I have the following cluster diagram from Julian Bunn, whose analyses of the written text are published in his blog, Computational Attacks on the Voynich Manuscript. The original is included in ‘Folio Similarities’ (February 26th., 2010) online. The diagram shows degrees of similarity between vocabulary in each folio, and Julian says of it that he noticed that ‘incidentally’ “the red circles generally match Currier Hand 1 and the blue match Currier Hand 2”. The purple rings around some folio-numbers in the version below mark the folios chosen by Rene Zandbergen and ORF for radiocarbon dating. As you can see, the choice does not constitute a representative sample in the scientific sense but has the advantage of providing a reasonable date-range for folios written in the “Currier A” hand and its related vocabulary – which some researchers refer to as a Currier language.
The four folios tested are, as best I can tell, those listed below, but the information varies between different sources, some referring to Folio 1, (Bunn’s red group ~ near the dividing line) on which Jakub Hořčický’s name is inscribed, in Czech – then known as the Bohemian language – ‘Jakub z Tepence’.:
*Fol.8; *Fol.26; *Fol.47 (on which see comments here); *Fol.68 …. and * ? Fol 1.
In terms of the quires (gatherings), these equate to:
Folio 8 – Quire 1; Folio 26 – Quire 4; Folio 47 – Quire 6; Folio 68 – Quire 9. So in fact – apart from f.68 – all samples came from the top six quires – that is, the top third of the manuscript since it presently contains 18 quires, another two posited  and .
If our present manuscript has been compiled by extraction, then the dates returned for those – in the ‘Currier A’ hand – may relate to a single prior manuscript or may indicate a consistent date for transcription. It does not appear likely that any original composition would be presented in this way, on the more expensive vellum but without the usual indications of formally-produced works. There are exceptions, but the rule in the medieval world is that an original composition was presented formally, usually composed by eminent persons whose words were first transcribed on ephemeral media and then produced in formal style. The type of the viliores is presumed by default to contain works copied from earlier sources. Formal works of Jewish provenance also follow the style of local Latin works. The North French Miscellany is one example. (details given in an earlier post.)
In a post entitled ‘Voynich radiocarbon dating, part 1‘, Nick Pelling posted graphs to represent the radiocarbon results.
The same information is also presented, with argument and expansion, at Rene Zandbergen’s site – from which I have taken only the date specified for each individual folio.
Pelling’s graphs treat the folios in their manuscript order. I have sliced his image to list them by the apparent (raw) result, which makes a more obvious connection to Julian’s cluster diagram – a correspondence which might be pure co-incidence, or which might indicate evolution over time. Nick stands by every word in his post linked above – he just said so when giving permission for me to re-use the graphs. 🙂
In fairness I have to add that I do not yet share assumptions informing much of the discussion of this data, chiefly: (i) that the work is properly considered homogeneous, so that (ii) one may take the mean of the four dates and apply it as dating for the manuscript as a whole. My own view is rather that there is so marked a variety of styles and content expressed by the imagery between some sections and others, and the division between ‘Currier A’ and ‘Currier B’ so marked, that the question of whether our manuscript derives from a single source or constitutes a collection from disparate sources gained, perhaps, over years (whether by copying and/or by extraction) is at present a question that should remain open, given the bias  in sampling.
Whether the difference between “Currier A” and “Currier B” signals no more than a rota of scribes at work, or a substantial disparity between content, sources and dates of inscription is thus still unknown.
As for such descriptions as “Herbal A” and “Herbal B” and so on: they are convenient but should not be supposed substantive.
None of my available sources specifies whether the foliation used for reporting the tests, or for any particular writer’s discussion, is that of the Beinecke Library or a system adopted by some members of the Voynich mailing list. For want of better knowledge, I show the folios according to the Beinecke library.
folio 68-iii ~ recto (Bunn’s red group); verso Bunn’s blue group.
raw data returned: c.1400 AD
folio 26 (Bunn’s blue group)
c. 1436 AD
folio 47 (Bunn’s red group ~ distant from the dividing line)
folio 8 (Bunn’s red group)
The radiocarbon results suggest that while the material of folio 68 was made at the time of either the “Currier A” or the “Currier B” style, some of what is written on that folio comes from each period and/or hand – the date for the “B” remaining effectively unknown, folio 26 being the only folio sampled with text all of the ‘blue’ (Currier B) type.
It is interesting that the folios containing “B” script/language tend towards the higher (earlier) range, and those with the red towards the lower, so that “B” might be earlier than “A”, yet the test was insufficient for any firm conclusions.
Some researchers have expressed concern over the condition of folio 68, and especially that part of it from which the sample was taken, but for our purposes it is enough to note that the results’ apparent disparity (1400 as against the 1430s-60s) is matched by a marked difference of style in this folio’s drawings, as against the remainder of the manuscript, and even between the verso and recto. Such things lend credibility to the idea of collation and stages of addition, against that of the work as an original, homogeneous, composition. There is a possibility raised that some folios – and here a fold-out – had originally a blank side later filled by a different hand.
If folio 68 is included in the set, then the results allow for incription of ‘Currier A’ folios to have taken place over an extended period – more than two generations – (1400-1461) whereas if it is not included, the other three and, let us assume, their quires, can be seen fitting within a mere thirty years (1436-61). In the latter case, since one of these three (f.26) contains text exclusively from the ‘blue’ group, so the overall range for inscription would be narrowed. All this, of course, if the data were accepted as representative.
Quire 1 (fol.8) c.1461 – Currier ‘A’
Quire 4 (fol. 26) c. 1436 – Currier ‘B’
Quire 6 (fol.47) c. 1444 – Currier ‘A’.
Like the disturbed binding and variation in drawing style – the insertion of a ‘B’ among the ‘A’ type could add further weight to the view that the material was collated from loose quires or from manuscripts in quaternis, the latter gaining further support from the various marks of former stitching and extraneous needle-holes. It is weakened by the fact that we have no other examples to date of script like that in the manuscript, and that these variations may not signify a change of hand or abbreviation method but a change of language or of subject, with consequent change in the vocabulary.
All this might hold – if the data were solid rather than, as it is, rather fragile.
From a scientific point of view, the lack of randomisation, and of duplication leaves us still with a question-mark over whether the manuscript was transcribed within a short space of time, by several scribes, or over a far longer period.
On the other hand, manuscripts are routinely dated and analysed by other parameters, so this question-mark while disappointing is not a tragedy. 🙂
1. I take the reading of that inscription from Jan Hurych’s letter to the old Voynich mailing list (14 Mar 2004). Jan says that it is written in Czech, rather than the more formal Latin.
2. ‘bias’ in the purely technical sense; I am not suggesting an ideological bias on the part of that television company or those conducting the tests.
- For use of the term ‘gathering’ in bookbinding, definition from a good introductory site, the ‘Medieval Manuscript Manual’.