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I am just back from a meeting held at Cambridge on the History of
Cryptography organised by the British Society for the History of
I was invited to give a talk on the vms. Given that I do not have any
cryptology, history or maths background but a Biomedical one, I felt
a bit uneasy about the (high) level of the audience, but at the same
time I thought that it would be a good opportunity to get feedback
and other people interested in the problem.
At the start I used the excuse that in Biology there are lots of
"uncracked codes"; for instance we do not know the meaning (if
any) of introns in DNA which make about 90% of the total. That
seemed to do the trick and (I think) and the talk went well.
There were some very interesting questions and info exchanged at
question time and during the lunch hour.
Judith Field (the organiser, one of the most amazing and interesting
persons I met) and who is an expert in Kepler, informed that Rudolf
was well known for not paying his bills (it was not put exactly like
that) and it was surprising that he would have paid 600 ducats for a
book in code.
Also mentioned that the humanist hand arrived at slightly different
times in parts of Europe. Unfortunately I did not followed it up, but I
got the idea that it was meant to be more like a "wave" rather than
a specific period bracket.
A *very* interesting bit of information (and that will be sent to me by
email later) was from somebody who knows (or knew well) the
biographer of Mrs. Voynich. The conversation was about the selling
of the ms. to HP Kraus.
Apparently, Ms. Nill (Mrs. Voynich companion) did not have good
financial situation and Mrs. Voynich had an agreement to leave the
vms to pay for Ms. Nill's retirement.
Remember that Strong asked for copies of the ms. and these were
rejected with no apparent reason?
Perhaps if cracked, the ms would loose value and so would Ms.
Nill's little fortune, so I guess that this is a possible reason for the
ms. being taken out of circulation.
The most interesting part was that when Ms. Nill moved to work HP
Kraus, and (suspense music in crescendo) the ms. was deposited
in Kraus' safe. This person mentioned that this happened just after
Mrs. V death, but Kraus says that Ms. Nill work for about 10 years
Mrs. Nill died soon afterwards (about 1 year after Mrs. V. -- I haven't
checked, all this should be confirmed) and so the claim is that the
manuscript was not "bought" by Kraus, it was "acquired".
This person told me that there were some relatives of Ms. Nill who
never saw a penny from the sale of the Ms. (!)
However this is quite a statement. I just checked D'Imperio's book
and there is even a date for the sale: 12 July 1961. I also checked
Kraus' chapter in "A rare book saga" and he says he bought it from
Ms. Nill and the price he paid ($24000 or so).
Then it goes saying that he wanted to sell it for $160000 and Ms Nill
would get half of the profit over the price he paid for it. When did
Ms. Nill die?
As I said before, this person will "look into his files" and e-mail me
whatever he finds.
Some other comment/questions were about carbon dating and
again J. Field, suggested to look into the maps used for the
astrolabes (sp?) and compare them to the star maps in the vms.
My feeling is that the diagrams in the vms are very low tech
compared to real navigation maps, but we should look into those as