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VMs: Re: Re: Inks and retouching


Two opposing theories that overlap, and no way to be certain which is
correct.  Each of us starts out with impressions or ideas, yes, but when a
certain piece of data does not fit that impression, the impression must
change, and through the process of change an hypothesis or theory evolves.
Your research fits this pattern, which has always been my understanding of
measured approach to a problem.  Wild "theories" that do not incorporate
what is known are not theories at all, but do make an interesting read.  It
is not my understanding that starting out with a theory and going to lengths
to prove it true is a proper approach.  Neither should every assumption
based on observation become "fact" before alternative explanations have been
examined and rejected.  The observation may be sound, but the conclusions
must be tested and weighed.

In the case of the glyphs and their variations, it can't be decided which is
important and which is not until they are recorded in detail, and each
examined in its place.  Lots and lots of data, the more the better, not lots
of theories.  A theory is then designed to match the data, constructed on
tested assumptions.  How often does <iin> occur, and how often are these
occurrences connected sequences?  If they're usually connected, are there
instances where they are clearly unconnected?  How many times do plume
variations occur, and where are they located in the body of text?  Is there
some mechanical reason for these, or are they meaningful?  Building a theory
is a lot of tedious and boring work, but once it is accomplished, the data
is in place to support the theory.  That's just my approach.

Your point about Voynich altering f1r is well-taken.  I understand why this
was done, but that it was allowed to be done so poorly makes your point that
harmful alterations may exist through good intentions.  You have added a
degree of doubt to my most certain stance.

I suppose the substance of our disagreement is very little.  The real
question is whether there are any examples of text being altered from its
original form, i.e., characters changed from one form to the other.
Retracing could have been done by anybody, and if it does indeed exist, the
question of "who" may be answered by careful examination.  If your color
methods are getting the same results with the o's and the strokes as with
the "retraced" glyphs, something is in need of calibration.  This is one of
those cases where blowing up the picture doesn't say as much as reducing it
to proper size and looking at the entire structure at once.

I've recorded several "erasures" (scrape-offs) myself, and these would
presumably be the work of the author.  I've also made note of several
corrections, more than a handful, I assure you.  But are any of these by
your method questioned as "retouching" artifacts?  I'll draw up a relevant
portion of this list and post it.  For some of these I already know why the
correction was made, and these couldn't have been correctly altered by
anyone else than the author (assuming the author didn't have an entire team
of "dark proofreaders" at his disposal? ) Some others remain as yet
unidentified as to purpose or reason.  It will be interesting to see your
take on these.

Should I continue the discussion on the images you've selected, or should we
choose one page and break it down in its entirety?  Perhaps two opposing
folios?  I'd begin with questions like "why does the text at the top of
pages appear to be more faded than text at the bottom", or "why do the dark
sections of text tend to run in "veins" rather than randomly".  "Do these
perceived dark-veins continue through the images as well", and "are there
corresponding veins of dark text on the reverse of the folio".  I'd begin by
making observations about the physical characteristics of the manuscript and
test each observation for continuity across any chosen section before
zooming in on the portions that do not fit the physical construction model.

I'd also try not to mix sections, since the expanse of time between their
separate construction is uncertain.  Herbal [B] should not be mixed with
observations on Herbal [A] as example.  Each should be tallied separately
and only then should the tallies between the two sections be compared.  I
could certainly jump in and retort to your remarks on the selected imagery,
but I consider this discussion as it stands somewhat similar to entering a
conversation in the middle, without knowing what has transpired before.
Shall we start from the ground up on a selected folio or set of folios?


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Jorge Stolfi" <stolfi@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <vms-list@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Tuesday, July 27, 2004 4:20 AM
Subject: VMs: Re: Inks and retouching

> Glen,
>   > [Glen:] Deductive reasoning at its best operates with a
>   > conservative approach, carefully building one fact upon the other
>   > until a picture emerges.
> I don't think this is how it works. You certainly need data, and the
> more detailed and accurate the better; so your highly detailed
> transcription project is to be lauded.  However, you also need theories,
> and the more of them the better.  Then you have to devise tests that
> could confirm or disprove those theories.
> In fact, you need to have a theory even before you start collecting
> data; otherwise you don't know whether to record the elephant's
> weight, the length of its trunk, the number of flies on his back, the
> length of its shadow, or the direction it is facing.  You need at least
> a theory that tells which data is important and which is not.
> You obviously spent a lot of time looking at stroke shapes and
> apparent ink variations, and developed a detailed theory that explains
> them as the work of a single author, modulated and modified by various
> chemical and mechanical "natural accidents". According to your theory,
> the shape of the plumes, and the colors of flowers, having been
> determined by the author, are likely to be important; whereas the
> precise shape of the vellum sheet is probably not important. Please
> note that you *started* with a theory, and the way that you collected
> your data was heavily influenced by it.
> I haven't spent that much time on the topic, but until recently I
> believed, like you, that the text was the work of a single person, and
> that the variations in stroke density were accidental, as you say. I
> had a different theory for the color paints, of course, and suspected
> the Zodiac drawings of having been retouched; but I always thought
> that the text was original. It was the color separation experiments
> that made me consider retouching of the text, too, and the "daiin" of
> f1r was one of the examples that convinced me.
> So now we have at least two theories, just for the text and drawing
> outlines:
>   (1) only one author, who very rarely went back and retouched what he
>   just wrote; stroke quality variations caused by mechanical and
>   chemical accidents only.
>   (2) many characters and drawing outlines, which had become hard to
>   read or ambiguous, were retraced by later owner(s); many of the
>   stroke quality variations are due to this retracing.
> It will not be easy to decide which is correct, because both theories
> have lots of adjustment knobs that can be twiddled to get around
> contrary evidence. So we need to keep looking at more and more
> evidence until either theory (or both) runs out of knobs.
> I admit that theory (2) has an unfair advantage, since it accepts that
> all inking and decay processes postulated by (1) are indeed possible.
> So to disprove (2) one would have to show that *all* quirks of the
> lettering are explainable as natural accidents, whereas to disprove
> (1) it suffices to show *one* feature that cannot be explained that
> way.
> To make the game more fair, we can merge the two yes-no theories
> into a quantititative one:
>   (N) a certain number N of characters and drawing outlines,
>   which had become hard to read or ambiguous, were retraced by later
>   owner(s); this accounts for a commensurate fraction of the
>   variations in stroke quality.
> Obviously we both agree on theory (N); the only disputed point is the
> value of N -- you seem to favor N<10; my current guess is N>1000
> (dozens of characters per page were retraced, on a large fraction of
> the pages).
> You point out that many of my examples can be explained as natural
> accidents. You may well be right on many of them. As I wrote in the
> text below each image (which you are invited to read again), many of
> the examples were presented as mere "suspects", meaning that, as far
> as I can tell, they may *or may not* be retouchings.
> However, in many of the examples your explanations are not convincing
> (see below), and I believe that there are enough of them -- in only
> half a dozen pages that were examined -- to make a good case for a
> large N.
> I must point out that my survey was by no means exhaustive. I started
> with f1r because I had already stared long at it. Then I picked *one*
> page each of Herbal-A (f3v), Herbal-B (f26v), and Cosmo (f57v), at
> random, and reported what I saw there. Then I checked f67r2 because of
> the red text, and then scanned the Zodiac pages, where I knew there
> were funny details on the drawings.
> BTW, it was only when I got to the Zodiac that I noticed evidence of
> two separate retouching episodes --- which is not as strong as the
> evidence for *some* retouching, but seems quite pervasive on those
> pages.
> Our difference here is a good example of Bayesian theory: we see
> the same evidence, but since we have very different /a priori/
> beliefs, we come out with different conclusions...
> In an attempt to shake some of you /a priori/ probabilities, let me
> note that even people who value the manuscript a lot may not share
> your belief on the "sacrality" of the text --- and thus would not
> consider retouching it a "sacrilege". We all know what Wilfrid Voynich
> did to f1r, even though he believed that the manuscript was worth a
> fortune. Now try to imagine Baresch, or some earlier owner like him,
> who has been spending countless hours poring at the manuscript. Think
> of how those faint strokes, which are hardly visible under Beinecke's
> fluorescent floodlights, would look under brown candlelight. Why
> wouldn't he have retraced those faint letters (very carefully of
> course)? If father Petersen was willing to trace the entire text on
> vellum paper, why couldn't Baresch have been just as thorough? So why
> do you find the possibility of a Retoucher so unlikely /a priori/?
> Now, with apologies to other list readers, let me reply to some
> of your explanations:
>   > [Glen:] The one [glyph on f1r] I pointed out was hardly visible,
>   > yet showed absolutely no sign of "retouching". This qualifies as
>   > "too faint to be read", so why wasn't it also "retouched"?
> Perhaps because it wasn't that bad then?
> To me it is quite obvious that page f1r, in particular, suffered
> considerable wear *before* and *after* the darker letters were
> redrawn.
>   > [Glen:] f1r-1
>   > 4 - don't know if you're pointing to the 8 or the whole word, but no
>   > "retouching" in this example is evident.
> As explained in the the text below that image, the [4] refers to the
> space between the two words, where my allucinating eyes see an
> erased "s". (It is just an accidental observation, not related
> to the Retouching issue.)
>   > f1r-2
>   > 1 - o8 - reinked pen - heaviest ink on the wider down strokes
>   > 2 - Hw - reinked pen - heaviest ink on the wider down strokes
>   > 4 - o
>   > 5 - 8 - heaviest ink on wide strokes
> As said in the text, these look suspect, not certain. You may well be
> right, or not. Time will tell, hopefully.
>   > 3 - woe - reinked pen - all wide strokes
> Not to my eyes, definitely not reinking. The ink is different, not
> just thicker. But again, I have no solid proof (yet).
>   > 6 - o
>   > 7 - you say o8, but I see the 8 as darker than the o
> Please read the text. I am not counting these, not even as suspects.
>   > f1r-3
>   > 1 - Wo - word initials - reinked pen
> ...with ink that, after writing one and a half glyphs, suddenly dried
> up and changed color?
>   > 2 - o
>   > 3 - o
> Saying "it's an o" is not an explanation. The left side of the "o"[2] is
> exactly the same stroke as that of the "a" and "c" next to it. Why is
> the "o" so much darker?  Even if the stroke on the right half somehow
> more ink to flow, there is no sign of it having "flooded" the left stroke.
> Worse still for the "o"[3].
> If the stroke on the right side of the "o" was the culprit, there
> should be "o"s with light ink on the left, dark ink on the right; but
> I didn't see any of those in my survey.
> You seem to believe that the "o"s often look darker because the "o"
> was done in a single stroke, by pulling the pen down on the left half
> and pushing it up on the right half (or perhaps vice-versa?). Do you
> have any evidence for this claim? I find it hard to believe; apart
> from the difficulty of pushing the pen up without it catching on the
> vellum, we should see more variation in width between the two sides.
> On the contrary, on many "o"s, both halves are pressure-split
> --- which as you know can hardly happen on a "pushing" stroke.
>   > 4 - Wo89 - you think the word was retraced in its entirety
> No, I beleive that the plume on the Wo is original, the rest was retraced.
>   > I don't agree. The W is the end of a pen - faint. The o is
>   > reinked, the 8 is a little lighter, and the 9 starts to fall off
>   > in ink output. Transitional, not retouched.
> I see those reinking effects too -- but all in distinctive dark ink,
> i.e. by the Retoucher's pen.
>   > 5 - continue 4 to 5, we see the h as probably the end of a pen,
>   > and the compound glyph following the work of a reinked pen. The
>   > plume was added after the ending 9 of the word is written,
>   > somewhat like dotting an "i".
> ...and we close our eyes so as not to see the bits of light brown
> ink sticking out from under the blotted "o".
>   > f3v-1
>   > 1 - you list as a [control]?
> Yes.
>   > Chemical burn on vellum, no pigment left. Age.
> Since this page is very clean and shows no signs of wear, I find it
> hard to believe that all the pigment fell off. But if it did, and the
> "ink" we see is only a chemical residue or burn, that only makes the
> contrast with the dark letters harder to explain. (Please don't tell
> me that those still have the original pigment: why would it fall off
> only from whole pen strokes, never from one half of a stroke only...)
>   > 5 - down and to the right
> ...just like the other "i" stroke before it, and the bottom of the "8"
> character after it. So why is this single stroke darker? (Guess:
> because the original glyph, which can be seen under the dark ink, was
> slightly bent. So the Retoucher, after puzzling over it, decided that
> it was an "i" after all, not an "e" -- and "fixed" it so that he would
> not have to puzzle it out again and again.)
>   > 6 - Word initial
> I found this one suspicious because the vertical stroke seems to end
> abruptly and then a thinner and fainter stroke seems to extend from
> under it. But OK, let's say that it was a skip of the pen...
>   > 7 - down and to the right
>   > 8 - down and to the right
> In [7], a bit of old ink is showing on the left edge.
>   > f26v-1
>   > Please!!!!!
> Please, please, read the text...
>   > f57v-1
>   > 1 - down and to the right
> What?
>   > 2 - o
> Please read the text. There is lighter ink visible under the
> dark one.
>   > 4 - facial features - many things you didn't point out here.
> Indeed, I was getting tired already...
>   > Look at the long line, starting out dark, and fading toward the
>   > end, especially when the pen changes angles. Transitional, not
>   > retouched.
> What I see is an entire figure, hair and all, drawn in faint lines.
> (By your theory, the author would have done it all without a single
> reinking of the pen, right?) Then there are three or four dark strokes
> that could well have ben applied over faded ones: on the arm, under
> chin, on the hand and ball. The latter were clearly meant to reinforce
> an apparently important detail, in a part of the drawing that was
> really faint (check the other hand near it.)
> And how can you explain the "moustache"?
>   > 5 - added on the end of an inking
> As you wish... but *why*?
>   > f67r2-2
>   > You only have one place on this image that is possible retouching, #1.
> Well, so there MAY have been a Retoucher after all.
>   > Notice how the tail fades on a light pen when the angle changes.
> No, notice how the original tail of the "9" continues, with a
> different tone, after the retraced tail ends. Notice how the plume of
> the "s", although thin and light, has the same blackish tone as the
> body -- and looks quite different from the other plumes in this image.
> Notice the two lines of text at left, all in light brown ink: by your
> interpretation, those were written with a single inkload, correct?
> All the best,
> --stolfi
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