1404 to 1438

December 3rd, 2009 has been a pretty exciting day. I learned that the producers of the Pro-Omnia Voynich documentary, due to be aired on December 10th in Europe, decided to release some clues as to the dating results of the Voynich Manuscript. The first statement was found, then reported on Elmar Vogt’s Blog, to the effect that the Voynich was much older than all the existing theories had proposed. This seemed to imply that it was older than the time of Roger Bacon, one of the first contenders.

But later in the day more information came to light. The date range of 1404 to 1438 was released. This places the Voynich’s vellum creation… or at least, the death of the poor sheep used in it’s creation… firmly in the first part of the most commonly reported date range for the manuscript, which is usually about 1420 to 1460. This then strongly argues against my optical/New Atlantis theory being correct. It also argues strongly against the certain cylinders being optics, as there is no evidence for optics, as advanced as the cylinders would imply, existing in the early 15th century. There are only vague, inaccurate and inconsistent mentions and rumors of such optics… so while the possibility does exist, it is really very remote.

It would seem that the Voynich is what many believed… a sort of unusual kind of early 15th century herbal or pharma, which does not quite fit many of the characteristics of these books, of this time.

I think that it is great that an important part of this long running mystery has been solved. It would have been nice to have a correct theory, but not at the expense of the truth, which is more important. I’m not sure what I will do now… I will certainly follow the ongoing research with interest, but I will probably not take an active part in it. I really like my time frame, and the people I have researched for my theory… and I am not ready to leave them and follow the Voynich back into what is for me, an unfamiliar realm. The history of my theories time fascinates me, the imagination and creativity and talent of the people of my time excite me, and I want to continue to learn about them… even if they were not responsible for the “most mysterious document in the world”.

So if this dating holds up, and the results as reported are correct, I will continue to believe as I now do, that it is unlikely that 200 year old vellum found it’s way into a faux early 17th century artifact of The New Atlantis. Could have? Yes, could have. But I would not consider it plausible enough to pursue this as an active theory. Rich SantaColoma

This entry was posted in Dating the VMs, history & provenance, optics. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to 1404 to 1438

  1. Pingback: Steel True, Blade Straight « Thoughts about the Voynich Manuscript

  2. Rene Zandbergen says:

    Hi Rich,

    I wasn’t a big follower of your Drebbel / New Atlantis theory, but I want
    to make it clear that I much enjoyed talking to you about it recently.
    I’ve met a number of people, with whose end conclusions I may not
    agree, but from whom I could learn a lot of things.
    You’re one of them.
    Just rejecting something outright is rarely the wisest decision.

    Hope you’ll stay on in the search 🙂

  3. proto57 says:

    Hi René: Thank you for the nice comment. I agree about rejecting anything outright… as you know, and as I frequently wrote, I accepted the possibility of my theory being wrong, and of the possibility that many of the other theories were plausible… from the well known, to the lesser known.

    As for staying in the search, I probably will not all that much, if at all. There are enough researchers in (what turns out to be) the proper time frame, poring over vast amounts of information, as they always have. I don’t think I would have anything to contribute to that quest, it seems to well covered already. With so many alternatives to that (previously proposed and generally accepted) time frame now dissolved, I cannot fathom an explanation for the manuscript. I personally think that in a way, it has become even more of a mystery… because it is so out of time and type, for what it now more likely, is.

    I have much work to do on Drebbel, including working on my next replica of his clock mechanism. I also would like to write some fiction about “my” time frame, and the Jacobean/Prague courts… something I avoided so as not to confuse it with my Voynich research. Of course it would not include the Voynich! If I can complete such a work, it would make great use of the historical background I have unearthed while researching my theory.

    I am also going to get back to my American Turtle submarine research, and some other projects, which I have put on the back burner for the last couple of years. I may start another blog to cover one or more other topics. And I am going to stay on the VMS-list, and follow the blogs and so on, and watch for new developments.

    I do hope you guys figure this out while I am on the planet, I would love to know… but I do feel that since the determined time has already been accepted, before the tests, by so many… and has been so explored… that the chances are diminished. But at least more can focus on this time, and with more renewed interest and effort. Best of luck! Rich.

  4. Niklas says:

    Hi Rich,

    I’ve been a fan of your Drebbel theory since I first read about it. I still think it very argumentative and consequent and it is still that one of all Voynich theories I know which is most satisfying to me. No theory beside it is able to put the slightest light onto all those oddities the Voynich presents us – the outrageous illustrations (e.g. the Rosettes), the strange Zodiacs, the preposterous bath scenes, the pointless plants – all those things obtain some kind of sense by your Drebbel theory. The optical device compare is still very striking. The bath room tubes being some kind of microscopical giblets (with all those women representing ‘life’ perhaps) seems still very plausible. The Rosettes map showing a phantastic and never existing place is almost obvious.
    Why should the people of your presumed circle not have used 200 years old vellum? I’m not an expert – but that seems to me much more likely than the position that everything of your theory was wrong. It’s lunacy to give up an idea which bestows so much light to so many questions just because of the age of the vellum. Carry on, we’ve still got much to learn from your idea, and there’s still no better one.


  5. proto57 says:

    Niklas: Thank you for taking the time to follow and take an interest in this theory. I did just write a draft of a post asking the question, “If it is not this, and not the several other ideas presented by others, then what is it?”. This theory developed, as the others did, in an attempt to explain all the things about the Voynich which do not fit the time it was made. So yes, I am at a loss as to explain it now that we know when it was made, because I don’t feel it looks much like what it now, apparently, is. An old herbal. The mystery has deepened, I mean, since all the alternatives have evaporated.

    So then one wonders about just how late vellum is used… the question was understandibly the first to crop up. It seems it has never been asked, or answered at least: Just how old is usual, or how old is unusual but sometimes used, when it comes to vellum? The question has probably not been raised because most documents have a good provenance, and if not, are readily identifiable by the same methods that were thought to have failed with the VMs. So once a date is known for some other vellum work, why would anyone bother or care as to the age of the vellum? Testing it would damage the work, and cost alot of money.

    Perhaps over time a huge error will be discovered, i.e., that very old vellum has been routinely used to create, and re-create, many of the manuscripts now thought to be “new” to the materials they were created on. Maybe the Voynich situation will prompt this, if time goes on, and this present re-establishment of the old understanding, now only four days old, cannot once again fully explain the document.

    But for now, the assumption is that the sheep died, the skin was prepared, and handed to a monk who had a dipped quill in hand. I think. I don’t know exactly, but that is the tide of opinion at this moment, and I am in no position to argue. It would be unscientific of me to do so. As it stands, it is very unlikely that a 30, a 50, a 100… and most certainly a 200 year old blank batch of matching vellum would have been used to make what I have proposed.

    But I do note other similar incidents, which interest me of course. I do not want to be an emotionally driven researcher, and hope that I am not. I watch myself that I am not motivated by the desire to revive a personal, but pointless and impossible theory. But I do notice them, and wonder. I hope my “steel” will not have seemed to have lost it’s temper, for having noticed them. I am not a machine, and we have computers to tell us what is. It’s the people who ask the questions.

    For one thing, it was pointed out that this is not a palimpsest. It was not re-used, cleaned vellum. If it was, 200 years even would not be out of the question. The Archimedes Palimpsest was first written before 1000 AD, then cleaned, rebound a quarto, and re-written on in the 12th century. Two hundred years later. But if the Voynich is not a palimpsest, why would it exist so long, blank? It is a different case.

    I also made the point, back in 2007, that a dealer of rare books was selling a batch of about 20, unused but lined vellum leaves, from the 16th century. He wanted about $35 a piece for them. So there was a case, in a different time, of 400 year old vellum waiting for an author.

    And also, it is noted that certain characters in the Voynich, by their style, have been added later. So some have been added to old vellum? A hundred years later or more? But not all, I am to understand, just some.

    But you see the problem is that we don’t know how common or rare cases such as this are. Or I should say, “I don’t know”. So now that we know the dating of the vellum, I cannot assume, or project, that this is even a remote possibility. I can’t even say “I would like it to be so”… because it is wrong to project a desire into the outcome of a scientific investigation… it clouds the issue, skews perception.

    So we wait and see how these questions get answered over the coming weeks and years, if they do. I and others will ask the questions of course, as the group who have always known the age of the document have little incentive to do so. A “counter incentive” in fact. I have falisfied my own theory, in that I wrote that if the vellum was older than about 1550, it would obviate the theory, and I stand by that. Now the theory that the 1404 to 1438 vellum was written on by 1438, or soon after, must stand it’s own test of falisifiability: It is a white swan, with no black swans in sight. But if a vellum document turns up, known to have been written on decades after the sheep died, then that theory, too, will have been obviated… and all subsequent theories will be viable again.

    Thank you again for your comments, and sorry for the long response… Rich.

  6. Niklas says:

    Hi again Rich,

    I understand your being careful, because it maybe never has been helpful for any tricky idea when the author visibly clung to it or made a spectacle of himself.
    But I’d say, a vellum younger than 1630 or so would have been a counterproof, an older one – however much older – can’t prove anything wrong in that case. I think the jury is still out with the New Atlantis thing.

    All the best,


  7. proto57 says:

    Well thank you for keeping an open mind, Niklas. We will see what happens next… at the very least, we are all lucky to be around at a time when so many real questions might be answered. If you come across anything about the actual habits of old vellum use, drop me a note. All the best, Rich.

  8. Michelle says:

    Hi Rich, I know this is an old thread but I just wanted to say again something I already mentioned to you ( don’t be so disheartened because you think your theory no longer fits the Carbon dating):
    Why take for granted that the Vms would be written to record something that was already ‘made’- your microscopes could have been made because someone found, and understood, instructions ‘how to’ in the Vms…..

    • proto57 says:

      Michelle: I see your point. We just don’t have any evidence… or any firm evidence, as there are several hints and suggestions… that there were complex optics going back before about 1595. And even that is a slim chance… it is more likely about 1608 to 1611 that complex microscopes and telescopes began. But I know you know that, and I understand your point. Similarly, I did wonder at the fact that Kircher seems to have been privy to parts, and or all, of the VMs… and he did have a microscope close enough in type and proportions to pass as a VMs cylinder. Could he have been influenced by the VMs? But we do have the C14, and unless some mistake was made there (doubtful), or it was usual to use 175 year old vellum to make books in the early 17th century, it would be scientifically improper to make the theory fit 1438. I’m not calling you scientifically improper! I would be, as it is my theory. I’m with you on the free-thinking part, because no one of us can think this all out by ourselves. Thanks for the comment, Rich.

  9. Roland Volz says:

    Since the VM dating results made it into the news again, recently, I looked up your theory and found this page, which I’d never seen previously. I think your theory is the best fit I’ve ever seen for the VM.

    I don’t see where the new date numbers completely invalidate your theory. Just because it isn’t a modern hoax doesn’t rule out the possibility that it was a medieval hoax designed to take advantage of Bacon’s The New Atlantis. I think it would be a mistake to count it out out-of-hand.

    • proto57 says:

      Thank you for your thoughts, Roland. I keep an open mind for a wide range of possible theories, so I suppose it can’t be all that improper to keep an open mind for my own.

      I take it you are referring to the National Geographic show, “The Book That Can’t be Read”? I appear in that show, although my bit was shortened a little. In the missing part, I explained the tube/microscope comparisons, and made the point that I feel this is a fantasy document. The producers chose me as a guest for these points, but really only ended up using my comments about the development of the microscope, to rule out Roger Bacon. I wish the other points were in there… right or wrong, like you, I still feel there is something to them… if I may say so, myself! Rich.

  10. Mitch says:

    Depictions of microscopes in the early 15th century? Why not? Baghdad Jars and Antikythera Machines would comment here if they could.

    In my opinion your research on New Atlantis and the people around it stands on its own in a self-supporting manner. The only problem becomes the *relationship* of the Voynich to the conspirators.

    Instead of their ideas being incorporated into a “prop” book, perhaps they lifted their ideas from the manuscript? Did they “crack” aspects of the text and then reverse engineer the secrets they found within? Is it the source of Drebbels’ peerless lenses? Is it the source of the biliteral cipher then subsequently “invented”?

    • proto57 says:

      Two points: Your last paragraph essentially outlines the “chicken egg” aspect that I have privately written on, but I don’t think, yet incorporated into any blog post. What if the Voynich is the inspiration, rather than the result, of some discipline(s)? I have, and independently and privately, another person has, mused on the “what if” the Voynich is the archetype for the ancient tome… that is, for the descriptions of the Book M, the books of New Atlantis, the books of Prospero, and hundreds more.. which it actually represents quite well, in appearance and content.

      And this possibility is not so far-fetched, since we have evidence that the Voynich Manuscript may have been in the well known (to the world) collections of Rudolf II… and therefore could have been seen by many of the influential visitors to his court. For instance, there is every chance that Maier and Drebbel would have had access to it, and these men are thought to be influential.. if not co-founders… of the Rosicrucian movement. Of course the Rosicrucian story has aspects of the story of Rudolf himself… and, of course, the books of ancient knowledge… the Books M and H, and so on, with mysterious plants, and written in cipher. So the scenario fits, at least.

      The second point: That perhaps someone did translate the Voynich, and it contains information of use in it… again, I reject anyone who thinks to discard this possible, as the great polymath, Kircher, did possess the manuscript, and also, was an early experimenter of microscopes (and as I point out on my website, his microscope looks much like a Voynich cylinder) and many other things. Even if he did not decode it, the type of person Kircher was… a universal sponge of all knowledge, with an interest in all things… I would go as far as to guess it was probable the Voynich’s contents would have some influence on him, on some level, as it has even on almost anyone who sees it, today.

      So is the Voynich the “egg” as most have assumed, or the “chicken”, as you muse, and I have, also? Thanks again for your thoughts. Rich.

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