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VMs: Re: Inks and retouching
> [Glen:] Your first image of the retouched <iin>, it may have been
> retouched, and there may have been a crack in the quill.
Hardly, the two inks are too different.
Note that in a quill pen the ink flows down the slit, so there is zero
chance that one half of the nib would get a somewhat different pigment
mix than the other.
> I also can't help but notice that most of what you've got marked
> as evidence are "o"s and strokes that go down and to the right.
Perhaps the "o"s are more frequent than other letters, I haven't counted.
If thy are, it may be because "o" and "a" are especially difficult to tell
apart, so an owner who was trying to decipher the book may have felt
the need to retrace those letters more often than, say, "p"s or "d"s.
But they are hardly "most of" my examples. As for the strokes, the
glyphs are designed for pen drawing, so of course most of the strokes
go that way. Actually I see many suspicious cases where the Retoucher
follwed a plume or left-stroke only part of the way; but I have not
listed any of those because, as you say, those examples could be
attributed to quirks of ink flow.
> Beginnings of words, like those on your image f26v-1 are freshly
> dipped pen strokes, in this case an "over dipping".
But then we would expect to see the ink to get gradually lighter
along the word, as we do see in many places. However in my
"suspects" the dark letters stand in isolation (and word-initials
do not seem to be darkened more than other letters).
I grant that the evidence for retouching on f26v is not conclusive,
and for f3v it is very thin. Anyway those are the only Herbal pages I
have looked at, hopefully we can settle the question by looking at the
> What this looked like when it was freshly written would
> probably have been much more uniform.
This is true whether there was retouching or not.
It would be natural for a Retoucher -- especially one who valued the
book, or who hoped to sell it for a good price -- to try to use an ink
with roughly the same color as the original. So, it is my belief too
that the differences in ink tone we see today were not as visible when
the Retoucher(s) had just finished his job.
> In your image f73r-1 [...] Reaching up to add a couple strokes to
> the breasts while writing the words may be a bit Freudian, but
> rather natural I would think
Indeed. However, if you look closely at label "okeos" on that
image, you can see bits of the "medium brown" ink sticking out in
several places - in the loop and in the right foot of the "k", on the
hollow of the first "o" (which apparently was a nice round "o"
originally, but was broadened by the Retoucher), and on the final "s"
(which had a nicely curved plume, but got a pole-and-hook one
That evidence proves to my satisfaction that the "okeos" has been
retouched, in all likelyhood by someone who did not understand the
manuscript. So, given that those breast outlines seem to be in the
same ink as the "okeos" touch-up, it seems reasonable to assume that
they too were retouched (or added) by the same person, in the same
occasion -- perhaps, as you say, between one label and the next.
> in f73r-2 [...] you have the "split bottomed 8" at reference 0,
> and while I believe this to be a regular 8
I am not questioning the "8" (EVA "d"); the  reference points
to the framing circle under it.
> I continue to log them as corrections, some obvious corrections
> and others subconscious to the author.
They certainly were "corrections" in a sense; I see no evidence that
the Retoucher ever tried to do damage to the text, quite the opposite.
Again, I think we should be grateful to him because otherwise we would
be entering many "*"s where we now have at least his readings of
the original letters.
I think that it makes a difference only in the trust we can attach to
a given reading. For instance, there is now a slight suspicion that
the "okeos" on f73r-1 could have been "oteos" originally. Ditto
for many of the borderline readings ("a"/"o", "r"/"s", etc.).
> In order to draw the crown (2) later on your image
> f72v1-1, one would have had to erase the rest of the head first, or this
> would have been a lady with a punk hairdo!
My interpretation is that the nymph with the crown on f72v1-1
originally looked like nymph of f73r-1: no headgear, a
rather flat cranium with little hair on top. (Note that the
hairline along the temple of the crowned nymph is in dark ink, too.)
So there was no need to erase anything.
In fact, the Retoucher may have felt the need to add bonnets and crowns
in order to "fix" those rather un-artistic flat heads.
Since you are reluctant to believe in the Dark Brown Ink Retoucher,
presumably you find the theory of the Medium Brown Ink Retoucher
ridiculous beyond contempt. But please consider it for a minute. If
the medium brown strokes too are retracings of an even older layer,
then who knows how the nymphs looked like originally.
Perhaps they did have headgear, but the hats were drawn with
differently colored inks that faded even faster than the body outline
ink. The Medium Retoucher did not see the hats, or did not consider
them important, so he did not retrace them -- thus explaining the flat
crania. Then the Dark Retoucher noticed some very faint vestiges of
hats, and he tried to restore them, mostly by guessing -- hence the
crown, tiaras, etc.
Or perhaps the nymphs did not even have hair originally. Who knows?
If the medium brown strokes of the Zodiac are indeed retracings, then
we would have made another big leap of "negative progress" in our
knowledge of the VMS. Recall that our estimates of date and provenance
are based chiefly on the hat and dress styles. If those are not
original, then the manuscript could be quite a bit older than mid-15th
> and all we might deduce from [the breast retouchings] is that the
> writer was male?
Or that he was a kid who has been weaned too soon... 8-)
The sex of the Author has always been a maddening puzzle: the nymph
drawings, especially the rather crude details, do not suggest an
erotic inspiration. I tend to believe in Rene's suggestion that their
hand positions are some sort of a code for astronomical data --
which could be "trade secrets" of ship pilots. (I recall a Venetian
manuscript where finger positions were used for that purpose.) But
again, if the Zodiac medium brown traces are not original...
Another puzzle, probably connected with this one, are the tubs and
dresses on the nymphs in the early Zodiac pages (chiefly Pisces, Aries
and Taurus). Why are the tubs absent from later pages? Why are the
Pisces nymphs naked? But again (again), if the Zodiac medium brown
traces are not original...
All the best,
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