Phantom tide: more on the ‘Greek’ thing.

Many thanks to J.K. Petersen for mentioning an article which it seems that someone told him had been published in Cryptologia in June 2010.  He was misinformed.  The article in question is evidently,

Robert L. Williams, ‘A note on the Voynich manuscript’, Cryptologia, Volume 23, Issue 4 (1999) pp. 304-309.

What was later published online (Jn 2004) did include an abstract..
A comparison of the initial letter frequency in a Voynich lexicon and of those in a lexicon of old Greek suggests that the manuscript’s author may have been thinking in Greek. This may aid in the manuscript’s decipherment.

I can only suppose Williams’ hopes were not realised. The years 1999-2017  saw no universal cheers or acceptance of a Greek-text idea.

_________

JKP’s comment also mentions some article published in Scientific American, though J.K. himself had no more exact information.  Scientific American‘s online Index shows Voynich matter published in 1921 and then nothing for more than eighty years, until Rugg’s article of 2004.  Rugg does not argue any Hellenistic origin for the text, which he considers meaningless, and he has no informed opinion about the imagery.

You know, if this supposed “ebb and flow” thing is imagined operating any time between 1912 and 2004, there’s no evidence so far.

The Scientific American listings.

1921

  • J. Malcolm Bird, ‘The Roger Bacon Manuscript’, Scientific American 3[sic], (1 June, 1921) pp. 492-496.
    [no author] ‘The Roger Bacon Manuscript’,  Scientific American 124, (28 May 1921) pp. 432-432.
  • John Anson Ford, ‘Tilting Grain Cars in All Directions to Empty Them, The Roger Bacon Manuscript, and more’,  Scientific American 124, (7 May 1921) pp.361-363.
  • Correspondence, Scientific American 124, (25th June 1921) pp. 509-509

2004

  • Gordon Rugg, ‘The Mystery of the Voynich Manuscript’, Scientific American 291, (July 2004) pp. 104-109.
    Letters , Scientific American 291,  (November 2004) 12-14.

_____

JKP’s comment to my previous post offered one potentially exciting item:   “M. & A. Israél used Greek as the underlying language in their proposed translation”.

True?  Sort of. But true as evidence for implying that my identifying the imagery’s Hellenistic foundation is nothing new – just part of a recurring ‘theory-cycle”?

Nope.

By the time those authors published their book in 2013,  I’d been publishing detailed studies online, and constantly referring to the view which I’d formed during the first eighteenth months of my research (prior to 2010 and Findings).

Before 2013, I’d even published a rare bit of pure speculation that the script might be a sort of “wobbly Greek”.   Correspondents were kind enough to tell me – openly and clearly – that the language of the Voynich text was most certainly not Greek, ‘wobbly’ or otherwise.  😀

In connection with this bit of newly created myth about the  “ebb and flow of a longstanding Greek theory”, I  must say that I don’t for a minute suppose it something which JKP created.  What I suspect is that being an honest and fair-minded sort of chap he didn’t pause to ask whether the person who passed this stuff his way was being entirely accurate, or creating a story.

The whole cause-and-effect thing has now been fairly well obfuscated at voynich.nu too.   From  2010/11 until c.2014 that site included my name and a summary of my work and my opinion.   I noticed in c.2014 that the entry had been deleted, but we can’t discard the possibility that the authors of that “Greek translation” saw it before 2013.

Whatever the case, I can’t see how their late effort justifies the ‘ebb and flow’ story.  Stephen Bax reviewed that “translation” of 2013, saying:

…  I’m very sorry to say that the results are unintelligible, and the authors admit that they have no knowledge of Greek at all..

Stephen Bax, ‘How to Crack the Voynich Code and How Not To’, March 28th., 2016, stephenbax.net

____

Not really holding up, this sensible-sounding meme about some “longstanding ebb and flow of Greek theories” is it?

What have we got?  A claim that  Newbold mentioned a possibility that the written part of the text was Greek (Did he?).

His view was always that line taken by Wilfrid Voynich – that the manuscript was an authorial creation  by Roger Bacon.

So as we gaze out, seeking some sign of a tide, we get 1912… 1921… nothing… 1921-2008… nothing (so far).

Not ‘low tide’ nor any ‘high tide’ nor any cyclical pattern in opinions… no tide at all.

Then we get to 2009, and 2o1o when I began publishing the results of my research, and my opinion, at Findings. (see the previous post)

“An idea of long-standing’ ?   That idea about a longstanding ‘idea’ doesn’t seem to be supported by evidence. So one has to ask how, and why, such fantasies are formed and then disseminated?  Surely not just as a way to pretend that my own work isn’t original?  Surely not.  Voynich studies might attract a bit of a lunatic fringe, but that would be madness on quite a different scale.   Still, it did sound like something that could have been true – if no-one checked.

Looks like  JKP was sold a few little fireworks strapped to a couple of pups. Not his fault; it’s an old technique to take some innocent third party and make them responsible for the silly things.

Do you have some better information about a Voynich ‘Greek theory’?  I don’t mind whether it emerged before, or after I began publishing my own work.

Main thing is to get it straight. Honestly. Matter of ethics, you see.

So in sum:

I’ve neither found nor been shown anything which indicates any longstanding ‘Greek’ theory, nor any “ebb and flow” of such theory.

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4 thoughts on “Phantom tide: more on the ‘Greek’ thing.

  1. A search through ciphermysteries shows just one mention of ‘Greek’ with ‘Voynich’. It dates to 2012 (or, if you prefer, Findings Year+2)
    http://ciphermysteries.com/2012/01/28/first-voynich-theory-of-2012.
    Apparently a certain Walter Grosse then tried to decipher the written text (nothing to do with the imagery) and his approach included a brief and seemingly arbitrary use of Greek letters at one point. Pelling wrote:
    “By then assigning (somehow) a set of Greek letters to each verbosely enciphered digit, Grosse generates a list of permuted words..”

    “Long-standing Greek Voynich theory” “cyclical ebb and flow”.. ? Nope. Still quite unsupported by fact. Oh, the meme of it all. 😀

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    • D. O’Donovan wrote: “What have we got? A claim that Newbold mentioned a possibility that the written part of the text was Greek (Did he?).”

      It wasn’t a side remark about some part of the text—it was central to Newbold’s investigation. He thought he recognized Greek shorthand in the individual shapes comprising a VMS glyph. Right or wrong, this strongly influenced how he approached the text. You yourself wrote in Dec. 7th that, “Newbold’s ideas must seem bizarre if one supposes them a product of personal imagination, but in the context of his own formal training in classical literature as in religious theology, they suggest that he was, by this time, convinced that the manuscript’s content related to the philosophical speculations of ancient Greeks…”

      Leo Levitov held the view that the VMS was a Cathari document devoted to rituals handed down from the Greco-Roman/Egyptian worship of Isis (Aegean Park Press, 1987). [As far as I know, the Cathars were not descended from Greco-Roman traditions, but Levitov believed they were.]

      You quoted Stephen Bax as saying, “… I’m very sorry to say that the results are unintelligible, and the authors admit that they have no knowledge of Greek at all..”

      One does not have to know Greek to have a Greek theory. As you know, evidence in the manuscript is not only in the text, but also in the imagery and if the imagery points to Greek influences, it’s natural for researchers to speculate that the text might also be Greek. Results may be unintelligible but the discussion was not about who has solved the VMS (no one has), it was about whether Greek influences had been perceived/investigated in the past.

      As for me being misinformed by some third party, thank you for the show of faith, but I take full responsibility for my comments. I did not hear about the articles from anyone else. I read them when they were available online a number of years ago and wasn’t aware that some had been closed off to subscribers-only and that it would be difficult to find quotes and citations.

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      • JKP- “One does not have to know Greek to have a Greek theory”- in terms of the vast majority of what was written and said about this manuscript from c.2002-tto the present, one might as easily say, “One does not need to know Martian to have a Martian theory”. The word ‘theory’ is much abused in Voynich studies and very often improperly used to dignify some vague, passing notion for which the proponent neither has, nor then seeks, the slightest worthwhile historical, iconographic, statistical or other normal-world support.

        From the time that Newbold died until I attempted to balance a little the usual Voynichero’s impression of Professor Newbold, the ‘standard opinion’ in all Voynich writings, including voynich.nu and all the lists, was an absolute clone of comments which can still be read at Nick Pelling’s site. That all Newbold’s work was to be disregarded as worthless certainly was a long-standing and long-enduring assertion, even if not so well supported by detailed study as anything worth calling a theory.
        See Pelling’s posts 10th April, 2012 – (i.e. Year Findings+2) and for its being maintained until 2015 see his post of of 24th March, 2015 (Year Findings +8)

        So..
        -JKP –
        I think it would be interesting to make a time-line of the various hints of some “greek-thing”. My guess would be that the rise in the “greek thing” begins only after members of the central European theory group decided that, while they had much enjoyed sneering at any such suggestion of Hellenistic character for the imagery – suddenly “iatrosophia” fell from the lips of a person whose expertise even Rene Zandbergen was obliged to acknowledge, eventually. But “post-iatrosophia” proposal is just a bit of vague hypothesising. Hardly relevant, given that I’d long been providing researchers with the evidence and reasoning behind my own opinion.

        That example you offered of the interlinear text was an excellent find; showing just how the scripts were being written at a given time, in a given place. Pity no-one thought to do the same years ago. We need more of this very specific stuff. Great find. Nice talking with you.

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    • D. O’Donovan wrote: “What have we got? A claim that Newbold mentioned a possibility that the written part of the text was Greek (Did he?).”

      It wasn’t a side remark about some part of the text—it was central to Newbold’s investigation. He thought he recognized Greek shorthand in the individual shapes comprising a VMS glyph. Right or wrong, this strongly influenced how he approached the text. You yourself wrote in Dec. 7th that, “Newbold’s ideas must seem bizarre if one supposes them a product of personal imagination, but in the context of his own formal training in classical literature as in religious theology, they suggest that he was, by this time, convinced that the manuscript’s content related to the philosophical speculations of ancient Greeks…”

      Leo Levitov held the view that the VMS was a Cathari document devoted to rituals handed down from the Greco-Roman/Egyptian worship of Isis (Aegean Park Press, 1987). [As far as I know, the Cathars were not descended from Greco-Roman traditions, but Levitov believed they were.]

      You quoted Stephen Bax as saying, “… I’m very sorry to say that the results are unintelligible, and the authors admit that they have no knowledge of Greek at all..”

      One does not have to know Greek to have a Greek theory. As you know, evidence in the manuscript is not only in the text, but also in the imagery and if the imagery points to Greek influences, it’s natural for researchers to speculate that the text might also be Greek. Results may be unintelligible but the discussion was not about who has solved the VMS (no one has), it was about whether Greek influences had been perceived/investigated in the past.

      As for me being misinformed by some third party, thank you for the show of faith, but I take full responsibility for my comments. I did not hear about the articles from third parties. I read them when they were available online about three years ago and didn’t know some had been closed off to subscribers-only and that it would be difficult to find quotes and citations.

      Like

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