Here’s something neat and slightly unexpected from long-time Voynich Manuscript researcher (and Voynich theory über-skeptic) Rene Zandbergen I think you’ll probably appreciate.
Arguably the least-discussed subject in the VMs is the set of tiny plant drawings in the two ‘pharma’ (pharmacological) sections, which somehow usually manage to fly beneath most researchers’ radars. Yet it has been known for decades that a good number of these plant drawings recapitulate or copy plant drawings in the main herbal sections (though as I recall these are more or less all Herbal A plants, please correct me if I’m wrong) – mapping these correspondences properly is an interesting challenge in its own right, but one to which nobody (as far as I can see) has really stepped up in the last decade.
And so it is that the general indifference to the pharma section forms the backdrop to Rene’s latest observation, which is this: that the pair of roots depicted on the two (now separated) halves of the Herbal A f18v-f23r bifolio recur side-by-side at the bottom of f102r2 in the pharma section. Here’s what the f18v-f23r bifolio would look like if you took out the bifolios currently bound between them (ignore the green mark in the middle from f22v, that’s just my lazy editing):-
…and here’s what the pair of roots at the bottom of f102r2 look like. Somewhat familiar, eh?
Actually, I think it’s fair to say that this is extremely familar.
Now, it should be obvious that that you can (depending on how strong a piece of evidence you think the above amounts to, and what other observations you think are relevant) build all kinds of inferential chains on top of this. Cautious soul that he is, Rene concludes: “the colours of the two herbal pages were perhaps not applied when the bifolio was laying open like this“, basically because the two green paints are so different, which is similar to my observation in yesterday’s post about the two blues in Q9. He continues: “I don’t even think that the colours were applied by the same person who made the outline drawings, not deriving from these drawings though.”
Regardless, the pretty-much-unavoidable codicological starting point would seem to be that f18v and f23r originally sat side-by-side, and hence almost certainly sat at the centre of a herbal gathering / quire. It also seems likely that the two green paints were applied after other bifolios had been inserted between f18v and f23r (though not necessarily in their final binding order, or at the same time).
Furthermore, if you look at f23v (i.e. the verso side of f23r), you can see where the tails of the “39” quire number’s two long downstrokes have gone over from the bottom of f24v (the last page of the quire). This indicates to me that the f18v / f23r bifolio was already nested just inside the f17 / f24 bifolio when the quire numbers were added: and when combined with the new idea that f18v-f23r was probably the central bifolio of its original gathering, I think the implication is that (unless Q3 was originally composed of just two bifolios, which seems somewhat unlikely) Q3’s quire number was added after the bifolios had been reordered / scrambled / misordered. OK, it’s pretty much the same thing I argued in “The Curse” (pp.62-68): but it’s nice to see the same ideas coming out from a different angle.
However, the range of green paints is a bit troubling. Even though I’ve just now looked at all the greens in Q3, I’m struggling to reconstruct a sensible codicological sequence: but perhaps the reason for this will turn out to be that there isn’t one to be found. Could it be that a significant amount of Herbal grouping data could be inferred simply by spectroscopically analysing the various green paints used, and looking for recto/verso matches? Glen Claston will doubtless argue otherwise, but the chances that a verso page and a recto page with precisely the same green paint were facing each other at the time they were painted must surely be pretty good, right?
So, Rene: another good find, cheers! 🙂