Copyright notice:

I am obliged to add this notice because in some academic traditions  it is the custom for professors to feel free to publish under their own name, and without acknowledgement, the work of any person they consider to have an ‘inferior position’ ~ including the work of their own students, or scholars from more distant countries. Where we tend to see acknowledgements as a routine obligation ~ like saying ‘Good morning ~ certain other cultures see it as admitting indebtedness, and to admit indebtedness to a person considered ‘inferior’ is to lose face.

To people trained in the English tradition, to  fail in proper acknowledgements is plainly and simply dishonest: like a bully knocking down a nerd to make off with the nerd’s homework.:D

Other places, other mores.  So let me be clear on my own position:-

This is published to assist study of MS Beinecke 408.
It constitutes the results of several years’ personal academic research. If I fail to acknowledge another researcher’s work, it’s because I haven’t used it, read it, or heard of it. I will correct the omission if you leave a footnote.
To other professionals: Each of these posts is to be considered a formal publication, being thereby declared and subject to copyright. You may use it for personal research, but publication of the papers in part or in full, including publication of papers under your name in which my conclusions and/or proposed analytical methods are not acknowledged by citation, in any media including electronic, may be deemed a breach of copyright.
Permissions are not difficult to obtain- see email address in sidebar.


To the best of my knowledge, I was the first to:

*recognise the system by which the majority of botanical images are constructed, to identify their system for classification as Theophrastan; to  recognise the distinction between literal and mnemonic elements in each image, and to recognise the whole as a compendium of plants from the eastern world. John Tiltman was the first to recognise that the botanical section’s imagery showed composite figures.

* to refer to a period earlier than the thirteenth century as probable origin for the source materials;

* to refer to the Hellenistic period as a dominant influence in the imagery;  to propose a period of c.3rdC BC-3rdC AD for the majority of those sources;  and to refer more exactly to the various works by Theophrastus of Eresus in this regard;

* to recognise, and explain, fol.86v as a world-map;

added note: 4/03/2105: Being recently directed to P.Han’s treatment of folio 86v, I should add that, while there are no points in common between my analysis of this folio and his treatment of it, in principle he saw it as a cosmographical map (i.e. one in which geographical and astronomical reference occurs in parallel) and in this – although he doesn’t refer to the ‘portolan’ , cartes marine or  Atlas Catala – his observations suggest them, and so agree with my conclusions about the details which I consider the latest additions to that folio. P.Han’s site is here. Between 2010 or so (when I visited briefly and saw nothing compatible with the folio as I saw it) and 2015, when I finally overcame my reluctance to sign a legal agreement before entering Han’s site, I read nothing posted there.  This omission I now intend to remedy and will add credits to any observations that are even vaguely similar to my own conclusions.

* to raise, and discuss in detail, the points in which the map on fol.86v and the diagrams’ section demonstrate a connection to the portolans and portolan maps of the Byzantine and Mediterranean world.

* to refer to the work of the Byzantine and Genoese cartographers in Trebizond in this connection, in connection to fol.86v in particular and to the manuscript in general.

* to refer to the ‘White sheep Turcomans’ as a possible reference in fol.116v;

* to  hold as my opinion that the manuscript’s diagrams are not astrological; that the original reference of the month-folios was not the astrologer’s zodiac.

* to suggest an alternative explanation as the series of  stars and months  in the maritime tradition, equivalent to those in Brouscon’s charts.

* to recognise strong pre-Christian Hellenistic influences in the imagery, and to assign it to sources originating  3rdC BC-3rdC AD, with earlier precedents.

* To identify distinctly Egyptian elements in the imagery, and to describe them as appropriate to a period before the 4thC AD.

* to identify and discuss elements in the manuscript which connect on the one hand to older Egyptian custom and on the other to Armenian traditions and customs in art.

* to identify  superfluous astronomical emblems on fol.67v-i) and consider their implications for the manuscript’s history;

* to suggest a retention of Hellenistic-era material in the territory that was held by the Kushans.

* to distinguish between the original Hellenistic matter and other (including late)  elements in the imagery.

* to offer a stratified chronology-geography for the manuscript’s imagery.

Later period: transmission

* to identify as the tower of Philip le Bel in Avignon the triangular court and tower pictured in the ‘mini-map’ in folio 86v’s north roundel.

*to identify Ceuta as the probable site for the structure in 86v’s west roundel and to suggest it part of the original map, not one of the later additions.

* to investigate the line of miniscule script on folio 9v, and identify it [with the help of an expert who wrote to me privately] as a non-native’s effort to reproduce an Aramaic-derived script that was probably Hebrew – for which reason I describe that line of script as micrography, a specialty of specific Jewish communities.

* in the same connection, to suggest that if a numerical system underlies the Voynich script (as posited cipher) it may derive from one of the mnemonic systems based upon the hand (e.g. “Tinctorius’ hand” or “Stolfo’s hand” etc.

* to specify that the form given the roots and leaves of the ‘pharma’ section (so-called) probably relate to the east, and most resemble the form of  Bencao literature.

* to specify Indian (and, later, Suzani) forms and styles as those most noticable in the botanical folios apart from the Hellenistic basis. Many Indian craftsmen, along with craftsmen from e.g. Damascus were transported from cities conquered by Tatars and Mongols to the latter’s capitals.

* to comment on the style of the Mashad Dioscorides’ drawings, showing direct similarities to their depiction of plants’ roots, and what is seen in the Voynich botanical folios. The Mashad copy of Dioscorides’ Materia Medica was produced in the region of Diyabakir.

* to point out – in relation to the final product which is ms Beinecke 408 – that Poggio Bracciolini may have received de’ Conti’s account in material form rather than as a spoken narrative. (This is in regard to a possible descent of the manuscript’s content from matter obtained for papal libraries).

* to point out that Bracciolini was, at the same time that he saw de’ Conti, actively interviewing strangers in Rome about eastern plants and interviewing a ‘Nestorian from northern India’.

* to show that artefacts recovered from Begram are relevant to an understanding of the manuscript

* to point out certain similarities in drawing-style for the month-roundel centres and that in works from the Verin Noravank monastery.

* to refer, in relation to ms Beinecke 408,  to the spread of both Armenian and Manichaean presence, in association with Buddhism, across the high roads to as far as China. To refer i the same connection to the Armenian presence in Nusantara.

* to relate motifs and style used in ms Beinecke 408 to those on eastern trade ceramics of the 9th-15thC AD.

I do not credit the first composition of everything in ms Beinecke 408 to Egyptians or to Armenians. I hold it as the most likely case that a majority of the material derives from Hellenistic matter as gained and/or as acquired and maintained by the eastern Jewish groups known as the Bene Isroel, classed by Mediterranean peoples among those termed ‘Mizrahi’.

I do not posit a named ‘author’ for the imagery, nor a single ‘national’ character for its presence in ms Beinecke 408.

That the manuscript was made in the first part of the fifteenth century, and that it subsequently arrived in Prague at the of Rudolf II, I have no particular reason to doubt.

What it has to say is what matters, and to that question I trust that I have contributed.  It would seem so, at least, from the number of people who have come to download or print every one of these posts. I am keenly aware of what a compliment this is, in an internet swamped with references to the manuscript.

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