This is my list of facts known and accepted by everyone – in 2015!
*** it is on rough vellum
*** its inks appear ‘good’ and appropriate to a general “medieval type”.
*** the structure, size and construction of the manuscript (exclusive of its cover) display no obvious signs of anachronism.
*** the imagery is difficult to interpret fluently by reference to the conventions of medieval Latin (i.e. western Christian) manuscript art.
Note: In all my posts I describe the dominant cultural milieu of the west as “Latin” because there Latin was the dominant group’s language of education, higher scholarship, of pre-nationalised science and of international diplomacy, in the same way that Greek was in the Byzantine sphere, and Arabic in the Islamic empire. Other languages and cultural groups exist within each, need I say? At times it is also necessary to specify between the general culture (‘Latin’) and specific sub-groups, e.g. Latin-Christian, or French-Jewish.
*** the set of “glyphs” has no known counterpart, but [many/most] individual glyphs resemble ones in various known scripts.
*** We have no record of any investigator’s having successfully convinced people literate in both languages that they have identified (1) the language of the original written part of the text and translated it into (2) a language known today.
To these items we may add other facts, self-evident from any inspection of the manuscript.
** it includes folios which are three or more times the usual length, turned sideways. No medieval manuscripts on membrane that are indisputably of Latin Christian making are known to contain fold-outs in the same style, in one piece, and/or of that length.
** its pigments include at least one which is unusual for medieval western Latin manuscripts; visual recognition alone should recognise the distinctive shade of green which would later be identified by McCrone as atacamite, and which is not used in that form by western medieval manuscript art.
** the manuscript shows signs of water-staining on a couple of folios and grease/oil-marks on many. The largest fold-out, whose membrane is described as ‘fragile’, has noticeably heavier grease/oil on it, particularly about the edges.
** the manuscript shows evidence of prior binding(s), and the lines indicating the older stations do not exactly match. (This suggests that whenever its quires were set in their present form, they had been gained from one or more earlier bound (or intended-to-be-bound) , to produce the volume as we now have it.
** the quality of the vellum varies noticeably from some sections to others. (Sorry I can’t be specific; it seems this distribution was never charted).
** the University of Arizona published a date range for the vellum from 1403-1438.
THOSE are incontrovertible facts: the internal evidence of the primary document.
That’s it, I think.
You (yourself) may count these items relating to provenance, depending on how reliable you judge Wilfrid Voynich’s testimony:
* the manuscript came from an imposing building, situated in southern Europe, where he saw it in 1910 and then purchased it in 1912.
* it came from a religious library or the library of one of the religious.
* he judged it thirteenth-century by appearance alone, without reference to any other document. In the same way he identified (rightly or wrongly) its origin as from an environment consonant with where Roger Bacon lived. (Other comments by Wilfrid show that he was thinking here of England rather than France).
*the letter written from Marcus Marci to Kircher was with the manuscript when he bought it.
Reasonable propositions (not facts):
* a large number of folios depict plants (whether individually, as composite images, real plants or schematic figures).
* a number of folios refer to the heavens in some way.
* areas washed in green or in blue, and which include anthropoform figures, are not intended to represent solid ground.
* the reason that the written text remains enigmatic may be that it is enciphered.
A great many more items might be added as ‘valid observations’, but in reality their acceptance depends more on the audience’s willingness than on the observer’s objective accuracy.
On the opposite side. We do not know …
* where the manuscript was made, and/or where it gained its present form (binding is not included).
* which religious or cultural group produced the present folios, nor their pictorial- nor their written text.
* which religious or cultural group produced any exemplar/s.
* if the imagery illustrates the written text or constitutes a parallel, or a wholly independent visual narrative.
* whether it ever belonged to a member of the aristocracy, though ownership by Jakub Horckicy/Tepenecz is highly probable.
* that it ever belonged to royalty
* what title it had, if any
* whether the name of any owner before Tepenecz, or any after Kircher, is known to history.
* whether any of the drawings, or associated written text, refers to medicine.
* ditto biology
* ditto alchemy
* ditto astrology
* ditto balneology
* telescope-dependent astronomy.. and so on.
….. and that’s all – from a hundred years’ investigation.
Why so few facts?
I’d say it’s due to:
1. Acceptance without question of the extraordinary number of assumptions, speculations and assertions now so fossilised by repetition that they are assumed true.
2. The time and energy wasted on hunting minute details of things which occurred post-1440.
3. Beginning to work on a ‘solution’ to the written text without any idea of where it was composed, for which group of people, and for what specific purpose. (hint: there’s more in the manuscript than writing).
4. Being diverted into research whose parameters may be inappropriate. e.g. seeking to prove the manuscript was composed and written by Roger Bacon, John Dee, the keeper of a women’s bathhouse, or an apocalyptic prophet from central Europe.
They’re the big four – in my opinion.