This blog consists of my own investigations of, and commentary on, imagery in Beinecke MS 408. It is all the fruit of original research though the nature of online and amateur practice means that a good deal of it has been plagiarised, re-used, distorted or otherwise adopted since 2008 when I began publishing online.
Some posts record the process of investigation or explore avenues of research ‘thinking aloud’.
Others explain technical matter or the particular methods and attitudes informing imagery on a given folio.
Some posts, again, provide historical and other background which I felt couldn’t reasonably be expected part of many researchers’ prior studies.
A very few posts are speculative.
The blog was not established to push some theory, nor to pretend to imitate the style of the 1880s articles in the Encyclopaedia Britannica.
It is what the title says: personal observations and scholarly ‘marginal’ notes on the manuscript’s imagery – by a person whose white hair and various bits of parchment-paper allow her to consider herself sufficiently experienced and formally qualified to have information useful to the linguists and cryptographers.
I think the best way to make use of the blog is to search the number of the folio you want, though do keep in mind that the Beinecke’s present foliation – seen with its scans online – is not the most elegant. Changes to the foliation also add to newcomers’ confusion as they try to correlate earlier writers’ comments and observations with more recent ones.
Before the Beinecke scans went up, and later, one site often used was the Voynich gallery at Bibliotecaplayades.
Though pretty much an ‘X-files’ or Fortean site overall, its gallery was often used and so its foliation should be among others in any newcomer’s essential Comparative Table of foliations for Beinecke MS 408.
I have seen a couple of other ‘galleries’ go up since then, but I use neither. I don’t use Jason Davies’ for various reasons including his presentation of the map as if it had been an addendum or appendix. Another ‘Gallery’ which I just happen to find off-putting is one which offers no contact details, carries no site-owner’s name related to the Beinecke, Yale or any Voynichero, and whose owners appear so anxious to preserve their anonymity that they’ve used a pseudo-corporate title. Others may feel differently, but my own ‘spy-bot’/advertiser alarms went off immediately.
In considering the Voynich manuscript, I’ve done as I would with any other problematic artefact – except that it would not usually be necessary to provide so much basic historical, art-historical and other matter as background. I should not usually, either, have to spend so much time addressing and correcting nonsense which, though first created and propagated because it suited the internal logic of some enthusiast’s imaginative theory, has passed unchecked long enough to be widely repeated and believed: belief being the operative word.
Method of approach:
Pretty much standard; nothing to surprise professionals. But in brief:
The first stage is dissection, and description of the image in those terms. Then deeper analysis and research to elucidate each element and explain the intention behind first enunciation of the image as we have it.
Comparative imagery is presented simply to explain or illustrate the research results, not to argue a case – which is done by reference to textual and other material sources.
Only when research on a given matter reached a point – if it did – where I felt able to offer a responsible conclusion have I offered any.
For a fairly good example of how various disciplines, artefacts and types of text are involved in provenancing problematic imagery, I’d recommend the series entitled ‘Clear Vision’ which treats folio 5v – though you can probably skip the first, introductory, post in that series. (I will also add that I chose to omit mention of the eastern elms):
- (Preliminary remarks) ‘Clear Vision’ voynichimagery.wordpress.com/ (15th. September 2016)
2. ‘Clear Vision – continued’, voynichimagery.wordpress.com/ (20th. September 2016)
3. ‘Clear Vision – continued 2’, voynichimagery.wordpress.com/ (28th. September, 2016)
4. ‘Clear Vision – continued 3’, voynichimagery.wordpress.com/ (3rd. October, 2016)
5. ‘ ” ” – ” ” Notes’, voynichimagery.wordpress.com/ (3rd. October, 2016)
6. ‘Clear Vision – continued 4’, voynichimagery.wordpress.com/ (14th. October 2016)
7. ‘Clear Vision – continued 5’, voynichimagery.wordpress.com/ (20th October 2016)
8. ‘ ” ” – ” ” – Notes’, voynichimagery. wordpress.com/ (20th. October 2016)
9. ‘Clear Vision – 6 ‘, voynichimagery.wordpress.com/ (5th November 2016)
10. ‘ ” ” – ” Notes’, voynichimagery.wordpress.com/ (5th. November 2016)
If the available data is inconclusive or, as sometimes happens, if the historical and archaeological record can’t clarify the intention of the original, I offer no final opinion or one no more definite than can be reasonably adduced from primary, secondary and tertiary sources.
I have no qualms about correcting an earlier reading, if later or better information comes to hand. The aim is not to pretend ultimate wisdom, but to assist those interested in the script and written text. For that reason, again, the best way to use the blog is probably to search the folio number, using either or both the Beinecke and the Bibliotecaplayedes foliation.
When I began publishing online, I added a select bibliography from the academic sources on which I usually rely. It was soon made clear to me that Voynicheros of the time expected nothing but links to online sources, so there is now a disparity between the sources from which my views derive and the links and images I’ve substituted for the online audience. When it has proven impossible to find a fair equivalent online, I’ve tried to cite papers which are not too difficult to access – from academia.edu or JSTOR etc.
Everything published here represents results from of the present author’s work, necessarily informed by the study and experience of my undergraduate and post-graduate studies, and the following thirty years and more of professional practice.
Whenever I rely on an earlier ‘Voynichero’ for some item of information, their name and/or the source is given. Where I’ve been unable to find again some comment or precedent, the post includes an appeal to readers to help me find and properly acknowledge it.
As so many newcomers will have found whose interest began only in the early 2000s, it is extraordinarily difficult to ‘begin at the beginning’ by evaluating the foundations of some theories widely promoted since then.
The difficulty is less a difficulty of the internet age, as one resulting from a peculiar policy of avoiding ‘confusion’ of the sort likely to arise were the foundations of a presently-promoted theory critically evaluated. There is also an anxiety felt among a few whose air of omniscience seems due in greater part to their having to a good collection of others’ work downloaded than to having done much original research. Some are simply unaware that bibliographies and footnotes embody scholarly ethics, and that ‘good form’ means more than a nicely-presented format.
But the result is the same hobbling of research – by reluctantance to make correct acknowledgements, cite the original or direct others to it so that they may read and form their own opinion of it.
The scholarly principle in such matters is quite simple: transparency.
If you use another Voynich writer’s work or insight, you say where you got it: accurately and in enough detail so that others can read the original for themselves.
If you wish to dispute the original, then the thing to do is to cite it, reference it and then offer a reasoned argument for why you think it is insufficient, flawed or whatever else.. It is not the thing to do (as some have done) to try to discredit the information or argument by starting a behind-stairs meme-campaign aimed at diminishing the scholar’s personal reputation. Nor to take the other person’s contribution to this study, distort it and re-use it in the belief that such practice obviates the need to admit your debt. Nor to suggest that simply by reading it and ‘correcting’ it to suit yourself that you may now claim the original insight, research or evidence as your own.
To refuse for petty reasons such as personal dislike to pretend you have the information from a source other than the original is so childish we shall assume that no grown-up with enough intelligence to make any useful contribution to the study would do it.
Researchers and newcomers are welcome to get in touch, but I should be clear that I don’t care for theories.
I see the aim as explaining accurately what the image contains; why it is drawn so; what that style tells us about where the first and/or later enunciator lived, when, and so on. And from those things – to determine what the maker intended the image to convey to his contemporaries (not us).
Readers sharing their theories, subjective responses and imaginative narratives with me will find that my responses tend to run:
“Where did you get you that idea?” or – less happily – ‘From whom did you get that idea?’
“show me the evidence”… evidence… evidence.
I also have a habit of suggesting academic and other texts which may fill obvious gaps in background reading.
That said – you’re welcome to write: voynichimagery gmail