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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52 Responses to The 1910 Voynich Theory is Gaining Momentum

  1. Jean-Claude Rochat says:

    Thanks, Rich, for your views. You may indeed feel pride to have made such fresh contributions over the last more than ten years on this project. While I do not share all the arguments you have brought forward, all tried through the maze of possibilities, sometimes hitting dead ends, but ever turning back and trying yet another alley, I definitively must commend you for your tireless efforts to solve the mystery of MS 408.
    Your views, whether correct or not, definitively are a genuine part of the common efforts that hopefully will lead to the final resolution of this huge question mark.
    All the best, Jean-Claude

  2. suter says:

    Rich, there is also the possibility that the Vms is plausibly BOTH a ” fraud” (in the sense that though it purports to be a collection of scientific diagrams and texts, etc, it is actually not ) and yet at the same time is a serious artifact with very specific meanings and uses.

    • proto57 says:

      Hello Mr. Suter! I do agree that the Voynich may still have meaning on one or more levels. The idea that forgery=nonsense is not reflected in the real world. Many forgeries have meaning.

      So I’m still as hopeful and interested to see what meaning it might have, as ever.

      Thanks for checking in! Rich.

  3. Duke Ham says:

    Hello Rich,

    Again another excellent article you wrote, congratulations for that.
    Although I am far from an expert on this matter, to me your arguments make so much sense and your conclusion supports all my very first thoughts about the Voynich Manuscript.
    From the beginning when I heard about the VM, I could not believe that a medieval script would require a code or cipher based on complex, modern techniques (let alone super computers and AI) to decode it. After all it was meant to serve as a useful kind of vademecum to the owner of that time.
    So if it was a genuine manuscript, it’s purpose was that it could be read by the owner in a not all to complicated way. If we, with all the means and experience gained over the last one hundred years, are still unable to decode the VM, then my conclusion is that the script is fake.
    Also the distribution of the characters aside and also inside the illustrations looks so unnatural for a genuine language. It is not very plausible that the words, formed by these strange characters would exactly fit in between the stems of the illustrated plants.
    Anyway, apart from my own layman’s observations, your explanation in this blog has totally convinced of the 1910 Voynich Theory.
    The last part of your blog is about how one well established theory could be replaced by another one. You wrote that it needs a “fresh eye, without any agenda, bias or preconceptions” to accept your theory and that is exactly the reason the 1910 Voynich Theory will be unacceptable to many. The main reason is that it takes away the ‘love baby’ or the ‘toy’ they were playing with so many years, putting their heart and soul in it. In addition to that, for many of them it even is their business and their social prestige and scientific reputation is based on the fact that it is a genuine manuscript. I have to say though that this is fully understandable.
    For me personally, from now on it is ‘game over’.
    Thanks again for your great efforts.

    Duke Ham

    • proto57 says:

      Well thank you so much, Duke, for that very thoughtful and complete overview of the present Voynich situation, and the positive review of my work. I agree with everything you have said, too, about the “politics” of it. Who knows if things will change? Maybe for people new to the Voynich, but as you say, it will be hard for others, for many reasons, to change their minds.

      All the best, Rich.

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  5. joben says:

    I have to say your theory makes a lot of sense.
    Something that would improve it further would be to describe in which ways it is falsifiable.

    • proto57 says:

      Hi Joben: My apologies for taking so many days to approve your comment, and respond. I was away camping, with only my cell phone, and forgot my WordPress password!

      First of all, thank you for the positive feedback. And about describing the ways my theory is falsifiable, that is an excellent idea. I’ve thought of a few ways over the years, and again when you commented (I could read the comment in my email on my phone, I just could not respond). Here are the ones I can think of… can you think of any others? My theory would be found false if any one of these points were fulfilled:

      – If an irrefutable mention clearly describing the Voynich ms. is found, which predates my hypothesis by a sufficient time to obviate the possibility that it was created between about 1905 to 1912, it would falsify my theory. Currently there is no such reference, IMO, as the only possible reference… the description in the 17th century letters… falls far short of describing the Voynich, and even works against it being the work described ( ). But a sufficiently old mention of the Voynich, which describes it so that there is no question the Voynich is being described, and if this mention is provably genuine, it would show the theory to be false.

      – If the beige ink found on f44r is faded organic yellow dye/paint, it may be date-able. As it is, no inks of the Voynich have been dated. But if this ink were organic, and sufficient quantity could be realized from the page to radiocarbon date, and if the resulting date were old enough, it would falsify my theory.

      – McCrone Associates, the firm which tested the ink, found gum Arabic binder, along with other unidentified gum binders. I believe these are organic substances, and I’ve often wondered why they cannot be radiocarbon dated. Perhaps I am wrong, and for some reason they cannot. But my understanding is that it was considered too destructive to remove the quantity necessary to process these substances for radiocarbon dating. However, if possible, and done in this case, and the date was (again) sufficiently old, it could falsify the 1910 hypothesis.

      Those are the only points I can think of, but I would say they would allow one to describe this hypothesis as falsifiable. Am I incorrect in this assessment of the requirements for falsifiability, or in the points I’ve offered to meet that definition?

      Thanks again for you interest and comment… Rich.

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  7. Rich – I’m glad to see that you and Ruby survive as the only dissenters whose contributions to the study, by blog, haven’t been blocked or dropped by the Voynichninja blogosphere list. One might wish it defined the ‘Voynich community’ as everyone contributing to the study, in one way or another – but there you go.

    It’s about one non-included blog I wanted to ask. A person who posts as ‘Katie Tucker’ whether that is his/her/their name or not, is claiming to be translating the whole manuscript by reference to a Jewish-Majorcan worldmap made in 1375. Does anyone know what language she claims to be translating here? Why isn’t the claimed translation being discussed at Voynich ninja, I wonder. Or you think it’s another case of ‘speak-not-that-name-in-this-place’? 🙂

    • proto57 says:

      Diane- I am familiar with Katie Tucker through her posts on a Facebook group. She was interested in sharing, and presumably getting feedback from others. In that light, I looked at her work and gave her my opinions. I felt that here “translations” were fanciful at best, as they were not repeatable. She insisted that they were, but would not release her lexicon or method, and tried to get me to buy a book which, she claimed, would explain the method. But from what she did share I thought it obvious the “system” didn’t work. Too much variability, in that the pronunciations, the language used for individual translations, and the language used for character equivalents were drawn from a wide range of languages and scripts.

      In the end, like many such attempts, the staggering amount of variable choices on the part of any translator would allow any meaning whatsoever from the Voynich “text”.

      I pointed these things out, and she accused me of sexism, and said that I was “threatening” her. Of course nothing of the kind was involved… I defended myself, and then she blocked me from her account on Facebook. I can’t see any of her content. I have seen other commenting negatively on her work, and I only hope they fair better than I did.

      As for her ideas about the meaning and content of the Voynich, some seems to be based on her supposed “translations”, and some on the imagery. Much of it seems to involve the Scottish sea trade, other ship travels, and so on. But I don’t want to speak specifically to her work, because it was varied and confusing to me, and I probably won’t be able to get her intent correct in most cases.

      She also claims to have “a team”, but will not name them. And on top of that, her “team”, she says, spent time examining the Voynich in person. I pressed her on this, too, but from what I can gather, what actually happened… if anything happened at all… was that a staff of the Beinecke looked at some Voynich features by her request, and reported back.

      But in the sake of openness, and not wanting my opinion to influence the opinion of others… here is her site, for others to come to their own conclusions:

      All the best, Rich.

      • Thanks Rich. I don’t face-book or twitter and her commercial interest was pretty obvious. What annoyed me is that she had plainly taken the work I did, and which pointed to various similarities with both navigational astronomy and Cresques’ Atlas (the last noted in analysing the Voynich map) – and then turned it into a mish-mash, pretty much the same as was done with other aspects of my work… until finally I closed off voynichimagery from general access. I can’t imagine you ‘threatening’ anyone, ever. Ludicrous.

  8. Rich – about your theory. This is just a question to enlighten me, not an assertion one way or the other. You quote Moretus’ correspondence with Kircher about ‘mysterious steganography’. Now, I may well be entirely wrong about this, but I had an idea that the Kircher archive was scarcely known or accessible over the period 1911-1931, and really only became known when it was digitised in … what.. the 1980s or something?
    I’m sure you’ve gone into the question, and would be glad for more accurate details.

    • proto57 says:

      That is of course a great question, and one that I have spent much time on behind the scenes. I mean, I’ve not yet written a post on this issue, one which encompasses all I know about it. I’ll try to be as brief as possible. One thing that would help is to break down the answer into the general and specific.

      First, in general, many of the assertions that make up what I call the 1420 Voynich Paradigm are based on little to no evidence, and yet these “truisms” (which I call “Voynich Myths”) are repeated over and over in articles, documentaries and forum discussions. What I mean is, things were said, or assumed, over time, starting in 1912, they became part of this Paradigm, that have little or no basis in fact. But once “accepted”, it is said to be the responsibility of the challenger, or critic, to “prove” that any of these elements of the Paradigm are unfounded or incorrect. You see the problem? No “proof” was needed to add many “facts” to the Paradigm, but once a part of it, a challenger is told they need “proof” to counter it. There are dozens of such “truisms”, maybe hundreds. The given paradigm is rife with anomalies, contradictions, anachronisms, speculative opinions… all of which are defended, or ignored, on the basis that they are factual, and any challenge, therefore, MUST be very great before they are addressed. Since many points about the Voynich are not provable or disprovable, these problem in the Paradigm continue to stand. A few of the major ones I’ve listed on my page, “Modern Voynich Myths”, but there are dozens more that could be added to this list:

      So now to the specific claim, that Voynich would not have had access to the Letters of the Kircher Carteggio, or, at least, known of the descriptions the men of these Letters… Baresch, Kinner, Moretus, Marci, Kircher… gave for whatever book it was they did actually see, and would by my hypothesis, be used as a weak basis to create the forgery around: The counter points to this possibility are numerous, but among them were the age-old claim, by René Zandbergen, that the Letters were “under lock and seal”. When pressed on this, however, it was never explained what this assumption… for it appears to be only an assumption… is based on. Other reasons given to me, or which I read, like the one you repeated, above… that the Letters were not published in Voynich’s time. But of course they would not need to have been published, only read in person, or selected elements shared. Another was that Voynich would not have had the ability nor time to sort through them, as they are over 2,000. Another was that his Latin was so poor as to raise the difficulty of the former. And when questioning these assertions over the years, and proposing alternatives, it has repeatedly been suggested it was up to me to “prove” Voynich saw the letters! As in the general case, above, you see, NO proof is needed to claim Voynich could NOT have seen them, we are to simply accept this. But to even hint at the possibility he may have seen them, or been privy to the contents of them, I must prove it.

      But while there is no proof the Jesuits had the Letters locked in a trunk, and that Voynich would not have had access to them, I believe it is quite reasonable to suggest he could very well have had access to them, or, at least, to the descriptions of the book described in them. First of all, what I wrote, years ago now, in my “Voynich Myths” article, linked above,

      “4) The Kircher Carteggio (letters) was under “lock and seal”, so Wilfrid could not have seen it: Not known, in any case. There is no evidence that the Jesuits did, or would have, treated the Letters any differently than the Voynich (if they ever owned it, which is also not known), or the other books they sold to Voynich in 1911. In fact, the Villa Mondragone… where both the Voynich and the letters were stored… was a popular and respected college, which took students from the general (even non-Jesuit) population. In the summer it was a retreat for high ranking Jesuits, and even, a tourist attraction. Really anyone could get permission to visit. The photographer who took pictures of it for a 1912 tourist book was the same photographer who took pictures of Voynich’s bookstore in 1908. And Voynich was close friends with Father Joseph Strickland, the head of the Mondragone. And also, considering the great importance of Kircher to the Jesuits, it is implausible to consider they did not have some interest, and probably studied, his letters… while in their care.”

      There are several historic references to the Kircher Carteggio, showing that the Jesuits were quite aware of this collection of letters, and had, understandably, a great interest in them. In the 1678 book by Georgious de Sepibus, “ROMANI COLLEGII SOCIETATIS JESU MUSAEUM CELEBERRIMUM”, he describes the Carteggio. Page 65, “Continentur praeterea in Musaeo Kircheriano Epistolarum 12 Tomi in Folio a 40 Annis ad eum datarum annuatim collecti, quos non folum Pontifices Pontisices, Imperatores, Cardinales & Principes Imperii, sed fed & literati Philosophi, Mathematici, Physiologi ex toto orbe ad eum varii linguis… ”

      As for access, I did find at least one reference… which I can’t find at the moment… in which a Jesuit scholar discussed the Letters, and certain content, in 1888 (or thereabouts). And then in the 1960’s a researcher wrote a book about the collection, and referenced some elements of it. I also can’t find this at the moment, but the work is well known. Of course that is decades past a possible creation of the Voynich Manuscript, but the point to all of this is that the Letters were not under “lock and seal”.

      So do I know Voynich saw the Letters? No, of course I don’t. I cannot prove it, any more than anyone can prove he could not have seen them. And I don’t even contend his seeing them and studying them in person was the most likely scenario. What I suspect is one of the following, alone or in combination:

      The Jesuits had a great interest in Kircher and his writings, as we all do. The Jesuit scholars and professors at the Villa Mondragone would almost certainly, over the years, read and studied these letters. There were plausibly many papers written about them, and much discussion about them. Voynich was well known for having his tentacles out , all over Europe, looking for valuable works. And in this case, his good friend, Strickland, actually ran the Mondragone! And Strickland was known to Ethel, too, in prior years. And it was I think Strickland and his brother(s) who attended the Mondragone College as youths, too.

      So it is entirely reasonable to consider that, combining Strickland’s management of the Mondragone; the familiarity between Strickland and the Voynich’s; the interest the Jesuit scholars and professors would have had in the Letters; the lack of any evidence the Letters were kept hidden or secret; the understanding that Voynich was always on the lookout for rare and valuable books… considering all this, I find it completely plausible that Voynich was made aware of the mention of the interesting, lost, mysterious herbal mentioned in the Carteggio. Maybe it was brought to the attention of Strickland by a Jesuit scholar? Maybe Strickland was immersed in the letters, and saw the reference?

      I can’t of course know how this would have happened, specifically. But it was completely possible, based on what we do actually know about Jesuits, Strickland and his relationship with the Voynich’s and the Mondragone, Voynich’s habits and interests, and so on. And it is not countered by anything known, either, for there is no evidence, let alone proof, that the content of the letters would NOT have been shared with Voynich.

      Anyway, that was long, and clumsy, too… but I hope it gets the point across: There is no evidence or reason to claim Voynich would NOT have had access or knowledge of the descriptions of “that herbal” in the Letters; and some evidence, and reason to believe, he very well could have.

  9. Rich,
    (by the time I’d finished this, I wondered if i shouldn’t have sent it in an email. By all means leave it unpublished if you want.)

    I could not agree with you more about the ‘Voynich myths’ – in fact, it was feeling fed-up with the fact that when you look for evidence of one thing or another that ‘everyone knows’ you find nothing but air as the basis for most.

    That’s why I began my current ‘Voynich revisionist’ blog and its first sixty posts or so explain the many Voynich ‘doctrines’, how they gained currency, and what evidence if any (mostly none at all) forms their basis.

    Normally, people first gather evidence, then study the evidence, and finally see what conclusions can be drawn from that evidence, in the context of present-day knowledge of historical documents, artefacts and scholarship.

    Voynich studies began with sort of ‘who’s-who’ attitude and ever since we’ve seen intelligent discussion and debate actively shut down on such stupid grounds as ‘how dare you doubt the Rudolf rumour’ or ‘who are you to doubt my selected guy/s as ‘authorities’ and – what galls me most because it makes a mess of this field of research, rampant plagiarism and false attribution of information in order to puff a particular theory and adherents to it.

    At the same time, Rich – if you’ll allow me to speak frankly as I trust you will. If you have no *evidence* that the Moretus correspondence had been read up until 1912 or even 1921, you really can’t do the same thing you criticise the myth-makers for doing, which is to invent a tale, lightly dusted with paper-dust and held together with fairy-dust in the form of words such as ‘plausibly’ and ‘probably’ and ‘could have’. An awful lot of Voynich nonsense – starting with Wilfrid’s own tale in 1921 – has had its wheels greased with such terms.

    I’ve had fierce arguments in the past, online, with Pelliing over the value of inventive story-making as history. It’s true that I tend to take a forensic-legal approach and expect evidence to be presented, and a case made from that evidence ideally ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. .
    But even if my standards are too strict, or too conservative, I think you should do some research to discover whether or not there’s any evidence of the Moretus’ letters having been read and commented upon before 1921 in some form that Wilfrid might have seen.

    • proto57 says:

      “If you have no *evidence* that the Moretus correspondence had been read up until 1912 or even 1921, you really can’t do the same thing you criticise the myth-makers for doing, which is to invent a tale, lightly dusted with paper-dust and held together with fairy-dust in the form of words such as ‘plausibly’ and ‘probably’ and ‘could have’.”

      Well I think it is proper for me to use those terms, as I mean it in this way: The defenders of the 1420 Genuine European Paradigm claim that it is impossible for Wilfrid Voynich to have seen the Letters, or to have been aware of the content of the letters, in general, and therefore that he could not have been aware that the “men of the Letters” had discussed a missing and mysterious book.

      That is, the impossibility of the letters is used to defend the paradigm by countering any claim Voynich or anyone else could have used them as a inspiration for making a hoax of forged Voynich Manuscript.

      All I am doing it pointing out that it is not at all impossible, because the claims of “lock and seal” are unfounded. Further, because of the close relationship of Voynich to Strickland, and the presence and care taking of the Letters by Jesuit Scholars/Professors, and Voynich’s, and the public’s, access to both Strickland and the Mondragone, and so on, a published account of the Letters is not necessary to show a plausible link between Voynich and the pertinent information in the Letters.

      I am, I mean, disproving “impossible”, and showing “possible”. That is valid to do, and a very important thing for me and others to know. It is true, correct, and it matters.

      What I am not doing is saying I know he did know of the descriptions, only that it is possible he did, because he could have. I hope I’ve made the distinction clear. Of course as you say it is not proper to replace history with “inventive story-making”, but it is proper practice to create an hypothesis in order to test it. In a way, any hypothesis, due to its very nature, is in part built of a combination of facts, intuition, and imagination. It is then tested.

      For instance, in this case, an element of my hypothesis is that the description of the “Baresch Manuscript” (because that is all we know it actually was, we don’t know it was the present day Voynich) in the Letters may have influenced Voynich to create his manuscript. This element was and is deemed impossible by critics of Modern Forgery, so I examined that claim and found it to be false. It is possible he saw the manuscript. And so on for each element of the hypothesis…

      That being said, I do think it likely that he saw and used the description to influence his creation of the Voynich Ms., but it is not necessary he did so. The descriptions are so poor, and even counter-evidence to being the Voynich, that it is possibly coincidental. But there are many other factors which point to it, to me, which are not all directly related specifically to this case. For one thing, it is a common desire and practice in forgery to connect the forged item to historical provenance. As poor as the Letters descriptions are, we can’t argue with the fact that they have worked so far. In fact an interesting thing recently happened: There was a discussion on the Voynich Ninjas about whether or not the Letter’s descriptions are in fact describing the Voynich! I think this may be a reaction, in part, to my pointing out that the descriptions work against the Voynich being depicted… so the 1420 crowd is ready to throw that evidence under the bus. But I can’t know the reasons, only to note that a towering wall defending Modern Forgery seems to be crumbling.

      Anyway, there are many historic cases of attempts by forgers to insert their work into history, either by creating false provenance (one Shakespeare forger sneaked references to his own forged sonnets and plays into a collection of Shakespearean documents), but more often to find references to lost works of art and literature… and then, CREATE the lost work. I think that is what happened here. I think that Voynich was told of the mention of this herbal in the Carteggio, probably by Strickland, and when such an herbal was not apparent, he created it. Yes, that is “story-telling” in a sense, but I feel it is correct to imagine such a scenario, and then test it. This has already helped to eliminate the false claim of “lock and seal”, but will further aid in determining how to discover if the “story” is plausible, or better, prove it. Without the stories we don’t know where to look.

      So now to your last point, “But even if my standards are too strict, or too conservative, I think you should do some research to discover whether or not there’s any evidence of the Moretus’ letters having been read and commented upon before 1921 in some form that Wilfrid might have seen.”

      Yes, absolutely, and not at all too strict. I’ve made it clear my scenario is a hypothesis, a theory or what have you, and not proven. And I’ve given a great deal of thought as to how to prove it. And while doing so, it could turn out to be provably incorrect, also. Both are valuable. But what I would do, if I could, would be to see the archives of the Mondragone, and of Strickland himself, and so on, to see if any scholar wrote a manuscript paper describing the Baresch Manuscript. Stricklands letters would be of great interest… did he write to Voynich about this? Any unpublished description of the book of the Letters would go a long way to connecting the dots.

      Not that it would be accepted by the 1420 Paradigm, I would never expect that. It would be ignored or dismissed as any evidence challenging the Paradigm is. Many of the Myths I’ve outlined are continually repeated, fouling the air of genuine discussion. It is how Paradigms defend themselves… see Thomas Kuhn.

      • Thank you Rich – you really do take the scholar’s position that it’s all about our mutual subject of study, not about personalities. It a sad thing that such dispassion is rarely seen. As you know, I’ve come to the study as someone fairly qualified and experienced in the sort of work I’m doing, and after fourteen years’ of spending what time I can researching this manuscript’s drawings, I have to say I’ve found nothing to cause me unease about what’s in it, though much to doubt and dispute when it comes to the over-confidently promoted stories.. Rudolf, ‘all-European’ and so on. My opinion to date is that there are only two earlier opinions that seem pretty right – Baresch’s (though the plant-pictures aren’t about medicine), and Panofsky (though the work hadn’t a single ‘author’ and the content wasn’t first created in Latin Europe). Still, I have no grounds to dispute the early fifteenth century date for manufacture and inscription of the quires which, it now appears, may not have been bound together until rather later. But that’s not unusual, either. For all that I’m not omniscient, gd knows. I’ve so often had to thank readers for correcting gaffes.

        All the best in your work.

  10. Thomas Mazanec says:

    Why did Voynich make pictures of microscopes if he was trying to pass this off as a work of Roger Bacon (iirc)?

    • proto57 says:

      Thank you for your comment, and interest, Thomas.

      There is little about the Manuscript that evokes anything of the work of Roger Bacon, and it has always been a hard sell… for Voynich in his time, and for anyone who came later.

      I do not believe that Voynich originally created the Voynich AS a Roger Bacon. I believe that he first meant to look as though it came from the Court of Rudolf II, and that he wanted it to seem as though it was written or owned by Jakub Hořčický, who was a physician, botanist and alchemist in the Court. In fact, the Voynich is “signed” by Hořčický: He is also known as Jacobus Tepenencz, the name on F1R.

      Why do I think this? In short, because the Voynich practically reflects the content of the error-prone, but highly popular 1904 book, “The Follies of Science in the Court of Rudolf II”. Read it yourself, and you will see what I mean. And in Voynich’s own notes, in the Beinecke archive, there is a list, in Voynich’s own hand, of 19 of the people in “Follies”, and in the order they appear in the book. Voynich also stated that he loved that book, and that he “practically knew it by heart”. There is so much more:

      The Primer for the Voynich Forgery

      From that post, “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.”

      So I think that “Follies” was the “primer” for the Voynich. For some reason, though, I believe Voynich changed his mind, before announcing it to the world, and shifted to an authorship to Roger Bacon. It could have been after a “bad review” by the Frankfort book seller Joseph Bauer, whom he may have loaned it to; or to feedback from the respected botanical expert, Charles Singer, who claimed to have seen it at Bauer’s… pre-1912. I don’t know.

      But what may have added to his desire to alter to Bacon was value: Bacon was very much in the news around this time, as the 700th anniversary of his birthday was coming up in 1914. Anything Bacon would be a rave. Certainly worth more than an old herbal, which at the time, might fetch 1000 pounds. Voynich wanted $100,000 for his “Roger Bacon Cipher”. And to that end, to change it, might explain several things: The removal of many pages of the Voynich, about 20 of them. Perhaps they were too specific, too evocative, to identifible, as items and/or people from the Court of Rudolf II, or that time. And also, perhaps, he tried to erase the no-longer desired or needed “signature”, which would explain the mess made of it, and the fact that the “Men of the Letters” never mentioned it. It should have been there, had they seen the Voynich.

      But back to microscopes: Yes microscopes, and illustrations of what you would see through them, would be fully expected in a work by Hořčický. According to Drebbel, and Kepler, both of whom were in the Court, the dual lens compound microscope was used there, and even, in some respects, invented there. Voynich would of course have known this, and which is why he included them.

      Of course after the switch to Bacon, he would have not pushed microscopes, or many of the other 17th century evidence, although many experts, before the radiocarbon dating in 2009, placed the Voynich in the early 17th century. As you know, many still do.

      Sources for the Voynich Forgery

      • Thomas Mazanec says:

        ” In short, because the Voynich practically reflects the content of the error-prone, but highly popular 1904 book, “The Follies of Science in the Court of Rudolf II”. Read it yourself, and you will see what I mean.”
        Here is where that is possible (for anyone else coming across this comment):

  11. I’ve been following this discussion with interest as new comments come in. I must say that even if there were vague mumblings about fakery in earlier years, it is your work alone which has kept the possibility visible and worked to add so much substance to the argument.
    As you know, I don’t agree with you, and especially over matters where I feel your reading of the images a little sparse on background knowledge. However, the reason I comment now is that I think you are unfair over the matter of that print which Voynich sold to the British Library. His reaction on learning there were problems with it was immediately to explain where he had got that provenance for it and to take it back voluntarily and offer a complete refund. I do not see this as the behaviour of a dishonest man but, on the contrary, one who took a certain pride in his reputation as a book dealer and as a man of integrity. Believe me, shonky merchants hardly ever behave that way. On the contrary, they either keep asserting the work genuine, or just throw their hands up, claim to be middlemen and say you must seek redress from the ‘Joe Bloggs’ from whom they had it, or pretend to be immensely affronted and threaten to sue for negative impact on their business and reputation etc. What they don’t do is say, immediately, ‘frightfully sorry – my mistake – here’s your money back.’
    And he did.

    • proto57 says:

      Diane: I agree with you that the selling of a forgery by a book or art dealer is not necessarily in and of itself a reflection of that dealer’s honesty or ethics. In the majority of cases I am sure they didn’t and don’t know. Who can blame them, really, considering that the world of art and literature is sick with forgeries?

      No, I was not using the Columbus Miniature case entirely to impugn him. The main point was this: It has been used as an argument, by several people, that (paraphrasing), “Voynich never sold a forgery, so why would he do so with the Voynich Manuscript?”, and/or “What are the odds this is a forgery, when he never sold a forgery?”.

      Now I do not ascribe to that argument, myself, but nonetheless finding the Columbus miniature is “proof of concept” to those people who do.

      That being said, you and I will have to disagree on Voynich’s responses. I do, at least, suspect he suspected it as being a forgery, from the Backhouse article. (my post on the subject of the Columbus Forgery can be found here: ). In my personal opinion, Wifrid’s responses seem “fishy”, especially with the “Polish Count” reference… a moniker he, himself, was saddled with at one time.

      And I don’t think he offered to buy it back from the BL, but I would have to look at the entire Backhouse article again. Did he make that offer? At least, he didn’t, the BL still owns it. Maybe he offered and they wanted to keep it? I get your point, though, that this was at least the usual practice with booksellers. Millicent Sowerby, in her “Rare Books and Rare People”, relates this. I looked for the passage today, but could not find it on short notice. But in effect, she explains that Voynich and other booksellers he and she knew of, would quickly buy back any item that the buyer had ANY questions about. It was considered the right thing to do, but moreover, smart business practice. Who would want to buy again, or buy from the first time, a dealer who would force you to keep and pay for a questionable item?

      By the way, I did come across another forgery that Voynich sold. When I finish the story about that I’ll write it up for my blog. You may know I also believe the “Lost Chart of Magellan” to be a forgery, and do question several other items.

      I don’t know, though, I can only make the case as I see it. But again, selling them alone does not make the Voynich fake, and if they are all real, it does not make the Voynich real. It does, at the very least, though, obviate any claim that “the Voynich must be real because he never sold a forgery”. And that, even if a small point, is an important one… to some people, even if not, to us.

      • Fair enough, Rich. One reason I take the “disagree with what you say but defend to the death your right to say it” position where your work is concerned is that you are transparent about your sources, decent in dealing with dissent, and patently honest.
        I wrote about that fake ‘Columbus’ image a while ago, when I saw it was about to be published in a certain book at just the time when the ‘Voynich unravelled’ book was making a bit of a splash. In that same context, Wildrid’s speaking of a Polish community in… was it northern Spain or southern France… met pshaw noises from some Voynicheros (who of course were relying on nothing more than what felt good to them – no actual work done), so i checked that at the same time, and it was perfectly true too. A huge contingent of mostly military-upper-society sorts had formed a kind of caravan and re-located down south, so Wilfrid’s account of how he came by the picture might be difficult to imagine, but history’s often stranger than we can imagine, isn’t it?

  12. Here’s the part of a post I wrote about the ‘Spanish forger’ picture, at Voynich imagery in 2014. Hope it may be of interest. Re-reading it I see my memory failed me. The British Library didn’t give the picture back to Wilfrid, and at the time of writing it was still in the Library and some odd features of an intended exhibition-catalogue by another institution raised alarm bells – so I wrote that post.
    Here’s the bit you might find interesting. (I’ve tried to post this comment three times but wordpress says ‘no’. If it refuses, again, I’ll email.

    The Voynich fake

    Not that there weren’t fakes about in the early twentieth century.  One certainly fooled Wilfrid Voynich, who bought it, and the British Library when they bought it from him in 1905.  The item is still in the British Library, catalogued as B.L. Add MS 37177.

    The following paragraphs come from an article written in 1968 for the British Museum Quarterly, where B.L. Add MS 37177 is among the works attributed to a nineteenth-century forger described as “the Spanish Forger”.

    In what follows, I have moved one sentence forward (italicised).

    The identity of the ‘Spanish Forger’ remains obstinately shrouded in mystery, although his existence was recognized as long ago as 1930. [An extensive list of published examples was compiled by Otto Kurz for inclusion in his book on fakes in 1948] and some of [the ‘Spanish forger’s] work is demonstrably at least seventy years old. … He owes his name to Belle da Costa Greene of the Pierpont Morgan Library, who began to collect references to his work some forty years ago. Her original list, now kept up by John Plummer, has been increased to a total of about forty-six items, of which fifteen are panel paintings, twenty-five are separate miniatures on loose leaves of vellum, and the remaining six are manuscripts containing more than one miniature… . Several further examples have been brought to the Museum for examination during the past four or five years, and two fine specimens were sold at Sotheby’s in July last year….

    “… another [example of that forger’s work] was purchased as genuine as long ago as 1905 (Add. MS. 37177) [it is a] miniature at the British Museum catalogued as representing Hernando Cortes landing in Mexico in 1519…Fortunately two letters concerning the purchase of this particular item are preserved in the departmental correspondence for 1905. It came from a London dealer, W. M. Voynich of Shaftesbury Avenue, who offered it for £75 (though he would have asked 1oo guineas from a member of the public) and said that he had bought it from another bookseller, at a high price, as a picture of the landing of Columbus.”

    (Here the picture was inserted)

    Backhouse continues:

    He [Voynich] himself suggested that it might in fact be meant for Cortes, probably on account of the rather eccentric coat-of-arms on the flag, which appears to quarter the arms of Castile, Aragon, Granada, and Navarre. Navarre was not in Spanish hands until 1512 and Columbus’s voyage took place in 1492. Voynich thought that the miniature might have been a frontispiece to Cortis’s official report to the King of Spain, but he had been unable to trace such a manuscript in any Spanish archive. It passed the scrutiny of G. F. Warner, but he did question its provenance and Voynich wrote again to say that it had come to England from a dealer in the south of France. He seemed to have had it either from a Basque or from a ‘Polish Count’, but the English bookseller who sold it to Voynich had said that the transaction was so long ago that the French dealer’s name and address were no longer available. This provenance, particularly the reference to a Polish count, is not very convincing.

    A source for this miniature has since then been identified. The figures are grouped in the same way as in plate ix of T. de Bry’s America, part iv, first published in 1594, and the ships [in the miniature] appear to be modelled on plate xii in the same book. It is worth noting that the forger has altered the costumes, which were contemporary with the date of the book’s publication, to a style more in keeping with the date of the actual event. The de Bry woodcuts illustrate the landing of Columbus and it is clear from a sketch map on the back of the miniature, also spurious,* that Columbus is in fact portrayed, in spite of the flag. The map shows the Atlantic Ocean and the West Indies, and the Fortunate Isles (Canaries), San Salvador (Watling Island), Cuba, and Haiti, all visited by Columbus on his historic voyage, are particularly marked…

    * an aspect of the map not mentioned in the British Library catalogue entry, and no image of that map appears to have been made available to the public as yet. -D.N. O’D.

    Paintings by the ‘Spanish Forger’ are usually dated to the late nineteenth or early twentieth century. [emphasis by present author]. The British Museum’s Columbus miniature seems to have made the earliest documented appearance, in 1905, even if the time which is supposed to have elapsed between its purchase in France and its sale to Voynich is not taken into consideration… Certainly [the ‘Spanish forger’] had every intention of deceiving would-be purchasers…His attempts at making his paintings look old are, at least to an amateur’s eye, fairly convincing… Most convincing to a layman is the obvious antiquity of most of the vellum. Some pieces, including [another attributed to the same hand] Dr. Millar’s, seem to be blank leaves removed from manuscripts and sometimes have ruling on the verso. More frequently the miniature is painted on a leaf or cutting from a large late medieval choir book, the music having been removed from one side to make a space for it. It is particularly interesting to note that Add. MS. 53783 and the two historiated initials in Philadelphia are painted on pieces of the same manuscript, as well as sharing similar border decoration.

    Janet Backhouse, ‘The “Spanish Forger”‘, The British Museum Quarterly, Vol. 33, No. 1/2 (Autumn, 1968), pp. 65-71

    The wider world is well aware of such practice. No, the point here is that – notwithstanding the many people who have classified the miniature of B.L. Add MS 37177 as work of “The Spanish Forger” – the British Library catalogue remains unchanged (apparently) since its original inscription in 1905.

    More than this, there was an exhibition held at the British Museum for which a catalogue (1990) had been prepared, evidently to the very last proofs, and which had included that ‘Columbus/Cortes’ miniature in the list of works by the nineteenth-century “Spanish Forger”.

    and Rich – get this part:

    But when the catalogue was printed in that year, by the Trustees of the British Museum and the University of California, clear marks remained of what must have been a very last-minute editing of the text. And the subject of that editing was the miniature sold to Library by Voynich: B.L. Add MS 37177.

    The picture itself is not included, yet its original reference and caption-line remain.  It was to have been the third illustration of the “Spanish Forger”s works, and bore the illustration number 201(c). You can read the whole book,  Fake? The Art of Deception through the Internet archive.

    The following clips have come from p.189 and p.191. No pages are missing. What came to be missing was any reference to B.L. Add MS 37177 **as being a nineteenth century forgery** by the “Spanish forger”. The Spanish forger’s works are (or were) grouped under the same number 201.  The ‘Columbus/Cortes’ image was to be the third example 201(c).  What happened? Did some uber-expert change everyone’s mind [and say it was not a forgery]? Not that I can discover.  There just seems to be a quick erasure of the last line from the captions, removal of the image, and hasty addition to the text suggesting that the ‘New World’ image was by some unspecified and undated hand.

    For me, though perhaps I’m too idealistic, the really staggering fact in all this is that there is no mention whatever in the British Library’s online catalogue that the work is a forgery, by an earlier or by a later hand. it looks as if the entry remains exactly as it was first written in 1905.  What is more, there is no mention of the map on the reverse as fraudulent (which all agree it is). I should have liked to see that map, but I’ve never been able to find an image of it.

    Now, you see. It isn’t only Voynich studies where this sort of thing happens: evidence, no matter how expert, can always be ignored.

    Here’s the B.L. catalogue entry as of today:

    Add MS 37177 : 16th century

    Title: A MINIATURE in colours apparently representing the landing of Hernando Cortés in Mexico in 1519; with a foliated border on two sides, containing a second portrait of Cortés to the shoulders, within a medallion. The actual miniature measures 6 1/8 in. by 4 1/4 in., and it was probably, prefixed to some nearly contemporary account of the Spanish conquest of Mexico.(!!) The style is Spanish, and the artist must either have personally seen natives of the country and its forms of vegetation or have had before him some picture painted on the spot. On the back of the leaf is a small map of the west coast of Europe and Africa and the east coast of Central America, with the names in Latin. Vellum leaf, 9 3/4 in. x 6 in. XVI. cent.

    Creation Date: 16th century
    Extent: 1 item
    Conditions of Use: Letter of introduction required to view this manuscript.
    Contents:  Hernando Cortés, conqueror of Mexico: Miniature of his landing in Mexico: in 1519.

    Art. Illuminations and Drawings SPANISH: Miniature of the landing of Cortés in Mexico: in 1519.

     (Those measurements in millimeters: 155.57 mm x 107.95 mm).

    Puzzled about why this should happen, or why the 1990 catalogue might be edited at the last moment?  I am too. And not that I want to make more of co-incidence than it deserves, and getting a story right can certainly take a bit of time, but as it happens, American audiences have always hunted for ways to present the [Voynich] manuscript in a more ‘transatlantic’ manner;  it must have pleased them to read in 2004 a screaming, if minor, headline in England’s Daily Mail which read:

    Has the Voynich manuscript been decoded? Mysterious 15th century text may be written in a lost AZTEC language
    The Voynich manuscript was discovered in an Italian monastery in 1912
    Due to its location, historians think the manuscript was written in Europe.
    It is full of illustrations, diagrams and a mysterious text written left to right.
    Cryptographers have been trying to decipher this text for decades
    Botanist now [sic.] claims the plants in the book come from Mexico.

    This suggests the book may be written in an Aztec language called Nahuatl.

    This may explain one very peculiar aspect of the tests for which a German television company paid[?] McCrone to perform some years ago.  They had the tests run against a sample of the rare (and highly unlikely)  mopa-mopa resin, whose only source in the world is a very small region in south America. Not surprisingly, McCrone found no mopa-mopa in our manuscript.

    So it looks as if that pot has been some while a-boiling.  And if you’re a television story-maker, it would certainly be an enormous pity not to be able to make use of such a perfectly iconic image as a picture of some Spaniard (maybe Columbus, maybe Cortes..) standing among a lot of undressed women, one you could link directly to Wilfrid Voynich.  Not the same impact, if it’s by a nineteenth century forger –  wouldn’t you agree?

    Rich I hope this is of interest.

    I haven’t added the Polish matter, but will if you like.

    • proto57 says:

      Hi Diane: It is a matter of debate as to just who is responsible for creating the Columbus Miniature forgery, and when and where it may have been made. AS you note, at times it was attributed to the Spanish Forger, at others, simply “other” forger, as in “unknown”. And as we both have noted and pointed out, the British Library has not yet updated their own catalog listing to reflect that it IS a forgery.

      So as for the various edits to different catalog entries, nothing surprises me. There are many known forgeries in many collections, which often continue to confuse scholars (as forgeries tend to do), while their descriptions continue to happily describe them as genuine.

      I still think it could be a Spanish Forger work, from what I know of the “style”. But of course I can’t know. And also as we have learned, “Spanish Forger” reflects certain artistic elements and practices… style… but it is possible that “Spanish Forger” is a group, a “forgery factory”, because items attributed to “that” artist have had frames and decorations and such, which are also forgeries, but probably made by other skilled forgery craftsman.

      I’m not sure what you mean by adding “the Polish matter”? His reference to having a “Polish Count” in Wilfrid’s given provenance?

  13. Yes, at the time I was investigating the curious fact that so few people questioned Wilfrid’s ascription of the work to a thirteenth-century English (or better, Anglo-French) origin. Wilfrid had about twenty years’ connection with the British Museum (which then held the mss now part of the British Library collection), so I thought it reasonable that he should have shown it off to them. Of course some mistakes have been made, but on balance you find that a steady stream of manuscripts are very accurately dated and assigned place of manufacture and their descriptions have withstood cross-examination by generations of extremely well-informed specialists, not only local but international. The point is rather that the provenance was very soon doubted.

    Anyway, I wondered just how good Wilfrid was at dating and provenancing items he sold, and found that by the time he had sold a piece to Robert Garrett of Baltimore, he’d become very good at the job.

    I don’t like to see mere hypothesising used to cast aspersions on a person’s good name, so I decided to check whether or not the idea of a ‘Polish count’ in southern France with a library containing medieval and later mss was as unreasonable as it seemed to the British Library chap. My thinking was that the ‘Columbus’ picture mightn’t have been the only thing that Wilfrid bought from him.

    I looked into it, as I said, and found that there was an historical basis for polish aristocracy being resident in France, and specifically in Sth France, where remnants of that exodus are still listed in the phone book. I’m really sorry, Rich, but I’m dashing this off during lunch-break and no time to add more. I will cut-and-paste from the voynichimagery material tonight, or perhaps tomorrow night – soon as I can.

  14. I should have said, “The point is rather that the provenance OF THE PSEUDO-COLUMBUS’ page was very soon doubted.

  15. Rich, Finally a minute to send you that information – at 1.15am as I was just about to give up for the night….and it now occurs to me that others among your readers may care to know whether it is, or isn’t true, that a ‘Polish count’ long resident in southern France was an unreasonable idea, I’ll put it here instead of emailing. If you want to delete the comment and just have it fyi, that’s fine with me.

    This is just a section I’m extracting from a post “Dudley-Meux” which was one of a series posted as I tested such evidence for and against such things as Wilfrid’s professional competence, truthfulness and whether those who had doubted him or disputed his opinions were well-justified. I also considered instances where Voynich studies, and persons associated with it, were affected by the nationalism and/or xenophobia of England, Germany and America.

    These paragraphs were part of the research which I posted March 12th., 2015. I know you are always meticulous in citing your own sources, Rich and must hope that your ethics have rubbed off on your readers.

    This is about Wilfrid’s own efforts to trace the history and travels of the manuscript; and incidentally to see if a clue wasn’t missed about that “castle in southern Europe” of which we hear so much in earlier stories.

    In 1905, when Wilfrid was in this mid-thirties and already in a such a position that the British Library would purchase from him and accept his account of provenancing, one item was queried by the Librarian. To save you going back to my earlier post, here again is the relevant comment from Backhouse’s article:

    “It passed the scrutiny of G. F. Warner, but he did question its provenance and Voynich wrote again to say that it had come … from a dealer in the south of France.  He seemed to have had it either from a Basque or from a ‘Polish Count’…. This provenance, particularly the reference to a Polish count, is not very convincing.”

    But actually, it is.

    The region indicated is that around the Franco-Spanish border, most of which is occupied by Pyrenees with its many grand chateaux, and on the western end of which lies the country of the Basques.

    Whether one of those chateaux was occupied by any specific, named, Polish family in the later part of the eighteenth century might be discovered by a researcher with greater time to spare than I have at present, but there is no doubt whatever that between 1831 and 1871, in what is known as the ‘Great Migration’ from Poland thirty thousand people migrated south in a number of organised waves. The majority were nobles, and most of them headed for France.

    The first arrivals numbered several thousand and were, from late Autumn in 1831,  initially directed to provincial centres south of the Loire, creating a concentration in Avignon, Besançon, Bourges, Chateauroux, then in Lunel, Le Puy, and Bergerac. From that time until the present, the names of their descendants must be traced by the listings which are provided here, by . Its abstract reads in part:

    “Pourtant de nombreux Polonais ont pris, depuis le Moyen Âge, le chemin des régions du sud de la France : des pèlerins dans le Gard, mais aussi des étudiants dans les universités de Montpellier, Toulouse…, des lycéens à Villard-de-Lans, des réfugiés des diverses révolutions polonaises, des aristocrates et des ouvriers agricoles en Indre-et-Loire, des métayers dans le Sud-Ouest (Haute-Garonne, Dordogne, Lot…), des travailleurs agricoles dans l’Aveyron, des ouvriers dans l’industrie, des mineurs dans le Gard, le Tarn, l’Aveyron, la Loire, la Bourgogne, l’Auvergne…”

    In 1860, when thousands of Poles were already established in France, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) were suddenly expelled from Italy, as they were from Spain in 1868, from Germany in 1873, and from France and French colonies in 1880.

    In such circumstances, it is not unreasonable to suppose that members of the Order might ask that loyal friends might keep safe such treasures as might be moved and stored easily.

    Hope this is of interest to you or your readers.

    • proto57 says:

      Well Diane, you certainly make an excellent lawyer for the defense! You do counter my… and Blackhouse’s… suspicions on the Polish Count issue.

      I admit I don’t know, and so while I’m not ready to fully exonerate Wilfrid on this, nor on other of what I consider unseemly evidence, you’ve certainly supported a move toward acquittal on this issue very well.

      • Rich – you quite take my breath away. I really can’t imagine any other Voynich writer (and that includes me) who would respond with such generosity of spirit, and recognise the difference between criticism of a theory and criticism of the theorist. I take my hat off to you – seriously.

  16. I see that in my previous comment an effort to mark out a source-reference by using European chevron-quotes only resulted in its not appearing at all. 🙂
    my French source was
    Les Polonais au Sud de la Loire – which has been put online.

    The original link I provided is still there (just add colon and dot)
    It is at http// html

  17. Rich – just a word about your assumption that the tv program or the person named behaved unethically in drawing from your original research without including proper acknowledgements… It has been my experience over the past decade and more that in Voynich studies there are a few would-be ‘Voynich experts’ whose research consists of trawling the web, taking copies of other people’s discoveries and theories, and then in their pose as ‘Voynich experts’ simply quoting from that material without actually quoting. They simply pronounce it *as if* it had been a product of their own work. Since people like journalists and historians, and publishers, are constantly referred by others to the same few promoted ‘experts’ so plagiarism has become endemic in the study in direct proportion to the public impression of those bluffers as Voynich authorities.

    In my own case, the plagiarism by money-conscious ‘Voynich experts’ became so bad that finally I closed by research blog to all but a few fellow scholars. Many genuine researchers have noted this phenomenon, but in many cases the journalist, or publisher etc. has been left in complete ignorance that they are being used to launder and publicise stolen work.
    As a rule, a scholar does not have to defend themselves in such matters, because fellow scholars protest such plagiarism and misrepresentation immediately. Unfortunately the ‘Voynich community’ online is pretty thoroughly cowed and says nothing. I can at least now add a comment to that video on your behalf.

  18. Rich – not on topic but…
    Did you tune in to the zoom conference? I’ve been looking for comments about it but apart from a brief comment by Nick Pelling, dead silence seems to be the response – unless people are still using twitter or Facepalm.

    • proto57 says:

      Hi Diane: Yes I did cough up the 50 Euros for the Malta Voynich conference, and watched every minute of the two day event. I’ll copy my Facepalm comments below. Meanwhile, if you have any questions about the presentations, I’d be glad to answer them. But I also may write up a blog post about the Conference and my questions, and impressions, at some point…


      About Malta

      OK well it is probably way to early for me to voice my opinion of what transpired here, and what it means to the investigation of the Voynich Manuscript, without the inevitable claim I am shouting the Grapes are Sour, simply because they were kept out of reach.

      But sometimes the grapes are sour, and it does no one a service to pretend otherwise.

      Don’t get me wrong: The people who participated are all brilliant, well meaning, insightful, imaginative. And it is very possible that many of the investigations into the word and character frequencies and placements, and the comparisons to real languages, constructed languages, glossolalia, ciphers, and so on, were and are extremely valuable. Even if they result in no answers, the really do, because they tell us what was tried, but still didn’t work.

      Like Edison famously said, his 900 failures at making a light bulb were not really failures, because he learned 900 things that didn’t work.

      But there is a serious problem, one which I have noted going back probably before I became aware of the Voynich in 2007, and wrote my first article. It is this: As the knowledge of the Voynich became more mainstream, due to the internet, and there was an explosion of ideas about it, a rift began to develop between those… amateur or professionals… who wanted to try their hand as solving it; and those on the others side, who held jealously onto some sort of institutional control of the message, onto the “Paradigm”.

      I became the moderator of the Voynich Net at least a decade ago, and watched this rift evolve. Those who felt it was sacrilege to question or challenge the paradigm became angry, and left the discussion. New forums arose, and flourished, but these encouraged ideas only when they fell in with the strict guidelines of the paradigm, and rejected any distension from those “rules”.

      I am one of the many “outsiders” to that 1420 Paradigm, and have many followers. But there are many others, with widely divergent ideas from my own, but with whom I share the understanding that the 1420 Paradigm is flawed in one to many ways, containing at its root serious anachronisms and anomalies, all of which are never explained, many of which can be shown to be logically and undeniably incorrect.

      These problems are not addressed within the Paradigm. And any forum which stays within the confines of the Paradigm will not allow them. The message is controlled and censored in order to falsely project the image that the Paradigm is correct and unassailable.

      Now that is, apparently, the way of science. I’ve often quoted Thomas Kuhn, whose book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, is a practical reflection of the Voynich scene, and all these problems and politics I’ve noted over the last decade plus. A Paradigm naturally defends itself against critics, and will hold sway even long after it deserves to.

      Now to Malta: It was a case study as to how the 1420 Paradigm survives and protects itself. It did this by filtering out any contradictions to the Status Quo. The vetting process was based on hypocritical standards, with seemingly the only bar for acceptance being: Do you believe? Nothing that challenges the Paradigm was allowed in, and any questions which went against it were silenced. Any questions which showed the speakers in error were shut down, at least from my end, what I could see. It happened to me.

      Every presentation, every study they reflected, and every answer given, and question allowed, was based on the presumption that the Voynich was created (constructed and penned) in the early 15th century, that it was of European origin, that it was genuine (and if a fake/hoax dated from the early 15th century), that Voynich purchased it between 1905 and 1912, that it “the men of the letters” where discussing it, that Rudolf II and Kircher had owned it, and so on. Nothing outside those rules of the Paradigm were allowed.

      Now don’t get me wrong: There is nothing malicious about this, not in an overt sense. The people who control this message, who fiercely protect this paradigm, truly believe their theory is the correct one… and it is just a theory, but they don’t think of it this way. They believe it is the Truth of the Matter, and who could be blamed for protecting the truth? It is noble on one level.

      But not on a scientific level. Silencing discussion is the antithesis of science, it is the death of it.

      So that is one problem here… and other such Conferences, this is not new… the filtering out of ideas contrary to the Paradigm. But that would not be so bad if the people who were in charge of these things actually understood the basics of what they are discussion. This was not the case here, however… and here are a few examples:

      Does meaning equate to genuine? No, of course not. In fact almost ALL hoaxes/forgeries/fakes in literature have meaning. And yet four of the presenters were approaching their studies of the Voynich with the premise, as stated and paraphrased by me now, “Gibberish/nonsense means it is a hoax; plain text meaning would indicate the Voynich is genuine”.

      Well this is easy to show to be incorrect, by simply mentioning the forged Hitler Diaries and the Howard Hughes “will”. They have meaning, of course. Most forgeries do. Meaning is absolutely no indication of genuiness, not at all, demonstrably.

      Yet four of the presenters have made this one of the core principles of their talks! Not only that, but a paper by Colin, “Word Probability Findings in the Voynich Manuscript”:

      “In this paper, we showed more support for the claim that
      the VM is written in a natural language and therefore is not a hoax.”

      Ummmmm… no. How ever this false concept originated, let alone continues to pervade this investigation, when so easily shown to be false, is a mystery I’ve not been able to understand since realizing it over a decade ago.

      Provenance: The Voynich has no provenance, unless you accept the menitions in the Letters as referring to the Voynich, which I do not. But that aside, there is no other provenance in the sense of any mention of the work in any letter, catalog, list or description of any kind. None.

      But the keepers of the paradigm, while feverishly searching for such mention, and never finding it, insist it exists… somewhere, and will be found… sometime. And if this was admitted to, which it should be because it is the truth, it is rejected as unimportant. So as I outlined here before, the presentation by Mr. Guzy… by the way, a fine young man, and intelligent and persistant… was given as though there was some success in this area of provanance. There was not, he found none. In the end, though, he reassured everyone, along with pictures of some archives in Prague, that it would be found.

      But never, not once, did he admit the damning conclusion that, so far, the Voynich has no proveance. And famously the discussion which followed was quite revealing to me… and caused me to write the apparent truth here, “Provenance matters, unless you have none”. I’ll copy my screenshot of that disccusion, below. You can see I was told provenance does not matter…

      But in the end talk, Lisa explained that one of the important “lessons” of the Malta Conference was the description of Provenance! But there was no provenance found, and it was important enought to look for, then not imporant when not found, then imporant, again, when… not found?

      And so on… the speaker was not aware that the f116v marginalia is in the same ink as the main text, according to McCrone, and voiced that they though that marginalia was from decades later than the text. Others thought that we know the calf skin was inked in the early 15th century, when there is nothing that shows this. And so much more, in addition to this, and everything which I listed, above.

      The point is this: The Malta Conference reflects serious problems with the current Voynich state of research, which has moved into new generations of scholars, but has, becasuse it has not and will not address past problems, has only allowed a skewed image of what is known about it to become pervasive to the point that it limits and therefore hurts the quest for the Truth. The Keepers of the Paradigm do not know what the Voynich is, but they will tell you what it is, and what they tell you is often in error, or can be seriously questioned.

      That questioning, unfortunately, will not be tolerated, and so we all lose.

  19. “Nothing that challenges the Paradigm was allowed in, and any questions which went against it were silenced. Any questions which showed the speakers in error were shut down, at least from my end, what I could see.”
    This is a process which has been going on for quite some time, and I’ve seen engineered first, a situation where a dissenter is sent ‘to Coventry’ and then, if they continue to produce information contrary to that old storyline, personally attacked and maligned by sheer imaginative rumour-mongering to the point where either they give up in disgust or (less often) their expulsion is engineered by representations made ‘by pack’ to the owner of the blog, moderator of a list or forum, to have that person blocked or expelled.
    The person needs not be particularly strident or anything else – they only need to be perceived a threat to the old theory.

    It is effectively forbidden, by the way in which the Voynich ninja was finally described, to discuss any pre-medieval precedents, any non-European context or languages.. yet the whole culture, ethos and interest of medieval Europe is suffused with older, and non-Latin influence and by the fourteenth century a *very* active and growing knowledge of the wider world. I find the image of a ‘white-walled Europe’ quite repulsive, not only for its overt fear of the other (‘fear of..’ is the true definition of xenophobia) but because it adheres to an idea of the medieval world which was superseded by historians as early as the 1950s.

    If the censorship was as bad as I now have an impression it was, this wasn’t an academic conference so much as an exercise in PR for the Friedman-d’Imperio storyline, with emphasis on one badly-flawed ‘Rudolfine’ theory.

    I’ve gone over Rene Zandbergen’s version of the manuscript’s ‘provenance’, checking some of the dates, and details, and its apparent consistency is that of an historical novel – not of historical research. I would like to see the paper of a talk given by the chap who was talking about documents relating to Rudolf’s library (or something like that). A comment which Rene left on Nick Pelling’s site (why there?) sounds like another imaginative theory-patch, but one wonders why Rene didn’t address that comment directly to the author of the paper. When I see exercises in ‘indirectly influencing opinion’ I feel quite uncomfortable. I’d much rather see a paper, or a blogpost for which the individual accepts personal responsibility, openly cites their sources and so offers themselves for correction, criticism and debate. That’s normal scholarship. It’s something the ‘Rudolfine’ crew not only don’t do but… as you say about the conference .. actively prevent from happening.

    • proto57 says:

      ” I would like to see the paper of a talk given by the chap who was talking about documents relating to Rudolf’s library (or something like that).”

      I believe you are referring to Mr. Guzy’s talk about his search for provenance. I was also very interested, as the wording of his abstract, and then the talk, implied that he had found some new evidence for the existence of the Voynich. He didn’t. Nothing.

      But it was implied, and at the end of his talk he showed a picture of some Prague archives, and said that the provenance would probably be found there. So I asked him, “Since you, and everyone else, have not been able to find any reference to the Voynich as we know it today, in any list of any library or collection before 1912, doesn’t that equate to a total lack of provenance for the work?”

      This resulted in a flurry of answers from him, verbally, and from Lisa Davis, which avoided the question, then extraordinarily resulted in the statement, from Ms. Davis, “Why does it [provenance] matter?” Here is a screenshot of that discussion:

      So I posted this over on the Facebook Voynich site, and summed it up with this sarcastic “rule”: “Provenance matters, until you don’t have any”. Lisa then commented,

      “Of course provenance matters. But most medieval manuscripts don’t have an established early provenance…that doesn’t mean they’re modern forgeries.”

      I answered,

      “Of course lack of provenance alone does not indicate forgery, and I don’t claim this.

      The point here is multi-fold. First, Mr. Guzy and many others know its importance, because if it were ever found, it would finally prove the Voynich is a genuine old manuscript. That is obviously why it matters. But while it has not been found in the past, and still isn’t found, there is this suggestion that “it is just around the corner”, or that “maybe we kinda sorta found it already” with various manuscripts that have some small similarity… such as costing 500 or 600 ducats.

      But this is a false projection. It has not been found, and will not be, until it is found. Until then, it is zero provenance. THAT should have been the focus of Mr. Guzy’s and other’s such searches and failures to find any trace of the Voynich. But it wasn’t. The failure of Guzy to find provenance was spun into a conclusion that we didn’t find it, BUT WE KNOW IT IS THERE.

      Secondly, then, if provenance does not matter in the sense of not finding the Voynich provenance does not alter the hard and fast claim that it is genuine, then why spend any time looking for it? Like an “icing on the cake” thing? I don’t think so.

      Over time I’ve come to realize that much of the “established” Voynichology is, like this search for provenance, apologetic. I think it is for the reason that most claiming the Voynich is real, and old, know full well that that claim is not only unfounded, but runs counter to the evidence. I mean, this desperate search for provenance that both does and does not matter is because the dirty secret is the genuineness and age of the Voynich are actually very unsure, and based on shaky grounds. One just has to read the wording of the (excellent, and partly for this reason) Clemens/Yale Voynich book, which does not lie, but spins every anomaly, inconsistency and anachronism in the Voynich into a supposed asset. On careful read it actually tells a different story. That book reflects the current state of Voynich, and I think explains why provenance actually does matter, to the believers of the 1420 Paradigm, and Yale, very, very much. They know they need it.

      Thirdly, Provenance is not apples and oranges. True, many manuscripts have no provenance. And in these cases, it is understandable because that item is simply floating around, with no backstory. But in the case of the Voynich, researchers have basically painted themselves into a corner, by assuming this long, complex “history” for it, and partly on chosen parts of Voynich’s word (ouch). So it is said, with unearned certainty, that the manuscript was owned by Rudolf and Baresch and Marci, seen by Kinner and others, sent to Kircher, owned by Beckx, in the Collegium Romanum (sp?), in the Villa Mondragone, or wherever, bought by Voynich with other books…

      … the point being, this is not some orphan manuscript floating around Europe like an old dry leaf… we are all told it was here, here, and here. In that context, under those claims, not finding provenance has a FAR GREATER implication than usual. Because in the case of the Voynich, WE ARE TOLD where it was, and of course one of these people, one of these collections, should have left some record of it. But none have the barest whiff of it.

      Point being, lack of provenance may not matter when you don’t have it (as claimed), but in the case of the Voynich, where a very elaborate “provenance” has already been constructed and claimed FOR it, the situation is now very different, very suspicious, that that given provenance didn’t have any trace of the Voynich rub off on it.

      I think this is also understood, and why there is this harried search for it, and projected implications we kinda sorta found it already, and anyway, “it doesn’t matter”. Because the provenance was already given, before it was found, and that provenance does not stand up. And the Paradigm knows it.

      In fact, I think it would be better for the believers in real and old… the 1420 Paradigm/Theory… would do better to scrap the shaky line of provenance now given as factual (it is projected that way, I could cite at least a dozen cases where the terms “we know” and the like is given for things we sure as heck don’t “know”), and start over, because of what I point out. But the Paradigm is saddled with it. It is flawed, and been so far unfruitful, but it has become doctrine and cannot be discarded. They own it, for better or worse.

      Fourth: Usually, examination “tells” the investigator what something is, from what time, and about where it was made. So for most items, provenance is not quite as important. No one questions most historical items with no provenance, well they question them less and less as the obviousness of their origins, and genuineness, can be questioned.

      But the “dirty little secret” of the 1420 Paradigm is this understanding, this uneasy feeling that the Voynich may not be what they are claiming it is, and the unspoken (by them, not me) that it does not stand on its own. And this then breeds the sense that “we better find Provenance” because it will fix all that. It would fix all that, I agree.

      So on the one hand, believers in the 1420 Paradigm make what I consider vastly unfounded claims that they know what the Voynich is, when it was created, basically where it was created, and also, more importantly “what it is not”… but at the same time, they understand the many and serious flaws, anomalies, anachronisms, and contradictions in the “given” story, and so we have this funny mix of claims “nothing to see here” in that “provenance does not matter”; but the usually unspoken but powerful sense that the Voynich, in particular, very much NEEDS provenance to repair the tattered foundations of the Paradigm, because it really needs it.

      It is like comparing two dams: A nice, solid one over here, well built and leak free, and nobody worries. They say, “Patches don’t matter”. They don’t, and they don’t even have to look for ways to patch it.

      Then over there, we have a dam that is leaking constantly. The keepers of that dam don’t want to worry anyone, and they insist “patches don’t matter”, but really, they know that they do, and these people are frantically looking for ways to patch it.

      I have seen and see, in many ways over the years, that the faulty paradigm projected for the Voynich is defended. The problems with the provenance, why it is dismissed, but at the same time, fervently sought, are to me another reflection of the seeming impossibility of making the fake Voynich fit a genuine round hole, and it is why I had asked the questions I did, the way I did. It casts a light on this issue. The opportunities to do so are limited, so I did so, and I was not disappointed.

  20. As you know, Rich, your conclusions and mine about the manuscript don’t exactly coincide, so you won’t be surprised to learn that I also accept the date for the Voynich quires’ inscription as 1405-1438. On one point I must pick you up though. McCrone said the marginalia’s inscription was in the same kind of ink. Not ‘the same ink’. MCCrone didn’t comment on the age of that ink, merely noted that it was also iron-gall, or at least (because they could do no more) some ink made of vegetable+iron.

  21. I must admit, I feel a little disappointed by the easy way that Lisa has fallen for the Prinke-Zandbergen line, and not only in terms of the Rudolfine theory.
    btw – speaking of the few women given prominence in recent years, whatever happened to Ellie Velinska, do you know?

  22. proto57 says:

    There is a tremendous incentive to agree with the 1420 Paradigm. I used to call it “a seat at the table”. If you disagree with any elements of the Paradigm, you lose it.

    Now I’ve been lucky in that there is still interest in my ideas, to some extent. I was asked to be part of a documentary early this last summer (2022), even though… because of actually… my forgery theory. I missed the request because it was in a “non friended” Facebook message (FB does not let you know about messages from people not on your “friends list”, you have to remember to look for them in a special place). This is the documentary I mention in this post. That guy who related some of my ideas about forgery was my replacement. So that was a seat at the table.

    And I was also featured and extensively quoted in a recent podcast, which I just found out about. But any of these invitations will come from people who are outside of the Paradigm… not of the Beinecke, and who don’t care what the Voynich is, and don’t think they know what the Voynich is.

    I have enough name recognition to have the ability to parlay that into a great deal of coverage, and acceptance to conferences of all types, and be in articles, blogs, forums and documentaries: I would just have to say that I’ve changed my mind, and now “know” the Voynich is real, and from 1420, and European. Bingo! My face would probably end up on bus stop posters, and in the Washington Evening Post.

    So it is very tempting for some to embrace the Paradigm. It is easy, and safe, and will further one’s career emensily. I happen to know that there is a hope of a job at the Beinecke, and clearly this would NEVER be offered to anyone who challenged the Beinecke’s 1420 Genuine European Paradigm.

    Ellie is fine, or was when I wrote her in the last year. With you, I highly valued her research. Why she left, I do know, but that would be something you would have to ask her yourself, as that information was not publicly shared. But she is OK, and onto other projects, and I consider her a friend whose contributions and conversations I miss greatly.

  23. Sorry – Ellie’s leaving is evidently a sensitive topic. So many people do come, become widely read and quoted, and then leave that I thought it would be for one of the usual reasons. Sorry I asked.

    I agree that the while ‘provenance’ story is created by less than orthodox historical method, often by presuming the thing the narrator wants to be believed and then asserting that the proof exists, or other little exercises in what I think of as the ‘abracadabra’ or ‘sleight of hand’ method. Since the comment was published online, I hope I may be forgiven for quoting a comment of that kind made in relation to that same talk.

    At ciphermysteries, under Nick Pelling’s post ‘Voynich Conference is About to Begin’ (Nov.28th, 2022), a comment was left after the conference – comment by Rene Zandbergen actually – ( December 2, 2022 at 1:31 am) which says:

    [quote] With respect to the 500 Taler, the presentation was a bit confusing. As discovered by Stefan Guzy, the price for the seller was 600 “Rheinische” florins, but this appeared in Rudolf’s books as 500 Taler, which is probably the amount of money that the “bearer” (from Marci’s letter) Geizkofler received.
    Oddly enough, a portrait of Geizkofler survives, but none of Widemann [end quote]

    [EDIT: Above quote corrected at the request of the commenter]

    Now with the caveat that some of us (including me) find it difficult to condense a lot of background info into a quick comment, and the result may not well reflect what we mean, that comment at face value is a good idea of the ‘abracadabra’ style, in which fact, theory-driven assertion and plain imagination are stirred up together.

    If we break it down, the comment seems to say that some book/s, (printed or manuscript?) are listed at a price of 500 Thaler. Now the ‘thaler’ was a silver coin which began to be produced only around Rudolf’s time. A silver coin.
    The entry (?) found by Guzy, however, is one for a sale at 600 Rheinish florins. Its a well known coin. The air-quotes suggest it a metaphorical or ‘so-called’ kind of coin, which it wasn’t. A was a well established gold coin. Gold coin. and it is usually described as Rhenish- not Rheinish.

    So judging only from that comment – I haven’t seen the whole paper – it seems as if you have one entry (?) about a sale of some books, or some manuscripts, at a price of 600 gold Rhenish florins an entry for 500 silver thaler.
    Did the speaker address the relative value of gold and silver at the time, or the dates for those two entries (in different records?). I think he might have done, but evidently he did not do so in a way that supported the ‘Rudolf owned it’ story about the Vms.

    What Rene does in that comment is insert into it an equation between a book-seller (or agent) and the unknown carrier in the letter allegedly from Marci but which isn’t written in Marci’s hand.
    Then, to cover the fact that the sale price for those books-or-manuscripts sold for 600 Rhenish florins isn’t the same as the ‘500 thaler’ in another(?) document altogether,

    Rene’s comment does what he does so often in creating the provenance narrative: insert an unproven assertion supportive of his theory *as if* he were clarifying a proven point and stitch it together with what I think of as the Wilfrid vocabulary where words like ‘probably’ do not indicate the conclusions of any balanced consideration of evidence, as they do in good historical studies, but indicate another instance where confident imagination is confused for reasonable argument, thus:

    ” 500 Taler, which is probably[sic] the amount of money that the “bearer” (from Marci’s letter)[sic] Geizkofler received.”

    Going on past performance, this identification of Geizkofler with the anonymous ‘carrier’ in that not-undisputed ‘Marci’ letter of 1665 will soon be circulated and repeated and treated as fact, until it becomes another item of dogma in that ‘provenance’ tale.

    Now Rich, you know I’ve not yet read the paper, and I’ve acknowledged that a post-comment often does less than justice to its writer’s knowledge, so you mustn’t hesitate to point out if I’ve done less than justice to either Guzy or Dr. Zandbergen.

    • proto57 says:

      Hi Diane: I corrected the quote as you requested, and deleted the request.

      “Ellie’s leaving is evidently a sensitive topic. So many people do come, become widely read and quoted, and then leave that I thought it would be for one of the usual reasons. Sorry I asked.”

      No problem at all. I just wasn’t certain if Ellie wanted the reasons known, but it is not really a big deal. I don’t know what you would consider “the usual reasons”, and we might have a different list!

      Almost everything you point out about the use of this “non provenance” I agree with. The provenance is not only created, it is then fervently defended, then added to from time to time. I even wrote about a previous example, when a basic reference to a 15c vellum manuscript was found, then later used as factually describing the Voynich! It is a “one two” punch: Find some slim thing and announce it, and properly say it is not certain. But then in later writings and talks, claim or strongly imply it is factually the Voynich. Others will then begin to think it is real, and say that the Voynich has provenance. It is really unscientific, and insidious in a way.

      But by doing this, I know, we know, that they know the story is peppered with problems. Unfortuneatly the public don’t get it, and everyone loses.

      I’ll check out Rene’s post at Cipher Mysteries, myself, also.


  24. One further thought – having read the linked conversation, it seems to me that the speakers were missing your point. As I read it, Lisa heard your comment-question as “Unless we have a cast iron provenance, the manuscript is a fake” and responded by saying that lack of provenance is no proof a work is fake.

    The point which I read you as trying to make (and I may be wrong here too) is that the manuscript has no provenance, yet we are presented with a long, seemingly detailed provenance story which on close inspection is chimerical. The point matters not least because the Beinecke library’s facsimile edition actually sees that chimerical ‘provenance’ included there and with astonishing carelessness, some editor less pass the wholly false statement (inserted into the Physical Materials report, which is outrageous) that “the manuscript is known to have been in Rudolf’s library” when that is so far from what is *known* as to qualify as an untruth. Why the conservators’ report, the only really valuable essay in that volume, should have been contaminated in that way I cannot say. I bet the conservators were displeased. We don’t put such fictions into technical, scientific reports.

    • proto57 says:

      Again I agree with what you say. We are on the same page with most of these tactics, and we both don’t like them very much.

      “The point which I read you as trying to make (and I may be wrong here too) is that the manuscript has no provenance, yet we are presented with a long, seemingly detailed provenance story which on close inspection is chimerical.”

      Yes that is one aspect of this issue. But the point I was trying to make… in addition to what you describe… is this:

      Lisa and others want to claim it is normal to have no provenance. That is probably true, overall, for the vast number of items in the world.

      But it is NOT TRUE, or less likely, that an item with the rich and complex string of provenance they have already assigned to it, would not leave a trace somewhere along that claimed lineage. I mean, if it was in Rudolf’s collections, then why isn’t it listed? If it was in Kirchers, why not found? In Beckx, where is it? Where is the Beckx ex-libris so many of his other books still have, with the written description on it (in Voynich’s archives in the Beinecke there is a pile of Beckx ex-libris labels for many of the other books that Voynich bought). And so on…

      They created a trail of provenance, which limits (to them) the places the book (they say) traveled and was kept, they are saddled with it. It is wrong of them to then compare their failure to find provenance with all other world situations for literature, and all other cases. They made their bed, then refuse to lie in it… OK, you say you know where it was, now prove it. No, they evade the discussion, and the logical implications of the failure to produce.

  25. Rich – it isn’t the association of the ms with Beckx that is the problem. The problem is the whole story woven about that. I accept that the trunk in which the manuscript was, was one which Beckx had, and that it contained manuscripts. The one piece of work I follow which Rene is either doing or getting others to do, or simply repeating and neglecting to credit others for actually doing – I don’t know which is the case in this instance – is the attempt to list and trace all the manuscripts which were purchased by Voynich at that time. I’m willing to accept, with reservations, that the ‘Marci’ letter of 1665/6 is genuine, even if the main body of the letter isn’t in his hand. The problem from that date to 1911 is twofold, and one of these days I’ll get around to posting about it, even though that sort of slog-accountancy sort of work I find really tiresome. On the one hand, you have the scenario presented by pure imagination… you know, Kircher either leaves it at the Collegium Romanum, or gives it away to someone who isn’t a Jesuit, or … whatever…. and then in the 1880s it is given/sold to the Vatican library and then (what? stolen back by Jesuits) or, equally imaginative, it is ‘stored’ somewhere in Rome in the 1880s and then when Beckx comes back from Fiesole, immediately falls ill, and soon dies – but never goes to the Collegium Romanum and is in no condition to be able to ask for a cipher-book to be borrowed back for him – suddenly turns up in his trunk. Or whatever other fanciful bits are added to make it sound plausible. I hardly bother following the tale these days.

    On the other hand, you have two critical factors: the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) which mean a Jesuit owns nothing and anything given to him belongs to the Order and is permitted him to use by permission of his superior. So Kircher couldn’t have claimed it as his own, and it would not have been his to ‘give away’. One might then create imaginative stories about where it went, which library and so on – but then you run head on to the other factor – the suppression of the Jesuits not only in Rome but pretty much everywhere in Europe, in one country, then in another. Add to this Napoleon’s effective ‘confiscation’ of all the valuable old books and manuscripts he could get hold of (including typefaces stolen from the Vatican Press), and follow this up by the newly-unified Italian government’s similar declaration that it owned everything and *it’s* assertion that Jesuits could claim a certain amount of private property and you have the situation which the Collegium Jesuits admitted plainly – that they only put name-tags on some books/manuscripts to preserve them .. they meant: *under that state ruling* because no matter what the secular government said, a Jesuit owns no personal property except what is assigned for his use, and can be taken from him any time – in theory, if not so often in practice, that can include even items of clothing such as a jumper (sweater) given him by his mother as a Christmas present.
    Put all that into a time-line with one column as ‘place’ where the manuscript is supposed to be; the second column year-by-year between 1665/6 and 1911, the third column historical events impacting Jesuits and fourth column details of the documents which prove the manuscript was in one place or another in a given year… and the ‘provenance’ story rips apart like nylon in acid rain.
    Of course, the first step with these historical-fiction sort of narratives is to go through them with a blue pencil, striking out all the Wilfrid-vocabulary which has no purpose but to make imaginative scenarios seem less implausible and fudge the fact that there is no tangible evidence to support the assertion… I mean those . words like ‘probably’ ‘almost certainly’ which pepper Wilfrid’s talk in 1921. When I think, ‘Ok – so show me the evidence which led you to think that…’ it’s usually woeful or non-existent, or has no discernable point of contact with the manuscript. Like Wilfrid’s ‘Roger Bacon’ story.

    Unlike you, RIch, I do not think the problem is the manuscript. I’ve been working through it, and considering specific details – in the primary document and in the historical and archaeological and other records, and I have found nothing to make me suspicious of the manuscript’s authenticity. What I do take issue with is usually those things we term ‘Voynich doctrines’ or ‘Voynich dogma’ and which are demonstrably ill-founded.

    • proto57 says:

      Well we agree mostly about the tattered nature of the provenance story, but of course our opinions of the manuscript itself, as usual, are about as far apart as it gets. But here is the funny thing: I don’t argue with you, or most people, about what you surmise is in the Voynich, I only differ as to why it is in there.

      But as for Beckx, Marci, Baresch, Kinner, Kircher, Rudolf, De Tepencz having anything to do with the Voynich we know today, or even ever having seen it, I really doubt that. I don’t think the Voynich existed before about 1910, and I don’t think anyone is ever going to find any real trace of it in any real history, ever.

      But you know that I feel that way, and you also know, I hope, that I love your ideas, and many others, and really support us all having those diverse ideas because that is the only way this is going to ever be solved, if it ever is. And I am fine with some real evidence proving someone else’s theories correct, I really am, because I don’t want to die without knowing, if that is possible, whatever it is.

      We lost Glen Claston, Robert Teague, Stephen Bax, and Arthur Tucker, and I think a couple of others in my time. They all worked so hard, and contributed so much, they at least deserved an answer, even if it was not theirs. But life it unfair, we can’t claim otherwise.

  26. Rich – I really enjoy being able to talk about the manuscript with you, but one thing I would ask. I do not have “ideas”. It has been by representing my research and its conclusions as mere “ideas” that the few really determined plagiarists have excused their unethical behaviour. I ask historical and art historical questions, then do the research needed to answer those questions – such as why isn’t the ‘July’ emblem a crab, and what does the form given that image tell us (as e.g. the form given the emblem for November), and then in the research summary I include some of the evidence, including relevant historical and even archaeological studies – and the conclusions I’ve drawn from all the material consulted. It’s precisely because I don’t offer “ideas” but evidence and conclusions that the plagiarism is so bloody obvious. The imitations are always hollow because the pilferers imagine that my work is another theory, or just ‘ideas’ (and as Rene once said to me ‘no one can claim an idea’ – so if my research shows e.g. that use of the crocodile for November’s emblem is an allusion to Egypt, one that appears in some few places in Europe c.1350 and which connects to contemporary attitudes and responses to the Plague), they treat the conclusion as ‘an idea’, mess up the chain of argument, can’t cite any of the references, refuse to acknowledge the source, and so not only make a hash of their effort at imitation but actively mis-direct others to avoid the plagiarism becoming obvious. I got so tired of it after 7 years, I closed voynichimagery.

    Sorry to go on about this, but it matters. I don’t waste others’ time by offering vague ‘ideas’.

    • proto57 says:

      Well I apologize, but the distinction you point out for the word “ideas” absolutely never would have occurred to me. But I’ll be careful and try not to use it in relation to your work, as you ask.

      In my case, I don’t mind the use of the word… because while I strongly believe in my ideas, which form the structure of my overall hypothesis, I also understand that they are not usually provable. For instance, it is an “idea”, or “opinion”, or “speculation” that several of the cylinders of the Voynich resemble spyglasses from the 18th century spreadsheet, but I know I cannot say that they are factually representations of them, or inspired by them:

      There will always be a minefield of semantic distinctions like this, which will matter to one person, and not to another. I remember being chastised by a friend for using the term “believe”, as in “I believe that many of the cylinders are inspired by optical devices”. He equated it with a religious connotation, that I was not making a point by point concordance argument; but on some emotional level, simply by using “belief”. No, of course not… One can “believe” their cat has a cold without being a priest of cats, or a vet, or being factually able to know if the cat has a cold or an allergy.

      We can easily get stuck, or annoyed, or have disagreements, due to the almost infinite combination of an endless number of definitions. Your “idea” seems different than my “idea”, and it is therefore important to know, so others can avoid using it in a way that bothers you.

    • Duke says:

      I am just following your interesting discussion from the sideline.
      But your opposing to the word ‘idea’ came as a surprise to me, like it did to Rich I guess. Please don’t let an interesting discussion be interrupted by these minor issues. When I read through your own website, I noticed that you yourself often use the i-word in the same meaning as Rich did. I suppose that in the heat of trying to make one’s point clear it may feel that one doesn’t succeed in getting to the point and some irritation may arise.
      May I ask you to continue this discussion as before?
      I would be most grateful.

  27. Rich – I’d call your views ‘opinions’ or conclusions because they are the end-result of research.

    An ‘idea’ is something like, “I think the picture/text/…’ was given us by angels and the all the ladies are wingless angels” or “when I look at this fold-out it reminds me of the scheme of Dante’s inferno”. An ‘idea’ is just a notion.

    Voynich studies is overburdened with mere ‘ideas’ that have no basis in prior historical study or other genuine effort – the solid slog and – well, honest labour.
    Being honest doesn’t make it right, but it means the work has to be acknowledged as yours, whereas indeed ‘an idea’ is of no substance or value.

    Rich, I understand the feelings of your volunteer moderator, but it’s not my place to respond to his effort to direct our conversation.

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