Posts Tagged ‘optics’

The Green Microscope

May 18, 2013

When I first proposed my Voynich/Optical theories years ago, one of the most common criticisms of it was that some of the microscope illustrations I used as comparisons were from dates later than the time of my theory. This is true, and I did acknowledge it. Of course I would, and can, still use them, as the descriptions of 1610/20 optical devices, and even earlier ones in some cases, do show that later 17th century optical instruments do have many of the features of the earlier, often lost and not illustrated, devices.

Nonetheless, the problem did have an effect on the way I looked at this, but not necessarily the way the critics intended. They used this point to claim that the Voynich cylinders could not be microscopes, but at the same time, they were dismissing the fact that their observation also implies that if they were the microscopes they did agree they resembled, then the Voynich was newer than they, or even I, suggested. In effect they were ignoring an important implication, a possibility opened up by the very observation they were making.

This is even more apparent when you consider that at least three of the newer microscope illustrations I was comparing to the Voynich cylinders were such a good match, that they could arguably be the actual source of the Voynich illustration. The two most notable are the “Green Microscope”,  and of the ones in the Spanish engraving , both very similar to cylinders on the f101v pages. So if you take the critic’s point at face value, that the devices look “too new”, then one is open to any age for the Voynich between 1404 and 1912, when Wilfred said he found it.

Considering these points, and when I began to seriously consider the Voynich Manuscript may be a 19th century fake, I of course revisited many of my old ideas in a new light.

Microscope Comparsion 1

Here is the Green Microscope compared to an f101v cylinder. You can see that the coloration, proportion, the recessed top, the placement of the change in diameter, and the inclusion (if not the accurate representation) of decoration, show that the green microscope and this Voynich cylinder are strikingly similar. Even the green of the vellum covering, and the brown where the wooden portions of the microscope are bare, are seemingly represented. I think it can be said that if a person saw the actual microscope, and had the appropriate inks, pens and brushes, any resulting drawing would not be much different than the Voynich illustration.

But in order for the Green Microscope to appear in an early 20th century forged manuscript, it would have to be reasonable to expect that the suspected forger would have seen it. And they probably would have had to have seen the actual device, and not a picture in a book, because color photographs in books were very uncommon before 1912. I have not seen this one, in any case, in all the microscope books I have found, either in black and white or color, photographed or illustrated. So for the real Green Microscope to be the model, it would have to be reasonable that Wilfred Voynich could have seen it. I went back to the website of the Museo Galileo, the museum which has the microscope, to see if this made sense.

The Museo Galileo, it turns out, is in Florence, Italy. They have owned the Green Microscope since the early 18th century, as it is listed as a “Vincenzo Viviani” bequest. He died in 1703, so they have had it since about then. The museum does not apparently know the actual age or maker of this microscope… and it is listed as a “microscope part”, as they assume it is a “part of the body tube” of one… but they do speculate that it originates from the “late 17th century”. It was a practice at the time, on some microscopes, to have the central section of the device removable, in order to use it as a “field microscope”. Some were even made this way from the beginning, with no stand, to carry into the environment and study things in the field.

The location of the museum in Florence was encouraging start, because in the early 20th century, Wilfred Voynich was also in Florence. He had purchased, in 1908, the great Libraria Franceschini, on 110 Via Ghibellina. And this vast book emporium, containing over half a million manuscripts, incunabula, pamphlets, maps, and who-knows-what, has often been suspected as a possible, real, source of the Voynich… even as the place Wilfred may have unearthed the little pile of unused ancient vellum he might have used to forge his famous cipher manuscript. Voynich, and the Green Microscope, and a vast archive of vellum were all in the same city, at the same time!

But how close were they? The scientific instruments of the Museo Galileo were moved to the present location… only 1,900 feet from Voynich’s shop, as it turns out… in 1930. I needed to find out where it was before that, between 1908 and 1912, when Voynich was still there, and before he announced the manuscript. So I wrote to the Museo, and was told by a retired director,

“The Viviani collection was housed before at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova. Then, in the second half of 19th century, it was given to the Museo di Antichi Strumenti (Museum of Ancient Instruments), located inside the today Museo “La Specola”.”

So La Specola was the home of the green microscope during the time of Voynich’s presence in Florence. And it was, and is, the location of the Trubuna De Galileo, a magnificent alcove with a statue of Galileo, a series of friezes with important scenes from his life, and surrounded by rooms which contained the collections of antique scientific instruments of the Viviani collection, and others. And it turned out that that collection was at  4 Via Georgio La Pira, a mere 1.3 kilometer, 15 minute walk from the doors of Voynich’s Libraria. The Green Microscope was 15 minutes from the man who “found” the Voynich Manuscript, which contains an image which virtually reflects the very same device.

A Short Walk

A Very Short and Pleasant Walk

But the fact he very well could have seen the Green Microscope has another implication, for those who consider the Voynich Manuscript is real: If Wilfred had thought he had found a precious “Roger Bacon” manuscript, he would have also known Bacon was believed to have possessed and used sophisticated optical devices…

Tribuna Di Galileo

Tribuna Di Galileo

… so then why did Voynich not see, and note, the similarity between one of the drawings, and the Green Microscope, himself? Because he could not point to it, any more that he could point directly to the Baresch letter, or any other possible sources for a fake… if he forged the Voynich Manuscript. Well, unless you want to theorize that he the man had very poor observational skills, or worse, that he was never tempted, at least once in 5 years, to take what must be a fantastic stroll through the streets of one of the world’s most beautiful cities, to the greatest collection of rare and important scientific instruments in the world.

Thomas Harriot, Algonquian, and Optics

July 1, 2009

Thomas Harriot certainly comes under the category of “People whom History Forgot”, right alongside Cornelis Drebbel. The problem in both cases is that much of their life works were destroyed or lost, before ever being published. Just we don’t know the workings of Drebbel’s perpetual clocks, or his advanced methods of lens grinding, we can’t know the full extent of the genius behind Harriot’s discoveries in astronomy, optics, mathematics, and Native American languages. But from what I have learned, he is very close to the influences and circle I suspect was behind the creation of the Voynich Manuscript.

Thomas Harriot was on Sir Walter Raleigh’s first expedition of 1594, and studied… well, everything “over here”, including the Algonquin language. He found that he could not transcribe the sounds of the language using our Latin alphabet, so he made a new phonetic one. Here is an interesting passage from “Big Chief Elizabeth: The Adventures and Fate of the First English Colonists”:

“Harriot’s resultant alphabet had thirty-six characters in total and looked extraordinary_ a hodgepodge of algebraic symbols, Greek and Roman letters, invented characters. One scholar described the letters as looking “like devills,” perhaps because some ended in forked tridents. The shape of the letters provided a clue as to how they should be pronounced. English equivalents were recorded alongside where applicable, while sounds that were unfamiliar were categorised as “barbarouse wordes” and placed in a separate column. Harriot tested his alphabet on English phrases, putting passages of the Lord’s Prayer into his new script to see whether they were readable. The alphabet was a work of unparalleled creativity- one that had required the logic of a scientist and the imagination of an artist” It successfully represented every sound of this complex language.”

Portion of Thomas Harriot's Algonquin: click for full view

Portion of Thomas Harriot's Algonquian Alphabet

Note not only the many “Voynichy” characters, but the repetitive nature of them, and the small distinctions… with major import… but nonetheless small. Here is a full image of the page. Now Imagine a book of those suckers, with no clues to tell us what they were, where or when they came, and what language they represented? We would be as lost, I am certain, as we are with the Voynich Manuscript. There were such books written in this script, but they burned in the Great London Fire.

As I pointed out, Harriot has been under-appreciated to history, because he did not get much of his work published. Many notes were found in the 1980’s, including the alphabet page. But also of interest… well, to me… is that he was apparently an early experimenter with optics, and quite good at it. At least one reference I saw had him making the first telescope in England. It was very good device, and allowed him to make very good sketches of the moon, and sunspots, about the time Galileo is credited with both.

“The Italian philosopher [Galileo] is credited with the feat in December 1609. But papers at the West Sussex Record Office show that Harriot drew images of the Moon several months earlier.” -Christine McGourty, BBC article, ‘English Galileo’ Maps on Display

Thomas Harriot's Moon Map: pre-Galileo's

Thomas Harriot's Moon Map: pre-Galileo's

Harriot also influenced Francis Bacon, and was friends with Kepler at the time Kepler was in Prague, next to Drebbel. It is also of interest because he was on the Raleigh expedition alongside Joachim Gaunse, the man it is believed the New Atlantis’ Joabim is based on; and alongside one David Gans, who is believed related to Joachim Gaunse (Gans), and whom was with Kepler, Drebbel, and Harriot, in Prague. Of course this goes to the very influences and people whom I feel could be responsible for the Voynich. In Harriot’s work, you have alternate languages and characters, Native American influences, advanced optics, influences on Francis Bacon and his New Atlantis… all by a man who rubbed elbows with the “real” Joabim, Johannes Kepler, and Cornelis Drebbel. This is the very stew from which I believe the Voynich may have formed, and at the best time for it to have done so. H.R. SantaColoma

Addendum, July 4, 2009:

I came across another connection in my circle of interest, while looking up references to Algonquian. In addition to Harriot and others, one William Strachey also compiled a list of Algonquian words and phrases. His list was a full 500 long. He wrote of his accounts in the New World, including the book, “The Historie of Travaile into Virginia Britannia“*. Strachey was a rich source of information on Native Americans, their language and culture. Today his writings are invaluable to learning of the layout and functions of the original Jamestown town and fort, because he gave such detailed descriptions.

But then there is a very curious “cross connection” to Shakespeare. It turns out that William Strachey’s description of the wreck of the Sea Venture on July 24, 1609, is almost universally considered source material for Shakespeare’s account of the wreck in The Tempest. Also, the mysterious magical nature of Prospero and Miranda’s isle is considered based in part on Strachey’s descriptions of Bermuda, where he was wrecked.

Again, I find parallel influences: Both in those whom I suspect influenced the Voynich Manuscript, and also, those known, historically, to have influenced the people of my circle of interest. The expeditions of Raleigh, the ships which supplied them, the people who manned them, all influenced, in some cases directly, both Bacon’s New Atlantis and Shakepeare’s The Tempest.

*One manuscript copy of which was dedicated to Francis Bacon (!).

The Book M, John Heydon, and the Book of Solomon

June 20, 2009

The Rosicrucian Fama Fraternitatis makes reference to several important works. The “Book M” is one of these. From

“In Damcar, the Fama recounts the learned men ‘to whom Nature was discovered’ received the precocious boy ‘not as a stranger but as one whom the had long expected; they called him by his name, and showed him many other secrets’ – among them mathematics, physics, alchemy, and a document the Fama refers to as the Book M. This last treasure, whose full name is thought by some to be Book Mundi, or Book of the World, is said to have held the secrets of the universe. Young Rosenkreutz decided that he would translate this prodigious work into Latin, so that he might share it with others upon his return to Europe.”

And what language was Rosenkreutz translating this book “out of”, if “into” Latin? From the Fama:

“After this manner began the Fraternity of the Rosie Cross–first, by four persons only, and by them was made the magical language and writing, with a large dictionary, which we yet dayly use to God’s praise and glory, and do find great wisdom therein.”

So the answer is, that the Book M was written in a, “magical language and writing”. Now from New Atlantis, about the Book of Solomon:

“Some think it beareth the founder’s name a little corrupted, as if it should be Solomon’s House. But the records write it as it is spoken. So as I take it to be denominate of the King of the Hebrews, which is famous with you, and no strangers to us; for we have some parts of his works which with you are lost; namely, that natural history which he wrote of all plants, from the cedar of Libanus to the moss that groweth out of the wall; and of all things that have life and motion.”

So in New Atlantis, in Bensalem, we have the lost works of Solomon, which included “…all plants…”, and “…all things that have life and motion.” Now I come to a man, John Heydon, described by Elias Ashmole as “an ignoramus and a cheat”, and Francis Yates as a, “strange character…an astrologer, geomancer, alchemist, of a most extreme type.”

See wiki:

John Heydon wrote “The Holy Guide” (pub. 1662), in which he shamelessly rips off Bacon’s New Atlantis, and re-writes many portions of it as a straightforward Rosicrucian text. Of course the New Atlantis is undeniably Rosicrucian in it’s premise, and contains not only RC tenets and philosophy, but also RC symbolism. But Heydon took it a step further, and stripped away Bacon’s reluctance, in a sense, in his version. On the lost works of Solomon reference in NA, Heydon reworks this into,

“…we have some parts of works which with you are lost, namely the Rosie Crucian M, which he wrote of all things past, present, and to come”.

We might ask “of what importance?” is Heydon’s later interpretation of The New Atlantis? Yates and others saw his view of the work as the intent of the work, and also how the work was perceived in his time, i.e., as a Rosicrucian document. It is considered that Bacon, or his friend and posthumous publisher, in being cautious, stripped The New Atlantis of the most obvious and direct Rosicrucian references. James I would not have been open to such RC references and connections. The later John Heydon can be seen as having returned, or added, originally references which reflect the intent of the work.

Now imagine if a faux book were created, meant to look either like the Book M, or the Book of Solomon, from New Atlantis, between about 1610 to 1620. Would it not have a look of mystery, and yet contain many plants, and scientific devices, both familiar and yet somehow mysterious? And contain both borrowed and invented bits of astrology, astronomy… all perhaps Hermetic-inspired, but enigmatic illustrations of these themes, nonetheless? And in addition we know that if such a book were created, it would need to be written in a “magical language and writing”, in order to accurately reflect the fictional original. And it would, to complete the effect, have to be made to much older look than it really was. But unavoidably, it would possibly give us a sense, today, of a “newness”, because it would be difficult to mimic exactly the look of a book one to two hundred years older. We can only imagine it, because so far as we know, no such book has been found. And if the Voynich is such a book, it would be the first, with nothing exactly like it to compare it to.

The Book M was not alone in the crypt with the well preserved remains of our mysterious figure:

In the tomb of Rosenkreutz, “In another chest were looking-glasses of divers virtues, as also in another place were little bells, burning lamps, and chiefly wonderful artificial songs–“

Of course I am struck by the inclusion of “looking-glasses of divers virtues”, as they are clearly not referring to glasses simply as corrective vision, but either telescopes of microscopes, or both. Optics both as devices and a concept ran through the philosophies of the time, and were a tool of the new movement toward inductive reasoning. The tomb of Rosenkreutz and the New Atlantis contained optics for much the same reasons: for what they meant to the new concepts promulgated by the Rosicrucian movement. And, as I personally would argue, why I believe optics may have been included in the Voynich.

Looking at these fantasy cipher tomes: Book M, The Book of Solomon from Bensalem… and remember, Prospero’s books: I’m not so certain, if all three of these faux books were created in 1610/20, that we would be able to tell them apart today… or, for that matter, apart from the Voynich Manuscript. And if the Voynich is one of these books, everyone has been looking for answers in the wrong places, which would then make it unsurprising that no answers have been found.

-post adapted and updated from a May 2008 VMS-net entry

Optical Comparisons

June 1, 2009

It has been said that the Voynich theories I have developed and researched are only about the microscope comparisons, and without them, there is nothing left. This is very inaccurate, as there are many features of the Voynich, outside of the cylinders, which indicate to me the possibility that it was created in the time frame I am working in, and by the people I suspect.

But it is true that the optical comparisons are the seed of the ideas which came later. When I first looked over the Voynich, I was struck at the similarity between certain cylinders in it, and early microscopes. I was very surprised that this was not generally assumed, they looked so much alike. In several years of research, I only found one person… Chris Parry… who openly mused on this on the VMS-net list in 2003. Berj N. Ensanian later told me that he had long noted the similarities between the cylinders and the microscope of Robert Hooke.

Even Newbold, (of the well known failed theories and translations) who believed that Roger Bacon wrote the Voynich, and who he believed used a powerful microscope to do so, did not make a connection between the cylinders and the instruments. Newbold called them “jars”.

Microscope Comparsion 1

I personally think the similarities between the 17th century Italian microscope, and this Voynich cylinder, are striking. Many of the tubes have optical features, and I have made a page of many of them, here. A list of some of the features of early optics, which I feel may be represented in Voynich cylinders:

1 ) Multiple lenses
2 ) Multiple, sliding tubes
3 ) Covered with colored vellum (often red and green)
4 ) Decorated along edges with repeating, gilt embossing
5 ) Recessed lenses
6 ) Lenses with green and blue hues (nature of the glass used)

Elements also found in Voynich tubes which are described just after my time frame, possibly relating to Drebbel’s 1619 to 1624 devices:

7 ) Supported on brass legs, shaped like dolphins

And elements found on other, later, 17th and 18th century microscopes:

8 ) Decorative finial lens caps
9 ) Knurling of rings for easier adjusting and assembly/disassembly

Spanish Compare

It was pointed out by Keith Body that Egyptian perfume jars are very similar to some Voynich cylinders, and I agree:


For the generally assumed “jar” identification, then, I would agree that some of the Voynich tubes may be just that. However I do not think that the 15th and 16th century apothecary and albarello jars are good comparisons… they do not compare as well as optics, in my opinion. Even for the bizarre cylinders, such as the iconic one shown below, I feel optics are just a better match than jars or containers… or perpetual candles, soap dispensers, or others which have been suggested. Next to the f88 cylinder I show it in CAD, covered with tooled Moroccan leather, as an optical device would be. I think it is a good match to to the color and tone of the Voynich illustration. As for the color of my supposed “lens”, and the knurling marks, those are in the “original”.

f88 CAD

The objections to my comparisons are many, and I will address them here in the future, as I have in the past on the VMS-net list. They are in part, that I use later optical devices for comparisons to a document which I state was made between 1610 and 1620. Also, that there is little or no evidence for microscopes before about 1619. And there are others, all of which I will address in future posts. Richard SantaColoma