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Voynich Manuscript / Re: Lets look at the Voynich
« Last post by Phil_The_Rodent on May 14, 2013, 09:29:01 AM »
Pretty sure there's none of that nonsense here; but, it's obviously a much quieter place. I respect your decision in either case, but if I can be so forward as to ask a little more about the scale?

I did a great deal of hunting yesterday evening and found that the best yields were produced by searching "medieval apothecary's scale", or "equal-arm balance scale apothecary", that type of thing. None of the roman era scales I looked at had that needle bit in the middle of the scale, where almost all of the period apothecary scales had it, starting from the mid 1400s.

Can you point me to the pre-roman scale you mention?
Voynich Manuscript / Re: Lets look at the Voynich
« Last post by Phil_The_Rodent on May 13, 2013, 02:52:34 PM »
Was just glancing through the pictures in the rest of the book.  Glad I did, I've spent so much time on the front section that I forgot there was a possible lexicon of plant parts at the back.

But anyways, I just wanted to throw this in... this is pretty much exactly the scale of Libra that I see in the book. I was trying to figure out what the original artist was trying to represent with the circle on one side )p132 in the PDF), and went hunting.

Personally, I think it's a dead language rather than a foreign language. Something Eastern European or Germanic is definitely possible, like Galindian, of which no known written samples exist (and died in the 1400s). Lots of dead languages and extinguished cultures. An object-based approach revolves around saying, "screw the language, what does it mean?".
Voynich Manuscript / Re: Lets look at the Voynich
« Last post by dodonovan on May 13, 2013, 11:53:41 AM »
Point taken.
Voynich Manuscript / Re: Lets look at the Voynich
« Last post by AuroraBorealis on May 13, 2013, 05:41:14 AM »

Although I am really a newbie, I can't resist putting my spoon into this soup. But I also happen to think that the manuscript might actually need a fresh look, because, as dodovan pointed out, scientists from various fields seem to have become stuck with interpreting the text from certain points of view, like it being from the 16th century.

Now, to my observations. Please note that I only became aware of the subject of this particular manuscript yesterday, so kindly just push me gently towards the right direction, if you notice any faulty conclusions. As to my background (I believe it would be beneficial to know the viewpoints of the interpreter when they are looking at something as complex as this), I have studies in computer science, such as data mining, I am interested in the history of science in general, have also received some basic education in cognitive science, and I am an amateur painter.

To me it seems there are four possible main lines of inquiry:
1) It is an encoded manuscript
2) It is a manuscript written in natural language, such as a dialect of Chinese, but without using any phonetic alphabet used to write it in our time
3) It is a script written by a naive writer (child, glossolalia, or any other case where the writer does not know what they are writing)
4) It is a hoax

Then what are, to my eye, the weaknesses of each line of inquiry?

Encoded manuscript theory:

If the VM is indeed encoded, one of the points brought by the inquiries of tonybaloney previously on this forum (prior to Leonardo Theory), is that we do not know the number of marks the encoded piece actually covers: According to my knowledge, it was commonplace for monks copying text in the middle ages to start using shorthands. For example, the contemporary mark "@" presumably started as such a mark, used by monks to shorten scripts. Similar examples can be found in contemporary cyrillic alphabet, as the mark for latin 'l', 'm', and 'i' are all just a different number of "spikes", and if you write all these letters together, it easily seems like a mark resembling a continuous wave. Going in from this direction, I think it would be beneficial to try and analyze the whole volume again, bearing in mind, that the number of different marks highly depends upon whether there are actually "shorthand syllables" within or not. Remember, we may also have some markings for sounds that have since been forgotten entirely.

Also the repetition of certain words seems interesting. It is plausible that they are numbers, in written form. To me these repetitive words also seem in some way to increase the odds that this is indeed encrypted, as it would explain, why there aren't any numbers in the manuscript otherwise at all. (Of course it might just be that the book doesn't have any, as it is more descriptive in nature instead of precise with numbers.)

An other point is, what would have been important enough to be encoded? I think this is a key point, as it may guide the cryptologists towards the right vocabulary. Alchemy has been mentioned often - however would that really have been an issue around the 1300s where the carbon dating puts the book? According to general introductions to the history of science, alchemy was pretty much done by everyone, and being prosecuted over it might not have been as frequent as you would suppose in the middle ages. But in order to ponder the motivations, you should first know where it was written, or preferably by whom.  If the pictures are indeed related to the text, which I think we can not even say for sure, some of the astronomy section, with it's circles within circles, look like models of the solar system. And this is interesting: It turns out that the structure of the solar system was indeed a heated debate approximately at that time. It could for example be a way to protect some even older manuscript by some greek philosopher, whose view of the system was against the Church's teachings of the time (But this all starts to sound too much like Umberto Eco :D).

Obscure language theory

To me, this is a really interesting one. As dodonovan mentioned, I would really want a pollen sample of the book as well, to know whether to place it in Europe, Asia, or Africa. However, I think it is really important to remember, this might not be the only copy of the work. Indeed, this might be the only surviving copy, but not necessarily the only one. On the other hand, I also suspect that the different parts in the book may just have been bound together even later, as someone noticed these seem to be from the same hand.

If it's an obscure language, I'd like to mention a couple of things: First of all, the writer, who invented this way of writing down another language, might not have been a fluent speaker of the language. They also can have a much different mental image of what language is: For example, as it seems certain letters only turn out in the beginning or in the end of a word, it could be, that these are morpheme suffixes or prefixes of the language, but the writer has come from the Latin family of language and has marked these down with different letters, as they have thought it curious, because they are themselves used to prepositions. I think it would make a lot of sense for a person like that to try to force the foreign language into a format they have previously seen. Also they might not be able to hear tonalities, or certain sounds at all, if their ear is too accustomed to certain noises. This for example happens in young kids when they grow up: When they are little they can learn to speak any language without profound accent, but later that ability disappears. We have to remember that the way to represent language was not yet as sophisticated as what we have. But in this case, I believe, there should be (or has at some point been) a volume describing the way to transcript the other language in these marks, which may have been in Latin.

Also if the manuscript is an attempt to write a foreign language, I believe we should have some mentions of it in other books. Writing about what has already been written was a major tradition of scholars in that time. Scarcely any new science was produces at those times, but most of it was critique to what has already been previously said, by Aristotle, for example.

In this case we also have to wonder, whether the pictures are related to the work or not. I remember reading, that monks used to draw pictures in books, when they made copies, because they were simply bored by the work. This could explain, why we have a lot of naked women in the biology section: If you can't even read what the book says, maybe when you're assigned to copy it, you just doodle something into the pages every once in a while. But if the pictures are related to the text, I also think the women hold some key to the journey of the script: At least the biology section is not likely to be Arabic, as the depiction of humans was already banned in the Islamic tradition.

Why then are the plants clearly chimeric? If the book was written about a journey in china, could it be, that the pictures weren't drawn on location, but perhaps described to a scribe afterwards, and then the scholar copied his field notes under those pictures? There can be so many ways to interpret the pictures... To me the plants look like motives on Iberian buildings from the time of the Ottoman empire. On the other hand, the women then again seem to be all depicted in semi frontal position, and despite their nudity, the headdresses, which seem to be from Europe in the middle ages, might give point to what they are. However they are incredibly poorly painted to be taken as middle age art in the usual sense.

Naive Writer theory

This is in a way very compelling, as the book really seems like the work of a child. However, I think, this is incredibly hard to prove. Also, why would it have been written on vellum? Vellum was very expensive, and therefore the texts should hold some meaning, at least to their writer. In general kids or apprentices weren't let near such expensive materials before they were able to show their skills. They probably practiced by drawing on sand, or something similar. I also remember reading that in monasteries, the copying of books was often done in multiple steps: The harder parts done by someone very skilled, and easier parts, like coloring, by the apprentices. Also the theory that this was only written on older vellum seems implausible: Why is there no clear evidence of writing that does not belong to the book? (Or maybe the pictures were drawn on those parts to hide the inferior quality of re-used material?) To this end, more precise dating of individual pages should be done, and perhaps radiography, if it can be done on vellum, to ensure there are no pre-written texts under the pictures.


For the VM to be a hoax is also hard to prove: We are missing a motive, and why would someone have destroyed other volumes, probably very expensive as well, to gain 13th century vellum? Also modern carbon dating was not around when the confirmed history of the manuscript begins, so why bother taking something as old as that, and not just something newer? Also same evidence, as in the previous section should be found in that case. Of course, if can be, that the book was already intended as a prank in the 13th century. There is no way to confirm that, and maybe that is why it seems so intriguing.

So hope some of these ramblings give you new ideas on how to approach the subject. Can't wait to see, what new people find about this!
Voynich Manuscript / Re: Lets look at the Voynich
« Last post by dodonovan on May 13, 2013, 01:15:20 AM »
Freakishly tedious is a just description.

The research-road  feels like some sheep-track obliterated not only by time but the near-concrete accretions of speculations hardened into boundaries, defended by all means possible by those who respect and espouse venerable relics.

One find that even so simple a simple statement as that the manuscript may have no fifteenth-century 'author' or 'authors' at all is likely (as I was shocked to find) to result in personal offence being taken, and scarcely so much as a raised eyebrow as token of interest in what possibilities open up.

It is perfectly possible we do have comparative texts, but that at some stage they've all been bound into this one volume.

If  I were working on the written part of the text, which I'm not qualified to do, I think I'd suppose the 'B' hand served a purpose similar to  scholia, and that what is written in  hand/language 'A'  ~ especially in the botanical section ~ was largely thesauric. 

After working for some years on the  imagery (never thought I'd need more than six months), my view is that it shows the whole as we have it now a compilation which looks like an itinerant profession's bible. 

Really, I have often been reminded of the old   Pear's Cyclopedia - maps, description of routes, a handbook of plants which (from the selection I considered through last year) are ones that will both maintain and provision a ship and also provide medicines-and-dyes (presumably as trade items, or for the ship's doctor), and many also valued for perfumery in the broadest sense - i.e. including scented woods. 

The matter has been compiled of ancient works that - to judge from stylistic affects - had been maintained east of Europe.  These more superficial affects relate well to regional art along the maritime spice route, a parallel line being defined, in my opinion, by the range of plants in the botanical section. 

The 'bathy' section, though,  seems to me more concerned - pace Adam McLean - with higher levels of processing vegetable products, and I've recently revived the issue of pre-European alchemical processes.

This last item does seem to have created some enthusiasm;  having published my reasons and commentary on some of the relevant folios'  imagery,  I was treated just the other day to the sight of another person suddenly announcing the whole text alchemical.  I doubt it is.

However, everyone including Rene Z. seems busily revisiting the alchemical herbals, to which Neal first drew attention so many years ago, but about which after several years' investigation, Rene had not ago said that they were 'not very like' the Vms. 

But a rising tide lifts all ships, so I'm rather pleased by this latest sign of movement.

What this indicates for cryptographers, I can't say, but a polyglot dictionary of simpler alchemical processes and terms might be useful  - Hebrew, Arabic, Hindu, Persian, any regional Jewish dialects and possibly Arabic  included along with the usual European ones.

All a bit too early for the full-blown European style o falchemy, I think. McLean is perfectly right that the Vms imagery is not from that tradition or time.

But it may be helpful to have at hand technical terms from Mappae Clavicula and Theophilus (?Roger2). 

As I see it, this type of imagery begins only from about f.77 (imo),  associated both with semi-architectural features and 'nymphs'.  One folio seems to me to depict the chemistry of casting, very possibly glass-casting. If I happen to be correct, one might expect to see a term for natron there.

But this whole section may once have been a book entirely separate from the botanical and 'pharma' sections, and they separate again from the astronomical section.  When the anthology took its current form remains uncertain.

Voynich Manuscript / Re: Lets look at the Voynich
« Last post by Phil_The_Rodent on May 12, 2013, 01:40:44 PM »
The silliness is the fact that if something isn't known, it is unkown because Bacon. It's like a snap reflex. Ya, could have been, but the odds are pretty stacked against it. There was like 400 million people on the earth at that time.  Besides which, ignoring the fact that it appears to bave four authors (who I bet are listed on page one), how much information is this who's who going to provide? Another manuscipt serving as a rosetta stone of sorts would onviously be immensely helpful, but the effort seems predominantly based on finding one, or poopooing the whole thing.

I think any real effort should probably be object based and categorizing/indexing just as Linear B was. The pictures here provide more context and so it doesn't seem insurmontable, just freakishly tedious.
Voynich Manuscript / Re: Lets look at the Voynich
« Last post by dodonovan on May 12, 2013, 08:08:33 AM »
I trust you'll be sitting down when you see this ~ there's nothing intrinsically wrong with the idea that the manuscript came from England, or even that Bacon had owned  the copy [exemplar] from which ms Beinecke 408 was made in the early 15thC.

What made it seem impossible was a  mental glitch in Voynich researchers  - basically just a reflexive anachronism - which led to an automatic presumption that the parchment's date was the earliest possible date for composition of the content.

 Silly, really, the minute you formulate the idea, but most simply didn't.  As soon as you do, it's obvious how very few authorial manuscripts are found from that time, compared to copies of earlier works.. but there you go.
An 'author' had been assumed and a full virtual profile imagined for that hypothetical (probably imaginary) being and everyone began running around trying to find him in the medieval equivalent of Who's who.

For a precedent copy, though, there's nothing wrong with that 12thC date.  This was pretty clear to me some time ago, and I may have said so as much as four or even more years ago.  Basic content - going by the imagery - 3rdC BC-3rdC AD; revision during the twelfth century before the fifteenth century and the Vms itself.

More recently I've found a very close match -  in both  form and in style - for parts of the botanical section, in a manuscript of the same (12th-13th) century.

 Other details in the Vms accord with this work, and again with the circumstances for its composition. It happens to be a first-generation translation into Arabic from Syriac of Dioscorides, but I can only discuss styles in drawing and painting  ~ no presumptions about the Vms'  textual content or even whether the text was as it is now before 1438.

Details of the Vms script do, however, agree with that earlier manuscript's heritage, one which takes us back from upper Mesopotamia (where that Dioscorides translation was made) to the shores of the Indian Ocean and, equally, the eastern shores of the Black sea... where yet more motifs occur which are in the Vms.

So the filmy web of evidence about the Vms' antecedents may now bear somewhat greater weight and perhaps we can be rid of the fantasy 'auteur' ~ for the pictures at least. 

At the same time,  I'm not arguing that Bacon had the exemplar; as a wild guess I'd think.. maybe a Jewish traveller through, or resident in Sicily or England or something of that kind - from the east anyway. 

Bacon's ownership of an exemplar, though, still seems considerably better supported by tangible evidence than any about  Rudolf's supposed ownership. 

Sorry to run on, but it is less foggy now than five years ago.

Just wish I'd been in charge of McCrone's brief.  God - what I wouldn't give for pollen-samples, substitution of Indian or Chinese gums for mopa-mopa,  a few  slides of the parchment and a technical description of the gatherings, complete with distances between finished and uncompleted stations.  *sigh*
Voynich Manuscript / Re: Lets look at the Voynich
« Last post by Phil_The_Rodent on May 10, 2013, 09:34:12 PM »
I guess you haven't gotten the memo, dodonovan, but there were actually only two people alive in the middle ages: DaVinci, and Bacon.

So, if the Voynich wasn't DaVinci, then, by order of elimination, we know who to look at.

Sadly, although that's a joke, Bacon was proposed as early as 1666. :/
Voynich Manuscript / Re: Lets look at the Voynich
« Last post by dodonovan on May 07, 2013, 02:54:16 AM »
so are some dialects of languages not recognised as musical - irish, welsh, australian english.  The last, heard from a distance, sounds very like Cantonese.  I've experimented, here in Australia, using a comparative monotone - invariably people simply don't recognise what you've said. They're not listening for the words, as such, at all. Compensation for flattened vowels perhaps.

All by the way.

I was going to wait a week before I said this but I simply can't.

Tony - if you see this, pleased be assured that like anyone else I am awe-struck by your unearthly ability with ciphers.

When it comes to art-analysis, though, there's no easy way to say it: you suck at it.  There is no way in Gd's green earth that those drawings were made by leonardo da Vinci or created by any Italian Christian. None.  No more chance than that the text was written by a person who'd never picked up a quill pen before. 

Leonardo  might have preferred men, but he could no more have drawn the split, two-toed feet and deformed faces on the female figures in the bathy-section than he could have instantly imagined and produced the art of aboriginal Australian tribes. 

Wrong mind-set, wrong culture, wrong approach to line.. you name it.  No way. None.

And that's without getting into the technical folios, which (as it happens) includes the bathy- section.

Would Leonardo really know the convention by which the central harbour in Alexandria and Sicily were denoted by a flat-topped 'stud' motif?  .... in the 3rdC BC?  Or in theTabula peutingeriana?

Voynich Manuscript / Re: Lets look at the Voynich
« Last post by Aaron on May 07, 2013, 02:30:05 AM »
I'm just glad people are still coming here; make all the noise you want. :)

Some languages, like Mandarin, are certainly musical...
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