Proof of Concept

A proof of concept is an example of a similar situation to the one you are theorizing, which shows that some element of that theory may be possible. It does not actually prove the theory. It does not really advance the theory itself. What it does is rebut, to varying degree, the opposition or complaint that your theory cannot be possible. To what level it then shows the plausibility of the theory is a matter of conjecture, not really quantifiable, and subject to many factors… some highly subjective. But a proof of concept is still very valuable, as it moves a theory into the realm of possibility. I have a list of various proofs of concept for my optical and New Atlantis theories, which address many complaints about that theory. But I recently came across a new, and very important example, which addresses several of the most common and widespread negatives, as voiced by those who do not think the theory likely, or even, possible.

Here is a list of some of the objections to my theory, which are all addressed by this recent find of mine:

  1. No one would make a book to look hundreds of years older than it was.
  2. Vellum was too expensive to use for all but the most important, and real, reasons.
  3. The skill and time it would take to make a large vellum book would mean it was done only by dedicated scribes.
  4. Blank vellum has always been very rare, and the later past it’s heyday, the rarer.

And then I found the Chittenden book. Ironically, I was not even looking for it, I was looking at another book in the Lucius Chittenden collection in the University of Vermont.

Lucius Eugene Chittenden was born on May 24, 1824, in Williston Vermont. He became a lawyer, a historian, peace advocate, abolitionist, banker, US Treasury official, friend of Abraham Lincoln… and a prolific book collector and lover. He took at least two trips to Europe, no casual feat in the 19th century. I first came across the man’s collection because he happened to own a manuscript which I consider very similar to the Voynich. This “Italian Herbal” (see link), is attributed to the late 15th century, and written in two hands. The general style, coloring, and the habit of writing around the herbal drawings, I find strikingly close to the Voynich. As an interesting aside of the “C14 tail wagging the dog”, this very similar herbal is often sidestepped AS an example in Voynich research, as it is “too late”. But it was this paragraph, in the bio of Mr. Chittenden, that jumped out at me,

 “One of the more fascinating books in the collection is his own translation of Les Singularitez de la France Antarctique by Thevet (Paris, 1558).  “The volume is Chittenden’s work completely except for the fine morocco binding.  Done on 100 leaves of vellum in Chittenden’s distinctive hand printing, with multi-colored initials, full page line drawings in ink, and marginal figures of soldiers, birds, and animals. . . (Buechler, pp. 45).”

And that is the book from which I have excerpted the samples in this post. They do not appear anywhere else on the internet, nor, apparently, are they reproduced in any book. And then, I would like to point out, this example would not be a subject of any study, in any university, and would be unfamiliar to any expert who was consulted on the subject of “books on vellum made to look older than they were”. It is part of what I have been learning is a new discipline, pretty much undocumented, and which stands alone. I only suspected, when I began looking, that such a category of book must exist, although I have been, and still am told, that it would not, and cannot, exist: An illustrated, colored manuscript made as recreation/adaptation of an older work, on vellum, made to look much older than it is.

(shhh! This does not exist.)

So why did Chittenden make this work? I suppose we could easily deduce he loved the original, and wanted to produce his own copy. But he then took the time to translate it into English (it is a wonderful read, by the way, and ought to be published in it’s entirety). But while making this work, he chose to make it on vellum. He did so, I would again presume, to make it look old, like the original. And where did one find 100 sheets of unused vellum, in 1868? My previous research shows that blank vellum must have always been available, and I know it is, even today, so I am not too surprised at this. Perhaps he got it on one of his jaunts to Europe, or maybe he found an old stock in the United States. But there it is, he found it. And likewise, he found time to make it. This was a very busy man, by any standard. So rather than him needing to dedicate years or decades to producing it, he managed to serve Lincoln, the Treasury, his family, write several important histories about the civil war, slavery and politics in general… and, on the side, write and illustrate a 200 page copy of a 300 plus year old book, and on vellum at that.

So what does this mean to my theories? Well it does not of course prove anything directly. But what it does is show that several of the concepts which are necessary to accept the possibility of the theory, were actually used, historically, by others. Of course this one example is from a later time than I suspect the Voynich was created, by 268 years. And we do not know when this vellum was made… although I would love to see a C14 dating of it… and so it does not support my contention that old vellum may have been used for the Voynich. But I have other examples that do that. What is most telling is that Chittenden wanted to make a book look 300 years older than it actually was, while I only suspect about 150 to 200 years for the Voynich.

My other “proofs of concept” have been outlined in other posts on this blog: The Chymical Wedding is a fictional book made in my time frame, and in cipher, and meant to look like an older work; then there are my examples of blank vellum lying around, historically, ready for use, and even, used for centuries (reinforced, again, by this new example); the low cost of vellum, historically; the use of fake books as props and art forms, from the late 16th century, to today… and now I add the Chittenden book, which is a perfect, real example of a book lover finding enough blank vellum to letter and illustrate his own copy of a 300 year old book. No doubt there will be objections… of course I am quite aware of them, myself, in that I realize what this shows and what it does not. But at this point, for anyone to postulate that the Voynich “cannot be” made when and for what reasons I suspect it is, or even, that it is “unlikely” that this is so, really has the burden of proof from their perspective, not mine.

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2 Responses to “Proof of Concept”

  1. Michelle Smith Says:

    I don’t see how anyone could say that it isn’t possible to have used older vellum for a newer codex anyway…surely with the advent of paper, any stocks of vellum left on the shelves of the cartolai would be sold at less if anything and would still be hanging around after vellum suppliers closed down ( I used to have a shop 10 years ago and I’ve still got bits of old stock under my bed)..maybe someone had saved it on purpose for a special project, maybe a child inherited it from his grandfather in a box of junk ; how can you possibly rationalize on chance happenings …I never believe that everything has to fit in a box..things can be improbable…but so is being struck by lightening or winning the lottery…yet is happens..

    • proto57 Says:

      Agreed of course, and then see that in the context of the usually accepted unique nature of the Voynich. You have what is probably a one-of-a-kind artifact, so to attempt to apply general speculations and relative probability, to determine its nature, doesn’t really make sense. It really remains, that if it is possible, it is as likely as anything else. Thank you for your interest, and comments.

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