Comparing.. the issue of translating imagery ~ Postscript

Postscript – “Eastern Plants”.
Tiltman provided me with a precedent for recognition of the images as being composite figures, and his tone suggests an opinion accepted by the Friedman group.
However, I had a double-barrelled problem, because the identifications I’d reached and some specific forms used for the imagery, led me to conclude that the plants were very largely ones whose forms remained unknown to Latin European botany until long after Beinecke MS 408 was made.
Tiltman gave no indication of ever thinking the manuscript’s content was other than medieval and European.
Once more, for such precedent as I may cite for my conclusions, I am indebted to Nick Pelling, who had an earlier habit of reviewing as much of the latest writing and thought about the manuscript as he could.
In a post which he had written in 2010, but which I didn’t see until rather later, he had added a last paragraph mentioning an interview that was conducted with two specialists, Guy Mazars and Christophe Wiart, who  had told the interviewer that they recognised( in at least a couple of cases), plants that were east Asian.
It was a very  general sort of precedent because my conclusions had been that the plants were ones which were obtained across the maritime routes between southeast Asia and southern Arabia/Soqotra, where they had specified “East Asian”.
Mazars and Wiart also described the images as single ‘plant-portraits’ but at least I was not entirely alone in having entered what Richard Santacoloma once called derisively the “Asian swamp” saying that none would follow me there!  He was right, in a way; “Steve D” picked up a number of my identifications – too many – but announced them as part of a ‘Voynich herbal’ which was attributed to an imaginary “Italian herbalist” of dubious moral character and weak intellect, I believe.  That, of course, may have changed.
 I should have seen that comment earlier, but apparently I’d stopped reading before I got to that paragraph, until one delightful day some two years and more later.  As the first of my studies to be published, I’d chosen folio 25v, identifying the plant as Dracaena cinnabaris.  I distinctly recall being stunned to read a comment that the ‘work was not original’ because as far as I knew at that time, no-one had ever suggested the botanical section was other than a form of Latin European herbal – but the picture of D. cinnabaris was very clear, and the plant is native to no-where in the world but Soqotra!
However, here’s the paragraph from Pelling’s post, which I hope he won’t mind my quoting.  I want to make clear that his was the only attention paid to this matter until well after I’d published my studies.  These days, mention of  Wiart and Mazars is not so rare. 🙂

from:  ‘Voynich Chinese Theories’,, May 14th., 2010

 Incidentally, there’s a little-known interview with  in Actualites en Phytotherapie to be found here (in French) where they propose that many of the Voynich Manuscript’s mysterious plants may in fact be East Asian plants (for example, that f6v depicts Ricinus communis) or Indian plants (they think that many of the plants shown are types of Asteraceae, with f27r representing Centella Asiatica). But you’d have to point out that there are also many, many, many plants in the VMs that are unlikely to match anything these (very learned) experts on Indian and East Asian plants have ever seen.
Those authors’ identifying folio 6v as Ricinus communis offers independent agreement with an identification first made by Father Th. Petersen OFM.  In the usual way, a botanical description would mention only the first, but for Voynich studies it is useful to know whether others have agreed, and whether independently or by following an earlier opinion. In order, the same identification is given by Ethel Voynich, Dana Scott, Mazars and Wiart (2006), [Sherwood?], D.N. O’Donovan (2010), and Ellie Velinksa (2012?/13?).


I might add  for those working on the written text, that a secondary reference in folio 6v may be Nephelium lappaceum. The picture draws the lower part of the stem so thick that it should be considered a bole, and the equally solid form and extent shown for the roots seems to me to  appropriate to a tree of some size.   N. lappaceum grows 20 to 30 meters in height.

The wiki article ‘Rambutan’ cites J.F. Morton on the plant’s having been transplanted from southeast Asia to east Africa at some time between the 13thC and the 15thC, apparently by Arab traders.

J.F. Morton, “Rambutan” in Fruits of warm climates. Center for New Crops & Plant Products, Purdue University Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, (1987) pp. 262–265.




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