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VMs: Challenges / avenues...

Hi Luis (& everyone)

> But when I see that I've been
> re-inventing the wheel then clearly I am wasting our time. This is slightly
> frustrating and if possible I would like to avoid this. So "directions" are
> welcome ...

I interpret this as a call for 'old-timers' to provide a revised set of
suggested threads to be pursued  (something like D'Imperio's Avenues), some
kind of guideline for efforts that could be carried out by 'newbies' or
anyone interested. Solid coordination is always welcomed by volunteers.

A special message on 'Avenues' from each one of those list members would
probably be appreciated by all - leadership is in demand.

A good challenge! :-)

FYI, here are the avenues I'm currently exploring:
(1) Italian baths & spas - especially the connection with Ludovico Sforza
(2) Filarete - there are some fascinating parallels and connections here
(3) Rocca Sforzesca - discussions with the Museum in Imola continue!
(4) Connections between the VMS and Caterina Sforza's "Experimenti"
(5) The code itself - I suspect I ~may~ have identified three of the constituent codes/ciphers, so am devising a good statistical test to determine the degree to which the VMS agrees with me. :-)

Here are some other avenues that I think might be well worth pursuing:

(1) dating the VMS' alphabet purely from the letter shapes.
Here, I'm thinking in particular about the ligatured "4o" and the EVA m (the Capricorn glyph). The 4o pair was certainly in use in 1450 (in Tristan Sforza's private cipher), but where else did it appear? Did it have a specific meaning in a specific trade at that time? For example, was it used by incunabula makers, or by alchemists?

Also: when did the "EVA m" glyph come into common use as meaning "Capricorn"? My guess is round about 1550 or later, but it would be worth checking Capelli and Gessman's ("Die Geheimsymbole...") or other similar sources etc.

My hunch is that this date would form an *upper bound* on the VMS' dating - its author seems to have worked extremely hard to avoid using well-known symbols of the day, so would probably have avoided Capricorn as much as (say) Libra or Sagittarius.

(2) tracking down inverse spirals in Arabic Dioscorides to match with f56r
Like Stan Tenen, I think this page may well have been copied from elsewhere - it might well be interesting to see if there are specific parallels (though my guess is that this might be hard to achieve).

(3) trying to build a copy of the VMS but with all the bifolios in their correct order
I recently suggested (email me for a copy of the current draft!) that the bifolios were quite possibly originally in a different order (octernion, rather than quaternion), where the contents of each herbal quire would be indicated by a pair motif on the front page. This theory could probably be proved or disproved by examining the original binding stations.

I think it might be extremely revealing to try to reconstruct the VMS in its original state, especially the balneological section (where we know for certain that the bifolios ended up in the wrong order). What pages would end up next to each other? Are there other connections between pages we've missed to date?

(4) Constructing a proposal to the Beinecke for a proper physical analysis prior to conservation
I think this is absolutely the most important immediate avenue, and would welcome any/all suggestions for different tests that might/could/should be carried out. For example:-
Ink analysis (spectroscopy, etc)
Main text
Quire numbering
Zodiac / month name
michiton oladabas etc
Paint analysis
Separate colours
Heavy overpainting (was that a separate process?)
Binding station analysis
When was it last bound?
Had it been bound before that? If so, how?
To what degree do these support my octernion ordering theory?
Material analysis
Trapped pollen analysis
What date range can we infer?
Can we localise any of the materials used to a country or region?

The ink spectroscopic tests often only need picograms of material for analysis, so shouldn't cause any significant damage to the manuscript. :-)

Anyone here with experience of carrying out (or specifying, or pricing, or performing inferences from) these kinds of tests, please emerge from the shadows and email me NOW! :-)

Note that I've had a similar list (Physical Evidence) on my "challenges" page for a little while now:-
http://www.nickpelling.pwp.blueyonder.co.uk/voynich/challenges.htm [*]

Well... that's a start, anyway.

Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....

[*] Ooops - realised that I *still* haven't updated the new VMS mailing list link on that page. :-(