Dimensions and places

There are a fair number of codicological indications that our manuscript isn’t a native outgrowth from the Latin or Byzantine traditions. For example:

1. Dimensions.  225 x 160 is unusual. In this case it can’t be explained away as a later trimming. Rene Z. says the pages haven’t been trimmed.

2. Lack of punctuation as period (a.k.a full stop)

3. Space across the width of the text – more in the way of a paragraph space than the sort of gaps between labels found in herbals, or gaps between chapters (as in bibles) or between discrete sections (as in a legal document).

4. Lack of any sign of marking up, despite the fact (as Rene says) that the folios have never been trimmed.

5. Micrography.

– there may be more, but I’m wary of trying to describe the parchment from online scans.

At present I’m working up a data base of medieval manuscripts and books dated between 1390 – 1440, focussing on these parameters.

So far I’ve found just one match for the manuscript’s folios,  but I’m not sure what it is supposed to mean.

Brit.Lib. MS Harley 632 has three sets of dimensions given; one the external measurement of the binding, and in this case two sets of dimensions for the pages.

What isn’t clear is why. Perhaps the second refer to endpapers (the book is on paper) or there may be an odd bifolio or quire.

It external measurement is 295 x 220

Internal: (220/225 x 150/160)

Voynich manuscript’s pages:

225 x 160 mm. (this from the Beinecke site).

No shattering discovery in itself, but the Abbey from which it came is named Sion and that offers an interesting link to the region around northern Syria from which I think much of the matter in the Voynich came westwards in the 12thC.

I also have an impression that Dana Scott has long thought the Vms English, and Don of Tallahassee seems always to have assumed the same.

There you go. England drove out the king’s Jewish subjects in 1290 (during Roger Bacon’s lifetime: 1214–1294) which must have been a pest for the group of exceptionally good translators working in England to about that time, plainly a collaboration of Jewish and clerical scholars.  Bacon – as I’ve mentioned recently – was keen on Hebrew though a bit muddled about it.  The paper I’ve mentioned already, in ‘fol. 9v  a short note on hands’ but here is again.

Weinstock, Horst, ‘Roger Bacon’s Polyglot Alphabets’, Florilegium, 11, (1992), pp.160-178.

Micrography points to the Jews, and Abbeys or monasteries called  Sion or Zion  imply some sort of link to the Holy Land, chiefly to the Abbey of Our Lady of Mt. Zion.

…  a small mediaeval monastic order which, according to a papal bull of the 12th century, had abbeys on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, on Mount Carmel, in Southern Italy (Calabria), and in France.

The French scholar Emmanuel Rey discovered the historical references to the Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Zion and published his findings in 1888.

In Jerusalem, the Abbey’s church was on Mount Zion, where it had been built on the ruins of an earlier Byzantine church, Hagia (Holy) Zion. The Abbey existed there for 200 years, one of many such small groups in Jerusalem during the city’s occupation by the Crusaders. In the early 13th century, the Abbey’s church was destroyed during a Muslim raid, and the monks moved to Sicily.

In 1617, the remaining monks joined with the Jesuit order.

wiki – ‘Abbey of Our Lady of Mount Zion’

Another religious order, generally known as the  Premonstratensians began in France, were established in the Holy Land for a while, and became very big indeed in Bohemia.They owned about 30% of it at one stage, if I remember correctly.

I looked into their history two or three years ago; what made me lose interest in them is mainly that their style in art and architecture shows nothing of the style or habits seen in the Vms, and frankly I think they’d have disliked its content.

Their great monastery called Zion/Sion was close to Prague, though, and geographically close to Rudolf’s court. It suffered depredation during the same riots which lost much from Rudolf’s collections.


Today the only Premonstratensian monastery formally known as Mount Zion Abbey (Stift Berg Sion) is in Gommiswald, Switzerland.  However, in the twelfth century, Henry Henry Zdik, Bishop of Olmutz…visited the Norbertian monastery of St. Abacuc in the Holy Land, where he was received into the order, and with some others returned to Bohemia where he founded the Abbey at Strahov, Prague, this originally also being known as the Abbey of Mt.Sion. Known as the ‘seminary of bishops’, from the Abbey were drawn eight bishops of Prague, ten to Olmutz and a patriarch (John of Luxermburg) to Aquileia, as well as a Cardinal known as John of Prague.

(extracted from the official history of the order).

The monastery at Teplá, now in the Czech Republic, is the best known today ~ especially for what remains of its library.

Here is a most evocative portrait of one Premonstatensian abbot. In the distance is a (that?) mountain.

Best short article on the Premonstratensians who are properly ‘Norbertians’ or Canonici Regularis Praemonstratensis  – is in the  Catholic Encyclopaedia. They were founded early in the 12thC, at Prémontré, near Laon, France.

I assume the book which this abbot reads is his breviary, by all the marker-ribbons … but one can’t help wondering.

Abbot Ludwig von Lindau 15thC premonstratensian Churwalden c1149 Switz

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