Back in 2014, Voynich blogger Ellie Velinska found what is surely one of the most stunning parallels yet with any of the Voynich Manuscript’s illustrations: a splendidly detailed T-O map surrounded by a wolkenband, placed right at the start (fol. 1r) of BNF Français 565:

This manuscript dates to the start of the 15th century, and was from the library of the famous Jean de Berry (he of “Les Tres Riches Heures” fame), surely one of the greatest art patrons in history.

“Plurima Orbis Imago”

Interestingly, there is some discussion about this specific T-O map in a (very readable) 1990 French article by Arnaud Pascal: “Plurima Orbis Imago. Lectures conventionnelles des cartes au Moyen Age”. In: Médiévales, n°18, 1990. Espaces du Moyen-âge. pp. 33-51;, which also contains a good number of pictures of T-O maps. It reads:

Bien plus, en 1377, le manuscrit parisien du Livre du Ciel et du monde , traduction française du De cœlo d’Aristote par Nicole Oresme inscrit à trois reprises sur la surface d’un globe la forme T-O. Mais celle-ci a été entièrement pervertie, sinon dans sa forme, du moins dans son orientation, et plus encore dans sa signification ; l’une de ces figures, plus détaillée que les autres, nous permet en effet d’en percevoir les détails : l’hémisphère inférieur est entièrement occupé par une série d’ondulations bleues ; le quart supérieur gauche porte des ondulations vertes et bistres ; quant au quart supérieur droit, son fond vert est décoré d’arbres et d’une construction rectangulaire ; le coin supérieur gauche porte un enclos. Nous sommes bien loin ici du schéma tripartite des continents, dont le T a été renversé au profit d’une orientation qui semble être désormais au nord, et il n’est pas difficile de reconnaître dans le quart supérieur droit la terre habitée, et, probablement, le Paradis symbolisé par un enclos, et dans le quart supérieur gauche un autre monde habitable inconnu, soit qu’il soit séparé de la terre habitée, soit qu’il en constitue le prolongement inexploré ; enfin, vers le sud, ne subsiste plus qu’une vaste masse océanique… Si le symbole demeure, son interprétation n’a plus rien de commun avec celle qui soustendait le choix de son image. [p.50]

My (lightly-edited) Google Translate translation follows:

Moreover, in 1377, the Parisian manuscript of the Livre du Ciel et du monde (the French translation of Aristotle’s De cœlo made by Nicole Oresme) inscribed a T-O design on the surface of a globe three times. But here this shape has been totally perverted, if not in its form, then at least in its orientation, and even more so in its meaning; one of these figures [on f1r] is more detailed than the others, and so allows us to perceive all its fine details: the lower hemisphere is entirely filled with a series of blue undulations; the upper left quarter contains green and sooty-brown undulations; the upper right green quarter is decorated with trees and a rectangular building; its upper left corner contains a [walled] enclosure. Here, we are very far from the [traditional] tripartite continental scheme whose T-shape has been rotated in favor of an orientation which now seems to be to the north, and it is not difficult to recognize in the upper right quarter the inhabited earth, and, probably, Paradise symbolized by an enclosure, and in the upper left quarter another unknown habitable world, whether it be separated from the inhabited earth or is its unexplored regions; finally, towards the south, there remains only a vast ocean mass. If this symbol stands correct, its interpretation no longer had anything in common with that which underlies the choice of its image.

The short version is essentially that Arnaud thinks that because this specific T-O map is both rotated relative to the other T-O maps and appears to contain quite different matter in its three divisions, it is “entièrement pervertie”, and so largely stands outside the medieval T-O tradition. If this is correct, then what we are looking at in the Voynich Manuscript’s “Andromeda” T-O page would seem to be a curiously stripped-down copy of a very specific T-O map.

Jean de Berry’s library

This is the point where I’d really like to talk about the complicated dispersal of Jean de Berry’s astronomical library after his death (probably from the plague) in 1416: but I can’t quite achieve this.

The problem is that there is so much written about the sumptuous detail (and complicated painting history) of Les Tres Riches Heures, that a couple of hours on and it still feels like I’m drowning in all the Les Tres Riches Heures details. An entirely typical example of what I’m talking about is Inès Villela-Petit’s Dans le miroir du prince: Jean de Berry et son livre”.

All I’ve actually managed to find is Inventaires de Jean duc de Berry (1401-1416) publiés et annotés par Jules Guiffrey (1894-1896). There, page CLXXIII of Guiffrey’s Introduction mentions it:

52. Livre de la Sphere par Nicolas Oresme et le livre du ciel et du monde d’Aristote, traduit par le meme (Inv. A, 877 — Bibl.Nat., 5G5).— In-fol. de 172 feuillets, en ecriture cursive,avec quelques miniatures (auteur offrant son livre a un prince) et figures astronomiques. Au dernier feuillet, inscription du due de Berry dans sa forme hahituelle.

…while the inventory item itself is on fol. 135v, listed as item #877 on p.230 of Guiffrey:

877. Item, un livre en françois, de l’Aristote (2), appelle Du ciel et du monde; convert d’un drap de soye ouvré, doublé d’un viez cendal, à deux fermouers d’argent dorez, esmaillez aux armes de Monseigneur, assis sur tixuz de soye vermeille.
[B, no 1003. — S G, no 469; prisé XII liv. x s. t.]

Can anyone do better and point me at a book or article (in any language) that tries to trace the dispersal of Jean de Berry’s fabulous library? Someone must have at least attempted this, surely?

62 thoughts on “BNF Français 565, Nicole Oresme, and Jean de Berry’s library…

  1. Ellie Velinska on October 19, 2017 at 1:06 am said:

    Hi Nick, it is not a T-O map – it is more like a pie-chart representing the Earth as one quarter earth, one quarter air and half of water. It is found in other manuscripts also – like Univ. of Glasgow Ms Hunter 59, fol 6
    As far as I remember the library of Jean de Berry went to Marie de Berry after his death, but I could be mistaken (I don’t remember where I read it and if I recall it correctly)

  2. Ellie Velinska on October 19, 2017 at 1:33 am said:

    Oresme suggested that the lower hemisphere of the Earth is all covered with water. This was his explanation for the existence of dry land (based on Aristotle the water is supposed to go up and cover the soil). So according to Oresme the water covering bottom half of the Earth supposedly shifts some centers and makes possible dry land on top of the globe – or something like that kind of nonsense. His idea that half the Earth was covered with water was very popular in the “academia” during his time.
    Interestingly, the “T-O” chart next to the signature on fol. 86v has the same orientation as the Oresme Earth chart

  3. Charlotte Auer on October 19, 2017 at 2:17 am said:

    As Guiffrey wrote in his Inventaire: “Seuls, les livres se presentent dans un desordre evident. Sans doute, le garde les a inscrits comme il les trouvait rangés sur les rayons ou dans les coffres.”

    To follow the traces of du Berry’s libraries is a time consuming work of its own. If ever I come across some information I will let you know.

  4. Charlotte: someone somewhere must surely have tried to do this, however sketchily? The most famous astronomical library of the time, amassed by one of the most famous art patrons of all time? Please say if you stumble across anything, thanks!

  5. “He has sheepskin archer’s gloves and aims an arrow, barbed and winged, at the Globe, on which are conventionally represented, in three compartments, red clouds and blue sky, vegetation, and wavy water, to represent the three elements, air, earth and water.”

    Which, given the slightly earlier dating, would seem to imply that the French drawing (with its exaggerated wolkenband border) was an elaboration of a recent illustrative tradition.

  6. In November 2014 I showed these two illustrations to the assembled conservators and historians attending the Folger workshop, hoping to elicit some useful information from them. Their reaction at the time left me disappointed at first:
    “This illustration is found all over the place, in many documents”.

    Still, we learn something useful from this.
    I still find the resemblance striking, but for the professionals it was apparently nothing unusual to find something recogniseable in the Voynich MS.
    This sentiment is also echoed in the interview of Koen Gheuens and David Jackson with Ray Clemens, that was recently posted in the Ninja forum.
    Also Ray Clemens sees the MS as not unusual for medieval Europe.

    Furthermore, it seems unlikely that a more precise origin (location, date range) of the MS can be derived from this illustration alone.

    However, the purpose of this blog post: to find more examples, and some published study/ies of it, is still of interest, also in my opinion.

  7. Rene: the point of quoting from (and translating) Arnaud’s article was to show that this is not (as Ellie points out) a T-O map in the usual sense at all. Arnaud’s calling it a ‘perversion’ of medieval T-O maps is perhaps a little strong, but the point remains that this – precisely like the Sagittarius crossbowman – is part of a very specific European illustrative subtradition, dating to the early part of the fifteenth century. Were the conservators and historians aware that this was not actually a T-O map in anything like the normal sense?

  8. NICOLAS George on October 19, 2017 at 8:11 am said:

    Le codex voynich explique les 22 LETTRES HÉBRAIQUES de la CRÉATION…point
    LE BIG BANG….. Physique et Spirituel
    Le chapitre sur les Graphismes des plantes représente les SINGULRITÉS NUMÉRALES de cet Alphabet Hébreu…. comme des pierres de Rosette
    Comme un livre de Physique de notre époque ,figurant les 92 Éléments de la Matière
    Le Texte est d’une langue universelle… car Numérique, ce que permet l’alphabet Hébreu
    Pour sa pleine compréhension du sens des idées écrites, l’Hébreu est souhaitable, mais pas indispensable… car ICI ….on révèle le Plan STRUCTUREL de la Création…. avec les Énergies figurées par Les 22 LETTRES entre Elles.
    Bonnes recherches
    NICOLAS Georges 67 ans ….62127 France

  9. Helmut Winkler on October 19, 2017 at 8:18 am said:

    I don’t think you will get more information somewhere else

  10. NICOLAS George on October 19, 2017 at 8:27 am said:

    Pour informations
    La page 69 du Livre de Voynich. représente LES 22 LETTRES HÉBRAÏQUES
    Les 22 INSCRIPTIONS des 22 Cases en Alpha Numérique expliquent Les SINGULARITÉS des 22 LETTRES entre ELLES
    Dans la CROIX figure les LETTRES……..DALETH…….YOD…….AYIN… ….Shin
    Soit la …4….la…10……..16… la …..21 des 22 LETTRES.
    ceci est CONCRET!!!!!
    UN LIVRE D’ÉTUDES de la TORAH du XV siècle
    Bon courage
    papy NICOLAS Georges 62127 France

  11. Nick, certainly the combination of the T-O “map” and the Wolkenband, in relation with the name Oresme.
    Having the T-O map filled with the elements does not seem *that* unusual.

    For the rest, any published analysis of it should tell us more about how widespread (or confined) this is.

  12. Helmut: thank you very much indeed, I had found only an abbreviated listing for this manuscript, so this has all the detail I was looking for (it definitively places the ms with the Ducs de Bourbon for the remainder of the 15th century). I’ll follow that thread a little further and will put up a follow-on post here before very long. Cheers! 🙂

  13.,_Duchess_of_Auvergne – points to:
    Beaune, Colette; Lequain, Élodie (2007). “Marie de Berry et les livres”. In Legaré, Anne-Marie. Livres et lectures de femmes en Europe entre Moyen Âge et Renaissance (in French). Turnhout: Brepols. pp. 49–66.

  14. Ellie Velinska on October 19, 2017 at 2:24 pm said:

    There is a similar “backward T-O” Earth representation in BL Harley 334, fol.29
    I agree with the experts that this elements pie-chart is not unique to the Oresme manuscript. I disagree that there are a lot of examples. Unlike the T-O maps that are easily found, the backward T charts I’ve seen are very few and if somebody can give us more examples, that would be great.

  15. Ellie: perhaps we could call them “inverted T-O charts” to emphasize their inversion rather than their (Arnaudian) “perversion”? 🙂

  16. Ellie Velinska on October 19, 2017 at 8:12 pm said:

    “Inverted” sounds right 🙂

  17. The idea that the lower part of the earth was covered with water is the standard idea in medieval European and Islamic works, and is found in the classical geographies. The experts are right that such an idea, and drawings of it are found everywhere, or ‘all over the place’.
    Surely, the origin of Oresme’s image for the globe is what needs to be sought, given that it is not original to him, and the image in question is as plainly a product of Latin culture and habits as the VMS imagery is not.

    On this last point, just btw I used that same image in post about methodology and ‘blind spots’ in Voynich writings. The relevant paragraph reads:

    “Style together with Attitude:

    In the way that French image emphasises rank, material possessions, assumes the world an arena dominated by men and their objects so redolent of wealth and status, the French illumination proclaims itself a product of the Latins’ world and worldview. Consider this careful depiction of gilded furniture, rich clothing, luxurious curtains, deferential nobles and a masterly king above the submissive scholar, Nicole Oresme. Nowhere do we see a similar conception of life or the world within the Voynich manuscript.”

    By Oresme’s time, turning the world ‘North Up’ had come to be an accepted convention, and the ‘east up’ habit of earlier medieval works was beginning to fall in favour. So that’s not such an issue, either.

    I suppose if I wanted to know where the illuminator got the idea for surrounding a tripartite circle with a cloudband, I’d begin by researching what the specialists have said about the illuminations (rather than about the patron, or Oresme).

    I expect that one might find a rich vein of information by considering the range of works attributed to that illuminator/atelier and then also considering the textual tradition and stemmae for the text of de Caelo.

    Still, the line to be preferred in this sort of research must vary, depending on whether the aim is to determine whether the Oresme picture has any close links to images in the Vms, or whether the aim is to explore the history of a library in which the volume once lay.

    (If it happens to be part of someone else’s efforts to duplicate the research which resulted in my mentioning Guglielmo Libri, I would suggest that person simply leave a comment or question at Voynich imagery. If it so happens… 🙂 )

  18. Diane: I have no doubt that there’s much more literature to be found here, so far we have merely scratched its surface.

  19. Ellie Velinska on October 22, 2017 at 9:14 pm said:

    Hi Diane, do you have any actual examples from Islamic works or anywhere else to add to the discussion (since they are found everywhere and all over the place). I would love the “experts” to show us a few of thess so “wide spread” inverted T-O charts. I only found the above three so far.
    Save me the pseudo-academia gibberish and give us links to such examples.
    Thanks in advance

  20. Hi Ellie, Nick,

    I would also love to see more examples of this combined illustration, and of course I agree that it would be a great oversight not to try and find out where this particular MS was in the course of time. If further copies are identified, the same applies.
    The flipping around of the T-O map (i.e. rotation by 180 degrees) has of course nothing to do with the change from ‘East up’ to ‘North up’ in geographical maps.
    We can’t also be sure whether the text inside the Voynich drawing is intended to represent the elements rather than the three continents. Or something else.

    Interestingly, the on in the upper right corner of the Rosettes page has the traditional T orientation, but the writing inside is almost upside down, and the writing beneath it is fully upside down, so one could argue that it also follows the same pattern.

    As I already wrote elsewhere, the very close correspondence between the two illustrations is one of many examples where the Voynich MS represents information found in other contemporary European manuscripts.

  21. Rene: for me, the big question is(as it has been since about 2004) not “does this contain information copied from (probably late 14th century) manuscripts?” but “how can we find even one of those source manuscripts?” Oresme’s life and works have been extensively documented, but what of his reception, in letters and contemporary manuscripts? Perhaps this is what we should be asking Oresme specialists…

  22. Ellie Velinska on October 23, 2017 at 5:35 pm said:

    Hi Rene, also on fol 67v of the VMs there is another T-O chart that seems color-coded 🙂

  23. Ellie Velinska on October 28, 2017 at 11:35 pm said:

    Also, Marco Ponzi found example from 1311 French manuscript (Bibliotheque de l’Arsenal, Ms-6329)

  24. Ellie: a good find by Marco, indeed. Yet 565 remains the only ms with a full-on wolkenband, so that’s still our best lead going forward here, I’d have thought.

  25. Ellie: it is curious, isn’t it, that we have Italian ms genres (herbal, balneo), German crossbowman, and a French sphere all at the same time.

  26. Nick: how do you know that it is a German crossbowman?

  27. Peter: because the combination of Sagittarius + crossbowman as part of a series of zodiac roundels is a particular pattern that has only (so far) been found in 15th century German (and Swiss) manuscript calendars. It’s of course possible that there are Sagittarius crossbowmen in manuscripts from elsewhere, but – to the best of my knowledge – none such has yet been found.

  28. Thank Nick, good to know. This brings me a little further, or it speaks for my assumptions.
    I thought of the clothes first, but that would not have been a reason.

  29. About the three different genres combined in the Voynich MS, to me this suggests that the composer ‘knew his science’. He may have been close to a library.
    My interest has been on the Visconti library in Pavia, primarily because it (probably) included the Manfredus herbal, right at the time when the Voynich MS was being written.
    This is of course a (very) long shot. This library seems not to have had a copy of the Balneis. I will check if there was anything related to Oresme.

    There were two copies of the Balneis in the library of Alfonso of Aragon, in Naples, but this is more difficult, time-wise.

    Large parts of both these libraries ended up in the Bibl.Nat. in Paris.

    And for sure there were plenty of other libraries.

  30. Rene: the interesting thing about the Ducs de Berry’s family tree is that it was connected to the Visconti family tree, via (as I recall, sitting here on the train) Isabelle of France and Valentina Visconti.

    Manuscript illustration was a skill much prized in France, but much less so in Italy at that time. It was presumably the connection to the French Royal family that made the Visconti interested in them.

    So the right place to start would probably be Elisabeth Pellegrin’s book on the subject, which discusses the 1426 inventory. (Though the subject is discussed in many articles and papers too.)

  31. Hi Nick, yes, I have been using Pellegrin’s book, and hope that I can still find my scans of it.

  32. Ellie Velinska on October 30, 2017 at 1:56 pm said:

    Hi, Nick. I think the author’s native language was German, but he probably got medical degree in Paris. Probably worked later in Germany and Northern Italy. My guess is that he was Swiss. Don’t ask me why “he”, why German, why in France and why Swiss – the answer will be long and pointless speculation about plants, word-plays and hairdos, but this is where I personally stand on the issue. Swiss physician/surgeon (German speaking, French educated), probably accompanying the Swiss troops at the battle of Fornovo 1495.

  33. Ellie: it’s a theory. 🙂

    While I think there’s good historical reason to think that the VMs (from its quire numbers) almost certainly spent some time during the fifteenth century in a monastic library near Konstanz, I think we should – thanks to the lack of evidence we have about the rest – remain vigilant and ready to explore. 😉

  34. At this time there were so many battles in this area, which is like a table tennis game. Also Pavia was not spared (1511). There’s something else like a miracle.

    Ellie: You say Swiss, it would be possible. But I think more east. Formerly also Switzerland (Habsburg Swiss nation)

  35. One book by Oresme is listed in the main catalogue of the Visconti library. It is a French translation of Aristotle’s Ethiques, Economiques, Politiques.
    This is presently BN ms Fr. 204, which has one nice miniature but obiously no T-O maps or other related material.

    There are several versions of “De Sphaera”, mostly Sacrobosco, e.g. BN Lat 7267, 7363 and 7400.
    The rather famous ‘De Sphaera’ in the Estense library in Modena is also mentioned:

  36. Charlotte Auer on October 31, 2017 at 8:45 pm said:

    The Modena ‘De Sphaera’ is really beautiful. Nice “Wolkenbänder” (cloundbands) and Jupiter/Sagittarius as naked crossbowman!

    In the Codex Aureus Epternacensis (Hs 156 142, early 11th century) you can find the sagittarius in two versions on the same folio: one of them as the usual centaur, the other as crossbowman with short blue skirt.

    Here is the link, you have to go to f. 30-31:

    I’m sure to have some more examples but can’t find them at the moment.

  37. Rene: it would be unsurprising if Oresme’s small Treatise on the Sphere had been bound in with one or more different treatises, so a close reading of the catalogue would probably be in order before giving up the ghost in that direction. 🙂

    The specific details of the Estense De Sphaera are utterly fascinating, linking (as they do) so many of the threads I have been talking about recently (and also over the last decade and more). It would take much more than could be squeezed comfortably into this margin to even summarize all this, so please excuse me if I say I will have to cover this in one or more blog posts…

  38. Charlotte: I’m pretty sure that it’s a bow rather than a crossbow there, but it’s a beautiful manuscript nonetheless. 🙂

  39. Ellie,
    I missed your question (let’s pass over the snide comment) of on October 22, 2017 at 9:14

    where you asked if I have any examples from Islamic works.. showing ‘inverted T-O’ maps.

    As another writer says, the detail in that image does not show a ‘T-O’ map, but a schematic division of the mundus which has the lower half covered by water etc.

    This was the common belief – and I long ago referred to Ibn Kaldhun’s Muqaddimah in that connection. The Muqaddimah was composed in 1377. Among the links to be found online is a nice wiki article and a pdf of the translation by Franz Rosenthal.

    As to your question about why I do not add more to your discussion of Oreseme’s manuscript, it is because I have doubts about the readiness with which you ( that is your group’s members) assert as if known the answers to some basic questions that are yet to be asked, and which would need to be asked and addressed before being treated as ‘givens’. There is the other point, too: I have no interest in constructing narratives about an hypothetical ‘author’ and his imagined nationality. My interest is solely in the primary document and the testimony of its internal evidence. In my opinion, this is best done by researching details of script, imagery and codicology. If you can find a Swiss doctor’s manual in which Ornithogalum genus appears as a natural representation for the stars… among many other such details… I’ll be happy to swap you link for link.


  40. Ellie Velinska on November 2, 2017 at 1:10 am said:

    Diane, I never called it T-O map, but T-O chart – there is a difference. I have no desire to get into discussion with you either.

  41. Charlotte Auer on November 2, 2017 at 12:27 pm said:

    Nick, yes you are right, of course! It’s a bow and not a crossbow. Since I’m not so familiar with historic weapons I had to have a closer look to see the difference.

  42. J.K. Petersen on November 3, 2017 at 2:11 am said:

    I see no problems with calling this kind of diagram, which is round, with a “t” shape to define the regions, a T-O chart or inverted T-O chart, or inverted T-O diagram.

    It is not a map, but it is certainly a diagram with T-O characteristics. If there isn’t already a simple way to refer to it, terms like inverted T-O diagram or inverted terra T-O work as well as any other.

  43. J.K. Petersen on November 8, 2017 at 12:21 pm said:

    I guess my subconscious kept searching for a moniker for this shape and today this popped into my head… maybe the term *inverted-T sphere* might work. Many of these figures have a slightly 3D-ish look to them.

    The VMS drawing isn’t 3D-ish but we don’t know what it is meant to represent yet.

    Anyway, just a thought… brainstorming.

  44. Ellie Velinska on November 8, 2017 at 10:20 pm said:

    Hi Nick, about having Italian, German, French elements in one book. Here is an example: Conrad Heingarter (second half of the 15th century). He calls himself German from Zurich, got his medical degree in Paris, served as physician/astrologer for the Duke of Bourbon. So you have a French educated German/Swiss with access to the library of Jean de Berry 🙂 I am not saying that he is the VMs author – just that most prominent German physicians at the time spent time in universities of France or Italy – This was the reality in the 15th century medical education. Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian tried to change that and improve the state of medical “science” in Germany (he favored Vienna though) 🙂

  45. Ellie: your Zurich physician Conrad Heingarter is a good example of an individual who crossed all the right kind of borders for us at broadly the right sort of time. 🙂

    Interestingly, Thorndike devotes two whole chapters and Appendix 56 to Heingarter in his History of Magic and Experimental Science Volume IV, and from a quick flick-through it seems entirely possible that some holograph works by Heingarter might still exist. If you want to have a look for yourself, here are the manuscript references he lists (though some, from the sound of the illuminated illustrations, are almost certainly high-class-scribal presentation copies to be given to the Duke of Bourbon):

    BN 7450, fol. 21v “ego Conradus Heingarter alemanus oriundus de Zurich”
    BN 7446, fols. 1r-14r
    BN 11232, 55 fols.
    BN 7432, fols. 36-125v
    BN 7305, fols. 4r-346r
    BM IB 38108, fol.1r
    Vatic. 9018, fol. 43r-v

  46. Ellie Velinska on November 9, 2017 at 12:06 pm said:

    Thanks, Nick. Thorndike says he spent most of his time at Belleperche (Allier). There is an interesting mill there (they started building it 1480, but the bridge maybe older) that reminded me of a VMs drawing (most likely coincidence)
    I always thought this VMs drawing represents the teeth and gums since on the previous pages we have possibly the eyes, nose and ears 🙂 A mill seems a nice allegory for grinding teeth 🙂
    Anyway, as you know I am looking at the crowd of physicians around Charles VIII around 1494-95 and I wasn’t able to find a German. It didn’t occur to me to look at the closely related Dukes and their physicians. Chateau du Moulins where the Jean de Berry manuscripts were at the end of the 15th was built for Philippe du Bourbon, who saved the life of Charles VIII at the battle of Fornovo. Peter II, Duke of Bourbon was the young king’s regent and basically took care of France while the King was at war in Italy.
    Conrad Heingarter was a teacher of one of the King’s most prominent physicians – Simon de Phares. Heingarter aslo did diplomatic missions for Charles VIII in the Swiss territories.
    I found only one manuscript on Gallica.
    Thanks again.

  47. Ellie: I’ll have a look for the other manuscripts over the next few days, the archival descriptions should make it clear whether or not Heingarter wrote them himself.

  48. Ellie Velinska on November 9, 2017 at 2:53 pm said:

    It is a bit of a pointless search, because at the end of the 15th century emperor Maximilian sent a bunch of German physicians to be educated in France and Italy. Here is another example that you may like better, because Conrad Turst served as physician/astrologer of the Duke of Milan 🙂 Born in Zurich, medical degree in Pavia. There seems to be quite a few German physicians with multi-culti experience right at that time (plus Trithemius was already writing his Steganographia at the end of the 15th century) 🙂

  49. Ellie: conversely, some might say that any search that starts as late at 1495 has already missed its last train home. 🙂

    Heingarter was at least writing during the middle of the 15th century, rather than just at its end (and Thorndike likes him), so he’s worth a look, I’d say. 😉

  50. Ellie Velinska on November 9, 2017 at 3:12 pm said:

    Fair point 🙂

  51. Ellie Velinska on November 13, 2017 at 12:57 am said:

    All right. Here is a better example of the mobility of a physician in the early 15th century. Paul Kravar (Crawar). Born in Bohemia, medical degree from Montpellier, Master of Arts from Paris 1415. Goes back to Prague, then serves the King of Poland. Ends up burned at the stake in Scotland of all places in 1433. The guy could have seen manuscripts in Bohemia, Germany, Poland, France and the British Isle. So when they argue – is the VMs German or French or Polish or whatever – it doesn’t make sense, because many physicians and scholars didn’t just stay in their little villages, but traveled all over the place.

  52. Charlotte Auer on November 14, 2017 at 1:47 pm said:

    Ellie, sorry but your argument doesn’t make much sense either.

    There were no universities in little villages, and almost every medical doctor had to travel and to study at one of the then renowned universities to get a valuable degree.

    Furthermore there was a huge distinction between an academically educated medical doctor and an often self-taught physician who worked as practitioner („Wundarzt“ in German for barber surgeon). The former may never have seen a patient, but was fluent in Latin whilst the latter could barely read Latin, but was experienced in contemporary medical treatment. Due to the strict separation of internal medicine and surgery in the Middle Ages a closer look into the history of medicine could be very helpful to get a more realistic picture of travelling physicians.

    To serve a king or any other noble as a medical adviser those times had almost nothing to do with medicine as such, but a lot with astrology, alchimy and other hocus-pocus.

  53. Ellie
    Your examples show well that *IF* the content in the Vms were medical, and *IF* it were the original composition of a fifteenth-century Latin Christian male, and *IF* that hypothetical figure were deemed the work’s ‘author’ and IF he were imagined well-educated and socially well-connected… then we’d have to conclude that the Voynich manuscript was an extremely curious and uncharacteristic sort of thing for such a hypothetical figure to have made.

  54. Diane: it is surely hard to say whether a thing is an “extremely curious and uncharacteristic” example of its genre if we don’t know what that thing’s genre is. :-/

  55. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on November 14, 2017 at 5:13 pm said:

    Nick.does not want a key.
    Does someone else want a key ? 🙂

  56. Ellie Velinska on November 14, 2017 at 6:33 pm said:

    Charlotte Auer, I completely agree with everything you said. It is important perspective.

    My personal opinion (which is completely subjective and not a fact in any way) is that the person behind the VMs was academically trained physician/astrologer, which makes him likely to be male, who either spent time teaching at university or served on somebody’s court – that way he would have had enough time and resources for “creative writing”.

    Also the physicians then had to move, I think as a matter of survival. 15th century medicine was horrific and often the cure was worst than the disease. Their astrological predictions were also a disaster. So they had to move as soon as their BS was called. I think you had to be a great con-artist to survive as physician/astrologer in one place in the 15th century.

    Diane – it is just that – hypothetical – I don’t pretend to be anything else.

  57. At least an uncharacteristic medical MS by a 15th C European author with some level of education still seems like a reasonable possibility.

    For a trade catalogue of herbs after a classical Greek model written on ships traveling to the Far East via the Black Sea, by Spanish Jews, I am not so sure.

  58. Just mentioned by the way. Maybe you should take a look at the movie “the Medicus”. Although he plays 300 years earlier, but it gives by his high level of reality, a good picture of the conditions in the time.

  59. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on November 15, 2017 at 12:24 am said:

    Manuscript is not pharmacopoeia, alchemy, astrology, etc. I have been writing to you for a long time. That you have been using a Jewish substitution have been writing to you for years. And you do not want to know the key ? to translate the manuscript. Are you scientists ? Without my help, you will never achieve a positive result.
    For 15 years, try to find the key. And you do not know or know anythiling. It is suspicious. Are you ashamed ?

  60. Charlotte Auer on November 15, 2017 at 1:05 am said:

    Ellie: I guess you mean the numerous quacks who had to run very fast after having “cured” their poor victims. This kind of hit-and-run-medicine was a flourishing business, but none of these self-appointed physicians would have had the time, the money and the education to produce a codex of its own.

    As for the “academically trained physician/astrologer” at a university or court: such a person would have stressed on his authorship and genius, and we could read the VM in plain text. There are many examples of exactly this kind of medieval medical MSs.

    Rene: yes, an uncharacteristic medical MS is always possible, let alone those MSs lost forever in the black hole of history. For a “trade catalogue of herbs … “: I feel no need to discuss non-existent characteristics.

  61. Lest anyone considers this a vile ‘ad hominem’ attack, I am criticising an argument, not a person. If one prefers Latin, it could be called ‘ad rem’.

    Examples of ‘ad hominem’ statements could be:
    – you are plagiarising my work
    – you are the leader of a gang whose purpose is:
    1) to suppress my work
    2) to enforce the theory of a German provenance of the MS

    All real examples, by the way.

    (Apologies for the intermezzo – it ends here)

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