[dropped text re-inserted 16/10/2106]
Between treating knowledge of the Dioscuri in the Persian Gulf, early in the early Hellenistic period, and the presence of Latins in Dioskurias and the Gulf during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, I must pause to make it clear that the image on folio 5v cannot have been the invention of a medieval Latin author.
Some readers I know will wonder why a point so obvious should need a post to itself, but in Voynich studies one finds a curious divide between the way the written part of the text is approached, as against the pictorial. Statements made about the one are typically analytical, careful and the processes and conclusions both transparent and appropriately documented; about the latter, not. Glance over bibliographies and footnotes and the omissions one finds in studies of the imagery, and in efforts to construct a ‘history’ for the manuscript are obvious enough.
Perhaps the explanation is that many on both sides of the divide share a popular misconception that commentary on an image is largely drawn from gut-reaction. In fact, in the wider world, it comes from thought, from reading monographs, ancillary technical studies, fundamental texts and specialist papers, from conferences, formal training and quite a lot of practical experience. Whether the line of history is drawn as letters or as an image, it is a means of communication from a time that is not our time, expressed in forms that are not those of the 21stC. The intentions of the original cannot be intuited nor understood by using nothing but eyesight and ‘common sense’.
The next post shows how each detail in folio 5v relates to the plants, their uses, and that unifying theme of the ship’s protection.
Then, at last, to the Genoese in the Persian Gulf during the thirteenth century AD and in Dioskurias by the fourteenth. As preview – the arms of the city now on the site of old Dioskurias.
- Clear Vision (intro). September 15th., 1016.
- Clear vision (continued) Sept. 20th., 2016.
- Clear vision (cont. 2) Sept. 28th., 2016.
- Clear vision (cont. 3) October 4th., 2016.
- … and Notes to (..3)
The Dioscuri are represented in folio 5v in a way which informs us that the image it is not the brain-child of any medieval Latin. Nor is its form here so likely to have been an expression of the Roman world. With the end of the Seleucid kingdom and the dominance of Rome in the Mediterranean, the Dioscuri ceased to be envisaged as patrons of the merchant-trader  and the shipman, and became primarily patrons of the horsemen.
The Romans emphasised that character, generally adopting the iconography of cult-centres in southern Italy, Sicily and Sparta, while chiefly referring to the pair as patrons of the Roman circus’ chariot-races. Castor, the revivified human brother, eclipsed Polydeuces who had been divine to the Greeks, though Polydeuces’ being the ‘bending one’ is occasionally reflected in the imagery.
Isidore of Seville inherited the Romans’ view and even knew a version of Dioskurias’ founding myth – which meant it was known to a great many of the literate in medieval Europe:
“Amphitus and Cercius, the charioteers of Castor and Pollux, constructed Dioscoria, the city of the Colchians, naming it after their name, for Castor and Pollux in Greek are called the Dioskouri” – and he wrote that word in Greek: Διóσκουρι.
Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae XV.i. 40
Medieval Europe maintained the astronomical image; they knew no other. Of its character little was recorded. Thus Isidore:
[The pagans] also set Castor and Pollux after their death among the most noteworthy constellations; they call this sign ‘Gemini’. Etymologiae, III.lxxi.25
and Aratus says little except that the Twins bring up the Charioteer and ..
“Beneath the head of Helice are the Twins”.
Aratus, Phaenomena §147
Latin physicians were generally antipathetic to the idea of twin births regarding them as a sign of disease or deformity in the mother, and there is no general Christianised version of the Dioskuri. Fortunately, the liturgical calendar included some few – thus ensuring that twin births did not automatically result in the death of one, as happened in other parts of the world.
In folio 5v their form accords with Hellenistic style and attitude, Polydeuces (on the left) remaining the more prominent of the two; both are given the strange, jagged hair-cut which we see on a coin of the Seleucid, Antiochus IV (r. 175 BC-164 BC) and their travellers’ hats are closer to that form than to the later Roman style.
The same, characteristically Greek, forms appear in Sicily while its population was partly Greek and partly Phoenician.
By contrast, those caps, in Roman imagery, are shown in a Syrian style often, if mistakenly, described as ‘Phrygian’.
Another interesting aspect of the image on folio 5v – one again mitigating against any Roman attribution – is that the constellation was evidently envisaged a little differently from that in the Roman astronomical tradition which informs our own. See the second version of the composite below. (click to enlarge)
The lower star/flower [Gk: aster/asterion] which is directly below Castor’s head is then evidently meant for γ Geminorum, which star was later recalled by some writers in Arabic as having once had some character as a Bow. 
In my opinion, then, the 3rd- 2ndC BC is most probable date for the earliest stratum in the manuscript’s imagery, as I said first in 2010, and subsequent investigation of the various sections and folios has continually returned the same result. There is, of course, evidence of later phases of addition but the Hellenistic basis remains clear, and explains why we find a complete absence of Christian or of Muslim culture expressed by the forms or by the content of this imagery other than a very few, very late, and fairly superficial alterations to the original.
For a date around the 2ndC BC we may also mention that layout atypical for Latin European manuscripts but used even more often in the Voynich botanical folios than in the Anicia Juliana codex, a manuscript dating to the early 6thC AD, but whose content comes from eastern Greek sources composed between the 2ndC BC and 2ndC AD. The image being first set down, and the text moulded around it, cannot be ascribed in these cases to any conflict between scribe and draughtsman, nor to the scribe’s being left too little room. The page design is evidently original and just as plainly one that had been more common in the earlier centuries – a very practical way to ensure that image and text were not wrongly matched.
To argue a date before the 2ndC BC is possible, by reference to various details in other sections. Most of these have already been mentioned but some among them are (i) the inclusion of an unmistakeably Egypto-Phoenician ‘bearded sun’ on folio 67v-2 ; (ii) similarity between the Voynich ‘angel with the wand’ and Nearchus’ medal and (iii) the form given the calendar’s feline, though the last is the least unequivocal.
For a date later than the 2ndC BC as the earliest informing the imagery I can find little support in the internal evidence. One might refer to Paul of Tarsus’ recording, in the 1stC AD, that a ship in which he sailed bore the ‘sign’ or figurehead of the Twin Brothers. (Acts, 28:11) – which indicates that among mariners the Twins’ older character was still remembered. A papyrus codex from the following century, made in Alexandria, has extrapolated dimensions (the lower edge being damaged) of 280mm and 160mm, the latter exactly that of standard folios in Beinecke MS 408: 
280-285 mm is one of the standard measures for the height of papyrus produced before the eleventh century in Egypt. Again from the Cairo geniza a fragment of paper is said to have dimensions close to those of the ordinary folios of Beinecke MS 408.
While I’ve seen no detailed study done of whether the old sizes of papyrus became those of papers produced after the eleventh century (when papyrus ceased to be produced) it may have come first with other exotics brought from Cairo, to Sicily and southern Italy:
Paper began to be used in Italy at the very end of the 11th century, first in Sicily, where the Normans followed Arab custom, and then in the northern trading cities. In the first half of the 13th century some paper was briefly made near Genoa, probably following Spanish techniques, but the major center of Italian paper manufacture developed after 1276 at Fabriano, in central Italy.
Thereafter, 280mm becomes a standard dimension of Jewish manuscripts, and the Jews are noted as being among the earliest makers of paper elsewhere in Latin Europe. 
I do not think it unreasonable to consider the possibility – even the probability – that the matter now in Beinecke MS 408 came from exemplars that had been on paper or on papyrus before the present version was made on coarse vellum in the earlier part of the fifteenth century.
But given that the older Hellenistic forms for, and conceptions of, the Dioscuri find scarcely any echo in Christian Europe, and certainly I’ve seen no evidence for those jagged haircuts or for ‘bowed’ Polydeuces in Latin lore, so to maintain a theory of the work as a product of some medieval Christian ‘author’ must depend more on the proponent’s determination than the evidence provided by the primary document and its imagery.