Parchment’s date is between 1404 and 1438. That’s it!

For reasons I can only guess at, there has come to be a habit of saying not that the manuscript’s parchment was made before 1440 (which is true, as far as the scientific data is concerned), but instead adding nearly another 30% to the indicated date-range.

So (especially among those still hoping it will prove a manuscript made by one Christian faction rather than another), there are increasing numbers of bloggers adopting a vague – and never quite-explained – assertion that the manuscript dates from “the 1450s”.

Well, it doesn’t.

There is no evidence at all, and certainly nothing reliable, adduced in support.

I reckon the answer lies somewhere in the wiki list of “important events” for 1450+

But whatever the obscure reason might be, the fact is that “1450s” just … ain’t … so.

Perhaps the parchment was inscribed later than 1438.. but we don’t know that; there’s no evidence to support the contention.

1404-1438 That’s it.

– unless, or until, another formal (and equally independent) scientific evaluation is published.

 

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12 Replies to “Parchment’s date is between 1404 and 1438. That’s it!”

  1. Hi Diane: three of the four samples taken had extremely similar radiocarbon values, which is statistically bad for narrowing down the date – from them alone, the range of possible values would be something like 1400 to 1470 as I recall.

    Yet because the fourth sample gave a slightly earlier date, the final result of the study was tightened to the 1404-1438 range.

    However, the place where they took that fourth sample was probably the most contaminated part of the whole manuscript – the outermost edge of one of the Q9 foldout pages. The oily finger markings there are almost solid.

    So the tighter date range rests entirely on a sample taken from a badly contaminated region of the vellum.

    The specific historical problem I have with that is that I don’t see parallel hatching in early modern manuscripts or drawings before 1440 (and then only rarely), which makes me suspect that that final sample might be problematic.

    I don’t have any issue with the other three samples, they’re entirely consistent with each other. But I do strongly suspect that the fourth sample’s particular location was ill-chosen.

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    1. Nick, I appreciate your position, and the reason you dispute the published results. Still, as a general rule one expects that if suitably qualified and experienced people conduct such tests, they will also take such things into account in their stated margin of error – so the form is to quote the published results and add any personal reservations as personal doubts or demurs, not to do as seems to be happening (not blaming you) by simply starting a rumour which is repeated as if it were indisputable, received wisdom. There is no evidence that the results are bad, only a discomfort felt by some. And even if you do a person does express personal uncertainty, or try tries to argue differently the counter-argument will naturally run: ‘person A is qualified and did these tests.. you’re not’.* I may also have concerns about the results, but I didn’t see how they were run, and in science method is all. In fact, the very idea of suggesting that the university’s results should be supposed to have a 30% margin of error (i.e. an additional twelve years) would be a serious insult if suggested by a fellow scientist.
      * I do miss “one” sometimes..

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      1. Expressing a very specific reservation about the sampling methodology employed on a single radicarbon sample hardly counts as rumourmongering!

        If you read up on radiocarbon dating, you should quickly see that it is not exact and that its results need to be validated against externally datable historical data, which is what I’ve tried to do in a very specific way.

        I have no idea what others are passing off as indisputable or received wisdom (I left the VMS mailing list many years ago), but I’m not responsible for what goes on listmembers’ heads. 🙂

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      2. No of course. As I said, not blaming you. I’ve just been seeing it said more and more, and without attribution. I daresay “1450” will turn up soon on a wiki, or some equivalent online source, and next thing you know, it’s impossible to get anyone to see that while it *could* be so, at the moment, it isn’t demonstrable. What we have are the published results – and that’s it as far as any solid information goes, at present.
        PS – I left the m.l. in high dudgeon simultaneously with being blocked from it. Well over a year ago, now. Cheers.

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    2. On parallel hatching; the Carolingian revival might be cited here because the sort of thing you see in the Vms isn’t really the sort of hatching you find in works by Leonardo or Durer. It’s more like the style in some Carolingian examples that I cited yonks ago (that’s vernacular for ‘I’m not sure how long ago’). 🙂
      A couple of those examples are included in a post to voynichretro.wordpress.com, “Temple of the Angels” (October 22, 2013). The problem isn’t that the Durer sort of hatching isn’t seen* earlier; it is that what you’re defining as that sort of hatching.. just isn’t. Sorry.

      * in European manuscripts. Important qualification.

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      1. On parallel hatching: I agree that it isn’t like Leonardo or Durer’s hatching – but as I recall there are Florentine drawings from the mid-1440s and Venetian drawings from the early 1450s that do employ crude parallel hatching in this way, and it is to those that I point in this instance. Heaven help us if people start putting forward Voynich-written-by-Durer theories *sigh*.

        As for Carolingian stuff, I qualified my statement with the phrase “I don’t see parallel hatching in early modern manuscripts or drawings before 1440”, which I hope offers a clear enough statement of position. etc etc 🙂

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      2. Nick, yes, I read your comments on this in ‘Curse’. It’s not that I don’t understand but I cannot agree.
        As far as I can see, there’s no “parallel hatching” in the entire manuscript, and even if there were – which I would argue there isn’t – then there being any in the Vms would not so much indicate that we should shift the manuscript’s probable date, as that we should consider just where these techniques *were* in use before 1438.

        No-body has ever demonstrated that the matter within (as distinct from the materials of) the Vms originated in Europe. I think I’ve demonstrated pretty thoroughly, that it didn’t.

        So it ain’t Italian quattrocento “hatching” any way you look at it.

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      3. Have you found any Italian quattrocento works combining “line-and-dot” with such shading/hatching?
        While some Vms folios only have one type (75r only having the hatching), the manuscript’s combining line and dot with roughly parallel lines means that any proposed provenance has to show that both techniques were in current use. These do exist.

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      4. Line-and-dot isn’t something I’ve gone looking for in the past (I found parallel hatching to be more than hard enough), but I shall certainly go looking for it in the future. 🙂

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  2. Actually, Nick – I have to say that at the time the results came out I ranted a bit about the disruption of normal scientific method in this instance. Having outsiders’ preferences over-ride standard procedure is not really usual.

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