“Something useful…”

I had hesitated to explain why I’ve removed from public view so many posts among those I’ve provided here, since their aim was to give people working on the manuscript the bare bones of my investigation as it progressed – in addition to  opinions based in earlier formal studies and  experience.

For longer-term, and/or better informed readers, I expect that to quote the following will be sufficient:

1. a recent comment made by Rene Zandbergen:

“progress has mostly been achieved by significant personal efforts that produced something that was clearly recognised  as something useful.”

2. from  publisher’s blurb sent to me – and claiming to contain

.. a new theory … Based on careful study of the images depicted, the plants portrayed, and the lack of any Christian imagery, the authors conclude that it was a Jewish person residing in Italy who must have written the manuscript. 
[matter by] Dr Stephen Skinner, Dr Rafal Prinke, and Dr René Zandbergen.’

Anyone of moderate intelligence can recognise “something useful”, but the mere act of having been able to recognise  something as ‘useful’ does not entitle anyone to pretend it a new idea and the result of their own work, nor to represent to others as ‘an idea’ what the speaker knows is the hard-won conclusions in someone else’s work.

A great many of my readers surely know that; the question is – does Zandbergen?

Postscript – in some parts of the world it is possible to see a larger or smaller part of the essays at the Amazon site.  This is not the Yale University sponsored facsimile, but one by Watkins Media Limited.  We note that the publication had been advertised to appear in August rather  than in mid-June.






  1. I haven’t seen the publication as it is not available yet, so I cannot comment on any theories that are discussed within, but I have seen the cover and Zandbergen is not listed as the author, he’s listed as one of two people who contributed an introduction. People writing introductions do not always hold the same views as the author(s) and it’s not clear whether the introduction addresses the theory or whether it’s a general introduction about the VMS facsimile.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. JKP – When sending the email circular, the publisher implied that all three had together developed this ‘new theory’. I guess the advertiser felt it necessary to include all three names and the word ‘new’. I won’t be buying it, and don’t really want the review copy offered; I have the Yale facsimile and the most valuable thing in that is the technical staff’s essay, if you overlook the bits of bogus history slipped into it here and there. Very good essay indeed from my point of view. Solid, factual, demonstrable. Great pictures.


  3. I discovered today that there’s a preview for the book and it’s apparently Skinner who put forward the views mentioned by the publisher.

    I don’t know if I’ll purchase it when it becomes available. The only VMS book I have so far is the Yale facsimile and I think they did a nice job of it. I haven’t read the essays yet but will when I have time.


    • -JKP- Panofsky was the first to put forward the view that the work was the product of an individual Jewish writer as ‘author’. You are probably not aware that his opinion was being represented as out-dated or ill-informed before I began demonstrating the extent to which imagery in the manuscript finds its nearest explanation in Jewish works from the eastern Mediterranean, and other details are most reasonably explained as alluding to the customs of eastern Jews. I did not point these things out to try and justify Panofsky’s opinion, but because my findings so often required acknowledgement of that earlier opinion. Other motifs, again, find their closest parallel and most intelligent explanation, by the early fourteenth century in works produced by Jews as well as certain Genoese. Considering that this material has been part of work published here, over six years, and that Zandbergen is aware that many people are under an impression that he is an ‘authoritative’ source – it seems to (at the very least) a failure of will or judgement that he should have omitted to correct his collaborator’s mis-conceptions, especially when that collaborator – certainly cannot make such a claim of expertise for himself. All three authors would normally be provided, by the publisher and before publication, with copies of the other essays – though it remains to be seen whether Watson did so.
      I can say that my academic publisher does so, precisely to ensure that errors of various types do not appear in a volume bearing one’s own name. Skinner’s claiming to have produced a ‘new theory’ – and by the means which it is claimed he does – will be printed before my publisher had planned to issue the (finished) volume 1 and (in progress) second volume of my essays. These are (or now perhaps ‘were’) due to go to press at the end of this year, and offer (or offered) the formal, academic version of material so briefly presented online since 2009.

      This is not the first time, since I took the year away, that we have seen persons suddenly announce as ‘a new idea’ what appears to be a second-hand and unattributed use of my conclusions or research – apparently gained as “an idea”. Zandbergen’s re-use without permission or subsequent apology, and then pre-emptive publication, of matter from my consideration of Libri, Fiesole and Kraus is just another instance of such matter, all of which results in the original scholar having to deal with a suspicion that they, themselves, are imitating the imitators.
      I’ve probably said more than I should, but I have no way to know if I’ll be offering any more work or comment online after today. Not my decision.


  4. Panofsky was the first to put forward the wiew that work was the product of an individual Jewish writer as author.
    Panofsky submitted an opinion ?
    1. Panofsky.
    2. Josef Zlatodej Prof.
    I read the manuscript normally. It is written and encrypted in the Czech language. I have been writing to you for many years.
    I see how he tries to get the word Rožmberk ( Rosen berg ) into the manuscript.

    And colleague. You can already see it number ” 8 ” on page 35 v. Eliška z Rožmberka ( Elizabeth of Rosen berg ) there writes what the number expresses and what it means.


    • Yes, Panofsky was the first to say so.
      In the early 1930s he assessed the manuscript, and gave his opinion that it was Jewish and from ‘Spain or somewhere southern’ evincing elements of Kabbalah. This was reported soon afterwards by Ann Nill.
      Among the very terse comments which Panofsky later made to Friedman’s unfortunate questionnaire, one attributes the work to an individual – a father – as author.

      My own research shows Panofsky was correct in his first assessment of the work’s appearance, but erred in imagining the whole to represent an original composition.

      I found nothing to refute his view, and much to confirm and amplify it, that the imagery’s appearance shows derivation from well before the fifteenth century, and while Panofsky was surely correct in recognising some among the present manuscript’s pigments as proper to the fifteenth century – when we know our manuscript was made – his assumption of individual ‘authorship’ was mistaken.
      The imagery, at least, is certainly no original authorial work of the thirteenth or of the fifteenth century, but has been gained from earlier source-texts: these from material of non-Jewish origin, maintained (in my opinion) in the form of more recent exemplars which were.

      The number of persons who have been content to assert this or that about the manuscript without troubling to set forth their research as justification for their assertions is beyond my time or interest to calculate. I have not seen any reasoned exposition of an argument for the Rosenberg connection you so often assert.

      Overall, I do not care for imaginative histories and ‘author’ narratives of the type so often and so easily manufactured for this manuscript.

      I do not think the internal evidence supports any of them, nor warrants tales woven around one or another important personage from European history.

      I am quite convinced that we do not need such historical fictions provided to us in order to study the evidence provided by the fifteenth century manuscript.

      As to the written part of its text – not my field.

      For all I know, it could be encrypted Czech. Copying older matter does not prohibit contemporary translation and/or encryption of the written matter.
      I am aware that for some years now you have been sharing your opinion online that the written text is, in your opinion, encrypted Czech. For just as many years, I understand, those most interested in this aspect of the manuscript have waited to see a full translation from you.

      Does your study advance?


  5. Dear Colleague. My research on the manuscipt is over. I translated the whole manuscript. Manuscript is the work of Eliska of Rosen berg.
    She writes in the manuscript :
    I’m Eliska. I write Czech. Letters are numbers. Then he writes about the codec. He further writes. I’m 12 years old. It is 1472 – 1473. etc.

    Colleagues. Manuscript is original. It’s not a description.
    I’m going to publishing the content of the manuscript. And also show the encryption method. Until then, I have to write corefully. History teaches us that scientists are also stealing.

    Otherwise Panofsky. He only said that the manuscript was written by a Jew. But he could not read it.
    I read the manuscript. And that’s why I am writing to you that is written and encoded in the Czech language.


    • Dear Professor Zlatoděj,
      It is not true that Panofsky said the text had been inscribed by a Jew. He said that it was a Jewish work.

      I look forward to reading reviews of your translation, and of the translation by Irena Hanzíková – about whom Nick Pelling made mention last year:

      I have been following comments on Ms.Hanzíková’s work, and am curious about one comment in a recent article. She says that she became interested because a friend was seeking someone able to translate the text. Since this was only about four years ago, and I’m sure that you have been speaking about your own translation for much longer, it seems unfortunate that they didn’t find you. (She also says it is written in Old Czech).

      Here’s the paragraph about it:
      Můj přítel tehdy hledal možné překladatele. Bylo to marné. nesehnal, byť pátral v širokém okolí. Zkusila jsem tedy překlad sama – a ejhle. Něco se stalo, přišla jsem na ten „klíč” a do tří dnů byl svazek listin přeložený! Sama si to nedokážu vysvětlit. Leč od té doby cítím potřebu se tomuto koníčku věnovat pro moje osobní uspokojení,” vypráví mladá žena

      The article:

      The same article quotes a small excerpt from Ms.Hanzíková translation, though unfortunately the folio number isn’t given.
      „Zlo odporné si říká ctěné. Stačí se krásně vycítit, sžít ve prospěch. Poté málo se daří dravý odpad přemoci. Dávat se padlým, nestřežit své statky a světem být rozdrcen..”

      Does this agree with a passage in your own translation?


  6. Dear colleague.
    Panofsky : he said that it was a Jewish work.
    Logical. When Panofsky wrote. So he said that the Jewish system was used.
    And that’s how it ended.
    I can tell you my colleague this. Eliska, of course also uses several Jewish words. Otherwise, the entry is in Czech.

    As for Mrs. Hanzik. So she writes the crap.
    The handwriting has very complex encryption.

    What Pelling and Zandbergen are saying, of course, I know. Unfortunately, they do not know much. Of cours I am very sorry. For many years he has been writing about nothing.

    ( For medieval thinking ).
    For literary creation and thinking, it is very characteristic to find a hidden meaning for literature or even an external form.


  7. As I keep saying, the written part of the text is not my field. I sometimes wish that persons without skill, inclination to research, natural ability or any formal training would be as realistic about their ability to make informed comments about the manuscript’s imagery.


  8. Dear Diane.
    Just as you write. Education is very important. And it is also important to know the Czech language. Then it is important to find out the encryption and the key.


  9. Dear colleague Diana.
    Are you kidding ? I have everything. I know the key. I know encryption. I also have te necessary education. I worked in one big Czech company as an analyst.

    Colleagues, you are writing that your domain in pictures.

    So I ask you for the third time.
    You ses finally on page 35 v. Number 8.


  10. Professor Zlatoděj,
    If you are speaking of the form given the vine on that folio – I do not “see the number 8” – I see an arrangement that is traditional for representing vines, and which may be likened to many other more-or-less similar things: the twining snakes of the caduceus for example, as many people have said over the years – most recently Koen Gheuens. It may also be likened to a number ‘8’ but your perceiving a similarity in form does not locate the image in its historical or art-historical context. It does not explain why the vine appears threaded through the trunk. It does not identify the plants pictured. It is not enough to do, as most Voynicheros do, and provide commentary which is not commentary on the image, but on the ideas which have come into their own heads from their own twenty-first century perspective.

    As regards theories of the text being in old Czech – I cannot offer any informed comment. You need to talk to the linguists and cryptologists – not me. The only historical item I can offer is that Georg Baresch did not ask Kircher for a translation, only that he identify the script. Unless Baresch was simply being polite (asking for less in the hope of receiving more), it would seem to imply that Baresch had reason to believe the underlying language was one known to him.

    Other than that, I’m afraid I have nothing more to say.


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