My hand to heaven – more on maritime charts and globes

Stolfo 2
manuscript of Nicolo Stolfo, ‘Geografia, E Del Navigare’1499; Peloponesso Del Pausana Illustrate Da Pini; Historiandi Scio Der Giustinano; Portoloano Archipelago E Morea. description and image Courtesy of UPenn. Schoenberg database.

This manuscript is held in the Library of Congress, Rare Book and Special Collections Division.

The library of Congress also holds a rhumb-gridded “portolan” chart dated to 1320.

Listed here.

See also my earlier posts on hand-calculations, -gestures and -mnemonics. (search ‘hand’).

If any kind soul would care to translate the page – which I think potentially very important, do email me at voynichimagery AT gmail DOT com won’t you and I’ll post your translation here.

Or, if you have your own blog/page etc., I hope you’ll send me a link.

Do we have a biography of Nicolo Stolfo?









6 Replies to “My hand to heaven – more on maritime charts and globes”

      1. Andrea,
        I hit a dead end there too. The manuscripts digitised by the Library of Congress appear focused on America’s own national history.

        Certainly, though all the bibliographic references I’ve found are in agreement: the manuscript is Venetian, dated 1499 and there appears to be no other copy known, or at least none of which I find mention. I have been unable to learn the shelf number, or accession details or anything else, much.

        The Library of Congress also agrees they have it – so there’s no chance of error on that point.

        In a fairly recent exhibition, the LoC themselves mention it, though they use only the same illustration that I did.

        It is possible to enquire directly – here’s the web-page for questions to the LoC Rare Manuscripts collection. You never know – they may be happy to digitise the whole thing, just because you’ve asked for it. (Not so strapped as some other libraries are.)
        Here are the links to the exhibition in which Stolfo’s text was included:


        and here is the Manuscripts Digital Collection page at the LoC:

        Stolfo’s work is too late to have had any influence on the Voynich manuscript, which was made during the first decades of the fifteenth century, but of course the same matter in the Vms could well be in a later work. I was chiefly interested in the way that the ‘Guidonian Hand’ served many professions other than music – including the mariners’ calculations. This was of interest to me for two reasons: first, the evidence which I first recognised and explained a while ago, and which shows iconographic connection to works of the Mallorcan-Genoese cartographers during the first decades of the previous century (to about 1340 or so).

        The other reason for interest is that if I’m correct in arguing the written text a highly-abbreviated and entirely technical florilegium (compilation of extracts from earlier sources), and chiefly to do with the east-west trade and maintenance of men and goods, then it is possible that if the text is encoded (which I doubt) some variation on the Guidonian ‘hand’ would have been an easy and convenient way to encode.

        Please do let me know how you fare with the LoC, or if you find another copy of Stolfo’s work. I very much look forward to reading any research you might care to share or publish. Very exciting!


  1. Thank you Diane, I teach in Udine University (near Venice) and at the moment I’m in Pisa. I studied several portolans of fourternth and fifteenth century, but I didn’t know the Stolfo manuscript. So the bookshelf “VK653 .S76 1500 Med & Ren Mss Coll” isn’t correct? You told about the exibit “The Mediterranean World – 1492: An Ongoing Voyage”?
    I will ask the librarians of LoC (and eventually a friend of me that works in Univ. of Maryland) in order to get a copy of the whole thing.
    I don’t know if it can be related to Voynich, but I’m sure that the calculus with the knucklebone is employed in a lot of occasions, for the calendar, the calucus of the Easter, or simple calculation. I can send you a couple of examples from a (early) fifteenth c. MS in Bergamo Municipal Library (write to me)


  2. A note to general readers
    The link to the Schoenberg database has changed since this was posted. For the Stolfo ms now see:

    Secondly, here is a list of the posts I put up from my investigation of this subject in connection with the Vms. After the first, most are very brief notes

    (The tags include: ‘Tinctoris hand’, ‘Guidonian Hand’, ‘Hand of Maryam’ and, of course, ‘computus manualis’ )

    folio 9v – a short note on ‘hands’.” (2013/06/01) – this is the seminal post, directly discussing items in the imagery which led me to think that an investigation of the various mnemonic ‘Hands’ might prove fruitful in connection with the Voynich manuscript’s written text.

    I have been obliged to remove it from public view, after efforts proved unavailing to have certain self-important Voynicheros understand that the principles informing scholarly standards of attribution, citation and re-use are as much aimed at ensuring future researchers’ time is not wasted as in saving the present author having to prove her right to use her own research and conclusions without finding them co-opted, distorted and re-used with some other person’s name attached or implied as author of the ‘idea’.

    Among the brief follow-up notes which I posted:
    ‘My hand to heaven – more on maritime charts and globes’ (2015/02/16)

    ‘Another interruption: Bee in my bonnet’ (2015/04/30).

    ‘Pri Pri Pri Di… computus manualis.’ (2016/04/17)


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