I’m writing up the book’s Preface at the moment, and find I have am embarrassingly short list of persons to offer credits and acknowledgements to. If you can recall having assisted me, or offered constructive comments during the past eight years, please don’t let me forget to mention it.
So far, the list is as follows:
A.M. for first sending me some pictures from the manuscript and asking for my comment. Fortunately he included the ‘Leo’ figure, than which there could hardly have been any more likely to rivet my attention. Not only the Hellenistic/Phoenician/Persian sort of lion with the ‘tree’, but that apotropaic splash about which, as it happened, I’d been writing shortly before in connection with the sources of non-Latin forms in Caroline manuscripts.
To Philip Neal for his invaluable translations and his own commentaries on those documents.
And that seems to be all. Very awkward.
After the images were sent me, I spent the next months working directly from the manuscript and secondary scholarly sources, not wanting that first clear perception of the primary source to be affected by anyone else – that’s my usual method, always. It has been for many decades now and is no insult to the ‘Voynich community’.
For the appearance of my first post about the manuscript, I owe thanks to A.M. and Nick Pelling. I chose to write about folio 25 because I hoped it would prove the neatest introduction to the public of that manifestly non-Latin-European character evident throughout the manuscript. At the same time, my identification of it allowed reference to Soqotra, and thus to a second important aspect of the manuscript – as I had concluded – that its most likely raison d’être was to serve the needs of a peripatetic profession which had (until about the mid-twelfth century or so) had little or no interest in the western Mediterranean, in Rome, or even in Jerusalem.
To Ellie Velinska‘s happening to post a particular image on her site – albeit for different reasons – I owe my having been able at last to name the wind shown on f.86v with a ring about it, and to offer another image illustrating ‘Radhanite’ style. Velinska seems not to have had any idea that either matter was referenced in the image, but I did leave her a note of thanks, with explanation.
2010-2016 – thanks to the online community.
This is the really embarrassing bit.
Where I should now thank those who have engaged with my work online, discussed or debated technical details, and who on taking up my conclusions have properly credited me, I have not a single name that I can cite.
If you are one – and I’m not talking about moral support because that comes later – then please do remind me. I should hate to omit your name.
Thanks is certainly due to Nick Pelling’s cipher mysteries. Without it, I could not have found my way around the ‘Voynich world’ after I decided to emerge from seclusion, and cannot count how many times I was able to add a link to one of Pelling’s posts, and thus save myself a good deal of unnecessary time and trouble in writing, or even researching some point of history. See e.g. his post on “astrolabes and nocturnals”.
Those who offered any positive comment on my work while I was a member of the (second) Voynich mailing list, do please email me. I’m sorry to say that I cannot recall any.
As I recall, it was only Nick Pelling who ever seemed willing to let me know if credit was due some previous Voynich writer as having earlier reached some conclusion close to mine, or who had even previously considered an avenue of research on which I was embarked.
I cannot say how many hours of unnecessary work I was saved by cipher mysteries – being able to add a link and point out where and why I agreed or differed was much, much easier and the relief was welcome.
As one example – Pelling informed me, after having kindly accepted my paper, that a Voynich researcher named Edith Sherwood, and perhaps others before her had also identified the subject of f.25v as a Dracaena. This was most heartening, even though I was sure the primary subject was not the Mediterranean Dracaena (which has flowers, fruit and naturally white bark), but the Soqotran. Still, it seemed to augur well. When independent researchers reach similar conclusions without reference to each others’ work, it is more likely that they are both working accurately.
Pelling mentioned Sherwood – no one else did, as I recall.
On closer inspection of Sherwood’s offerings online, however, I realised that one visit would be enough. She had never thought to treat the images as pictures, but assumed them entirely literal and ‘photographic’ in intent, the whole according to her forming a Latin type of medicinal herbal.
It was already clear to me that this was highly unlikely, and without explaining why the images are formed as they are, and what customs and regions inform their appearance, one has no solid explanation for any.
About two or three more plants I later found my views had been more-or-less compatible with hers: Musaceae, a type of hemp-plant, the castor plant, and Dracunculus vulgaris. I think that’s the lot.
My work is not indebted to Sherwood for those identifications, but I believe she made them first – as far as one can tell with web-pages which retain the same copyright date while incorporating later alterations and updates. The same is why I do not refer to Voynich.nu.
Cause and effect, and thus the right to claim priority, can so easily become confused in those circumstances.
My explanation of the folios, their form, style, matter, historical and cultural context, and position within the whole has never benefited by so much as a single ‘idea’ from any other Voynich writer.
Julian Bunn‘s work did inspire me to step outside that field in which I specialise, just to let people know that the written part of the text, as he represents it, seems to reflect woven patterns of a particular type. I noticed Julian’s diagrams while I was reading (not writing about) Ethicus/Aethicus’ alphabet, and simultaneously puzzling about a phrase in some early medieval texts, where the written text is described as “woven words”.
I’m so particular about giving credit where I owe it that I have occasionally stretched a point, being told afterwards that someone else came to even one conclusion about any detail which agreed with mine. There are certain conditions, however: that they had earlier come to genuinely believe the offered interpretation, had shown evidence of some research in depth and that the matter had been published – for the general public – and there stated to be their formal opinion.
One has to be so exact here because mailing lists and online forums and so forth produce an endless series of rambling hypotheses which are never researched in any depth, and never presented as any detailed exposition with a range of comparative images or detailed context offered by reference to written works of the appropriate period.
As long as an ‘idea’ comes with nothing but a vague description that includes a lot of ‘might be’ and ‘could be’ and even denigration by the speaker themselves of that ‘idea’ (e.g.’ my silly idea’), I cannot offer either priority or credit. I do not believe credit would usually be sought on such flimsy grounds by any non-Voynich scholar.
I admit that I relaxed the usual form in one case because the writer was so plainly sincere.
Richard Santacoloma had earlier published his opinion that folio 75r includes an allusion to five elements.
My own opinion – that the folio includes allusion to a five-element system – had been reached by considering the forms and details within that image, by their evidently reflecting certain classical terms, and cross-referencing this to the inclusion of such terms again in such sources as Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies.
Though I did not then (nor do I now) think Santacoloma’s description sufficient, correct in detail, or even correct in its attribution, I accept that he first concluded that the image referred to “five elements” . He supposed the fifth element ‘ether’; I did not. Had I seen that post of his, I might have offered comment and attempted a civil debate about it. When Santacoloma wrote to me, pointing me to his post and claiming his right to some credit, I certainly gave it.
My habit on learning later that initial credit is claimed, or reasonably due, has been to add a postscript to the relevant post. This I did on learning that Wiart and Mazar had mentioned two botanical folios and attributed them, as I had done, to the eastern sphere rather than the western. I went further, writing to one of the authors and asking if he would be willing, if necessary, to be troubled to comment on further identifications which I made.
Nick Pelling’s efforts at iconographic analysis did not reach me at all until late 2011 or perhaps even 2012 (if I recall). That would have been my fourth or fifth year of involvement in the study. Since I lost my copy of the Curse in 2013, and have no note of when I received it, Nick might care to refresh my memory here if he is able.
I should like to thank the Beinecke library for receiving my emails.
Thanks to those who maintained the first Voynich mailing list archive online; I should have consulted it more often than I did and promise to read it right through before issuing a second volume of essays.
The sources used for my research have been almost exclusively scholarly ones, and initially I used to add a full bibliography not only for a particular post but for the subject it related to. After strong opinions were expressed on the mailing list, I have always tried to find something online which offered parallel information. This, in its own way, sometimes caused equal exasperation among the more academically trained. (One recalls Aesop’s fable of the Man, the Boy and the Donkey).
Nick Pelling’s site has often been helpful as an alternative, linkable site, especcially since there can be no confusion about the date of his contributions.
P. Han appears to date each web-page separately in his site; Voynich.nu (last I looked) does not. I refer to neither except that:
I used to refer my readers to a diagram published on voynich.nu and which showed the quires’ layout. I stopped doing so when I realised that there is a discrepancy between that diagram’s pagination and that used by the Beinecke.
The same is true for another site which offers high res. pictures, but whose pagination again was quite wrong on the occasion I saw it. (e.g. f.86v was called a ‘rosettes folio’ and listed it out of order).
Others speak highly of both sites, but I have not used them.
Since beginning this new blog, I have received so much in the way of moral support that I will have to ask the individuals by email if they would accept formal acknowledgements.
One possible omission of credit as yet – I believe that I did read some emails to Santacoloma’s list in which David Suter mentioned an earlier program of research that involved matching details of the manuscript to topographic details in the real world. I understand he applied the method to America, and thus I expect we agree in no particular, but he does appear to have been the first person to seriously see f.86v as a map that might be compared to the real appearance of any part of the world. If that turns out to be so, then I shall certainly offer him credit for priority.
Vague musings, ramblings and hypotheses have been so many, and most so fleeting, unsupported by anything remotely approaching research, that it would be as impossible to credit them as unreasonable to expect them credited by me, seventeen years or more later, and without having heard of them until after my own work was published.
So there you have my credits list and the reason for each item. Very short, isn’t it? Far shorter than one would expect, perhaps.