[ typ0 corrected – for Canfero read Canfora. No fault of the typist: my handwriting caused the problem].

If you begin by supposing not only that the Voynich manuscript was manufactured in Europe (unproven, and perhaps unprovable) but that its content is entirely a product of the same region and time, and further define its areas of more-or-less parallel lines as ‘hatching’ then you can suggest that inclusion of such ‘hatching’ allows a narrowing of both provenance and the range of dates obtained by C-14 dating for its parchment (1403-38) – by reference to the statement that  “the whole idea of parallel hatching [as a draughtsman’s technique employed in Renaissance Europe] seems to have originated with Florentine goldsmiths”.

What confers validity on that quoted clause is the assumption of what is to be proven – namely, that Voynich manuscript is a work first originating in medieval Europe, originating not only in terms of manufacture but  content.

It would be quite wrong to suppose, however, that such a technique first arose in medieval Europe, even accepting for argument’s sake the somewhat problematic definition of  parallel lines seen in Voynich images. Hatching as such is not a technique invented by European goldsmiths or by medieval European draughtsmen.

Ignoring the rest of the world, and limiting discussion to the Mediterranean region during the centuries AD, one finds numerous examples of its use. Examples consistent with the range about which (in my opinion) a majority of parallels for of the Voynich imagery occur  – i.e. 1st-2ndC AD –  I might cite imagery in  Papyrus Artemidorus. (also as P. Artemid Ephesus).

Precisely because Canfora and his associates began asserting the papyrus a forgery, it has come to the notice of all and stimulated comment from many among  the world’s eminent professionals in papyrology and related disciplines.

Like the Voynich manuscript, its material has been carbon dated. The range given for the papyrus is 1stC BC-2ndC AD* (The Voynich parchment gave dates 1403-1438)

* “15 CE and 85 CE with a level of confidence of 68%, and between 40 BCE and 130 CE with a 95.4% level of confidence”

Like the Voynich manuscript, P.Artemid’s  inks  have been found appropriate to the same range as the C-14 dating.

In fact, those are described more certainly:  found ‘compatible’ with that date-range and  provenance in Egypt.  (References to it as ‘Papyrus Artemidorus … Ephesus’ are not an attribution to a city, but distinguish between two authors called Artemidorus, one of whom wrote on dreams, but the other of whom is associated with portions of the text).

By contrast, McCrone’s offered the significantly lesser description of the Voynich manuscript’s tested pigments  as “not incompatible” with usages of fifteenth-century Europe.

So much expert attention being focused on the papyrus by individual experts means that no detail has escaped which might add to Canfora’s minority view, nor support the opposite view which is  still held ~ I think it’s fair to say ~ by the great majority.

But though epigraphy, chemical analyses, historical and grammatical and every other form of evidence has been rigorously brought to bear,  the ‘forgery’ argument has never once attempted to argue the imagery anachronistic.

And imagery on P. Artemid includes hatching.

That is, hatching in the very strictest sense: close-set parallel lines  increasing in thickness and used to indicate depth and/or volume.  And, by the way, the often-cited examples from the Voynich manuscript do not conform to this definition, being rarely parallel and thicker – if anywhere – at the upper rather that lower end of a given line.

Clearly, while it is possible that  a hatching technique was first introduced to  European draftsmen of the fifteenth century by the example of Florentine gold-smiths, it is equally possible it came to their notice by means of one or more among those antique texts with which the wealthy of Christian Europe were then obsessed.

But in which ever way it came, one thing is clear: it was not invented in Renaissance Europe and had been  competently employed in Roman-era works produced in Egypt.

Had this  not been so, and widely known to be so,  Canfora’s idea of P.Artemid as  forgery would have found its indisputable support.  Indeed one must assume that those expert historians of art who earlier advised in favour of meeting the asking price  ( = $3,369,850) would have noticed any such glaring anachronism and raised alarm.

Artemidorus hatching

For readers interested in Canfora’s arguments and those offered as rebuttal a convenient summary is found in

Giambattista D’Alessio, ‘On the “Artemidorus” papyrus’, Zeitschift fur Papyrologie und Epigraphik, Bd.171 (2009), pp.27-43.

also of interest is Jaś Eisner’s Conference paper ‘P.Artemid.: The Images’,  delivered at ‘Images and Texts on the “Artemidorus Papyrus”’   held at St. Johns College, Oxford (2008).

As the review says, Eisner’s paper

..  is unique among the articles in Images and Texts … in focusing primarily on P. Artemid.’s importance as a document of ancient art history, arguing that it not only provides important evidence for the history of ancient book illumination but that it also “shows the pluralistic eclecticism, which we see as characteristic of Roman [-era] visual production, on the level of drawing and book illustration for the first time, but does so in an object which is in fact Hellenistic and not Roman at all.


Postscript (May 5th., 2013).

The above seems not to have persuaded Nick Pelling 🙂

So here’s another example.  Classical ‘hatching’ carried over in a copy of Dioscorides’ text that had been maintained in Syriac, only to be copied into an Arabic version for a Muslim ruler in the twelfth or thirteenth century.

– Maybe this will turn the balance (?).

Europe’s late and limited knowledge of the technique is an impression given by limiting severely the kind of  medium (books and drawings) and type of people (Christian, Caucasian as a rule).

I don’t think the Vms  ‘hatching’ is important outside the European context.

I’ve said, and explained at length, resemblances to  such Indian tribal art as kalamkari, embroidery and manuscript art.

The instance below from Mesopotamia, showing ‘hatching’ in a manuscript made about the same time as the Voynich, but naturally not in the same milieu.

copy from a 13thC Syriac-to-Arabic translation of Dioscorides text


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