This is the point in the calendar when it’s traditional for bloggers to gloss over how miserable the preceding year has been, by devising some clever rhetorical formulation which gives all the appearance of optimism for the coming year, but which actually says nothing of real substance. I’ve even done this myself in the past (*sigh*), but now I’m solid enough with blogging to really grasp its tropes and limitations, I can aim to transcend all that faux positivism and to tell it like it is.
For 2010, ‘The Year In Voynich’ has been somewhat disappointing, particularly relative to my predictions for it: last Christmas, I was convinced that proper write-ups of the VMs’ vellum radiocarbon dating and of its McCrone ink microscopy (both following on from the ORF VMs documentary) would be major steps forward for the field; that these would clear some dead wood from the research forests; and, when considered together, might just form a tasty enough dangly maggot to tempt a big fish from the pool of contemporary historians to take a punt on the Voynich Manuscript. All plausible ideas on my part: but all so wrong, all brutally pareidolic.
Well… I now hear news that Dr. Gregory Hodgins at the University of Arizona is writing up the radiocarbon dating for submission in an (as-yet-unspecified) journal during January 2011, so perhaps things will start moving back on track then. Perhaps not, of course, but we shall see… fingers crossed, all the same. Just pretend I got the year wrong in my previous post, OK?
Finally, there’s a recent quote from Victor D. Huliganov that “the only way to win as a linguist with the Voynich manuscript is not to play” (appropriating the famous quote from the film War Games that “the only winning move [in nuclear war] is not to play”). Now this worries me: even though I’m 99% certain that linguists are on a losing game with the VMs (it’s an historical ciphertext, not a language, duh), it concerns me that other types of academics might use this as an excuse not to engage with it. So if anyone unexpected happens to ask you about the VMs during 2011, can I please ask you to tell him/her that:-
- It’s a genuinely old object, so normal forensic historical techniques should apply perfectly well to it
- We continue to untangle its complicated codicology and (probably 15th century) palaeography
- We’ve also made reasonable progress in grasping its provenance back to circa 1600-1610
- Though it’s anomalous in many respects, it’s not as if it’s alien – it’s just a damnably tricky artefact
- Contrary to widespread misinformation, there’s no direct evidence that it is a hoax because…
- Absence of evidence (of meaning) is not evidence of absence (of meaning)
Anyway, I’ve actually got far more interesting research leads to follow than I did last December, so I’m looking forward to 2011 in my own sweet way. Which is not to say I’m massively optimistic that they’ll bear fruit, but I’m going to keep on trying regardless, and I hope you do too. So have a Merry Christmas and – however you choose to spend your time – a revealing New Year! 🙂