I wonder if anyone has ever looked at Casaubon’s letters and his monumental diary (called the “Ephemerides”, and written in Latin) with a Voynich-informed eye?

Isaac Casaubon (1559-1614) was regarded as one of the most learned men in Europe: and what is perhaps interesting to us (and that I didn’t know until a few days ago) is that though he started his career at the Academy of Geneva, he worked for a while at the University of Montpellier (1596-1598), before moving on to Lyon (1598-1599) at which point he was summoned to Paris by King Henry IV. In fact, though Dee researchers know him for his pursuit of John Dee’s papers, Casaubon only lived in London from 1610-1614 (and he couldn’t actually speak English), while Dee himself had died only in 1608 or 1609 (depending on who you ask).

Casaubon’s Latin correspondence (“Casauboni epistolæ, insertis ad easdem responsionibus“) was printed in Rotterdam (1709), while his Ephemerides were printed somewhat later (1850). Though I don’t think there is a critical edition of the Ephemerides available (nor indeed a translation, sadly), there are online editions of his letters here (I),  here (II), here (III), here (IV), and here (V), courtesy of the University of Mannheim.

OK, I’ll freely admit that the chances of anything turning up from this are small (Casaubon doesn’t really seem the type to gossip about a mysterious unreadable herbal that was doing the rounds). But because (given the VMs’ apparent links with Southern France / Savoy I’ve blogged endlessly about) we’d perhaps be more interested in 1596-1599 when he was in Montpellier and Lyon, you never know! 🙂

7 thoughts on “Isaac Casaubon’s “Ephemerides”…

  1. Diane on July 22, 2010 at 12:28 pm said:

    Re-reading your Savoy posts, what they suggest is that the material was copied/created by someone whose education had been gained in Savoy during the mid-fourteenth century. Then (if the C-14 dating is also accepted) that a copy of it was made again in the mid-fifteenth century, and the scribe/s tried to replicate it exactly, even to reproducing the older and possibly foreign hand, by then a century old.

    The possibility that it was replicated, rather than translated, is certainly interesting. I would have thought that in such a case, it would be made either for a person who understood the script but was, or was about to be going, some distance away.. or that it was made in the hope that someone [in particular] might be able to interpret it.
    So I would wonder, then, who in Europe of the mid-fourteenth century was considered a linguist of note. Given what the imagery suggests for the origin and antiquity of the original, I’d also look at links between Savoy,Montpellier and the Hospitallers.
    I’ll do the last, if you like. But first I have to finish compiling an illustrated list of plants mentioned in the Nabatean Agriculture. 🙂

  2. Diane: I don’t think my posts are quite that definitive. 🙂 Rather, given that the closest handwriting match I’ve found for the “michiton” marginalia hand comes from Savoy in the mid-fourteenth century, and that the VMs’ radiocarbon dating points to early-to-mid-fifteenth century, I’m reasonably content (in the absence of any better palaeographic evidence) to splice the two parts together, yielding Savoy-ish marginalia added in the early-to-mid-fifteenth century. Beyond that, we’re splashing in a sea of uncertainty! 🙂

  3. Paul: thanks for that, I linked directly to the PDF version in the post. I should perhaps also have mentioned that this Volume I of the Ephemerides commences in 1597 (pretty much exactly the right time for us, I guess), and that – flicking through it quickly, with only my schoolboy Latin as a guide – Casaubon appears to mention going to a public dissection (p.125), so there probably are a few other things embedded in there that are not directly related to his textual focus. Still a long shot, but you never know! 🙂

  4. Sean Andrews on July 23, 2010 at 1:06 am said:

    I just got Alberti’s “Momus” in latin with side by side English translation. I bought it to compare his latin with the Voynich script (sigh, need new hobbies). But reading the text,what an odd piece of writing that is.

  5. Diane on July 23, 2010 at 8:19 am said:

    Nick, you’re quite right to distinguish between the text’s date and that of the marginalia. But I agree that the earlier ‘Savoy’ hand is the closer match.

  6. Sean: I enjoyed bits of Momus, but it has to be said that Alberti includes long stretches of ugggh as well. =:-o

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