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VMs: further ramblings [was: VMS lookalikes]

Spooling chucker is ded, so please bear with me and my dyslexia - to which
the terror of typing errors has been added !

Barbara Blithers;

Hi Petr, Robert, nice to make your aquaintance ;-)

My post was talking specificaly about reading too much into similar letter
forms - nothing else.

Indeed my own exploration of medeival maps produced surprising results,
particularly the scheamatic representation of the planet called a T-O map
(see centre of f68v3; the so-called "galaxy page") from which we learn that
the map pages are probably oriented with West uppermost, and as T-O maps
fell out of relevence and usage in the 1400s, that the VMS probably predates
that time. It also provides definite proper nouns; the words "europe" and
"africa" are identified, and on that page "asia", "wind", and the cardinal
directions (North, South, East, and West) are in there somewhere too.

But don't get too exited. Until after it is understood how the writing
system works, and what language it is in, this data is but a curiousity, and
not the "crib" it first seems to be. The labels seem to follow a different
set of rules from the main text anyway.

Gabriel, Rene, Anthony, and Dennis, were kept appraised of this research
while I was off list and their encouragement and help was invaluable; I
thank you again kind sirs <curtsey: arthritis in knees cuts in: falls flat
on face>.

So yes, looking at mss which we think may have been from the same era, where
we find similarites to the vms, may help to fix our image of it in time and
space a bit better, particularly to the mindset of the author(s).

We learn things from examining the past. For example; pagination (page
numbering) was invented by Venician printers in the early 1500s. A simple
idea, but one never used before: ever! So the pagination, added in a
seemingly different hand, could not have been done before the 1500s
therefore the vms existed before that time as the original authors
apparently did not paginate. Likewise the additions of constelation names in
medieval black-letter - an ecclesiastical script believed to cram more words
into the available space (ideal for places where there isn't much room) -
and popular even for lay doucment hand between the 1100s and 1300s all over
Europe, although it became the style of choice in Germany and persisted in
printing right up to the 1940s. IIRC these additions have been identified as
medieval French.

One thing has struck me is that early medieval intelectuals prefered
circular scheamatics of things rather than representational illustrations -
I've seen everything from the anatomy of the human body to the counties of
England represented as circular scheamatics - and the vms abounds with
"circular" scheamatics. There are strong resemblances to moon rotas, wind
rotas, and star rotas - again all from the early medieval period.

The so-called "maps" fold out is a good example. There's a T-O map in the
corner and the lines seem to suggest that the other "rosettes" flow from the
area of the T-O map that is Europe: This suggests to me that each rosette
represents a different aspect of Europe, and as these circular scheamatics
could represent almost anything, they may well have a spiritual rather than
geographical interpretation.

I'm fairly confident that the vms is a medieval doctor's journal; form the
early medieveal period when a doctor diagnosed illness from a sample of the
patients urine and casting their horoscope - often no physical examination
was made at all. Which in turn explains the anatomical errors of the nymphs,
offers a possability for all the "water" pages (a how to examine urine
section) the astrological pages (for consulting to determine diagnosis and
prognosis) and the herbal and recipies sections (medications and treatment

Oh I know the "humanist hand argument" and the "hairstlyes argument", and it
seems from Robert's posts an "astronomical argument" too.  These I want to
look into more deeply, but I'm sceptical of the first because "humanist
hand" was a recreation of a style that was 800 years old when the humanists
revived it -and the salient points of convergence with voynichese aply
equally to the elder original (the argument would be more cogent if the vms
was in Book Hand, but it isn't: it's in Document Hand - there's no modern
equivalents for these terms but the closest modern comparison would be
between Calligraphy and Handwriting, but not quite), and on the other
arguments it seems to me to be somewhat contradictory that an artist who
couldn't even get basic human anatomy right, whos skill could at kindest be
called a characturist, somehow was blessed with the ability to produce
representational exactitude when it came to hairstyles - or star possitions
for that matter. So, IMO so far there's no convincing argument the vms was
composed after the 1400s.

The Merlons are another matter. It is unlikley (but not impossible) the
illustrator "invented" these features. (s)he was probably exposed to them,
somewhere and somewhen. My info so far is these features are of "moorish"
origin, and I've found a medieval fortifications expert who should be able
to tell me when and where the feature first appeared, where it was
introduced to europe, and which european castles have this feature (and the
dates of their construction).

I don't think the castle with the merlons is a specific castle, like all
untrained caracturists the vms illustrator (as evidenced by the  nymphs)
made each example of something appear individual, so it's quite likely that
the illustrator needed to place a castle at that point and added the
dovetail merlons only to individualise it. However, the merlon data, once
obtained, will give us a series of locations and timeframes within which the
illustrator could have been exposed to this archetectural feature. I see
this as important for many reasons, not the least of which is several
european languages died out in the medieval period (eg; Occitan) and during
the 100 years war there were odd patois made up a mix of medieval latin,
middle french, and old english! - locations and a narrow timeframe  could
identify possible languages.

Well, that's enough about "similarities" to the vms and where they might
lead us. I've done a lot of work on the script itself but I'll leave that
for another ramble ;-)


This will refine the timeframe. At the moment the scripts features say it
could not have been produced before 800ad, and the T-O maps say it can not
have been produced after the 1400s - a 600 year time frame! The medieval
black letter additions suggest the document was in other hands sometime
after 1100 - certainly this additions could not have been made before that
date, but as black letter persisted in some areas until the middle of this
century this isn't very usefull information. That the author used French
astrological designations dosn't mean the ms was in France itself but only
that the astrologer was french trained.

I hope the merlon data will narrow this time frame considerably - and as
these merlon types spead over Europe a series of locations and time frames
where the vms could have been composed - giving us both languages and
cultures (mindsets) to work with.

I'm also pretty certain I've identified a calandar page, because the layout
is identical to early medieval calander pages - again found by scanning mss
I feel are contemporary to the vms.
However it's only one page, and four would be needed for a full year, so
which four months it represents is anyones guess - if indeed it is a
calander page! Although such a page would not have been out of place in a
medical journal as the times of the year were believed to advance/retard the
body's "humours", and so where needed by medieval doctors for diagnosis and
prognosis and the best times to administer treatments.

----- Original Message -----
From: "PK#01" <pklist01@xxxxxxxxx>
To: <vms-list@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Friday, January 30, 2004 8:51 PM
Subject: VMs: Hunting for VMS lookalikes

> Epigraphically the simmilarity of forms is irrelevent for two reasons.
> One is that given similar materials and writing methods indipendent
> creation of the same or similar letterforms is almost inevitable

> Second is even *if* (and it's a very big if) the VMS author(s)
> borrowed letterforms known to them, then it is highly unlikly (given
> that they obviously intended the contents to be
> confidential) that they would also borrow the phonemic or semantic
> symbology too

Having spent this afternoon off sitting in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek and
browsing through the "Manoscritti datati d'Ialia" specifically looking for
VMS-lookalikes I am "not amused" at your remarks :-)

I agree that similarity of letterforms doesn't mean anything, see the
similiraty between signs from the Indus Script, Linear-A and even
Rongorongo. But still I believe in the exercise of trying to find
lookalikes. We may never find another example of the VMS glyphset, but it's
reassuring to see for yourself that "1400-1500" seems a good timeframe and
"European" seems a good location guess for the VMS. Nothing works better
than looking at the evidence yourself.

I have found:

- Examples of Bright's Characterie
- Examples of Tironian notes

- A lot of references to wax tablet literature:

Nice book:
Bibliologia 12, LEs tablettes à écrire
Brepols Turnhout 1992
Elisabeth Lalou, Inventaire des tablettes médievales et presentation
Wax tablets were uses from 5th to 14th century - From Italy to Norway and
Anything was written on them: psalms, lists of saints, schoolwork, law,
administration ...
But the standard character sets were used, I found *no* reference to
A set of waxed tablets from Swinegate, York were written in "cursiva
Lübeck has a whole set of tablets, but als in normal script.

Elisabeth Lalou seems to be the authority on this subject.
A. Grassmann - Das Wachstafel Notizbuch des Mittelalterlichen Menschen, 1984
Wilhelm Wattenbach, Das Scriftwesen im Mittelalter

- Some Italian manuscripts on law, 1441 (?) that contain some VMS-like
characters (abbreviations)
- VMS like plants - used as illuminations in manuscripts, probably fantasy
- A primitively drawn naked lady (nymph) emerging from a flower (but this
one has all the pubic details neatly drawn - 1467)
- A VMS like rosette ornamentation 1460
- Numbers that look like VMS characters (9, 8, 4, 5) 1394
- Ornaments on letters that look a bit like gallows (14th century)
- Set of primitive ladies faces (Angels - Illustration to Dante)
- An astrological table where the numbers - written close together - look a
bit like gallows: 49, 48, 47, 46, 41 very much, 40 quite a bit (1438)
- A weird picture with sun and moon in trees
- A herbal with plants and snakes near their roots
- A lunar table where the Roman numerals look a bit like VMS glyphs

At 17:00 they kicked me gently out of the reading room (weekend!)  so I
didn't have a chance to scan all the material. But I'll try to do it ASAP.

My preliminary impression is that any *weird* element in the VMS can be
found in the *normal* literature. It's the combination of *all of them
together* in one book that makes the VMS so surreal. But the "building
blocks" of the VMS all fit the time and place that we have some consensus

But it's not easy to find VMS lookalikes. I guess I saw 500+ pictures and
only 15 or so had that VMS feeling.

I managed about 40cm of books this afternoon. I have some 10m to go I guess

To accomodate all the new stuff I've rearranged my website. It should be
much better organized now and everything is in one place. Please take a look
at http://uair01.xs4all.nl and tell me if the links are working.

Greetings, Petr

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