When Wilfrid Voynich bought his (now eponymous) manuscript in 1912, it was accompanied by a 1665 letter from Johannes Marcus Marci to Athanasius Kircher. In that, Marci noted three things that Raphael Mnishovsky (King Ferdinand III’s Czech language tutor) had told him about the strange artefact:-

  1. that the said book belonged to Emperor Rudolf
  2. that [Rudolf II] presented 600 ducats to the messenger who brought him the book
  3. that Raphael “thought that the author was Roger Bacon the Englishman

Voynich, perhaps seduced by a private ambition to sell a Roger Bacon manuscript, subsequently insisted that everyone should call it “The Roger Bacon Cipher Manuscript”, and even went to the trouble of reconstructing a (probably completely wrong) Anglo-centric provenance based around John Dee’s selling a Roger Bacon manuscript to Emperor Rudolph II. However, since Voynich’s death, the whole notion that Roger Bacon was connected with the VMs has slipped ever further into the background, to the point that no Voynich researcher has considered Bacon a viable possibility for years (if not decades), basically because we all thought 1450 was the earliest workable date for it.

However, with the recent Austrian documentary vellum dating (1405-1438 @ 95% confidence), it seems we may all have been wrong about that. OK, not necessarily by much, but enough to be a tad annoying. Which is why I decided to revisit the whole Roger Bacon / VMs claimed linkage: might there actually be something in it, however tangential?

The first issue to consider is Raphael Mnishovsky’s idea that the VMs had anything to do with Roger Bacon. When did Mnishovsky form or conceive this opinion? There seem to be five main scenarios to consider:

  1. Mnishovsky had seen the VMs pre-1612 at court and had formed that opinion on his own
  2. Mnishovksy had seen the VMs in Jacobus de Tepenecz’s possession
  3. Mnishovksy had seen the VMs in Baresch’s possession
  4. Mnishovsky had seen the VMs in Marci’s possession and had formed that opinion only then
  5. Mnishovsky had not seen the VMs, and was passing on a second-hand opinion

The problem with Scenario #1 is that I don’t think Mnishovsky was quite old enough to have been at Rudolph’s court. Similarly for #2, my understanding is that Mnishovsky was essentially a post-1612 courtier, and de Tepenecz was never close to court after Rudolph II’s death. The problem with #3 is that Baresch doesn’t mention any link with Roger Bacon in his 1637 letter to Kircher: while the problem with #4 is that it seems inconsistent with Marci’s letter (unless I’m subtly misreading it).

Which leads me to point my stick of historical judgment at Scenario #5: and to assert that the manuscript was probably linked to Roger Bacon while still at Rudolph II’s court (though Baresch probably knew nothing of this). Might the VMs have been sold to Rudolph as having been composed by Roger Bacon?

Given that Roger Bacon (genuinely) constructed his own computus and that the first manuscript copies of the famous “Mirror of Alchemy” (Speculum Alchemiae) ascribed (falsely) to him appeared in the fifteenth century, the suggestion that the (early-to-mid-fifteenth century) VMs could also have been (falsely) ascribed to Roger Bacon is hardly that far-fetched. Yes, I agree the claim is false – but where and when did that claim originate?

I wonder… is there a list anywhere of lost (genuine or ascribed) Roger Bacon works? Perhaps there are references to a Roger Bacon herbal in correspondence close to the Imperial court 1600-1612 that might have been overlooked. Something to think about, anyway. 🙂

PS: here’s a 1928 article on Newbold’s claims that recently popped up in JSTOR. Enjoy (the first page, at least)! 🙂

30 thoughts on “Roger Bacon & the Voynich Manuscript, revisited…

  1. The rest:

    …of Northumberland. Dee made several visits to the Emperor Rudolph II, at Prague, between 1584 and 1588. At that time Rudolph was one of the most enlightened monarchs, and chief patron of the sciences. Apparently Dee presented the cipher to Rudolph, with whom he had discussed Bacon at length. Some time after 1608, probably about 1611, when Rudolph abdicated, it was acquired by a Jacobus de Tepenecz, who was also interested in occult science. The next owner, who cannot be identified, probably obtained it at de Tepenecz’s death in 1622, and he bequeathed it, sometime around 1640, and after unsuccessful attempts to decipher it, to a famous scientist of his time, one Marcus Marci.
    In 1665 Marcus Marci presented it to Athanasius Kircher, a Jesuit scholar who is still accorded a prominent place in scientific history. The letter of Marci to Kircher transmitting the work was still in it when found in 1912. He told Kircher in the letter that the manuscript was attributed to Roger Bacon. What happened to it after Kircher’s death in 1680 is unknown—apparently it went to one of his friends, who took no particular interest in it, and from whom it went to the collection in which Mr. Voynich discovered it.
    In this way there came to Dr. Newbold this most elaborate and deceptive of all ciphers. So difficult is it that several scholars failed to make any sense out of it at all. Dr. Newbold was sent a couple of photographic copies of certain pagers, one of which happened to be the last. On this was a curious sentence in rather mutilated Latin: “Michiton oladabas multos te teer cerc portas.” Hidden in these words is “Michi dabas multas portas” or “To me thou gavest many gates.” The words left out, that “ton ola” and “te teer cerc,” Dr. Newbold found, were cipher for “R. B.” and “four,” so that the whole thing meant, “To me, R. B. (i.e. Roger Bacon) thou gavest many gates.”
    This, to Dr. Newbold, was significant. “I found a clue in the word ‘portas’—‘gates’,” he wrote. “I had studied the Kabbalah, that curious Gnostic philosophy of medieval Judaism, and I knew that Bacon had some acquaintance with the ideas best known to us as elements of the Kabbalah. Now, in the Kabbalah, the ‘gates’ are all possible combinations of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, taken two by two.”
    “Bacon’s primary aim,” continues Dr. Newbold in his book, “was to construct a cipher which would give no indication of being a cipher at all, and which consequence would arouse no curiosity and prompt no one to attempt its decipherment.”
    This is the way he did it.
    Take an alphabet, a, b, c, d, e, f, g, etc., then combine it in turns which each of the other letters, so as to give a series of two-letter alphabets. These will be like this: aa, ab, ac, ad, ae, etc.; ba, bb, bc, bd, etc.; ca, cb, cc, etc.; and so on. Now these various alphabets, if continued to the end, will contain all the possible two letter combinations that occur in actual words.
    Bacon’s idea, which Dr. Newbold though to be original and peculiar to him, was to assign these two-letter symbols the values of single letters of the alphabet, and at the same time use the two-letter groups to build up other words. Dr. Newbold gives the following example. If one wanted to cipher the Latin world “tonuse,” with “fi” meaning “t”; “de” for “o”; “li” for “n”; “or” for “u” and “um” for “s”, then the word “fideliorum” would be the cipher for the word “tonus.” The cipher was extremely complicated because the cipher equivalents of the actual letters must be constantly changed. Under such handicaps, Bacon wrote his secrets for posterity.
    Even this did not satisfy Bacon, so he thought of still another way to make the puzzle harder for those who followed him. This was probably original with him, for he took a Greek shorthand system that was current in the Middle Ages. As in modern shorthand, short lines, straight and curved, were used, but each character represented a letter, instead of a syllable, like systems of the present day. Dr. Newbold found that certain characters in the manuscripts, when examined under a magnifying glass, proved to be made up of a great number of short strokes of the pen. These short strokes were the shorthand characters, and so, in what seemed to be a single letter, there might be concealed an entire sentence.
    The “michiton olabadas” key at the end proved to be made up of such characters in part, and Dr. Newbold found that when full deciphered, it gave a short Latin verse: “Rogerus Bacon / Adiens coelum / Hilaris festum / Cum sanctis coenarit.” Or, in English: “I, Roger Bacon, / Drawing nigh heaven, / Gladly would feast with / The saints at their banquet.” This might have been put there, Dr. Newbold suggested, as a mnemonic rhyme, to aid in remembering the key.
    With such a complicated cipher, and with such juggling required to make it into plain language, it might be thought that any gibberish might be turned into something sensible, but that the result would be from the mind of the translator, and not in the original. Those who knew Dr. Newbold testify to his high moral character, so, of course, there is no suggestion of willful deceit. But the subconscious mind of the translator might put meaning into it. There is evidence, however, that this is not the case, and that the cipher methods as worked out by Dr. Newbold are actually correct.
    In the French National Library, at Paris, there is a manuscript written by Bacon which is possibly the long-lost work that he sent to Pope Clement IV. It purports to be a medical treatise, but Dr. Newbold found that it was also in cipher and that, when deciphered, it contained some alchemical writings. The problems of alchemy, the art of changing baser metals into valuable ones, engaged the attention of many in the Middle Ages.
    Part of the text which Dr. Newbold deciphered by the two-letter equivalent method that he had employed in the Voynich manuscript, proved to be the formula for preparing metallic copper. This method given is a must unusual one, one that modern chemists to who he showed it had never heard. But Prof. Newbold’s colleague in the chemistry department of the University of Pennsylvania, Prof. Hiram S. Lukens, tried it, and found that it actually worked. Since Prof. Newbold was not a chemist, it is hardly possible that he could have thought, consciously or subconsciously, of this unusual method.
    It is the illustrations that are most interesting, however, for they together with the text accompanying them, when deciphered, may indicate that Bacon was possessed of optical aid in the form of powerful telescopes and microscopes, at least three centuries before these instruments are supposed to have been invented.
    One of these drawings is of a structure consisting of two concentric rings, and connected by spiral arms. In it are a number of stars, and a cipher inscription accompanies it.
    The inscription was extremely difficult to translate, wrote Dr. Newbold, but his first attempts interpreted it as telling that the object was between “the navel of Pegasus, and girdle of Andromeda and the head of Cassiopeia,” and that it was seen in a concave mirror. Of course, that was long before the days of modern methods of designating stars, and the usual way was like this, from parts of the imaginary constellation figures.
    Now, it happens that in this part of the constellation of Andromeda there is a spiral nebula, one of the great group of celestial objects that have within the last few years been show to be systems of stars. They are like the system of which the sun, the Milky Way, and all the stars that we can see are part, but far outside its confines. They all have a characteristically spiral structure, but in some it is much more evident than in others. The one in Andromeda is one of the largest and nearest of these. It can just be seen with the unaided eye on a dark night, and is the only one that can be see without optical assistance. Unfortunately for Dr. Newbold’s theory, however, though this nebula is so large and bright, its spiral structure is not at all obvious. Even with a large modern telescope it does not appear spiral, but rather elliptical area of light. Only with photographs made with the huger instruments of present day observatories, does the spiral structure become apparent, and it is only within the pas half century that such photographs have been made. The first spiral nebula to be observed as really spiral was only discovered so about 1840.
    Prof. Newbold realized this objection, and suggested that “the nebula must therefore have changed considerably in appearance in six hundred and fifty years.” Astronomers, however, consider such vast changes as this in such a period to be entirely beyond the realms of possibility. If it were changing so fast, comparisons of the photographs made of it about thirty years ago, with those made today, would reveal changes apparent to the trained eye of the astronomer. But no such changes are apparent. Astronomers who have been consulted are therefore of the opinion that the interpretation of the cipher inscription by Prof. Newbold is not correct. Certainly, the evidence that Bacon had a telescope is exceedingly weak.
    Bacon made some other astronomical observations, but did not require the use of a telescope. One inscription deciphered by Dr. Newbold related the appearance of a comet in 1273, and upon looking up the records he found that there was actually a prominent comet in that year. Another one described an annular eclipse of the sun, in which the sun is partly covered by the dark disc of the moon, so that the bright ring of light remains visible around it. This also checked with records of astronomical history.
    When it comes to the possibility of Bacon having a microscope, or at least some extremely powerful magnifying instrument, the evidence is a little more convincing than that for his telescope. Some of the drawings show curious elongated objects with long slender tails, that might be a representation of spermatozoa, the male generative cells. Other drawings associated with these show round structures with considerable detail. These Prof. Newbold though, represented the ova, or egg cells of the female. The accompanying inscriptions, as deciphered, indicated that Bacon understood how the union of these two elements produces the individual. But the sperm cells are extremely small, so that even today powerful microscopes are needed to see them. They can be seen with rather primitive instruments, however, for the seventeenth century Dutch microscopist, Leeuwenhoek, did see them with an early form of the instrument.
    “But,” says Dr. Newbold, referring to Bacon’s supposed discovery, “whether the microscope with which he saw the spermatozoa and the cells which he has so clearly depicted in the drawings was of the simple or compound type will remain an open question until the manuscript has been deciphered. Some students are of the opinion that a simple lens of high power would have sufficed.”
    Regardless of whether or not Bacon had a telescope or a microscope, there is little doubt that he was the great genius of his age, and that his talents were not appreciated by his contemporaries. On this account, thought Dr. Newbold, Bacon decided to preserve his knowledge in the form of this cipher, which he had devised and used on previous occasions, “in the hope that in a more sympathetic age the fruits of his labors would come to light.”
    That age did not dawn as soon as Bacon had hoped, said Dr. Newbold, but now, at last, after more than six centuries, the manuscript has come to light.
    “The secret of the cipher has been unraveled,” he says. “Difficulties, formidable difficulties, still bar the way to the reading of Bacon’s manuscript, but they are less formidable than those which have been overcome. These also must be overcome before the full story can be told. But even with the text unread, the drawings alone throw a flood of light upon the achievements of Roger Bacon.”

  2. Thanks for posting that! Much appreciated! 🙂

  3. Appreciated, interesting, but naughtheless, all bullshit. 🙁

  4. If only we could as easily tell which Voynich theories were not bullshit, eh? 😮

  5. I feel a bit hesitant to suggest this, but for all sorts of reasons I’m inclined to think the reference to Rudolf may have been flawed, or misinterpreted: it comes across as bit of half-remembered gossip, and the hearer too may have assumed that by “Rudolf II’ would be meant the second emperor of that name, where within his domains, Rudolf II meant the second king Rudolf, who was the first emperor R.
    Positing this enables one to take the date of purchase to one more appropriate to the age of the Voynich manuscript. It also permits a reasonable connection to be posited (through earlier Norman Sicily) to England and northern France.

    It was also in France than the order of Premonstratensians was founded, (I’m working on finding out if they ever had a place in Sicily) – and it was from the Premonstatians’ establishment at Tepla that Voynich had the ms, wasn’t it?

    I realise how tenative (not to say tenuous) this suggestion will sound, but all in all it seems not unreasonable – to me – if a noble within that domain would consider the term “Rudolf II” to mean primarily the second of his kings Rudolf, rather than the second of the Emperors.
    By analogy, if Eliabeth II of England had been the first Elizabeth named ‘Empress of India”, the English would doubtless still refer to her as Elizabeth II, not I.

  6. Hi Diane,

    Even though Raphael Mnishovsky was at the Imperial court after Rudolf II’s reign, he apparently did have very specific links with Rudolf II’s library (more on this soon), which would seem to make his testimony on the VMs hard to dispute.

    Whatever the VMs’ earlier history (and there’s plenty to dispute there), these particular strands around Rudolf’s Golden Court do seem to fit together in an historically satisfying way.

    Cheers, ….Nick Pelling….

  7. Rene Zandbergen on December 30, 2009 at 3:06 pm said:

    The Marci letter actually only says Rudolf the emperor, without the II,
    but it seems a safe bet that Rudolf II is meant. He was notoriously bad at
    paying though, so we may wonder if the 600 ducats ever reached the seller.

    On the list of options above, I would rather discard option 4, since it is most
    probable that Barschius was still alive in 1644, when Raphael died.
    Let’s assume that he saw the MS when talking about it to Marci. An interesting
    question is, whether he had already seen it before, or only knew about it…

  8. infinitii on December 30, 2009 at 9:03 pm said:

    Actually, the only reason that letter is connected with the manuscipt is because it was found inside it (and if I recall correctly, Voynich ‘found’ the letter a little bit after announcing the ‘find’ of the manuscript). I wonder if Voynich isn’t completely out of the woods yet, and he combined the letter with the manuscript to, as you suggested above, sell a Roger Bacon manuscript. Without that one piece of evidence, unless I’m mistaken, the whole ‘provenance’ of the Voynich as we know it falls apart, does it not? And it relies on a letter that doesn’t even describe the manuscipt in a unique way?

  9. Rene: you’re right – and what’s more, Marci reports having heard it from Mnishovsky while he was the Czech language tutor, which further narrows the time frame yet more.

    infinitii: this is true, were it not the case for all the other 17th century letters that have been (only relatively recently) discovered. These seem to refer to the VMs in a fairly unambiguous way, and there seems no good reason to believe that Wilfrid Voynich was aware of them at all.

  10. Rene Zandbergen on January 2, 2010 at 3:51 pm said:

    By the way, in a 1655 letter Marci also refers to Rudolf II (in this case without
    any doubt, because there is also mention of Kelley and Octavio Misserone) as
    ‘Rudolpho Caesare’.

    The biggest problem with the ‘Voynich faked it’ theory is, that the ‘standard’
    history is simple, straightforward, and all known facts, while not painting a
    complete picture, are fully consistent. For the ‘VFI’ theory, I have yet to see
    a complete picture (e.g. it is not clear whether the Marci letter is supposed to
    be genuine or not), it requires contrived explanations for several independent facts
    and it does not explain anything _in addtion_ to the standard theory.
    It has nothing going for it…

  11. Rene Zandbergen on January 4, 2010 at 8:59 am said:

    It’s probably worth recapitulating what we do know, if we ‘take away’ the
    Marci letter. Sources are placed in square brackets.

    First, there is the Voynich MS, which is written on parchment prepared
    around 1420. It was owned by Jacobus de Tepenec [his signature, and
    matching signature on the Aristoteles book shown in the film], who was
    related to Rudolf’s court at least from 1609 [records preserved in Vienna],
    was raised to a low nobility by Rudolf II in 1608, and was the administrative
    ruler of the town of Melnik, not far from Prague, until his death in 1622 [records
    in Melnik and several other archives]. His belongings went to the Jesuits.

    Then, there is Barschius in Prague. At least since 1637 he owned an old
    book written in an unknown language and illustrated with plants and stars
    [his 1639 letter to Kircher]. He asks Kircher for help in translating it. Upon
    his death, his library and alchemical stuff
    passed to Marci [Marci’s
    printed book ‘Philosophia Vetus Restituta’]. In 1665 Marci sends a mysterious
    book for translation to Kircher [two letters written by Kinner preserved in Rome].

  12. Voynich didn’t fake the letter, I think. But I also find it incredible that a loose letter could survive – what – two centuries and a half? as a bookmark.

    More credible, perhaps, is that at the time the book was accessioned, a link was made to the archives of correspondence, and so when Voynich bought the book, the librarian de-accessioning it produced the letter too, to keep the records neat and tidy.

    But as soon as the letter is separated from the book, there’s a possibility that the letter fished out was talking about another difficult-to-read manuscript altogether.

    Or – and I like this one – the other inclusion mentioned in the letter, the fruit of Marci’s ‘dead friend’s labours, is actually that letter itself. Quite a few of the letter formations are like the odd gallows letters in the manuscript, or don’t you thinks so?

  13. The spiral isn’t the spiral nebula; its shorthand for the mother-of-all/navel. Another indication of the book’s origins in the eastern sphere.

    For reasons that would take too long to explain … and heaps of pictures showing its continuity over milennia in the region… it also means the sun, sometimes.
    btw: The Barschius link sounds like solid gold, to me Rene (and that’s not an alchemical allusion btw).

  14. I’ve just remembered something. There was a beautiful manuscript of Dioscorides… still is. I might have seen it posted somewhere.. Yale? Anyway a fellow saw it in the possession of the Turks, asked to buy it, and was told some phenomenal price which he couldn’t or wouldn’t pay. 1,000 ducats perhaps. But when he told the Emperor of the day the story, the latter paid. Sorry to be vague about the details; I saw it in passing some time ago. But I’m fairly sure its in the Yale collections: perhaps it was thought (what with the number of naked women in what looks like a Turkish baths, and all the plants), that this was the same. Or maybe, twenty years after Raphael’s death – Rudolf of course had died when Marci was seventeen or eighteen (b.1595. Rudolf died 1612), Raphael or Marci were failing in their memory. I know I am

  15. Diane on March 6, 2010 at 4:59 am said:

    Once-commonplace allusions in Barschius’ letter to Kircher may be unfamiliar. I hope the following may assist.

    1. Where B. speaks only of a ‘clerical person’ but does not specify monk, nun, clerk or priest, it implies that the person is not from within the western Christian tradition, yet that both men should pass over any possible question of heterodoxy in the source, or in the material.

    2. By reference to K’s well-known interest in the environment of the Bible, its oldest scripts, languages and texts other allusions in that letter make it likely, too, that the book was thought by B. at least to belong to the traditions of Egypt or ‘Nestorian’ Christian Edessa, Nisibis and Bagdad (the last three prominent in roughly that historical order).

    There was/is a monastery-library near Nitria in Egypt where members of the pre-schismatic Syrian tradition, and the Egyptian Christian (Coptic) worked alongside each other, tho’ neither was considered orthodox by Rome.

    The religious cpital of ‘nestorian’ Christianity had anciently been the capital of Elam, from whence I – myself – believe one of the oldest layers of content in the Voynich derives.

    However that may be, the earlier Syrian idea of a Christian as priest-scholar was maintained there for some centuries, and even came for a time to England under a certain bishop Theodore.

    The ancient view seems to have held that a Christian priest should heal body, mind and soul by physic, education and preaching, respectively.

    It will be recalled that, despite Ficino’s perfectly legitimate legal appeal to those very precedents, he was eventually executed for heresy. His Liber Vita derives from and sometimes directly quotes from Nestorian Christian medical texts.

    Unfortunately, some western scholars have failed to recognise his references, and have completely misread his defence.

    So when B. wrote to K., it was a time when the Jesuits were in charge of the Roman Inquistorial process, and Ficino’s situation could not have been forgotten yet. That, I take it, is why B makes a point of saying he himself stopped practicing medicine, when he entered the Roman theological college. Edessa’s renowned Cathedral had been the original Christian cathedral, and it was called ‘Hagia/Sancta Sophia”.

  16. Diane on July 13, 2010 at 6:43 pm said:

    For want of knowing where best to put this for fellow Voynichers.

    A great page full of Kircher’s illustrations is at
    http://kircher.stanford.edu/gallery/contents.html

  17. Diane on July 28, 2010 at 1:54 pm said:

    About the ‘sphinx’ of Marci’s letter..
    You might like to look at this:
    http://www.stevealbum.com/cgi-bin/viewchap.php?site=2&sale=7&chapter=1&page=1

    But in case the link is gone when you see this: its a Roman coin celebrating defeat of the Asturas, a ‘Celt-Iberian’ and it includes a ‘sphinx’ of the Phoenician-Greek sort and an inscription in a paleoHispanic script, with the word “bon” short for bolskan: defender, warrior.

  18. Diane on July 28, 2010 at 2:00 pm said:

    Sorry – for the sphinx/Astures coin, you have to go to Smith’s Dictionary Vol 1 p.316:
    T. CARI’SIUS
    http://www.ancientlibrary.com/smith-bio/0622.html

  19. Or Raphael told Marci that he thought it was “by Bacon the Englishman”, meaning Francis, not Roger… and Marci made the common mistake of assuming the wrong “Bacon”. They are often confused, to this day.

  20. Rich: Marci did write “Rogerium Bacconem Anglum”, so it’s pretty clear what he meant: and I think the VMs has more than a whiff of the medieval to it. So, if someone did instead mean “Francis Bacon”, they obviously must have meant the VMs had been faked by FB to look very old, which would surely make Baresch’s and Marci’s urging of Kircher to untie its cryptographic knots just a big practical joke on their part?

  21. Well it wouldn’t be the first time a red herring was tossed at Kircher!

    What you say is logical of course… but I meant that perhaps Marci never thought Francis, and only assumed Roger… and that it was only Rafael (for whatever reason) who thought Francis. After Marci’s error about Rafael’s intention (the common “two Bacons” mixup, even more understandable, considering, as you point out, the apparent age of the work), things would proceed as we know them… and Marci would then have offered the Ms. to Kircher in good faith, and not as a joke, but as a possible Roger Bacon work.

  22. Of course, two hundred years later, Marci bumps into Raphael Mnishovsky in heaven, and has a chance to finally ask, “Hey, by the way, it was RogerBacon you meant, right?”.

  23. Rich: ooh, let’s not get into the question of whether deathbed-conversion Jesuits go to heaven or not. 🙂

  24. Diane O'Donovan on October 4, 2011 at 1:00 am said:

    Nick and all

    I apologise for those posts above. It’s now 2011 and in the twelvemonth, I’ve learned a bit.

    The only part of these previous posts I wouldn’t delete if I could -and which I’d be clearer about – is this:

    “There is a monastery-complex and library near Nitria in Egypt where members of the pre-schismatic Syrian tradition, and the Egyptian (Coptic) tradition worked alongside each other, tho’ neither group was considered entirely acceptable by Rome”

  25. We’ll know which explanations are viable when they can be used predictively, even in the limits of a single folio, quire or section.

    What I’m finding most difficult is not to slip from a focus on the ms – trying to interpret what it has to say about its origins and nature – to a focus on a given place and time.. or even worse (exponentially) is to slip into a focus on some person and their circle. IMO that is.

  26. Diane: appalling though the thought may be to some, without hypotheses we would have no science and no history. The trick is to balance both evidence and hypotheses without overfocusing on either, I believe. 🙂

  27. On this issue of hypothesis driven research, Nick, I daresay we shall differ until we croak. But so often when two *modest ahem* intelligent people can find no common ground, the issue comes down to different tacit assumptions of definition.

    When a forensic expert is called for an opinion, they first collect evidence and then offer conclusions drawn from the evidence, by reference to the evidence. Offering an hypothesis as theory comes very last, and is usually optional step.

    That’s the approach I prefer – because it keeps the person in a neutral state of mind longer, as they collect and evaluate evidence.

    What I mean by hypothesis-driven research I’m sure you won’t need explained. Now that you’ve introduced me to the novelist Gavin Menzies – thanks – his novels may stand as its paradigm.

    I’d rather take coffee.

  28. xplor on August 3, 2013 at 8:40 pm said:

    Emily Millicent Sowerby worked for Wilfrid Voynich until 1914. In the prelude to her book “Rare People & Rare Books” She acknowledges the manuscript as the Roger Bacon cipher. She knew Anne Nill.and may have added it before it was published in 1967.

  29. Ludi Price on January 9, 2015 at 1:49 pm said:

    BTW, if anyone has any PDF requests from JSTOR or other databases regarding the Voynich MS, I’d be happy to download them for you through my university account! 🙂

    -Ludi

  30. Ludi: thanks for the offer, very much appreciated! 🙂

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