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RE: Macer Floridus at the British Library...
I think I have copies of three of these. The
herbals I was most interested in I now have copies
of - Bancke's Herbal and A New Herbal. Both are
translations of Macer, and in the New Herbal there
are roots of what are called "running plants" (I
take it those that shoot off from running roots)
that resemble those in the voynich, as well as a
star shaped flower akin to a drawing in the
Voynich. A few other similarities.
My consideration is that these were probably drawn
from a manuscript copy, just as most translations
from that time were. The plants in the New herbal
don't seem to match those of the latin version in
style, so I assume they're from a manuscript.
There are only a few similarities to Voynich
plants, but I'm more or less taking in the general
artistic influence in my consideration.
As to variations of names of plants, one of the
most descriptive I've ran into is one called "two
faces in a head". There's also that little lizard
in the VMS sucking on a plant, possibly akin to
the names "dragon's dew" or "dragon's milk", a
kind of thistle? Early English names were far
more colorful than the traditional languages.
One thing your list does show is that there was a
wide variety of local names for things, depending
on the region, especially throughout England. I
can't find any early plant names in Welsh, aside
from a book of the names of biblical plants.
These names are hardly recognizable in English.
From: Nick Pelling
Sent: Tuesday, February 12, 2002 5:18 PM
Subject: Macer Floridus at the British Library...
The British Library turned out to have 4 copies of
Macer Floridus, and I
spent an hour in this afternoon trying to compare
Their copies are divided into two pairs, each
corresponding to one
particular edition. However, the differences
between editions were
extremely narrow - little more than "9" for "-us",
"q-(bar)" for "que" etc.
The woodcuts appeared identical, differing only
the amount of ink applied
to them. :-)
As far as alternative names for plants goes, one
copy (shelfmark I.A.38486)
had a large number of annotations (though I don't
know when they date
from). For example, the first plant (artemisia)
had the following
alternative names (I may well have read some of
them incorrectly, but it
wasn't for lack of trying):-
bright in boure
calida & fitta mq (?)
Given that this writing was fairly hard to read, I
simply didn't have the
time to do the same for the other 76. :-(
The text is formal and metric throughout, with
comments beside as a kind of
shortcut to the remedies in the text - for
example, "de oculis", "de
menstruae", etc. However, if this had been used as
the basis for the VMS, I
would expect to see more symmetry on the page than
As it is, the only page in the VMS that looks at
all like poetry is f81r
(thanks to Philip Neal who pointed this out over
lunch the other day).
The diagrams have nothing in common with the VMS
that I could see - they're
nicely conceived (and nicely executed) woodcuts,
but you'd have to work
extraordinarily hard to make a case for any
For example, the illustration for the flowering
part of henbane (which is
helpfully identified in the marginalia of one copy
as "henban") is
gratifyingly similar in topology to the one Dana
identified in the VMS, but
not in any other respect that I could see (like
approach, etc). :-/
Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....