I’ve just been interviewed about the Voynich Manuscript for an article in an upcoming Sunday Times (apropos of the Yale University Press photo-facsimile, of course), which was a lot of fun.

Even so, while we were talking I became aware that there are a number of troubling things about the way almost everyone tends to talk about the Voynich MS that keep nagging at me. And one in particular needed a blog post all of its own…


The Heroic Outsider

Talk to almost anybody about the Voynich Manuscript, and you’ll quickly run into the presumption that glory awaits the keen-minded Champollion who enters the fray to rip away the Voynichian veils. That is to say, that decryption of the Voynich Manuscript will ‘inevitably’ be down to the solo travails of a brilliant cryptological outsider, whose keen eyes pierce through the fog of uncertainty, unhindered by the fashionably foolish blinkers everyone else involved happens to be wearing.

In fact, some researchers buy so heavily into this mystique that they take their outsiderness to an extreme: that if anyone else so much as hints at agreeing with them, it is a point of contrarian honour for them to disagree with themselves until they’re alone again. If you’ve studied the Voynich for any period of time, you probably have your own list of people who fit this template.

Personally, I think this mindset is unhelpful, nonsensical and self-destructive. Instead, when the blessèd day arrives when we finally manage to see past the Voynich’s surface misdirections and tricks to the plain-but-devious system beneath them, what we’ll almost certainly discover is that previous researchers had clearly and unambiguously flagged 90% or more of what was going on, but we were just too caught up with specific details to see how all the varied pieces slotted together.

All the same, the modern world seems to allow plenty of room for outsider narratives to flourish. One could reasonably argue that Nigel Farage primarily gained influence by dressing up his shallow one-trick-pony quasi-racist bar-room political schtick as an outsider narrative: and doubtless others would say much the same of Donald Trump. (Personally, DT’s presidency feels too recent to be sure of what’s actually going on there, so this will have to remain something for future historians to debate.)

For me, TV reality shows with (for example) charmless footballer-turned-slebchef Gordon Ramsay come across as unbearable nonsense, presenting pages 1-5 of a “How To Run A Successful Restaurant” ebook as a nauseating mix of confrontational Nietszchean catharsis and Stacey Dooleyesque empathizing. So is Gordon Ramsay genuinely an heroic outsider, or little more than an opportunistic self-promoting sleb famous for lobster ravioli and kicking people? You’ll have to make up your own mind.

I can’t help but conclude that the whole idea of the ‘heroic outsider’ is a Big Fat Fiction, a story-making lie used to dress up what is little more than an irrational, anti-science, antihistorical, anti-engineering, and anti-knowledge mindset. Which is presumably why TV and Hollywood both love it (i.e. for all the wrong reasons), because the outsider’s victory is the victory of the Little Guy against the Preening Establishment, the smug complacent know-nothings in their private clubs who get to decide What Is True and What Is False.

And so it goes for Voynich Manuscript research too. People seem to be far too busy with their personal mythopoiea, concerned more with who will play them in the film (i.e. where their glorious and dramatic code-breaking efforts are finally given the celluloid stardom they deserve) than with wondering whether their research direction makes even the slightest bit of sense.

In this way, Hollywood seems to be telling these people what to think: that cracking the Voynich Manuscript wouldn’t be a triumph of Good History or Good Science, but rather an act of personal redemption, showing the Voynich naysayers that they Had It All Wrong, and that the heroic outsider Had It Right All Along.

It’s all bullsh*t, of course.

An Army of Ants

The boring truth is that Voynich researchers circa 2016 may not be standing on the shoulders of giants, but we are held high by a vast army of ants working industriously and independently, yet who nonetheless have still managed to somehow make huge progress as a group.

It would be easy to reel off a list of more than a hundred people who have contributed in a positive way towards what we know about the Voynich Manuscript – John Matthews Manly, the Friedmans, John Tiltman, Prescott Currier, Mary D’Imperio, through to the two Jims, Gabriel Landini, Rene Zandbergen, and so forth.

The heroic outsider narrative, then, is just a tool for sneering at others whose contributions you’d rather belittle in an attempt to big yo’self up. And the sooner people stop this nonsense (and start being proud to be an ant), the better off we’ll all be.

57 thoughts on “The Voynich Manuscript and the Heroic Outsider…

  1. SirHubert on November 27, 2016 at 7:07 pm said:

    I don’t think Gordon Ramsay is an outsider. He’s obnoxious on screen, which those who think confrontation makes good television are going to like. But he’s an astute businessman and a good chef. So’s Jamie Oliver.

    I don’t really think Farage is an outsider either. An ex-public-school banker-turned-politician is about as establishment as you can get. Popularist agenda, yes, but actually John Major was far more of an outsider in terms of background.

    But in Voynichland, yes – I’ve noticed an inexplicable tendency for people to announce with great pride that they’ve ignored what everyone else has said or written. This, apparently, is keeping an open mind. If the person about to remove my brain tumour told me that, I’d be out of theatre faster than you could say ‘quack.’

    Only slightly better is the belief that expertise and experience in a field is unimportant. I’ve seen several variations of “I can look that up if I need to” over the past few months. Again, if my brain surgeon said they’d got no experience but had spent half an hour reading up something on Wikipedia, you’d not see the hospital trolley for dust.

    If I ever reach ant status, I’ll be delighted to have contributed something. But I have a way to go yet!

  2. Ellie Velinska on November 27, 2016 at 7:18 pm said:

    Proud to be an ant!

  3. SirHubert: the point I was trying to make was that Gordon Ramsay, Nigel Farage, or even Donald Trump are not “heroic outsiders”, but have presented themselves as such simply in order to promote themselves, to build up their own personal “brand message”. And in each case it’s little more than self-serving propaganda, with no basis in reality.

    Having said that, I am very much more sympathetic to John Major as an Establishment outsider, though I’m fairly sure that he would (pace Steve Bell’s depiction of his underpants, even if in reality Eggwina did describe them as ‘big and blue’) baulk at the juxtaposition of ‘heroic’. 🙂

  4. Ellie V: sadly there are no ants depicted in the VMs, just a frog. Perhaps that’s why it’s so dangerous… 😉

  5. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on November 27, 2016 at 8:20 pm said:

    Army of ants. 🙂
    Ants and huge progress. You can write me Nick. Which is great progress ?

  6. bdid1dr on November 27, 2016 at 8:51 pm said:

    Hey, Ellie !

    And then we have poisonous toads — not mention toadstools……
    Tried to contact you recently (in re hats — my ref was to a very good book (fiction): lots of elegant hats worn by Sir Thomas More’s daughters (one adopted). The illustrations were made by Hans Holbein: Portrait of an Unknown Woman. Author of the book: Vanora Bennett . Publishers William Morrow (An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers).
    Post-mortem (of Thomas More), several of his relatives emigrated to the
    PS: More’s decapitated head (no hat) is under a grating — not too far from where he was executed.
    All true history !

  7. Gregory on November 27, 2016 at 8:54 pm said:

    Albert Einstein once said: “Everyone knows that something cannot be done until someone comes along who doesn’t know that it’s impossible, and does it”.

    So, I’m proud to be an outsider.

  8. SirHubert on November 27, 2016 at 9:16 pm said:

    Nick: the point I was trying to make was that I don’t think Farage or Ramsay present themselves as outsiders. Ramsay doesn’t seem different from any other prima donna chef. He just swears a lot. I don’t think having had a trial for Rangers or whatever makes him an outsider. He’s been in catering for years. And Farage appeals to some through what he says, not who he claims to be by virtue of background or life experience.

    Trump, whatever else he may be, is genuinely an outsider. This isn’t the place for me to say whether that’s good, bad or indifferent.

    Its the messenger who’s an outsider, not the message.

  9. Fully agreed, Nick. There is such an arrogance in believing that one can crack in an instant that which hasn’t been cracked in a hundred years, by a hundred people better qualified than oneself. Without reading anything! Well, is it arrogance or just laziness?

    Or perhaps, a need for instant gratification? A form of ‘horror vacui’. If only they would fill that emptiness by learning what has been done already, instead of coming up with fairy tales…

    I’m not as optimistic as you are about the 90% that has been proposed correctly already in the past, but I see what you mean. We have certainly reached a point where no one person will be able to eat the entire honor pie.

  10. SirHubert: whether or not you agree with his ‘politics’, Farage plays the outsider role like he was born to it, dahhhling. With Ramsay there’s room for discussion, sure: but quite why a talented bloke like him has gone so utterly panto escapes me completely.

    The Telegraph’s take on the whole thing: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11476768/Jeremy-Clarkson-Nigel-Farage-and-the-death-of-the-outsider.html

  11. D.N. O'Donovan on November 27, 2016 at 11:28 pm said:

    I find it interesting that so ordinary a pursuit as the study of a fifteenth-century manuscript should so easily lend itself, to political analogies – rather than, say, analogies to the sort of competitive or suppressive attitudes not uncommon in certain fields of scholarship, where the ‘old dog’ exerts personal influence and public image to prevent likely loss of face as newer scholars highlight the flaws in his long-held theories.

    I cannot think that anyone who comes to study of this manuscript hoping to make a worthwhile contribution does so determined to play the ‘lone ranger’. Rather, and as ever, those who consider themselves already in possession of the definitive idea will initiate that process of defining a person as ‘outsider’, and then counsel their confreres to ‘ignore’ the individual – a process rarely addressing argument and evidence but almost entirely on ad.hominems, and efforts to make the person seem an “inferior” – intellectually, morally or otherwise. Examples of the “ignore” attitude which were in place when I came were the “ignore Baresch; accept every word allegedly uttered by Mnishovsky”; “ignore Panofsky and all appraisals which didn’t attribute the content to ‘central Europe”; “ignore Adam McLean; look at 17thC alchemy in Prague” and of course, the more shameful instance of Jorge Stolfi’s reduction to the status of ‘outsider’.

    Unreasonable certainty; theory-worship; indifference to evidence; over-attachment to imagined ‘status’ and manipulation of ‘group-think’ are certainly the tools of political propaganda, but why should they be introduced to what should be a dispassionate intellectual study?

    It seems to me that all your post does is attempt to suggest that those who work independently, refusing to be driven out once… whoever… has branded them outsiders are now to be attacked for having survived that sort of hostility and also refused to join the other ‘ants’ – a rather awful way to categorise people who should value independence of thought, and greater interest in the manuscript than allegiance to any underground horde. One would think,.

  12. D. Vaughn on November 28, 2016 at 4:09 am said:

    Not to wax Philosophical, but I think the mystique of the “heroic outsider” lies in the fact that the more connected we become through social media etc. the more isolated we become the more mundane our reality really is. When we are presented with this so called Heroic Outsider the more we project our own world view into them. We all want to be the hero and ride off into the sunset and sometimes its hard to accept that it took a team to save the day.

  13. Diane: the point I made at some length is, as so often happens, completely different to the point you have taken.

    It was about people who brand themselves as “heroic outsiders” (and then by their own actions reinforce that entire fictitious mindset), rather than about people being labelled as such by others.

    The point about ants was that though each works independently, they yet work as a colony to achieve greater things than any one could manage alone.

  14. D.N. O'Donovan on November 28, 2016 at 7:38 am said:

    As so often you quite fail to see that when a reader feels one of your theories is flawed that they have simply failed to absorb and appreciate its truth.

    My point is that in relation to Voynich studies I believe you quite mistaken in supposing that there is any substantial number of those adopting the image of an ‘heroic outsider’ and that it is a role forced upon them by the innate hostility of those you imagine “ants”.

    I should not dream of considering anyone of the intelligence and originality of Philip Neal a mere ‘ant’. Ants are noted for having tiny brains, never thinking or acting independently, gathering what bits and pieces they may from wherever they wish (no intelligence to consider the rights or needs of non-ants) and in general having none of those characteristics needed to deal with a problematic medieval manuscript.

    I think the best work has been done, and continues to be done, by individuals able to think for themselves, observe clearly and reason objectively about the primary evidence and to research particular questions raised by the manuscript – whether problems connected to the palaeography, the written or the pictorial text. Certainly a collaboration of independent and well-equipped minds may get valid results, but all the ‘group think’ method seems to do is create an environment where the usual standards of accuracy, integrity and fair-play are set aside in favour of a “one species, one theory, one nest” sort of attitude, and god help anyone who arrives with a different shaped head and only two legs.

  15. Diane: OK. So now using a metaphor demeans people. Great.

    Good luck with your book.

  16. Gregory on November 28, 2016 at 9:31 am said:

    Nick, I think your emotions, as compared to the earlier discussion with Diane, send you a proper assessment of what she now writes. I never got the impression that she is now “using a metaphor demeans people”, and indeed I think it is quite essentially refers to your opinion. She has such a sentence on this issue, and that’s all.

  17. Gregory: Diane’s comments did not even remotely summarize what I wrote in the post.

  18. SirHubert on November 28, 2016 at 10:43 am said:

    Nick: ah, okay. I occasionally read the Telegraph for cricket and grew up with its crossword, but later moved on to Araucaria and stayed there 🙂

  19. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on November 28, 2016 at 10:47 am said:

    Hello, researchers, academics and amateurs.
    I would love to do your research moved forward. 🙂 But it does so. Of course, I need feedback. Without feedback grope like all academics, linguists and world experts are still many, many years. The only one who knows and understand. I am me.


  20. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on November 28, 2016 at 12:56 pm said:

    Ants. Of course I am to third.
    The first was Jacobus Sinapius ( Jakub Hořčický z Tepence ). And why ? Had gathered around him a good collaboratoros. For example Wilem of Rosemberg. Hajek of Hajek and others.
    Second what little of the manuscript itself was uderstand ( understood ) Michal Voynich, who worked on the manuscript for 16 years. He was also good ant. His wife, who studied Slavic languages. And secretary who dominated the german language.
    And then there’s me. I also know, and I know how the manuscript is written and encrypted. That is why I try to lead you in the right direction. Illuminate your manuscript contains what is my gift to you all ants. Each ant has its queen. So I’m going to be your queen.

  21. bdid1dr on November 28, 2016 at 3:41 pm said:

    BTW, Nick: There are ants pictured in Fray Sahagun’s Florentine Codex; marching through the roots of an agave plant.

  22. What an interesting post, Nick! I think there are four issues.

    First, there are outsiders who get that ingrown toenail pride, who, for whatever reason have a very (sic) individual viewpoint, who steadfastly ignore evidence and argument, and who tend to be attracted to mysteries, conspiracies and so on and some, vaguely related to this set of symptoms, clearly love your work.

    Then, second, there are insiders who do similar things – one thinks of medieval Christian scholars resorting to ‘authority’ (usually the ancient Greeks who were really clever but wrong (in our view) about almost everything) to settle debate. That’s why Francis Bacon (the 16th/17th C one) devised his ‘four idols’ to be guarded against.

    The modern world certainly does allow them to flourish – think of the plague of fake news accompanying the recent U.S. elections – for a variety of reasons: not wanting to face the hard or dull truths of the world, or the hard slog of research, or perhaps the mere entertainment value of variety. But, come to think of it, the world has always liked circuses, disasters & fools especially when they are rolled into one as in said election.

    To be honest, I read your blog not so much to find a resolution to the mysteries, but to enjoy the variety of life and thought that present. It’s like marveling at the workings of a dream clock.

    My sincere thanks to all concerned.

    The third thing is: you never know where the spark of inspiration is going to come from. That is why Thomas Kuhn wrote ‘The Structure of Scientific Revolutions’. In the meantime, until the spark arrives, you learn all sorts of other stuff along the way.

    The fourth thing, is, of course: Why did you write this, Nick? You could run a more restrictive blog, more academically inclined, perhaps, but then you’d have the same old same old all the time and eventually, eventually everything would be resolved just as eventually Miss Haversham’s wedding cake will rot completely and no one will read Dickens any more. Sob! You belong here and so does the variety of contributions and your never ending task is to try to get people to be rational. Their task is to persuade you of the value of irrationality and to drive you nuts.

    Even more nuts! Nuts to the nth degree!!

    I don’t think this is why you wrote this, though. It is because the depressing spectacle of the world falling prey to clowns and criminals like Berlusconi, Trump, Putin, Farage, Blair and (shudder) Gordonzola Ramsay and all the rest make poor old John Major and his undies on the outside of his shirt (Britain’s greatest moment!) look like superman, noble and strong, that’s how bad it has got and all of our little worlds are threatened with utter destruction just so that morons can march into shopping centres and buy fluffy, green acrylic sweaters until the last green acrylic is killed for its precious sweater glands.

    Watching Broadway Danny Rose may not take your mind off all this, Nick, but you may get a laugh out of it and be reminded that the world, like Woody Allen, was once good.

    As Ed Murrow said, ‘Good night and good luck.’


  23. @ Robert Nowak:

    Hysterical ! I’m laughing so hard I’m crying! My favorite US President: Barack Obama. He was horrified while watching the downfall of Osama bin Laden.

    Considering one of the worst U.S. Presidents (Bill Clinton) still makes me nauseous!

    Some parts of the world are still good. Now and then, I still go to Kolo Festivals and Greek Orthodox Festivals where I lead the dances : the Syrto, Kalamatiano, Hasapiko, Zonorotiko (on the belt)…..
    I had to give up Kolo (international dance festival) after our teacher, Neal Sandler, died.


  24. Dear Ms Wonder,
    Thank-you! for my favourite digressions since ‘The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy’. Yours in Perpetuity, R

  25. Jackie Speel on November 29, 2016 at 6:24 pm said:

    There will always be people who pursue a topic as a side interest – and are willing and/or in a position to explore it from a wider range of angles than those for whom it is the main field – and, sometimes, someone from a different field can use that to spot something that nobody else has (as well as asking some of ‘the obvious questions’ that nobody has thought of asking).

  26. @ Nick: Have I missed your interview with the ‘Times” or is it still pending?

  27. Hi Nick, Lone ranger. Hmmmmm. So you want the Lone Rangers (J & J Comegys, I presume) to join the posse? Does that mean you will reread and seriously consider my 2013 monograph The Voynich Manuscript: Aztec Herbal from New Spain in which I carefully document the Voynich alphabet in the Valley of Mexico between 1535 and 1560? Any way you consider it, things have changed since T&T, and now T&J started looking at the pictures. There is a lot of work to be done. Seems to me an army of scholars could spend lifetimes working out and explaining the information in the Voynich Manuscript. Highest ranking Mesoamericanists have assured me that the provenance of the VMs will not be accepted until it is read. Will you and your friends and colleagues help me to work out the sound values of the Voynich alphabet and give me credit for my work? You once offered me a guest post to explain my views. Does the offer stand? How many words, approximately?

  28. Davidsch on November 30, 2016 at 2:52 pm said:

    As an average mediocre person, I’m looking for that other person for two years now, but it seems there is no match. (or there is something else wrong with me, which is unknown by me)

    It is difficult to form a group that way 😉

  29. bdid1dr on November 30, 2016 at 4:53 pm said:

    @ Mr. Comegys and Davidsch:
    a as in ahah
    b as in batl beetl bitter botl butter
    More elaborately written words (combinatively written batl, psalmodia……
    c as in castl most common use of the ‘c’ is cae — whether sibilant or tapped, I still cannot determine unless Beineke Library can realize what a dreadful goof they have made with the production of the replica.
    Replica owners are now realizing that they cannot focus on, and enlarge, any of the items in the replica.
    I’m now 1-dr-ng if Beineke is going to close down their “search” feature/and enlargement options.
    I am now translating the “Voynich” material by referring to Fray Sahagun’s magnificent Florentine Codex; especially “Libro Undecimo – Earthly Things”

    bd (who still ‘1-drs’ why Yale’s bosses would allow Mz Zyatz so much leeway in the development of the replica of manuscript number B-408.

  30. SirHubert on November 30, 2016 at 5:19 pm said:


    “Replica owners are now realizing that they cannot focus on, and enlarge, any of the items in the replica.”

    It’s a printed book. Speaking as someone who owns it, not being able to enlarge it doesn’t come as a shock to me.


  31. @Sir Hubert: It is a replica of a much older, much misunderstood, very informational, well illustrated manuscript. It is a shame that Ms Zyatz and the rest of the Beinecke Librarians chose to ‘varnish’ the replica, discard the enlargement facility, and neglected to add a table of contents or vocabulary/translation, or references to other sources of information.
    $60 worth of darkened-out illustrations, and garbled discussion, which can’t be read anyway.
    Thanks Nick, for doing your best to recover some of the dialogues which accompany every single item/illustration/maps…..
    I am going to attempt to get the attention of at least one of the Library’s curators/librarians (but NOT Ms Zyatz).
    I am still wondering why Ms Zyatz has not kept a diary of her visits to book clubs/discussion groups in various towns across the US. Also I wonder how she came to be the ‘boss-lady’ for the production of the replica.

  32. SirHubert on December 1, 2016 at 9:43 am said:


    I’m sorry if I’m being dense, but what ‘enlargement facility’ would you have wanted a printed book to have? Do you mean you’d have liked it reproduced double actual size or something?

    The images in my copy aren’t darkened in any way and the text is fine. Maybe you have bought a badly printed one?

  33. bdid1dr on December 1, 2016 at 7:12 pm said:

    @SirH :
    In the past, one was able to magnify any folio being displayed online. One was also able to “travel” to any area of the document — and magnify the content of any folio – and magnify the discussion/script.
    So, are you able to do any of the above actions with the replica?

    Fortunately, I have Fray Sahagun’s magnificent so-called “Florentine Codex” with which to translate the discussion which appears with every item being portrayed. Actually, every item can be translated in three languages: Espanol, Nahuatl, and English. Beinecke may have the original document (“The Voynich”), but I suspect they will be stashing it away in their archives.

    So, if you genuinely want to translate the contents of the so-called “Voynich Manuscript”, I refer you to a large paper-back book: Florentine Codex-Earthly Things (Book Eleven-Libro Undecimo). Translated into three languages:

    Espanol-Nahuatl-English: Page 89: Ninth paragraph, in which the ways of the ants are told. Some refs: “It is a stinger. It is, as we say, a biter; it has poison, it has venom ——

  34. bdid1dr on December 1, 2016 at 8:34 pm said:

    ps: would you be interested in the dialogue which accompanies the illustration (in B-408) which ‘looks like” a multi-colored pineapple? The illustration is a single mulberry. The discussion (in the Florentine Manuscript) is about the mulberry
    FRUIT and juice (capulin) — eye medicine; capuliollotlii
    Also mentioned is ELOCAPULIN

  35. bdid1dr on December 2, 2016 at 12:28 am said:

    My favorite “Voynich” folio was discussed, several years ago, by Rene Zandbergen. His take on the multifolded folio was that it was a “fairy tale”. He was not too far off — considering the illustrations were large mushrooms (NOT toadstools). I have posted previously that the “fairy tale’ was about Alcyone and Ceyx”.
    So, current buyers of the “Voynich” manuscript replica, I ask you, have you been able to view the entire folded out manuscript –in the replica ?


  36. bdid1dr on December 2, 2016 at 4:46 pm said:

    The mushroom being discussed was the “Alcohol Inky”. So, if you have a record, somewhere, of the life and death of Popes (one or two of the more gluttonous were found dead, just days after their election to the Papacy) — you may be able to read the replica (with a very powerful magnifying glass. You may also be able to identify the bird which makes her nest on water (Alcyone) and her search for husband Ceyx.. Somewhere, other than herein, you may be able to determine who wrote this fairy tale.
    @Rene: I hope I have bolstered your discussion of the ‘fairy tale’ — enough that you will be able to find the ‘fairy tale’ in the replicated “Voynich” manuscript — and read the story for yourself.
    I admire your (rare) contributions to Nick’s presentations of all kinds of mystery and history — and once in a while ‘her-story’ .

  37. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on December 2, 2016 at 8:18 pm said:

    Hi René. Rene is also good ant’s and has a nice blog. Now also finally he began to consider. And he began to write about Jews. It is well. It is seen that they learn. He does not want to be left behind. And that’s good. Holding his thumb and continue.

    And you blue eye. I wanted to ask. Where do you see a toadstool or a fungus ?
    I appreciate your work.

    Sincerely J.Zlatoděj prof.

  38. bdid1dr on December 2, 2016 at 11:24 pm said:

    The ‘Fairy Tale” is a very large fold-out, which each corner-fold has a mushroom displayed. Discussion about each ‘mushroom (NOT toadstool) illustration, can be found in the central space of the folded-out manuscript.
    So, Nick, if you’ve bought the replica, were you able to determine if Mz Zyatz also replicated the various foldouts of several large folios?

  39. bdid1dr on December 2, 2016 at 11:45 pm said:

    Do you know if Manuscript B-408 is still available for perusal and magnification?

  40. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on December 3, 2016 at 4:05 pm said:

    BD. Sure. Beinecke works very well. Very well and very well.

    You can specify the side where mushrooms ? ( toadstool and fungus ).

  41. bdid1dr on December 3, 2016 at 5:07 pm said:

    @ProfZ : Rene Z. can tell you much more about that particular unusually large four-folded manuscript. There is a mushroom pictured in each corner of the entirely folded-out folio. The story is in the middle. There are very confused people huddled behind the ‘trunks’ of several tree-like giant mushrooms”.

    My file cabinet is jam-packed. So, I will be back-shifting into container storage; sometime (after New Year’s Eve). I’m wondering if Beinecke is planning to do a lot of backshifting also . After all, if they think they’ve satisfied ‘everyone’ with their latest offering at $60 a book — they need an audit — soon! They may also be having an audit in regard to the legality of their actions.

  42. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on December 3, 2016 at 7:43 pm said:

    @BD. Excuse. Perhaps I wrote It wrong. Mushrooms are MS 408 ?

    And Rene I would like to ask. Image you have on your blog. Bottom right. Signature Tepenec . Where is ? Where would I find him ? And you know is written there ?

    Thanks J.Z.prof

  43. bdid1dr on December 4, 2016 at 4:10 pm said:

    @ ProfZ: Since we apparently no longer have access to the original documents (B-408) and can no longer use the magnification feature, what use is the $60 replica, if one cannot read or magnify the new “exact-size” commentary which accompanies every illustration?

    Fortunately, I am going to be able go into my file cabinet and reference the larger fold-out folios and illustrations. Nick, how are you doing with the contents of the replica?

  44. bdid1dr: please can you stop making this false claim? Not only do we have easy access to excellent scans of every page of the Voynich Manuscript (via the Beinecke website), you can also use Voyage the Voynich Manuscript to magnify the individual pages to your heart’s content.

  45. bdid1dr on December 5, 2016 at 3:24 pm said:

    Not necessarily ‘false’ claims. Maybe mistaken claims. Mistaken as far as my last visit to to Beinecke’s library, day before yesterday, I went through the entire lineup of available folios: no “Monkshood (which looks-like a black sun-dew or a ship’s funnel. The discussion for that folio is that its roots are invasive to nearby gardens. I noted that Beinecke has a new (?) curator for presenting some (but not all) of the folios in B-408.
    Nor did I find the folios of any of the naked ladies in the bath-house (two of which were portrayed standing near a larger-than-life-size mandragore fruit. The accompanying discussion was about the dangers of overdosing with (hallucinating) the fruit’s juice.
    No, I have never sampled the fruit juice. Nor have I indulged with marijuana or “magic mushrooms”.
    Twice in my life I have been a Nursing student.
    So, if you are saying that I am a liar (false claims) I will no longer contribute to your various presentations. It has finally occurred to me that you have a strong bias toward women.

  46. bdid1dr: every page of the Voynich Manuscript is freely available on the Beinecke website and on websites such as Voyage the Voynich Manuscript. Every page you’ve seen before is still there, nothing’s gone anywhere – the plant pages, the naked lady pages, all of it is exactly as it was.

    All the while you claim that the Beinecke has somehow withdrawn any pages, you’re doing yourself no favours, because nothing whatsoever has changed.

  47. bdid1dr on December 5, 2016 at 5:34 pm said:

    Nowhere do I claim that any pages of any document/folio have been withdrawn ! I do say that APPARENTLY Boenicke has a ‘new’ curator who has ‘mislaid’ some folios. Check for yourself for folios which have apparently been organized into Quires. I could not find the folios for the monks hood, psyllium husks, squash blossom, ladies in the bath-house (each holding an emblem/coat of arms aloft) just to name a few.
    I will now check out your recommendation Voyage the ——(above link). I just now did review that line-up which has been organized into quires. It is one and the same that I reviewed yesterday, quire-by-quire. Several of the quires did not contain folio replicas or discussions — only folio numbers.

  48. bdid1dr on December 5, 2016 at 8:08 pm said:

    I’ll be contacting the Historical Museum at San Jose, California (former employers), who have a manuscript ( correspondence between the town of San Jose California and the Spanish Royal Court). So far as I can remember (today) no one has been able to translate that document.
    Various cities in California also have historical museums AND still active Missionary Churches. La Purisima Mission (which sixty years ago had a huge Spanish orange fruit tree, still iiving and bearing fruit. A nearby Mission had an olive tree, which fruit was still being pressed for oil. Besides the edible fruit, the missionaries used the olive oil in lieu of beeswax.

  49. bdid1dr on December 6, 2016 at 4:21 pm said:

    @Nick : Were you able to investigate why many of the folios in B-408 are now organized into quires? Each quire does list several folio numbers. But when I clicked on what appeared to be a link to each of the folios there was no response.

  50. bdid1dr: because the quire numbers were added in a handwriting style completely typical of the mid-to-late 15th century, we can be extraordinarily certain that the pages were first bound together before 1500.

    This isn’t quite the same as the nesting and binding order that the manuscript ended up in, but that would take an entire book to disentangle, and frankly who would really care?

    The short version: the quire numbers have been there for roughly 550 years.

  51. bdid1dr on December 6, 2016 at 7:08 pm said:

    Yes, I am quite aware of the quire numbers and their relation to individual folio numbers. What I am trying to describe is that the individual Quires’ indexes of folios are empty. Fortunately, over the past year or so I have translated the contents of some thirty folios — about fifteen botanical, another five or six ‘bath-house’ folios, and folio 116v (Busbecq’s signoff, and his visit to the monument near Ankara (Augustus Ancyranum)
    Would you be able to largely magnify that last folio, and any “label” or discussion which accompanies the drawing of a naked woman and the animal (which can be either an Angora Goat or a very thin short-haired sheep (Barbados sheep). To quote Sir Hubert — quoting my favorite detective show —
    ‘One more thing…) : what, if anything, is written or drawn on folio 116 reverso ?

  52. bdid1dr on December 7, 2016 at 12:14 am said:

    Also what is puzzling, to me, is that there is no mention of the tl an tl ll on :
    (Taraxacum officinale) . Also known as the dandelion, tlanoquilloni, teeth of the lion, Considering that all parts of the ‘herbal’ were used: dandelion tea (flower and leaves) and even the roots have been dried/roasted as a coffee substitute.

  53. Thomas F. Spande on December 7, 2016 at 6:56 pm said:

    BD, Don’t forget the wine that is a raisin wine flavored by the yellow petals of the dandelion. I have made and quaffed this wine of yesteryear. Probably then consumed mainly by the archetypal little old lady out of a tea cup!

    Cheers, Tom

  54. bdid1dr on December 8, 2016 at 4:34 pm said:

    @ThomS: “Raisin wine” : dried grapes, freshly picked petals …… I’ve chewed the hollow stems….”Somewhere ” recently I found mention of a book which I read a long time ago “Dandelion Wine”. I’m not sure if B-408 has a folio for the dandelion specimen.
    Have you observed that apparently some of the “Voynich” folios have been arranged into Quires. Apparently there is no link to the itemized folios within each quire. Can anyone explain why not?

  55. Thomas F. Spande on December 8, 2016 at 11:31 pm said:

    BD, I doubt the dandelion appears in the VM botanicals.

    My thinking at the moment is that the VM botanicals were valued mainly as spices and the VM field workers and scribes were interested in transplanation experimentation of these valuable crops from the rain forests of the SW coast of India (the Malabar coast) to lands under their own control. The likely hopeful transplanters, I think, were Genoese. They held territory in N. Africa and some islands in the Adriatic and Chios in the Agean. Anyway, the latitudes of the islands were too far north for frost-free weather and rainfall in N.Africa was insufficient for most of the tropical spices. If this be the reasoning behind the VM botanicals, the reaction might be “what the hey were they thinking???” Still spices being such valuable articles of commerce and during the middle ages, firmly under the control of the Arabs, such transplantation attempts by the West might have been worth a shot?

    Cloves were transplanted to Zanzibar and nearby islands and many spices such as nutmeg and cloves into the Central American regions of the New World. Some spice exchanges occurred between China and India. The Portuguese and English were the most active in the Zanzibar endeavor with the Dutch and English competing for nutmeg in the Banda islands off Indonesia. Once da Gama gained access (early 16th C) to the spice islands and coast of India, sailing north of the Cape of Good Hope, it was a whole new ball game with Arab control largely finished. Lisbon, and Amsterdam, not Baghdad, were the new Spice capitals of the World.

    Nick has written extensively on the formation of quires from folios and their binding into the VM book. There were, as Nick observed, some inconsistencies in the layout of the folios, even quires and some folios are missing having been shared around in the Renaissance. Consult “Curse” for his commentary on these questions.

    Cheers, Tom

  56. bdid1dr on December 12, 2016 at 7:51 pm said:

    Thanx for the reference to Nick’s earlier commentary in re missing folios and quires. Can you, or Nick, refer me to the various folios which he discovered and/or enumerated ?
    Did you, yesterday, read my notes in the ladies bath house folios (one of the missing folios)?
    What blew me away was that the “Frascati” Quire became the book’s cover !
    Take a look, for me, and see if you can find which of the bath-house folios became the the Book cover for B-408.

  57. Hi bdid1dr, and/or Rene:

    “My favorite “Voynich” folio was discussed, several years ago, by Rene Zandbergen. His take on the multifolded folio was that it was a “fairy tale”.”

    My understanding of Rene’s position on the rosettes pages is that they are not fictional in nature. He and I have had a long disagreement on this very point, going way back: My argument being that the “Tower in the Hole” is an indication these pages (at least) must be fantasy in nature, while in rebuttal to that idea, Rene and many others offered up many reasons why a building might be, and even was, built in a hole.

    Unless there has been a change in thought in this, I think that this is still the case, so I’m curious where you came to believe what you wrote. Thanks…


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