Illustration study

Origins, comparisons, dating of Voynich Illustrations
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Fishbaum
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Joined: Sun Mar 13, 2022 10:12 am

Illustration study

Post by Fishbaum »

I'm new to all things Voynich, so forgive a naive question.

In all the papers I've seen on the Voynich manuscript, the investigations are all about the text. Has there been an extensive study of the style of the illustrations? It strikes me that the somewhat crude, cartoonish style might be correlated to the late 19th century, perhaps even to a self-taught artist. Any definitive studies on the style, placing it within the 15th century?

Dion2
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Joined: Mon Dec 19, 2022 8:18 pm

Re: Illustration study

Post by Dion2 »

Hi - yes, a few people have preferred to research the drawings. I think the three best-known (in order of appearance on the scene) are
Diane O'Donovan - since 2008
Since about 2011 or so:

Koen Gheuens.
JKPetersen.
and there was Ellie Velinska but her blog was removed some time ago. (See admin's master list)

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proto57
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Re: Illustration study

Post by proto57 »

Hi Fishbaum: Sorry it took so long to reply to you. The forum had been very quiet for some time, and "life got in the way", and and and... I let my admin duties slip, also, and I am not sure notifications were going out to registrants.
I'm new to all things Voynich, so forgive a naive question.
Not at all naive.
In all the papers I've seen on the Voynich manuscript, the investigations are all about the text. Has there been an extensive study of the style of the illustrations?


Well Dion2 is of course correct in the names listed, but the number of people who have studied the illustrations is actually VAST, and stretches all the way back to the "discovery" of the Voynich in 1912. Ethel Voynich, in fact, compiled at least two books attempting to identify the plants, and their friend and secretary filled at least one notebook of illustrations. And the Voynich's had many botanists, herbalists, art historians, bibliographers, all interested in the Voynich... then of course people around the world. But a great baseline to learn of the early attempts to understand the identity and meaning of the many illustrations would be Mary D'Imperio's "The Voynich Manuscript: An Elegant Enigma". In it she describes the opinions of Thomspson, O'Neil, Steele, Singer, and on and on. Here is a free download:

https://www.nsa.gov/about/cryptologic-h ... script.pdf

Since D'Imperio, which was compiled in the 1970's, there have been of course many more. On http://www.voynich.nu/ there are listed many illustration proposals, by many researchers. The Comegys brothers and then Tucker, Talbot, Janick, and Bax have proposed New World origins for many plants. On my own blog I have many proposals for many of the illustrations in the Voynich: https://proto57.wordpress.com/2021/04/2 ... h-forgery/ Edith Sherwood has proposed the illustrations were by a young Leonardo DaVinci. Robert Teague has attempted to identify the star patterns, and several of the people drawn.

You probably already came across most of these links... but there is also the Voynich ninjas, where you can find many active posts about past and present attempts at identifying the illustrations: https://www.voynich.ninja/

I'll stop there... but you get the idea, poke around and you will find that there are hundreds of people, I'm sure, that have and are studying the illustrations, both style and meaning... and the list includes many professionals in several related fields, as well as amateurs like me.
It strikes me that the somewhat crude, cartoonish style might be correlated to the late 19th century, perhaps even to a self-taught artist. Any definitive studies on the style, placing it within the 15th century?
Well I entirely agree with you, and have long suggested a late 19th, early 20th century influence on the drawings, and that it is very much "cartoonish". I have used, for instance, the Katzenjammer Kids cartoons as one example of a similar style. But searching for cartoon art from this period shows many similarities in the way people and animals are portrayed.

As for "definitive studies" placing anything, in any era, by any person, reflecting any discipline, art style... etc... lots of luck! Almost all the experts disagree, and have since the first appearance of the Voynich on the world scene. There are no definitive studies of anything, I mean. Dozens of the experts, and hundreds of the amateurs, disagree with each other.

Which might be why this is so interesting. Anyway, sorry this took so long to answer... and thank you to Dion2 for bringing it to my attention by posting an answer.

Rich SantColoma
"Man is the measure of all things: What is, that it is; what is not, that it is not"- Protagoras

Dion2
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Joined: Mon Dec 19, 2022 8:18 pm

Re: Illustration study

Post by Dion2 »

Fishbaum,
Of course, Rich is right that many people since 1912 have had a go at interpreting the manuscript's drawings, but you needn't feel overwhelmed by the thought of a cacophony of voices all saying different things.

For a start, there were some people who were, and some who weren't speaking from a solid background in the history of (even) medieval European art. Others were pretty acute observers, but were running on assumptions we know now are invalid.

Charles SInger, especially, was quite hopeless at dating and provenancing manuscripts - he relied on his wife and on library catalogues for that sort of information, and his area was the history of European technology. Within his own field, his work was superb and - within that field - he was an early hero of mine. But as an assessor of where and when a manuscript was made... or reader of difficult images... not good at all.

Although better-skilled people had disputed Wilfrid's "Roger-Bacon-thirteenth-century-English' story even before the vellum was radiocarbon dated, most others accepted it and their efforts to read the imagery were predicated on that, and also on Wilfrid's assumption that it must all be about western Europe.

So you can pretty much rule out the views of people who formed them from those assumptions, and that includes Ethel Voynich too I'm sorry to say because she's another figure I admire.

I'm sorry I forgot to refer to RIch's discussion of the plant-pictures, and also the blog-posts of a writer 'JKPetersen'.

You're free to research any way you like, but I'd say that with regard to opinions about the drawings, it's probably better to begin with work produced from about 2006, and treat all the older material as 'before we knew better'.

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