THE VM SEARCH AND RESEARCH
Jan B. Hurych
Needless to say, much of the VM research is devoted to the search for historical truth, supported by old records related to VM. We are searching for the author name, the place and time the manuscript was originated, for the people who knew about it or were any way connected with it as well as the circumstances around it. Of course, we are mainly basing our search on the facts or hints of the provenance, some historical documents and facts - but sometimes those are just hearsay or superficial connections. Be it as it may, it is probably the first logical and most obvious approach. No wonder some of the research results are reflecting also the personal bias but that can be - and should be - straightened up by discussion.
What is however disturbing is the fact that we are afraid to detour from our old golden incremental way, that is building only on the past research and neglecting the other sources of information that may be still waiting for us. True, we do not read about them in the provenance and certainly not in those many books about the VM that happily publicize something that most of us already know (which is however useful for general public) but also the old stuff that was already disproved long time ago (which is extremely counterproductive to our research ).
Let me demonstrate it on several examples. We are still spending enormous amount of time trying to get the details about the Emperor Rudolph II who apparently never saw the VM and possibly never owned it either. On the contrary, we never tried the deep search into resources of those persons who might have known or studied the VM in the past. One typical example is of course the set of notes by Georgius Baresch sent to Kircher with the VM - their possible existence was apparently ignored by Voynich himself since there is no record he ever looked for them. That is of course hard to believe even if he once claimed he first did not notice the name of Bacon in Marci's list either. The latter could be excused by the fact he was waiting for more official translation of Marci's letter but how could he ignore the mentioning of Marci's notes? |The letter itself claims they were part of the package with the VM. And since Kircher knew about Baresch and his effort to solve the VM, Kircher surely realized Baresch was probably only one person "in the know" and kept the notes as well. Incidentally, what happened to Voynich notes about his solving of the VM? Was anybody looking for them?
Similarly, Gaspar Schott was the assistant of Kircher who something like his PR manager as well and was probably also the inventor of many rumors about him. It is likely he saw the VM and contrary to Kircher who was suspiciously silent about it, he might have mentioned it in his books or correspondence.
Next in line is of course Kinner who wrote two letters to Kircher mentioning the VM but did he really see the VM before it was sent to Kircher? And let's not forget Mnishowsky who knew about the VM certainly earlier thane Marci and maybe even before Baresch. It looks like it was him who told Marci about Bacon being suspected as the author of the VM. He was the collector of manuscripts for Rudolph (the fact discovered recently) and might have had some insight knowledge as well. It was him who told Marci about Bacon being suspected as the author of the VM. We also neglected to study the book written by Mnishowsky (we were misled by the wrong appraisal of the book by p. Dobrowsky when he visited Sweden and the fact Mnishowsky was a tutor of Emperor's son) . We kept repeating the nonsense it was just a textbook of Czech language while our colleagues, Czech cryptographers, knew already for long time it was a book about new methods of cryptography, the first one originated in Bohemia. We also ignored the fact Mnishowsky by his own admission was commissioning some old manuscripts for Rudolph in Austria and he could have been himself the "deliverer" of the VM to Rudolph. Of course none of that fit to our rather old VM provenance of the VM, dogmatically immunized against some recent facts that could disagree with the legends presented there.
True, we investigated to the depth the writings and private diary of John Dee, who was never mentioned before Voynich suggested him as a possible link to Roger Bacon ( being once the owner of the VM). He based it on coincidental amount of 600 (640 respectively) ducats that were supposedly paid to Dee by Rudolph. Now that was supposed to happen in the same year he was expelling Dee and Kelley from Prague as wizards - little inconsistence, isn't it? At the same time we neglected some other ways how could the VM get in Bohemia (especially from the East or South). We also completely ignored the possibility the VM was written in Bohemia (as was Codex Gigas, The Devils bible) say by |Horczicky himself who it seems was the only one scholar who had enough knowledge of all subjects appearing in the VM ( botany, medical herbs, astrology and alchemy practice). So here we have four persons connected with the VM (Mnishowsky, Horczicky, Baresch and |Marci), all Czechs but could not make nothing of it. Of course all that would not fit the old age assumed by the provenance and so Bacon won by default (literarily by the first glance Voynich threw at the VM, as he admitted :-). Also, we can still do more research in the works and correspondence of Dobrzensky who was Marci's pupil and Moretus who delivered first letter by Baresch to Rome and most likely were shown beforehand the VM to convince Kircher it was genuine manuscript.
Now from more recent history: was anybody trying to investigate the private documentation left by Miss Nill, the confidante of both Voynich and his wife Ethel? Nothing was also made of the fact Newbold publicized in his book the confident information - maybe erroneous, maybe deliberate - that Voynich admitted he got the VM in Austrian castle (or south European, as Voynich himself stated in his article). Too blindly did we accepted the assumption it was villa Mondragone, while the Voynich correspondence with Mondragone padres in Beinecke does not especially talks he bought there - among other manuscripts - also the VM itself. Too gladly we assumed that the Prague manuscript mentioned by Marci is really the VM and not some other one that was switched for, by mistake or deliberately. After all, nothing in Marci's letter identifies the details of the VM and by removing the letter from the book where it was located (very unusual coincidence in antique world, anyway) , Voynich made himself a disservice.
We were also too quick to assume as quite normal the fact that such old manuscript was never mentioned before, that is before Baresch. The manuscript that raises so much interest today would hardly have been ignored by scholars of the sixteenth and even earlier centuries. And the rumor at court mentioned by Mnishowsky? Nobody mentioned it elsewhere, not in the books neither the courtiers in their memoirs.
These discrepancies are too serious to be put aside just because they make the existing provenance less credible. And what is more important - they put the assumed date of the VM origin in serious doubt. Hopefully, the carbon dating of the folios that is now in the process may narrow the span of the time the VM could have been written. True, it will be only the time the parchments were manufactured but at least we would know it could not have been written earlier. As with the Turin shroud, there will be always some doubts left and we would have to rely also on some historical facts. Nevertheless, that is what is the research all about: the re-search.
1st of December 2009,
Jan B. Hurych.