The good news. 1. Codicology.

At the moment, the good news on the Voynich front includes fresh directions from codicology.

The subject’s importance for understanding the manuscript can hardly be understated. The nature of a manuscript – as manuscript – is defined by its form, materials, and the way it is put together, so every new piece of codicological information sheds more light on where and when a manuscript was produced.

Indirectly, it can also help us dispense with one, and another, of the old hypothetical narratives.

Despite its importance, the subject of codicology was almost forgotten in Voynich studies between the time Jim Reeds’ list closed, and the recent advent of Vladimir Dulov* and Lisa Fagin Davis on the scene. ‘Almost’ – because the line was maintained by Nick Pelling.

*some Voynich writers use ‘Wladimir’.

In his book of 2006, and then in posts to his blog Cipher Mysteries, Pelling tried to arouse greater interest in study of the manuscript-as-manuscript, even while others were kindly advising newcomers to various Voynich arenas that to consider the manuscript’s codicology was another of the ‘unnecessary’ things, and Pelling’s work in particular ‘too complicated’ ( – ‘too complicated for whom?’ was my thought on receiving that meme-instruction.)

Though I wasn’t – and still am not – entirely sympathetic to one of Pelling’s aims namely to (as he saw it) restore the manuscript’s text to its ‘proper order’,* I did what little I could to refer others to the subject, to emphasise its importance, and recommend that readers of voynichimagery consider Pelling’s seminal study.

*From my own point of view, any earlier re-arrangement of older material might have been intentional and such ‘restoration’ might then lose us valuable historical information. So, for example, inclusion of only ten months of the year might indicate use by persons such as pilgrims or mariners who sailed only during those ten months. The calendar fold-ins are awkward enough to manage; why would they not remove superfluous leaves? (That’s an example, not an argument). But for the same reason, I’d also suggest Dulov’s comment on the fold-out Quire 9 be expressed more cautiously than his description of it as a ‘wrong’ inclusion.  Others (including the present writer) had already recognised from the imagery that it originated from a period much earlier, and from a source other than we find in other sections. Thematically, however, they fit well. I am of course happy to find my opinion confirmed which was so vehemently rejected by the ‘Voynich community’ in 2011 – that is, that the manuscript is a compilation of/from several distinct exemplars.

However – that aside – I did what I could to support Pelling’s efforts to keep the subject within the horizons of Voynich studies. It proved an uphill trudge; my being unable to support the ‘Germanic-central-European narrative’, saw other forum members quite openly instructed by adherents of that theory to ‘pay no attention’ to this outsider. A few disobeyed. 🙂

Pelling’s Voynich theory was focused on northern Italy, which saw him left out in the cold for several years, but he was willing to maintain an entente (more of the cordiale on his side than on the other), and around 2016 or so northern Italy was suddenly being included among regions deemed ‘Germanic’-ish, like medieval France, and Sicily, and even the Aegean islands according to one adherent. How the situation is today, I cannot say.

Happily, neither Dulov nor Fagin Davis need be concerned about such fall-out from the Voynich ‘theory wars’. These scholars are so obviously not ‘Voynicheros’.

Both are ‘people of the manuscript’ – specialists for whom this manuscript is one of a great many they have considered in a professional way, and who have the skills needed to set this manuscript within the context of their own broad knowledge and.. most important … able to attend closely to the manuscript’s own testimony to its history and origins.

Blessed relief!

I should have liked now to provide readers with a summary of the codicological work earlier done by Pelling.

My reason for wanting to that is the same as my reason for not doing it – that is, his having withdrawn the book from publication. What his current views may be, and how they might differ from those he held fifteen years ago is for him to say.

I hope he might one day publish some commentary through Ciphermysteries about Dulov’s work.

Of Fagin Davis’ research, I’ve heard nothing in detail, but I can add a link to Dulov’s Blogger blog (below). He writes in Russian but Google translate does a fair job – enough to show that his work is a model of clear observation, meticulous documentation and non-theory-influenced conclusions.

And if Anton Alipov will permit his more technical English translation of Dulov’s posts to be offered to others apart from his fellow forum members, the word may be spread still more widely and even more readers helped to appreciate these recent contributions to the study.

Here’s the link to Dulov’s ‘Blogger’ blog.

Postscript – I hope some publisher might take up the task of collecting, translating and publishing a book of collected ‘Russian essays on the Voynich manuscript’. Alipov himself is another whose contributions to the study have been constantly ignored and underappreciated – in my opinion.

2 thoughts on “The good news. 1. Codicology.

  1. With regard to Anton Alipov’s work, I found his reading of the German marginalia the most persuasive of all that I’ve read. This has as much to do with it’s better fitting the historical context, and conclusions of my own research, as it does his purely linguistic argument.


  2. Strictly, an ‘exemplar’ is the work from which a copy is taken, but I couldn’t think of a collective term that would include exemplars (as such) and extracts taken in directly, without copying. Is there such a term?


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