Harran again. With Newbold.

As regular readers will know (and as others can discover if they search for ‘Harran’), I’ve said in several posts to this blog that the city famed for its astronomers, astrologers and mathematicians seems likely (to me) to have provided some at least of the Vms’ astronomical diagrams (whose ancient roots are plain enough, but whose current form – like that of the month roundels – I suggest was set and had come to the western Mediterranean by, respectively, not later than the mid-thirteenth century for the first, but perhaps as early as the tenth century for the latter).

Today, and once more thanks to the generosity of Richard Santacoloma who in 2008 first searched for and then shared documents from the Voynich archives, I’ve come across yet another item of information which I wish I’d noted earlier.

Santacoloma sent copies of certain Voynich papers to the editors of the [online] Journal of Voynich Studies in that year.  These include a letter written by Professor Newbold to Wilfrid Voynich – whom Newbold addresses, btw, by the formal “Mr.” but without the “de“commonly seen in references to Voynich at this time.

At present, that letter is still accessible online, here. The link to the JVS  – Item 2008:192 Fri 05/30/2008 – I found from a reference in a ciphermysteries blogpost mentioning Newbold –  viz.  ‘Edith Rickert and the Voynich Manuscript’ (Apr.23, 2009).

Newbold’s letter is dated September 1919, address and date as follows:

Newbold address Grolier archives published R.Santacoloma and JVSIn this letter, Newbold refers to a “Tebith” manuscript then in Wilfrid’s office. Whether it is a manuscript copy, or notes from such an copy, it evidently refers to the work(s) of the Harranian ‘Sabian’ whose name is now usually Romanised as Thâbit ibn Qurra. English and Latin works from the medieval to the early twentieth century use a variety of forms, including e.g. Tebith Cora. [If the text below is too small for you, click the image to enlarge.]

Tebith ms Newbold to Voynich

What I should love to know is what this ‘Tebith manuscript’ was, which Voynich had in September 1919 –  and whether any record still exists of Wilfrid’s having bought, owned or sold a ‘Tebith’ manuscript about that time.  I don’t know whether it will be in Arabic, in medieval Latin, English or some other language, a simple copy of the original text, or transcriptions or excerpts, but another remark in Newbold’s letter speaks of a specific ‘hand’.

Newbold was competent in most of the languages used in study of  Jewish and Christian canonical texts. Ibn-Qurra was competent in Arabic, Greek and his native Syriac.  It will be remembered (perhaps) that Syriac speakers are constantly linked with forms of botanical imagery which show points of resemblance to some habits seen in the Voynich botanical imagery.  Other details in parts of the Vms also refer to that region around Diyabakir, as I’ve explained.

I think the area so important that I assign an entire chronological stratum – though one not affecting every section of the Vms – to that region.



One thought on “Harran again. With Newbold.

  1. Postscript. The issue of Harran has recently been raised on Stephen Bax’ site. I see a reference online to a post to the new Voynich mailing list – dated Nov 16, 2014 – for which the G/gle results give “very close similarities to the style of the Voynich. … Thabit ibn Qurra” but the link does not work for me, so I cannot see how closely the names were linked, or by whom.)


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