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Looking at Baer again, but in a New Way

Posted: Mon May 25, 2020 8:42 am
by proto57
In my blog post, "The Voynich in 1905?", I had first noted the possibility (which I discovered in the letters of Anne Nill) that the Voynich actually was seen in the offices of the Frankfurt bookseller Joseph Baer, between 1905 and 1910.

I later found a sort of "retraction" by Charles Singer, which reads like an apology for impugning the name of Wilfrid, and also Ethel's second-hand acceptance of that retraction (see 2013 update at the top of the post.

Notwithstanding that, I still do wonder at Singer's retraction. He wrote,
"From what you tell me, it is obvious that the MS that I remember seeing in Germany many years ago could not have been that of Mr. Voynich."
"From what you tell me..."? And then he goes on to realize that the implications of actually seeing the Voynich, at least two years before Mr. Voynich claimed to have found/bought it, would be a smear on his, Voynich's, integrity:
"I have heard the highest reports of his integrity as a man and as a dealer from those who knew him well, and I should be very sorry to be thought to reflect on his memory in anything whatever."
Although in 2013, when I updated this blog post I felt this was the end of the matter, I've had nagging doubts since then. I think it possible that Singer saw nothing to lose in saying this, as his statements only referred to a series of lectures, long past, and would not reflect on anything of his in print. So a retraction/apology to Mrs. Voynich, and hugely respected, well known and elderly woman, would only be a win/win for him and everyone concerned. What else would he do, argue with her? "Mrs. Voynich, your husband was a damned liar, I saw the Bacon in 1908...". Of course not. And he does not seem entirely convinced, nor is it a complete retraction, with the "From what you tell me...". Sort of like, "Who am I do believe, you or my damned eyes?".

In any case, I intend to update the update as some point, at the blog, to reflect these thoughts. But this is not entirely about that, it actually relates to a mention I found when re-reading another, 1930 letter, from Anne Nill to Herbert Garland yesterday. And this mention reminded me of the other "Baer incident", noted above:
Nill_Garland_Baer_Frankfurt_snippet_1930.jpg (111.21 KiB) Viewed 203 times
From this, it seems that (another?) forgery passed through the hands of the Voynich booksellers, and that this work was purchased for £107 from Joseph Baer. And then, Voynich sold it to one "Mr. Jones", which Nill does not want to reveal, and then only later did the Frankfurt Library purchase it (I'm a bit in the dark how the Library knew it came from Baer, but didn't know who it was they bought it from... i.e., they had to ask Baer for the interim provenance).

And it looks like Baer threw the Voynich's under the bus here*, and this has really ticked off poor Ms. Nill, who now finds herself in the middle, being told they owe the Library $1,275, while Baer will get off Scott Free. But this aspect is also not the point of this post, although I intend on treating it separately. What is of interest is that we now have Baer involved in two of Voynich's works: The Voynich, if Singer did actually see it at Baer's between about 1905 and 1910; and an unknown forged book that Baer bought, which passed through several hands until the Frankfurt Library got caught with that hot potato.

My point is this: When I thought of all the above, it made me wonder at an old question of mine: What if the Voynich Manuscript was not first at Baer's because Wilfrid wanted his opinion of it, but because Joseph Baer himself was the origin of it?


* of course Anne was understandably ready to through the Frankfurt Library, and the Librarian who bought the dog, and Mr. Baer under the bus she was extricating herself from under... all while suggesting she would avoid any impropriety by lying to the Frankfurt Library about her knowledge of the provenance of the thing!

Re: Looking at Baer again, but in a New Way

Posted: Mon May 25, 2020 9:23 am
by proto57
Not that is matters to this now 90 year old question, but I would have suggested to Ms. Nill that when she finds out what they owed Baer (for the first part of the letter is requesting that Garland help her understand some debt to Baer, by the Voynichs), that she simply subtract the £107 they had paid for this unknown, bad work. Whether or not she then pays (paid?) the Frankfurt Library "back" would be irrelevant, as the account with Baer would be corrected.

BTW, I am trying to track down this "Frankfurt Forgery". This should be very possible to do, with some digging. I'm very interested to see the nature of it, and how it is described, today. Perhaps it is even still in a Frankfurt collection.