How it came about – and a timeline to help Goose.

In order:

de Conti 7 VM fol 25vdetail beastThe first article I wrote about MS Beinecke 408,  identified folio 25v as  Dracaena cinnabari

That was in 2008-9.

Implications from this directed the next step, since  until after the fifteenth century, D. cinnabari grew only on Soqotra.  The image is well drawn, and would require first-hand observation, but the dragon is in recognisably early medieval western style (I illustrated this for my readers). Implications of the two being here together include – of necessity – some connection to maritime trade;  and trade in eastern materials through and across in the eastern sea, and/or then into the Mediterranean .

Investigation  followed  the initial observations –   during the next three years. I studied in some depth the range of groups  who might have been accustomed to drawing dragons in that way, to employing mnemonic devices (of a type chiefly associated with Hugh of St.Victor, in Paris).  The groups studies included: the Church of the East, Dominicans, Franciscans (beginning with Montecorvino), Armenian traders, Genoese by the thirteenth century, other traders noted e.g. in records of the Guangzhou massacre of 879AD, and the later tombstones which include an Italian girl (cf. Montecorvino’s reference to the Italian physician in Beijing in his own time).

I published my findings in summary as I went, until 2011, when I wrote a summary post to that time.  As late as 2012, the only response was a regular ‘gang-bashing’ from certain members of the mailing list – this along the lines that I was alone in considering these matters, and that no-one else was willing to follow me into the “asian swamp” – except for Thomas Spande, whose doing so was at that time an act of courage, a triumph of rational response in defiance of “group think”.

Other points I had covered to that time include:

  • possibility that the dragon was added after manufacture of MS Beinecke 408 was considered, but rejected.

NB – the history of Church of the East (‘Nestorians’) closely bound up with agricultural development and transmission of medicine – I refer to Wallis-Budge’s translation of the Nestorian Book of Medicine.  Eggplant as example.

All these various groups were considered, by reference to styles in art.  The red glyphs on folio 1r of the manuscript noted as looking as if written with a vermillion brush, originally, but then copied in pen.  The form of one could be taken as chosen to represent the sense ‘Montecorvino’ to a western viewer, but each part individually also has significance.

A recent incident enacted through Pelling’s website (since Santacoloma’s arena is no more), suggested that I was only now trying to jump  onto a bandwagon and was lying about any prior study about matter on which I was certainly the first to research and share with Voynich researchers.

Just so you know: I was posting about the eastern routes, trade, missionaries, languages and plants from 2008-2011 without any response from the Voynich community save the odd bit of denigration.  Until Thomas Spande took up the ‘Armenian’ thread,  my not conforming to the ‘central European’ thesis was taken badly by most and ignored by the rest.

No credit for bringing those matters to notice is due anyone save Thomas and, of course, Stolfi in regard to language, and Mazar and Wiart – whose paper in the same way had been generally ignored by all save Nick Pelling who gave it a mention in one of his posts.



  • and  the timeline which was  part of  the same summary post which I published on  October 30th.,  2011 – just  for Goosie.

From: ‘John of Montecorvino and folio 1r’,  published Sunday October 30th., 2011 on ‘Findings’ (blog).

John de Montecorvino (and fol.1r).

At Polumbrum [in India], the commander of the ship said to me in the Armenian language, which the rest of the people on board did not understand, that unless we could procure a favourable wind .. he would throw both us and the bones [of  Odoric’s deceased fellows] into the sea. … But as the time passed on, and no wind came, I gave one of the bones  to our servant, whom I ordered to go to the head of the ship, and cast the bone into the sea; which he had no sooner done, than a favourable gale sprung up, which never again failed us till we had arrived at our destined port  in safety.
– Odoric of Pordenonne


In this case it is unlikely that the pilot himself was Armenian, though Armenian traders figure prominently in later accounts of the trade routes.

In many cases the Armenians appear to favour the Roman rite even over that of the Greeks, and we hear that one Armenian king, Hethoum II  (1266-1307), even abdicated in order to become a Franciscan monk.

– abdicated and became a Franciscan monk. The region of Cilician Armenia seems to have been the centre of a large pro-Roman movement, as well as being repeatedly described as the (or a) focal point in the network of Armenian trade-routes.

Here is the chronology-and-itinerary of John de Montecorvino and other persons who travelled from the west to China before the Vms was made. For a full list, including those travelling westwards from the far east see this page

8th-11th centuries AD – Radhanites.
c.1000 – a community now known as the “Kaifeng Jews” settled in Kaifeng, the Sung imperial capital. They maintained their customs until the 19th century, after which they are described by modern Chinese authorities as being ‘fully assimilated’.

12thC – anonymous Armenian merchants’ guidebook, entitled Names of Indian and Persian Cities, now in the Matenadaran (National Institute of Ancient Manuscripts of Armenia) in Yerevan.

That description begins from the north, with Lahore and Kashmir, ending at Ceylon. It describes the route, peoples and goods available in each city. As with the Cairo geniza, the business documents of Armenian merchants to India were sent back to the nearest territorial centre, in this case In Isfahan, at the Armenian monastery named Amenaperkich in ‘New Julfa’, to which the residents of Armenian Djulfa had been forced to migrate at the time of the Mongol incursions.

1173 – Death of Benjamin of Tudela, a Spanish Jew whose itinerary includes China, or its borders.

1224 and 1228 – Yaqut ibn-’Abdullah al-Hamawi wrote an encyclopaedic work with place-names set in alphabetical order. al-Hamawi’s dates are 1179-1229.

1254-1255 – Hayton I, King of Little Armenia, traveled through the Caucasus and territories of Khan Batu to the Great Khan Möngke in Karakorum and then back via Samarkand, Bukhara and Tabriz. The account of his travels was written down by Kirakos, who accompanied him. {see}

1272 – the year in which the likely-apocryphal ‘voyage of Jacob d’Ancona’ ends. It’s author (and hero) is said to have reached Italy by sea from Zaitun in this year, after six months there .Armenian merchants’ dominance over the spice trade to the west.

1275 – John de Montecorvino is sent to the ‘missions in Persia’ [to Djulfa?]

1279 – de Montecorvino returns to Rome.

1286 – 1287 – Bar Sawma and fellow Nestorian Uyghurs, representing both the patriarch in Baghdad and the Mongol emperor, arrive in Europe. They go to Rome, Sicily, Avignon and European courts, possibly to England, and spend the winter of 1287/8 in Genoa.

1289 – John de Montecorvino is sent back to Persia, as legate to Tabriz and Azerbaijan. He visits Ethiopia and Armenia.

1291 – He continues his journey, now by sea, to Madras(?) and the Community of St. Thomas.

1291 (or 1292) – He reaches the Coromandel Coast in December.

1293/4 – Again travelling by sea, he goes from Meliapur and its Nestorian enclave to Bengal, and then to China, to (“Cambaliech” – Beijing).

1299 – In Khanbaliq – according to an account by de Marignolli, John there taught Latin and Greek, and learned the native language, teaching them hymns.. translated the New testament and psalms…” “Among the six thousand converts of John of Montecorvino was a Nestorian Ongut prince named George, allegedly of the race of Prester John, a vassal of the great khan, mentioned by Marco Polo.”

1305-1306 – an appeal [de Montecorvino] had received to preach in “Ethiopia” explains overland and oversea routes from the Black Sea and from the Persian Gulf to “Cathay”.

1303/4 – Companions are sent to join John de Montecorvino. They include a German Franciscan, Arnold of Cologne.

1307 – Three of another seven Franciscans who were sent to John of Montecorvino arrive safely in Peking: Gerardus, Peregrinus and Andrew of Perugia (1308). John established an additional mission in the present Amoy harbour, opposite Formosa island (Taiwan)

1325-1354. Ibn Battuta

1328 – Death of John de Montecorvino.

1318 – Oderic of Pordenone (1265-1331), an Italian-born member of a Czech family, sets out for China.

1330 – Oderic dictates an account of his travels at the request of his superior, to a brother Franciscan, William of Solagna. This is said to have occurred at the monastery of St. Anthony at Padua. Alternatively, we are told that Henry of Glatz heard accounts of Oderic’s travels from the friar’s travelling companions, when William was visiting the Papal court at Avignon. There he took notes which he later (1340) wrote up in Prague. Oderic’s itinerary can be read here. It included Tibet. On the linked page, notes added by “-E” are unreliable.

1336 – Toghun Temür, the last Mongol emperor in China, sends an embassy to the French Pope (Benedict XII) in Avignon. Led and accompanied by Genoese servants of the Mongol emperor: Andrea di Nascio, and Andalò di Savignone.

1338: – Fifty ecclesiastics sent from Avignon papal court to Peking, including John de Marignolli whose accounts of his predecessor, de Montecorvino were written after his return to Avignon and include the following:

“after having been soldier, judge, and doctor in the service of the Emperor Frederick, [de Montecorvino..] had become a Minor Friar and converted the chief princes of the [Mongol] empire, more than thirty thousand in number, who are called Alans, and govern the whole Orient, [they] are Christians either in fact or in name, calling themselves the Pope’s slaves, and ready to die for the Franks. For so they term us, not indeed from France, but from Frank-land”. 1342 – Tombstone to an Italian girl named Katerina, in Yangzhou

1369 – All Christians expelled from China

1552 – Francis Xavier, founder of the Jesuits [the Society of Jesus] goes to China.

1553 – Xavier dies on the island of Shangchuan, never having reached the mainland

1582 – Jesuits again arrive in China, Matteo Ricci among them.


“Among the six thousand converts of John of Montecorvino was a Nestorian Ongut prince named George, allegedly of the race of Prester John, a vassal of the great khan…”

Of Montecorvino, as of Lactantius, might be said:

“has always held a very high place among the … Fathers, not only on account of the subject-matter of his writings, but also on account of the varied erudition, the sweetness of expression, and the grace and elegance of style, by which they are characterized.”


NOTE: in regard toArmenians, and “Tarsic” as the third language of John’s translations.
.. if it wasn’t Tatar …

Pahlavi language words still used in central Iran
TEHRAN, Feb. 5 (MNA) — Some words of the Pahlavi language are still used by the people of Abyaneh, which is near Kashan in the central Iranian province of Isfahan.

Cultural anthropologist Abbas Torabzadeh said on Saturday that the dialect of Abyaneh has changed over the years, but the local people still use some ancient words from the Pahlavi Ashkani language here and there.

The Pahlavi Ashkani language, a branch of Middle Persian which was spoken in the Parthian era, has almost been forgotten but a few words of the original language are still heard in Abynaeh…
The people of Abyaneh have retained some words of the Pahlavi Ashkani language, but one can not say they are speaking the language in its original form.

There is also a language called Taati spoken by the people of Jolfa [Djulfa, the new city established when the Armenians were re-located] in western Iran, Mirshokra’i noted.

Taati is a language that developed from Middle Persian almost independently of modern Persian. It has retained many of the characteristics of the Sassanid era Pahlavi language. Taati can be understood by Persian speakers with a little practice.

There is a great danger that that the Pahlavi Ashkani words used by Abyaneh residents will be replaced by modern Persian expressions, since the town is gradually becoming a major tourist magnet.
(Middle Persian … developed around 300 B.C., shortly after the end of the Achaemenid era, and is divided into Pahlavi Ashkani and Pahlavi Sassani. The alphabet used for Middle Persian is called Pahlavi.)

Frrom wiki article: ‘Tati language’:

“Azari, the Old Iranian Language of Azerbaijan,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, op. cit., Vol. III/2, 1987 by E. Yarshater.

PS: The following from Nick Pelling’s site in May, 2010. At the time, I had no idea of looking so far north, and was mainly concerned to show that the “Chinese” theory of the script and/or language had some claim at least, to be considered.

“…Master Peter of Lucolongo, a faithful Christian man and great merchant, who was the companion of my travels from Tauris, himself bought the ground for the establishment …
I have now had six pictures made, illustrating the Old and New Testaments for the instruction of the ignorant ; and the explanations engraved in Latin, Tarsic, and Persian characters, that all may be able to read them in one tongue or another”.


Recent ‘discovery’ by the same persons who read the original posts, of  India, the ways east, the Church of the East, the Book of Medicines etc. etc.  notably omits reference to my three years’ constant work and publications on these matters from  2008 onwards – so far, at least.  Evidently ‘Goose’  never heard it credited, though the content is now regularly repeated.

I find it appalling that none of the persons who read these posts have protested the use of their content without acknowledgement by others of their immediate circle. It is not something a researcher should be obliged to do on their own behalf.







  1. Diane — it breaks my heart to see such a lack of co-response (correspondence) to your very interesting posts. Before I write anything else, I am going try my favorite link (you know which it is. Hang on — I’ll be back (I hope – if I don’t get lost in ‘space’ !


    • Bobette – a timeline is about as interesting to read as the phone book, though handy to have about. 🙂

      I’ve often been surprised by the lack of response, in general, to new approaches and information. I fear that Voynich studies may have settled for an orthodoxy of ignorance, but if so, I pity its philosophers.

      Liked by 1 person

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