The choice of vellum for all the pages of the Voynich has been seen as a clue for the dating, origins and purpose of the book. The cost of vellum, and the era of common usage of the material, have been a major factor in the currently most accepted dating of the manuscript between about 1420 and 1460. Certainly by the mid 16th century vellum went out of favor, as it was easier and cheaper to print on paper… which was less expensive and more available as time went on. By the early 17th century, the time of my theory, the use of vellum as the pages of books was very uncommon. But for various reasons, it is not outlandish to consider it would have been used in this case, if considering the people and motivations found in my circle of influence, and the evidence we do have for it’s remaining use, availability, and the reasonable value these uses implied.
But first of all, I do not think vellum was really all that expensive, from the middle ages to the early renaissance. From: “Old English libraries; the making, collection and use of books during the middle ages”:
“For all permanent purposes ” boc-fel,” or book-skin,
was used; either vellum or ” parchemyn smothe, whyte
and scribable.” Vellum and parchment were interchange-
able terms in medieval times ; but parchment was commonly
used…. … it was not so expensive as vellum : the average price being two shillings per dozen skins as compared with eight shillings per dozen skins of vellum.”
The book gives other examples, showing that for two to eight shillings one could obtain a dozen vellum skins, certainly more than enough to make a Voynich.
But let us assume, as some have suggested, that by my time frame of 1610 to 1620, vellum would have equalled the “cost of a small farm”. I won’t go into the relative values of farms in the appropriate centuries, let’s just assume it was “that” expensive. This actually favors my theory, for this reason: Comparing the relative suggested uses, as an herbal, as a pharma, as a hoax, or my theory, as an artifact of the literature of Bacon, I think that cost would actually be less of a factor in my case. This, because the circle of Francis Bacon, and Bacon himself, was quite used to spending inordinate amounts of money on very elaborate productions and celebrations. A masque for James I and Queen Anne, for instance, would have props and costumes designed by Inigo Jones, with single dresses costing more than 1,000 pounds. The wedding celebrations of Princess Elizabeth are said to have cost over 40,000 pounds. For someone in this group, at this time, to have created the Voynich, even if expensive, would not be so unusual.
But, as it turns out, vellum was commonly used in many very ordinary ways at this time, implying both reasonable cost and easy availability:
It was used by artists for common sketches:
The album amicorum, friendship albums, were sometimes made on vellum.
…and it was of course, used as a binding and cover for almost all printed books, and for many legal documents such as deeds and writs.
Michael Maier, the Rosicrucian writer, alchemist, doctor to Rudolf II, and acquaintance of the court of James and Drebbel, created two Christmas “visiting cards”: One for James I, and one for Henry, his son. From Joscelyn Godwin’s essay in “The Rosicrucian Enlightenment Revisited”, entitled, “The Deepest of the Rosicrucians: Michael Maier (1569-1622)”. In 1611:
“Maier addressed himself immediately to King James I and VI. His visiting card, now in the Scottish Record Office in Edinburgh (GD 242/212), took a most unusual form. It was a Christmas greeting to the King, made of a folded parchment 33 by 24 inches, on which a central Rose-Cross emblem made out of words in gold and red is flanked by four Latin poems. Two of these poems address James, while the others are put into the mouths of four archangels and two shepherds attendant on Christ’s nativity. The parchment includes a musical canon in six parts representing the songs of the angels and shepherds. All in all, it is a most curious object, displaying the verbal ingenuity and the multimedia approach that marked Maier’s creative style. It is also the earliest known appearance of the Rose-Cross symbol in England.”
Maier’s presentation to Henry, who died before he could receive it, was similar, and also on parchment. So here we have a large, 33 by 24 inch parchment, with painted illustrations and writing on it. The size alone would be enough to create approximately 12 leaves of the Voynich… that is, 10 percent. And Maier’s two cards would equal 20 percent of the vellum needed to create “a Voynich”. Clearly this vellum was available to Maier, used by Maier, and not prohibitively expensive.
One other very curious and interesting example is this political parody from 1603. Which includes both mythological and real figures, which by folding, could be assembled in different ways.
The use of vellum, therefore, was common, the cost of vellum, reasonable, the painting on vellum, frequent, in the early 17th century. It was used in greeting cards, the arts, in law, in binding. And as previously pointed out, optical devices were wrapped in it. Considering this, I do not personally consider cost and availability of vellum to be a factor against the Voynich having been created during the time frame I propose, nor by someone from the circle I suggest may have been responsible.