Wowza – the long-awaited chemical analysis of the Voynich Manuscript’s inks by the McCrone Institute (you know, the one commissioned for Andreas Sulzer’s 2009 ORF documentary on the VMs) has just appeared sans fanfare on the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s Voynich page.

Feel free to read the report as a PDF, though note that it wouldn’t render in Internet Explorer for me, so I downloaded it directly (“Save Target As…”) and opened it in Adobe Reader. Its key conclusions are:-

* A single ink [typical iron gall] was “in all probability” used for both the main body of the text and for the drawings.
* A second ink [high iron] was used for the folio numbers.
* A third ink [high carbon, very low iron] was used for the quire numbers .
* A fourth ink [high carbon, very low iron] was used for the Latin alphabet on f1r.
* The blue paint was ground azurite “with minor amounts of cuprite, a copper oxide”.
* “The green paint is a mixture of copper-stained amorphous organic material optically consistent with copper resinate, and copper-chloride compounds consistent with atacamite or similar compounds”, but without any resins obviously present.
* Gum (presumably gum arabic) was used to bind the green paint and all the inks (apart from the Latin alphabet ‘a’ on f1r, which seems to have been bound with a protein), though “the spectra include several sharp peaks […] that are not expected for a gum as per the spectra in our library”, which “suggests the possibility of other constituents, which remain unidentified as of this date”. Note that the blue and red-brown paints were not tested for gum.

It’s going to take a while to digest this properly, basically because the Beinecke has only released the text part of the report, and none of the figures, photographs or reference spectra mentioned in the text. Other scans referred to in the text (such as UV scans of f1r, and presumably of f17r as this appeared in publicity montages for the documentary) are similarly absent: it would be particularly nice to see these as well, wouldn’t you say?

To my mind, the various ink compositions would seem to suggest that there were three distinct codicological phases: a first text/drawing phase (normal iron gall), a second quire number and f1r Latin alphabet phase (where the inks are different, but made to broadly the same house style), and a third folio numbers phase. All of which should be no great surprise to most Voynich researchers, but all the same I personally find it interesting that the quire numbers seem to have been added in the same general phase as f1r’s attempted cipher alphabet. It therefore seems likely that the quire numberer did not know how to decipher the VMs, a conclusion I reached several years ago via quite independent codicological means.

Finally, it is somewhat disappointing that the single most-debated piece of information is conspicuously absent: I refer, of course, to the suggestion that the ink was added not hugely long after the vellum was originally made. Which unfortunately means that many of the nuttier theories are still in play. Oh well: apart from that, it’s a nice piece of work, highly recommended!

180 thoughts on “Voynich – the McCrone report now online!

  1. Thanks Nick… great news, thanks. I posted a link to your announcement on the VMS-net. Rich.

  2. Diane O'Donovan on June 2, 2011 at 12:46 am said:

    Very curious that the Beinecke has not taken that opportunity to alter the date it suggests for the manuscript. Have we some problem with the carbon-dating?

    Beinecke para still reads “late fifteenth or early sixteenth century”.

  3. Pingback: Das Voynich-Blog » Blog Archiv » Das McCrone-Gutachten ist online

  4. José Carlos Fialho on June 2, 2011 at 5:27 am said:

    Thanks, Nick (and Rich!).
    Just a little observation to say that the folio numbers and the “michiton oladabas” text also seem to had been written with the same ink (high iron content), so it would be a part of your “third phase”.

  5. Rene Zandbergen on June 2, 2011 at 11:40 am said:

    Dear Nick, all,

    as I have been trying to point out (quite unsuccessfully, it seems) in the past, the McCrone analysis does not say anything about how long after the vellum creation the ink was applied.

    This is why this is not listed in the report.

    There was a general statement made along those lines in the press conference (but not by McCrone!), which has been propagated into the newspaper summaries, largely to this effect.

    Note that I was present at the press conference – I am not making this up.

    Somehow I feel, however, that this piece of misinformation will not die out just yet….

    Cheers, Rene

  6. José: you’re right… but there’s a lot more still to be said about this, and it will require a more detailed follow-up blog post to do it all justice. 😉

  7. Carmen on June 3, 2011 at 10:07 am said:

    I’m new here. But I’d like to make some contribution to the Voynich MS. Has anyone thought of the voynichese as alliterative words? I mean alliteration was quite used in the Middle Ages all over Europe. Although English poetry used much more frequently. I’ve found Petrarca used alliterative lines in his poems.
    So the repetitive nature of some words or some sounds in the voynichese lang.could be alliterations of some graphs. Well it was just an idea.

  8. I am most curious about the McCrone assertion that their finding of copper and zinc was “unusual”. If anyone has contact with the staff, please ask when, if ever, it was “usual” to find these elements in ink. Also, they suppose their presence could be caused by the ink coming from a brass inkwell… so is it known that brass inkwells can infuse ink with copper and zinc, or is this a guess on McCrone’s part? And lastly, can a brass pen nib either infuse ink with copper and zinc, or can copper and zinc rub off on a vellum/parchment surface from a nib, in normal use?

  9. Diane on June 4, 2011 at 7:46 am said:

    Well I’m happy. Pretty much all the copying done in the same place, at much the same time (one supposes) and by people either in the oak-gall belt, or with acces to a trade in same (was there one?).

    Wonder to what purpose, zinc was put in the fifteenth century?

  10. Diane on June 4, 2011 at 8:02 am said:

    Paper on distribution of gall-producing wasps at

  11. Diane on June 4, 2011 at 8:44 am said:

    I’m assuming the zinc was mineral, not organic. Nor it is clear when the spectra suggested the presence of pure zinc – or do I misread?

    Anyway “Brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc, has been used since at least the 10th century BC. Impure zinc metal was not produced in large scale until the 13th century in India, while the metal was unknown to Europe until the end of the 16th century.” The refs only wiki, but this might explain why Beinecke wants the date higher. Old story – Europeans want to think that no-one went from the Med to India before daGama. Twits.

  12. Diane on June 4, 2011 at 8:51 am said:

    or we could be looking at the Vinland map makers.

    “aluminum, zinc and gold that are present in the VindandMap ink strongly”

    Nick – please feel free to edit/telescope these consecutive posts iif you wish

  13. It is interesting but not that big a surprise that tests on the black inks differentiate between page numbers, quire numbers, the marginalia on folio 1r and the actual Voynichese text. Some of us, including Nick, had guessed this from palaeographical considerations.

    A significant negative result is that the tests do not bear out the hypothesis that there were two or more scribes. Sample 6 (47r) – said to represent Currier language A, scribe 1 – is not distinguished from samples 1, 9 and 13, said to represent language B and hands 2 and 3 (according to the notes in the EVMT transcription). Nor do the tests give us reason to think that sample 16, folio 116v, the pen trials, is distinct from the rest of the text. It may still be true that there was more than one scribe, but there is nothing in these results to substantiate the idea.

  14. Philip: all true, though I think it’s worth adding that the palaeographic complexities of f116v could never be resolved by a single ink sample (Sample 16) – the final chapter on the VMs’ marginalia has yet to be written. Also, I suspect the overall lesson about ink preference will turn out to be that it can be more of a long-term codicological constant than handwriting: I’ve suggested that Currier Hand 2 was no more than Currier Hand 1 but with smaller nibs (say, an eagle feather?), and that doesn’t seem to be obviously disproved by this class of evidence.

  15. Diane on June 4, 2011 at 10:57 am said:

    er – and tutia of course.

  16. Diane on June 4, 2011 at 1:44 pm said:

    Sorry Nick-

    I should have consulted Nicholson and Shaw before getting in a tizz about zinc and atacamite.

    Sure enough, the latter is a pigment found in analysis of colours used in papryi and zinc is a component of copper-bearing ores in the eastern desert. Large metal-workings and foundries etc at just the time and places that the imagery also indicates. For the later period, high carbon, low iron inks typical of Indian and Arab inks, while the usual pen-case (Qalander – spellings vary) is made of metal, and has inbuilt inkwell of the same material, so no probs there either. Cheers.

  17. Diane O'Donovan on June 5, 2011 at 2:46 am said:

    Have already mentioned this on the list, but might be useful here Nick:
    Mc Crone did an analysis on some Egyptian (common era, Coptic) texts, and here’s what they said about them:

    “McCrone Associates, a firm specializing in forensic ink analysis, conducted a transmission electron microscopy (TEM) test on samples of the document’s ink. The procedure uncovered the components used to create the ancient ink and found that they are consistent with ingredients in known inks from the third and fourth centuries A.D. The ink includes a carbon black constituent, in the form of soot, bound with a gum adhesive. An additional procedure, Raman spectroscopy analysis, established that the ink also included a metal-gallic component like those used in third-century iron-gall inks. McCrone Associates reports that the Gospel of Judas may have been penned with an early form of iron-gall ink that included a small amount of carbon black (soot). If so, it could be a previously unknown “missing link” between the ancient world’s carbon-based inks and the iron-gall alternatives that became popular in medieval times.”

  18. Diane O'Donovan on June 7, 2011 at 11:10 am said:

    It’s about atacamite. A french natural history museum says – (this is good for your thesis, Nick):
    “one finds atacamite in Italy, Gemany and in Greece.
    In France it is present in the cupriferous regions of Cape the Garonne in the Var, in Daluis (Alpes Maritime), close to Gisoni (Corsica) as in the Bas-Rhin (lower Rhine), as in Triembach la Valee”,149.html

    the bit about being used to dry inks came up in the web search, but I think needs a sign-in to find on the site.

  19. Diane O'Donovan on June 7, 2011 at 11:25 am said:
  20. Madagascar, eh? That’ll be handy if I ever have to screenwrite a Voynich-themed sequel to an animated children’s film. Which I’m not ruling out, BTW. 🙂

  21. Diane: thanks very much! It would be even more interesting if each of the various sources of atacamite you list has its own distinct chemical signature… As always, you never quite know to where any given VMs clue trail will lead (though Madagascar might possibly be stretching it a bit).

  22. Diane O'Donovan on June 7, 2011 at 1:29 pm said:

    It does.

    I refer to the relevant paper in my lastest blog post. Too annoyed with myself to add more:

  23. Diane O'Donovan on June 7, 2011 at 1:57 pm said:

    … but of course you knew that.

    Thanks Nick.

  24. Diane: I should have added “…and the McCrone people have all the different reference spectra in their library”. The first problem is that it’s far from clear (from the all-too brief mention in the report) whether what was noted in the spectra was indeed atacamite, or one of the many very similar forms of the same thing, or (as you point out) a byproduct of paratacamite breaking down, etc. It’s not yet as solid an evidence class as we would like – I’ve asked the Beinecke if it will post scans of the figures in the report on its website, so hopefully these should help firm this up, even if only a little.

  25. Diane O'Donovan on June 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm said:

    Nick if I were you, or someone else with likely contacts to the gentleman who pointed out which pages to analyse, I’d talk to him.

    Someone has certainly had a full two years in which to use that information and write a fairly hefty tome on the Voynich.

    I’ve decided not to go with my first response – whch was to scrap my blog and leave them to it I mean the Beinecke et. al.

    Instead, I’ll get my hard copy of a post about minerals and fol.86v + rondels, and repost the dam thing. It might give others a bit of a chance, anyway. But I do hope my childish efforts to decipher the script – (I suggested the labels on those rondels were an effort to transliterate Theophrastus’ Greek using a version of the south arabian scripts) wasn’t correct. Those posts I took down after a few months, but what bothers me is that all the mineral comments are not to be seen – save the key (without minerals) which I posted as a separate page.

    I’m not imagining anything sinister. Blogger recently had massive problems, and many posts temporarily vanished. Some,and numerous illustrations, just never reappeared.

    There are many reports on Raman spectroscopic analyses on the web. Failing that, phone Frost. Decent chap I gather. Don’t know him though.

  26. Diane: the McCrone analysis was sanctioned by the Beinecke curators, but was paid for by the documentary makers – so I suspect it was simply the case that they didn’t want to release the data until after it had eventually aired in the US. I doubt there’s anything more sinister than that going on here: I also strongly doubt there’s any kind of hefty Voynich tome in the offing.

  27. diane o'donovan on June 8, 2011 at 10:22 am said:

    Raman spectroscopy will identify minerals, and paratacamite is separate mineral from atacamite. It was defined so in the fifties, but I understand it is now established – thanks to that technique. It could also tell us whether the paratacamite did, or didn’t have zinc in the lattice, which in turn narrows the likely region where the manuscript might have been incscribed.

    In addition, the chemical profile set for colours used in a given culture, or environment is pretty definitive of origins for a painting, and McCrone is experienced in that side of things too.

    I find it hard to envisage a failure to analyse the colours, as well as the inks, which could have told us so much about provenance.

    Still, you could always just ask for a copy of the full report. What the Beinecke has published reads to me like part of the cover sheet /abstract to a lab report.

  28. diane o'donovan on June 8, 2011 at 10:42 am said:

    I don’t know where else to put this – but linguists might like to look at the scripts on finds from the Hoq cave in Socotra.

  29. diane o'donovan on June 8, 2011 at 11:20 am said:

    I’ve had another, slower read of the report. I think I’ve been unfair: the format is fair enough for a lay audience, and they had to allow, I suppose, for the amount of organics.

    Did I mention that the analysis for the woman’s face is very interesting; copper with titanium etc.

  30. diane o'donovan on June 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm said:

    Nick, Sorry – I’mprobably being a pest. But I thought you might like to see what such a report usually looks like.This one’s also relevant. The results from Beinecke 408 have other points in common with this map.

  31. Hi!

    You can find similtudes between old Ethiopian writing, the Hymiarit, and old Balaknic, the Glagolithic then compare them with Voynich.

    Athanasius Kircher also wrote about ancient Egypt and copt writing,maybe those pists are to explore.

  32. Nick, the site is inapproriate. Please remove this site.

    Menno Knul

  33. Menno: actually, because of the comment trolling that’s happened here recently, I think it makes a nice change to be able to put a face to a name. 🙂

  34. Nick, you get much more than a face. What’s the relevance to Cipher Mysteries ? Did you check the identity of the Alixia model ? Are you sure, that she is Alixia Busch ? Or is it a trolling again ?

    Menno Knul

  35. Byron Deveson on October 15, 2013 at 9:29 pm said:

    The Atacamite and Palmierite could be natural minerals, or they may be man made. At present there is not enough information available to clearly establish which is the case. However, I note that Atacamite, Palmierite and Syngenite occur around the fumaroles at Mt Vesuvius. The last two minerals are fairly rare, so this grouping at Mt Vesuvius is suggestive. I also note that Palmierite and Syngenite both occur in the slag at the Münsterbusch zinc smelter (locality North Rhine-Westphalia, Aachen, Stolberg). I also note that the suspected Atacamite did not yield a X-ray diffraction pattern and this suggests that the Atacamite in question is not a natural mineral, but is man made. This might explain the presence of tin in sample 11 if some scrap bronze was included with scrap copper used for the preparation of the copper pigment.

    The presence of mercury in samples 9 and 17 is consistent with a volcanic fumarolic provenance (ie such as Mt Vesuvius) for the iron oxide pigments. See: Mindat for more details regarding these locations.

    I also note that Azurite, Cuprite and iron oxides (iron ochres) of various types are all found at Mt Vesuvius.

    However, Palmierite can form on the surface of old oil paintings. See:**uk/paintings/research/meaning-of-making/vermeer-and-technique/altered-appearance-of-ultramarine

    “Boon et al., working on samples taken from ‘The Art of Painting’, suggest that lead soaps are an intermediary in the formation of potassium lead sulphate (palmierite).2 This type of alteration is also postulated by Van Loon who suggests that the first step in this reaction is the formation of lead and potassium soaps which are mobile and can migrate towards the surface of paint layer. These soaps then react with carbon dioxide and sulphur compounds at the surface to form insoluble complex salt mixtures such as potassium lead sulphates – the presence of oxalates adding to their insoluble character.”
    This opens the possibility that the Palmerite could be a reaction product formed during ageing of various materials in the original ink/paint.

    My conclusions? The grouping of the rare minerals Palmierite and Syngenite at the fumaroles at Mt Vesuvius, along with the presence of mercury, copper and zinc in some samples (these elements are commonly found in trace amounts around fumaroles), suggests that these minerals might have been obtained at Mt Vesuvius, or possibly from some other volcanic fumarole field.
    Much more work could, and should, be done on these samples. In particular, mass spectroscopic techniques could probably identify the organic materials (gums, resins etc) and also identify the possible sources of the mineral pigments (from isotopic ratios).

  36. I find nothing in the McCrone letter to the Beinecke library which would warrant or support that conclusion, so I must suppose you have formed your opinion from other sources.

    ~ for other readers perhaps I might add, without offence, that in the letter, PLM refers to Polarised Light Microscopy. Palmierite is (K,Na)2Pb(SO4)2 or as the McCrone letter puts it, raising the bare possibility of its presence in the red ochre’s crystalline phase (p.5) “a lead-potassium-sulfur compound”.

  37. Nick, Diane, Byron,

    I would like to see some ‘translation’ of the McCrone report to the balneological section of the VMS, as some pictures of the swimming pools are light blueish and others are dark greenish. I could imagine that the colourist changed his paint with a different effect on corrosion like e.g. in the Peutinger map, where blue gradually changed to dark green and almost black so that the black texts in those area’s (seas) are hardly visible now and the paper has been damaged. Would that not indicate the internal order of the quire (as Nick described earlier) ?

    Menno Knul

  38. Menno: as I wrote on the Voynich Codicology page (section #2), f78v and f81r without much doubt originally sat facing one another. These two pages were clearly painted later (and not by the original author), having been reordered beforehand.

  39. Rene Zandbergen on October 16, 2013 at 2:47 pm said:

    I keep this short as it probably won’t get past the spam filter….
    Samples 9-12 were from the balneological section. 10 from blue paint and 11 from green paint. In both cases the pigment was mineral, crystalline, so I suspect that they would not change colour

  40. Rene: no need to be worried about a spam filter if you’re not posting spam. 🙂

  41. Nick, I am not fully satisfied with your answer.
    In the text you refer to your arguments are restricted to
    1. the flow of water, and
    2. the stain in the red square.
    The argument of colour according to the McGrove report did not play a role in your analysis. Maybe the report was not yet available, when you wrote this text ?
    If f78v and f81r form the central pages, then one may suppose that the earliest pages would be painted in light blue and the following pages in darkened green or v.v. because of the change of paint (or painter). However, the light blue and darkened greenish pages seem to be fairly mixed, both before and after the central page and – Oh wonder ! – some of them are half way light blueish and dark greenish. What could be the explanation ?
    F76r seems to me the final page of the balneological section. It shows an index, followed by an epilogue, similar to the last page of the stars index at the end of the VMS.


  42. Menno: sorry, it was a typo on my part in the comment. Section (2) on the Voynich codicology webpage refers to the two pages with matching circular pools, f84v and f78r: it was only to that pair of pages that I was referring.

  43. Hello Nick
    There’s a problem with the subscribe box. The white print covers the ‘submit’ button, so you click it, it goes to the page not the subscribe screen.

  44. Diane: thanks for that, but the quick fix is simply to widen the browser window whereupon the problem goes away. I will try to fix this at a later date, though, because that whole box is looking a little bit tired now. 🙁

  45. B Deveson on October 19, 2013 at 11:21 am said:

    Diane, which of my conclusion do you disagree with? I have formed my conclusions from more than five decades of relevant experience.

  46. Dear B. Deveson,

    As I said, the McCrone letter does not say Palmierite is present in the red ochre pigment, only that it might be.

    For you to have formed such firm opinion that it is, and then used its presence to reach certain conclusions, would seem to indicate access to other and better information.

    I haven’t seen the raw data, nor spoken with the analysts, but if you’ve had that opportunity, and these informed your view, I’d be very glad if you’d pass it on too.

  47. Rene Zandbergen on October 20, 2013 at 9:30 am said:

    The McCrone report refers to Figure 8D, which I believe has not been published. In Figure 8D, Palmierite is mentioned (without a ‘maybe’).

  48. Rene,
    That is the passage to which I refer in the post above.

    I realise that the phrasing might cause confusion if read with absolute literalism, but i think the intent is clear enough:
    – quote –
    The red-brown paint was identified as a red ochre…. XRD [X-Ray diffraction] characterized the crystal phases present as consisting of hematite, iron sulphide [with] possibly minor amounts of lead sufide and palmierite.. (see figure 8D).
    – unquote
    One could insist that as the sentence stands, the ‘possibly’ refers not to the compound, but to how much of it is present, but in reality the tests themselves would determine whether the amount was minor or not, and most people used to reading such reports would automatically qualify the noun.

    So too, I take the author’s intent as follows:
    … characterized the crystal phases present as consisting of hematite, iron sulphide [and] possibly lead sulphide and palmierite in minor amounts.
    Now, I expect an engineer has often to read reports of earths and minerals, so i needn’t tell Rene that ‘palmierite’ is not an element, but a compound, and one with a range not limited to the default formula which I listed in an earlier post.
    Knowing precisely which (if any) compoound in the palmierite range were present in that red pigment – if it were – would be needed before it could serve in diagnostics.

    i stand by my original comment.

    Alone the McCrone letter does not permit such firm conclusions as B. Deveson’s, so I continue to assume his or her conclusions are based on more in addition.
    to that report.

  49. Yes, but the caption to Figure 8D reads:
    FIGURE 8D – XRD pattern of Sample 8, red-brown paint (palmierite).

  50. Rene
    I understand that you were closely involved with the choice of samples and so forth, and wonder whether it is possible for you to resolve this evident discrepancy by turning to your personal contacts?

    As a rule I would always give the written report – which says *possibly* palmierite in minor amounts – over the label for a chart/figure which I haven’t seen but which was presumably taken into account by the report’s signatory.

    There’s not much point in trying to force me to ignore the main report, or to give higher priority to a label written for a chart not in evidence.

    so my original comment stands. I assume that B. Deveson’s highly evolved argument must rely on something more than the covering letter from McCrone.

    There are no Figures in the online copy of the letter sent the Beinecke by McCrone, and as a rule, the written report takes precedence since it will re-consider each individual test and its results.

    So if we could see that Figure (which I can’t) we might understand why

  51. To be honest, for me this is a very subtle difference, and in any case the conclusion from Byron Deveson says: ‘might have been obtained’ which is a lot less certain, so I don’t see how it makes a difference.

  52. Rene
    Surely B. Deveson’s argument depends on whether or not palmierite is present.

    i gather your argument is that you find Bd’s argument attractive, to the point where you think it scarcely matters whether there is palmierite, or not, or how much, or what its precise signature might be.
    In that case, I sympathize. I can’t think of a single Voynich researcher who hasn’t been surprised to find that some argument, theory or possible evidence is greeted less enthusiastically by others than by themselves.

    I expect Gordon Rugg wonders why everyone didn’t just down tools and adopt his view of the text’s generation.

    I cannot see why it isn’t as clear to others as to me that folio 67v-i is not a chart for calculating lunar months, but tides by the moon.

    We just have to cope with the fact that “What i think” is not the same as “what is obviously right and true”

    here’s part of the problem. Palmierite is an oxidized galena ore compound, and galena ore is not all that “rare” that palmierite points directly to fumaroles. it occurs in Egypt, where I’ve never noticed a fumerole at all.

    on the subject of which, we also find atacamite in egypt since it only forms and survived in arid (dessicating, moisture-free) environments. but..
    In July and August, humidity levels can be high in Naples.

    and even allowing for changes in climatic conditions, Vesuvius is not that far from the sea, and Naples’ annual rainfall is round 35.9 inches per annum. That’s 1062mm per annum.

    McCrone offered no opinion on where the pigments were obtained. Fair decision, i’d say.

  53. thomas spande on October 22, 2013 at 7:33 pm said:

    Dear all, Are we all getting into the weeds or not? For sure there is original coloring and many accretions of later coloring. From what I gather the pigments tested make no effort to discern whether the pigments were laid down with the ink-outlined plant drawings or were added later.

    If the word “palmierite” is used, that can be a generic for formulae of the type: A3M2O8 where A is strontium or barium; M is phosphorous, arsenic, vanadium or chromium and a common one is Pb3V2O8. Maybe the latter is the one referred to but not clear.

    Fumaroles are all over the Mediterranean; why focus on the areas around the Bay of Naples?

    There are four known isotopes of iron, Fe of atomic weights 54, 56,57 and 58. The first three could be easily measured with mass spectrometry, the latter is only 0.35% the abundance of Fe-56.. Maybe, just maybe, the isotope ratios vary enough, place to place, so some idea of the venue where the Voynich was enscribed could be deduced.

    BTW, I have not seen the original McCrone report. Could someone direct me to a link? Thanks in advance, Tom

    (out of action for a bit due to an industrial strength bronchitis, then US gov shut down. Uggh

  54. thomas spande on October 23, 2013 at 8:28 pm said:

    Folks, Why Vesuvius when Sulfatarra is on the level and one would just have to bend over and scoop up the deposits from many active fumaroles? Same area but no hike up Vesuvius is required. When I last saw Vesuvius (ca.1970) the fumaroles were way down in the crater. Nothing on the hike upward that I recall.

    I reiterate one point that Nick alludes to. We need chemical analysis on pigments that we know are at least contemporaneous with the text inking, then with the line drawings of the plants, which do appear also to be iron-gall ink.. Then as Nick points out, we need some way of assurring ourselves, beyond an educated guess, that the text inking was done shortly after the vellum was prepared. Aye, there’s the rub! Even carbon dating of the supposed gum Arabic, resinates (whatever those are) or gallates isn’t definitive as the organic stuff could have been around for years before use. But, if C-14 dates were close to early 15thC, that would be useful to know. In short, we need some way of dating either 1) original colored inks or water colors (I think the original coloring, where it remains were either of those) or 2) the galls or gallic acid used in the text ink. At least this would give an upper date limit for the date of enscribing the VM. Cheers, Tom

  55. thomas spande on October 23, 2013 at 8:41 pm said:

    To Menno and others, Might not blue coloration in the bathing section refer to fresh water whereas the green is mineral containing water. Sometimes blue is shown overlaying the green which could indicate the green water has a greater density associated with mineral springs. Note that the baths are all shallow, wading pools really. I have argued that these might be cisterns, found in places like the Greek island of Chios. No need to buy into that venue but just to note that these pools are invariably shown as shallow. Cheers, Tom

  56. B Deveson on October 24, 2013 at 5:16 am said:

    Diane, I disagree with a few things that you have said.

    “here’s part of the problem. Palmierite is an oxidized galena ore compound”

    Not so. It is correct to say it is a lead(2) compound, but there are no records of palmierite formed as a natural oxidation product of galena or any other lead mineral. Under very unusual physico-chemical condition it can apparently be formed in a lead ore smelting furnace, but these conditions must be rarely attained because there is only one recorded occurrence of palmierite in furnace slag. palmierite could possibly occur mixed with galena as a fumarole product , but there are no records of such a mixture.

    “….. and galena ore is not all that “rare” that palmierite points directly to fumaroles.”

    Yes, galena is one of the common minerals. But, Palmierite is a very rare mineral. If it could form as a natural oxidation product of galena, or any other lead ore for that matter, it would not be as rare as it is. The mineralogical type locality for palmierite is Mt Vesuvius. That is where it was first identified (in 1907).

    The only places palmierite has been found as a natural mineral are: (from the Mindat and other sources)

    1) Mt Vesuvius.

    2) Austria. Ancient lead and zinc mine. Located on the north slope of Bastenberg mountain, about 3 km WSW of Ramsbeck.

    3) Germany Zinkhütte Münsterbusch (Schlackenvorkommen), Stolberg, Aachen, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Deutschland. Slag dumps (‘Halde Fettberg’ and ‘Halde Kohlbusch’), now recultivated, of a long abandoned smelter (1834-1967). Located near Stolberg, ESE of Aachen.

    4) Germany Grube Bastenberg, Ramsbeck, Meschede, Sauerland, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Deutschland. Ancient lead and zinc mine. Located on the north slope of Bastenberg mountain, about 3 km WSW of Ramsbeck.

    5) Ramsbeck, Meschede, Sauerland, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Deutschland.
    Ancient lead and zinc mining area, worked since the 14th century. 26 adits/mines existed along the 10-km extension of the vein system (“Bastenberg-Dörnberg-Gangzug”).
    The last mines were abandoned in 1976; one of them was turned into a tourist mine.
    Only the dumps of the Bastenberg and Alexander mines are still accessible.

    6) A fumarole in Kamchatka.

    “….. it (palmierite) occurs in Egypt, where I’ve never noticed a fumerole at all.”

    Yes, there are no modern fumaroles in Egypt. I am fully aware that palmierite has been found in small amounts (2%) in one sample of Middle – New Kingdom cosmetic. But these lead based cosmetics were manufactured from lead ore (galena and/or cerussite) by wet chemical processes. I know that D.C. Creagh and D.A. Bradley, in Radiation in Art and Archeometry say that “Since not all the seams of galena and cerussite mined were of the same quality, the ancient Egyptians must have sometimes encountered difficulties extracting the required pure compounds from the ore. Thus some traces of lead and zinc compounds known for being oxidised galena ore, are found in the samples: anglesite PbSO4. suzannite Pb4(CO3)2PbSO4(OH)2 palmierite K2Pb(SO4)2 .” Unfortunately, the statement “… for being oxidised galena ore …” (which you quoted) appears to imply that palmierite was present in the original ore, whereas there are no records of palmierite being found as either a natural oxidation (weathering) product of galena, or occurring as an accessory mineral with galena. I think the authors intended to say that palmierite can be formed by the oxidation of lead ore such as galena followed by further chemical processing (ie manufacture).

    The processes used by the Egyptians to manufacture lead based cosmetics were documented by later writers (Greek and Roman). But, I do note that there is evidence that palmierite can form on oil paintings that have been treated with lead soaps (as a lacquer and to harden paint).
    Some of the Egyptian cosmetics contain oils and fats, so it is quite possible that the palmierite in the Egyptian cosmetic sample was formed by the reaction of the lead compounds with fats/oils to form lead soaps. These lead soaps could then react with potassium and sulphate containing materials in the cosmetics to form palmierite. This reaction is occurring in restored paintings (the lead varnish is reacting with potassium alum in lining glue; Google Vermeer and palmierite).

    ” …. on the subject of which, we also find atacamite in egypt since it only forms and survived in arid (desiccating, moisture-free) environments.”

    Not so. The environmental conditions under which atacamite can form are indeed as you have stated. But, atacamite is clearly metastable under normal environmental conditions. In other words, atacamite can only form in a narrow window of physico-chemical parameters, but once it is formed it is stable well outside that window (ie outside arid conditions).

    “…. but.. -quote- In July and August, humidity levels can be high in Naples.
    -unquote- and even allowing for changes in climatic conditions, Vesuvius is not that far from the sea, and Naples’ annual rainfall is round 35.9 inches per annum. That’s 1062mm per annum.”

    Atacamite is clearly metastable under the conditions at Naples; the evidence is:
    1) Atacamite does occur at Mt Vesuvius (check Mindat and any other mineralogical sites).
    2) Atacamite occurs in the inks of many illuminated manuscripts, Voynich included. Most of these manuscripts would have spent most of their existence in damp storage areas.
    3) There is a sample of atacamite crystals in a museum near me, and this sample was taken over a hundred years ago. The sample is sitting in a display case, exposed to ambient temperature and humidity.
    4) Mineral collectors are very careful about the storage of specimens, and specimens that are unstable are stored under appropriate conditions. Atacamite mineral specimens don’t require storage under a dry atmosphere.

    My position on these matters is that I have an open mind. One piece of firm contrary evidence is all that is required and I reject the hypothesis that some of the pigments used in the Voynich document originated at Mt Vesuvius. I should also add that my understanding is that in the early fifteenth century scribes made all their own inks from raw materials that they mostly collected themselves. So, locating the source(s) of the mineral pigments may identify the scribe.

  57. B Deveson on October 24, 2013 at 5:41 am said:

    I doubt that the McCrone people are using the word “palmierite” to describe the generic A3M2O8 group of crystals you have mentioned. The McCrone people identified lead in the material they identified as possible palmierite. Also, the A3M2O8 group of minerals as you describe are wholly artificial and have been manufactured only recently. I note that the crystals of Pb3V2O8 required 48 hours at a temperature conditions of 1,350 degrees Centigrade to form.

    Yes, there are fumaroles all over the Mediterranean. But there are only two fumaroles that produce palmierite; Mt Vesuvius and one in Kamchatka. There is no record of palmierite at Sulfatara.

    I note that Vesuvius became quiescent at the end of the 13th century and “in the following years it again became covered with gardens and vineyards as of old. Even the inside of the crater was filled with shrubbery.” Vesuvius remained quiescent until December 1631, so a scribe of the 14th Century could have recovered material from the fumaroles.

  58. Dear B. Deveson,
    I’m glad you’ve now found Creagh and Bradley, but I think that passage is not open to the interpretation you’ve put on it. They say quite clearly..
    “… lead and zinc compounds known for being oxidised galena ore..[viz]: anglesite PbSO4. suzannite Pb4(CO3)2PbSO4(OH)2 palmierite K2Pb(SO4)2.

    Oxidation is the key here and, as with atacamite, it can be produced not only by the direct processes of mineral formation, or deliberately man-made compounds but also by environmental effects on either – which is why you find atacamite forming on surfaces as diverse as papryi in Egypt and paintings in Russia or Spain.

    With regard to the very small and non-randomised sampling of the Vms, normally one would attempt to say nothing definitive, since the sampling method was (to speak technically only) corrupt. This is no criticism of McCrone; they were not in control of every stage of the testing process and I note there is no mention even of whether any persons had recently touched the folios, or under what conditions.

    But even given these fairly serious flaws in method (again, speaking only technically, and without implied criticism of McCrone) we’re still restricted to a very small number of samples, not taken by standard methods for randomisation, and taken in amounts necessarily so small that the usual duplications may or may not have been available.

    under such conditions, more leeway must be allowed in the routine error-margins especially when samples are so minute that the cover letter is obliged to say no more than that palmierite and atacamite (or some related compound0 ‘may’ be present.

    That’s about all that can reasonably be said – one certainly cannot from that determine either where the pigments were obtained, let alone where they were used.

    For the last, competent ‘raw’ codicological assessment – in this case assessments – are essential, and both considered in the context of information offered both by text and iconography.

    Pigments, like parchment, were items of trade.

    The sort of criteria used to describe potential sources for raw minerals do not apply when discussing substances used as pigments, especially not on parchment six centuries aged.

    For that, has to consider a range of relevant tests and data; from pictures produced within a given region, in a given period, to compare incidence and concentrations of (for example) atacamite and palmierite in the presence of zinc and copper. I’ve considered evidence from recent analyses of works from Egypt, Russia and elsewhere, but at present the iconographic and technical information – together – are directing my attention to the south-eastern corner of the Black Sea where, you may be pleased to hear, hot springs are to be found in Tblisi.

    But in short – McCrone did the tests; their covering letter does not say there was palmierite in the red ochre, and they are right not to speculate from the pigment data about likely sources for those used in the Vms.

    – in my respectful opinion –

  59. thomas spande on October 24, 2013 at 5:44 pm said:

    To Diane or any one else caring about palmierite. Diane is undoubtedly correct in at the McCrone investigators are referring to the mineral discovered in 1906 by the director of the Vesuvius observatory.Palmieri, and named in his honor. It does have the formula (K,Na)2Pb(SO4)2 as Diane indicated. It is white and has double refraction and occurs after some chemical pretreatment as mica-like laminar crystals. I found a pdf of the McCrone report and note that some confusion may have arisen from the paragraph on page 5 where the rootlet of the plant on f47r is “possibly”palmierite but of the potassium type while Table 1, sample 8, just indicates “Palmierite”. It would seem that the ID was made by an X-ray technique where the crystalline symmetry of the crystal would have led to its identification as the rare palmierite. Whether than get into where it might have been obtained in the early 15th C, I suspect that the red ochre coloration of the root is not original coloration anyway,with the possible exception of some of the root hairs. I doubt also that the green leaves have original color either. Palmierite would amount to a mineral incorporating both Pb(SO4) and either or both of K2(SO4) and Na2(SO4). McCrone indicates only the former is present with Pb(SO4) and the latter is a common additive in making lead paints.It is also “white” which to some might really be white and to others “water white” or transparent.

    I was more interested in the IR of the binding medium used in the writing and drawing inks. The IR bands (1100-1000) as the report indicates are not found in gum arabic. I suspect these are C-O stretching bands and might be found in sugars such as glycerine or honey. I think it might be more profitable to explore different formulations that were known to have been used in the prepartion of iron gall inks. Or have the McCrone lab go after this with one of the more modern mass spectral techniques like matrix assisted desorption. Cheers,

    ps. The McCrone report is odd in that the instrumentation involved is not identified as to manufacturer. Also I am wondering who the hey is Dr.Alfred Vendl and who were the Pro-Omnia representatives. Evidently there was a CD available that was “included with the report”. What happened to that?

  60. Diane, Thomas,

    I am not a chemist. So I am a bit puzzled about your discussions, especially about the impact on our knowledge of the VMS as Nick described in his first introduction of the McCrone report. The general idea would be, that the colours have been added to the designs of the plants at a later stadium, not necessarily by the designer himself. If these colours contain low amounts of volcanic palmierite and atacamite from the Vesuvius regio these could have been absorbed by plants used to make inks and colours, I think. Please clarify.

    Menno Knul

  61. thomas spande on October 25, 2013 at 5:11 pm said:

    Dear all, particularly Menno,

    I think Voynichers are in agreement that the coloration of everything in the VM has received application of new colorants over many years, likely in the hundreds of years. Some media like crayons did not exist until the 19thC. I think that original coloration can be seen by inspection but a lot has faded, paricularly browns. The overuse of intense blue and red (orange sometimes) for flowers is, I think, unusual enough to merit comment and I think (probably alone), that these are yin/yang symbology.

    The McCrone report (I have only the overall report but lack the figures) really perplexes me. Why on earth use such rare minerals as palmierite and syngenite,when both are white or transparent or translucent depending on the source? Syngenite is found mainly in mines, the most common one being in Kalush,Ukraine. The Smithsonian Institution’s hansome specimen comes from there, incidentally a city where the Armenians of Kaffa fled to after being expelled along with the Genoese in 1475. The Armenians there (99K) consitute the world’s 11th largest community. Well ignoring that little factoid, the question remains, why use such rare exotic minerals to provide color that likely was not original. I sort of doubt that they were incorporated into plants and kept the same crystal structure and formulae. The McCrone IDs had to have been done by X-ray diffraction of the crystals. Perhaps these minerals had some symbolic significance as in some alchemical use? I am just baffled as to why go for these rare things that are just white anyway. Perhaps they made the piments flow more easily but wouldn’t Pb(SO4) accomplish the same thing?

    The formulation of iron gall ink nearly always had gum arabic usually from sap from acacia tree) but evidently not so in the VM if I read the rather confusing statement on page 4 of the McCrone report where it seems that the inks of the VM did not use gum arabic? Not having seen their Fig 1D. I cannot figure out what they are referring to as “per the spectra in our library” I assume that gum arabic would be in their library? If it is true that the superb iron gall inks of the VM did NOT use gum arabic, I think we have been handed a huge, possibly very important clue. I know that honey and sugars were sometimes used for iron gall inks but gum arabic was such a common article of commerce that whatever was used to replace it must have been judged by the scribes of the VM to be superior. Gum arabic appears in BC docs; Dioscorides used it in his herbals. Well, if anyone can find the figures to the McCrone report, I would appreciate knowing of how to obtain them? Cheers

  62. Dear Thomas,
    There is some confusion in the minds of some researchers about how to locate the sources for minerals as distinct from mineral compounds and derivatives.

    If you keep a blog and write on the difference, I expect the post might attract a lot of interest.

    Like so much that is said about the Voynich manuscript there is a necessary qualifier missing here. You say ‘crayons weren’t known…’ but wax crayons were only unknown *in Europe* till the time you specify, and even then probably unknown only as an artist’s medium. Mixing colour with wax was not unknown elsewhere – it was used among other things for resist-dyeing. So rather than indicating distance in time, if crayon were used, it might indicate (as so much does) geographical distance from Europe.

    Similarly, members of the Voynich mailing list may have come to consensus that the pigments were added over a very long time, but I sincerely doubt it because the pigments used, in general, changed over time and those identified are closely compatible with an early fifteenth century date – in Europe as elsewhere.

    Since I cannot add a link here without upsetting ye SpammeFilter, I’ll try to use the ‘website’ space to link to a handy guide to pigments over time.

    PS – nothing wrong with a Russian source for any pigment. I’m informed that Red ochre traditionally came from Nubia, southern Asia minor (Miletos) and the Crimea, for which reason the Greeks called it ‘miltos’.

  63. I stand corrected. ‘Miltos’ is used for the extracted red oxides & see also
    E. Photos-Jones, A. Cottier, A. J. Hall and L. G. Mendoni, ‘Kean Miltos: The Well-Known Iron Oxides of Antiquity’,
    The Annual of the British School at Athens
    Vol. 92, (1997), pp. 359-371 [JSTOR]
    ‘Kean’ is now used of the island of Chios; ‘Chia’ reserved for taxonomic descriptions.

  64. thomas spande on October 25, 2013 at 9:13 pm said:

    Diane, I thought all Voynichers accepted that coloration was done at many times after the initial colors of the plants, etc. had been laid down? Some of the coloration is intense and has led to a lot of bleed through; other coloration, some of which is so carefully applied as not to exceed the delineation of the plant stems and does not bleed. Are we to believe then that many hands were involved in the initial coloration; some heavy handed and others with a lighter touch. I mention crayon as a possible medium as it certainly looks like it in many plants and even some bathing scenes, It could well have been applied in Europe but I am sure you are right in that waxy coloration existed elsewhere and much earlier.

    I was under the impression that accretions of coloration like geological strata was dogma but maybe I do not speak for a majority? I thought the idea that hasty coloration was added to the VM perhaps to enhance the likelihood of a fast sale of the VM was a pretty good idea and had been around for years. Maybe not? Anyway, I will locate a few pages where 1) the colors don’t match; 2) a lot of coloring past the lines is seen or 3)some original coloration still exists. Am I alone in entertaining the notion that coloration of the VM was done over the years,long after the original drawings and coloration was done? Drafty out here alone. Cheers, Tom

  65. thomas spande on October 25, 2013 at 9:28 pm said:

    Dear all, gallic acid can come from many sources but galls on species of oak are the best sources. These can be oaks, sumacs, myrobalan as well as pistachio, pomegranate rind (B mentions this in her post of July 20 of this year. Turns out a lot of iron gall inks do exists using pomegrante rind but tend to be lighter in color than oak galls. AleppoSyrian galls were prized as were Turkish and Chinese gall nuts. Turns out sugars were often used in inks and included honey. Most iron gall inks were freshly made as mould was a constant problem with stored inks. I am still searching for gums that might have been used to replace gum arabic. This would be an unusual formulation.

  66. thomas spande on October 25, 2013 at 9:38 pm said:

    Diane, Thanks in advance for the low down on Chian, Kean, Chios etc. Chiot has also been used. I have usually just used Chios as that was the name when the Genoese controlled it.

  67. Thomas,
    If you’ve seen anything in print or online on the subject – I mean data relating to intervals between applications of Voynich ms pigments, I’d be most grateful for the reference.

    When mineralogical data bases specify locations for a mineral, they are speaking about the ‘rock’ as it were – the sort of thing you could dig out and put on a shelf, or scrape up and fill a bag with. Pigments, though, may be mixed from ingredients gained from widely diverse sources – imagine a Cu green with a Pb white. The Pb itself mightn’t be quite pure: say a Pb-Zn. If you tested that paler green after 600 years, you get results showing all these, plus impurities in either, or in the environment at time of mixture or later, plus results of ther interactions and processes of decay. So atacamite (to take that example) may be recognised where no pure atacamite was originally used, but formed from a copper-based blue (more usually a green) as the artefact was retained in an arid environment – not necessarily hot, just moistureless. Typically, in that case, atacamite would be found on papyri, or decaying frescos or religious icons. But it’s not possible to say ‘ah, a infinitesimal amount of atacamite’ and immediately suppose it came from some pure mineral source nearby – though when you find it applied in pure, as you do in some cave paintings, and there are lumps of pure atacamite ten meters from the cave mouth, it can be a fair bet. 🙂

    But that’s why the expert’s report, or in this case covering letter, is always preferred over something like the simple results recorded in a label – the expert knows the difference between a result that is likely to be significant in context and one which is not. So the machine says a compound is ‘present’ – it would register something like atacamite or paratacamite and the expert evaluation will consider the amount, proportion and other data, and refer to that result using appropriately general, or specific terms. In this case the expert said that palmierite ‘might’ be present, and that’s as far as anyone can reasonably take the issue. IMO

  68. B Deveson on October 27, 2013 at 2:31 pm said:

    Re: you questions: “Why on earth use such rare minerals as palmierite and syngenite,when both are white or transparent or translucent depending on the source?”
    Palmierite and syngenite would probably be present in small amounts in the various iron oxides (iron ochres) that form in and near suitable fumaroles such as those at Mt Vesuvius. Most minerals occur intermixed with other minerals. Well crystallised mineral specimens are exceptional. By minerals, I mean minerals formed by earth processes. But even with the weathering products on metals (copper, bronze, iron, etc) the chemical compounds that are formed are usually mixtures of chemical compounds.

    “.. the question remains, why use such rare exotic minerals to provide color that likely was not original.” Because these rare minerals were just un-noticed accessory minerals, impurities if you like, that did not adversely affect the iron ochre.

  69. thomas spande on October 28, 2013 at 5:59 pm said:

    To B.Deveson, Things may be as you allege with the rare mixed in by accident with the more common. The first sample of pamierite that was identified as a new mineral was not until 1907 and was obtained the 1906 eruption of Vesuvius and was obtained only after pretreatment to remove another accompanying more common mineral. One has to assume that the pigments of the VM used minerals either from fumaroles like that of Vesuvius in the early 15thC or that, perish the thought, the mineral-containing pigments were applied at a much later time than the vellum was made. I take your word for it that syngenite is also found in fumaroles; I have found only mines mentioned. Whatever the source, I take your point that they might just have been unwittingly incorporated into pigments such as that odd little ochre rootlet of f47r where iron minerals (Fe3O4; FeS) were chosen for the red brown color BTW, How unique would the fumarole of Vesuvius be as a source of palmierite and syngenite? Are we locked into that source alone? Cheers,Tom

  70. thomas spande on October 28, 2013 at 6:35 pm said:

    Diane, I cannot give any dates as to when additional coloration was added. It seems to me, in the plant section, to be of two types, 1) strengthening the green or brown-red colors of the central stem or 2) retinting completely or partially leaves, buds and blossoms. The following of type 1 (the most common by far with at least 33 examples) would be typified by f18r,18v, 20v, 31r, 32v, 35v. Note that on f40v, the greens don’t match in hue. As an aside the VM central stems are vertical or very close to it, unlike some of the Greek herbals where plants are shown with the roots on the lower left side of the folio with the upper part lying to the right, not erect at all.

    Of type 2, some examples are f2v (thistle bud on left), 2v, lower left and right edge of lily pad, 3r, 4v, 8r, 9r, 10v, 13v,15v, 16r, 18r rootlets. 9r violet, top is original color, others retouched in whole or part,

    I lack any formal training in art media but it appears to me that some overpainting or retinting was done with an opaque watercolor like goache, for example f27r, 55v(along stem), 56v (at base of leaves). On crayoning: I will not get into examples of this as you could be correct that its use outside of Europe was likely earlier so dating using crayoning is not going to be useful. Goache, might also have originated in several places.

    I still am pondering what I think the McCrone report alleges about the iron gall ink used in the VM in that it may contain NO gum arabic. Since they were working only with an infrared data base, it seems it would not catch gum arabic admixed with some sugary thing like honey or maybe glycerine. Here some additional analytical technique like mass spec is needed. Cheers, Tom

    ps. I can only guess that retinting was done as necessary and that would be when the original watercolor or ink had faded. I have seen many medieval ms where the colors have not faded and wonder why they have in the VM? I think in some cases the original coloration is totally gone. Blues fade but are still evident. Browns likewise.

    pps. Where overpainting is done a lot is the pharma section and the roots are frequently targeted. Very carelessly and incompletely in most cases.

  71. thomas spande on October 28, 2013 at 7:31 pm said:

    Dear all, I have a problem also with the “mercuric compound” traces in f78r iron gall ink, and 70v where the drawing around the woman’s face uses it as well as titanium and tin compounds. It is evidently NOT cinnibar or vermillion (HgS). A natural black form of the sulfide is known as “Ethiops” mineral. Red and yellow oxides of Hg are also known. Most are really toxic so nib licking would not be advisable.

    Diane asked recently for source books. The Merck index as well as one of the handbooks of chemistry is useful. I have an old Lang’s handbook that has a good inorganic section. Otherwise Google is OK.

    Copper and zinc are often minor impurities in mined ferrous sulfate. Maybe brass but from my reading around, iron gall ink was used quickly and usually kept in a glass inkwell so that mould could be spotted.

  72. Diane, Thomas,

    From your discussion it is clear to me, that the amounts of palmierite, atacamite and maybe other chemical substances occur as impurities only. It has been said, that they come from Mt. Vesuvius, but that should not necessarily be the case, because all over the Apenines you may find stinking hot volcanic wells and ponds as I have experienced myself. Local women use such ponds for washing clothes or for medical care. They don’t mind the stench of rotten eggs.

  73. B Deveson on October 29, 2013 at 10:36 am said:

    More than 150 different minerals have been noted at Mt Vesuvius, including minerals that have been used to make iron gall ink (various iron oxide minerals and other iron minerals. See: Mindat and
    In particular, lapis lazuli occurs at Mt Vesuvius and this must have attracted the attention of scribes and people who collected the raw materials to sell to scribes and others. And while the collectors were there they would have picked up the atacamite and the iron oxides, and any other useful pigment minerals.
    It is likely that the minerals, the iron oxides in particular, would carry traces of mercury. Traces of mercury is likely on geochemical grounds.
    It should be noted that fumaroles in general do not produce anything more than steam containing some hydrogen sulphide. Mt Vesuvius is exceptional.
    We know that Mt Vesuvius was quiescent in the 15th Century. There was lapis lazuli and this, as a valuable pigment, would have attracted collectors.

  74. thomas spande on October 29, 2013 at 5:17 pm said:

    Menno and Deveson and anyone interested. There is a meeting of techtonic plates in the Mediterranean waters on either side of Greece and consequently abundant fumaroles. Large ones (typified by the Stephanos Crater) are at Nisyros (6 smaller ones also) . Nisyros is south of the Greek island of Kos and not far from the Turkish coast at Datca. Oddly enough, yesterday an earthquake was reported at Nisyros. There are many fumaroles in the Dodecanese isles (E.side of Greece) or Aeolian is (W.side). The toxic fumarolic gases on some islands necessitate the use of gas masks but tours persist. On the subject of minerals from fumaroles, the current prize winner seems to be one in El Salvador where a least nine new vanadate minerals were discovered between ’79 and ’88 and seem to bear the names of various cronies of the discoverers. It does seem to me that fumaroles might exist where the sublimates did have useful minerals to serve as pigments and these then became articles of commerce. Perhaps we are restricting ouseves too much by only concentrating on Vesuvius or even the Appenines?

    On a different but related topic, Note that f49v has an outer edge of two leaves that have a little blueish area. It might be the case that whatever green was used, it is fugative and that repainting was not thoroughly done. McCrone seems sort of vague as to the green pigment used, suggesting atacamite and copper resinate. Atacamite is not a stable pigment and slowly reacts with air CO2, going from Cu2(OH)3Cl to Cu2(CO3)(OH)2 with HCl being lost. By anisotropic, the McCroners are just saying that the thing was not crystalline. Green is such a predominate color in the plant section and in several hues that one would have hoped for some better data.

  75. thomas spande on October 29, 2013 at 7:33 pm said:

    Dear all, A correction. The Aeolian islands are closer to Sicily in Italy than to Greece and includes Stromboli (Mt. Aetna). So ignore my comment on Greece and Aeolian fumaroles. Those are italian fumaroles.

    Malachite was considered a pigment that was plant colored. It is not very stable to acids but was the most widely used green pigment in 15th-16thC Italy. It is the oldest known green pigment. It has the formula:CuCO3-Cu(OH)2 and may occur together with azurite (2CuCO3-Cu(OH)2, which was known to the ancients as lapus armenius. The mixed minerals are spectacularly pretty with deep blue and deep green mixed.

  76. Thomas, I agree. When I compare the description of pigments given by Dana Scott, or reported in d’Imperio, with the content of McCrone’s covering letter it is a huge disappointment. But McCrone was not asked to design or conduct the test as such, only to process samples which they did not choose.The library permitted only five samples to be taken, it’s true, but had McCrone been simply given the brief to report on the pigments, they’d have used a range of the non-destructive tests we have today.

    The part which most disappoints me is their testing against mopa-mopa, the least likely to yield anything but negative results. Perhaps the story-writers were hoping for a surprise south-American angle?

  77. Dear B. Deveson,
    Have you any theory about why the pigments include no vermilion?
    I’d be interested to look at sources you’d recommend (apart from mindat), describe the fifteenth century pigments’ industry and trade.

  78. Thomas,
    Hope you have journal access – I found this useful when it ws published.
    Lucia Burgio, Robin J. H. Clark, Richard R. Hark and Harry B. Gray, ‘Raman microscopy and x-ray fluorescence analysis of pigments on medieval and Renaissance Italian manuscript cuttings’, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , Vol. 107, No. 13 (March 30, 2010), pp. 5726-5731.
    I know you’e more interested in the Armenian mss, but it’s a good essay with plenty of contextual information as well as hard data.
    There have been studies done on Armenian vs Byzantine pigments. One of these preferred vegetable over mineral pigments; the other vice versa as I recall. If you like I can check the notes I made when researching this, but by now they’re two years and more old.

  79. thomas spande on October 29, 2013 at 9:58 pm said:

    Diane, Thanks for the ref. I was aware of abstracts of this work but not the full paper in PNAS. Cheers, Tom

    ps. I see already a nomenclature problem, One pigment ref I have indicates azurite and lazurite to be the same mineral. I tend to trust Clark. Interesting that Green is sometimes made from blue and yellow!

  80. B Deveson on October 30, 2013 at 1:42 am said:

    Dear Diane,
    I notes that cinnabar, which is the mineral form of vermilion as you would be aware, does not occur at Mt Vesuvius, nor do any other minerals containing mercury as a major component. So that may be why the VM lacks any vermilion pigment? But traces of mercury in suitable minerals such as iron oxides would be expected on geochemical grounds and that may be the reason why a trace of mercury shows up in the iron gall ink.
    I am away from my records at present, but I will dig into them for suitable references when I get a chance. I claim no particular knowledge of the pigment trade in the 15th Century, apart from what I have picked up due to my lifelong interest in early chemistry.

  81. There are paper on the lazuite/azurite issue i- or disparity between different periods as between medieval texts and analytical results. I think I have a couple on file, so let me know if you’d like details.

    Also, for info about raman etc., if you can find any of Hall’s reports online they’re highly enlightening. Unfortunately (as with many archaeological reports) they are often commissioned and so not for general publication.

  82. PS Thomas
    I missed your first post of the 28th – just read it. Feel confident that you’ll sort out the pigment questions, so intend leaving that alone, as I do the palaeography (Nick’s preserve) and the horrible business of decryption. :).

    From my point of view, the most interesting points though are (i) the lack of vermilion (ii) absence of gum arabic, (iii) inclusion of copper resinate. The last is a date-marker for manuscripts; the second points to a tradition or region beyond the Latins’ and the first might – just possibly – suggest work done in regions where vermilion’s use was then a limited prerogative. Not in mainland Latin scriptoria, of course, where vermilion is one of the constants.

  83. Forgive – but I’ve had a forehead-smacking moment!

    Knew I’d read about synergite and palmierite occuring together in pigment.. just couldn’t recall where.

    What threw me was the dates – it is typical of artefacts, especially glass, affected by uranium. But in Europe, uranium glass is very late – I just wasn’t thinking in those terms.

    There is one outlier, a mosaic dated to 79 AD,which contains some yellow glass with 1% uranium oxide (Cape Posillipo in the Bay of Naples) but while fuss was made about it on discovery (by the astrolabe chap R. T. Gunther, actually, in 1912), it is now considered unimportant, statistically. To quote someone else, for form’s sake:
    “1% uranium was found in Roman glass mosaic date 79 D, though the deliberate use of uranium containing mineral is suggested there, it should be considered an isolated example.”

    Rainer Richter, ‘Between Original and Imitation: Four Technical Studies in Basse-Taille Enameling and Re-Enameling of the Historicism Period’, The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art , Vol. 81, No. 7 (Sep., 1994), pp. 222-251. p.230

    Pitchblende was extracted from the Habsburg silver mines in Joachimsthal, Bohemia used as a coloring agent in the local glassmaking industry by some unspecified time ‘in the middle ages’ (which can last to 1550 in some sources).

    In England, J. Sterpenich reported that small quantities of palmierite (K2Pb(SO4)2), as well as anglesite (PbSO4) and lead phosphate, are present in the crust on the surface of medieval window glass.
    J. Sterpenich, ‘Cristallochemie des produits d’altération des vitraux médiévaux: application au vieillissement des déchets vitrifiés’, Bulletin of Engineering, Geology and the Environment,61, 2002, pp.179.

    Minerals also migrate where uranium pigments occur – again with the example of glass, Procházka reported lead was found concentrated in the corroded layer on buried uranium glass, despite the fact that it was not one of the components of the glass itself. It was concluded that lead released from lead glass nearby in the soil had migrated and become incorporated in the crust on the uranium glass
    R. Procházka, V. Goliás, I. Hlásensky, L. Strnad and J. Lnevnicvková, ‘Natural corrosion of old potash glass coloured with uranium compounds’,
    Ceramics – Silikáty,46,2002, pp.86.

    I’m continually presented with the image of our manuscript being interred, or written in some dry old cavern or mine. Perhaps it’s just my vivid imagination. 🙂

  84. *syngenite* of course.

  85. thomas spande on October 30, 2013 at 5:52 pm said:

    Dear all, A Table lifted from the Raman microscopy work of Clark et al. follows:

    Table 1. Characteristic Raman bands and % occurrence of pigments in the Italian miniatures
    Pigment Raman bands (cm−1) Occurrence in cuttings (%)
    Azurite, Cu3ðCO3Þ2ðOHÞ2 (2, 24, 25) 1,095, 400, 247 58
    Lazurite, ðNa; CaÞ8½ðAl; SiÞ12O24Sn (2, 25–29) 1,096, 548 30
    Indigo, C16H10N2O2 (14–16, 22, 23, 30–33) 1,575, 599, 546, 252 17
    Reds and oranges
    Vermilion, HgS (5, 6, 17, 25) 343, 253 61
    Red lead, 2PbO · PbO2 (34–36) 548, 390, 223 22
    Hematite, Fe2O3 (6, 8, 22, 37, 38) 613, 411, 292, 226 3
    Goethite, FeO(OH) (22) 553, 390, 302 4
    Realgar, α-As4S4 (21, 23, 39, 40) 358, 225, 196 2
    Lead tin yellow type I, Pb2SnO4 (3, 4, 25, 41) 458, 294, 275, 198 14
    Orpiment, As2S3 (21, 23, 39, 40) 355, 312, 294 1
    Mosaic gold, SnS2 (42 and 43) 314 9
    Malachite, CuCO3 · CuðOHÞ2 (25) 1,491, 433, 269 20
    Brochantite, Cu4SO4ðOHÞ6 (44) 974, 443 6
    Lead white, 2PbðCO3Þ2 · PbðOHÞ2 (25, 35, 41) 1,052, 1,048 36
    Carbon black, C (45) ∼1; 590, ∼1; 345, 24
    Iron gall ink, iron gallotannate (46 and 47) ∼1; 580, ∼1; 480, ∼1; 340 39

    What interests me about the pigments found in Italian painting is the presence of malachite as the primary Green. The odd little characters in the formulae above are Adobe symbols for left and right parens. Evidently lapis lazuri was the source of lazurite and mixed with azurite was common in Italian painting. It appears that it was either too pricey or unavailable to the VM tinters. Clark also finds crystalline iron gall ink. Cheers, Tom

  86. thomas spande on October 30, 2013 at 7:03 pm said:

    Dear all, Another table lifted from Clark et al is:

    Table 2. Summary of pigments found on three miniatures
    St. Giustina
    Gerolamo da
    Madonna and
    Child Franco
    de’ Russi
    Petrarca manuscript
    Bartolomeo Sanvito
    Lead white ✓ ✓ ✓
    Gypsum ✓
    Azurite ✓ ✓ ✓
    Lazurite ✓ ✓ ✓
    Indigo ✓ ✓ ✓
    Malachite ✓ ✓ ✓
    Vermilion ✓ ✓
    Red lead ✓
    Lead tin
    yellow (I)
    ✓ ✓ ✓
    Goethite ✓
    Carbon ✓ ✓ ✓
    Iron gall ink ✓ ✓ ✓
    Mosaic gold Impurity ✓
    Shell gold ✓ ✓
    Shell silver ✓ ✓

    Note that malachite is the only green. In some other greens of this study, brochantite (also known as bronchantite), Cu4SO4(OH)6 is found. Found mainly in Africa but also the mines of the Greek island Serifos which had a huge iron ore mine. That island is in the Western cyclades, It is described as being found in rapidly oxidized CuS deposits so I am guessing could also be among the many found in Vesuvian sublimates.

  87. -quote-
    So far, no indications have been found that copper resinate was used in illuminated manuscripts.

    The earliest known recipe for the preparation of copper resinate dates from the seventeenth century and is given by De Mayerne. According to this recipe, a ‘beautiful green’, which owes its colour to copper salts of resin acids, is obtained in the following manner: ‘Beau Verd. Rp. Therebentine de Venisse ڈij, huile de Therebentine ڈjss. meslks, adjoustes Vert de gris mis en morceaulx ڈij, mettes sur cendres chaude & faittes bouillir doulcement. Essayes sur vn verre si la couleur vous plaist; passes par vn ligne’ .

    In this way a highly viscous, transparent mass is formed which dries in a thin layer over the course of months and can then be pulverized. The copper resinate is composed of copper salts of resin acids and colophony..
    Copper resinate is composed mainly of the copper salts of resin acids. If resins from conifers are used for its preparation, such as Venice turpentine (De Mayerne), copper salts of abietic acid (C19H29COOH) are formed as the main product. Abietic acid and its isomers such as neoabietic acid, isoabietic acid, etc., are components of colophony, which is the residue from turpentine distillation. Copper resinate prepared from Venice turpentine is decolourized by hydrochloric acid and caustic soda. It melts on heating and turns brown; if heated over a longer period and at higher temperatures, it decomposes to black copper oxide and carbon. Copper resinate is soluble in numerous organic solvents, such as benzene, chloroform, mineral spirits etc. The solubility of samples subjected to artifical ageing processes is practically unaffected.
    -unquote –
    Hermann Kühn, ‘Verdigris and Copper Resinate’, Studies in Conservation, Vol. 15, No. 1 (Feb., 1970), pp. 12-3615 (1970).

    I feel sure that McCrone would know this paper.

  88. I feel too mean to leave Thomas with that note –

    Thomas – think zinc, copper, rosin, lead, H2SO4 plus extras.


  89. thomas spande on October 31, 2013 at 4:51 pm said:

    To Diane, mainly. I think I missed a post or more on uranium in glass. Your forehead slapping moment for me was instead a head scratcher? Is Uranium-tinted glass used in stained glass windows? Is this the context? And finding the two unusual minerals, palmierite and syngentite, on the surface of such a glass was reported. The migration of lead from lead glass to uranium glass in soil is certainly strange and would seem to justify a title different from the one of the paper where potash glass is in the keyword.

    What sticks out from the Raman microscopy work of Clark and colleagues is that lapis lazuli is often mixed with azurite in medieval painting in Italy (30 cases in 58 blues studied). It is evidently not present in the VM, although the McCrone report could be criticized in taking only two blue samples (f26r, and 78r). To my eye, the blues Clark discusses (Fig 1) are much more intense and richer than the blues of the VM. Note that Clark refers to the “failing” of azurite and the retouching of it in the 18thC with Prussian blue, which was a synthetic that did not exist in the 15C. I think in some cases we can see it having failed in the VM an been retouched.

    I thank Diane for a typically thorough discussion on the use and preparation of copper resinate, even to the components of the Venetian turpentine used. It does not pop up in the pretty extensive work of Clark et al., (174 pigments analyzed), where Malachite (20 cases) or Brochantite (6 cases) is used for Green. The VM samples for Green (f26r, 47r and 78r) use a “copper-organic complex” (evidently the copper resinate) and possibly “atacamite (Cu2(OH)3Cl but where it is deficient in chlorine and is likely Cu2(CO3)(OH)2. So malachite or brochantite is evidently not present in the three Green samples examined from the VM? Again the paucity of samples examined is not much to base any conclusion on BUT it may indicate that whoever the tinters of the VM were, they selected pigments less commonly used by Italian painters.

    Since the Raman microscopy method is NON-DESTRUCTIVE and the Clark team has a lot of expertise in medieval pigments, might not it be a truly excellent idea to have them go over as much of the VM as they can get access to?

  90. thomas spande on October 31, 2013 at 5:22 pm said:

    Diane, You may be correct that the analysts of McCrone Assoc knew of the Kuhn reference you cite but it looks to me like they are heavily hinting that the VM greens do contain this or something like it(page 5 “something like a copper resinate” and p6 (“optically consistent with copper resinate”) . Some bet-hedging here no doubt. I knew of copper resinate only in the context of the 15thC to impart a glaze over verdigris, the latter evidently on bronzes and not paintings.So your quote that Cu resinate was not known to have been used in illuminated ms makes an occurrence in the VM unlikely, despite McCrone giving themselves some “wiggle room” on this point.

    I meant to indicate above that when atacamite picks up CO2 and loses HCl, the mineral produced, (Cu2CO3(OH)2, is malachite.

    Malachite was widely used in medieval work but has one major deficit and that is it is very sensitive to acids. Major mines are in Africa and Israel. A minor problem is that it is not totally light fast. One question might be whether any effort was ever made to check the pH of the surface of the vellum of the VM. pH meters are commonly used in art conservation to check the acidity of paper and should work on vellum. Likely Yale has this data?

  91. I was initally disconcerted by the report, I admit, before I realised the constraints placed on McCrone; they weren’t asked to produce a study, as such, but to run the chosen samples. So what we got was a summary of the lab results – which is fair enough in the circumstances. Even then, McCrone is more than competent to draw inferences from their results, and the covering letter’s restraint is, I think, suficient caution not to extrapolate further.

    I referred to the English window glass to illustrate the reason that there’s more involved than matching a mineral against localities containing a known natural source for it. Would it were so easy ! 🙂

    It is possible that the minute amount of that compound we call palmierite is present because the painter worked in the shadow of Vesuvius, but equally could be due to some English painter’s using an old piece of glass as a palette – just as example. I’m not arguing either scenario, but I think it most unwise to suppose we can infer from the covering letter more than is written in it.

    copper resinate –
    I have read a technical report on one fifteenth-century manuscript mentioning a possible reading for copper resinate, but I won’t say more on that yet.

    for such pigment studies in general,Naumova’s papers are exemplary if you can get hold of them.

  92. thomas spande on November 1, 2013 at 4:09 pm said:

    Dear all, In my first post of Oct 31, I mentioned the McCrone assoc. assertion that the green used in the examples they select, has atacamite as a possibility but that it a copper complex (copper resinate maybe?) is also present as the chlorine analysis is too low for pure atacamite. I suggested a formula for the known decomposition product of atacamite that had picked up CO2 but lost HCl and stated that malachite was not used for green in the two samples (f47r and 78r) when the end result MAY WELL BE MALACHITE. I should have restated that comment that malachite is not used initially but may have been produced over time as the atacamite aged. Anyway, I surmise that McCrone assoc. would recognize malachite and its supposed absence in the two greens examined must have been unexpected although this is not commented upon.Malachite was the most common green pigment used in the medieval period and occurs in mines all over, particularly in the Urals. If we can assume it is not in the VM. that is a huge clue that the VM may not originate in Italy.

  93. Thomas,

    It’s hardly to believe. On the website ‘Pigments through the Ages’ you find an example of malachite painting from Italy 15th-16th c. It is referred to as perhaps the oldest known green pigment., already used in Egyptian tomb paintings. So what would make it, that it has not been used for the VMS ?

  94. Thomas, No idea if this is relevant; impossible to tell without the raw data or scans, but for general interest –

    Pseudo-malachite – Cus(PO4)2 (OH)4 The mineral consists of large dark-green masses with a fibrous and concentric-zonal structure, outwardly very much like malachite. ..the crystals are of a diverse form with sharp edges characteristic of the natural mineral. This pigment has never before been identified in old Russian painting. In studies carried out elsewhere it has been identified in illuminations of manuscripts of the eleventh-sixteenth centuries.
    That’s from:

    M. M. Naumova, S. A. Pisareva and G. O. Nechiporenko.’Green Copper Pigments of Old Russian Frescoes’, Studies in Conservation, Vol. 35, No. 2 (May, 1990), pp. 81-88
    The ‘earlier studies’ are those reported in
    ICOM Committee for Conservation 3rd Triennial Meeting, Madrid (1972) paper by Vab T’hul-Ehrnreich, E. H., and HallebeeK, P. B., ‘A new kind of old green copper pigment found’.

    An older paper, still worth reading:
    John S. Mills and Raymond White, ‘Natural Resins of Art and Archaeology Their Sources, Chemistry, and Identification’, Studies in Conservation, Vol. 22, No. 1 (Feb., 1977), pp. 12-31.

    sorry, that’s all I have to hand at present.

  95. thomas spande on November 1, 2013 at 8:06 pm said:

    Menno, I completely agree that one would have expected malachite to have been used in the VM. I am just guessing that McCrone would have looked for it, either as an original green or as a breakdown pigment produced from atacamite. I think they would have at least given some attention to the possibility of it being in one or the other of the two green pigments they sampled. Instead that drift into a green copper organic complex and hint pretty strongly that this is copper resinate.The huge problem here is the very limited sampling of the MAJOR pigment used in the VM, both for the pools and for the plant leaves.Just two samples are taken.

    Diane, Thanks for the references to pseuo-malachite. I am guessing the formula is Cu5(PO4)2(OH)4. Clark et al don’t seem to deal with phosphate-containing pigments but I think Raman which likes symmetrical ions could handle it. If that were to show up in the VM, then this is a huge find. It would be high in copper and have no chlorine so would be compatible with the limited data of McCrone assoc. I will research it a bit although I doubt the refs you provide are availailable on line at NIH. Cheers, Tom

  96. Thomas,

    McCrone’s letter is less disappointing, I think, when it’s realised that the company apparently wasn’t commissioned to evaluate the Voynich ms’ inks and pigments, but only to lift samples as directed, run tests and summarise the data.

    Within those limited parameters I don’t see what more McCrone could have done or said.

  97. Thomas, Menno
    If you’ll forgive the suggestion.
    what we’re doing, really, is setting McCrone’s results against the standard results we’d expect for an early fifteenth century manuscipt produced in continental Europe.

    What if, instead, McCrone’s results are taken as the standard and used as a diagonistic tool?

    For a start – is there any work of the early fifteenth century (for a start) where pigment analysis has shown comprable lack of vermilion and malachite?
    It might help us fretting over why McCrone’s letter doesn’t have what we expected and does have what we didn’t.

    I think some people are quietly working away doing just this. I’ve been very interested in mentions of Chios, claimed identification of this or that resin-producing plant and so on. Best of luck to them.

  98. Thomas

  99. verging on the “tr..” I know. – please forgive this 6 in a row.

    I’ve just seen a very good checklist of pigments. Language above basic, though not high jargon. Good for eaasy reference. Worth bookmarking, I think

  100. thomas spande on November 4, 2013 at 5:15 pm said:

    Diane et al,. I think the McCrone report was just a first baby step in deducing the VM pigments. I doubt their DESTRUCTVE method will ever become the standard for pigment analysis. Notice how coy they are about the size of their “extremely fine pointed tungsten needle” Cannot they indicate the dimensions in parts of a mm or something so we can guess how much sample their work required?

    Another good reference for Raman microscopy is: S.P.Best, R.J.H.Clark and R. Withnall.”Non-destructive pigment analysis of artefacts by Raman microscopy”, Endeavor (New Series) vol16(2), 1992 which touts Raman as the ideal method for pigment analysis. Much interesting discussion of the technique and some suprises like, the more finely ground a pigment is, the paler it will appear to the eye by just normal reflectance of light. Anyway, I got a copy as pdf from Google scholar.

    On searching pseudo-malachite (BTW not in jcsparks useful little table), I got a hit with Banik,1990 in a journal I thought I would find at NIH, “Microchemica Acta (Vienna)”, 1981,I,49-55. and a reference to Clark et al working on a 13C Icelandic MS but alas, all I could get hold of at the moment was a page 1 teaser (JSTOR). The abstract does not mention pseudo-M it but I think it is buried somewhere in this paper (Studies in Conservation40,1(Feb 1995)pp31-40. A sample sold on ebay comes from a mine in Lubietova, Reinerfield in Slovakia. BTW one does note a huge commerce in mineral specimens.

    If the VM Greens were to contain pseudo-malachite.then we have something to write home about! It would have been useful to have the red pigment used on those apothecary’s jars! Vermillion would have been natural there but litharge (PbO) might also be expected. I will continue digging on pseudo malachite.

  101. thomas spande on November 4, 2013 at 5:31 pm said:

    Dear all, From limited reading on the subject of lapis lazuli (lazurite), I find only Afganistan as a source. It appears in some early Korans.

    A destructive method that can easily distinguish malachite and pseudo-malachite is dilute hydrocholoric acid which rapidly decomposes the carbonate (malachite) but does not touch pseudomalachite, even if warmed.

    It is easy to get into the weeds on fresco pigments. I find one paper that mentions finding atacamite,Cu2(OH)3Cl evidently arising from azurite and the NaCl present in the fresco foundation. Cheers, Tom

  102. thomas spande on November 4, 2013 at 9:22 pm said:

    Dear all, A kind of unusual study by microRaman of 19-20C Russian “avant-garde” manuscript painting is in Annali di Chimica 97,2000. pp 447-472 by Greek conservationists at Univ. of Thessalonika. There is a collection of Russian paiting at the Costakis collection of in Thessalonika, chiefly dealing with iconography. The 26 pp journal paper (available as a pdf on Google scholar ) is strong on mysticism and various theories of color but has a bit on pseudomalachite. The authors mention pigments in the avant garde period of Russian art (hidden fromStalin) as originating from lands adjoining Persia.Still no good hits for medieval use of pseudomalachite but several abstracts indicate this is so. The Greek work mentions “Pozzuoli earth” which would be next door to Sulfatara and not far from Vesuvius. The Greek paper has only one colored illustration (red lead or litharge, PbO) in both watercolor and gouache. Cheers.

  103. mss
    9th International Conference on NDT of Art, Jerusalem Israel, 25-30 May 2008. Online pdf.

    Also for more recent technical methods, the Journal of Analytic Spectrometry often has useful articles on pigment analyses.

    The resinous ‘crayons’ suggest techniques external to manuscript production including encaustic and textile production. The de Virga map shows Bamiyan.

  104. Journal of Analytic Atomic Spectrometry, sorry.

  105. Thomas,
    It doesn’t contain anything new, but I’ve put up a post about the context for McCrone’s testing those few samples of pigment. 2009 is long ago in terms of the technology used now.

  106. thomas spande on November 5, 2013 at 5:37 pm said:

    Diane, Thanks for the Gelba ref.

    My mention of the Greek work was not considered very useful but I threw it out there to indicate 1) pseudomalachite likely comes from the Urals and was used in Russian painting but more importantly 2) microRaman seems the method of choice for pigment analysis.

    Really unfortunate that McCrone Assoc. examined so few pigments but I guess this was maybe a deal worked out between Yale and the German film makers? One would have liked a few brown samples,some red samples,more greens and blues where the VM tinters used several different pigments.

    I have no problem at all with findings that differ with those expected in medieval Italian illuminations. Such data, if it can be obtained in the future, would be the most solid evidence for the provenance of the the VM.

  107. Thomas
    I idn’t know Yale had any part in it ~ except the Beinecke’s appoval to the film-makers of course.

    Without wanting to deflect from this thread, if you see anything mentioning Yale scholars’ being consulted, I hope you’ll leave a note on one of my posts too.

  108. Thoms, Menno, Nick et. al

    This may be bit premature; i have to wait till the new year for advice on a technical point, but I like Andrea Bianco as one of the colourists. Stongly positive about a connection between the de Virga map and the Vms too. Such a pity the original copy of the latter is lost.

  109. thomas spande on November 6, 2013 at 6:32 pm said:

    Diane and anyone else interested in pigment research.

    I used “Yale” loosely when I should have specified Beinicke.

    The Geba (Gelba in my last post was misspelled) reference indicated that the Romanian conservationists of this paper that deals with pigments of an 8-10C parchment written in Greek and a 9-14C Byzantine MS, also on parchment had as pigments: cinnabar (Vermillion),iron oxide, ultramarine and malachite among other pigments or metals. What interested me is that “wet” methods are also used to complete the identification of the various minerals, e.g. a negative Cu test to rule out azurite and rule in ground up lapis lazuli (ultramarine). In one period ultramarine was hard to come by as grinding lapis lazuli by hand was extremely difficult. The analytical tools they used in addition to microchemical analyses were Fourier transform IR, X-ray fluorescence and optical microscopy. It is a bit surprising to find that destructive microchemistry is being used on such precious documents (the most rare in their own collections) but there is something satisfying to a chemist that definitive microanalysis still had a place in pigment analysis in 2008. They find three different iron gall inks were used.

  110. thomas spande on November 6, 2013 at 8:36 pm said:

    Diane, This is a huge connection if you can support it! This plops the VM coloration, at least, back into Italy, maybe Venice? We await your final word on this with “abated” breath or whatever the expression is!

    I find a cursory glance at Andrea Bianco’s background to be in sailing and cartography. He drew his own map (1432) and helped with the Mauro map (1459 a final copy is presented to the Portuguese king) but no evidence as yet that he colored his own or any one else’s maps.

    I think Nick had deduced very strong evidence that the pharma (recipe) section of the VM was copied but I am not convinced that the remainder of the VM was copied or that Nick holds to that view?. Seems to me like just a huge amount of work, to draw so carefully all those plants and then to color and recolor them. If the original is gone, then I can understand making the copy with as much care as possible. If the VM as we now have it is a copy from start to finish” I think we would have to assume that the original was in very rough shape when the final was bound and the quires got mixed up or those errors that Nick and others have spotted would NOT have been made. We would also have to assume that the finest grade of vellum was used and not the more commonly used paper? I think, if I recall correctly, that Nick is of the opinion that the original of the “recipe” section was also vellum and that vellum version had a severe defect necessitating the weird margins he spotted.Another problem that might exist is: why have a second copy of something that is encoded anyway. Not likely to have been a presentation copy unless the recipient was in on the code? I think a second copy was often, maybe always, an improvement on the original. The VM might fit that characterization as there are very very few errors but as some have noted, there are word repeats, more than would be necessitated by grammar (e.g.”that that”). One last point, If the VM as we now have it is a copy, then why two scribes and why is their participation irregular? Wouldit not it be expected that one scribe would be detailed for this chore and a common set of scribal abbreviations used instead of what appears to be some abbreviations unique to each scribe. Why go over this again, even to those Tironian note variations?
    I realize we never did lay to rest the question of whether the entire VM was copied or not. Now it pops up again.

    ps. Related to the copy issue is exactly when was the ink of the VM laid down. We have to date that somehow and maybe the organic material of the iron gall-gum is our only hope? carbon date the gum component(s)?

  111. Thomas
    I thought you’d like the Geba article:)

    Vermilion isn’t cinnabar, strictly speaking, but the medieval sources aren’t always strict either.

    I’m fond of the red cylinders in the Vms; they were one of the first items I considered in any depth.

  112. On the copying issue – if, as I think, the Vms is a purpose-driven collection of extracts gained from diverse sources, there is no need to posit a single scribe much earlier than the probably 15thC version. (On single scribe see Neal’s earlier comment). Homogeneity in inks and/or parchment again relates only to that version’s provenance, not the source/s’.
    Similarly, though I think there’s good reason for thinking some of the colourists at least went to the sources’ location, not vice versa, there’s no necessity to suppose all did, or even that the sources used weren’t line-drawings only. I don’t think this the case throughout; I think the red cylindrical containers really were made red once upon a time. But the colours are pretty likely to be added here by people other than those who did the outlne drawings and written text, don’t you think?

    I found the Vms’ strata quite complex; Nick’s investigation of its codicology similarly. So many questions could be resolved if we had formal assessments of parchment and pigments. One can hope.

  113. Thomas,

    I was glad with your latest remarks. You seem to confirm, that part of the VMS has been copied. That’s what I think of the left herbal section and loose herbal pages with quire numbers, which I call first binding. I know Nick doesn’t agree, but nevertheless. The other parts of the VMS may be loose libellae, bound together in the 16th century with the remaining pages of the herbal section to prevent the loss of documents with the peculiar VM script, which at that time no one could read anymore. You still suggest, that the peculiar script was an encryption code. I don’t think so, because it would be unwise to code a herbarium, which one could obtain on each street corner in natural language. As long as the script has not yet been identified it is anyway to early to decide if an encryption code has been applied. I agree that it would be rather strange to copy coded pages, if one would try to keep the contents secret. There may be different scribes involved for the different libellae, dating back to 1250-1350.

    I have shown before, that the astrological pages are written in Spanish (not just the addenda). The red and white aries pages are simply a translation, the one in Spanish and the other probably in Italian or Latin.

  114. Menno
    I’m happy to see that more people have been led to the opinion that the ms is collection of extracts from earlier sources – i.e. copied. I’ve been saying so for some time, and m sure others even longer, so welcome.:)

    Earlier in this thread, Philip Neal commented on Barabe’s letter. The following is just part of what he wrote (mainly to save you scrolling back):

    “A significant negative result is that the tests do not bear out the hypothesis that there were two or more scribes. Sample 6 (47r) – said to represent Currier language A, scribe 1 – is not distinguished from samples 1, 9 and 13, said to represent language B and hands 2 and 3 (according to the notes in the EVMT transcription).

    It may still be true that there was more than one scribe, but there is nothing in these results to substantiate the idea.”

  115. Menno, this might muse:
    I typed into my serch engine

    “hematite lead iron potassium palmierite”

    and it produced this – in which other pigments mentioned include zinc and copper.

    potassium lead sulfate is palmierite.

  116. Diane,

    I enjoyed the pdf, but I liked even more what you wrote about the two or more hands, because I have not yet found the two hands (Currier language A and B). Of course there may be variations in a single hand as well (if I look at my own handwritten notes), but different hands cannot occur criss-crossed over the different chapters of the VMS, but should stick to a single chapter. I cannot imagine two hands working on the same page or same chapter of the VMS. Can you ?

  117. thomas spande on November 7, 2013 at 6:02 pm said:

    Dear all, The very best evidence that the “recipe” part of the VM is copied is in Nick’s book, “Curse…” Some other parts may be copied also, and if I understand Diane’s point, were not necessarily from a complete VM #1 but from various sources. That is not hard to believe at all.

    I think that coloration in the herbal section reflected a ying/yang symbology with right/left orientations of leaves and flowers being significant and also blue/red(orange) coloration of blossoms. There is way more blue in flowers than found in nature where blue is not common.

    I had prepared awhile back a list of pages done by the two scribes. One is a looser, more loopy style; the other very tight. There is some scribal notation going on and both scribes share some notation but each uses some notation that is unique to himself. I have also posted on this in the past but will again if necessary. The two scribes work persists throughout the herbal section but I have not gone over the bathing, pharma and recipe section carefully yet. So I concluded that whatever copy work in the herbal section is being done involves two scribes. The glyphs are too uniform to be variations in the writing of a sole scribe due to fatigue or a newly prepared quill pen. I think the inks likely differ due to the difficulty of storing iron gall ink and the necessity of making new batches frequently.

    I found no cases of the same folio having writing of both scribes. It might appear that they each were working on copying separate sources, as for example some earlier herbal that had been taken apart and given in batches to the two scribes.

    I don’t think anyone has proposed an organization of the herbal section. Most medieval herbals had some kind: often alphabetical, sometimes by disease being treated, sometimes by the astrological sign of the herb, etc. I have yet to find a system with the VM. It could be an arcane one, like destinations on travels in an earlier herbal or maybe this one, involving one or both scribes. All for the moment.

    If the issue of one or two scribes is important enough, I had prepared for my own use, a list of folio pages for each scribe and would be happy to reproduce all or part of it to maybe damp down some skepticism on this point. To me, the differences stick out like a sore thumb. Cheers, Tom

  118. Hi Thomas
    Apart from mentioning again that description of the botanical imagery as a ‘herbal’ derives from assumptions and analogies that look shakier by the minute… The first several botanical figures (after I’d identified all but one) I then checked against the map. They formed a neat and historically verifiable line of trade from the spice islands to southern India. My guess, then, is that the plants are in ‘itinerary order’. Doubtless, their value will often include medical uses, but I cannot think the usual ‘herbal’ analogy apt. Not in a ms containing copper resinate and bananas two centuries before either was recorded in European texts.


  119. Thomas,

    The issue of one or two scribes is indeed important enough to discuss here. From your contribution it looks, that your two hands differ from the Currier A and B as one can read in the VIB – Voynich information browser. If so, please indicate which hand according to you wrote/copied which pages of the herbal section and loose herbal folia. I think the apothecary folia are too few to divide among different scribes and the balneological pages are too much interconnected (as Nick showed) to involve different scribes. The astrological and astromical pages involve different letters, which you do not meet in the other sections, which implies other scribes. The star pages at the end of the book (register) look to me to have been written by a single hand. I am very curious if this hand is the same as one of the hands of the herbal pages and/or the apothecary pages.

  120. thomas spande on November 8, 2013 at 5:28 pm said:

    Menno, I will take your question in two parts. First what is the evidence for two scribes. I have only studied the herbal section in detail and find two hands at work. I have forgotten the Currier designations but one is small,cramped, tight way of making glyphs and the other looser. I do not think space constraints have anything to do with the tighter script being used by a single scribe when he is required to write in smaller glyphs. Some examples of the “tight style” are: f31v, 41v and 43r.Examples of the looser,more relaxed style of writing is f13v, 15v, 17v. I had at one time prepared a summary of the number of instances of the tight writer vs the looser but have mislaid it at the moment. Usually, but not always, one style (i.e. one scribe’s writing) will be seen on both recto and verso folios. The scribes also vary in their invented scribal abbreviations although one is shared, i.e. the backward “c” over the normal “c” and which resembles a backward S and I think is an abbreviation for “st”. Since there may still be uncertainty on the point of one vs two (maybe even three?) scribes, I will do an ab initio tabulation again of the scribes in the herbal section. I have not gone into any other section as to which scribe did what, I will not venture any opinion at the moment. Cheers, Tom

  121. thomas spande on November 8, 2013 at 6:24 pm said:

    Dear all, Copper resinate was identified on a 14C polytych at the Louvre. I think what might introduce confusion as to when it was first used is that the earliest published recipe dates from the 17th C. So it could be a pigment in the VM from the earliest date. To conclusively prove this I need more than the one example. The French example had copper resinate over layers of white lead, tin yellow and vertigris, so that is a complication also.

    I like Diane’s idea that the VM plant (or herbal) section is arranged by itinerary. There is that curious little writing in the right hand margin of f2r that I think translates for “Troaia” and was Latin for Troy, an ancient city with significant connotations to everyone and his brother in medieval times as many considered themselves survivors of the fall of Troy. Among these were certain Armenians. Oops, just slipped out! Anyway, that thistle on f2r might have been seen at what was thought to be the ancienct site of Troy (likely Troas Alexander).

  122. Thomas
    I’ve found something I think in your line.

    I realise JSTOR is not available to you, but if it is of interest perhaps there might be some way to get a copy to you.

    James Clackson, ‘A Greek Papyrus in Armenian Script’,
    Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, Bd. 129 (2000), pp. 223-258

  123. Thomas,

    I wait for your ab initio tabulation as compared with the VIB typology (Currier A and B). I only guess a difference between folio 1-26 and 27-56. It could help to retrieve the missing folio 12 among the loose herbal folia.

  124. thomas spande on November 8, 2013 at 9:10 pm said:

    Menno and anyone interested in the # of scribes issume I have gone over what I have printed out of the herbal section (a few pages are missing) and find that there is really no clear cut example of a single folio having scribe #1 doing one side and scribe #2 doing the other. I thought I had a couple of cases but I think now a single scribal hand was involved. Ambiguity creeps in as a darker ink or freshly dipped quill will create the impression that the tighter style is being demonstrated wheras it is the looser style, just more heavily inked. I have counted 51 of the tighter style and 62 of the looser. All folio sheets are done by a single scribe, not recto by one, verso by the other. The few examples I thought I had turned out to be will’o the wisps, i.e. bogus. I think the “4”glyph might be a way to discriminate between the scribes, but this is work in progress. At the moment, a longer descender seems more common with the looser style and a flatter triangular part seems more common with the tight style: The looser style is more commonly seen at the start (e.g. f13r/v-17r/v) of the herbals while the tighter is more common toward the end e.g. f50r/v-55r/v). I will continue searching for a more clear cut distinguishing glyph between the scribes than the “4”. Cheers, Tom

  125. thomas spande on November 8, 2013 at 10:50 pm said:

    Dear all, Another hallmark of the scribe who writes in tighter style, cramped even, is that the glyph for “8” generally but not always, inclines to the right. The scribe with the looser more expansive style has his “8”s generally pretty much erect, without much of any lean. I am still looking for a definitive take home on this whole question of tell tale writing habits and will convey any finds in the future. I need some quick idiomatic quirks of each scribe before I get into the lengthier sections of the VM. At the moment the “8”s seem to be a first step. .

    Cheers, Tom

  126. Thomas,
    So far, so good. As I see it, in the herbal pages there are variant writings only, not different hands. My next question would be to compare the script of the herbal pages with the star register at the end of the book in order to see, if the script is similar. If so, the star register would give the exact order of the herbal pages. Exciting !

  127. Menno,
    I’ve looked at your site and was struck by what you say about the radiocarbon dating. I wonder if you could explain further?
    You say:
    Now you may ask what happened with radiocarbon dating of VM. Well, nothing. According to experts, it would be possible to say if the manuscript is from 13th or 16th century, but there will be no way to distinguish 16th century from 19th century. So it may look promising, but still, no dating was done.

  128. thomas spande on November 12, 2013 at 6:22 pm said:

    Dear Menno and anyone else interested, I will have to admit that the main way of distinguishing two hands involved in the VM is the more open or looser style that has slightly wider spacing between glyphs and “words”. I think the bathing section was ALL written by the scribe with tight style and the pharma section (with those apothecary’s jars) was ALL written by the scribe with the looser style. I have yet to look at the “recipe” section.
    So far, I have found no really convincing glyph differences between the scribes ; that are invariant enough to bet the farm on. The “8”s “tipped “2s”. “4s” and the “&” and a variant with a rocker at the bottom (I think it is the Armenian “f) fail in being invariant or typical of one scribe only. I am still looking for some tell tale glyph shape or way of forming a certain glyph that will clearly distinguish one scribe from the other. So far, for me, I have relied mainly on “inspection” but something idiosyncratic like that is not likely to convince any skeptic. Cheers, Tom

  129. thomas spande on November 12, 2013 at 6:39 pm said:

    Diane, Thanks for your post of Nov 8 regarding a Greek papyrus in Armenian script. I’ll see if I can get at it through Google scholar.

    I recall reading that the great ms repository at Timbuctu, Mali had some Armenian manscripts. The Armenians were such huge travellers, traders,missionaries (major communities also in India) that even if the VM can be convincingly shown to be in an Armenian code, that doesn’t help much in figuring out where it came from.

    BTW, I finally got a refund on my shot at that book by Abrahmyan on Armenian cryptography; not from Bagran the Armenian seller or Paypal but from Amexco, my credit card. Cheers, Tom

  130. thomas spande on November 12, 2013 at 10:18 pm said:

    Menno, I have printed out 105r/v and conclude tentatively that it is written in the hand of the scribe with the tighter style. One glyph is emerging as perhaps unique to this scribe and that is the “tipped “2”” where there appears to be little or no extension of the base past the right semicircle. The looser scribe extends slightly the base ahead of the juncture with the semicircle. I will look at more pages in the “recipe” section but at the moment “inspection” and the “tipped “2”” may provide a guide and indicate that this section is enscribed by the scribe working with a tighter, crabbed hand. I think only by printing out the recipe folios and examining them with a hand lens can any assignment as to who did it, be made. I will say that the two scribes are really professionals. Occasionally, I see a messed up glyph but they are limited, maybe one per page. Here are some more of my assignments for the herbal section: tight writing=9r/v; 26 r/v; 31r/v; 33r/v; 34 r/v; 39r/v; 40r/v; 41r/v; 43r/v; 46r/v; 50r/v; 51r/v; 52r/v; 53r/v;54r/v; 55r/v; 90r/v; 94r/v and 96r/v. I am missing some printed pages of the “herbal” and this is an imcomplete listing. I wil check these again for that “2” glyph to see if it is indeed a scribal “marker”? BTW it will be seen that it appears at the moment, to me anyway, that the bulk of the VM is written by the scribe with the tight style. If this is so, why have a second scribe at all? I find it easier to read the writing of the scribe with the looser style. He takes more time forming his glyphs. More on this anon as I will print out more of the recipe section. Cheers, Tom

  131. Thomas,
    I’ve put up a small clip from that paprus, and have become fascinated by this sort of ‘romanisation’ – as it were. Armenian script seems to have been especially popular.

  132. thomas spande on November 13, 2013 at 6:53 pm said:

    Diane. You are absolutely correct about Latinization of Armenian. Many old scripts (Armenian, Arabic varieties, Hebrew,Coptic) did not use the Indian (commonly called arabic) numbers but used their own alphabets for numbering. In Armenian, the numbers are run off against the Armenian alphabet and goes 1-10, then 20,30 etc. Anyway when we hit 8 and 9, the Latinized equivalents of those Armenian glyphs are “e” and “t” respectively, making the “89” that occurs throughout the VM as “et”. This interesting connection and the shape of many of the Armenian glyphs that resemble some of the VM (like the tipped “2”, the “4”, the ‘o”, the “f” (sort of like a mirror image of “&”, led me to thinking that Armenians had a hand in writing the VM. Some Latin glyphs are used directly (e.g. “a, c, m.n.u” ).The VM scribes also use “&” and I really am puzzled by that as “&” was used in some rare Latins like Beneventon but generally standard Latin went with “et” until letter press printing came on the scene, just about the same time as the VM vellum date. So why use both “et” and “&”?. What makes Armenian so devilish is the cursive is constantly changing. And in major ways. The Stone book on Armenian paleography helps a lot, mainly to kill the idea that the language never altered from the 4th C when some blessed saint created it, borrowing a good deal from the Greek (which Arm. linguists will admit). Still some true believers hold that it came to Mashtot Mesrob (sp?) in a dream. Armenian uses 39 glyphs and is strictly phonetic (no diacriticals as I think is true of the VM when one ignores some of the code and Tironian notes). One glyph (the tipped “2”, looking sort of like a question mark shape was “ch” in Armenian and this exists as a c with a “v” circumflex in modern day Czech was was created by Jan Hus before he was toasted by the RC church in ca. 1460. I had to give up using Google on the Armenian on a Greek papyrus. I’ll see if I can access it on your web site. Cheers, Tom

  133. thomas spande on November 13, 2013 at 9:19 pm said:

    For Mnnno (mainly), I have printed 113r/v and conclude that this folio is also written by the scribe with the tight/crabbed style. The tipped “2” that also resembles a question mark seems so far to be a useful but not infallible “marker” but the “tipped 8″and the “squashed 4” also can be used much of the time as markers for the tight writer. Note that some confusion may arise from what I think is a home-made scribal abbreviation that looks like a backward “s”.That is clearly made by a “c” facing right with a backward facing c right above it. At the moment, I think it stands for “st”. Unfortunately it can be confused with the “tipped 2” but careful examination of the base will indicate a slight curl for the “c” part. On the “tipped 2” there may also be a bit of a scribal flourish at the top end of the 2, a hint of a curlicue, so some variation occurs here also. The “recipe” section may ALL be in the hand of the tight writer but I will have to examine more folios to be certain.

    Well, doubtless someone has thought: “why not just count the glyphs per line”. The tight writer is bound to have more. The problem there is that the recipe section (or horosccope as some surmise), is in a format that appears rarely. The open, looser style of the other scribe rarely appears in a full line and is not working around plant stems or leaves or does not have apothecary jars or plants in the margins so I won’t get into the counting game at the moment but continue looking for characteristically unique glyph differences that may distinguish the two scribes.

    I am guessing that the little “suns” marking the left of every “recipe” paragraph are labelled with a little red dot in the center to indicate even or odd numbered days. Why that might be important, I have no clue. With a 50% chance of being right,I am guessing the red dot indicates an even numbered day! I think someone (likely Nick) counted them in a very early post and noted the little suns correspond to roughly the number of days in the year. Using a 30 day calendar x12= 360 with 5 or 6 (leap yr) extra days. Cheers, Tom

  134. Thomas,
    Thanks for your work. I have done some research on the VIB information browser, which indicates both the currier hand and currier language and got a different conclusion, that the bulk of the herbal section was not written in the tight hand, but that may be a matter of interpretation of individual signs, e.g. f9r/v, f52r/v, f53r/v, f54r/v, whereas f31r/v is denoted as tight, others as unknown or even a 3rd and 4rth hand. According to the VIB the stars register at the end of the book most pages are written by an unknown hand, some indicated as X and f105r/v as Y. As far as the herbal section and loose herbal pages I can see a pattern, that f1v-f25r/v could be written by one scribe (or in an other language*) and f26r/v-f57r/v by a second scribe, but I could not find a similar pattern in the loose herbal pages to decide to which part they belong. Further investigation is needed. I have indicated before that there are grammatical differences between the two parts.
    Cheers, Menno

  135. Thomas,

    You refer to the text by J.B. Hurych: Now you may ask what happened with radiocarbon dating of VM. Well, nothing. According to experts, it would be possible to say if the manuscript is from 13th or 16th century, but there will be no way to distinguish 16th century from 19th century. So it may look promising, but still, no dating was done.

    This is not my opinion.

  136. Thomas,
    It would be interesting to know why Amenian script was used for so many other languages and dialects. That paprus, where it’s used to write Greek is only one example of the custom. I’m collecting others, just for curiosity’s sake; no idea if it’s relevant to the Vms

  137. thomas spande on November 14, 2013 at 5:36 pm said:

    Menno, I have not knowingly cited anything by an author Hurych. This evidently criticizes the radiocarbon dating method or results?

    Regarding the recipe section. I have done a few more folios and still think the hand is the same as the bathing section, i.e the scribe with the tighter style. It will be noted that a trial of glyphs/ line in the recipe section (105r) ranges from 48-58 whereas the best (not perfectly equivalent but close)of the looser scriber is 39-44 (5 lines of last para of f100r.

    Hurych sounds Czech but if I cite Jan Hus’ language reform of the Czech language, that did not come from reading anything of Hurych. Hus was one of the early Protestant reformers (ca.100 yrs ahead of Luther) and I was interested mainly in Hus’ phoneme for “ch” ;a phoneme that was also required in Armenian. More on the recipe section anon. Cheers, Tom

  138. thomas spande on November 14, 2013 at 6:07 pm said:

    Diane, That is a very good question you raise. Armenian came along when many languages used no written language althought that point is hotly debated. Anyway many languages of the Caucases including Georgian, Albanian (the Albania in the Caucases) adopted parts or all of the Armenian language as did ‘Geez which the Ethiopians adopted for translation of their bible and very closely resembles Armenian. I noted recently in news on some unpleasantness or other in Ethiopia that signage clearly was in Armenian glyphs.

    Byron who was fluent in Greek and Latin and probably most of the current European languages, came across Armenian and was so impressed by it that he learned it from monks in Venice, then wrote two dictionaries/grammars on English-Armenian, “the language that God would have used to communicate with man!”. Well that seems to me a bit over the top but for many it fit the bill in not using diacritical marks and was totally phonetic. Oddly enough (or I think so anyway), they had no “o” or “f” until the 13th C, considering that these glyphs were “foreign”. The VM uses a lot of Armenian glyphs including “o” and “f”.The “f” is represented by a variation of the “&” where the bottom is not closed up and sort of resembles a “rocker”.. Now in reading around in the “recipe” section, I note that the Armenian “f” often ends what I think is a sentence. Armenians used the colon but often wrote without any terminal punctuation at all. I think also that the use in the VM as a sentence terminator is often preceded by one or more “null” characters to really put a stop to the idea. The idea of the ampersand as serving some function other than “and” was, to the best of my memory,first proposed by you so this idea of a role for the Armenian “f” may not seem at all weird to you. It might even imply that the VM was written in “Armenian” BEFORE the “f” came into common use at least by the scribes and the scribes just threw it in for an additional puzzlement. Cheers, Tom

  139. Thomas,

    Once again, the citation comes from an article by the Czech Prof. J.B. Hurych, which I copied to my website. It is not my opnion, but Hurych’s. Just look at the first line of the article.

  140. Thomas – more cross-overs. This is from the comment to a blogpost. Hope it’s ok to post again here:

    In part, H.Takahashi wrote:

    “…there is an Armenian manuscript that has the Trisagion in Greek, Georgian, Syriac and Persian, all in Armenian characters (Erevan, Matenadaran, 4618, fol. 126). details in Andrea Schmidt, “Arménien et syriaque”, in C. Mutafian (ed.), Arménie : la magie de l’écrit [exposition, Marseille, Centre de la vieille charité, 27 avril-22 juillet 2007], Paris, 2007, p. 345–348.

    The post to which that comment was made treats use of Syriac characters to write a Georgian language and *seven*(!) others.Syriac was once the liturgical languge of many non-Byzntine eastern Christians.

    That blogger, hmmlorientalia, wrote:

    Among other uses of Syriac script for non-Syriac languages, we know well of Garšūnī (or Syro-Arabic) and even Syro-Armenian and Syro-Kurdish… but I was surprised to find in my recent cataloging work a small example of Georgian written in Syriac script. The text, which follows several pages of a grammatical list, is on one page of CCM 10 (olim Mardin 81) … It’s the trisagion (vel sim.: the Latin may be a garbled version of lines from this Easter hymn) in eight languages: Latin, Greek, Armenian, Georgian, Persian, Turkish, Arabic, and finally, Syriac. Much might be said about how these languages are represented in this short text, but here I’m only considering the Georgian part, lines 13-14 below..

    Sorry I can’t credit the author properly here.
    date of original blogpost, though, was 24th October 2013

  141. thomas spande on November 14, 2013 at 10:41 pm said:

    Menno et al., Are you aluding to the fact that we have a good date for the vellum (early 15thC) but no clear indication of when the writing was laid down? Nick has made this point numerous times, in fact at the head of this blog. One can use graphic techniques in art, like parallel hatching (cf Nick) or writing numbers (cf Nick again) but in the opinion of most (including Nick), we need a more reliable way of dating the text. I think some more info might be derived from the micro Raman spectroscopy of Clark et al., looking at the resin components of the alleged copper resinate or the organic binder of the inks, evidently not gum arabic or maybe gum arabic with some additive. We might learn something from RNA of the vellum, whether it is cow, sheep or goat and if enough little snips could be obtained, the kinship of animals if they are all one species of cow, sheep or goat. Many different species of the above three animals are likely such as the fat tailed sheep.Even there we learn only the venue of the vellum. It could have travelled from near or far. I read that some fine vellums came back to Europe with the Crusaders. But back to the main quest: dating the inking of the VM. We need a lot more on the pigments. We have just some teasers so far. Carbon 14 dating might be possible on some of the binders used in coloring, such as a dab of gesso that appeared to cover an error on one page of the herbal. Most gessos had honey, a natural metabolic product.
    I thought I had made a discovery that the “0” used in the folio or quire numbers was an “o” from the Latin alphabet and that the numberers of the VM lacked the concept of zero (as do the Armenians and Arabs and many others) but turns out that only the East Indians were onto this and it wasn’t until Fibonacci brought the concept to Italy and Europe in the middle 15thC that everyone wised up. So that idea of mine went nowhere. No one used the standard zero glyph at the time the VM was written or even the folio and quire numbers. Instead the medieval European zero originally used the alphabet “o” .The “&” appears in the VM and is used by both scribes but that is rare in medieval writing. This study might take us somewhere but even a consult with “Mr Armenian paleography (i.e. M.E. Stone)” got me nowhere. It does show up in 16thC Armenian herbals but the examples Stone cited for me were actually the Armenian “f” which is a look alike. I view the VM as a super huge onion of layer upon layer and encoded in a devilish cipher that is complicated with scribal abbreviations. The scribal abbreviations actually look like their usual glyphs but are fused with “)”, a common Tironian note but not used in the manner of the VM scribes. Cheers, Tom

  142. Dear Thomas

    The type of animal from which a skin comes can very often be determined from microscopic examination, since the distance between hair follices, their size, proximity to one another an whether in curved lines or not tell us enough in most cases without destructive tests.

    With the deepest respect to Nick Pelling, the Voynich manuscript contains nothing which is rightly termed parallel hatching in the sense used of some late medieval works; what’s in the Vms is a form of shading which has a continuous demonstrable history, even in the Mediterranean, from the time of the ancient Greeks. In European manuscript art, it is clearly attested in Carolingian and Ottonian works, as I’ve also demonstrated.

    McCrone says the material is optically consistent with copper resinate.

    When the tests were done, the rosin was not identifiable. More recent techniques could do it; if someone’s willing to pay.

    Perhaps they have done and that is why the seemingly nachronistic ‘Americas’ theory is suddenly being revived – in the wiki no less.

    As I’ve said, presence of copper resinate is a critical marker. I’ve no doubt McCrone also wishes its full investigtion had been in their brief.
    Since there appears to be some policy in place by which my work is used, but either attributed to someone else (e.g. my detailed analysis of the world-map in folio 86v is now being noted uncredited, or attributed to some person who once said “it could be a map”. Ditto my detailed explanation of the thinking, method, Greek texts and medieval-style mnemonic elements informing construction of the botanical section is being subsumed under – not Tiltman – but some secondary source which apparently described the botnical imagery as quasi-Frankenstein’ish monsters compiled of vaious bits at random. The secondary source is cited, tacitly at once both ignoring and subsuming my own – formally qualified – analysis. This is what happens when people become driven to hold to an hypothesis as if it were a personal ideology, and to treat new information which requires that hypothesis modified as if it were some sort of threat rather than an opportunity to do the manuscript justice.

    In my opinion, this is why the best work done on the Vms was done by people who have no more to do with it, and the greatest bar to successfully understanding it those who are promoted as experts on a book of which they could not interpret either pictures or texts without some ‘crib’.

    One month more on it, and I join that list. My very best wishes to those I’ve had reason to rely on – Neal and Pelling, chiefly. Wish I might than Tiltman, Panofsky and other honest minds.

    So long, Thomas

  143. thomas spande on November 15, 2013 at 6:14 pm said:

    Menno, I had never before seen the article you cite but will study it.On a quick scan, it appears to indicate as fact a number of claims that are disputed, such as its ownership by Rudolph II. I have never quoted from the section on the Codex Voynich. Their cipher code is new to me. I will examine the “unknown” script developed at the Univ.of Bologna, interestingly the university at which Pope Gregory of the calendar reform, studied mathematics. The VM ends at a villa used occasionally by Gregory XIII. Thanks for alerting me to this study but I have never seen it and certainly not quoted from it or anything by Hurych. The only Czech connection I was interested in were the phonetic reforms of the Czech language insitituted by Jan Hus.There were many diacritical marks introduced by him but only one survives, the c with a circumflexed “v” that is pronounced as “ch” making Kovac=Kovach. The Armenians used the tipped “2” or question mark-like glyph for “ch”. Cheers, Tom

  144. thomas spande on November 15, 2013 at 7:34 pm said:

    Menno, On page of the Codex Voynich discussion, I note 6 points are made re the paleography of the VM. Point 3 has a history of the introduction of “arabic ” numerals into Europe,mentioning only at the end, that they originated in Hinid arithmatic. The Arabs still do not use arabic numerals in written arabic. On point 5, as I understand it, 272 “herbs” should have been discussed in the 17 quires of the plant section. There are a few instances of two “herbs” per folio so let’s assume 280 for the moment as the maximum number of “herbs” that could have been present, but there would likely be many more missing from that section than the estimated n-280 if we accept the number of suns currently found in the VM “registry ” section (some of us have grown used to calling that section, the “recipe” section). The little stars currenly present number, n=314, and the missing folio f108r/v would likely have approximately 30 more for a total of approximately 344 making it likely that these don’t represent the herbs at all but represent something like a calendar or horoscope. The coloring and/or dots of color on the star might be just decoration as they seem to form no clear pattern, sometimes alternating but often with two breaking the pattern;sometimes with a red centraol dot sometimes colored red totally. Cheers, Tom

  145. thomas spande on November 15, 2013 at 8:12 pm said:

    Diane, Re the resin of that copper resinate. McCrone Assoc was not prohibited from using mass spectrometry, a common techique in 2009. Particularly liquid chromatography coupled with high resolution mass measurements might have ruled in or out certain possibilities for “gums”.

    I thought that Rene Zanbergen had examined at least some pages of the VM vellum with a hand lens but I confess I have forgotten his conclusion(s)? I am just guessing that what would be easier would be flesh side vs. skin side. I think the job gets harder when unborn animals are used.

    Diane, It seems to be to be self evident that your posts, like mine and any others, will remain on Nick’s web sites “’til time’s last trump shall sound”and provide the ultimate argument settler on matters of priority. Don’t be hasty in pulling out!!.

    Thanks for the Syriac connection with Armenian and many other languages. It is true that no less an expert on archaic Hebrew than M.E.Stone, originally considered that many of the petroglyphs seen in the Sinai and enroute to the summit of Mt. Sinai were Hebrew but closer study established them to be in Armenian and some in fact before the blessed saint created the Armenian alphabet and language in the 4thC. I think in the matter of “loan words” that a lot of languages end up mixed in with others. Armenian used some arabic also. Cheers,Tom

  146. thomas spande on November 15, 2013 at 10:17 pm said:

    Menno, et al., 1) the Latin legal shorthand of the littera buononienco has little resemblance to the VM. No gallows glyphs for instance. It seems to me to be in the same category as Latin loaded up with Tironian notation.A known language with unknown or uncommon glyphs is something that Voynichers have had their eye on for a long time. Some glyphs, like “8”, “cc” and the inverted gamma are interesting and do occur in the VM but the VM has at least 8 gallows glyphs and most do not think them ligatures.

    2) In adding those pesky stars, I realize I missed 10 from the last page (116r) and unfortunately that page is one my copy of the VM from the Beinicke is missing. It might even have a colophon? Also I missed two folios (109r/v; 110 r/v) that might have gotten lost over the years? Dunno the story there. Anyway, if those two folios had roughly 13 stars per page, this adds 52 more and with the final 10 we are up to a grand total of n=376. I was mistaken in my earlier post of today in thinking 108 r/v was missing. It is not. It was 109/110 that are missing. Anyway, this leads to a number that is more than the number of days in the year. One possibility is that the double clear or painted stars represent one day. I will check that out but in the absence of the two folio sheets this might be pointless.Cheers, Tom

  147. Thomas,
    Research usually begins by reading what has been done before, not least to avoid wasting one’s own time. For that to happen, people have to be willing to say who has worked already on a given topic.

    My supposed eagerness to ‘seek credit’ is a furfy begun from the first efforts I made in the mailing list *to* credit previous researchers – chiefly to avoid wasting my time or having done so being supposed to have filched it.

    The mailing list’s policy is that one need not acknowlege sources unless one chooses.

    Fortunately, Nick Pelling was so often the ground-breaker, or showed such care on this point, that his site became my chief guide on prior work and who began it. Not that he has included everyone here, but there was enough to save me and others too much doubling of effort. The ‘groundhog day’ phenomenon in Voynich studies since c.2002.

    Of course I want my own work used – no point in oing it otherwise. But when it comes to the point that previous work by me or anyone else is repeated in such a way as to imply it is ‘common knowledge’ rather than the results gained, and set out in detail, by one person – not the speaker who has simply ‘lifted’ it, then what you have is no longer genuine research into a fifteenth-century object. About the practice of appointing some ‘mate’ to ghost re-write in order to void recognising an outsider, I will not say more.

    Pelling himself is firmly in the ‘CEA’ camp I think – that doesn’t stop him observing the personal and scholarly courtesies, which is why I continue to recommend his site though he himself seems to have lost interest in ms Beinecke 408, and I cannot in the least support his ‘Averlino’ hypothesis.


  148. Diane: far from it, I have actually been doing a fair amount of Voynich Manuscript research of late, just nothing that has yet surfaced in Cipher Mysteries posts – and all along lines quite independent of existing research. We can agree, though, that there are plenty of CEO (Central European Ownership) cues, right? 😉

  149. Hooray! Look forward to reading your latest work.

    If the signature is Siniapus’, then by his time – sure it’s most likely in central Europe. But if you believe Mnishovsky, it was brought to Prague by some person not considered a resident, and only in the 17thC. We have no idea which direction he came from and the term used refers sometimes to pilgrims, sometimes to Jews, sometimes to traders, etc.etc. Just this second, I wouldn’t mind Lyon(s).

  150. Thomas,

    If you take, that the herbal section originally existed of 17 quires, it amounts to 17 x 16 pages equals 272 pages. I noticed that other herbalia show ca. 300 plants. The register pages show 23 x 12 stars equals ca. 276 paragraphs. Thus, the two may be related.

  151. T Anderson on November 16, 2013 at 11:04 pm said:

    A few things:

    Better tests would include DNA from the vellum as well. DNA testing would require destructive sampling, but the original Raman spectroscopy method is non destructive.

    There is a large amount of borrowing both to and from Armenian, and to complicate things more there is a Hurro-Uratian substrate muddying things further. The Caucasus region is one of the most linguistically diverse areas in the world. Armenian, Georgian, Old Udi, and Ethiopian are unrelated to the point that each belongs to a different primary language family. The idea that an Armenian saint invented the Armenian, Georgian, and Old Udi alphabets is a good story, but it’s just a story. One language may have inspired the others, butthe letter ordering is based on Greek. The Ge’ez script is more ancient and isn’t even an alphabet, it’s an abugida that originated as an abjad.

  152. thomas spande on November 18, 2013 at 6:56 pm said:

    Menno, I think you are undercounting the stars/page of the registry. How did you arrive at 12 per page? I think the average is more like 15 per page. Even if we accept that there should be 272 herbal pages, this means that more than half are missing (272-113).

    I do recall now a very brief exchange with Hurych on Nick’s web site many months ago; just a question to Hurych on whether something he was referring to was written in Czech. He answered that it was, otherwise I cannot recall any further exchanges nor citing this fact nor anything of his. The link you provide to Codex Voynich (probably written mainly by Hurych?) deals almost exclusively with the provenance of the VM, an area, while interesting, has not been a focus of mine. So your comment that I have used some idea or argument advanced first by Hurych, leaves me puzzled. Cheers, Tom

  153. thomas spande on November 18, 2013 at 7:31 pm said:

    To T. Anderson. DNA testing only takes a 2mm strip several inches long. Mitochondrial RNA, going only through the mother, would give any kinship among animal hides of the same species being used. Anyway, as you say, it is totally destructive and is likely not to be approved. Maybe as Diane indicates, looking at the follicular pores will indicate what animal(s) provided the vellum.
    I am not married to the Armenian language being the language of the VM although the “89” glyphs (=”et”) got me thinking about the possibility, also the VM is written L->R , like Armenian but unlike Syriac, Hebrew or Arabic for instance. The Armenians used a 30 day calendar and that strange rondel for the zodiac for Scorpio that resembles a croc rather than a scorpion, also fit an early Armenian custom.

    Now, a comment for general consumption, disputation or brick throwing is what appears to be a glyph used as a full stop. Note that the bathing and “registry” (or recipe) sections have many lines that end in a strange glyph that resembles an “8” or more closely an “&” but is better described as an “8” with a lower part unconnected and enscribed as more like a rocker. It is related to the Armenian character for “f” which did not come into common usage by them until the 13thC. I think it serves the VM scribes as a period. The Armenians used a colon which would be a giveaway that Armenian hands were involved here. Anyway, most of that strange “8-like”glyph (8*) appear at the end of a line as seen most clearly in registry folios. There can be up to 15 per page BUT their occurrence at the end of a line has me puzzled. If it is not some kind of crazy null glyph, it would imply that the sentences were made to fit the space available which would be odd and maybe a bit suspicious? A very few of the 8* glyphs are internal but they always occur at the end of a word, whose lengths most Voynichers think are arbitrary anyway. I noted that many were “8a8*” “words” and considering that the 8* might be an “f”, this made sense to me as “eaf” referring to leaves but is nearly every sentence going to end that way. Seems unlikely. Still, I throw this into the mix but recognize that other Voynichers have likely been there before me on this point. Both scribes use it. Cheers, Tom

  154. thomas spande on November 18, 2013 at 8:30 pm said:

    Diane, I take your point. I can only hope it is not directed at me?! Not to give credit to someone who first proposed an idea is the worst kind of plagarism. Copying boilerplate, while offensive, is not the deepest ring of hell for plagarisers. I realize that we both incline to a non- Eurocentric origin for the VM. I might have stumbled across Alzera (greater Mesopotamia) in another context as being likely the spot where some of the VM herbal style originated but this came out of a comment by a Canadian researcher on an Arabic herbal. I did not think to note whether you had been there as I indicated the Canadian idea was not my own but happened to fit an Armenian origin also. One issue I have is that I have trouble sometimes accessing your web pages. With a US gov computer, some stuff involving passwords is off limits. Any Iranian sites, ditto.

    If I seem to have appropriated ideas that first came to you , I will fall on my keyboard in embarrassment but this was done inadvertantly.

    I agree with both your’s and Anderson’s point that Armenian shows up everywhere. I knew of mixes with Turkish and some of the “stans” and Syriac is another, that I was unaware of. Syriac seems odd in that is a R->Left language and has four glyphs like Arabic for start, end, medial positions and all caps. Guess some scribes liked the weird Armenian glyphs that to my eye are no improvement on Greek at all, supposedly an ancester of Armenian. Cheers, Tom

  155. Thomas,

    By mistake I put your name on it instead of Diane’s. See post Diane November 9, 2013 10:34 am. Sorry.

  156. Thomas,
    No, not at all. I think. Certainly not ‘Thomas Spande’ . It wouldn’t be much fun to think I’d spent nearly five years on this manuscript, shared the results and no-one used it. On the other hand when I see the results co-opted (as has been done) without any name or links to the evidence, reasoning or comprative images, I do feel cross.

    I recently stumbled across ‘Steve D’s’ site, to find plant id’s over which I’d spent days of research, writing-up & illustrating simply co-opted. I recognised others as due to Dana Scott, or Ellie Velinska. Puts me off my beer 🙂

  157. Thomas,

    I have counted the stars again.Folio 103-116: 310 stars. Maybe p56r/v should be included: 5 stars. Nevertheless our conclusion was the same: a large number of folia in the herbal section is missing.

  158. thomas spande on November 19, 2013 at 5:25 pm said:

    Menno, Two folios are missing (f109, 110) and whether those four pages had stars or content we cannot be certain. Those might have been removed to send to Kircher? Nick undoubtedly has an opinion on this but I am blanking at the moment on this.

    Anyway, 310 is OK I think for the number of stars. But whether the stars had anything to do with the herbal pages is another matter. It would certainly make the VM, one fat little codex. It would increase the number of pages of the VM by 310-113 or 187 pages or close to double the size of what we have now? Maybe those pages were actually intended as a second volume, which some medieval herbals did have.

    The proof of your idea will await a decrypt of at least a few stars and maybe should indicate those decrypts should be given a high priority.

    Thanks for clearing up the Hurych matter. Cheers, Tom

  159. thomas spande on November 19, 2013 at 9:06 pm said:

    Diane, Thanks for clarifying your concerns. I tend to an “ab initio” approach and may just end up rediscovering the wheel as is a drawback to that approach. However I will not deliberately mine some claim that has received a lot of attention. I have only a passing memory of much of “Enigma”, preferring to go with what the VM document has to tell us and not what someone has inferred. I know you are in the same camp in that regard. We have all profited from your much more expansive take on possible geographical or cultural contexts for the VM without a fixation on Europe for instance.
    At the moment, I have passed over any plant identifications and have concentrated mainly on where the VM glyphs might have come from and the venue for those pools of the bathing section. Clearly a lot more data (maybe from micro Raman methods) would be useful.

    I think that we can learn a lot more than the paltry evidence we now have from McCrone Assoc.on the paint pigments of the VM but am cautious about which is original and which might be added accretions over time.

    I dimly remembered that two scribes were postulated by one contributor of Enigma but forgot which was A and which was B? I think that analyst was correct and I continue to look for some tell tale glyph to distinguish the tighter writer from that of the looser style. Cheers to you down there in Oz! Tom

  160. thomas spande on November 25, 2013 at 7:37 pm said:

    Dear all, On another topic but relating to the layout of the “herbal” section of the VM. Is there an intentional “directionality” in the plant depictions or is it accidental? Compare f31r and 31v. The former has leaves on the left side and flowers on the right; the latter has the reverse arrangement. On f55r, the leftmost stem has leaves facing left; the rightmost, has leaves facing right and the center stem has both directions. This directionality may be noticed also with roots; f32r and f54 roots face right; roots of f42r, 44r and 45r/v face left. The buds of the spiral of f56r face right. Many other examples exist in the VM and I think might reflect the yin/yang symbology where right =yin and left = yang, expressing chiefly female and male properties respectively. Perhaps this is code for an implied use of the plant for female or male complaints or for either sex as true of the leaves and/or blossoms of most of the VM plants. Yin/Yang symbology was an eastern idea but the European alchemists loved it. Color (blue =yang; orange or yellow=yin) also is often used for the male or female principle and even up and down. In the above, I am assuming that left and right are defined by the observer but it might also be that the plant itself is used for reference. True Yin/yang philosopy taught that all living animals had qualities of both but one would usually predominate. Anyone share this crazy notion that the directionality observed in the plant graphics might not be just for the convenience of the plant delineator but might have a deeper meaning? Cheers, Tom

  161. Thomas,
    Can’t say I’ve seen a ‘yin-yang’ symbol myself, but have noted a pretty consistent, if mild, dualism expessed through several sections of the Vms, consistent with the depiction (in the Vms) of a philosophy which saw the physical world composed of five elements, rather than the Latin or Greek four.

    In this case I’d call it an interest in complementarity more than than stark opposition of light/dark or good/evil.

    Same regions permit explanation of the vessels in the pharma section and the way roots are depicted. The last is common in the eastern sphere – seen for example in southern Indian traditional arts as in early copies of the Chinese Bencao genre.

    Of the last, I thought the closest were Song dynasty works which in turn agreed with details from other sections, including motifs seen in the Vms and common on artefacts made and traded through the east in that era – most of which were not known then in Europe.

    Even the curiosities of the calendar section might turn out to be explicable as the rest is: the result of an older Hellenistic series being retained in the eastern sphere and affected by its styles and attitudes for almost a thousand years before return to the Mediterranean world – but that ‘s a complex argument, which requires acceptance of the idea that the initiative in forming the pharma section (and the herbal section) was not medieval central Europe, its concerns, world-view, religion or herbals.

    The end of the Vms’ historical thread before its early fifteenth century version is likely (in my opinion) to be picked up with the Genoese ‘eye’ map of 1457 and the de Virga, now known only from photographs.

  162. thomas spande on November 26, 2013 at 6:41 pm said:

    Diane, Thanks for the thoughtful reply to the yin/yang idea. It would either indicate to me an eastern origin for the vM as you incline to or the importation into the West of an eastern (Chinese) idea like yin/yang and used by the VM scribes. I am just at the level of “look see” and not yet ready to answer “where from” or “where from via”.

    The fern-like plant of f38r has clearly five yang symbols. I think a sixth was present but was scraped off and damaged the drawing in the process. It was repaired with thread and then repainted but not very carefully. Seems unlikely to me that a drawing would have been done over a rip as there was plenty of room to the right of where the fern ended up. Therefore I conclude that the dose indicated by the five remaining yangs had been adjusted by the conscientious herbalist from six and indicates the tern will supply five males, not six, with something or other. Could be an aphrodisiac which was one focus of Armenian medics. On f39r, we have again yin/yang symbols, yangs on the left and yins on the right that indicate dosages from inserts on the slightly curled leaves (my guess as to plant use: relief from cramps). Another plant drawing (f46r) that differs from the interpretation provided by Nick in “Curse” is that these are not sail-like depictions but rather yin symbols, even with the classic shape and the plant flowers are orange/yellow, suggesting to me that the plant of f46r dealt with some female complaint. The leaf shape of a lot of the VM plants are of the yin/yang format. The tell-tale dot of f38r and the orientation of the symbol indicates yang whereas with many leaves in that yin/yang shape, we cannot be certain whether it is yin or yang as they are mirror images of one another. With the f38r fern, the little blossom at the base of the fern that still retains some original blue (I think) supports yangs.

    Unfortunately yin/yang symbology gets into occult practises like alchemy and it does not rule out Europe at all. I read somewhere that the entrance to an alchemical lab in Czechoslovakia had yin and yang symbols on the doorposts.

    If Yin/Yang symbology is being used in the VM, it might indicate gender-specific herbal remedies or maybe they just explain some of the weirdness of the plant depictions? I just throw this hypothesis into the pot for argument’s sake. Cheers, Tom

  163. thomas spande on November 26, 2013 at 9:54 pm said:

    Dear all, My daughter, an art conservator in Florence Italy sends me the JSTOR link below:

    Technical Examination of a Fifteenth-Century German Illuminated Manuscript on Paper: ACase Study in the Identification of MaterialsAuthor(s): David A. Scott, Narayan Khandekar, Michael R. Schilling, Nancy Turner, YokoTaniguchi and Herant KhanjianSource: Studies in Conservation, Vol. 46, No. 2 (2001), pp. 93-108Published by: Maney Publishing on behalf of the International Institute for Conservation of Historic andArtistic WorksStable URL: . For those who have trouble with JSTOR (like me) I append the abstract:

    Summary–Technical and analytical studies were carried out on a fifteenth-century German illuminated manu- script, Barlaam und Josephat, in the collections of the J. Paul Getty Museum. Deterioration of the paper support has occurred as a result of interaction with the copper green pigments used extensively for illumina- tion. The green pigment was determined by X-ray diffraction to be a variety of basic verdigris and the binding medium, analysed by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), was determined to be egg. A dark green glaze was shown to have a glue binder, and is an example of a copper-proteinate complex. An organic red, also in a glue binder, was characterized by thin-layer chromatography and UV/vis spectroscopy as rhubarb, mordanted with alum. Rhubarb has not been previously identified as an organic red colorant in illu- minated manuscripts. Vermilion, azurite, lead white and an unidentified organic yellow were also employed in the decoration. Discussion of the artistic milieu in which the manuscript was produced includes comparisons with well-known manuscripts of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries such as the Strasburg Manuscript and the Gdttingen Model Book. The possible options for conservation treatment of the embrittled paper support are discussed.

    Rhubarb is used for a red pigment: as she put it “who knew?”

    Some destructive methods are used. The green was not copper resinate but verdigris mixed with “egg”. Not clear whether this is the whole egg or yolk or white at the moment.Cheers, Tom

  164. Thomas,
    The same paper has been mentioned before in Voynich studies – and not only by me I think.

    Verdigris mixed with protein is unremarkable, though not usually considered “optically consistent with copper resinate” as Barabe says, nor does it contain a resin at all, especially not one which experts like McCrone would find impossible (in 2009) to identify.

    If people are really intrigued by the subject of pigments, might I suggest:

    Nicholas Eastaugh; Valentine Walsh; Tracey Chaplin and Ruth Siddall

    (1) The Pigment Compendium: A Dictionary of Historical Pigments
    (2) The Pigment Compendium: Optical Microscopy of Historical Pigments
    (3) The Pigment Compendium: CD-ROM


  165. thomas spande on November 27, 2013 at 6:27 pm said:

    Diane, Thanks for brinking me up to speed and for the refs. This gives us a target of what to look for as does the work you cited by Clark in PNAS. It is relevant only if we can get some more data on pigments used in the VM from the paltry three (ochre, blue and green) so far sampled. If we for instance,examine original bluies (those violets have some I think) and find no lapis lazuli, this might argue against a northern Italian paint box. The presence of l.l.won’t tell us as much as its absence.Cheers,Tom

    BTW has anyone made inquiries about the CD ROM available from McCrone. Did this just go to the German film maker? I have a problem anyway with the analysis by McCrone Assoc. in that they appear not to have sampled original pigments but later accretions. Certainly that appears to be the case with the ochre root and that blue flower.

    A major mine in Laurium Greece on the Attica penninsula produced azurite, malachite as well as other green or blue minerals that might have been used for pigments. One is glaucocerinite (Zn,Cu)5Al3(SO4)(OH)1.5(H2O)9.This mine was most famous for silver that made Athens famously wealthy and bankrolled the naval fleet of Themistocles. But the slagheaps had many interesting minerals and are still being examined (see Cheers, Tom

  166. Thomas,
    We can hope that someone, some time, might commission McCrone to conduct a formal scientific assessment of the pigments. But ORF wasn’t obliged to be unbiased in their choice, and McCrone was instructed to sample the pigments, and even the folios, of interest to the makers of the Austrian documentary. Severely limited brief; severely limited results. But McCrone’s report on the inks is surely something to be grateful for.

  167. Thomas, I’m quite certain that the botanical section is not any expression of Latin custom, knowledge or culture.

    Before writing my first contribution (concerning f.25v) I’d been led to that conclusion – about 18 months into the research.

    I incline towards Java as origin for the botanical pictures, but won’t be surprised if it turns out to be from Burma or the Philippines, or even southern India. It’s the traders, their routes and related professions which matter more than nationality imo.

    In theory, your yin-yang idea certainly appeals but I have to say I don’t see yin-yang symbols in the Vms. Even the motifs on f.38r appear to me as a reference to the proverbial way to distinguish Bactrian bdellium. It must have been a well-known saw since even the Roman Pliny heard it.
    ” Bactrian bdellium is dry and shining, and has numerous white spots, like [finger-nails/claws] in shape” (N.H. .12.19).

    Folio 1v has another use of the ‘finger-nail/claw’ correspondence in its mnemonic – an usual one which really does seem in that case to be influenced by knowledge of Latin… at some stage.

    Dots on leaves: I think these a visual ‘note’ of useful oil or gained from that part of the plant. Cf folio 33r, 3r etc. 🙂

  168. thomas spande on December 2, 2013 at 7:07 pm said:

    Diane, I totally agree that the botanical section has little resemblance in illustrative style or content to European herbals or agricultural treatises. It has to my eye an arabic flavor. I think yin/yang symbols are in the VM and if you don’t accept those five “yangs” of the fern on f38v, I will have a difficult job in convincing you that the occasional orientation of parts of the plants (leaves, blossoms and roots) is done to reflect the suggested medicinal use of the plant by females (yin=right) or males (yang=left). To me, five very precise depictions of the yang symbol, each complete with a little orientation spot is not equivalent to the plant spots, Pliny describes. The folowing colors I think also suggest this with blue (=heaven or sky=yang=male) and orange, red or yellow (earth=yin=female) being by far the most common colors. Blue is way more common than it is in European gardens. What counts with colors is original ink wash or watercolor and on careful examination and maybe some eye strain, one can see that the original color choice of the VM tinters was adhered to by the later toucher-uppers, who applied pigments with a heavier hand. I am working on a listing of original blue, green and brown (or tan) VM pigments and I would say that more than half of the illustrations have been retinted. There is another directionality—“up” (yang=male) and “down” (yin=female) that is more problematic at the moment and I hesitate to belabor that point. It could turn out to be nonsense. But I remain convinced that leaf shapes, directionality of leaf, blossoms or roots reflects yin/yang symbols. This whole area probably strikes any “westerner” as a goofy Chinese idea but it influenced some other eastern countries and Indonesia is likely among them.

    I totally agree with you in principle that dots on leaves which you comment on, serve a function of reminding the reader of likely application, e.g.treating poxes (or maybe even freckles!). Claws likewise, which occur many places in the VM, were an indicator that the plant roots (f1v) or leaves are used for animal-scratching injuries. One plant has leaves that resemble the stag beetle closely and it will be noted that this beetle is 1) ubiquitous (unfortunately for venue hunting) and 2) has a nasty nip on unprotected toes.

    Now the big question for me is why the VM needed retinting in the first place? Why in the case of the VM were so many common pigment colors fugative? Many illustrated herbals, several discussed by you, seem to be fine with the colors originally laid down. But looking closely at the VM, blues, greens and browns have all been augmented or totally painted over. What gives here? As the study on that 15thC German ms where rhubarb was used as a red, indicated the iron gall inks had led to paper deterioration. At least whatever formula(s) was used on the VM vellum for iron gall ink. the original inks were untouched in general.

    I seem to be out on a limb with yin/yang symbology being used in the VM and it coming out of Mesopotamia as I have no solid evidence at the moment that any Alzaera population used it. So maybe, if ever I can convince you or the general readership of this site, that it is being used, Java might still fit the bill. Or some nutso Alchemists from Europe. Cheers, Tom

  169. thomas spande on December 2, 2013 at 9:53 pm said:

    Diane, I agree that some more analytical work on the VM pigments is devoutly to be desired. EXCEPTI would give McCrone a pass as their methods were chiefly destructive. I still incline to the position that the pigments they chose for the blue flower and the ochre root were not original. Maybe the pigments were the same but that is not a given. I think the (non-destructive) micro Raman methods such as the work you reference to Clark et al in PNAS would be the way to go.They could sample original and later painting of the same plant parts to provide important data. If they differ, then clearly there is repainting going on and Voynichers who have inferred this by inspection will be proved correct. If the VM pigments prove to be unusual and the same in stage 1 and later stages, then we also have something to write home about. In pigment discuisions, it seems likely that the same mineral might be used but with different binders and additives over time. Or maybe totally different minerals. Raman spectroscopy should pick this up. Cheers, Tom

    ps.Just suppose for purposes of argument that the original plant pigments were non-mineral, natural plant colors (as used for example in the finest oriental rugs) and this is why they faded? Then suppose that later pigments did use minerals and maybe incorporated things like palmierite and atacamite.

  170. Thomas,
    Paper-making is said to have introduced to Baghdad by Chinese prisoners of war; Daoists were keen on ‘yin-yang’ symbolism and were famous for alchemy; Chinese bureaucracy classed Manichaeans with Daoists for admin. purposes and the two were sometimes or even often settled together in parts of China, so some cross-over is surely possible. Same bureaucracy dictated what might be owned, and even what colours/pigments might be used by each class. Might be argued as explaining lack of vermilion in those Vms pigments tested but the sampling was not comprehensive, representative nor randomised so there might yet be vermilion in the Vms somewhere.

    In short, circumstantial evidence that could be used to support an hypothesis; but so much else in the Vms is plainly not from Chinese origins that overall, I’d say non-Chinese involved in trading eastern products, and having a line of transmission which reached from southeast Asia to the far west: perhaps as early as the tenth century, though I incline to the mid-twelfth to mid-thirteenth for that phase in our ms’ evolution.

    To be honest, I’m thinking Baresch might have said ‘Egyptian’ either to avoid referring to Jews or because he mistook ‘Mizrahim’ for ‘Mitzraym’, but linguistics is not my field.

  171. thomas spande on December 3, 2013 at 6:31 pm said:

    Diane, Thanks for the rundown on paper. I knew it originated (i.e. rag papers not papyrus) in China and that the Arabs picked it up and supposedly introduced it into Europe via Spain but I think that is hypothetical. I have seen and owned in fact paper made in Spain in 1470 and it showed an early water mark (the fleur de lis). That is one handy thing about paper; it can often be dated from books of watermarks and sometimes even the date is included as an indicator of the date of manufacture. Of course it can be written on a any time after the manufacture but not before. Because early papers held up well, held ink easily and were so easy to make from old rags, it rapidly replaced vellums and parchments but earlier in the “east” than the perhaps more conservative west. This by no means eliminates a non-European origin for the VM as monasteries and certain institutions continued to use vellums and paper at the same time.

    With reference to those “stag beetles”, See f 51r where leaves look to my eye like those beetles with 6 legs and some mean looking pincers. Even to the detail of a spine down the back. As far as locale where these are found, I did not search SE asia but they seem ubiquitous.

    For “nails”, I think five nails are shown on leaves of the following VM pages: f1v (your conclusion with which I agree), 2r, 19v, 34r, 40r/v, 48r, 52r. I am on the same page as you in thinking these little unpainted (usually, even in repainted leaves) nails indicate some use of the plant leaves for something involving nails, likely an animal scratch. Anyway a mnemonic clue and I suspect for the use of the plant. Cheers, Tom

  172. thomas spande on December 3, 2013 at 8:12 pm said:

    Dear all, while we are on the subject of visual clues in the VM “herbal”, perhaps the three blue flowers of f16v and the single blue flower of f90v can by a stretch of imagination, be seen as 8-pointed stars, used in ancient Armenian on 1C BC coins (Tigranes II) and by early Christians as the “natal” star. The 8-pointed star is used in Morrocco, Iraq and Azerbaijan, appearing in the flags of the latter two countries and only in modern times. The arabs loved making an 8-pointed star with two slightly shifted overlapping squares and it occurs often in their art. The VM “stars” if they are that, tend to resemble the natal star. Blue incidentally was the color that Armenians were forced to wear as head gear or neckerchiefs under the Ottomans. Exactly like the gold star German Jews were forced to wear under the Nazi regime. Cheers, Tom

  173. Tom,
    There are still some question-marks over whether paper-making was discovered by ethnic Chinese or by inhabitants of the region just west of China’s old borders. Interestingly, the oldest examples are the fragment of a map and some packing-paper, which suggests less elevated persons may have been aware of it before paper drew the attention of an imperial court-member. He however, permitted recognition in a society very tightly regulated. What the august would not deign formally to acknowledge had to be treated as non-existent by dutiful subjects.

  174. thomas spande on December 4, 2013 at 7:47 pm said:

    Diane (and others interested in paper), I have read that paper can be made from many plants, even to the level of potato peels. All that is required is a fibrous structure that is capable of association on lying flat after soaking in water. Early papers were formed on a support made of parallel wires that left fine lines in the paper when viewed against light. Later cheaper papers were made to look lined by the use of little rollers called “dandy” rollers; early phony baloney!. Also in dealing with modern pulp wood paper that has becomed “foxed” by moulds and then is lightly bleached, it is important not to wash it with distilled water but to use tap water that has calcium and magnesium and other ions that were likely present in the original manufacture. Cellulose from cotton or linen was ideal but not so ideal is wood pulp, which because of the sulfite process breaking down the lignan, leaves a residue that slowly becomes acidic eventually wrecking the paper.

    It would be interesting to know what was (were) the source(s) of the earliest, pre-Chinese paper that you have researched. Would Tibet be a candidate for the source of that paper? Cheers, Tom

  175. michelle smith on February 20, 2014 at 8:01 pm said:

    old post, but didn’t read it originally. Skipped loads of the comments but just in case it’s of interest and you don’t already know: zinc is used as a fungicide. Gall ink would be preferred over carbon black I would say because it dries waterproof and dries quicker maybe. Was any honey found in the inks? this can be used instead of gums. Atacamite was obtained by sprinkling salt over honey on copperplates a synthetic pigment’ viride salsum’ as told by Theophilus in the 12th century..used also in 13th century on mss

  176. michelle smith on February 20, 2014 at 8:23 pm said:

    oh and Alum can react with some pigments to form palmierite.
    Alum was used in tanning and to fix dyes.

  177. Pingback: The Voynich X-mas List | ThE VoyNIch BoMbE

  178. I ran a text anaylysis against the glyph’s, Wilfrids penmanship and Marci’s letter. Pretty close results that suggest forgery. Check out my site to see it.

  179. B Deveson on September 17, 2016 at 8:38 am said:

    A year or two ago I raised the matter of the colouring of most of the water in the Voynich manuscript drawings. I have searched through several hundred 14th to 16th Century manuscripts on the Internet looking for similar “pea soup” water without finding any except for those dealing with thermal baths. That is not to say that similar colouring of water does not occur for non thermal waters, only that it is uncommon, with maybe less than 1% prevalence. I mentioned before that the colour of the water strongly suggested to me that the re-painting was done by someone familiar with sulphurous geothermal spring water (or red-green colour blind). I accept that the murky yellow paint was applied sometime after the manuscript was written and identifying where the re-painting was performed does not help in establishing where the VM was written.
    I will also revisit the possible occurrence of palmierite in one sample of brown pigment taken from an area of black inking in the VM. As I have previously described, palmierite is very rare as a natural mineral, and there are only a hand full of places where it occurs naturally, and one of these is Mt Vesuvius.

    At this point I must digress to point out something that is not generally known, and which is relevant to the present discussion. I regret that I did not previously point out the following which may not be common knowledge. Natural minerals (those formed in nature, such as in geological processes) invariably contain microscopic inclusions of other minerals and also trace amounts of many elements. These inclusions and traces of contaminating elements give the mineral a detailed “finger print” that can often be used to decide from which locality a particular mineral sample has come from. The ratios of the isotopes of the various elements also adds to the “finger print”. My point is that a mineralogist would be well positioned and equipped to confirm, or deny, the identity of the suspected palmierite, and could also possibly identify the source of the brown iron oxide particle that carried it if this is a natural mineral pigment.
    I previously pointed out that there were, and still are, abundant deposits of many minerals that could be used as pigments around Mt Vesuvius, particularly during the quiescent phase of volcanism (ca. 12-17th C), and the associated sulphataras and sulphurous water springs.
    The sulphurous waters at Pozzuoli (at the base of Mt Vesuvius) were used for therapeutic purposes from Roman times and if you Google Pozzuoli you will find images that show the present day murky yellow green spring waters at Pozzuoli. But, sulphurous spring water can often emerge from the ground clear blue, and the blue colour can turn to opaque yellow or yellow-green due to exposure to air and light, and/or exposure to traces of nutrients such as come from sweaty bodies. The nutrients promote the growth of various sulphur bacterial and these can give the water various colours depending upon the type of bacteria involved. Google “De balneis puteolanis” images and you will see that many of the medieval paintings of the thermal baths at Pozzuoli depict the water as being a murky yellow green colour.

    I digress again. A study of the trace mineral inclusions and trace element finger print in a mineral can tell a lot about the conditions under which the mineral was formed. Things such as (but not limited to) the temperature, whether in a liquid or gaseous environment, the identity of the other components in contact with the mineral, the pH and eH of the environment and other physico-chemical parameters. These parameters can narrow down the location from where the pigment mineral was obtained (in the case of a naturally occurring mineral pigment) or the chemical process used to manufacture the pigment.

    I remember that various pigment samples that were taken from the VM for study for the McCrone report are still extant. I suggest that letting mineralogists examine these samples could narrow down, and possibly even locate, the region where the later painting of the VM occurred. OK. That would not tell us anything more than a locality where the VM once rested, but this information could yield more insights concerning the VM. Expert mineralogists who have access to the sort of instrumentation required (non destructive methods) would probably be interested in examining the pigment samples for nothing more than to be involved in an interesting and out of the ordinary project with the possibility of a published paper in a prestigious journal outside their usual field. Mineralogists would probably queue up for the chance, and do the work for free.

    I think that the pigments used in the VM are of low quality and not commercially obtained, and locally sourced. In other words, the source of some of the pigments is probably close to the location where the VM was re-painted.

  180. Tom O’Neil. Although the Voynich knew the key. Manuscript MS 408 not written. Not so it is a fake. The manuscript is genuine. The manuscript is written and encrypted in the Czech language. It Voynich himself writes in the letter, which is at Beinecke Library.

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