“For your own good..”

After receiving this week two emails from well-meaning correspondents “warning” me against reading this or that Voynich researcher’s work, as if I might be infected by some process of eye-beam contamination, I began wondering where this bizarre habit began in Voynich studies.

Running through old posts from the first Voynich mailing list, looking for an example of one researcher’s  warning others “for their own good”, I was unsurprised to find not one instance.

I can’t  really imagine – can you- that Jim Reeds would presume to “warn off” Pelling or Neal from reading anyone else’s work.  Nor can I imagine Pelling “warning” me not to read Neal’s observations or translations because they weren’t part of any nicely elaborated hypothetical history for the manuscript?.

So when did the noxious practice take root?   I do recall being “advised” in 2009 not to read Pelling’s book and blog. The first because, supposedly,  it was “unnecessarily complicated” and the second, believe it or not, because the speaker claimed it gave him a headache to read it. Oh, and something about hurt feelings, I think. Or maybe that was about Santacoloma’s mailing list, which the same person told me I “needn’t” read.

From all of which I understood that said blog allowed too many points of view to be expressed, distracting attention from the speaker’s own theory, and that the speaker did not espouse an “Italian Voynich” theory.

Just btw, I’ve been recommending Pelling’s book ever since. And I joined that mailing list, though my opinion about that came to agree with the original speaker’s.

Some parts of Pelling’s book makes me wish he had avoided the whole creative-history thing, and just published the codicological and paleographic work. But it’s a two-way choice. The author chooses what to publish. The reader choose what to read.  It works.

No external advisor-and-censor required.

I understand that the people who wrote to me are nice people, and meant the warnings nicely.  But there’s no need for concern. Until I cease to find it interesting, I’ll read the “Karelian” theory, and I’ll read what Santacoloma writes, and Don Hoffman and anyone else who thinks for themselves, and has the courage to tell it as they see it. Why not? The only thing that changes my opinion about the manuscript is something previously unnoticed in the manuscript.

Lynn Thorndike, I think, gets the platinum pen as the first person who would have stopped others reading a Voynich researcher’s writings.

He would certainly have prevented the posthumous publication of  Newbold’s papers if he’d been in a position to do it.  For Newbold’s own good of course.

Characteristically –  history is a constant irony –  nothing else but that remains in print of all Newbold’s studies.  U. Penn re-published it in an Anniversary edition.

Should I send out a circular letter, do you think, warning everyone against reading it? Oh – for their own good, of course.  Newbold’s opinions aren’t mine.






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