The Secret History of the Rosicrucians – 10. The Limits Of Evidence

We have travelled as far as we can on this evidential train. The paths of Andreae and the Voynich Manuscript might have crossed, or they might not: “Book M” might have been inspired by the Voynich Manuscript (or by book-seller tall stories about it, heard in Switzerland during 1610), or it might not. In both cases, we simply can’t tell.

All I can say is this: that I strongly suspect that the story of the Voynich Manuscript was indeed the direct inspiration for the “Book M” of the Fama; and that Andreae and his co-conspirators believed that, by co-opting the Voynich Manuscript into their Rosy Cross story, they could give their claimed Conspiracy of The Good an historical plausibility and depth it lacked in its earlier drafts.

Moreover, I suspect that the specific lever that Andreae thought he could use to move the Imperial mountain was the Voynich Manuscript. Rudolf had paid 600 ducats for this mere book (we hear): why, then, would he not pay the same or more for information about the mysteriously wise secret society that (supposedly) created it?

However, right from the start of the Rosicrucian furore, there were naysayers at the Imperial Court – most famously Michael Maier, though he switched sides and became pro-Rosicrucian in 1616 – who said out loud that they thought all its claims were false. Had Andreae and his group had a champion at court in 1611, everything could easily have been different: but this hinged on a toss of Fate’s coin, and – in this case – was not to be.

Conjuring up Imperial patronage for the Rosy Cross would have been a daring, cheeky, con: and perhaps if the timing had been slightly different, it might have succeeded. But then again, the window of opportunity was very narrow: the first talk of the Fama was in 1610, while Rudolf’s reign was over by March 1611. And then the new Emperor was a completely different man, with no interest in alchemy, new religions, or chivalrous orders (such as the Order of the Golden Fleece). The whole golden game was over.

But what of the Chymical Wedding? A question that has long exercised my mind is why Andreae chose “1459” as the specific year for his otherwise highly unspecific book.

Fire : Air : Water : Earth
Were unable to rob
From the holy ashes
Was gathered by the faithful flock
Of Alchemists
In this urn
A.D. 1459

It’s entirely possible that nobody will ever know either way, but I find it difficult to can’t budge the suspicion that “1459” might well have been marked in some way on the original outer cover of the Voynich Manuscript: and that by weaving that date into the Chymical Wedding, Andreae was trying to link all the pieces together.

Could it be that, through the weird, refractive lens of the Rosicrucian manifestoes, Andreae’s mention of “1459” gives us the briefest of glimpses of the Voynich Manuscript’s original state?

The Secret History of the Rosicrucians
1. Introduction
2. The Three Texts
3. Dating The Fama And The Confessio
4. The Fama’s First Draft
5. So… What Was The Point Of It All?
6. ‘Book M’
7. Another Mysterious Manuscript
8. Stories From The Margins
9. Andreae’s Two Journeys
10. The Limits Of Evidence