle.

 

Conclusions: If one wishes to reject one or more of the comparisons above, something must be kept in mind:

These comparisons have context in Bolton: The fact that, through Follies, all these images from the Voynich connect to Bolton’s vision of the Court gives them context, and vastly lowers the possibility that any one of them, let alone all of them, are purely coincidental, pareidolia, or wishful thinking.

These comparisons have context to each other: The similarities between the Voynich cylinders and early optical devices is undeniable, and actually has agreement, even amongst those who believe in the Voynich as real (see below). And people have long thought Voynich images look like cell structures, diatoms, microscopic creatures, and so on. That those two related comparison types are in the same Voynich manuscript defies chance.

These comparisons have agreement: Many people have long thought that many Voynich images seem to be images of microscopic organisms and cells. And many have agreed that my optical device comparisons are very good. In fact on researcher looked into the history of microscopes, as I did. But they could not find such devices in the older time frame that they believed the Voynich was from, and so they discarded the similarities as coincidence. The same thing has happened with the armadillo and other illustrations. But there is often agreement that these comparisons are the best ones, and these things do look like what other suspect, and then are only rejected on the basis of a preconception that the Voynich must be old.

As a forgery from about 1908 to 1910, by Wilfrid Voynich, using The Follies of Science in the Court of Rudolph II as an outline, a Primer, the core starting point, and then collecting many images from many other works, from all times and all geographies, and using them to copy from, or as influences for the Voynich content and style, the Voynich makes perfect sense.

I’m editing this post to add another excellent source, which I believe is a specific one: That is, that one book, or one of several manuscript copies of it, is the actual source of the Voynich’s “crayfish”, “mermaid”, and “bull”, in a 2018 blog post by Koen: https://herculeaf.wordpress.com/2018/09/12/laubers-buch-der-natur-bull-and-crayfish

The background is that for a very long time researchers had wondered at the anatomically incorrect crayfish, or lobster, in the Voynich. It has its legs improperly attached to its tail, rather than the torso of the carapace, where they belong.

And along with the bull and mermaid, one might see, as I do, other stylistic and feature comparisons with other Voynich fish and mammals.

But as usually happens, my largest interest is in the reactions from those who only except some version of the 1420 Paradigm… that is, at least, that the Voynich must be early 15th century, and genuine. Those comments can be read below Koen’s post, linked above. But what I see in it is a sense of difficulty in explaining the presence of this most probably source of the Voynich crayfish. Did the scribe see a copy of the Buch der Natur? But it is older than the Voynich. Did he/she see a copy of the Buch der Natur? Which one? Or maybe (as is often posited in these difficult situations) there is a “lost manuscript” that both books were copied FROM. And if we find THAT copy, it will explain this.

Of course elephant in the room is not noticed by anyone in these discussions, because even though each time a good comparison is found, similar uncomfortable sentiments whirl around… but the elephant is the fact that it happens in so many cases, disparate cases, that as I pointed out on the Ninja forum discussion about this,

“… looking a the vast corpus of great comparisons all at once, the problem is frankly insurmountable. These 15th century scribes would have had to have been very mobile, which they were not. Or they would have had access to some vast, historically unknown collections, which they did not.

“Or, far more simply, a modern era, 1908 person, with piles of books from all over the world stacked like the walls of a fortress around them, and even had access to trains, and even cars, to rapidly visit the libraries and collections of Europe, therefore having access to all the sources observed in the Voynich.”

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The Sources for the Voynich Forgery

In my second to last post, I explained the reasons I believe that the popular quasi-historical 1904 work The Follies of Science at the Court of Rudolph II served as the “primer” used to create the Voynich Manuscript. Although the forger didn’t use images from that work to copy, I contend that they used the stories and references in Follies as an outline for creating the Voynich. I believe the intent was to create a book which would look as though it came from the Court of Rudolph II, and probably at the hand of either Jakob or Christian Hořčický (although Christian, Jakob’s father, seems to be an invention of Bolton). Later, Wilfrid changed his mind and switched to a Roger Bacon authorship.

Jacobus Horcicky: The first intended author of the Voynich Ms.?

The list below includes the Primer, and then a selection of other sources for the imagery found in the Voynich. They all have one or more of the below characteristics. Some are direct, specific, and identifiable sources, and others are not specifically identifiable but probable works used as models and influences for the content of the Voynich.

  • The item, person, activity can be directly traced back to Follies, the “Primer”, and or:
  • The item is in some work, or in a work by some person, mentioned in Follies of Science at the Court of Rudolf II, and or:
  • The item in the Voynich is related to the disciplines, activities, and items which would would reasonably expect to be found in the Court of Rudolph II, as imaginatively conveyed by Bolton in his faulty work.
  • The item would, by being in the Voynich, fulfill the goal of the forgery, i.e., to look as though the book came from the Court of Rudolf II. That is, there is a reason behind these comparisons, that supports them being correct.
  • Multiple comparisons sometimes come from single books as sources, further supporting the correctness of the hypothesis.

The fact that, through Follies, all these images from the Voynich connect to Bolton’s vision of the Court, and to each other, gives them context, and greatly lowers the possibility that any one of them, or all of them, is purely coincidence, paradiolia, or wishful thinking. These connections, to each other, and the Court, strengthen these identifications in the context of my hypothesis.

The Follies of Science at the Court of Rudolph II, 1576-1612, by Henry Carrington Bolton (1904): Covered in detail in my last post, I believe this was the Voynich Manuscript “primer”. As I’ve pointed out, almost each and every one of the items, sciences, people, events, and more, which a great many people have suspected appear in the Voynich, can also be found in “Follies”, or as a discipline of someone mentioned in the book. It is not, however, a direct source for the images themselves. Follies was a very popular book, and many learned Bolton’s version of the colorful goings on in the Court of Rudolph II through it. It could be imagined that any equally colorful grimore which had been born in that Court would have had a great interest and value. And to this end, I believe this work was used as a guide to do just that, in the form of the Voynich Manuscript.

 

The Letters of the Kircher Carteggio: While the contents in these letters are a very poor and incomplete description of the Voynich, I still think they were part of the inspiration for creating the Voynich Manuscript. Forgers sometimes create items to fulfill a gap in history, such as an item which was referenced, but now lost. Doing this lends credibility to their creation because it creates instant provenance. The provenance here is actually very poor to non-existent, and even in some ways these descriptions against them being about the Voynich. But since many believe them to refer to the Voynich, thus serving the purpose of the forger (if that was the intent), I include them here as a possible source.


Without knowing exactly how Wilfrid came to know of the Letters, one possible scenario is through his friend Strickland, who was in charge of the Villa Mondragone at the time Voynich claimed to have found the manuscript there. Voynich was well known for “having his feelers out” for possible rare book finds, and he was certainly good at finding them. So perhaps one of the Jesuit professors, or Strickland himself, in studying those letters, realized some were discussing a now missing herbal, and this was imparted on Voynich. It could have been though any number of other possible means, however.

This of course excludes the 1665 Marci letter, which may be a forgery used to change alter the intended authorship of the Voynich from Horcicky to Roger Bacon, and cement a desired Rudolph II ownership. It is also important to point out that whether or not the Voynich was presented in the originally intended incarnation as a work created in the Court of Rudolph, or as presented, as a possible work by Roger Bacon, the Letters of the Carteggio would serve equally well to back up either story line.

Athanasius Kircher is mentioned on page 93 of Follies.

The Microscope And Its Revelations, William B. Carpenter (later W.H. Dallinger), 1856-1901: Long before I believed the Voynich Ms. could even remotely be considered a forgery, one image from this book gave me pause for concern: An engraving of a certain diatom, found in the 19th century off the coast of Japan, and magnified at 512x. It is so small that it could not have even been seen until microscope advances well into the 19th century.

Many before me have noted that many Voynich illustrations seem to be of microscopic cells, diatoms, and other plants and organisms. Most of these were not seen until the late 17th century with the invention of the microscope. In fact the diatom was not discovered until then.


All the major, and some minor features of this diatom line up very well with the features of the f69r wheel. The spokes, the central “star”, all diameters (including the outer “writing” on the Voynich image), and even the little “pod like” ring, all match up strikingly close to similar features on the other.

And there are several other comparisons from this book, but I’ll list one more, here: The odd “sunflower” root is strikingly similar to the marine organism found in Carpenter. The below scan of the organism is from a copy of Carpenter with colored plates, and both are green.

Nature Through Microscope & Camera, Kerr, 1909: Like the above book by Carpenter, this seems to be a source of several Voynich illustrations. For the example below, a wheat stem cross section, I think the use was to represent the concept of the microcosm/macrocosm. The stem was used as a farm, seen from above, as one of the rosettes. We know this as there are several figures in it, picking or holding some plant items. The farm would be the macrocosm, associated with the microscopic image of a grown plant. I think several of the Rosettes images can be similarly matched to certain wheels found in other places, for a similar purpose.

The Microscope, Jabez Hogg, 1869. There are several good comparisons from this one book.

It as though the Voynich illustrator assembled the f44r plant, above, from parts found on the plate from the 1869 Jabez Hogg book.


Above is another great comparison from the same Hogg book. The “volcano” is found on the rosettes pages.

And here, yet another, from the same book. The Voynich plant has standing leaves of similar shape, on a “floating” platform, with a similar-shaped flower pod. Is it an exact match? No, of course not. But the two concepts are very unusual in themselves, so to find those elements both from the same page of Hogg, and then find other good comparisons from the very same book, simply strains coincidence. And below is yet another comparison from Hogg. We have the “stars” from the Voynich, the source for same long sought after. Is this the actual source? Maybe those are not “stars” after all, and it is that the Jabez Hogg book was the source? Here I think they compare well to the Hogg images of Polypifera, which also have seven spikes, centers, and even the mysterious “strings” could be borrowed from the illustration on the right.


The above books on microscopy are not alone, but only a suggestion of possible actual identifiable sources. But a quick google search for antique microscopic images of all types… plants, animals, diatoms, cells… will offer up a dizzying array of “Voynich-like” images. And the idea that the Voynich might be filled with such microscopic representations goes back to the earliest days of Voynich research.

The Green Microscope: I have long been intrigued by the striking similarity between this green microscope and a Voynich illustration… even the colors, proportions, and more. So imagine my surprise to learn, years later, that the actual device was a pleasant stroll from Wilfrid’s Florence Libraria, only a quarter mile away, while he was there! I also find it interesting that the colors do match, because of course in 1909 most books were in black and white, so most forgeries from books at the time got the color wrong. There are many cases of this, in which the forger only had a black and white engraving or photograph to work from, and so, got the colors wrong. The only way to know the right colors would be to see the object, or have it described. And in this case, and the f33v root, we have colored sources, AND similar Voynich images which are in the “right” colors.

Microscope Comparsion 1

Broadsheet of 1763, Pablo Minguet: There are many comparisons to parts of optical devices, both microscopes and telescopes, in the Voynich. But the one below is one of the most inclusive of all elements: Recessed tops, parallel sides, stepped sides, ringed ends. Even the proportions of both are very close. Yes, many Voynich cylinders also have legs, as seen below, but legs of this type are also a common feature of early microscopes. Furthermore, those real microscope legs are often in the “delphini” (dolphin) motif, which the Voynich legs often resemble.

Wow. If I didn't know better...

To further illustrate my point, I will show below my own attempt. I drew one of the 18th century opera glasses in (my imitation of) the style of the Voynich artist. OK not a great match to the “Voynich Style”, but I think it serves to illustrate the above point from the opposite direction: That these cylinders could be copies of the engravings I identify.

Amusemens Microscopiques, 1768, Martin Ledermuller. This particular instrument does not seem to appear anywhere but this volume. While some elements of it are different than the f88r Voynich cylinder I compare it to, it does share some very specific elements, as shown below. And it is actually a closer match to that Voynich cylinder than my 3D rendering of it (center image). My version is a bit wider than the Voynich cylinder.


Those are very specific, and also unusual, features. The fact that so many Voynich cylinders share so many such features with early microscopes, and that some of them are very similar to certain illustrated and actual models of them, is close to impossible to dismiss with claims of coincidence.

Why would optics and the things seen through them, be in the Voynich herbal? The motive would be because the Bolton vision of the Court of Rudolph was projecting a place and time of exciting and ground breaking experimentation in the proto-sciences. More specifically, Bolton includes discussions of Drebbel, Roger Bacon, John Dee, Baptista Porta, and Kepler, touching on, among other things, their interest, invention, experimentation and studies in optics. Anyone making a forgery to look as though it was born of Bolton’s court would want to include these optical references into it.

Conrad Gesner’s Historicum Animalicium:


Ah yes, the poor abused armadillo. Of many armadillo illustrations, I feel this Gessner version is the best overall match to the Voynich f80v animal. Note the upturned snouts, the pointy ears, the curved shape of the head. I thought this long before realizing that the book this is from is actually mentioned in Follies! From page 212,

“Conrad Gesner, Professor of natural history at Zurich, whose “History of Animals,” published in 1551, is the basis of all modern zoology; his younger contemporary, Ulysses Aldrovandus, who held the chair of natural history at Bologna, published six large folio volumes illustrated with wood cuts of many of the animals, his descriptions being in part taken from the work of Gesner.”

And yet again, as a guide the Bolton Follies would provide direction to a source for animals to include in a forgery “from” the Court of Rudolph II.

Adriano Cappelli’s Lexicon Abbreviaturarum: This book has often been cited as a great example of the Voynich’s famous “gallows” characters. These odd glyphs are really not seen anywhere else… although isolated examples of similar shapes have been found in scattered locations. One of these other examples has been noted by Berj Ensanian in the Journal of Voynich Studies.

However, I think the examples in Capelli may be the source inspiration of the Voynich gallows. And they were used incorrectly, wherever they are from: The usage of these gallows in the Voynich seems to be intended in a meaningful way, while the use in the 1172 contract was purely decorative. Cappelli’s Lexicon was published in Milan by Ulrico Hoepli. Hoepli was also a rare book dealer, and would have been known to Voynich.

Photographs of Stars, Star-Clusters and Nebulæ, Isaac Roberts, 1895: If, as many believe, the “wheel” on Voynich f68v/1 is a representation of a distant galaxy, by someone with advanced optics of previously unheard of power, then I would contend it is there to yet again meant to imply that the Voynich Manuscript was a document of the Court of Rudolph II. And as I wrote in my post, “Newbold’s ‘Nebula'”, the source is probably Isaac Robert’s Photographs of Stars, Star-Clusters, and Nebulæ

Follies of Science mentions optics, and specifically telescopes, in several pages. On page 87,

“The appearance of a brilliant comet in 1607 (since known as Halley’s comet) greatly alarmed the citizens of Prague and threw the credulous court of Rudolph into consternation; the Emperor sent for his astronomer, and from the balcony of the Belvedere they studies the celestial wonder with the aid of a powerful telescope…”

 

isaac roberts m51 and m100

Aztec Codices: Many have long noted similarities between illustrations and writing in the Voynich to various Meso-American Codices. In fact it forms the basis for several well known theories, among them those of Jim and John Comegys, who postulate that a form of Nahuatl may be the language of the Voynich. Jules Janick and the late Arthur O. Tucker identified hundreds of plants and other items as being Pre-Columbian New World species, in two works: The Flora of the Voynich Codex: An Exploration of Aztec Plants and Unraveling the Voynich Codex. Before that, Tucker worked with Rexfort Talbot with a similar theory linking the Voynich to Meso-American Codices, most notably the Badianus Manuscript. The researcher Stephen Bax was another, and there are several more. Inclusion of such references and influences in a Voynich forgery meant to look as though it came from Bolton’s Court of Rudolph II makes perfect sense. This, because New World plants, animals, medicines, and culture are all mentioned in Follies. As one example of this, on page 146,

“The little explored New World across the Atlantic had begun to contribute its valuable remedies, notably china root, cosa, sarsaparilla and tobacco”. 

And the inclusion of these items, for the purpose I contend, is the reason that many people have noted that said plants are in the Voynich. Not only that, but they are often closest to the versions of these plants as drawn in New World herbals. Below is a page from the Badianus Codex, cited by Tucker, Talbot, Janick, Bax and others.

But is it not only the plants, or the writing, or the animals like the armadillo. Another example is what I call the “Bird Glyph” on f1r of the Voynich. This is strikingly similar to the paragraph marker used in Aztec works, which of course were only known sometime after the early 16th century.

The Codex Cardona also has a “bird glyph”, and I think it is in others, too… while being a otherwise a rare shape. From the same Codex (to the right of the above clip) there is a very similar scene with a sick or dead man, by a pot, as seen below:

Atalantia Fugiens: This highly influential work by Michael Maier (1568-1622) had several publications. Here are some nice scans of a 1618 edition. The similarities in the style of some illustrations implies to me that this book was a source for several Voynich illustrations. But two of the birds in Atalantia is a speficially good one, even beyond the look and style (which is close to begin with). The possible association is further implied, as the birds are in the same context… sitting in and flying from a mound of some sort, while in the Voynich f86v illustration, one bird is on a mound, and the other is flying above it. But more importantly, in Atalantia Fugiens, the birds are used to illustrate the elements of Air and Earth, as they are flying and nesting. The Voynich birds are arguably also representing Air and Earth.

And Maier is mentioned on several pages of Follies, and an imagined conversation is related between him and several others. Atalantia Fugiens is mentioned on pages 161 and 164. The elements are discussed by Maier and the others, although they mention a different Fugiens illustration of them than the birds: four naked men carrying fire, air, water and earth. And Follies even has an illustration from Atalantia Fugiens.

John Dee’s Diary, biographies, & possessions: Many have noted that the Voynich f57v “wheel” may be some sort of “magic circle”, as used by alchemists, physicians, astrologers, and prophets. And John Dee and his activities are related in several places in Follies.


The f57 wheel has several other possible implications, all of which I will not go into here. And clearly the wheels are not a direct comparison, only of influence. I include it under “specific sources” because of the man who is holding up a round object, and seemingly peering at it. That looks to me quite like a “skryer” peering into either a speculum (mirror), or “shew stone” (crystal ball), the practice and devices being heavily tied to John Dee and his notorious sidekick, Edward Kelly.

So is that Edward Kelly, holding up Dee’s shew stone? Well if it is, in this case we actually have the scene illustrated in the Voynich, described in Follies! See below:


It does not say he held the shew stone up in the air, as I argue is being done on f57v. Our f57 is “gazing” at something in his hand. I think this is a small point, and that the device and scenario is a very plausible one. And as described further down on the above page 38, Kelley is peering into the stone, while Dee jots down his utterances:

“After a devout invocation to the Almighty in which Dee besought the good will of the angelic host, Kelley, with halting speech and monotonous drawl, began to dictate both the visual and oral mysteries revealed by the spirits in the shew-stone. At first he recited a chaotic mass of absurd rhapsodies in an incomprehensible jargon well calculated to mystify the credulous Emperor…”

Think of this story, related in Follies. Think of Voynich knowing this book by heart, how it was one of his favorite books. And in that context, now think of how many times have we heard the story which is also related right there, in Follies, but about the Voynich Manuscript? That the manuscript was sold to Rudolph on the premise that it held some important and mysterious knowledge? That it was Dee who sold it to him… a part of the provenance sold to a slavish public by no less than Wilfrid himself? And many later theories hung onto this part of the lore, that this was a plot by Dee, and Kelley, to separate the Emperor from his golden Ducats. Well why? Because the work gave people that impression. Because of the story by Wilfrid. And lo, and behold, the actual incident is outlined in the very book I believe was the primer it was modeled after.

Perhaps Charles Singer made the same connection, for similar reasons as I do. In D’Imperio’s “An Elegant Enigma”, the author writes, “Dr. Singer, in a letter to Tiltman (12 November, 1957) expresses the opinion that the origin of the manuscript was somehow related to Rudolph’s court and to John Dee.” She goes on to wonder if Singer was sharing similar ideas to Robert S. Brumbaugh. So I went to my shelf and looked in his book: Yes, he does… and what does he use as a source for his information about John Dee and his associations with Rudolph II? You guessed it… Bolton’s “Follies of Science at the Court of Rudolph II”. He actually refers to it in this context, as a reference for his belief the Voynich is connected to the Court of Rudolph!

I say it is no coincidence that both Brumbaugh and I saw Bolton’s Court in the Voynich, because the Voynich is based on Bolton’s Court. And Singer also saw the Court in the Voynich, if not through Bolton’s version.

Elhu Vedder, Pleiades: In her post of November 20, 2013 (since deleted) titled, “The Voynich Manuscript: the Nymphs of Elihu Vedder”, Voynich researcher and artist Ellie Velinska wrote, “Elihu Vedder is an American artist who spent his late years living in Rome. His painting The Pleiades is inscribed: Rome, 1885. The nymphs being pulled toward the stars remind of the women in the Voynich Manuscript, which in 1885 was reportedly just a few miles away from Vedder- in Frascati”

Composite image courtesy Elitsa Velinska, 2013.

I am not sure in that, but I think Ms. Velinska was musing on the possibility that the nymphs in the Voynich influenced Vedder’s Pleiades. And there was another gentleman… I’m sorry I’ve forgotten his name… who suggested that perhaps Vedder saw the Voynich somewhere else. While I understand these views, because the idea of stars tethered with strings by women… semi-nude in Vedder, nude in the Voynich… is seemingly a unique and striking concept, I offer another suggestion: Vedder is the source of the concept. The Vedder painting was reproduced in print by 1908, and so, available to influence my suggested author: Voynich. And the Voynich author seems to have referred directly to the actual Pleiades, although not with Vedder’s iconography in this case. On f68r3, the small constellation is generally believed to be the Seven Sisters:


Interestingly, and inexplicably perhaps, the Pleiades is connected to the (possible) moon here by a “string”- again. I can’t say if that relates to the strings held by the women previously mentioned, but I also find interesting the ideas of researcher and scientist Berj Ensanian. He has noted that the curve seems very carefully plotted, and may describe what he calls the “Pleiades-Moon Curve”.

Other assorted Herbals: I can’t list all the herbals and botanicals that a great many experts and amateurs alike believe may have either been influences on the Voynich Manuscript, or used to make a connection to some genre in the field, or a geographical or chronological connection to it. The problem is, these herbal references are from all times, all places, by all people, of almost every plant known to man. So making such comparisons has not been helpful, to others, to determining the origin, authorship, geography, chronology, of the manuscript. Perhaps an exception is the case of the New World theorists, it has… and I agree… shown that this work must be post-Columbian, and contain American or Meso-American influences.

But the very fact that so many plausible, but highly varied sources have been identified, I contend points to the more likely possible that the Voynich is forged, and modern, because it cannot be from “all those things” unless it is forged.

I’ve already mentioned the Badainus Codex above. Alain Towaide wrote a section about the Voynich in the book, Villa Mondragone: Secunda Roma René Zandbergen wrote a review of that section on the site of the late Stephen Bax.  In that review are some of the illustrative comparisons made between two herbals and certain plant illustrations in the Voynich. One is the early 14th century Manfredus de Monte Imperiali Liber de herbis et plantis, the other the c. 1440 herbal known as Sloane 4016. And I would agree that there are similarities. René further wrote about the Monte Imperiale, on his own site, “One striking similarity between an illustration on f35v of the Voynich MS and one on fol. 60r of the Paris MS BN Lat.6823 has been noted by several people…”, and, “While the Voynich MS illustration clearly isn’t a copy of the Paris MS, it is also inconceivable that it was not in some way inspired by this or a similar illustration in another MS.”

And one might think, then, that due to the dating an origins of these two works, they are supportive of the Voynich being 15th century, and Italian. But there have been a great many other good comparisons, and they are from a very many other times and origins. Among them are Ashomole’s 1652 “Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum; Materia Medica of Dioscurides, and its copies; Anthony Ascham’s (or Askam’s)1551 “A Little Herbal”, and many more. To cherry pick those which fulfill one’s pre-conception for the possible dating of the Voynich is to ignore a great many other herbals, with very similar images.

The New Atlantis (and other Utopian sources): This 1621 work by Francis Bacon has so many similarities to the iconography of the Voynich that it led me to wonder, for some time, if the Voynich might be a sort of “homage” to that fiction. I did abandon that theory long ago, but still feel that the New Atlantis may have been some influence on the Voynich artist. Among these items are grafted plants, strange plants and animals, the Rosettes fold out as a utopian map, Rosicrucian imagery, possible glossolalia, and more.

I do still think that the Rosettes pages are an aerial view, meant to evoke the early concept of a Utopian city. For a selection of these, see my post titled There’s no Place like Utopia (get it?).


Francis Bacon is mentioned in Follies, too, although The New Atlantis is not. Still, anyone using Bolton as a guide would reasonably follow it to Francis Bacon, and so may want to use influences from The New Atlantis to color it out.

Selection of Assorted Possible Sources: The below are not all by any means certain, and far from complete. But these some of the many images that I think may have been used as sources for the illustrations in the Voynich. My candidate for forger of this manuscript was, after all, a prolific book dealer, surrounded by masses of sources in his book store stock. He was well traveled, and must have seen many thousands of other books, outside his own, in libraries and museums in England, Italy, France. So it is plausible to me that many of the similar images we see were copied and used in the Voynich.

Thomas Vaughn, “Lumen de Lumine”: This book (seen here) related various Rosicrucian and Paracelsian themes. Gaspar Schott later copied the image, seen center. The flowers the woman is sitting on, and holding a garland of, are probably roses. The rose and the rose garland are of course symbols of Rosicrucianism. Now look at the Voynich f85v/1 “Garland Girl”. I believe it possible that this illustration is derivative of the image from Vaughn. Charles Singer also believed the Voynich was “Paracelsian” in origin. But it goes further: It has been suggested by others, and I agree, that there ARE Rosicrucian imagery in the Voynich, and also, that this particular page of the manuscript is referencing this. Not only with my supposed rose garland, but by the inclusion of a fleur-de-lis. I also think it possible the man at the top of the center circle is meant to be Martin Luther, who wore a ruby rose ring. For more detail on this, read Is that you, Martin Luther?.

Deliciæ Physic-Mathematicæ, 1636: This book by Daniel Schwenter (1651 reprint here). My hypothesis does not live nor die by dozens of images that are similar to illustrations in the Voynich. When they have no context in the scope of this theory, there is really no way I could use them to effectively use them as any sort of evidence. But in that light, there are some which, due to some mutual level of peculiarity, I do suspect were in books that surrounded the forger. And the below image, from this 1636 book, is one of those that shares two comparisons with the f79r “floating person” image, specifally the object he/she has their arm wrapped around. If this was the influence for the VMs floating man image, the artist got it wrong: It was meant to be wrapped around the waist, not used outstretched as this one is.

The picture puzzle: Not a specific source, but I feel that the very close similarities between the f27v “root”, and a puzzle piece is a coincidence. As a root, anyway, it makes no sense. It is a flat slab. I believe this was a little taunt by the forger, realizing that the innate human desire to solve mysteries would see their imaginative creation as a puzzle.

Conclusions: If one wishes to reject one or more of the comparisons above, something must be kept in mind:

These comparisons all have context in Bolton: The fact that, through Follies, all these images from the Voynich connect to Bolton’s vision of the Court gives them context, and vastly lowers the possibility that any one of them, let alone all of them, are purely coincidental, pareidolia, or wishful thinking. I did not read Bolton first, then look for comparisons; rather, I long noted these comparisons of mine and many others, and later discovered they all related to Bolton.

These comparisons have context to each other: The similarities between the Voynich cylinders and early optical devices is undeniable, and actually has agreement, even amongst those who believe in the Voynich as real. And people have long thought many Voynich images look like cell structures, diatoms, microscopic creatures, and so on. That those two related comparison types are in the same Voynich manuscript defies chance. I mean, if the Voynich appeared to have knives, gambling devices and toasters in it, all unconnected, one might dismiss all or some as coincidence. But that the items all share context strengthens their identification.

These comparisons have agreement among observers: As I noted above, many people have long thought that many Voynich images seem to be images of microscopic organisms and cells. Likewise, many have agreed that my optical device comparisons are very good. The same thing has happened with the armadillo and other illustrations. That is, there is often agreement that these comparisons are very good ones, but then are only rejected on the basis of a preconception that the Voynich must be old. Without that preconception, these items are usually considered to be those things I suggest. This is important: I point out that in the attempt to identify any unknown art, literary or historic item, the proper, usual practice is to let the nature of the contents inform the investigator; rather than the investigator choosing and rejecting content to fit their preconceptions or desires. Yet the latter is almost solely done with the Voynich.

As a forgery from about 1908 to 1910, by or for Wilfrid Voynich, using The Follies of Science in the Court of Rudolph II as the Primer, and then copying or using as influences the illustrations from many other works which fit the vision of Bolton’s Court, the Voynich makes perfect sense.

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Voynich Clysters?

When I wrote and posted my last entry, The Voynich Manuscript in 3D, I left out one of the CAD 3D models I had made for an the object illustrated at the top of f80r. I was reminded of it recently due to a discussion on the Voynich Ninja forums, so I thought I would make a short page about it.

Here is the original image, from f80r, and my representation of it:In the past I had wondered if- because of the shape, the positioning, and the assumed medicinal nature of the images on these pages- if this may be related to… ahem… “clysters”, or enema equipment of some sort. Their use for medicinal “colonics” goes back practically to the beginning of recorded history.


I was reminded of my f80r 3D model because I was reading a thread at the Voynich Ninja forums, titled “The Thing as compared to the Other Thing”. The “thing” in question is the unusual object found in the images on f80v and f82r of the Voynich:
This reminded me of the other object on f80r which I had modeled, as it also seemed to me a possible candidate as a clyster. Note the above item is also held near the rear of the nymph in the second image, and the context of a possible medical interpretation on these pages I already pointed out.  It also has the shape of a bladder, which is one form of enema bag. So I commented about my ideas on the Ninja thread, and JKP pointed to the very same thought he had had back in 2016,

“In the 14th and 15th century enema bags (clystra) usually looked like giant hypodermics, or bellows, but some of them were bags, tied at one end (no stick coming out of the tied end though), but this earlier one nevertheless caught my eye even without the stick because of the line of dots:”

As JKP noted, there are on both the Voynich and above images a row of dots. The Voynich devices “ruffled” end could be interpreted as the bunched end of a tied off bladder such as this. The image is credited as “MS CLM 337”, which I could not find in color at first. However MichelleL11 pointed me to the color copy. It is in the The Mackinney Collection of Medieval Medical Illustrations, and can be seen at the following link: https://dc.lib.unc.edu/cdm/ref/collection/mackinney/id/3841 The above image is on f131r

This is a copy of a “pseudo” Dioscorides, De Materia Medica in Bayerishe Staatsbibliothek, München. One interesting thing about that is that many people have noted strong similarities between other illustrations, writing and general style in various copies of Discorides and those in the Voynich. I think this item may be another example of this.

The identity and possible sourcing for these Voynich images does not affect nor relate to my personal theory that the Voynich is a modern creation, but I thought it might be of general interest. And of course many different identifications have been suggested for the f80v/f82r object(s). For some other interesting ideas, check out the above linked Ninja thread, and also Koen G’s interesting page on the subject of these and various held objects: https://herculeaf.wordpress.com/2016/10/14/on-the-objects-held-by-voynich-nymphs/

 

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The Voynich Manuscript in 3D

Computer designed 3D virtual models of historic illustrations and objects are always interesting and useful. Through them we can get a better idea of what something “really” looked like, when only poor illustrations, photographs, or partial and damaged originals exist. In some cases there are only descriptions left of an item, and a computer model is able to virtually recreate something that was entirely lost, or never existed at all.

In the case of the Voynich drawings, which often have poor perspective, and skewed relative dimensions, they provide an opportunity to see what may have been in the artist’s mind. I certainly don’t claim to know exactly what was in their mind, but by modeling these items, it has given a new perspective (pun intended) to what the intent may have been.

Some time ago I had modeled the Voynich Manuscript Rosettes fold out illustrations in 3D. This has always been a popular model, and the video which I made from it has at this writing over 45,000 hits. It was also recently used in a Travel Channel documentary on the Voynich (which I also appear in), for their series World’s Most Unexplained.

Below is my 2009 model of the Voynich Rosettes pages, animated with a “flyby”.

 

Since first modeling the Rosettes map, I’ve modified the tubes around the center “rose” to an upright position. I did this, because on second thought it seemed that this was probably the original intent of the artist. I think the only reason these vertical tubes were drawn “leaning out” is because if shown from the top view they would simply look like little circles. So the artist tipped them to illustrate the nature of these tubes from the overhead view. Perhaps I’m wrong on that, and honestly I have no idea which was intended.

I’ve also modeled a few other items from the Voynich over the years. Below is the f88v “cylinder”, which was I think the first item I created, probably before 2010.

I think it is important that I point out that in modeling this, I’ve made only minimal “concessions” to actual 17th and 18th century microscope practices and materials: For one, the decorative motif is from an actual microscope, and is the gold leaf applied to a Moroccan leather covering. The other is that I gave the legs specular highlights and color similar to polished brass. And really, I don’t think those details would remove much of the f88r cylinder’s stunning similarity to a microscope. It is a fantasy instrument, I believe, but inspired by, and borrowing from, various devices. I’ve also recently noted it shares many features with the 1768 Ledermuller engraving of a microscope, as seen above.


In the above are two Voynich cylinders on the left, and the two 18th century Spanish opera glasses on the far right. I’ve used this comparison many times. But I have not posted the 3D CAD representations of the Voynich cylinders outside of Facebook, until now. Again, the only concessions I’ve made to “microscope-like” features are the glossy brass finish and the Moroccan leather covering, with decorative gilt tooling. For some reason (I note now) I didn’t model the rings at the top… so that goes on the “to do” list. But I feel, once again, that when we see these illustrations modeled in 3D, the intent seems very “optical”.

To model the f72v Libra Scales, some alteration was necessary. As shown, it would have been as impossible to model as an Escher print. For instance, the frame that the lever hangs from is askew in the illustration. It is not properly lined up with the fulcrum of the lever. I assumed that the “disk” seen on the lever was intended as the pivot, and placed it where it would be, in a real scale. And the frame opening seems to be much wider on the Voynich drawing: but that is, I think, in an attempt to avoid crowding the indicator/pointer. The hanger’s sides would normally be just outside of the lever, giving just enough clearance for the lever to freely swing. This gives the impression that the frame on my modeled version is much narrower, but I think it makes sense this way.

The crop on the above left is the f27v plant root. There have been many attempts at identifying this as an actual plant root, but in my opinion none of them come close to any real root. It me it looks all the world like a puzzle piece. So I modeled it in 3D, and hovered it over a graphic of other modeled pieces. Pieces of this style were only invented in the mid to late 19th century, and from the start they became an iconic representation of mysteries. I have mused on the possibility Wilfrid used this as a sort of “Catch me if you can”, a way for him to “thumb his nose” at the literary establishment.

Above is my 3D opinion as to what was intended by our Voynich artist. Of course it is open to interpretation, but I think that the “cap” on the orb was like a little “roof”, with an “eave”. It could be sloppiness, but I do think the cap slop is slightly arced inward. In any case, if correct, what would it mean? Orbs are usually a representation of the Earth, the World, and when there is a cross on the top, it is a symbol of Christian authority. That version is the “Globus Cruciger“.

With this roof, or spire, instead of a cross, I think of this as a “secular orb”. But the actual meaning is, I think, anyone’s guess. But as a matter of interest, I believe it is on a page with Rosicrucian symbolism, and even a possible representation of Martin Luther.

Back in 2012, my friend Robert Teague asked me to model f67v for him, to help visualize certain relationships between the items on that page in a celestial sense. It was difficult for him to relay the complex elements of his ideas for f67v, and it was a work in progress for some time. I’m sorry that I am unable to explain the concept he wanted illustrated. But I copy a rendering here, to show how one can illustrate complex concepts, by modeling the (reasoned) relative positions of portions of an illustration.

I enjoyed and appreciated Robert’s work a great deal, although I admit I didn’t always understand it. When I did, I often felt he was “on to something”. He and I… as is often the case in Voynich studies… had very different theories as to what the Voynich was. But also, as in many cases, I think he was correct in believing the intent of many of the celestial items and patterns were just what he thought they were.

Robert unfortunately passed away some years ago now, and that is a loss to the Voynich community. I think it is from just such a dedicated and patient person, with an open mind, that will eventually come the answers everyone desires.


On the overall modeling of the Rosettes maps, I made a very simple representation of the two structures on the lower right “rose”. Writing this post was an incentive to finally modeling them in greater detail.

These structures seem to be some sort of awnings or roofs on columns. They appear to have draperies hanging from the edges of the roofs. It has been suggested by Dana Scott that these might be Jewish Tabernacles. I think that is an excellent suggestion. Below is a CAD model by Aleksig6, found on the above linked Wikipedia page. The tent itself is called a “mishka”.

I would also like to add the beautiful, imaginative, and well-crafted glass sculptures by Cary Rapaport. They are built for their esthetic beauty foremost, but they would also serve very well to get an understanding of what the more organic plants and people of the Voynich might look like in 3D. I would love to have one of these.

Another wonderful work by Cary Rapaport:

Hopefully these 3D representations from the Voynich are of interest, and maybe even useful to some one. Many historic questions and mysteries have been solved by looking at problems in new and unique ways. Considering the long standing impermeable nature of the Voynich mystery, it practically demands it.

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The Primer for the Voynich Forgery

The modern forgery hypothesis for the Voynich Manuscript is to some extent based on the many striking similarities between illustrations in the work to those found or described in many other works of all ages. Most of the comparisons are anachronistic, and so they should not be in the Voynich if it is genuine and as old as suggested. And some of these comparisons have been made by me, but a great many more have been made by dozens of others over the last century, whether or not those people suspect or suspected the Voynich is a fake. These comparisons alone are not the only reasons to damn the Voynich, but they are a powerful foundation for this understanding, as they are and should be for many other historical fakes. I intend to list many of these sources in a future post, in many cases showing the actual illustrations and their locations, and how and why they were probably used in the Voynich.

But this post is about the book I believe is the “primer”, or “outline”, for the construction of the Voynich Forgery. It does not actually have good image comparisons, because it was not directly used as a source for them. But what I’ve come to believe that this book was the core influence and framework to create the Voynich around, to build it on. I think the stories and references in it, about the people, sciences and literature mentioned in it were the guides used to collect the very many illustrative elements used to build the Voynich. This book was the very popular 1904 The Follies of Science at the Court of Rudolph II, 1576-1612, by Henry Carrington Bolton.

Rudolf with his alchemist

Almost each and every one of the items, sciences, people, events, and more, which a great many people have suspected appear in the Voynich, can also be found in “Follies”. When I first read the book I found myself saying, page after page, “That’s in the Voynich, and that, and that...”.

I believe Wilfrid’s original intent was to make the Voynich look as though it was a work from the hand of the (probably invented) Christian Hořčický, a character who Bolton places as the owner of the (also imaginary?) “The City Pharmacy” in the Capitol of Bohemia. Perhaps Wilfrid’s intention was that it looked to have been owned or written by him, or written and/or owned by his son, Jakub Hořčický. The latter is real, and was actually the chief botanist and physician to Rudolf II. In any case, the Voynich manuscript practically leaps from the pages of the faulty but imaginative Bolton work, and specifically seems to be related to the work of these two men in relation to the Court. As icing inked on the proverbial cake, Jakob Hořčický actually “signed” the Voynich, as Jacobus de Tepencz.

And both Hořčický’s figure largely in “Follies”, for their skills as a botanist and pharmacist. As an example, on page 150, “Jacob’s knowledge of botany was of great assistance to Christian Horcicky in the collection and identification of medicinal plants, both indigenous and exotic…”

Read that last and think, among many things related to the VMs plants, the phrase from the Letters of the Kircher Carteggio, “plants unknown to the Germans”. And think of the work of Jim and John Comegys, and Tucker, Janick, Bax, and others, in identifying many Voynich plants as Native American species. In fact, Native American plants and remedies are actually mentioned in Bolton, on page 146, “The little explored New World across the Atlantic had begun to contribute its valuable remedies, notably china root, cosa, sarsaparilla and tobacco”.

Bolton’s book is full of errors and imaginative reconstructions, as we have long understood. Nonetheless it was very popular in the early part of the 20th century, and provided the basis for most people’s understanding of Rudolf’s Court. And “surprise”, it was a favorite of Voynich’s, and he even claimed to “know it by heart”. Furthermore, Voynich himself cited the book for a presumed/projected connection to the court, as early as 1921, in his lecture “A Preliminary Sketch“. He does not place the origins of the book in the Court, but had by then been projecting the familiar “provenance” that it passed through it. He cites Bolton to firm up a Dee/Rudolf II connection. 

Furthermore, in Voynich’s notes, now kept in the Beinecke library, is a list of about twenty names mentioned in “Follies”. They are listed in Voynich’s hand, in order, and with the page numbers they appear on in Bolton. This has been cited as evidence that Wilfrid turned to the work to find answers about his Bacon Cipher, but of course it can equally be seen the other way around: That he listed the people in Follies in order to look them up, and build the Voynich from further research based on them. In my opinion, the latter is far more likely, considering the more than coincidental similarity between the Voynich and The Follies at the Court of Rudolf II. It would have been pretty surprising to me if he was using Bolton to identify the Voynich, but that he somehow missed the great similarities between the two.

The Voynich community has not missed it. Whether or not they are willing to admit or acknowledge it, they have noted these similarities, even though often dismissing them with deeply ingrained preconceptions about what the Voynich “is”, and what it “should not” and “cannot” be.

Ed Kelly with Shew-Stone? Bolton, pp. 5, 6, 7, 8, 21, 32, 39 (illus.)& 43.

Among the items in Follies which mirror items seen or suspected in the Voynich, or are thought by many to have some connection with it, are: Medicinal plants, plants and animals of the New World, microscopes and telescopes, astronomy, astrology, alchemy, dried herbs, pharmaceuticals, medicine, human anatomy, the Zodiac, the microcosm and macrocosm, Cabbalistic Philosophy, the New Atlantis, the works and practices of John Dee and Edward Kelly, Cornelis Drebbel, Utopian-ism, Roger Bacon, Tycho Brahe, Kepler, Francis Bacon, Rosicrucian-ism, Hebrew sciences, art and lore, and far more. Many of these are quite specific, showing a plausible thread to the specific source mentioned in Follies. As just one example, Conrad Gessner’s 1551 “History of Animals” is mentioned on page 212. Then, among the illustrations in Gessner is one of the closest armadillo matches to the f80v Voynich animal, showing the particular use of the pointy ears and upturned snout.

Semi-curled F80V animal on left, 1551 Gessner Armadillo on right.

But the list of connections between Bolton’s work and the Voynich is tremendous, and too long for the purposes of this post. I would recommend anyone interested in the Voynich to read Bolton’s book. Whether they think the Voynich rock-solid genuine, or a forgery, or are on the fence, the references in Follies undeniably reflect the entire history of research into the manuscript. I think that in order to believe there is no connection between the two, that this many “Voynich-like” references are all just happen to be in this one book, simply strains credibility.

But if this is the primer used to create the Voynich Manuscript, how did it come about? Well most forgeries don’t appear out of thin air. They are often copies of other works, or styles, and often draw on previous known genuine items, or illustrations of them from books and catalogs. And in some cases, primers like this have been used. One good example is the Vineland Map forgery, which was revealed because of several errors of the forger: Stylistically, and by using wrong materials, by copying errors from source materials, and with literary “tells”. One mistake in particular identifies the possible primer used for source material, and as an overall inspiration. From Wikipedia,

“Another point calling the map’s authenticity into question was raised at the 1966 Conference: that one caption referred to Bishop Eirik of Greenland “and neighboring regions” (in Latin, “regionumque finitimarum”), a title known previously from the work of religious scholar Luka Jelic (1863–1922). An essay by British researcher Peter Foote for the Saga Book of the Viking Society (vol. 11, part 1), published shortly after the conference, noted that German researcher Richard Hennig had spent years, before the Vinland Map was revealed, fruitlessly trying to track Jelic’s phrase down in medieval texts. It seemed that either Jelic had seen the Vinland Map and promised not to reveal its existence (keeping the promise so rigidly that he never mentioned any of the other new historical information on the map), or that he had invented the phrase as a scholarly description, and the Vinland Map creator copied him. In practice, because Jelic’s work had gone through three editions, Foote was able to demonstrate how the first edition (in French) had adopted the concept from the work of earlier researchers, listed by Jelic, then the later editions had adapted the anachronistic French scholarly phrase “évèque régionnaire des contrées américaines” into Latin.”

Whomever created the Vinland Map Forgery was probably using the work of Luca Jelic as a primer. Well, among other influences, such as the Bianco World map as engraved in the work of Fromaleoni,

“[John Paul] Floyd also contends that the creator of the Vinland map must have made use of an 18th-century engraving of the 1436 Bianco map by Vincenzio Formaleoni (1752–97), since the Vinland map appears to reproduce several of Formaleoni’s copying errors.”

Probable source engraving for the Vinland Forgery (author photograph, NYPL 2013)

For anyone interested in the story of the Vinland map forgery story, I strongly recommend the works Maps, Myths, and Men, by Kirsten A. Seaver, and A Sorry Saga: Theft, Forgery, Scholarship… and the Vinland Map, by John Paul Floyd.

So like this example, and many others in the history of forgery, forgeries are often created using information and illustrations from specific, identifiable source materials. Then, by the type and quantity of those materials, the forgery can both be uncovered, and those sources revealed. In the case of Wilfrid, and his Voynich, I contend that the evidence points to the Bolton work as the primary source, although as I pointed out, I feel I have identified dozens of others used to “flesh out” the forgery. But deserving mention is the oft cited letters of the Kircher Carteggio, used as “proof” that the Voynich existed as far back as the 17th century, and is therefore not a modern forgery.

Well the problem with this supposed evidence is multi-fold: First of all, as I have pointed out, the information in those letters is not only a very poor description of the Voynich, but when comparing those descriptions to the Voynich, they actually work against it being the work described there. For more information on that, please read The Voynich has no Provenance. However, I do believe that Voynich was quite aware of those descriptions in those letters, and did use the presence of them to invent a thread of provenance, as tenuous as it is. In any case, it worked. It may have happened long after Voynich was gone, but he did give little winks and nods in the direction of the Carteggio, hoping I am sure that such a “discover” would have been made in his lifetime.

Many historical forgeries were created to “replace” a missing item, which mentioned in some record. Doing so serves the purpose of creating instant provenance, while keeping the forger reasonably certain the original will remain lost or unidentified. Some forgers have gone as far as to forge the historical reference, too! The power of even the weakest provenance cannot be underestimated, and forgers have always been quite aware of this.

So along with the primer The Follies of Science in the Court of Rudolf II, I think that Voynich’s knowledge of a “lost herbal” mentioned in the Carteggio both served and were combined to begin the forgery, which was then constructed from the myriad of sources we see in that work, today. Follies was a best seller, and created great interest in the wild and colorful world of the controversial Emperor Rudolf II. An equally colorful work springing from that now popular pseudo-history would be very appealing, and thus valuable, to many collectors… if found and identified. And since not known nor found, Voynich simply created it, as forgers often do.

But it seems, for some reasons both obvious, and some others still unclear- but perhaps understandable- Wilfrid Voynich dropped Jakob and “Christian” Hořčický, and the Bolton version of Court of Rudolf II as sources for his forgery, and instead substituted a new projected and false provenance, and authorship at the hand of Roger Bacon. Well, among the reasons was certainly the growing interest in Bacon, roughly coinciding with the 700th anniversary of that man’s birth, coming soon in 1914.

But that is a topic best left for another time.

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