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Rebuttal to “NoFake”

August 5, 2019

I was recently in a discussion with a proponent, and author, of a New World origin theory for the Voynich Manuscript, and he believes my 1910 Forgery Hypothesis is without merit. Of course that is fine, I relish disagreement, it is the “oil of the machine of progress”. But what interests me most about rebuttal is just “how” the were arrived at, and how they are supported? I am less interested in both agreement and disagreement alike, if the basis for either is unfounded.

It is usually the case that the critiques of my forgery theory use the meticulous and well-researched pages of voynich.nu, founded and edited by the Voynich expert, René Zandbergen. Most argument used to dismiss my claims seem to originate from those pages, or to some other source based on them, or past work that they draw from. Other sources are the recent Yale book about the Voynich, for which René is one of the contributors and advisers.

But it is clear that a major force in many people’s “understanding” of what the Voynich is, and what it is not, owe as a basis the works of Mr. Zandbergen. It has become a starting point for many researchers, a reference for articles and blogs, and, it seems, a sort of “proxy” opponent for any theories which run counter to it. A person does not have to understand the basis for their own argument, and often, they do not. All they have to do is repeat the things they have been told are so.

Many conclusions are given there as known, unassailable proofs, when they are actually based on speculation, and are, in fact, opinions: that the Voynich is known to be a 15th century genuine work, that it appears in pre-1912 records, that it was made within a short period of time, that it was owned by Horicky, that it was in the Court of Rudolf, that it was once believed to be a Roger Bacon work, that Kircher saw and commented on it… and much, much, more. All these things are still unknown, based on speculation, and often contradicted by the evidence. The second problem is that those pages do not properly describe, if they describe at all, the great many anomalies, anachronisms and inconsistency in the Voynich and its purported “provenance”.

I’ve addressed many of the hundreds of problems with this carefully constructed “image” over the years. But the task is an onerous one, and the genie is long out of the bottle. It has spread through media and popular culture, has become the basis of many books and articles, and now forms the “understanding” for hundreds of posts on the Voynich, around the web.

But this post is about one page from that site, the one which was used as a direct “proxy rebuttal” to my own 1910 Modern Forgery theory, by the New World theorist I was engaged with. He told me that I “… need to refute all [René’s] arguments” on the page, “Why the Voynich MS is not a Modern Fake“.

The importance of this page is that it is clearly the “best shot” that the 1420 Paradigm can levy against the possibility of a modern fake. It is written by the man often described as the premiere Voynich expert. There would clearly be no argument against fake left off of this page, and I can attest to this, as I have heard all the arguments. It is also clear that that page is at least partially reactionary to my own work these past years, although I am not specifically named in them. While the idea that the manuscript may simply be a forgery by Wilfrid Voynich has been around a long time, I have pushed the envelope of that investigation further than it has ever gone, using new research and observations not previously considered. This work, and these ideas, have unfortunately caused a rift in the field of Voynich research, but also a necessary, and necessarily public discussion about it. “Nofake” is an attempt to close the matter, to dissuade others to not consider modern forgery, to claim there is no merit in the idea… and so I consider it my right and responsibility to counter it.

Notes: In the quote boxes are copied the wording from “Why the Voynich MS is not a Modern Fake“, or from other sources so identified, with my comments and rebuttals below them. If anything has been omitted by me, it is because of its repetitive nature, or some other reason rendering it moot to the discussion. But of course one is welcome to point out any items from that page that they may feel pertinent to the issue, and I will of course address that in the comments below.

“Part 1: codicological and forensic evidence”

“The MS is written on previously unused parchment”

This is irrelevant to the issue of forgery, first of all, as many forgers use and have used old material, either blank, or erased (palimpsests). The Voynich might be written on either, we don’t know. The only evidence given for it not being a palimpsest is that no scraping or sanding marks have been found. However, because of the pre-conception the Voynich “must” be old), more modern bleaching methods, which do not scrape the surface, have not been tested for.

“The sewing/stitching of the binding is centuries old. On photographs (e.g. IMG: here) it is partly hidden by Kraus’ restorations of 50 years ago, but it was studied in detail by several expert MS conservators on 7 November 2014.”

Old stitching can be faked, and also often is. Note the “disclaimer” here: the mention of “Kraus’ restorations”. This is frequently done in defense of anomalies: anything anachronistic is said to be “added” by someone else, while anything consistent with the paradigm is just fine. We don’t know exactly what Kraus did and did not do, it should not be used as an excuse for anachronisms.

But let’s look at the actual verdict of the experts on binding, as per the Yale book, “The Voynich Manuscript”, edited by Raymond Clemens (2016), for René’s claim that the construction is “centuries old“:

On page 25, typical Gothic period (1300-1600) stitching is described as “generally” using linen thread (for the quires) onto “raised, double, tawed-leather thongs”. The Voynich, on the contrary, is described as having “bast fiber thread (linen or hemp) onto double cords of flax”. So that is different than “general Gothic” practice. The Yale author is conscious of this, and gives this disclaimer, “Although it is not unheard of for a fifteenth-century manuscript to be sewn onto flax supports, as the Voynich manuscript is, it is less usual than the use of leather supports”.

So that is not a good match, it is “less usual” to find this. So that counters the claim that we KNOW the binding is “centuries old”.

Further on,

“The sewing appears to be very old…”

That is, “appears to be”, not “known to be”. Forgers always make things “appear to be”, so this is not a firm statement of authenticity… Yale continues,

“… and is either original or an imitation of that used in the early Gothic period”

It could be “an imitation“? Now isn’t that what forgers do, “imitate” old stuff? This, again, counters René’s impression that we know the binding is “centuries old”… but leaves open the possibility some of the construction may be an imitation of it.

I’d like to add here a link to a blog page of Diane O’Donovan. I mentioned my intention to post my thoughts on  the “telling” wording of the Yale examinations. She had also noted this months ago, and did an great job of breaking down, in detail, the “how and why” of it all: https://voynichrevisionist.com/2019/05/11/expert-opinion-myth-versus-materials-science-pt-5a/ (It goes without saying that Diane has her own opinions as to what the Voynich may or  may not be, and most very different than mine… but like me, and many others, she realizes that much which has been stated as fact about the Voynich Ms., while there are anything but settled).

The Yale essay then describes random holes, that do not seem “indicate a different arrangement of folios”, but “may have been stabbed by mistake while setting up the text for sewing; others may be merely evidence of insect damage”.

There you see that they do not know the origin of these holes, nor, I point out, can they differentiate between worm holes and accidentally poked holes. From these statements by the experts, I think it is perfectly reasonable to come to alternate opinions, such as that previously used parchment with old holes was used. Or, perhaps, with worm holes, and disassembled and re-used, as the holes do not line up to anything… and so on.

The essay then goes on the explain the possibility that the work was dis-bound and re-bound at some point… which it must have, because of the missing leaves and scrambled order. Then it continues,

“The parchment binding and endleaves (first and last pages of the book) are not original to the text and may have been added in the eighteenth century” by the Jesuits.

Note that they are not describing JUST the endleaves as being added in the eighteenth century, but they include the binding… so yes, that is still under René’s claim of “centuries old”, but about “two” centuries, not the five plus centuries which he was clearly implying to make the case for a 15th century origin.

The Yale book then explains that a note in pencil states the “sewing and cover were repaired in the 1960’s”. Do we know what was repaired, what was replaced? I don’t think so, but anyway, again, this is not “centuries old”. The book goes on,

“Although parchment or leather spine linings were commonly used at this time, paper spine linings like that found in the Voynich Manuscript were not.”

So there is yet another case of anachronistic materials and construction. Then the examiners write that “… determining its age or origin might offer further clues that would help place the manuscript geographically”… in other words, they seem to consider this anomalous, anachronistic paper spine lining to be original, but have not “determined” their age nor origin! Once again, countering René’s claim these experts concluded the binding was “centuries old“.

The Yale experts then add that the insect holes and staining on the first and last leaves indicate an older wooden-board binding, covered in leather, was once there… which is “more typical for the Gothic period”. Read another way, another affirmation that the materials and construction of the binding and covers is NOT typical for the “Gothic period”, in that there is a possibility a gothic-age clue WAS there, once, but it is now gone.

So much to the contrary to RZ’s claim that the tests and examination determined the binding is known to be “centuries old“, what the experts actually tell us is quite different: that the materials, construction and practice of binding the Voynich deviates in ways anomalous and/or anachronistic to what would be expected of the C14 date range. I’d go as far as to say the conclusions of Yale actually support other reasonable conclusions, including fake.

Back to voynich.nu’s “nofake” page:

“Beside remnants of old paper lining, very tiny fragments of leather were observed attached to the back of the text block, as leftovers from an earlier binding”

I am not sure where this comes from… maybe Yale again… but it is irrelevant. Wherever blank vellum sheets, or blank quires, or a blank book was salvaged from, for genuine old use, or modern fake, there may be “tiny fragments of leather” stuck to it.

“The folds of the foldout pages show signs of very significant wear”

Again, irrelevant. Almost every forger since the beginning of time makes certain that they wear, and stain, and beat, and worm hole, and crack and abrade the work, to imply age. But skipped over here… although my rebuttal here is less about why it may be a forgery: The foldout pages are actually a major clue to forgery, as the they are anachronistic by several hundred years (see Clemens, Yale, and below) to the 1420 Paradigm. I speculate that they are also are a clue that a forger may have started with all full size folios to begin with, as in my “Three Quire Theory”: They simply left some large, and folded them.

“When Kraus acquired the MS, the cover was almost entirely detached. However, the imprints on the dorso made by the old binding (i.e. without Kraus’ repairs) show that it must have been attached tightly for a longer time. There are signs of additional (previous) stitching holes, showing that early in its history it has most probably been rebound in its present form”

Again, not clues (even if correctly pointing to “old”, and not simply pressed together for some lesser time) necessarily pointing to age of the book as a whole, but actually may be a clue to the re-use of the parchment. This also is a case of the assumptions that anything “too new” was due to Kraus, or some other later hands, such as the Jesuits, or Voynich… and anything looking old enough means “genuine”. Also note that René cherry-picked one possible explanation for those extra holes (“rebound”), and also, that this is actually moot to genuine and forgery alike. Nonetheless, as we have seen, the experts didn’t have an explanation for the extra holes.

“There are wormholes on the very few first and last folios. They don’t extend into the MS because these insects did not feed on parchment. The holes cut through writing and drawing elements, showing that they appeared after the MS was written.”

This demonstrates the frequent misuse of forgery evidence, being spun to instead imply genuine. This because a clue often used to determine the authenticity of a document is the “lining up” of wormholes between sheets. But here, wormholes don’t line up with anything. So they are both being used to imply genuine, with, “there are wormholes”, and “through writing and drawing elements”; but then the evidence they are not genuine, i.e., they don’t line up to any other, continued, holes, is explained away, with “these insects did not feed on parchment”. So these particular ones did just the perfect amount of feeding: They ate through JUST enough parchment to prove it is old, then stopped… proving the parchment is old again.

Furthermore, I am unclear on just how the determination was made they appeared “after the MS was written” to begin with, as wormholes are commonly faked anyway, and difficult to judge the authenticity of. Fake wormholes have fooled many experts. In any case, elsewhere in Yale, as described above, the stray holes are indistinguishable to the examiner between poked with a tool, and insect holes.

“There are stains on f1r and f116v from an earlier cover. Combining this information with that related to the wormholes, the experts conclude that the MS must have had an earlier cover of wooden boards covered by tanned leather.”

This is not evidence of forgery. Staining is easily and often replicated, and has historically fooled many examiners of forgeries.

“The MS does not include yellow flowers, unlike essentially all other illustrated herbals. Upon closer inspection, it appears that there are remnants of a faded yellow pigment, which must have been an organic yellow that has faded through the ages.”

This “faded yellow pigment” has not been tested, first of all… or, we assume it has not, by McCrone. It does not appear in their report. And in the Yale book, it says nothing about this yellow pigment having “faded through the ages”, only that it “might be organic” (page34). Unless I missed it, I’ll assume that it was René who speculated that this yellow “… has faded through the ages”.

How long does it take yellow pigment to fade? Forgers also fake aged paints and dyes, by falsely adding oxidized ingredients and colors, by treating them, by method of application. So would a forgery know that yellow fades? Anything an examiner knows, a forger knows. Sometimes, more. So how do we know a forger didn’t simply apply a thin yellow? Or fade it? In any case, it is yet another claim of René’s that seems to really be his own opinion, and does not reflect any specific expert observation or analysis, and which can again have many alternate opinions ascribed to it.

“In 2009 radio-carbon dating of the parchment and forensic testing of the paints and inks was performed. The parchment dates from the early decades of the 15th Century”

First of all, skipped over is the fact that the ink was not, and cannot be, dated. Medieval inks can be mixed up this afternoon, if we desire, and McCrone never dated the ink. But as to the parchment date of “… from the early decades of the 15th Century”, this is demonstrably untrue. The dating of the samples are actually from a range of between the latter part of the 14th century, through the late 15th, or even early 16th centuries, according to René on his site, and elsewhere: http://www.voynich.nu/extra/carbon.html

“All tests of the inks and paints, both in 2009 and 2015, failed to bring to light any trace of elements inconsistent with this date. This is a test where fakes perpetrated more than a century ago are almost inevitable to fall through.”

On the contrary, the ink and paint tests do show several anomalies, such as “slightly unusual” copper and zinc; a “titanium compound”, and an unknown gum binder not in the McCrone sample base, and much more. In fact, the report recommends further tests in some areas, in order to resolve these questions.

But even if anachronistic ink constituents were not found, it is not at all “inevitable” that fakes have such problems with their inks. There are many cases of forgeries with quite good inks… that is the point of forgers learning how to make them. In fact, the Voynich’s long time friend and partner, Sidney Reilly (M15 double agent and spy) took a book on mixing medieval inks out of the Cambridge library. Voynich was a trained chemist.

“Part 2: Evidence of Provenance”

“When, around the year 2000, several references to the Voynich MS dating from the 17th Century were found in the correspondence of Kircher, the main reason for the above suspicion about the Voynich MS was removed.”

The references (Kircher Carteggio letters) are, first of all, vague and do not satisfactorily describe the Voynich. Stars, “chemical symbolism”, “plants unknown to the Germans, unknown script… could all describe a great many manuscripts. Conversely, many prominent, identifiable features of the Voynich are NOT described in those letters, when it would be logical to include them in any discussing attempting to identify it: Nude women, the zodiacs, the cylinders, and so on… this area is ripe with points, enough for a book in itself… such as that several of the cylinders look so much like Kircher OWN MICROSCOPE… that it is absurd to think the similarity would not have occurred to him.

And the “Ilyrian” in the Kinner letter, long thought to be a reference to the mysterious text in the same letter, turned out to be… with a better translation… referring to another, known, work. In fact the record was updated to reflect this, with a new rationalization, weakly claiming, again, it is evidence the Voynich was being described. But far from knowing the “several references” are known to be of the “Voynich MS”, the evidence is actually that some other manuscript other than the Voynich is being described. I call it that unknown ms. the “Baresch Manuscript”.

Also, that these letters were likely kept in the Villa Mondragone, under the care of Joseph Strickland, who was a friend of Voynich’s. And Strickland and his brothers actually attended the college there, years before. The often repeated idea that Voynich could not have seen them, or seen any record or report based on them, is unsupported, and in fact, unlikely, in my opinion.

“Further suspicion about Voynich as a possible faker arose because of his legendary capability of finding previously unknown books (primarily incunables and early prints). It has been suggested that these could be fakes. This aspect is addressed (without the suspicions) in Whitemann (2006), and here we see that many unique or previously unknown books offered for sale by Voynich were soon found in several other copies, showing that this particular suspicion was equally not founded.”

I’ve never heard anyone publicly state these early incunabula might be fakes, so I imagine René is referring to a private exchange we had on this subject. But whether the early incunabula… he is referring to the sale of 150 to the British museum, in, I think, 1902… are real or not, is irrelevant to the question of whether the Voynich, or other works Voynich owned, are real.

“Voynich’s secrecy related to his acquisition of the MS could be a further source for suspicion, but now we know that he acquired several MSs at the same time, many of which are now preserved in American libraries. All of these are genuine old MSs which originate from the Jesuit Collegium Romanum.”

Again, it is irrelevant whether or not these are fakes. Forgers, art and book dealers alike, might, and have, sold only a few fakes, or one, while at the same time selling a much greater number of genuine items.

That being said, several of the works Voynich bought at the same time as the Voynich are questionable, and have been questioned. He has even sold at least one known fake. But that is also a topic for another paper, as it is, as I said, irrelevant to whether or not the Voynich is fake.

“His secrecy applied equally to these genuine MSs, and it was because of a promise made when he acquired these MSs. It clearly has nothing to do with a supposed fake. Most of the collection from which he acquired these MSs is now in the Vatican library.”

See above… and also, I point out, that Wilfrid’s stories used to impose this “secrecy” are varied and contradictory in many cases. In short, we know he lied about provenance, on several occasions, and gave highly suspicious provenance in others. So to use the word of Voynich in any case, of any owned and/or sold work, does not help us to know for certain the provenance of any of them.

“We can see that the cover of the Voynich MS is similar to other MSs that he acquired at the same time, and also similar to the MSs that went to the Vatican. The similarity of all these covers was the result of a general rebinding by the Jesuits reported in Ruysschaert (1959). The historical archives of the Pontifical Gregorian University have even published a text written shortly before this rebinding indicating that such a rebinding was needed because the collection was infected by woodworms.”

This is covering for the fact that the binding and cover of the Voynich are actually more modern than the C14 tests of the parchment revealed. It also now contradicts René’s previous statement the binding is “centuries old“. If this reported “general rebinding” by the Jesuits, then it is only a bit over a century old.

“We see that the evidence related to the provenance and the codicology are fully consistent.”

No, the evidence is anything but consistent, and the provenance anything but convincing, as I’ve shown above.

“At least three of the books that were acquired by Voynich on this occasion, and later sold by him, were seen and consulted before 1870 while they were in “the Collegium Romanum library. Many of these MSs still show their original Collegium Romanum shelfmarks. Some 25 manuscripts (including autographs) of Kircher that are now preserved elsewhere can also be traced back with certainty to the Collegium Romanum library, so it is fully consistent to find the Voynich MS, that was sent by Marci to Kircher in 1665, in the same collection.”

It is irrelevant what else was in the Collegium Romanum, as to where the Voynich may or may not have come from. But note again an important point which is glossed over: “Many of these MSs still show their original Collegium Romanum shelfmarks.” The thing is, the Voynich does not have any label, any shelfmark, any indication at all this was in the CRL, or with these other books, at any time. No shelfmark, no descriptive ex libris, when many other books which René is attempting to relate by proximity, to the Voynich, do actually have these. Again, this is another case where a damning bit of evidence is spun to seem to support genuine.

“Two letters letters from Godefrid Aloys Kinner to Kircher, written in 1666 and 1667 respectively and now preserved in the Kircher correspsondence, tell us that Marci had recently sent an unreadable MS to Kircher for translation (see note 10). The unnamed previous owner of the MS that Marci referred to in his letter has now been identified as one Georg Barschius, and one of the letters he reportedly sent to Kircher has also been found. Equally, the response from Kircher to an even earlier (now lost) letter from Barschius has been found in Prague.”

See above, i.e. the “letters” are unconvincing in their description of the manuscript, and it is more likely some other manuscript, either lost or unidentified as such, than it is the Voynich.

“In summary, we have a fully consistent trace of the Voynich MS from the 17th Century till its discovery in 1912 by Voynich.”

See above… this is not at all a reasonable conclusion. On the contrary, the Voynich has virtually NO acceptable provenance at all, and no real “trace” and not at all “consistent”. Any case for provenance needs to be invented, and it was by Wilfrid, and is still done, today. See the new claim that the “1903 catalog entry” is the Voynich… claimed as possible on René’s page, which morphed into fact by the time he wrote his essay for the Yale publication.

The two most similar methods of argument are always those of the forger, and the defenders of forgeries. The exact same rationalizations, omissions, argumentative tactics, are used by both, and this “nofake” page continues to reflect this. There is virtually nothing of value connecting the Voynich to the Collegium Romanum, to the Villa Mondragone, or to any of the players that Voynich, René, and all 1420 adherents insist you believe were involved. In fact, there is no plausible, reliable evidence that the Voynich existed before about 1908.

Part 3: About faking artefacts

“Around the start of the 20th Century there certainly was an active trade in faked old artefacts of all nature. The most famous proponent of this trade is the so-called ‘Spanish Forger’…

In this section, René relates several known forgeries, and states that longer ms. forgeries are not made, for various reasons. He seems to be trying to show that in all aspects the Voynich is not similar to other forgeries, and that forgeries of the type and length of the Voynich would not be made, based on the limited information he has supplied, and that “therefore” the Voynich is not a forgery.

This is an illogical path of argument for several reasons: First of all, while no two forgeries are the same, and while the Voynich is likewise a unique work , the Voynich still has more similarities to many known forgeries, by far, than any real, or even forged, manuscript that I know of. So it is wrong to try and say there is no forgery like it, therefore it cannot be a forgery… rather I counter, there are many forgeries with some of the characteristics of the Voynich, and the Voynich has many characteristics, in one place, of many forgeries. These were outlined in my talk before the NSA in 2017:

Another false argument here is that it would not be “worth it” to make such a long forgery. But first of all, Voynich wanted between $1.6 and about $2 million dollars, in today’s currency, and that is quite a worthwhile return for, at most, a year’s worth of spare time. And furthermore, there is a long precedent for making long manuscript faux books, which took a great deal of time and effort, and offered no monetary return. Among them are the Chittenden Manuscript, which I examined in person.

The Chittenden, and many other “faux books”, belie the claim that “nobody would do this”. For more examples: https://proto57.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/prop-hoax-tribute-art/

René then cites the longer forgery, the Archaic Mark, which actually counters his own claims that it would not be worth it, or too risky, to make a longer forgery. So he switches gears, and disallows this example by saying “The parchment has been scraped to remove any earlier writing and painting on it. The forensic reports clearly indicate the presence of anachronistic elements in the paints, and a suspicious binding.” He is discounting the good example of another long forgery because it was revealed to be one. This is irrelevant, because there are many forgeries, some found out, and some, not. At least, it would be ridiculous to assume that only those forgeries we discovered, exist.

And then, despite his claims longer works are not made as forgeries, he actually links to several, in that section:

https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/books-manuscripts/gaius-suetonius-tranquillus-de-vita-caesarum-5573305-details.aspx
https://www.christies.com/lotfinder/lot/the-spanish-forger-4-full-page-1369098-details.aspx?intObjectID=1369098

So which is it? Was it done, or not? Well it was done, and done often, both despite and because of René’s passage on this subject. Several long forgeries do exist, several long faux books of various types, do exist, and still, their existence really does not affect whether or not the Voynich is yet another one. But by René’s reasoning, it does matter… so in effect, in this section, he has countered his own point.

Part 4: W. Voynich’s means, motive and opportunity

“… if the Voynich MS were a modern forgery, then the forger needed a large amount of previously unused parchment from the early 15th C. Since we saw above that the stitching of the MS is very old…”

Shown above, the binding as old is questionable, not “we saw” it is known to be from the early 15th century. Also, René is aware of the 1908 purchase of the Libreria Franceschini, the repository of perhaps 500,000 items collected over a period of 40 plus years. It would be difficult to accept that no quantity of blank vellum could not be found in the massive piles of ancient material there.

“… one might suggest that the MS was written in a previously bound volume with empty pages, but this can be excluded for three different reasons.”

One might, but it is not necessary, and I do not. I know of no-one who thinks the Voynich was written on a previously bound, blank book. And there are several other ways in which the Voynich may have been created. From cut down larger folios, from pre-stitched quires, which have been un-stitched, then re-stitched, and so on. In any case, if re-ordered (and we know it was), why does it have to be for genuine reasons? It can simply have been un-stiched to work on, and reassembled, by anyone, at any time.

“The first is that in several locations drawings and text ‘disappear’ in the binding, so these pages were written, drawn and even painted before they were bound.”

OK, that works for forgery, too.

“Secondly, no previously bound book with blank pages would have the occasional foldout folios that the Voynich MS has.”

Aha! Once again the anachronistic fold outs, which are actually evidence of forgery, are being used to claim that it cannot be a forgery! And “why?” one would ask, also, would “no previously bound book with blank pages” “have the occasional foldout folios”? Because they were not used in the era suggested for the Voynich. But this claim also makes no sense, because René is not disputing that the foldouts do exist, that they were not used, that they were not once, blank. So this is also sort of odd, to say that no blank book would have had foldouts, because… well, OK, they wouldn’t. It was from sheets, whether the Voynich is real or fake, old or new.

“Finally, it would also be expected that the pages had been trimmed.”

René knows that many of the edges of many leaves of the Voynich do appear to have been trimmed. But other than that, I am unclear of his point here. Why? would we expect a blank book, or the use of sheets for a forgery, and so on, if a forgery, to be trimmed more or less than a real book?

“… and an old book dealer like Voynich would be in a good position to have occasional access to unused sheets of old parchment, by dismembering old books.”

Well, yes… and an argument for the possibility of fake, again, not against it. Again I must note his acquisition of the Libreria Franceshini, in 1908, which was the repository of over 500,000 of everything and anything possible.

“For a moderately long MS like the Voynich MS, in such a case one would expect to find a patchwork of parchment from different ages, something that was specifically taken into account during the radio-carbon dating of the Voynich MS…”

This statement is frankly stunning, because, in fact, the Voynich Manuscript IS A “patchwork of parchment from different ages“! The samples ARE “from different ages”… 50-60 years, up to 200 years apart. But then, this odd claim that this was “something that was taken into account during the radio carbon dating”. It was NOT taken into account, it was altered. The actual results were modified, based on several “assumptions”, then “combined”, to produce a “1420” friendly range of 1404 to 1438.

“In reality, the parchment is of similar quality throughout the MS, and not a patchwork of different types or from different ages.”

Roughly similar types, although the quality varies. And that other “error” is repeated, because they are “from different ages“.

“Another possibility is that the MS could have been created from a stack of sheets of previously unused parchment that had been preserved for 500 years and never used for a book. In both above-mentioned cases, the mixture of normal-sized folios and large foldouts of different sizes, yet from similar parchment that has been dated to a single time frame, makes this scenario unrealistic.”

Why? Three quires of unused, full size parchment would make all the pages of the Voynich, including all the foldouts (from uncut sheets). But note the “unrealistic” appended to this… the site is peppered with such claims, without foundational merit, as here. At least this is openly stated as an opinion, which it is, but then it has no identified basis in itself.

And again, a repetition of the erroneous “single time frame” claim. This is a perfect demonstration as to how a mis-characterization can be recycled endlessly, to seemingly lend support to a million other points. That is practically the definition of “circular reasoning”, and in this case, based on a single untrue claim.

“This argument is also presented in Zyats et al. (2016).”

The statement referred to here is going to be the subject of a blog post at some time. It is one of the more convoluted twists of logic, which to my mind is indicative of the understanding by those holding this paradigm that they have problems. I think the correct term for it is “confirmation bias”:

Zyats et all wrote (Yale, 2016),

“The quantity and size of the foldouts in the Voynich Manuscript are very unusual for the time period; it is rare to find so many large pieces of parchment folded into a single textblock, and this seems to indicate authenticity: In the twentieth century it would be quite difficult to find this many large sheets of genuine medieval parchment in order to produce a forgery.”

OK, “very unusual”, which should then, and normally would, cause a scholar to question the authenticity, or at least the age, of the work. They know this, so they need to “spin” into something the opposite, “… it would be quite difficult to find this many large sheets of genuine medieval parchment in order to produce a forgery.” This is incorrect, it would not have been all that difficult, and especially not for Voynich. But back to “nofake”:

“And we do need to keep in mind that the parchment has been bound together centuries ago.”

Again a repeat of the “centuries old” binding, which the experts in no way could or did, conclude.

“Motivation and opportunity are closely linked. The statements of Voynich related to his discovery of the MS… “

I don’t follow this “reasoning”. Does it matter? Something like “He bought other real books, so would not have faked…” I am not sure.

“The Voynich MS appears in the Jesuit list of books for sale, written in 1903, but in a way that does not allow a positive identification….”

This is the newly invented “1903” claim I mentioned above. Not only does it “not allow a positive identification”, it in no ways should be considered a reference to the Voynich. But that seems to matter not, for René stated it as fact in the Yale book, with no disclaimer at all.

“So, could Voynich have seen the letter from Barschius and faked the Voynich MS accordingly? This highly speculative option has a number of severe problems, that basically fall into two different categories: the first is that it is highly unlikely that he could ever have seen the letter, and the second that, even if he had, the resulting fake should have looked very different.”

I consider this statement a “gem”. You see, those letters are used by the 1420 Paradigm as foundational evidence that the Voynich is genuine. For years, I and others argue that they do not describe the Voynich very well at all. And René and others have ridiculed me for suggesting they don’t describe the Voynich, or ignored the issue, and so on…

… But now, right here, René is admitting that the letters are not a good description of the Voynich, and that if the Voynich was made to match those letters, “.. the resulting fake should have looked very different”. So the argument is both that they do describe the Voynich, therefore the Voynich is real; but they don’t describe the Voynich, therefore the Voynich is not fake. This is contrary application of standards being used to imply support of one’s position.

“This is all very speculative, and there is no need to go into the details, because there is an even greater problem, namely the lack of motive and opportunity.”

This is another case of adding in unsubstantiated claims borrowed from another section of the page. He arguably, and plausibly, had motives (money, name recognition, marital hegemony); and that he had the opportunity and materials in the Libreria and his book enterprises in general.

“There is no possible scenario for Voynich creating the MS. Did he get the idea before he saw the Collegium Romanum MSs and the Barschius letter (at a time when he could still have had a financial motivation)? This is the unacceptable coincidence mentioned above. Did he get the idea after? Here, he was about to make the most lucrative deal of his entire career, so there was absolutely no motive to spend a large effort and cost, at great risk, on a completely uncertain fake. He sold his first two MSs from the Collegium Romanum collection before July 1912 for an amount that is equivalent with 1.4 Million US Dollars in 2015. And there was no time because the MS was already seen in London by the end of 1912”

This is a “straw man” argument: First, René creates a forgery scenario that he feels cannot work, rather than relate an actual forgery theory which is totally workable. Then, he “shoots down” the straw man forgery theory he created. It includes a scenario in which Voynich would have created the manuscript before seeing the Barschius letter, which I and no one I know, does. I posit the Voynich Ms. was created about 1908/10, before the other works were sold. And in any case, why would it be assumed that he, or anyone, would hold off creating any forgery just because they were in the process of profiting from other sales?

I would point out that if one needs to construct an imaginary argument for an imaginary opponent, as done here, then it might indicate a lack of ability to argue the actual case against forgery.

Part 5: Evidence from W. Voynich’s actions and correspondence

“No clear theory has been formulated about how or why Voynich would have faked the MS.”

There are several, and René full well knows this. Why not post a link to my page on the subject? I cite his pages all the time, for those things good and bad, agree or not.

I also point out that while there are several “clear theories” as to how it could have been faked, there is, despite over 100 years of looking at the work as genuine, “no clear theory” as to who, when, exactly when or where it may have been made, if 1420, and genuine.

“Did he also fake the Marci letter at the same time?”

Probably later. René is also fully aware, and again, but leaves out, that Voynich “inexplicably” (although my theory explains it) didn’t “notice” the Marci letter for some time. I believe that this letter is faked, for several reasons.  But in short, no, not at the same time, but probably later, and probably to help nudge the Voynich manuscript into a desired new authorship: Roger Bacon. For without that letter, there would have been no Roger Bacon.

“Did he also anticipate the full provenance from Bacon to present through John Dee as part of his plan?”

Not sure of everything he means here… but real or fake, the Dee connection was provably fabricated by Voynich himself, and fake or real, the Bacon/Marci letter was in his possession, so no “anticipation” was necessary in any of it.

“Following is a summary of Voynich’s own activities related to the MS, after he acquired it. It is based primarily on letters preserved in the Beinecke library.”

The arguments are a bit of “scattershot”, but I may as well address them:

“In 1911 or 1912 Voynich obtained the various MSs from the Jesuits, according to different sources.”

The “different sources” are DeRicci, Russysheart (sp?), and Voynich himself. It seems, however, that DiRicci (1937?) is partly compiled from the word of Voynich, and/or the word of Ethel after his death.

“These sources can be reconciled if one assumes that Voynich became involved in 1911, and the sale was completed in 1912. Already on 29 July 1912 there is an invoice to Pierpont Morgan for two manuscripts that Voynich acquired from the Jesuits. These had already passed through several hands, and through an unsuccessful sales negotiation with the archbishop of Budapest.”

OK, but again, those sales are irrelevant to the question of VMs authenticity.

“In December 1912 the MS is admired by potential buyers in Voynich’s London shop at Shaftesbury avenue”

René is referring to the Sowerby chapter on Voynich, which, by the way, I scanned, converted to a PDF and sent to him. He didn’t previously have a copy, which I am lucky to possess (wonderful book, by a wonderful woman). But I point this out, because in that chapter are outlined many unusual attitudes and actions by Voynich, and other related book dealers, which René ignores here. There is much to raise one’s eyebrows on a careful reader of Sowerby. That is another topic, but for an example, an issue Sowerby relates led to me learning this: https://proto57.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/sowerbys-philippovitch/

“In November 1914 Voynich makes his first trip to the USA. In his 1921 presentation he states that at this time he had not yet seen the barely visible Tepenec signature on f1r of the MS.”

René is also aware that I found… in the Beinecke archives René previously searched, and somehow did not find, or report on… the only known pre-treatment image of the “signature”, which show that his later claims to not have seen the “signature” are highly questionable. This, because WE can see it: If we can see it, pre-treatment, then it is plausible that Voynich actually saw it, too. And more importantly, that if genuine, it should have been seen by Baresch/Marci/Kinner/Kircher, but they do not mention this valuable piece of “evidence” to the mystery.

“In October-November 1915 Voynich has several exhibitions of (a.o.) some of the manuscripts he had obtained from the Jesuits. He sells quite a number of items at these occasions. He spreads the story that he discovered them himself in a castle in Austria, after tracing some correspondence. This story is known not to be true. In 1916 he sold the “Vitae Patrum” MS (also from the same collection) to Morgan for US$ 75,000 (half the original asking price).”

Again, another story, and irrelevant to the question of authenticity of the Voynich.

“On 19 July 1930, four months after the death of Voynich, his widow writes a letter, to be opened after her death, about what Voynich told her in confidence: that he acquired the MSs (the Voynich MS being one of them) from the Vatican through the help of the Jesuit Fr. Strickland.”

… Voynich’s close friend, as I wrote. Alternate opinions as to the use of testimony of the dead may be raised here, but if anything, the use does little to argue against forgery.

“This took place in Frascati. He was invited to buy them in or around 1911. He had to promise absolute secrecy about the sale.”

Wilfrid “says”, but we know he lied several times, about provenance. Voynich’s word is proof of nothing, and only “evidence” of genuine by being hopefully and selectively used.

“The reader may judge whether it is reasonable that all of this is just ‘show’ to cover up his faking of the MS.”

But the thing is, the association of “all of this” to the actual Voynich Ms. in front of us, is purely speculation, based on little information, some known errors, and much omission, all combined with the few words of the untrustworthy Voynich. In fact all we really “know” is that the parchment of the Voynich dates from the late 14th through early 16th centuries, that Wilfrid was a book dealer, and that he often lied about what he did and didn’t do. So the “show” is not Voynich’s… it is all the stuff the people of the 1420 Paradigm, based on some slim and contrary claims of Wilfrid, along with some contradictory and inconclusive forensic evidence, have built it up to be.

But that is the main tactic here, and the root problem, for “Nofake”, and for that matter, for pro-1420 Genuine: A large, complex set of rationalizations is created and used to support them, which then results in a construct so big, it is then asked, “How could Voynich have done all of this?“.

The answer is simply, “He didn’t do it- you did it for him”.

 

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ANYTHING but an Armadillo!

July 3, 2019

If any object identification could be considered the most contentious in the whole of the Voynich manuscript, it would have to be the f80v animal as an armadillo. The reason why is momentous: If that animal is an armadillo, the Voynich manuscript is post-Columbus. It would immediately erase the foundational paradigm for the Voynich, so strongly projected and protected, that it is a circa 1420 European Cipher Herbal.

anything_but_an_armadillo_cartoon_1200x So when the issue of the identity of the f80v animal comes up, it is no surprise that the speculations of what it is become a heated battleground. At all costs, and beyond all reason, the 1420 Paradigm defenders must come up with a reason that it either looks like an armadillo, but still is not one; or doesn’t look like one, and it is meant to be something else. And it is those reasons given for rejecting it that most interest me. And furthermore, the improper methods used to dismiss it are very similar to those used to also dismiss the great many other “inconvenient truths” which are dangerous to the 1420 Paradigm.

f80v_with_labels

To see my own comparisons between f80v and an armadillo, see here, and here

The issue has been raised yet again in Koen’s latest blog post, “The Beast on f80v“. To start with, Koen’s initial claim that any New World theories of the Voynich manuscript, and for that matter all other post-Columbian dating, rely entirely on the identification of a sunflower and armadillo in the manuscript, is totally incorrect. He explains,

“You see, the New World theory rests on two pillars: the interpretation of a specific plant image as a sunflower (a New World plant) and the interpretation of the above [f80v] beast as an armadillo (a New World species).”

This is wrong because the New World theories, and any post-Columbian theory including and beyond those, such as my own 1910 Theory, have far more than only two such “pillars”. In fact the very book cited in Koen’s post, Unraveling the Voynich Codex”, by Janick & Tucker, has dozens of comparisons. Many are unique, some are repeated from their previous work, and that of others. They make many convincing comparisons between Voynich plants, objects, and text, to New World plants, art, objects and writings.

And still others have long noted many “New World” indigenous plants, too, such as O’Neil (sunflower, capsicum pepper, others), and Jim and John Coymegys, and more. And then is yet an even greater number of later post-Columbian comparisons made by myself and others, possibly indicating the Voynich could have been created any time up to 1910.

But it would be difficult or impossible to dismiss all the evidence, so instead they focus on two items, and simply pretend the others do not exist.

colums_and_stickman

Koen’s Stickman has many “pillars”, not just two. These are some of them.

But that is not the whole point of  this post. It is also about the very telling and flawed reasoning used by pre-Columbian advocates to dismiss the inconvenient armadillo comparison. And this becomes even more obvious when we look at the illogical ways attempted to dismiss it:

1) “It looks too much like an armadillo to be one, because the artist was too inexpert to draw one accurately, therefore it is something else badly drawn.”

This was first proposed by René Zandbergen in 2008, in a post to the Voynich Mailing List,

“I know it may sound rediculous [sp], but I would say that it looks too much
like an armadillo that it could be an intentional representation of one.

“Look at the picture from the late 16th C that Rich posted.
Look at any of the first illustrations of newly discovered animal
species. They just never look like the real thing.

“Ergo, it is a coincidental similarity.

I think the problems with this contention are obvious, but simply, any evidence can be rejected in any investigation, by saying it is “too good” to be that thing it most looks like. But then, the worse comparisons suggested must be the correct ones? This makes no sense, or at the very least, instantly renders any comparative evidence useless for any investigator, in any science.

2) “It does not look ENOUGH like an armadillo, because the artist was good enough to draw an accurate one if they wanted to, so it is animal X, Y, or Z (which all look less like an armadillo)”.

So was the artist good enough to draw a “better” armadillo if they wanted to, but not good enough, still, to draw a different animal well enough to NOT end up looking like an armadillo to us?

In both #1 and #2, the artist is alternatively, hypocritically, imagined as selectively better or worse in order to accept or dismiss any desired identification.

On the contrary, one can and should determine the overall talent and practice of the artist, based on their representation of those things we can easily recognize, such as the people, known animals, known plants, and so on. They are our “control”. We should then apply that observed artistic ability as equally as possible to all the illustrations of the Voynich. When we do, we see the representation of the armadillo is well within the talents of this artist… not better, not worse… and is what they most likely meant it to be.

3)  “It looks much more like an animal in an illustration it was copied from, but we have not found or seen that source drawing yet.”- (paraphrasing) Ger Hungerdink

This is not really worth repeating, but I did because I am listing the actual arguments I’ve read. We could then say it is a bird, snake, or plane, for that matter… or how about another, even closer, illustration of an armadillo, that we have not yet found?

4) “Even if it looks more like an armadillo than X, Y, Z, it can’t be, because the Voynich is too old for it to be an armadillo”

This one is especially ironic, because I and other who favor “armadillo” are usually told it is we who have a biased, post-Columbian viewpoint. But then, hypocritically, many of the 1420 adherents openly and unabashedly admit that they will only look at pre-Columbian animals:

“Because the identification as an armadillo (like the sunflower) would be against all established facts about the VM, that threshold NEEDS to be higher than when the beast is a catoblepas or a hedgehog or whatever 15th century beast known to pre-Columbian Europe….”- Ger

“So perhaps we should be looking for 14th / 15th century manuscripts within the balneological tradition that include a specific textual mention of a kylion / karabo / catoblepas? That stands a good chance of narrowing the list of possible balneological manuscripts to look at down to as few as one or two.”- Nick Pelling

“I think the imagery has all semblance of being appropriate for the early 15th century. So I’m trying to follow the rules for the study of historic imagery. This means learning as much as possible about the visual vocabulary of the time…”- Koen

“… what I tried to find out is what a 15th century person would see.”- Koen

“Same with an American creature like the Armadillo. No compelling(!) reason whatsoever why it would be in a 15th century European manuscript, even more so when there are (mythical) creatures well known in Europe at the time that could equally well be it.”- Ger

There are many other comments pointing to a biased pre-conception of Voynich dating, which is driving many “non-armadillo” identifications, but I’ll leave it with,

“But there can really be no meeting point between our views. I remain convinced that the VM is a historical, 15th century document and as such it is completely irrelevant what the thing looks like to the modern viewer.”- Koen

To make it clear: Of course there is nothing wrong with looking at the 15th century, or any other era, for illustration comparisons. But it is wrong to reject any image that is post-Columbian solely because of a pre-Columbian bias. We should let the images date the manuscript, as is properly done; and not let our prejudicial pre-conceptions alter our identifications of the images to match those.

5) “It only looks like an armadillo to those who have a post-Columbian Voynich agenda”

Well, see #4. But also, in my experience, to anyone shown the image, who knows nothing about the Voynich, or who doesn’t know nor care about the time frame it was created in, it’s an armadillo. In fact, on the contrary to #5, it seems almost exclusively to “NOT look like an armadillo to those who have a pre-Columbian Voynich agenda”.

6) “It only looks like an armadillo to those who are familiar with one”

This is an assumption, and untested. Let’s assume for a moment that everyone who is shown the f80v animal is first “familiarized” with all the other candidates… wolf, sheep, pangolin, catablepas, sea monsters, ibex, capricorn goat, sea-goat, hedgehog, and so on. Then we would know if this is true. Otherwise, it is an unfounded assumption, and so, a valueless argument.

It also ignores the greater number of point-by-point similarities of the f80v animal still are greater than the contenders: Leg length, snout length and width, curling, ears, etc.

7) “It does look like an armadillo to our modern eyes, but would not, to a 15th century viewer, therefore it is not an armadillo”.

First of all, this presupposes that the Voynich is 15th century in origin, and was even THERE to be seen by anyone. Then, it assumes what that 15th century viewer would make of the animal… something we cannot know. We can, using this “reasoning”, simply say a 15th century viewer thought it was any animal we “want it to be, or not to be”.

8) “If the manuscript included a drawing of an armadillo, [Voynich] would have had to remove the page (especially if he put it in himself). Unless he thought that it did not actually look like an armadillo.”- René Zandbergen

I admit this one took some untangling. But using this level of reasoning, there are many other alternatives we can deduce. I would not use them, but point them out by way of falsifying the above contention:

I) It is an armadillo, but Voynich didn’t recognize it as such, so he left it in.
II) It looked like an armadillo to Voynich, and he may have even drawn it there: but he gambled that people would not “catch it”, so he left it in.
III) Voynich was so honest, that when he realized he had an armadillo in his work, he left it in, because he would never cheat. The letter in which he said this was lost, but it will be found someday (sorry, Ger).
IV) Voynich knew it was an armadillo, and that it would look like one to many people, because he drew it there, or found it there. He later didn’t want it there, when he changed his provenance to Roger Bacon. But he was a savvy guy, and so he predicted that enough people would come along in future centuries defend his very poor forgery for him.

So if I was forced to pick, I’d go with IV, as I seem to be watching it unfold in real time.

9) “It is not technically good enough to be an armadillo, as it combines features from curling and non-curling species, such as not having 9 bands”.

This is paraphrasing René from the comments on Koen’s post. It is ironic, as he has also contended it looks “too much” like an armadillo to be one. Anyway, #9 has several problems. First of all, it demands a higher level of technical accuracy to this image than is reasonably seen in the work as a whole. It therefore allows the unequal application of technical demand to those comparisons rejected and those accepted, by any viewer.

But most importantly, it ignores that this does look like a popular conception OF an armadillo, as most people do see it as one. And those people would not, and do not, stop to say, “Hey wait… that is curling! Only the 9 banded armadillo curls, so I was wrong, it is not one”. As an example, think Micky Mouse. People don’t stop and say it is NOT a mouse, as he has fingers… and only 3 of them per hand, for that matter. No, they know it is a loose conception of a mouse, and an armadillo, each with sufficient accuracy to be easily identified as both.

10) “To know the popular conception of an armadillo, we only have to do a Google search. We will see the curling, band-less, f80v animal does not fit the first X number of hits.”

There are many problems with this contention: First of all, no matter what Google image results return, it does not negate the point-by-point similarity of the f80v animal to an armadillo. And two, we know it does fit the popular conception of the animal, because people think it looks like one, without needing to run to Google to check first.

11) “It will look less like an armadillo, and more like A, B, C, or D, if I just photoshop it here, and there.”

Do I really need to address this? OK, it looks less like an armadillo, and more like an elephant if I photoshop it. Or, even more like an armadillo if I so choose.

12) “It does not look like an armadillo”

Well most of those who say this at some point or another, have first either admitted it does look a lot like an armadillo; and/or have been searching for animals with “armadillo-like” attributes. That is a concession of sorts,

“This must be considered together with the fact that other explanations are available for the pose. The beaver curling up do castrate itself, any of the creatures that do an armadillo-like roll to defend themselves… “- Koen

If it really did not look like an armadillo to people, they would not be looking for “armadillo-like” features in other animals to replace it.

A Problem of Context for anti-Armadillos

There is yet another problem in addition to the faulty reasoning used to reject the armadillo: They do not offer any satisfactory hypothesis for the myriad of diverse animals offered in its stead. Rather, the common denominator for “anything but an armadillo” seems to be “Any Animal Known to Europe in Pre-Columbian Times”. It can be fantasy, allegorical, water or land borne, of any species, while being allowed to look nothing at all like the f80v drawing. Well, I’ve heard versions of “compendium”, or “encyclopedia”, which are really excuses, not hypotheses. Ger recently opined,

“What about the “missing” Capricorn?”, then, “So would the f80v be the capricorn from the missing(?) January (and February) page? Please see more examples here: https://hungergj.home.xs4all.nl/catoblepas/capricorn.htm

Why would the “missing” Capricorn, from a (probably) lost page from the zodiacs, be repeated on f80v? This is a clear attempt to manufacture context for the Capricorn beast, while at the same time, again, making an effort to imbue that choice with an armadillo-like curl, with, “The pose of the Capricorn might be its attacking stance like here.” There is often this somewhat self-conscience difficulty in explaining these armadillo alternatives in the context of any reasonable overall hypothesis.

On the contrary, for New World theories, the armadillo is perfectly at home. There are many existing, and described, but lost, manuscript records of the flora and fauna of the new world. And several of these made attempts to phonetically record the languages of the Native Americans into manuscript form.

The same goes for my 1910 Forgery hypothesis, in which I propose that the Voynich was made to look like a work by Horcicky (who “signed it”, BTW), as a record of the botany, medicine, sciences and collections of the Court of Rudolf II, mainly as understood by a reader of the 1904 Follies of Science at the Court of Rudolf II. New World artifacts and plants were all the rage in the Kunstkammers and gardens of the wealthy, and Rudolf was a premiere collector. In fact, both sunflowers (the first European painting of a sunflower appears in a Stalbemt painting of a kunstkammer) and stuffed armadillos, and many other New World items, appear in illustrations of these collections, from the time a forger would be drawing material from.

kunstkammer_armadillo

Where’s Waldo, the armadillo?

The above is just one example, but a search for Kunstkammer, or “Cabinet of Curiosities”, will turn up a great many, and some more showing armadillos, banded and not.

So for all the above reasons, such as the inability to adequately dismiss the armadillo as the best comparison; the failure to find a closer animal in point-by-point comparison to replace it; a lack of any hypothesis which would better explain those substitutes; and the false projection that only one or two items are a problem to it, these all only continue to dramatically represent the inability of the 1420 Genuine European Cipher Herbal Paradigm to defend itself in any reasonable way.

But more importantly, I use this example of the armadillo to remind everyone they should likewise question the many other conclusions offered as unassailable truths by supporters and defenders of the 1420 Paradigm, because similar “armadillo reasoning” has been used to build it. That Paradigm is actually based on a great many similar and unreasonable interpretations, on hypocritical and contradictory arguments, from poor speculations sometimes based on unknown or even incorrect information, using ineffective comparisons and rejecting better ones, with circular reasoning, based on biased pre-conceptions, ignoring contrary evidence, and after all that (or because of it?) it still fails to explain itself in any cohesive, plausible hypothesis.

And yet it is all carefully crafted into a neat, pretty picture, all presented as unquestionable fact. But then, when scrutinized, when debated (when debate is allowed), it is clear that this Paradigm in no way deserves the following it does, and probably does not deserve to exist at all.

The Comparison Paradox

May 5, 2019

I accept many of the hundreds of the comparisons made between illustrations in the Voynich, with illustrations and objects outside of it. I even accept most of those that are dismissed as “too new”, because, of course, I think the Voynich is as new as 1910. I don’t think those later comparisons should be dismissed so easily. In fact I think they are discarded clues… “Purple Cows”.

purplecowheroimage

From a book review by Khoa Bui

 

But there is another phenomenon that I see within the great number of people who have good comparisons, which they then think point to a certain person, a path, a genre… while needing to reject those comparisons that others make, for other objects, because they are contrary to their own theories. For instance, say person “A” thinks the Voynich was illustrated by “Mr. Apple”, person “B” thinks it was illustrated by “Mr. Bean, and person “C” thinks it was illustrated by “Ms. Corn”. And each sees in some illustration that which they feel is evidence that only their person could have drawn the illustrations… let’s say of an apple, beans, and corn.

But then each person cannot accept that the comparisons of the others are correct: A cannot see beans or corn, for then their Mr. Apple theory is finished. B can’t see apples or corn, only beans, or theirs is finished… you get the idea… This sets up what I consider a powerful bit of evidence of its own… because we have hundreds of people, hundreds of comparisons, all acting like A, B, and C, above. We have these possible explanations for this effect:

1) The comparisons are all wrong, or mostly wrong, except for only ONE of the theories. This means that all the others must be thrown out, discarded as purely coincidental, or pareidolia. The problem is that it is implausible that the mass of good comparisons are wrong, and only one is right. This case covers all theories, because all use comparisons, even “genuine 15th century European Cipher Herbal”.

2) All or most of the comparisons are correct, that is, Mister Apple, Beans, and Ms. Corn, and all or most of the other authors either wrote in the Voynich… it passed through all their hands, and they all had a part in creating it. Well of course this is wildly unlikely, and not proposed by anyone. But I point this out, because many of the individuals… A, B and C… DO propose that THEIR person DID create the Voynich. They do not, of course, propose this #2, though, they can’t, because they know it is an un-sustainable position. If their person is the author, the other comparisons MUST be wrong.

3) All or most of these illustrations are copied from originals by Mr. Apple, Mr. Beans and Ms. Corn. And we do see this from time to time… the suggestion that the illustrative comparisons in the Voynich are copied from the works of those people and items which they most look like… but that it is only a copy, and sometimes a bad one at that. But then one runs into the problem of discarding those items which they think CANNOT be in there… as, again, either coincidence or pareidolia, or wishful thinking driven by earnest bias. So for theorist D, E, and F, they argue among themselves, to a varying degree, which items should be accepted as “evidence”, and which must be discarded and ignored… often by dating, sometimes by geography… depending on when and where and by whom the individual theorist believes the Voynich originated. The problem then is twofold: Discarding any evidence with equal, point by point comparative validity becomes a subjective and unfounded action. The second problem is still that you must explain why and who would have access to the still great many good comparisons that one does accept. The first smacks of a need for great speculation, the second is an onerous task, since as we go back in time, the sharing of the wide range of illustrations and objects, coming from a great diversity of people and places, some practically unknown to ages past, is a very hard hill to climb. I don’t think it can be done. Maybe a Dee, or Erasmus, might have had access to such a corpus… but then, again, much of what they could not have seen, nor even conceived of, must be explained or discarded.

spanish_compare_2

Voynich “cylinders” left, 18th century Spanish spyglasses, right

A very good example of this… I could reel off dozens, though… is the very good comparison found by Ms. Elitsa Velinska (she has found probably more good comparisons than anyone else, I think), of the “stars on strings held by women“, and Elihu Vedder’s illustration of the Seven Sisters… holding the stars of the Pleiades on strings. It is an unusual, almost unique concept, found (as many of these comparisons are) ONLY in the Voynich, and the work of Vedder. So is has been suggested by some, like #1, that Vedder himself had a hand in the Voynich (not by Elitsa, to my knowledge, I believe she only made the comparison, not that suggestion). But for Vedder to have had a hand, all or most other comparisons need to be discarded, or explained. Either Vedder created the Voynich, and saw and copied all other comparisons; or Vedder saw and copied ALL comparisons, including the “string star women” from some unknown source; or the other comparisons are coincidental or pareidolia…

… or, simply,  someone copied Vedder’s and all the other illustrations from a great many sources. This is my contention, as it allows for almost all the comparisons made, and explains why they are… in fact, the only way they can logically be there.

voynichropedstars

Composite illustration by Ellie Velinska, from her blog.

I’ve attempted to explain one of the greatest reasons I am where I am, and why I believe the Voynich is a modern hoax/fake/forgery: I’ve often said I accept most of the very many great comparisons out there, like Elitsa’s string star sisters, and so many others; but that to suggest any of the (above listed 1-3) alternatives strains credibility past the breaking point. It is far more likely, more plausible, to me, that the Voynich is simply a modern compilation of all, or most, of those things seen by a great many people. They are those things, put there by someone with ready access to all of it, surrounded by books, mobile over a wide geography to see many actual ancient items in museums and libraries… probably Wilfrid Voynich, probably around 1910.

Birth of a New Mythology

January 3, 2019

There are many, previously accepted (and stubbornly accepted by most, still), “truisms” about the provenance, construction/substance, and content of the Voynich manuscript, and the associated histories of literature, forgery, and the life of Wilfrid Voynich himself, which I’ve addressed over time as being at best, unsupportable by the facts, and at worst, demonstrably false. Both rise to the level of mythologies. These are too numerous to mention, or explain, in this post, but the most important can be found on this list: Modern Voynich Myths.

But how do these myths arise? I don’t mean that in the sense of one’s motivation for starting them, because that is a subject for another blog post… the motivations are many and varied. But by what path, what series of events, did these myths originate?

In some cases they were created by Wilfrid himself. Or, soon after his death, added innocently by speculation on the part of Anne Nill and Ethel Voynich. Later, a vast army of well-meaning researchers, by digging deep for any shred of evidence in defense of the “Voynich as real”, then selectively retaining those desirable finds, and coloring the filtered results using the hopeful prism of a genuine Voynich, the results were either presented as, or later morphed into, “facts”.

And, as I said, I’ve identified, and addressed, many of these mythologies in the past. I’ve pointed to the origins, and sometimes the motivations, which brought them into existence. But in my time studying the Voynich… a bit over ten years now… I’ve seen at least a dozen or so new myths created, and become accepted by the mainstream “understanding” of the Voynich. As an example of these, I will outline one here: The “1903 Reference Mythology”. I will demonstrate its origin, its metamorphosis into fact, and then, its canonization into the supposed “fact base” of the Voynich’s story.

René Zandbergen relates the discovery of a catalog entry from 1903, on his page, “Manuscripts Voynich acquired in 1911-1912“, under “2.3. Source 2: the 1903 catalogue”. Under that heading, Mr. Zandbergen states,

“Each entry in the catalogue is a short description, usually just one line, giving author(s), title(s), whether the MS is on parchment or paper, and from which century it dates (which is occasionally given as ‘uncertain’). Of particular interest for us is of course the description of the Voynich MS, but unfortunately this is so unspecific that it would not have been possible to identify the MS by this desc[r]iption alone. It is simply described as:

“Miscellanea, c.m.s.XV

“where the abbreviation means: codex membranacaeus saec. XV. It is the only item in the entire list that has neither author nor title”

And I do agree that it “would not have been possible to identify the MS by this description alone”. But I would strongly add that there is no way to identify it as any specific MS, let alone the Voynich. Nonetheless it is implied this is the Voynich, both by inclusion here, and further added information in supposed support of this contention.

Let’s look at the footnote qualifier (#9), the claimed supporting evidence:

“It is somewhat unsatisfactory not to see any reference to the unknown writing. On what basis Ruysschaert decided to make this identification is not yet understood, and further research in the papers of Carusi might be enlightening. In any case, the anecdote reported by Kraus further clearly suggests Ruysschaert’s conviction about the identity of this MS.”

Wait? What? When did Ruysschaert “make this identification”, which he was “convinced” about? If you scroll back up, you will see this,

“The right margin has a handwritten reference to the Census p. 1846 (see note 6), which lists the Voynich MS, also in accordance with Ruysschaert (1959).”

And this “note 6” refers to, “De Ricci, Seymour, with the assistance of W. J. Wilson: Census of medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada, 1937.”, which of course does include the Voynich manuscript. But is this the point being made, then, that Ruysschaert had somehow “identified” this 1903 catalog entry as the Voynich? If so, then it is through a “handwritten reference” to 1937 census, and I am unclear as to how this handwritten note is attributable to Ruysschaert in the first place. Perhaps it is. But neither Ricci nor Ruysschaert, at least in the cited works, mentions the Voynich manuscript in the context of of the 1903 catalog or sale.

But let us assume that I am incorrect, and that this is not the additional evidence. In that case, I am unclear where on this page such supporting evidence exists. That is, if I am incorrect that Ruysschaert is being implicated as believing the entry was the Voynich, I don’t see how the very “slim to nothing” reference of codex membranacaeus saec. XV is at all buttressed here. Either way, it is obviously nothing, or less than nothing, to base any connection to the Voynich on. It remains an opinion only, and one I would contend, on very shaky grounds. And opinions are fine… we all have them. It is only when they morph into accepted facts that they become mythologies. And below we have the next step in that process.

A couple of years ago, was lucky to be able to attend the introduction of the marvelous Yale publication of the book, The Voynich Manuscript, at the University, with a nice wine and cheese at the Beinecke, afterwards. The book was edited by the erudite, informative and kind Raymond Clemens, who I was pleased to meet in person. And, I can recommend the book, for one’s Voynich collection, if you, like me, so indulge. But I’m sorry to say that I cannot recommend the work as a source text for information about the reality of the history, provenance nor construction of the Voynich, because in many respects it is a biased advertisement for the “genuineness” of the famous acquisition (owned by the very publishers of this book, of course). As such it side-steps and/or “rationalizes” some of the many serious anomalies of the Voynich, and it does so in some very obvious, and even sometimes unintentionally humorous ways. I liken the work to that other notorious Yale publication (which I also own), the 1964 edition of “The Vinland Map and the Tartar Relation”. History now tells us that (also beautiful work) was mostly an attempt to cement a positive, and genuine, take on the Vinland Map, and thus assure that Mr. Mellon would concede to purchase it for Yale… for the publishers. But that is another story, for another time.

yale_voynich_vinland_1200x

Suffice it to say that the Yale Voynich book is rife with anomalies of its own, many purposeful, some inadvertent, all in its attempt to project the Voynich Manuscript as a bona fide and respectable “non-forgery”.  But I am concerned only with this particular “New Mythology”, the supposed 1903 Voynich catalog entry. As seen above, it is represented on the webpage as an opinion, with little or no supporting evidence, “as” the actual Voynich Manuscript. However, this has now morphed into hard fact, in the permanent and impressive pages of the Yale publication. In the included essay by the same René Zandbergen titled, “Earliest Owners”, René writes (pp. 7-8),

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

And there you have it. What was once opinion is now stated as fact, and permanently affixed to the official, endorsed, recorded history of the Voynich manuscript. It is no longer hopeful or imaginative speculation, or wishful thinking, that the meager 1903 entry might be referring to the Voynich manuscript, now it is stated as absolute fact.

But let us now see how this invented “fact”, this new mythology, has begun to fuse itself to the known history of the Voynich manuscript. Here are a few cases:

In a November 30th, 2016 article, The Unsolvable Mysteries of the Voynich Manuscript, by Josephine Livingstone in the New Yorker (ironically the site has a pop up declaring that magazine is “Fighting Fake News with Real Stories”), the author states, “In 1903, the Jesuits decided to sell a group of texts from the Collegio Romano collection to the Vatican; the sale took nine years to complete. For reasons unknown, and under conditions of total secrecy, Voynich managed to procure some of the books before they entered the Vatican Library. One of them was the Voynich Manuscript.”

Of course, as to be expected, many reviews of, and/or ads for, the above cited Yale publication, may have some version of this new “myth stated as fact”. Here is just one of many examples, in the review by the LA Review of Books, from 2016, “In 1903, as the Jesuits were arranging the sale of roughly 380 manuscripts to the Vatican Library, Voynich somehow managed to come away with a small subset of the lot, “under conditions of absolute secrecy.” His share included the now-eponymous cipher text.”

… and of course, as to be expected, the unwary Raymond Clemens, in his talk circuit, has possibly been adding the myth to his repertoire. For the description of his lecture on June 19th, 2017 at the Southbury, Connecticut Library, the author of the webpage seems to quote the Yale page, advertising the book, “The manuscript appears and disappears throughout history, from the library of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II to a secret sale of books in 1903 by the Society of Jesus in Rome.” And therein we have not one, but two myths… one very old, and one very new. But whether or not Mr. Clemens stated this in his actual lecture, I do not know.

This page on the Puzzle Nation website, also quotes the Yale website advertising the book, “The manuscript appears and disappears throughout history, from the library of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II to a secret sale of books in 1903 by the Society of Jesus in Rome.

And our new myth has even snagged some hardened skeptics! In this case, we see a blogger dismissing “Another pseudo-decipherment of the Voynich manuscript (Hauer & Kondrak)”. And I agree with the premise of the post, BTW… bad translations can be as virulent and rampant as any other mythologies. But to our present myth, the author has written, “It is first mentioned in the 16th century, then largely disappears from the record for several centuries, only to resurface in for sale in 1903.” I would also call that “two myths”, as somehow the author mentioned “16th century”… a century devoid of any supposed Voynich references (unless another myth has sneaked in there, unbeknownst to me… hard to keep up, really). But I think they probably meant the supposed references to the Voynich in the letters of the Kircher Carteggio, which claim is at best, speculation based on very slim evidence, and at worst, another happy myth.

No, not the Vinland Map. Another map forgery, sold by you-know-who.

And I could go on with dozens, maybe hundreds, of these… for that matter, so can the reader. And it won’t stop spreading. You will see this unsupportable mythology, presented as fact, for the rest of all your lives. Thanks to the permanence of print, and the rampant dissemination of all knowledge, whether true, false, great, small, we will all be told, and our descendants will be told, that the Voynich was listed in a 1903 catalog, and then sold a few years later, to Wilfrid Voynich.

NSA/CSS Symposium Lecture

November 2, 2017

I was pleased, and grateful, to be accepted to speak at the October 19-20 2017 Symposium on Cryptologic History, held at John Hopkins in Laurel, MD. Every two years this event offers a great selection of lectures, covering the history of Cryptology, and related intelligence and security matters in the military and private sectors. The title of my talk was, Is the Voynich Manuscript a Modern Forgery? (and why it matters).

With 25 minutes allowed for each speaker, I felt I would not have enough time to give even a good overview of my entire hypothesis. Therefore I chose to focus on one aspect of it, answering the question, “What characteristics does the Voynich Manuscript share with known forgeries?”. I call these features, which I have gleaned from reading extensively on the history of forgeries in art and literature, “red flags of forgery”. Some of them are occasionally found in genuine works, but there are usually no more than one or two, and even then, they are somehow explainable or understandable. I believe the Voynich exhibits 10 “red flags of forgery”, and that they are not so easily explained away.

I didn’t record the lecture, but when I came home I created a video from the Powerpoint slides, and re-recorded my audio over the slides. Therefore it is not an exact replication of the lecture I gave… but nonetheless, I feel it is probably very close to it.

One of the benefits of needing to focus on one facet of the hypothesis was that it organized my thoughts on this in a new way. It caused me to identify the elements of the hypothesis, and categorize them. Roughly, they would be:

  1. Characteristics of forgery inherent in the Voynich (this lecture)
  2. Problems with the existing “1420 Genuine European” Paradigm
  3. Life & personality of Wilfrid Voynich, his acquaintances & family
  4. Other possible forgeries owned/sold by WMV
  5. Attitude and practice of buyers, sellers of books in WMV’s time
  6. Changes in scholarship during & since WMV’s time
  7. Questions & problems with tests & data handling
  8. Politics surrounding current & past attitudes to the paradigm
  9. Necessary future tests & investigations to determine validity of hypothesis
  10. Timeline & interrelation of the above points

The feedback for my presentation was good, both at the time and afterwards. I think it was interesting to many people because they are still unaware that the Voynich paradigm has so many anomalies to begin with. And that these problems are difficult, or some even, so far, impossible, to resolve, without major rationalizations. They only have the image of solidity insisted on by promoters of the paradigm, by either misstating the value of existing evidence, or by using opinions and speculation based on non-existent or limited data to begin with, in order to ignore or explain away the serious flaws within it.

This is all predictable, and even understandable, because paradigms tend to defend themselves, when believers are challenged to explain the anomalies the paradigm exhibits.

I consider it my obligation, my goal, to set the record straight on this situation. I have and will continue to challenge that paradigm, and its promoters, so that any present or future Voynich researchers have a true, clear understanding of the story of the Voynich. Then they can make up their own minds, but based on a more accurate understanding of the evidence.

This leads to the reason for the lecture’s second part, “(why it matters)”. I have learned over the past decade that a great many theories, and possible ciphers and code systems, have been either ignored or gotten scant attention, because the paradigm sternly informs those interested in doing so that they are “too new”, and therefore not worth pursuing. Likewise for theories outside the paradigm. I consider, that is, that the power of this paradigm’s faulty projection to be the chief impediment to solving the Voynich mystery.

Because the lecture was focused mainly on the Voynich’s “characteristics of forgery”, most of the questions in the Q&A session which followed were understandably concerned with how I would explain existing “evidence” which supports the paradigm. But there were other questions, too. Here is a list of some of both types:

  1. Where would Voynich have gotten the ancient blank calfskin?
  2. What other forgeries, if any, did Wilfrid have and/or sell?
  3. What about the [De Tepencz] “signature”?
  4. Where is the University of Arizona radiocarbon report?
  5. What would you consider proof of genuine?
  6. What future tests/investigations would you do?

Most of those questions I answered similarly to how I have done so in my list of “Modern Voynich Myths”, which can be found here: https://proto57.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/modern-voynich-myths/

For the others, stay tuned.

 

 

The Grolier Codex Forgery

February 10, 2014

In a recent discussion on the VMs-net List, a concept emerged that I’m only just beginning to explore. The premise was used that Wilfrid Voynich was not an expert in ancient manuscripts, therefore he could not have forged the Voynich. I thought about that line of reasoning, especially since I agree that Voynich was not a ms. expert (although he was an expert in finding, pricing and selling them), and wondered if the conclusion that could be drawn from his inexpert”ness”, was actually just the opposite of that suggested. That is, is it possible that the very wide range of contrary expert opinions on the Voynich, over the years is because it was forged by an inexpert forger?

I wonder if a genuine book does not usually receive as much diversity of opinion, since the content may tend to be more uniform? And then, if forged by one who better knows their subject, as an expert would, the examiners will pretty much agree on origin, age, culture, content? Of course such a book may end up being accepted as genuine, if good enough. But lastly, if a forger is inexpert, will the resulting work tend to have content that is improper, from a wide range of works, and/or eras, and/or in styles, that should not be in there, and therefore the bad forgery will elicit dispute among experts? And so, conversely, could a range of expert opinion on age, content, and/or meaning, possibly be a useful indication of forgery?

grolier_1_to_5

I came across the instance of a presumed pre-Columbian Maya Codex, the Grolier Codex. It was so named because it was on display in the Grolier Club after its discovery in the 1960’s. From the Wikipedia article on the Codex:

“English Mayanist J. Eric S. Thompson cast strong doubts upon the authenticity of the Grolier Codex in his 1975 article The Grolier Codex, published in volume 27 of the Contributions of the University of California. Thompson argued that the codex was a modern forgery and that the unusual mix of styles in the document was not due to the mixing of cultures but rather due to the hand of a forger. Thompson queried the illustration of all four stations of Venus in the codex, noting that other Mesoamerican codices only illustrated the more spectacular appearance of Venus as morning star.”

“the unusual mix of styles… …due to the hand of a forger”. I think it is reasonable to assume that the forger was inexpert in ancient Mayan Codices, or they would not have improperly mixed styles. Furthermore, the Codex’s usefulness is destroyed by the forger’s lack of understanding of the Maya calendar, “In 2002, French archaeologist Claude-François Baudez commented that the codex serves no divinatory purpose and was useless as an aid to a Maya priest; he believes that the document is the product of a forger using pre-Columbian materials but relatively ignorant of his subject.”

grolier_6_to_11

So the forged document appears the way it does, with varied and improper content, due to the fact that the forger was inexpert. It is also interesting to me that there are experts who believe the Grolier Codex is genuine, and so the argument continues. But at least it was carbon dated, so that ought to have put the issue to rest, no?

“The radiocarbon dating of an associated sheet of bark paper had been used to support a 13th-century date [1230 AD, ± 130 years] for the Grolier Codex.”

From this, one might assume that the Codex was genuine. One might reason that since bark paper must have been highly prized by scribes, and very valuable and rare, and also, very delicate and susceptible to the environment, that therefore no appropriate blank bark paper would sit around for decades, let alone hundreds of years, for a forger to use to make a fake Codex. That is the… it turns out, incorrect… reasoning used to dismiss a creation of the Voynich much later than the C14 date of the leaves. But then I read,

“Large quantities of pre-Columbian bark paper have been found in dry caves, so a genuine piece of blank pre-Columbian paper may have been used by a forger as a base for painting a falsified codex.”

Oh well.  The materials were found in some “Cave Libraria”, it seems. And this material sat unused for between 600 and 860 years, blank, before use, and the Grolier Codex may still be a forgery. But the experts still argue about it, and the reasons it has the baffling content that it does. Sound familiar, Voynicherios?

But back to the original concept: I would be interested to see other cases where manuscripts have a wide range of expert opinion as to content and meaning, and if this can be correlated in any useful way to the works of inexpert forgers. Rich SantaColoma

The First Voynich Photocopies?

August 15, 2012

Comparison Notes- Original Ms. Photostats/Modern Images

I became aware of the possibility that the New York Public Library had the original Photostats Wilfred Voynich made of his “Bacon Manuscript”, while reading the letters of Anne Nill on July 24th, 2012. She mentioned them starting about 1930, and how she and Ethel would send people to the NYPL to see the manuscript in this copy form, rather than over-handling the original- which they kept in a safe deposit box. Even so, they restricted the access to these copies, only allowing those who they felt might help them cement the attribution to Roger Bacon, or otherwise decipher the script or solve the mystery. They even discussed retrieving them from the library at one point, but then, a few years later, Nill further related that they decided to let the library keep them.

But they do not appear in the library’s catalogs today. It was through my request to the manuscript department that the library sought them out from their archives. It seems they have been somewhat forgotten by the outside Voynich community, although of course the library was quite aware they were there. It does not seem they have been examined in years, if not decades.

This set seems to be the very first set of photostats, or at least one of the earliest, made of the manuscript. Wilfred came to the USA at the outbreak of WWI, and set up shop here soon after. He was very interested in having the images available to researchers, and seems to have made this set by the late teens or early 20’s. They are unfortunately not dated. But included within the box they are in is a set of some pages from Voynich’s copy of Valturius’s “De Ri Militari”, and the head of the archives included a letter saying he prepared those copies in November of 1929. Perhaps these photostats of the Voynich Manuscript was prepared at that time, too, but I doubt it, as Newbold and others had seen photocopies by the early 20’s. I can’t say for certain without comparing these to Newbold’s set in Pennsylvania, but I would imagine these date to the time of his at least, and he already wrote of the Voynich by 1921.

Below are various observations I made while carefully comparing each and every page with the current, modern, JPEGs and SIDs offered by the Beinecke.

F1r- The chemical stains may be there, but they are faint and less apparent than on the JPG and SID. The “Signature” is moderately visible anyway. “E” at the end of “Tepence” seems to be a capital, or at least have a lower loop not presently visible. Other than that, it looks the same as we see today, if not a bit darker. Being small on this copy, and not having a means of enlarging it, it is hard to compare to what we have now.
Strings visible in binding, attached at top. Some sort of spine leather folded back.
The letter “column” down right side appears darker on the photostats than now seen.

F10v- tear on 9v is visible to exactly the same extent in the original photostats, as it is in the modern SID. This implies the state of the binding close to that of 80 years ago. However, more of f16r… the “1”, appears behind the shot of f11r in the modern JPG.

F13r- In this shot, there is inserted a blank scrap of paper behind it. In pencil notation is, “No page 12”.

Note: After this point, the maker of the PHOTOSTATS’s seems to have continued to insert paper behind the page, to avoid photographing the edges of ensuing pages beyond them. Not on all, but on many copies.

F14v & F15r- stains are apparent on the PHOTOSTATS, at the top of the pages, as they are on the modern SIDs. I did not find any stain on the modern copies that was not on these early photostats … that is, it does not seem to have suffered any staining since these photos were taken.

F17r- The “floral” image which overlaps the number 17 is surprisingly darker on the PHOTOSTATS. It appears to have faded quite a bit. The lines seem thinner now, too. The stain around it is also darker on the PHOTOSTATS. Why? The different photographic process can account for some difference in contrast, but the information does not seem to be there, anymore, whatever the method used. More importantly, the marginalia at the top of the page is much clearer on the PHOTOSTATS- for instance, although smaller than can be made by enlarging the SID, the “aw” at the end is dark, sharp, and clear. The “gallows” in the second to last word is light, but still darker than the SID, and more obvious. The marginalia letters have clearly faded, also, and under the stain most of all.

F38v- The “smudge” or stain on this page, which appears at near the top, and to the left of the plant, seems to be characters on the photostats, while too faded to discern on the modern SID. It seems to be “4an”

F40r- similar to the above case, the small smudge seen between the two lower right roots on the SID, is much darker, and appears to be either a cross, or a “4” voynichese character.

F58v- A penciled note, “f65 follows 58”- which it does, of course.

F67r- Smudge to the right of the page number “67” is darker and clearer on the PHOTOSTATS, and appears to be “67” with another small character after it (an “e”?), and all crossed out with one line. On the SID, this is illegible.

F67r3- wheel is “cut off” shorter on the JPG and SID. The photostats shows several words, and more of the wheel, that the modern versions do not. Whether this is due to a fold in the newer shots, or if a strip of the page became detached and went missing since the photostats were taken, I cannot tell without seeing the original. I’ve drawn the few words visible, if anyone is interested in seeing them.

F72v3- on the SID and JPG, the left side of the “lion zodiac” is not shown, whereas it is clearly photographed on the photostats. The flap was held back by a paperclip… does this flap still exist, or have modern copiers simply failed to unfold it? It shows that circle to the outer ring, and clearly shows four more women with stars, along with associated writing.

F73v- pencil notation, “75 follows 73”, which it does.

85v1- The PHOTOSTATS shows a paper behind the right side of this, as though it is detached on this edge- my understanding was that this is now attached/bound along this edge. I can’t make out why the difference… a fold? I do not know the actual construction well enough to equate the two possibles.

Note: The PHOTOSTATSs are separated here with a cardboard sheet, and the ensuing four pages are on one sheet, then the entire rosettes pages are on two more.

The Rosettes pages: Very nice, surprisingly clear copy. Those privy to examine these photostats pages really were not at much of a loss. The sharpness and clarity of them is really on par with the SIDs, and actually surpasses them in some ways. The rosettes are a good example… the recent “volcano” image from Beinecke is seen here, almost in its entirety. The second “tower in hole” tower foundation is likewise here, whereas it was only recently seen again in the very newest image released.

F90r- pencil note, “p 93 follows p 90”, which it does.
F93r- pencil note, “p 93 follows 90”, ditto.
F94v foldout- The first two sheets are pencil labeled, “95 1 + 2”.
F95v- penciled note, “p 99 follows 96”, which it does.

101v2- this is labeled “101 4” on the photostats. There also happens to be a note, “Room 319” penciled on this- perhaps the NYPL room this was originally kept, or produced?

F103r- The “blur” in the lower right corner of the modern SID seems to be more distinct in the PHOTOSTATS, and appears to be several voynichese characters, including an “8”… but these are hard to make out.

F107v through f111r, have penciled notes, “p. 111 follows 108”, which they do.

Further notes: Box marked with printed, bright orange label, “RESTRICTED. DO NOT SERVE TO READERS”. It looks fairly modern, although the box is old. On the paper wrapping, in magic marker, is “VOYNICH- Roger Bacon Ms.”, twice, then in thick pencil:
“Voynich Ms. of Roger Bacon- Restricted” (“Restricted” underlined twice).

Summary: There is nothing of great surprise, and no missing pages found, in this very early… possibly the earliest… set of photostats of the Voynich Ms. Well, perhaps if the unseen part of f67r3 (see above) is really missing now, then that is one portion that was preserved by these copies. But what is actually most surprising to me is that at this early date, there was this set of images which were so clear and complete. They are far better than what we had only a few years ago, before the JPGs and SIDs. I’m not sure where the images in D’Imperio’s book, and various articles, came from… but if they were from this master set, then whoever made the copies  from them did a very poor job. They are even better than the B&W later offered by the Beinecke.

But also of note is just how little, if at all, the manuscript has changed in 80 years… almost one-third more of its life has been added, and it has been handled far more in this time, probably, than in its missing 300 or so years in between Marci and Voynich. And if the few seemingly faded characters can be accounted for by differences in the photo process, or even by application of chemicals, or undue handling in those places, then the manuscript has held up well under all its modern scrutiny.

But still, despite being so close to today’s condition, there are small differences. There are possibly more differences which I did not notice, in fact there must be. For that reason these photostats become of interest in their own right. They were once simply a tool to avoid handling the original, but now they freeze in time the manuscript as it was first seen in modern times. I’m certain many researchers will find different areas to compare, and in more detail, than I have in my 5 hour overview.

Another consideration is that there is some damage to the photostats themselves, due to the photochemicals used… some sepia and stains, possibly from the fixer. They are on paper, which I am not sure is of archival quality, and wrapped in brown paper, which also cannot be good. Perhaps the NYPL would consider investing in some good microfilm or digital copies of these photostats,  so that they can be better preserved as they are. This would also allow them to be made more widely available, and possibly for download. They have a great value as a landmark in the life of the Voynich- a literal snapshot of what many who first wrote about the Voynich actually saw when they came to their conclusions.

Rich SantaColoma, August, 2012.

A Volcano in the Voynich?

April 21, 2012

The best way find answers to a tough problem is to ask the right questions, and the right ones are usually new ones. Asking the same old questions, over and over, will get one nowhere, because they usually produce the same answers. In the case of the Voynich, there must be thousands, if not millions, of good questions that have so far gone unasked. In the answers to those questions may be the golden nuggets which bring us closer to the answers we hope for.

About a year ago, Tim Tattrie asked one of those good questions, and got a very interesting, and potentially valuable, answer. He was peering at the Rosettes foldout, as thousands had before him. But Tim wondered what the rest of the mountain, the one in the upper right rosette, might be. He did not assume what it was, he wanted to know. So he wrote the Beinecke staff, and asked them if they would open the fold a bit, and take a picture. Graham Sherriff of the Yale staff quickly sent him the picture. At the time he was told that the new pictures would be included in the online database, but a year or more went by, and they did not get around to it. So Tim asked me to announce the find, as he felt it might be of value and interest to others. I agree.

Under the Rosettes Fold

As you can see, much was revealed “under the fold” of this area. Not only did the mountain reveal that it may, in fact, be a volcano, but also, the ramp like area leading up from the walled-city now shows a few more buildings. I wish I had this when I made my 3D rosettes… and in fact I may add the “volcano”, and found buildings, in a new version.

Is this a Volcano?

Well of course this may not be a volcano. Tim is pragmatic about it, and does not commit to that as an absolute identity. I don’t either, as it could be many things. The Voynich does have various pipes which also seem to “spew” various substances. Are they, and this, meant to be gas? Air? Water? The quintessence? Perhaps this is meant to be a natural fountain, or Artesian well. And the effluent is not red or “fiery” in any way… it is blue, like water. But I have to say that it looks a lot like a volcano to me. One could also assume that this is not meant to be a mountain at all, and that is lies flat, like a drain and so on. I don’t think so. It is illustrated much like the other heights of the rosettes page, and the intent seems to be implying a hill or mountain. The reader is welcome to disagree, of course.

What is that effluent, then?

Of course like many new discoveries in the Voynich, answered by these new questions, this one raises even newer questions. That is all good, I think. And also, when we see this new information, we might have a sense that it tells us something important, in its own right… but frustratingly, we are not sure “what” it is that it tells us! For me, I will not miss the opportunity to point out a couple of implications. For one thing, I note that there have been several real places suggested for the upper right rosette. One of these has been Milan. I think that the discovery of this spewing mountain, probably a volcano, might warrant a re-consideration of most of of the previous speculation of this rosette as various places. If one is going to think of the rosettes as a real place at all, in fact… an idea I wholeheartedly reject, as I think it is a fantasy land.. but if they are going to look at the castles, walkways and towers as real, then one must now look for a place which includes a spewing mountain, or volcano. And if one looks for such a fountain, it better be on a towering mount. And good luck with that.

Kircher's Volcano from "Mundus Suberraneus"

But what might be valuable is to look at the history of volcanology, and also, how volcanoes have been perceived in mythology and fiction. Knowing what volcanoes meant to people, at different times in history, and how they have been illustrated, and for what purpose, will all be potentially valuable to understanding the Rosettes in a new light. I personally feel that Tim Tattrie’s find is a very important one, not only for the actual illustration which was uncovered in this one case, but for what it tells us we must do in the future… that we can’t keep asking the same old questions, but we have to try to look for new questions, asked in new ways. I am certain that many other surprises await us if we do.

Proof of Concept

March 9, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(shhh! This does not exist.)

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

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

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

Prospero, who art thou?

November 21, 2011

It is popular to run to the historical visage of the famous physician, astrologer, and scrier, John Dee, as a probable influence whenever the stereotype of the bearded, crystal gazing, and be-robed wizard appears in literature or mythology. Dee has been suggested for Soloman of Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis, Prospero of the Tempest, Faust of the Faust legends, and many other similar wizard-like personages over the centuries. And there is no doubt he has been the major influence on the archetype mage/wizard/alchemist/necromancer… but is it always correct to look only to him as the sole source?

John Dee: The (almost) Universal Mage Icon

John Dee has been suggested as an inspiration for the character of Soloman, the leader of the fictional scientific utopia of Bensalem, in The New Atlantis. But Rosalie Colie, in her 1955 article, Cornelis Drebbel and Solomon de Caus: Two Jacobean Models for Salomon’s House (Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 18, No. 3, May, 1955), bypassed Dee. Instead she suggested that the Soloman of Bacon’s utopia could have been partially inspired by Cornelis Drebbel, the alchemist and inventor, and his contemporary, Solomon De Caus. This may be correct in part, for the reasons she has given. Mostly her argument is based on the inventions and experiments described in Bensalem, and in that she does have a point. But rather than the model for the leader of New Atlantis, I personally think that Drebbel is more likely the model for the character who relates the story, who visits the island with his fellow shipwrecked crewmates. I feel this way for several reasons. First of all, back to reality: Drebbel was invited to Rudolf II’s court to present the Emperor with one of his perpetual motion clocks, which were the rage of Europe at the time. While there, Drebbel became Rudolf’s chief alchemist, and also, purportedly, the manager and creator of the royal fireworks displays. In 1612, after Rudolf’s brother Matthias usurped Rudolf, Drebbel was briefly jailed, and almost executed. It was with a promise of return, in a letter from King James, that Drebbel was allowed to return safely to London… along with, significantly, a bounty of 1,000 ducats.

Cornelis Drebbel: The (sometimes) Mage Icon

Now it would be expected that this near fatal sojourn of Drebbel’s would be familiar to Bacon… and right around the time that Bacon was apparently formulating the concept of New Atlantis. In fact, the two men had rooms at Eltham Palace, Drebbel for his experiments in perpetual motion and hydraulics and artificial cooling; Bacon for… well don’t we wish we knew, exactly? But it is reported he “had rooms” there, and so would have been familiar with Drebbel and his experiments. But we don’t have to guess, as Bacon did write of several of these… that is, the cooling experiments, and underwater boats. And, of course, as Colie points out, many of these inventions appear in The New Atlantis. In any case, there is a parallel between the protagonist/relater of the New Atlantis story and Drebbel. Both men went away and visited a place where science and experiments were funded by the state. And both came back to report on their experiences there, and both received a bounty from the state on their leaving… Drebbel, as I said, 1,000 ducats, and the New Atlantis narrator, 2,000 ducats.

Rudolf II The (never chosen) Mage Icon

But then if not Drebbel or DeCaus, who would Soloman, the leader and founder of Bensalem, be modeled on? I feel he is more probably based on Rudolf II than John Dee, or Drebbel or De Caus. Like Rudolf, Soloman spent the fortunes of the nation on the pursuit of knowledge, and collected and honored those who achieved great things. The author of the work, Francis Bacon, was promoting the idea that the state should fund scientific experiment, for the ultimate good of its citizens. Rudolf, for all his inconsistency and unpredictability, and his very short reign, was trying to do just this… to collect and use all the scientific and artistic knowledge of the world, to solve problems and improve the state of humanity. Well, that and  to make gold from lead, to fund his armies, and so protect his interests  and position.  Drebbel was more an experimenter in such a system, he was not a leader. Rudolf II was more the model and hope for, I think, a new beginning of state-run scientific funding and experimentation, and I believe he is the true model for Bacon’s Soloman.
Also worthy of mention, with some parallel to the concepts of New Atlantis, is the experience of Tycho Brahe. He was given the island of Hven by the Swedish government, so that he could pursue his experiments in astronomy. This was purportedly at a greater cost to the nation, a full 7% of the national budget, than any previous or later funding of a scientific project. So in this story, we have an island, a scientist, and scientific funding… no doubt this was of great interest, and possible influence, to Bacon, in writing of his similar concepts in his Utopia. And interestingly, Brahe was later welcomed into the court of Rudolf II, pet moose and all. So we might suspect a cross influence on the history of Brahe, to the story of The New Atlantis, even if I am correct and Rudolf was the model for Soloman.
As for Faust, I can’t disagree with an attribution, in part, to Dee. There was an actual Dr. Faust, which historians do believe was a partial basis for the character, while assuming that many of Dee’s attributes filled out the fictional character. Faust plied his magic, but did not run a state, he was not a leader. Faust uses his powers for purely selfish ends. In the Marlowe version, Faust summons two magicians, Valdes and Cornelius, whose names are somewhat reminiscent of Basil Valentine, and Cornelius Drebbel. But I do not know if this has ever been an issue with scholars of Marlowe, and so it is idle musing on my part. At least, again, with his books and magic, the character of Faust is certainly reminiscent of John Dee, and not of Rudolf at all.

Faust! Watch out! He does not play fair!

Drebbel is the accepted influence for the alchemist Subtle of Ben Johnson’s “The Alchemist”. And Johnson had some interest in Drebbel’s work, we know, as he mentions his perpetual machine in another play. The Subtle character has his magic, and his books, but he is more of a charlatan than a respected purveyor of the “Arts”. From what I understand of Drebbel’s reputation at times, he may have owned a bit of a similar, negative reputation. But at least in this instance, the wizard of choice is Drebbel, and not John Dee.

Sir John Geilgud as Prospero... with prop book

Finally, the character of Prospero, the magical “Right Duke of Milan”, is usually attributed to John Dee, and sometimes, in part, to Drebbel. And of course it would be hard to argue with Prospero being slightly autobiographical to Shakespeare, as many surmise. But I see other parallels which point again, for me, to Rudolf II. Prospero, like Rudolf, is a leader of his realm, while a Dee or Drebbel were really servants to the crown, merely participants in the society. I wouldn’t insult the memories of either man with a comparison to either Ariel or Caliban. But like those two characters, they served, and did not lead. It is true that Prospero not only gives orders to his magical assistants, but also uses the “dark arts”, himself. But this alone should not label him “Dee”, as the same could be said of Rudolf, who had a great interest in the alchemic arts, and dabbled in his own experiments, and wandered about in a long robe covered with mystical symbols. Rudolf was somewhat “Dee-like” in his own right.
Of greater interest, and possibly the trump card to my Prospero-is-Rudolf argument, is that Prospero was usurped by his brother, just as Rudolf was usurped by his brother, Matthias. Both men were nobles, who were unjustly thrown from power, and both, by their brothers. Of course the real story of Rudolf II ends there, in tragedy, while the story of Prospero begins 12 years earlier, in tragedy, and ends in triumph. But I don’t think that this coincidence should be ignored, especially considering the others I have noted. In addition, the timing of the play fits precisely… it was first performed in 1611, the same year that Rudolf was forced from power. Seen in this light, the play could be seen as a hopeful, fantastic and imaginative dream, in which Rudolf, as Prospero, regains his throne from his brother.
Unfortunately Rudolf died before the next known performance of the Tempest, which was at the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Frederick of the Palatine. But this event also points to Rudolf as Prospero, because Frederick was groomed for, and tragically placed in, the very position Rudolf lost… Holy Roman Emperor… only a few years later. In a sense, if Rudolf failed to attain the retribution which Shakespeare may have imagined in the likeness of Prospero, Frederick succeeded… if all too briefly. The Winter King lost his lands, and the title, in the Battle of White Mountain in 1620. But perhaps the running of this play at the wedding had a hopeful political message for the young couple, and for anyone who knew it was performed there, if I am correct.

Frederick V Elector Palatine & Princess Elizabeth: "Starcrossed" does not come close to describing what happened next.

The historical and contemporary concept of the bearded mage certainly has much to owe to John Dee, but it would be unfair to exclude the powerful influences and contributions to the “wizard lore” that Rudolf II and Cornelis Drebbel made, especially when considering the context at which such wizards were written into literature. All our Prosperos were not, and are not, John Dee. Perhaps not even the original Prospero, the Rightful Duke of Milan… or, should that be of Austria-Hungary?