When Wilfrid Voynich bought his (now eponymous) manuscript in 1912, it was accompanied by a 1665 letter from Johannes Marcus Marci to Athanasius Kircher. In that, Marci noted three things that Raphael Mnishovsky (King Ferdinand III’s Czech language tutor) had told him about the strange artefact:-

  1. that the said book belonged to Emperor Rudolf
  2. that [Rudolf II] presented 600 ducats to the messenger who brought him the book
  3. that Raphael “thought that the author was Roger Bacon the Englishman

Voynich, perhaps seduced by a private ambition to sell a Roger Bacon manuscript, subsequently insisted that everyone should call it “The Roger Bacon Cipher Manuscript”, and even went to the trouble of reconstructing a (probably completely wrong) Anglo-centric provenance based around John Dee’s selling a Roger Bacon manuscript to Emperor Rudolph II. However, since Voynich’s death, the whole notion that Roger Bacon was connected with the VMs has slipped ever further into the background, to the point that no Voynich researcher has considered Bacon a viable possibility for years (if not decades), basically because we all thought 1450 was the earliest workable date for it.

However, with the recent Austrian documentary vellum dating (1405-1438 @ 95% confidence), it seems we may all have been wrong about that. OK, not necessarily by much, but enough to be a tad annoying. Which is why I decided to revisit the whole Roger Bacon / VMs claimed linkage: might there actually be something in it, however tangential?

The first issue to consider is Raphael Mnishovsky’s idea that the VMs had anything to do with Roger Bacon. When did Mnishovsky form or conceive this opinion? There seem to be five main scenarios to consider:

  1. Mnishovsky had seen the VMs pre-1612 at court and had formed that opinion on his own
  2. Mnishovksy had seen the VMs in Jacobus de Tepenecz’s possession
  3. Mnishovksy had seen the VMs in Baresch’s possession
  4. Mnishovsky had seen the VMs in Marci’s possession and had formed that opinion only then
  5. Mnishovsky had not seen the VMs, and was passing on a second-hand opinion

The problem with Scenario #1 is that I don’t think Mnishovsky was quite old enough to have been at Rudolph’s court. Similarly for #2, my understanding is that Mnishovsky was essentially a post-1612 courtier, and de Tepenecz was never close to court after Rudolph II’s death. The problem with #3 is that Baresch doesn’t mention any link with Roger Bacon in his 1637 letter to Kircher: while the problem with #4 is that it seems inconsistent with Marci’s letter (unless I’m subtly misreading it).

Which leads me to point my stick of historical judgment at Scenario #5: and to assert that the manuscript was probably linked to Roger Bacon while still at Rudolph II’s court (though Baresch probably knew nothing of this). Might the VMs have been sold to Rudolph as having been composed by Roger Bacon?

Given that Roger Bacon (genuinely) constructed his own computus and that the first manuscript copies of the famous “Mirror of Alchemy” (Speculum Alchemiae) ascribed (falsely) to him appeared in the fifteenth century, the suggestion that the (early-to-mid-fifteenth century) VMs could also have been (falsely) ascribed to Roger Bacon is hardly that far-fetched. Yes, I agree the claim is false – but where and when did that claim originate?

I wonder… is there a list anywhere of lost (genuine or ascribed) Roger Bacon works? Perhaps there are references to a Roger Bacon herbal in correspondence close to the Imperial court 1600-1612 that might have been overlooked. Something to think about, anyway. 🙂

PS: here’s a 1928 article on Newbold’s claims that recently popped up in JSTOR. Enjoy (the first page, at least)! 🙂

Just to let you know that a Voynich Manuscript radio interview I gave a few days ago (either download it, or click on the Flash Player play button [half a screen down on the right] to hear it) has just gone live on the Red Ice Creations website. They wanted me to chat about all things Voynich… and an hour later I eventually ran out of steam. 🙂

Pretty much all the fashionable VMs research topics you’d expect to me to crank out – Wilfrid Voynich, John Dee, Rudolf II, Rene Zandbergen, Sinapius, Newbold, dating, TV documentaries, the nine-rosette page, page references, the evolution of Voynichese, cipher history, Trithemius, Leon Battista Alberti, unbreakable ciphers, intellectual history, books of secrets, Brunelleschi’s hoist, enciphered machines, Voynich Bullshit Index, Quattrocento intellectual paranoia, patents, even quantum computing! – get covered, so there should be something there for nearly everyone. 🙂

And if that’s not enough for you, Red Ice Radio has a 45-minute follow-on interview with me in their member-only area: this covers cryptology, intractability, alchemy, Adam Maclean, hoax theories, Gordon Rugg, Cardan grilles, postmodernism, astronomy, astrology (lunar and solar), calendars, Antonio Averlino / Filarete, canals, water-powered machines, (not) the head of John the Baptist, Alan Turing, Enigma, Pascal, the Antikythera Mechanism, Fourier analysis, Ptolemaic epicycles, Copernicus, Kepler, Kryptos sculpture, Tamam Shud, Adrenalini Brothers, steganography, copy vs original, wax tablets, even al-Qaeda!

OK, I’m not a professional broadcaster, and it’s all impromptu (so there are a handful of pauses), but it does bring plenty of Voynich-related stuff that’s appeared here over the last 18 months together into a single place. Enjoy!

A vast constellation of curious books revolves around the hazily uncertain core of the Voynich Manuscript: as with most things, some are outright good, some are just plain bad, while most live in a mixed-up zone in the middle.

Henry Carrington Bolton’s (1904) ” The Follies of Science at the Court of Rudolph II” is a poster-child for that mixed-up zone – equal parts fact and fiction, Bolton’s oeuvre contains more than a dash of both historical sense and hysterical nonsense. Though it does go on to cover many varied aspects of Rudolph’s court, the first half of it amounts to a greatest-hits compilation of the credulous alchemical mythology surrounding John Dee’s Bohemian adventure – “Now That’s What I Call Bohemian Alchemy #1“, if you like. 🙂

However, for all the hallucinogenic tableaux he conjures up via the shewstone of his historical imagination (and for all the brazen liberties he takes with the facts), Bolton clearly did go to a great deal of trouble to fabricate his Ikea mansion out a lot of, well, basically good stuff. Hence the reader (though often deeply suspicious) finds hundreds of genuine factual nuggets embedded into the walls of the proto-scientific passageway Bolton has tunnelled through the Rudolfine era.

So, my question to you is this: is the following particularly shiny nugget (pp.37-38) gold or lead?

[...] when conversation was interrupted by the
entrance of Martin de Rutzke, bringing with him a beautifully
illuminated and rare manuscript rescued at the dispersal of
the library of Wresowitz, who was reputed to have been a
successful experimenter. The work was entitled "The True

Path of Alchemy," and was written by Antonio of Florence
in the year 1475; being couched in exceedingly obscure and
mystical language, hinting only at the secrets of the black
art, it was particularly admired by Rudolph who ordered his
treasurer to pay the high price demanded for it, and instructed
his librarian to add it to his valuable collection.

For a start, this “beautifully illuminated and rare manuscript… couched in exceedingly obscure and mystical language, hinting only at the secrets of the black art” bought by Rudolph for a “high price” does sounds terrifically like the Voynich Manuscript as described by Dr Raphael Mnishovsky (according to Johannes Marcus Marci in 1665).

Furthermore, even if I just happened to have a time machine in my shed I could barely have engineered a more blatant archival link between Rudolph II and a mid-Quattrocento Florentine called “Antonio”. (Note that Antonio Averlino is reported by Giorgio Vasari to have died in Rome around 1469, but given that there is no documentation to support or refute this, 1475 is entirely possible.)

As far as the book’s 16th century provenance goes, Wolfgang von Wresowitz died on 21st March 1569, while Bernhard Wresowitz died in 1571, and presumably the alchemical “library of Wresowitz” Bolton mentions was dispersed not long after: Rudolph moved his court to Prague in 1583, but it would probably take someone like Rafal Prinke to trace the Wresowitz alchemical library connection any further.

All in all, the big research question then becomes: did Bolton just make up this whole thing (the document name, author name, date, price, and provenance), or was he reporting something he found while trawling relevant books for intriguing-sounding alchemical stories? He comments elsewhere that he made use of the books by Czech historian Josef Svatek (1835-1897), so perhaps that’s one place to start.

Normally, the first proper place one would look for this would be the 1607-1611 Kunstkammer inventory drawn up by miniaturist Daniel Fröschl, as described in detail in Rotraud Bauer and Herbert Haupt’s (1976), “Die Kunstkammer Rudolfs II“. Unfortunately, the relevant gifs have long disappeared from the voynich.nu Bauer-Haupt page, so doing this will probably require someone (i.e. probably me) to spend a day at the library. However, I should also caution that, because Rudolph II may well have presented the same book to Sinapius around 1608 when he gave him the “de Tepenecz” title (i.e. while Fröschl was drawing up the inventory), it is entirely possible that it may not appear there – so, absence of evidence there would (as ever) not be evidence of absence.

However, the problem with this is that Fröschl’s inventory was completely unknown to historians until the middle of the twentieth century, and hence was unknown to Bolton: so, whatever Bolton’s source for this story, the one place we can be sure it didn’t (directly) come from is that inventory.

But all the same: if not there, where on earth did Bolton happen to read about “The True Path of Alchemy“? If we could answer that question, we might well be able to find out about the Voynich Manuscript’s very early history… definitely worth a closer look, I’d say… 🙂

PS: quick reminder not to forget the London Voynich pub meet at 5pm tonight!

PPS: thanks to a high-speed reply from Rafal Prinke, it now looks as though this is not (after all) the Voynich Manuscript (which is a shame, but what do you expect if you rely on Bolton?) – and possibly closer to a chicken nugget than to a gold nugget. Even so, expect a further post on this shortly! 😮

Back in February 2005, I decided to use my m4d image-processing 5k1llz to try to see how much of the erased owner’s signature at the bottom of f1r (the very first page) of the Voynich Manuscript I could reasonably reconstruct.


The reason the signature is so invisible is because some (probably early 17th century) owner physically scrubbed that part of the page really, really clean, to the point that there’s basically no ink there, nada, zilch. All that remains is no more than a subtle half-shadow, a ghostly echo that you have to enhance over and over and over to snatch even a vague glimpse. Well, that’s what I did four years ago – and here’s what ultimately came out of the process:-


By a twist of fate, I discovered this week just how correct my interpretation of the signature is (it’s actually surprisingly close). But that’s actually someone else’s story, which I hope to blog about at a later date…

Following on from Philip Neal’s translations, I wondered to myself: what might be lurking in Jesuit archives (specifically to do with Jacobus de Tepenecz / Sinapius)? And so I thought I’d have a quick snoop…

For Jesuitica in general, sjweb.info has a useful list of Jesuit archives, of which the big three are (1) Georgetown University’s numerous Special Collections [Maryland District of Columbia]; (2) Loyola University Archives [Chicago]; and (3) the Maurits Sabbe Library at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven [Belgium]. Incidentally, Georgetown has a very cool favicon, hats off to their web designer. 🙂

A slightly wider web-trawl yields more resources: an EBIB article on a giant Jesuit library in Poland (with an online catalogue), and the Library Sankt Georgen in Frankfurt am Main. Doubtless there are many more to be found, but that is at least a starting point.

As an aside, the Society of Jesus was born at the height of the Republic of Letters, with its missionary empire spanning the globe supported by extensive letters (I saw Matteo Ricci’s Lettere [1580-1609] flash past during my unproductive Jesuit catalogue searching), so in some ways one might expect that Sinapius might be plugged in to that whole network. Yet he emerged from the [presumably unlettered] kitchen staff at Krumlov, and may have not been primarily inclined to write as much as others. It may well be that there simply are no Sinapius letters out there to be found (probably a bit of Melnik-related decree signing, but not a great deal else).

Yet on the other (Paracelsian) side of Yates’ Rosicrucian divide, we see Georg Baresch’s 1637 letter to Athanasius Kircher which praised the latter’s “unprecedented efforts for the republic of letters”. Plainly the idea of the Republic of Letters was still very much alive in the pre-Kircher years: but the question inevitably remains, hanging awkwardly in the air – where have all those letters gone? Were they lost or destroyed, or are many simply lying uncatalogued in private archives?

Incidentally, Christopher Clavius is a famous letter-writing Jesuit mathematician: while François De Aguilon first used the word “stereographic” (for astrolabe-style projections), and his book on optics (Opticorum libri sex philosophis juxta ac mathematicis utiles ) had illustrations by Peter Paul Rubens.

For the voluminous scientific correspondence of Peiresc (1580-1637) who left about 3200 letters and Marin Mersenne (1588-1648) who left around 1100, you might try trawling through the “Correspondance du P. Marin Mersenne”, 16 vols. (1932-1986) or Ismaël Boulliau’s (1605-1694) 5000 unpublished letters. Even though these may well all fall just past our particular time-frame of interest, you’ll never know if you don’t look. [For Boulliau, see Robert Hatch’s chapter 4 in The formation and exchange of ideas in seventeenth-century Europe].

I don’t know: basically, I experience alternating waves of optimism and pessimism about the Voynich Manuscript’s post-1600 history – there’s too little and too late. I get the feeling that Sinapius is a bit of a cul-de-sac, and that we should be looking earlier and towards Southern France for a brief flash of our mysterious herbal manuscript inside the correspondence of the day. But what letters are out there? How would we ever find them?

Back in May this year, I suggested to my friend Philip Neal that a really useful Voynich research thing he could do would be to translate the passages relating to Jacobus Tepenecz (Sinapius) that Jorge Stolfi once copied from Schmidl’s (1754) Historiæ Societatis Jesu Provinciæ Bohemiæ (though Stolfi omitted to the section III 75 concerning Melnik) from Latin. The documentation around Sinapius is sketchy (to say the the least), yet he is arguably the earliest physically-confirmed owner of the Voynich Manuscript (even if Jan Hurych does suspect his signature might be a fake): and Schmidl’s “historical” account of the Jesuits in Prague is the main source of information we have on this Imperial Distiller.

So today, it was a delightful surprise to receive an email from Philip, pointing me at his spiffy new translations of all the primary 17th & 18th century Latin sources relating to the Voynich Manuscript – not just the passages from Schmidl, but also the Baresch, Marci and Kinner letters to Athanasius Kircher (the ones which Rene Zandbergen famously helped to uncover).

Just as I hoped, I learned plenty of new stuff from Philip’s translation of Schmidl: for example, that Sinapius was such a devout Catholic and supporter of the Jesuits in Prague that he even published his own Catholic Confession book in 1609 – though no copy has yet surfaced of this, it may well be that nobody has thought to look for it in religious libraries (it’s apparently not in WorldCat, for example). (Of course, the odds are that it will say nothing useful, but it would be interesting to see it nonetheless.) Sinapius was also buried in a marble tomb “next to the altar of the Annunciation” in Prague, which I presume is in the magnificent Church of Our Lady before Tyn where Tycho Brahe was buried in that same decade.

Interestingly, rather than try to produce the most technically accurate translation, Philip has tried to render both the text and the tone of each letter / passage within modern English usage, while removing all his technical translation notes to separate webpages. I think this was both a bold and a good decision, and found his notes just as fascinating as the translations themselves – but I suppose I would, wouldn’t I?

One thing Philip wasn’t aware of (which deserves mentioning independently) is Kircher’s “heliotrope”, mentioned in Marci’s 1640 letter to Kircher. The marvellous “heliotropic plant” which Kircher claimed to have swapped with an Arabic merchant in Marseille “for a watch so small that it was contained within a ring” (“Athanasius Kircher: The Last Man Who Knew Everything”, Paula Findlen (2004), p.13) was the talk of the day: this was a nightshade whose seeds allegedly “followed the motions of the sun when affixed to a cork bobbing in water”, in a kind of magnet-like way. This seems to have occupied the letters of natural philosophers even more than Galileo’s trial (from the same period). Yet to this day, nobody knows if Kircher was conning everyone with this heliotrope, or if he had been conned by someone else (but was perhaps unable to admit it to himself).

Then again, Kircher’s inclusion of the “cat piano” in his Musurgia Universalis might be a bit of a giveaway that he was a sucker for a tall tail tale. 🙂

Google only finds about ten pages where Pietro Andrea Mattioli (1501-1577) is linked with the Voynich Manuscript. Here’s a short research note to fill that gap…

If you look at Mattioli’s CV, you’ll see plenty of echoes with other people linked to the VMs. Though a renowned herbal compiler & writer in his spare time, he was also a physician to the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand II and to Emperor Maximilian II (who was, of course, Rudolph II’s father), which is broadly similar to both Hajek and Sinapius.

Brumbaugh once compared Mattioli’s famous 1544 herbal (the one that Hajek and Handsch translated in 1562/1563) with the VMs’ herbal drawings, and concluded that the two had (I think) at most one half of one plant in common. And so it seems relatively certain there is no connection: neither one is derived from the other, nor do both emanate from a common source.

Yet even though Rene Zandbergen avers demurs in this, I am quite certain (from closely examining it at the Beinecke) that the first word of the faded marginalia at the top of f17r has been emended from “melhor” to read “mattioli“. That is, a later owner (who was probably unable to read Occitan and French) misinterpreted the word as a garbled reference to Mattioli, and decided to correct it on the page.

Marcelo Dos Santos’ page on f17r (in Spanish) mentions much of this. He also mentions Sean Palmer’s assertion that the waterstain on f17r must have happened after the f17r marginalia were added, but before the f116v ‘michitonese’ marginalia: but no, sorry, I don’t accept that idea at all. If you look at the following pages, you can see where the waterstain fades away: it’s a localised piece of damage.

Marcelo also pulls down my suggested link with fennel for the picture on f17r (the one with a pair of “eyes” in the roots): yet he seems not to grasp that there the herbal literature of the late Middle Ages / Renaissance repeatedly connects fennel with eyes – finnochio / occhio in Italian, but similarly in Occitan and other languages. Oh well.

While writing my MBA dissertation a few years ago, I spun off a short paper called “Justified True Belief: Three Words, Three Lies?“, where the abstract explained its title:-

Cornelius Castoriadis once famously described the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics as “four words, four lies”: here, I examine each of the three words of “justified true belief” in turn to see if that too might be based on a fatally flawed discourse. In fact, “three lies” turns out to be a little strong – but the evidence strongly points to “two-and-a-half lies”. We deserve better than this!

My guess is that Castoriadis, for all his pithiness, was ripping off Voltaire, who in 1756 wrote:

This agglomeration which was called and still calls itself the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an empire.

So now, by applying the same pattern to the Voynich Manuscript, I’m extending the chain of ripping yet further. Just so you know!

What’s in a name? Wilfrid Voynich never called it “The Voynich Manuscript”: right from the start, he called it “The Roger Bacon Manuscript”. Which was a bit of a shame, given that it originally almost certainly had nothing to do with Roger Bacon.

However, because Voynich desperately wanted it to contain Bacon’s encrypted secrets, he was convinced it had to be medieval. It was in this context that he referred to it as a “manuscript”, because manuscripts are technically defined as being handwritten documents that predate the start of printing, which means 1450 or so. And so you can see that the word “Manuscript” in “Voynich Manuscript” presupposes a medieval document, or else it would have to be called “an early modern handwritten document” (which, for all its precision, is not quite so punchy). And worse, the range of dates it could sensibly have been made goes over this 1450 mark, so we have no real certainty to work from here.

As for “Voynich”: in one sense it should be “Wojnicz”, the book dealer’s surname before he ended up in London. But we sophisticated moderns should perhaps more sensibly name it after the Jesuit Villa Mondragone (where Wilfrid Voynich found it), or Johannes Marcus Marci (who inherited it and whose letter to Kircher travelled with it all the way to New Haven), or George Baresch (arguably the first obsessive Voynich researcher to be documented), or Sinapius / Jacobus de Tepenecz (whose erased signature still faintly remains on the first page), or even Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II (who was said to have paid well for it).

All of this still rather panders to an implied need for naming, as if by giving it a name it somehow helps us understand its origins (it doesn’t, can’t, and won’t). It’s an itch we don’t actually need to scratch: we need to learn to be more comfortable about remaining in a state of uncertainty.

My dissertation was all about knowledge and uncertainty: the work I’ve done since then points to my own three-word definition for knowledge – “hopefully useful lies“. Calling this enigmatic object the “Voynich Manuscript” is indeed “two words, two lies” – but as long as we never forget that they are both lies, its name is a most useful tool.

I recently posted about Rudolf’s physician before Jacobus de Tepenecz [Sinapius], Tadeáš Hájek z Hájku: and wondered aloud whether he might have bought / owned / sold / annotated the Voynich Manuscript. It’s a good question: the f17r marginalia seems to have been emended to read “mattioli…” (I believe it originally began “melhor”), and Hájek famously translated Mattioli’s Herbal.

The first step would be to find some of Hájek’s handwriting: with the help of Jan Hurych, I soon found the Manuscriptorium, which is a kind of uber-catalogue of Czech manuscripts. Searching for Hájku yielded 14 unique references, most of which are “Minucý a Pranostika” (i.e. tables and weather predictions) from different years, and which seem likely to be small printed pamphlets (and so probably of no practical use to us here).

However, there are four other documents which might have his handwriting (listed below, each with repository and shelfmark, if anyone happens to be in Prague or Zwickau and wants a challenge, as well as Jan’s brief translation of the start of the title). I’ve asked the manuscript librarians whether Hájek himself is thought to have written any/all of these, and hopefully will get an answer relatively soon…

  • Královská kanonie premonstrátů na Strahově, Praha – Kodex Dobřenského, opus 344.
    1574 “Tabule dlauhosti Dne…” – The table of day’s and night’s lengths
  • Národní knihovna České republiky – 54 S 91 neúpl.
    1560 “Wayklad Proroctwij …” – Explanation of Turkish prophecy…
  • Knihovna národního muzea v Praze – 28 E 1O
    1556 “Wypsanij s Wyznamenánijm gedné y druhé Kométy” – The description and explanation of both comets…
  • Zwickau Ratschulbibliothek – 4, 10, 39, přív.
    1580 “O některých předesslých znamenjch Nebeských” – About some heavenly signs in the past . . .

As a nice coincidence, I’m in the middle of reading Owen Gingerich’s delightful bibliophilic road-trip book “The Book Nobody Read” and who should pop up on p.172 and p.178 but “Thaddeus Hagecius” (i.e. “Tadeáš Hájek” in Latin). According to a marginal note by Johannes Praetorius in the back of the Beinecke Library’s copy of Copernicus’ “De Revolutionibus” (the historiographic subject of Gingerich’s book), Paul Wittich had passed a “terse list of three errors” in the book on to Hájek. The same list of errors appears in a copy in Debrecen, and in a copy in Edinburgh.

And so Gingerich throws the idea that this particular Edinburgh copy may perhaps have been owned by Hájek up in the air. But all the same, it’s only a speculation. Still, I’ll ask him if he ever went looking for marginal handwriting by Hájek, you never know…

…but now I’ve thought of searching Google for “Thaddeus Hagecius” (*d’oh!*), I find that there is a pile of correspondence between Tycho Brahe and Hájek (and a good-sized 2002 article on it here).

And according to this Czech page, the Prague-based Society for the History of Sciences (“DVT” = dějiny věd a techniky) published in 2000 “the first volume of the Czech monographic series Works on History of Technique and Natural Sciences dedicated to significant Renaissance scholar Thaddeus Hagecius (Tadeáš Hájek z Hájku)” (it was the 500th anniversary of his death that year). It seems to be called “Práce z dějin technika a přírodních věd 1“, Praha 2000, 180 str: it’s not immediately obvious how you’d buy a copy, though… (I’ll ask Jan Hurych).

And there’s also a 2004 article about his astronomy in this German book.

That’s often the way with research: find just the right key, and zero research leads suddenly turns into ten…

Well, you can’t say I’m not looking ahead. News reaches my ears of a lavish Voynich documentary being made by the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation) “Universum” Natural History Unit and Pro Omnia Film & Video Promotion GmbH, in association with “ARTE, ZDF and the Smithsonian Network“.

Now we’ve got past the broadcasting acronym jungle, what is its angle? It’s still early days, but its producers Klaus Steindl and Andreas Sulzer seem already to have focused on the VMs’ Bohemian history as being worthy of study: we’ll just have to wait and see what their research harvests…

Well-known Voynich expert Rene Zandbergen is helping out in some way (hopefully they’ll remember to listen to him, particularly as Voynich research is more about avoiding problems than solving them), and they promise:

Now analysing the illustrations will give a new angle to decoding the manuscript. Wrapped around the text on almost every page there are drawings of plants, star constellations of the zodiac, bathing female figrues and structures remniscent of piping systems and microscopic views. Do these patterns hold the key? For this documentary a team of scientists takes a new interdisciplinary approach to crack the Voynich code – including the first forensic examination of the book itself.

Somehow, I get the feeling that they haven’t yet read my book – oh, well. 🙁 But let them continue…

A recently discovered signature is a new lead: It identifies the early 17th century scholar Jakub de Tepenec – an alchemist in attendance on Habsburg emperor Rudolph II. How was he connected to the unknown author? Did he possess some kind of secret knowledge about alchemy, magic plants and the fabled fountain of youth he tried to hide from the inquisition?

OK, OK, even though these are supposed to be rhetorical questions, you’d have to say that “only through ownership” and “no” are both pretty good answers. And “recently” isn’t usually used to mean “85 years ago”, but I guess they’re looking at the big picture here. Regardless, there is an incredible wealth of information from this fascinating period in the numerous Czech archives, so I wish them all the best in their search for whatever it is they’re looking for.

Yet as Charles Hope cautions, archival research is best approached more as an exercise in hopeful serendipity than in one of historical problem-solving: as my friend Sergio Toresella said, “In my life I went twice in an Archivio and I haven’t got a spider in a hole (as we say in Italian).” You get the idea.

Me, I think I’ll stick to the Quattrocento. 😉