Of course, the minute I post about Voynich talks, several more suddenly pop up. 🙂
The ‘Heaven Astrolabe’ blogger (Margherita Fiorello) gave a nicely-meandering (but picture-heavy) description of wandering across Rome to see a talk on the Voynich Manuscript, held on the 23rd June 2009 at the Libreria Aseq esoteric bookshop (a bit like an upmarket Italian version of Treadwells, if you like). The occasion (“L’Enigma del Manoscritto Voynich – Il più grande mistero di tutti i tempi“) was prompted by the release of the Italian edition of Marcelo Dos Santos’ book (he’s Argentinian, just so you know), and consisted of discussion by Stefano Verdini (who researches things “beyond reality”) and Rome-based Japanese medievalist (and Voynich fan) Yoshi Ohashi, who also brought along some of his artworks to display (I think).
And then I found another recent talk, this time called “Voynich: il libro che nessuno sa leggere” from 15th April 2009 at the even more evocative location of the Villa Mondragone (yes, really!) Of the two people at the front table, presumably one is a PR lady from Edizioni Mediterranee and the other (with his thumbs superglued to his chin, if you like early Steve Martin films) Marcelo Dos Santos himself.
What is acutely ironic, of course, is that if my whole Filarete-as-author-of-the-VMs theory is correct, then the VMs started its life in Rome. But I doubt that got mentioned at either talk, right?
Incidentally, in “The Curse of the Voynich”, I allocated a paltry 13 pages to the history of the Voynich Manuscript – and even that was a bit excessive. Yet the whole history-of-a-mystery angle is all that journalistic angles on the VMs (particularly Kennedy & Churchill’s book, and Marcelo Dos Santos’ book to a lesser degree) tend to focus on. Yet the actual problem of the VMs is not one of provenance – because it doesn’t really have one, sorry René! – but rather one of intellectual history. That is, why don’t any of the myriad of details fit together, either individually or when taken as a whole?
I suppose I’ve now become hungry for an entirely different type of public discussion – what I term “broadcast-only” lectures don’t really work for me any more. I’m also hugely tired of people repeatedly trotting out the wrong answers (such as “alchemy” or “conspiracy”) to the wrong questions (“what secrets might the VMs contain?”). Technically, what Annales historians call the “problématique” – the linked set of questions people use to define a research area – is massively ill-defined in the case of the VMs. Basically, if Claude Lévi-Strauss is correct in asserting that “the scholar is not he who gives the right answers, but he who asks the right questions“, I think I can honestly say that there are precious few genuine Voynich scholars out there – and we are all the worse for that scarcity.