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Re: VMs: [LONG] Voynich & semiotics (early notes)

Hi Gabriele,

At 18:15 08/09/2003 +0200, Gabriele Ferri wrote:
Apart from a linguistic and historical point of view, the VMS is highly
interesting from a semiotic point of view.

I think that - depending on your view of semiotics - the VMs is either the most interesting artefact imaginable (because it seems to undermine all the foundational aspects of the discipline), or the least interesting artefact imaginable (for the same reasons). :-)

* Without a reading, you can't have a preferred reading
* Without a reading, you can't really make a meaningful assessment of user power
* Without a known social milieu, you have no cultural context to compare with
* Without a text, you can't have intertextuality
* etc

We can't even be completely sure about the role of *spaces* in the text, so one might argue we have so far managed to build up only a very poorly-developed sense of background & ground. :-o

All the same, I think that - as you alluded to - a rather more practical research angle would be to look at the semiotics of the various VMs hypotheses. These at least have a cultural milieu, text, encoding, etc. :-)

One of my professors is Umberto Eco and, during a course about intersemiotic
translation and medioeval semiotics, I told him about the VMS. He's quite
interested in this subject and I agreed to write a short term-paper about
the main different decoding hypoteses that have been presented on this list.

If the VMs hits our predicted date-band (1450-1600), then it would fall somewhat outside of Professor Eco's medieval research time-frame: but all the same, given the obvious challenges to semiotics the VMs poses and its likely connections with Northern Italy, it does seem quite strange (well, to me, at least) that he appears not to have written a single word on the subject. :-o

It could also happen that (but it is really really not sure, just possible):
- professor Eco himself could have a look at the VMS and share with us his

One of my (fairly recent, fairly wild) hypotheses is that the VMs plaintexts were buried in a lead box in the foundations of Sartirana castle in 1463 - or perhaps (less likely, but still possible) in a small bricked-in secret library in the same location. This obviously shares more than a passing resemblance to the central plot device behind Eco's "The Name of the Rose", but you really never know (life & art are like that). :-)

- if Eco gets interested, he could sign for me a request for better images
at Beinecke Library (since I'd like to follow, among different others ideas,
a visual semiotic analysis of the VMS)

Do you have a copy of all the no-ip VMS JPEGs? Though only black-and-white, these may well be better than you're expecting (and may well be as good as you need).

Now, I'd like to ask a few questions:

By answering first, I can cherry-pick the easy ones before anyone else dives in... :-)

a) is there any other list members who has some knowledge about semiotics,
especially about Eco's interpretativist approach and the structuralist
visual analysis (Greimas, Fontanille, Floch...).

Well... I guess that's what we're hoping for from you. :-)

e) to Steve Ekwall or others: I don't understand the "folding-key theory".
Is it dealing with steganography? some king of "visual encoding", opposed to
logical/mathematical encoding?

Steve's "folding key" theory is simply this:-
* that there are eight gallows characters (including all the <c_h> strikethrough forms)
* that a gallows character indicates that you should switch to (one of eight) code tables
* that a <ch> character denotes a "cut" (a contraction, truncation or abbreviation)
* that you "flip" the code table at each <ch> (ie between <f>-table to <cfh>-table, etc)
* that "daiin" means something like "splice the last two words together"

This amounts to a complex kind of 15th Century ciphered shorthand, more strongly structured than a 16th Century polyalphabetic cipher would be. But it *is* perfectly logical and mathematical, even if Steve has had difficulty trying to express these ideas cryptographically on-list. :-o

f) has anyone investigated if there's any connection between the VMS and

Jorge Aveleira & I debated this on-list fairly recently - he's convinced that the 9-rosette page is a kind of prototype for later graphical depictions of the Tree of Life (forgive my over-brief summary), while I'm convinced that both (a) no Kabbalists would have miscounted the number of sephiroth as 9 rather than 10, and (b) the "castle" rosette represents Milan circa 1460 (though in a slightly distorted way), based on the close examination I've made of Quattrocento circular maps of Milan... but that's another story entirely. :-)

FWIW, here are some selected highlights from the thread:-

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

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