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VMs: RE: Meaning of Pisces?

Nick wrote:
> Sorry to state the obvious, but isn't there a danger
> that we're simply
> reading too much into this whole
> Pisces-as-start-of-the-year thing?
> As the astrology/volvelle section only contains Pisces
> through Sagittarius,
> I can see three reasonable alternatives about the two
> missing signs
> (Capricorn and Aquarius):
> (a) they were never included in the VMS (perhaps if it
> was some kind of
> agricultural calendar)
> (b) their missing bifolio came *before* the other
> astrological bifolios
> (c) their missing bifolio came *after* the other
> astrological bifolios

This is not as obvious as you assert, or at least not in my view.
Before the zodiac section we have a series of circular diagrams or
"star charts", each with varying theme and presumably varying
information.  In several early books on Ptolemaic astronomy, as
well as a few manuscripts in existence, this section is a
predictable lead-in to astrological volvelles, and would usually
contain information on the ten spheres, the spires of the sun, and
the motions of the moon.  Some throw in other explanatory diagrams
as well.  After a section such as this, there is usually a simple
paragraph or so that serves as instruction on the reading of
moveable volvelles, although we have no evidence that the
astrological volvelles in the VMS were intended to be
representative of astrological calculators.

The last of the "sphere" circles is on 70r2, which also contains a
small paragraph to the right, quite possibly the lead-in paragraph
to the astrological section. The verso of this folio, and
therefore no allowance can be made for missing pages - is the
Pisces volvelle, so the zodiac must necessarily begin with Pisces.

My problem with your thinking that the pages are out of order is
that the "sphere" circles are in a logical order themselves, in
keeping with manuscripts from this time period.  Before getting to
zodiacal calculators, all books first lay out the mathematical
rules and theories that pertain to the calculation of celestial
events, hence the "sphere" section.  (It is usual for the sphere
section to contain a great deal of numbers and celestial
references, such as constellations.)

That the author follows a pattern similar to other books on the
subject is an indication to me that he is well read and a trained
professional in this area.  Chances are that he read several of
the same manuscripts I'm now in the process of assimilating, and
if he is indeed post-1500 as I believe, he probably read many of
the same printed books I'm now digesting, and would deviate very
little from their layout and instructional format, though he might
add some new information of his own.

Even if we assume that there are a few quires and pages out of
place, the general structure of the VMS still holds true to the
art of physike, astrological herbalism at its height.  The
contents are logically represented by the sections, and follow the
course of teaching that existed for apothecaries and physicians:

1.  1r is a a title page, placed where it should be, at the
beginning.  It usually begins with a prayer or religious quote,
(usually in Latin or Greek), and is followed with paragraph length
descriptions of what the work contains.  (many times the
descriptions don't match the actual content, the goals of the
author being somewhat larger than the actual work itself.)

2.  The herbal section.  Note that there are no medicine jars in
this section, only what appears to be a discussion of the
properties of individual plants.  The occasional association of an
animal with a plant is straight out of Pliny, and should give some
indication of the identity of the plant in question.  This section
runs from 1v to 57r.

3.  57v opens with a volvelle that is divided in the center by
four figures and leads into a section of several pages of text,
many of which are now missing.  I believe this section to have
contained at least two more volvelles.  This section is generally
a discussion of the four seasons, the calculation of religious
dates, or if strictly for the purpose of agronomy as the VMS
contents would indicate, a set of rules for divining the seasons
and the importance of harvesting each part of a plant according to
the zodiacal influence manifested in its parts.  Apparently a few
special plants are pointed out in this discussion as examples.

4.  67r1 opens the discussion of the spheres, the influence of the
planets, and a description of the spires of the sun, the motions
of the moon, and whatever else the author considers of note in his
astrological calculations.

5.  70r2 contains a small paragraph which possibly serves as a
lead-in to the next section, the zodiac volvelles.

The contents of the later sections are somewhat confused, not in
their order, but in finding examples of books that contain these
sections.  The antidotary or pharmaceutical section is relatively
common, as well as are lengthy discussions of whatever is the
author's interest.  The section at the back is some sort of
almanac.  I have logical explanations for each of these sections,
but the evidence is not nearly as solid as the sections up to and
including the zodiac section.  Beyond that the author usually pets
his own horse, whatever that may be.

Some pages may indeed be out of order, but the sections appear to
remain intact, and new information appears to have been rarely
added in the middle of these sections.  The one thing I'm positive
of is that Pisces is where it was intended to be - the first sign
in the zodiac.