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Re: Prague

Stolfi wrote:

> As Rene mentioned, [...]

... in a message not seen by most of you...

> [...] I just got back from the Czech Republic. It was a
> great experience, thanks mostly to the people who were our guides and
> advisors --- Marcela and Kamil, Denisa, Michal Pober and Lubos Antonin.
> In fact, everybody there was extremely friendly and helpful.

I'll second that!

> Rene actually led the whole expedition; I was mostly silent watcher,
> if not a dead weight. (I guess my greatest contribution was to provide
> an excuse for Rene and Marcela to go to Prague.)

That last bit could be misunderstood in various ways :-) but Jorge
is right in one sense: he was certainly the catalyst for the whole event.
I wouldn't have said that he was either silent or a dead weight 
though :-)

> However I did help Rene search Schmidl's volumes at the Clementinum,
> and I was lucky to find the original (latin) version of Jacobus
> biography. The entry in Otto's encyclopaedia appears to be simply a
> literal translation of that text. I copied it by hand, and I hope to
> post it tomorrow. The only new information which I could notice was a
> reference to the "Clementinum Archives" as the primary source.

The Clementinum, until 1773 the Jesuit University of Prague,
now houses the Czech National Library. We did spend some time there,
had a fascinating session in the library of the National Museum,
and saw the magnificent library of the Strahov monastery (in
a more touristic fashion). Oh yes, the 'dodo'. It didn't look all
that much like the other dodo's I've seen :-) In fact, it didn't look
like anything I've ever seen before. We suspect that there
is more tradition than fact behind that item.

But of course we spent most of our time enjoying the city, always
preserving, where possible, a link to our heroes: the Prague
Castle, Rudolph's grave, the alchemists' laboratories (in the tower,
not the 'gold-alley'), Rudolph's beer brand :-) and we had a meal
at the location where Dee and Kelly used to live (house of Hajek).

> I suppose Rene will soon give a general report of our investigations,
> especially about what we learned from Lubos, Michal, and Denisa. As
> far as I can tell, we didn't discover anything new about the Voynich
> per se, but we got some additional references that need to be checked
> out, a better idea of what happened to Rudolf's library, and---most
> importantly---we now know where one should start looking for data of
> that period in Prague.

There are three or four main questions to which the answers, if they
exist, lie most probably in Prague.
1) What happened with Marci's belongings after his death. (These should
   include also some of Baresch' belongings)
2) Who the hell was Georg Baresch
3) Is there any record of Rudolph's expenditures that could identify
   the recipient of the 600 ducats
4) Is there any positive evidence showing that Dee or Kelly at any
   time owned or handled the MS (in addition to the circumstantial
   or controversial evidence we already have)

We came away from the meeting with Lubos Antonin with the clear 
message that, in the context of various recent exhibitions, no record
related with Rudolph or Dee will have been overlooked. There is 
sufficient interest in the Voynich MS in Prague that the connection
would have been made. On the other hand, it became clear that very
few people know what the MS actually looks like. At least that was
true for the people we met. So for question (3) above, the answer
really is most likely to be no.
Question (4) really up when we learned that there is far more known
about Kelly than I personally realised. In the literature (which includes
the web) much more attention is spent to Dee than to Kelly. Everyone
knows Dee's son Arthur, but of Kelly's step-daughter I hadn't heard
until in Prague.
Michal Pober indicated that Kelly had some inordinate capabilities, 
such as spontaneously generating strings of text which could be
read backwards. I'm really interested in finding the source for
the above (presumably the Czech historian Svitak). Then there's
the Faust house, a building once owned by Kelly, which supposedly
has some old pharmaceutical paintings....

Very important is also, IHMO, that we found some people in the
Czech republic who are really interested in some of the above
questions too, so even if we didn't really make any major discovery,
there is still hope that something useful (in terms of Voynichology)
will come off this visit.

A highly recommended city, but try to avoid the busy season!

Cheers, Rene