“The Collied Night” – musing on Koen’s comment ..’the difficulty..’

Fetch me this herb, and be thou here again
Ere the leviathan can swim a league.

I’ll put a girdle round about the Earth
In forty minutes.




“…. the difficulty with the cloud bands is that the shapes they take in the VM are those mostly found in Latin manuscripts.”

-Koen Gheuens speaking ‘as devil’s advocate’.

Swift as a shadow, short as any dream,
Brief as the lightning in the collied night,
That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and earth,
Lysander, scene i.

from another copy of the ‘Book of Wonders’

(detail) from a sheet of Genoese work showing spheres with conventional map, and carte marine. Fifteenth century.

would the person on whose blog this first appeared PLEASE leave a note. I apologise for failing to add a caption at the time.

“Sagittarius rules Spain, Tuscany and Celtica”.

..Spain…Genoa.  the Voynich archer’s clothing and hand-position accords with the Genoese provenance of the carte marine shown above.  The hand-positon is that of a person cocking a particular – and rare – type of bow created for use on board ship, and was certainly known to the Spanish no later than 1510, as two archaeological finds attest.  (information in this caption, and details of the informing sources –  first published by the present author in connection with Voynich studies).

..and it was this sort of thing… and a great deal more… which had taken us to Baghdad and the Black Sea, en route to Genoa and Majorca when the level of pilfering and so forth really meant I had to call a halt to publishing the results of my work in detail online.


But as for cloud-bands and their transmission –  I think just a couple more examples should be enough to give you the idea.


As I’ve been saying in this blog –  as briefly as I could, but in detail, consistently, cumulatively, with illustrations  and over a fair length of time  …

the cloudband is an Asian motif introduced to mainland Europe during the Mongol century, but since most  Latin illustrators never quite managed to grasp the idea of an irregular form, even if the texts got the idea pretty well,  they invented ways to make it more regular… as a rule.   Exceptionally good  representations of the Asian and Persian forms are found e.g. in the Eremitani wall paintings (‘Persian’ style);  and that cloudy portrait of Ptolemy ( ‘Chinese’ style), but  historical and practical  conditions meant that the eastern forms and ideas reached the west via the Genoese and Jews of the south-western Mediterranean, and particularly in the region around the mouth of the Rhone, from northeastern Spain to south-western eastern France. This was the region where Kabbalism first flowered in mainland Europe, side by side with the remnants of Albigensian ‘Manichaeism’ and   – to quote Freudenthal’s Chapter (10) in Steven Nadler (ed.), The Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy From Antiquity through the Seventeenth Century, Vol.1 (2008)

Scores of books were translated from Arabic into Hebrew from the second half of the twelfth century onward, mainly in southern France and northern Spain.  (Vol. p.348)

And it is within works from that region of the south-western Mediterranean, particularly works of the Genoese and the Sephardi Jews (in the first instance) where the closest links are found to  both matter and stylistics for  Beinecke MS 408.

… in my opinion and, of course, that given by Irwin Panofsky in 1931.

(detail ) from an early Genoese carte marine. The detail is thought to be a portrait of the cartographer, Pietro Vesconte.


detail from the Voynich map, sometimes (if erroneously) described as the ‘Nine Rosettes’ page. In fact there are only three directional ‘roses’ remaining what were (imo) originally four. This sheet was originally called folio 86v. It is now so cumbersomly described at the Beinecke website that even ‘rosette page’ is more practical


But I guess it will all come out eventually in the wash …

edited same date –  to add quotation and two extra pictures –

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