Mondragone anniversary. ‘Pharma’ vessels.

April 15th. Update and correction.

(I’ve had three line drop-outs in as many minutes, so if you’ve received premature notices and/or versions of this post – which sometimes happens when I have to ‘crash out’ of the program – do please excuse).


It’s almost a year ago that a group of people involved in Voynich studies gave talks at the Villa Mondragone.

For people who were not there, and hoped that the views shared there would be published (as Conference papers usually are), the near-total absence of wider discussion about ideas raised there has been something of a disappointment.

This is all the more so for bloggers, who tend to be generous in sharing the results of their own work and for the older generation of researchers among whom the whole point of mailing-lists and internet communications (including blogs) was to create an international community able to work together.

Nick Pelling (as usual) maintained the older and nobler idea, but as far as I know there has been no other paper published either online or in hard-copy, including on

I look forward especially to reading Rene Zandbergen’s paper whose title was  ‘the Pre-Rudolfine history of the Voynich manuscript’.

The good news is that a small tid-bit fell from the German table today.  Rene mentioned that Wolfgang Reusner had expressed the view (at the Conference) that the more ornate vessels in the Vms resembled what we know as a ‘samovar’.

April 15th. Today Rene sent a copy of a powerpoint presentation by Professor Wolfgang Lechner in which there is a brief mention of the Samovar. Powerpoint presentations are not like conference papers; they are visual aids to help direct the audience’s attention to one or another detail.  Most of the papers were given in this way at the Conference, which is why I can’t add a great deal to the post, though I do send sincere thanks to Rene and to Prof.Lechner for taking the trouble to provide a copy. 🙂

Lechner refers to other sections too, including the astronomical section where he speculates that the imagery might contain similar information to that believed embodied in the Nebra disk.

About Samovars and similar means for heating liquid under pressure. Quote below from the wiki article  ‘Samovars’.

Obviously relevant here is the vessel found in the tomb of Phillip of Macedon and a still-earlier artefact of the type which was discovered near Azerbaijan and dated to the early historical period. The earliest design (i.e. similar to the Azerbaijani) is represented by the Kashmiri form, in which heat is contained within an enclosed section of the vessel, rather than placed below it as is done with the Samovar.  The paragraph from the wiki article – plus link to the scholarly article by Akhundov.

In 1989 an archeological dig near Dashust village, Shaki district, Azerbaijan, unearthed a pottery samovar-like utensil identified by a characteristic central tube covered with soot, suggesting it was heated from the inside. It did not however look like modern samovars. In particular, the tube was open at the bottom, suggesting that it was placed over a fire like an ordinary pot. The age of the utensil was indirectly estimated at about 3,600 years.[reference: Akhundov, Tufan (Autumn 2000), “Birth of the Samovar?”, Azerbaijan International (Volume 8, No.3), pp. 42–44]

Happily, Azerbaijan International is published online. There’s also a scholarly counterpart which is a little more difficult to access : – D

The wiki article on Samovars says  that similar devices have been found in China. A Russian reference is given.


  1. I believe that I was misinformed about Dr.Lechner’s position. It appears that he has a doctorate, and is employed not as Professor, but as Dr. Wolfgang Lechner, by the Institute for Quantum Optics and Information at the Austrian Academy of Sciences. If this is correct, then of course Dr. Lechner would not want to be misrepresented. In speaking about the Voynich manuscript he would then be speaking only as another intelligent layman might, having no particular qualifications in medieval history, art, codicology, palaeography, relevant techniques in laboratory analysis, nor archaeology or iconographic analysis. His remarks may then be understood as intended – not as any professional evaluation, but some thoughts inspired by his perusal of the manuscript.


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