Beinecke library re-defines the manuscript

The Beinecke Library site’s introduction to the manuscript, and its Orbis catalogue entry, have both been adjusted reccently,

Readers may be interested to know that that as part of this adjustment, a vague allegation by a single person, mentioned by another decades later as a vague afterthought in a letter to Kircher, and for which no evidence has ever been found… has now been “deemed” a fact by the Library.  They begin the entry with the proud assertion that the Voynich manuscript “came from the Library of Rudolf II”.

All mention has been deleted of Jacub Horcicky, nicknamed ‘Sinapius’ and given the land and title of  Tepenec by Rudolf. As I’m aware,  Jakub is the only person certainly to have owned the manuscript before it was bequeathed to Marcus Marci.  So what’s wrong with him? Was Jakub too Czech? Too Jewish? Too orphan? Has some fantasy scenario about Jakub nicking the manuscript become reified?

Evidently evidence is not so much in evidence as we might have hoped.

The Beinecke Library now instructs readers to learn the  “history” of the manuscript’s research from a set of essays written in the 1970s (Yes, the 1970s!), by   Robert S. Brumbaugh, whose reputation in Voynich studies has never been that bright.

Brumbaugh is famous for his inability to correctly interpret  imagery, for his inability to interpret the written part of the text, and for his “Christopher Columbus” theory.

Brumbaugh wrote an article in 1987 entitled, ‘The Voynich Cipher Manuscript: a current report’ and died a few years later – that is, thirty years ago, before any of the presently active researchers were out of knee pants.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

All one can hope is that when the facsimile edition comes out with its suitably scholarly introduction, some of this ‘modification’ by the Library will become understandable.

Have those researchers discovered proof that the emperor once had it on his library shelves? That it really *is* in cipher – the growing consensus among present-day researchers is that it is not so likely to be in cipher at all.

Have they found evidence that Jakub’s signature was written by someone else?

Has there been a further series of radiocarbon tests, one which justifies the fairly staggering elasticity of the new dates: from the original “1403-1438” now to  “1400? to 1599”.

1599 – what? – is that the “John Dee wrote the page numbers” bit? John Dee (13 July 1527 – 1608 or 1609)

Under the circumstances, I am having difficulty seeing any point to contributing to this study, given that the library seems to have “deemed” the book Rudolf’s, “vanished” Jakub from the story, and made a fairly useful radiocarbon date range into something more elastic than chewing gum.

It has also offered a pretty pointed insinuation that the last worthwhile work was done before most of us were born.

Not terribly encouraging, it seems to me.  I guess that also means they don’t consider any of Philip Neals observations made a difference to the study (they surely did).

Should we all down tools and wait for the facsimile edition’s introductory essay? What do you think?

P.S.  The header was to be part of that series on ‘events of the thirteenth and fourteenth century’ –  but why waste my time and yours? Apparently Voynich research is “deemed” to have ceased in the 1970s.


  1. Diane: I am so furious, I’m damned near having a stroke! At least the last three years I have demonstrated that the so-called “Voynich” manuscript can be read in two languages : Spanish/Latin and Nahuatl. Sahagun invented a script for his Nahuatl students/scribes/and artists, Every single object and discussion is translatable in those two languages.
    I’m hoping you are not succumbing to the totally nonsense “code’ (EVA) which BOENICKE librarians and translator/codiologists are now endorsing the Roger Bacon/Shakepeare/Rudolph theories.
    I’m not positive, but I think some of this latest “Voynich” nonsense is backlash from what was probably a ‘flop’/dismal turnout at Nick’s most recent ‘talk’ at the “Fortean”. (club?) Too bad that my favorite (male) professor, Thomas Spande has disappeared down Nick’s dead-end alley..

    I’m done with his nonsense! I’m finding a publisher/or local archaeologist (Professor John Parker )who can validate much of what I posted on Nick’s various comment pages. I’ll keep you posted.


    • Well, Bobette, one good thing about the new Beinecke date-range is that it removes any objection which depends on chronology. I didn’t at all get the impression that Nick’s talk was a flop and am surprised you should think so. I suppose our being distant from London by almost the same time/distance, we’re both reliant on second-hand impressions, but I should be sorry to hear it.
      Do keep me posted; I’d be glad to have an appreciation of your work by someone who is able to read both those langauges.


      • I have to say that I have no evidence from the manuscript which would disallow the work’s having been made by copying from one or more works owned, or even (I suppose) written by Bacon, whose handwriting I’ve not seen. In the same way, I think the opinion of a specialist in Dee’s works and writing that the page-numbers were written by Dee is fairly convincing on the face of it. What I really would like to read is an independent codicological evaluation of the vellum – not radiocarbon dating but “this vellum is the sort made in … during the… century” sort of thing. Perhaps the facsimile’s introductory essay will contain that sort of thing? I’ll wait to see who is asked to write that introduction. I hope it is a genuine addition to our knowledge – if I had all the resources of the Beinecke and – still more – of the Shoenberg collection at my disposal for three or four months, it would be heaven. What I fear is that we’ll have a wonderful reproduction, prefaced by an essay which tells us nothing solid or new. Or which includes some of my own work on the principle that since no-one acknowledges their sources (or acknowledges only ‘mates’) then my conclusions will turn up on the basis that they’re now just widely held ‘ideas’. The system of crediting sources properly makes the whole process so simple and clear, I don’t understand its not being used in Voynich studies – especially when I have a book in train myself. I don’t see why my publisher should be put to the trouble of defending it all as original, and to be accused of plagiarising my own work would be the utter pits. No chance of that happening in your case, I expect.


  2. Diane, I reiterate that every page/folio of B-408 is written in the Nahuatl script that Fray Sahagun created for his Nahuatl students — so that they could translate Sahagun’s Spanish into their language. Which is why you see every item in Boenicke 408 AND every item in the “so-called” Florentine Codex written in a column of Spanish script side-by-side with the newly developed Nahuatl script.


    • Bobette,
      I don’t dispute your opinion, for several reasons: first, I have never had much interest in the written part of the text. Second, if it is in Spanish, even if in a newly-invented script, I should have expected the various specialists running the ‘number-crunch’ analyses to have discovered that. Thirdly, if it is in a mixture of Latin, Spanish and/or Nahuatl languages, I am not equipped to determine that, and must rely on those who are to confirm your discovery. Since the Beinecke library has lately broadened the posited dates for the manuscript as surprisingly as the increased length of Pinocchio’s nose, I guess the Nahuatl-Latin-Spanish story can’t be dismissed on grounds of chronology, but I’ll say again that the drawing style and content of the later new-world manuscripts appear to me to have nothing in common with those in MS Beinecke 408. On the written part of the text, I keep an open mind.


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