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Re: VMs: Viola tricolor
> Actually I meant precisely what the phrase means. We really don't know
> what the VMS is, why, where, how, who, when....???? and we do know that
> some of the images are reminiscent of things we do know, but not good
> representations of those things. So, to explain these ignorances on the
> basis of conjectured possibilities like steganographic images is indeed
> to explain the unknown on the basis of the still more unknown.
> Mysterianism, snake oil and pixie dust are all not far behind. :-)
Hi William, don't think we've been introduced. I seem to share Nick's
belief that the images are partially steganographic, but from a different
angle. I think some of the early plant drawings focused on "numbers of
things", leaves, petals, etc., as a mnemonic device - rather than accuracy
in representation, and that the actual plant depiction is only vaguely
similar to the real thing, but enough so that the author could identify it..
Heck, f1v even has a "number" written in one of the leaves, something the
author didn't make the mistake of repeating! Nevertheless, your points are
valid here. BTW, snake oil I've seen in alchemical herbals, but pixie dust?
What's the Latin for that? :-)
> However, the quality as represenations is so poor (this we can assert)
> that even the originator might get confused. The images are
> unrecognisable - so perhaps that is what they are meant to be? Not
> because they are crafted contortions with hidden meaning but simply
> because the are meaningless. So, if that works, then the purpose must
> be to be suggestive of meaning, and of possibly privileged knowledge,
> but actually to be content free.
> Even to conclude the VMS is a hoax is not to understand it. THAT is a
> challenge (how done, why, where, who, when...... ???).
> But take care - I'm not saying it IS a hoax, merely that that is the
> most probable. .....
The VMS is most probably a hoax based on what? Coming to such a conclusion
would require an exhaustive study of the problem, and it is rare that one
expends such effort on the VMS and does not walk away convinced that the VMS
was constructed as an intelligent medium for the recording of specific
knowledge. There is a consistency of context to be viewed prima facie -
portions of plants depicted in the herbal section are also depicted in the
pharma section, as an example. Simply because the plants are not
recognizable to us does not mean these depictions had no value to the
author, and to assert such a conclusion would require more hard evidence
than anyone to date has been willing to release to this list.
> To my mind the least difficult ( :-) ) place to start
> to try to find meanings might be the labels - isolated 'words' for
> images. A compilation of all possible names (various languages) for
> each of all the possible interpretations of the labelled items would be
> a sensible way to start to look for meanings in the text, if there are
> any. Why? simply because this exploits what little we think we might
> know of meanings (possible identifications of plants).
> So, to get specific, take f9v and the 'viola' and construct a list of
> all names for such a plant and its relatives in various parts of Europe.
> Strictly speaking viola tricolor is not southern european in
> distribution - but one could include some names.... but this is only
> useful if somewhere in VMS there is a label for such a plant (I'm not
> sure there is for that particular plant - but you get the idea). Any
> language you think is likely then get the name in that language, formal
> names, familiar names, etc.
> Surely someone did all this already?
Funny, I was saying the same thing to someone privately a few days ago.
That would be the same person who likes to poke fun at my written
vernacular, which occasionally contains such phrases as "there y' go"! :-)
Shucks ma'am, I cain't talk any different 'n I know!
As I was saying to my dear colleague Nick, there is only one weakness in the
VMS text, and that is in the pharma section, since no certain meaning can be
derived from the astrological diagrams. Assigning words to labels is no new
idea, and as you've demonstrated it is the most logical of approaches that
naturally occurs to someone. It was the basis of Feely's approach, of
Strong's approach, D'Imperio spent much time on the labels, and I think even
Brumbaugh naturally attacked the labels first.
Most people make a list of labels, notice that they usually start with "o"
and get a little miffed at this statistic. How can every word used start
with the same letter? It shouldn't matter if every label started with smily
clown faces as long as you're convinced they contain information. Logic
dictates that the labels are the only real weakness in the VMS text, the
most readily exploitable avenue of attack, and the labels in the pharma
section present the only viable avenue for such an attack, since this
section is the only one in the VMS that offers some certainty as to the
identification of the labels and their association with adjacent labels..
The fact that portions of plants from the herbal section also exist in the
pharma section demonstrates continuity of thought in proper context, since
individual ingredients are also depicted as part of remedies or
"antidotaries" later on. In addition to making a list of plant names in
varying languages, it is also valuable to compare the labels next to the few
recurring plants and locate words of the same length in the first two lines
of text in the corresponding herbal folio, since this is where the plant
name is most likely to occur.
Of course, following this line of thinking assumes much that would not be
readily assumed by someone who considers "hoax" as the most probable of
explanations, doesn't it? The approach you suggest here assumes that the
plant drawings are actually representative of specific plants, within the
latitude of the artist's interpretation, and therefore that the drawings of
plants convey meaning to the artist, something you argue against. This
approach assumes that the text itself reflects a subject matter in keeping
with the drawings, an assumption that relies on the previous assumption that
the plant drawings are representative of actual plants. These minimal
assumptions must be in place in order to contextually connect the pharma
with the herbal. Making such connections goes against the idea that the VMS
is a collection of separate leaves bound in one volume, an idea that is
visually refuted by the reproduction of sections of plants in the pharma, in
my view. Evidence is sparse, but enough exists to bring into question
suggestions of disparate authors and sources.
A priori - the best approach in my mind is a positive one, something that
involves first sitting down and listing everything you know positively about
the manuscript. (I may have actually suggested this once or 15 times in the
past). The art of intelligence is not to take in the whole and attempt an
understanding, rather to gather the slightest little bits of information and
gradually build a picture, piece by piece. This may appear to be a childish
approach, but make a list of the most obvious of facts, the simpler the
better - "VMS contains apparent text" - "text is written left to right" -
"text contains spaces" - "text contains unequal characters between spaces" -
"text contains unequal groupings in each line" - "text contains unequal
lines" - "text is divided into "paragraph" structures" - "text tends to be
justified", etc. You'll discover you know a lot more about this mansucript
than you think you do, and that you have the answer to many of your own
Enunciating self-evident propositions is the first step in a priori
reasoning. Participants in this list tend to argue a posteriori from their
own base of observation without first establishing a solid a priori
foundation contemporary to the context of the VMS. Understandable, but
inappropriate IMHO. Hypotheses must account for the bulk of a priori
observation and deductive reasoning resulting from such observation. When
these standards are not met, full moons and red rasberries become the
appropriate intellectual response. :-)
Seriously, there is great value in the basic approach of delineating
individually self-evident indivisibles, in both the text and illustrations.
"VMS contains apparent text" - might appear to be something that need not be
spoken, but it is important. "Apparent" text implies "apparent" literacy on
the part of the creator of the manuscript. In 15th/16th century terms, this
narrows the population dramatically, addressing matters of education, social
status, etc. "Text is written left to right" - immediately we're in the
predominantly Catholic western world, outside the realm of -say- Hebrew,
Arabic or Manchurian influence. "Text contains spaces" - a possible
indication of word structure. "Text contains unequal characters between
spaces" - another possible indication of word structure. "text contains
unequal groupings in each line" - "text contains unequal lines" - "text is
divided into "paragraph" structures". Taken together these observations
point to sentence structure, a necessary component in the communication of
connected thought, as well as paragraph structure, a component necessary in
the division of connected thought, one from the other. "Text tends to be
justified" - goes directly to format of documents contemporary to the VMS.
These are all observations we tend to take for granted, but then and again a
discussion is engaged where one or more of these most basic observations
tends to be ignored. The list can be complemented and even magnified by
specific algorithmic analytical analyses performed by Rene and others, the
results of which become a priori in nature - self-evident and indivisible
characteristics of the VMS that must be explained by any a posteriori
proclamation, hypothesis or theory, including the "hoax" hypothesis.
BTW, an a priori approach to the text itself goes a long way in eliminating
such ideas as "verbose cipher", "cipher pairs", etc. These ideas rely on
concepts of text compression or expansion, and spaces being arbitrary, where
the evidence, both a priori and mathematical, suggests that the spaces are
more often than not in their proper place and the text is consistent and of
Anyone who wishes to follow through on such an a priori list has my support,
and even portions of my own list they can use to augment their own
observations. It's a childish exercise, listing all the individually
indivisibles, but then again, none of us has the benefit of 15th/16th
century education, so we are as children to the contemporary knowledge
required to compose the VMS.
As always, I'm happy to be of little or no help at all, and if ever I can be
of any less help or assistance, please don't hesitate to contact Nick.
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