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Re: Toresella

Dana F. Scott wrote:

> >     Toresella, Sergio. ``Gli erbari degli alchimisti. [Alchemical
> > herbals.]'' In Arte farmaceutica e piante medicinali -- erbari, vasi,
> > strumenti e testi dalle raccolte liguri [Pharmaceutical art and
> > medicinal plants -- herbals, jars, instruments and texts of the
> > Ligurian collections], Liana Saginati, ed. Pisa: Pacini Editore, 1996,
> > pp.31-70. [Profusely illustrated. Fits the VMS into an ``alchemical
> > herbal'' tradition.]
> >
> > -------------------------------------------------------------
> >
> >     "Among the alchemical herbals we must include the one contained in
> > the Voynich codex [45].
> >
> >     "It is the strangest, most mysterious, and enigmatic herbal known,
> > because it is written in an enciphered language that has resisted the
> > attacks of the most powerful American electronic computers [46].  It
> > is almost eighty years that the best cryptographers, paleographers,
> > and specialists in the most obscure languages have tirelessly tried to
> > penetrate the mystery of this herbal, but in vain.
> This may be true if we are addressing solely the associated encrypted text;
> however, I am very much impressed by the volumes of information that
> might be gleaned from the drawings. They too have a wonderful story to
> tell; somewhat, perhaps, similar to the silent movies of the past. There is a
> purpose and a story behind every drawing in the VMS.

	D'Imperio expressed a similar opinion.

> >     "Rudolph II of Habsburg, king of Bohemia, who constructed the
> > 'alchemists' quarter' in Prague, paid for this codex attributed to
> > Francis [sic] Bacon (1214-1292), the fantastic sum of 600 gold ducats:
> > remember, in comparison, that the Juliana Anicia herbal [the Vienna
> > Codex of Dioscorides] was bought for only 100 ducats.
> Well, 100 ducats to you or me might have seemed like a lot more money than
> 600 ducats probably was for king Rudolph. Unless Francis Bacon was very
> knowledgeable in Botany or had a clever confidant assisting him (which I doubt)
> then I am not inclined to believe at this point that Francis scripted the encyphered
> text in the VMS.

	First of all, I put the [sic] because Toresella was talking about
*Roger Bacon*.  We'll discuss 
that further on.  

	As for the price, we've estimated that 600 gold ducats represents about
900,000 US$ in present-day 
buying power.  The Codex Vindobonensis of Dioscorides is a very good,
artistic copy of Dioscorides' work on 
herbs, and one that was made around 600 CE; thus it possessed great

> The plants are neither exceedingly mysterious nor fantastically unfathomable.
> There is evidence that they are purposefully selected; however, the artistic
> skill evident in the drawings while realistic to the purpose is not advanced
> for a botanical artist. If the VMS were penned in the second half of the XVI
> century, then I have no difficulty in accepting the presence of  botanical
> samples from the Western Hemisphere; however, I am not convinced that
> the sunflower identification is accurate. 

	It was Brumbaugh that said that the sunflower and pepper showed that
it was written after the discovery of the New World.  He thought that
the text 
was nonsense, written by Dee and Kelly to make money.  He did think that
labels were meaningful, Latin enciphered in a rudimentary cipher.  We no
accept any of this.

> Lenses may have been available for
> microscopic examination similar to what we might see through a magnifying
> glass, but microscope technology would have been in its infancy. Of course
> if Galileo were around, he might have been able to help. He studied under
> Cesalpino, a botanist and medical professor at Pisa. I started to consider
> the question of microscopic and telescopic observations in the VMS.
> Interestingly references to microcrocosm/macrocosm would be appropriate;
> however, the Andromeda nebula seems to be a bit beyond focal point of
> reality for the VMS, so my recommendation would be to look for altenative
> explanations. For example, notice the horizontal and verticle orb lines in the
> middle circle of f68r1. There are 4 spokes of the wheel which seem to rotate
> in a counterclockwise direction from the central hub superimposed on a second
> set of 4 spokes which alternate between the first set of spokes that together
> complete a set of 8 spokes. There is evidence of 8 (flower, stars, and leaves)
> occurring elsewhere in the VMS, which may eventually prove to be significant.

	It sounds like you don't know about the first major claim of
decipherment of the VMs:

Newbold, William Romaine.
<i>The Cipher of Roger Bacon,</i>
edited with foreword and notes by Roland Grubb Kent.
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press;
London, H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1928.

	Newbold was a classics scholar and also was involved in cryptanalysis
during WWI.  Newbold 
noted the Latin text on the last page of the VMs:  "michiton oladabas
multos portas" and interpreted 
it as meaning "Thou was giving me many gates".  (The correct Latin for
that is "mihi dabas multas portas".)
He took this to mean that many operations would be necessary to decipher
the VMs.  I do not remember all
the details of his claimed decipherment.  He took the cover letters
assertion that Roger Bacon wrote the
VMs at face value, and said that R. Bacon had discovered microscopes,
telescopes, etc., centuries before
his time, and thus could see such things as spiral nebulae and ovae.  

Manly, John M.
``Roger Bacon and the Voynich Manuscript.''
<i>Speculum</i> <b>6</b> (July 1931): 345-91.
[Refutes Newbold.]

refuted him.  The whole affair gave study of the VMs a bad name.

> >     "Personally I think that the person who drew and wrote this herbal
> > was profoundly impressed by the exhibition of some charlatan at the
> > market place and thought that he had discovered the secret of the
> > world; a secret to entrust to a language and a cryptic script such as
> > is often found in certain forms of insanity [47].
> Whether or not the individual who produced the VMS was insane
> has not been determined. My premise for examination of the VMS
> is that the author was not insane. In fact, I would say that this individual
> was very knowledgeable and highly educated with an inclination to
> admire the accomplishments found in a Renaissance man. Children often
> aspire to heros and it may well be that our scientist fell victim at an early age
> to the fanciful renditions of a market place charlatan promising miraculous
> cures and immortality to those who would imbibe of his magical elixir acquired
> from the fountain of youth in a far off oasis from beyond the horizon in a
> place known as Shangri-la.

	I think that the sanity of the VMs' author(s) is open.  Paranoid 
schizophrenics can appear normal on the surface but have elaborate

> Each of us who examines the VMS will latch on to our thread in the cave
> as a guide to help us find our way back to the beginning. Some will say they
> see the light only to find more darkness beyond. Others will find the thread
> broken. Some may be lucky enough to discover real gems in their search
> for the truth. My premise is that the author of the VMS was an aspiring
> natural scientist, well educated during the Medieval/Renaissance period,
> probably coming from northern Italy, who based his observations on real
> botanical samples with an interest in the true facts that his scientific discoveries
> might reveal. He used the tools available to him at the time, embellishing and
> bolstering his considerations of nature with the related Astrology, Cosmology,
> Pharmacology, and experimentation (Alchemy?) popular at the time. He too
> would have admired the great teachers in botany and medicine prior to his era.
> In addition, the author of the VMS may draw from the culture and customs of
> his homeland (ladies, costumes, castles, mythology, animals, etc.). What matter
> is it if our progenitor were sane, insane, a quack, charlatan, or a genius? The
> enigma for us, it seems, is to solve the puzzle and find the truth of what is contained
> within the manuscript and possibly who wrote it, including when and where it might
> have been written. The game is afoot and we are its players.

	I agree.

> >
> > ---------------------------------------------------
> >
> >     NOTES:
> >
> >     "45.  Currently kept in the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale
> > University (Conn.), USA, as MS 408.
> >
> >     "46.  The best exposition of the research on the Voynich codex is
> > in M. E. D'Imperio, *The Voynich Manuscript.  An elegant enigma,
> > Laguna Hills (Ca.) 1976.  A good summary, also easily available in
> > Italy, may be found in D. Kahn, *The Codebreakers.*  There also exists
> > an Internet site dedicated to this issue on which about forty students
> > from all over the world communicate their discoveries.

	AFAIK, this is the first time that the Voynich list appeared in the

> >
> >     "47.  The phenomenon of invented languages is very widespread and
> > represents a fundamental aspect of some mental pathologies.  For an
> > approach to the problem see: S. ARIETE, *Creativita`. La Sintesi
> > magica*, Roma 1986.  A. BAUSANI, *Le Lingue inventate. Linguaggi
> > artificiali -linguaggi segreti- linguaggi universali*, Roma, 1974.
> > And the recent B. BUONARROTI & P. ALBANI, *Aga Mage'ra Difura.
> > Dizionario delle lingue immaginarie*, Bologna 1994."

	I have looked at Arieti's book (available in English translation).  He
discusses a simple schizophrenic who had a private language, but it was
only a 
few words.  

	Let me appeal, once again, for someone who knows what BAUSANI and 
BUONARROTI & ALBANI say to come forward and tell us about it!!!  
I think Jim R. mentioned having a German translation of BAUSANI.  

> >
> > Here is a summary of what Toresella says about alchemical herbals
> > in his paper:
> >
> >     Toresella, Sergio. ``Gli erbari degli alchimisti. [Alchemical
> > herbals.]'' In Arte farmaceutica e piante medicinali -- erbari, vasi,
> > strumenti e testi dalle raccolte liguri [Pharmaceutical art and
> > medicinal plants -- herbals, jars, instruments and texts of the
> > Ligurian collections], Liana Saginati, ed. Pisa: Pacini Editore, 1996,
> > pp.31-70. [Profusely illustrated. Fits the VMS into an ``alchemical
> > herbal'' tradition.]
> >
> >     1)  "Alchemical herbals" is really a misnomer, since these herbals
> > contain little or no alchemical imagery.  A Bolognese naturalist,
> > Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605) collected some of these herbals and
> > labeled them "plants of the alchemists".  Toresella calls these
> > "alchemical herbals" for lack of anything better.  (44-7)
> >
> "Alchemical herbals" in the sense that they were plants collected for
> the purpose of scientific study and expeimenation seems reasonable,
> but classifying the VMS plants as "plants of the alchemists" may not
> be appropriate because it is too restrictive. Some of the plants may
> be found in any alchemist's collection of plants; however, others may be
> more appropriately classified for their medicinal application and some
> might also be found in recipes for a healthy diet.

>  Have you ever tried to memorize verbatum more than a single
> page of text? I have and believe me you will probably be very much
> more knowledgeable about what you are trying to learn orally than if
> you were to rely solely on notes taken in a classroom. 

	Before the invention of printing, and even after, all scholars had to
memorize vast amounts of text, for books were far from being available
as they are now.  
Thus they developed memory techniques extensively.  
*The Discoverers* by Daniel Boorstein has a good discussion of this.  I
once took the Dale
Carnegie course and learned some memory techniques.  

	I've read that Alexander Solzhenitsyn thought out his books and
remembered them
as ballads while he was imprisoned.  One of his published works is
*Prussian Nights*.  
This is a ballad about the Russian payback for WWII in East Prussia.  
Solzhenitsyn himself forced a girl to sleep with him.  

	However, I don't think that the scholars were dramatically better than
those of today because 
of this.   Indeed, our scholars have vast amounts of information
available, of which the scholars of old could
not even dream.