Another detail

The trusty search engines tell me that before July 1st., 2017 at 5:08 am, when marenostrum-2 tweeted the following image,  no-one had referred to it online, so that is the original source to be cited for its dissemination, I should say.  The folio pictured is from  Biblioteca de Catalunya. Ms. 1452  (f.58).


That manuscript is a fifteenth-century copy of a thirteenth-century work, the original composed by a prolific author named Ramon Lull (or: “Llull”), whose native tongue was Catalan, whose formal language of education was (of course) Latin, who had written courtly poems in the vernacular and who had become in later life a member of a laymans’ group attached to a religious order – the Order of Friars Minor (or Franciscans).


In  2015, while speaking of the Hermits of St.Jerome and links between them, the Franciscans, Fiesole, Piacenza and Spain, I included the following footnote which I quote below.  Unfortunately the post in which it appeared is another of those which I’ve had to remove from public view for the time being.


Note from  ‘Wolves and seaweed: preliminary’, voynichimagery, Saturday. October 24th., 2015.


[fn] 9. On Llull’s resurfacing in Voynich studies See e.g. old mailing list thread which begins (June 11th., 2004), the very interesting paper to which Pelling refers (Nov. 4th., 2011), in which the idea is floated that some connection might exist between the za’irajah [wiki: ‘ a device used by medieval Arab astrologers to generate ideas by mechanical means’], Llull’s diagrams, and others. (It mistakenly states that Llull died in Majorca). More recently still, David Jackson has re-visited (or re-discovered) Llull. See his post of April 15th., 2015. Its topic is Athenasius Kircher’s Polygraphia nova et universalis (the New and Universal Polygraphy) of 1663, about which David says, “It was a typical Kircher work in that it took the ideas of others, spun them around and presented in a new manner. Kircher was a master of this art, and his polygraphia is one of [those] ..”. Note that David imagines Lull having to “travel and bring back” knowledge of the za’irajah. In fact, the soil on which Llull was born had only ceased to be part of the Islamic empire three years before, Arabic having by then been the island’s official and common language for three centuries (902-1229 AD). Lull himself was fluent in Arabic and having had been a courtier, and then a hermit, finally became a ‘Franciscan’ too, but one of its “third order” and thus technically a layman. By the last decades of Llull’s life, the papal court was in Avignon. Ramon Lull was born in Mallorca (Majorca) c.1232 and died in Tunisia c.1315.

end quote



If Frances Yates were still alive, she would be one hundred and twenty years old.  Deeply interested in the Italian Renaissance as it was perceived in her day,  Yates was fascinated by Giordano Bruno, but found the study required preliminary knowledge of Ramon Lull’s writings,  as Yates explained in later years:

Since then, Yates’ works have been pored over again and again in the hope they might shed some light on the Voynich manuscript, but it is a bone long since stripped of any meat and now quite dessicated.  However, as a matter of historical interest, one can read the impression made by her writings on Colonel William Friedman’s study group.


  • Mary d’Imperio, An Elegant Enigma (1978). (pdf)


From about 1949  Yates studied in particular the text (Tractatus novus de astronomia) that was copied to make Biblioteca de Catalunya  Ms 1452:

Yates, op.cit. pp.3-4


I am speaking about this fifteenth century copy rather than any earlier one, because it includes another evidence of eastern motifs being adopted into works of Latin Christian composition, made in the fifteenth century from earlier models, these having been available to Europe by the mid-fourteenth century.  As my attentive readers will know, I have described a similar history for the last phases of evolution in the content in Beinecke MS 408, providing since 2011 items from the evidence which led to my reaching that opinion.


The ‘triple fortune’ fishes detail is just one more among the great many items one might cite.


That persons  closely associated with the Franciscan order should have had greater interest in, and access to, what was known about the east is understandable in terms of their historical and social position, but that’s another background issue which I’ve already  treated in depth and over a number of years to set the analysis of the manuscript’s imagery in context.


To see what is still available here from that research,  search the blog for ‘Franciscan’ or ‘Franciscans’ and for more precise terms such as ‘Montecorvino’ or ‘Genoese’.  The posts include a list of Franciscan houses established in Asia before 1400.   To understand how they were able to do so, the best single source is

  • Virgil Ciocîltan, The Mongols and the Black Sea Trade in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries (Brill, 2012)




Access to Biblioteca de Catalunya MS 1452 is through MDC  (Memòria Digital de Catalunya).    (Going directly to BdeC through DMAPP doesn’t turn it up.)   


The comparative example for the ‘three-fortune’ fishes – shown in the composite above  – dates to at least a century before the making of Bib.deCat MS 1452. It is an intriguing possibility, but not one I think admitting resolution, that the motif may have served as Patrick’s shamrock did in Ireland.  However that might be, the picture of the artefact comes courtesy of  of wikimedia.


In the header, I show how this latest item accords with others recently adduced, e.g. in ‘Style – the critical element’. All the Asian artefacts mentioned in that post, as in this, date to the  ‘Mongol’ or Yuan period, from which other posts offered here have also taken their examples.   Most of the posts have been withdrawn from view for the foreseeable future, but concerning the chief religious centre of the Franciscans, the church of Assisi, see comments made in the post,  ‘On the doorstep.. and things Manichaean‘, voynichimagery (Monday, October 31st., 2016).



I accept that it is predictable, when this blog contains the single largest body of original research into this manuscript, that some material which I publish here is likely to be misappropriated and mis-used from time to time by casual passers-by and the less educated.  In the usual way, that can be ignored because balanced by the ethical attribution of matter adopted and re-used by the better educated and more honest.


That this has not been done is not least a result of the fact that one or two of the most persistent offenders have, from the beginning, combined mis-appropriation with determined efforts to pretend – and to persuade others to pretend – that this site doesn’t exist or is the work of a person ‘beneath notice’.  The combination of insult and injury is why, in addition to an apology for the plagiarism, positive efforts at restitution are in order.


Conditions on re-use of my research and conclusions are not onerous and are plainly visible on the static frontpage.  The few individuals whose Voynich ‘careers’ have depended on stitching together unattributed quotes from others’ work and actively seeking to have all other researchers deemed less ‘sensible’ than themselves may be surprised to learn that their reputation will be enhanced and not diminished by adopting higher standards, even now.




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