Without examining the facts fully and fairly, there is no way of knowing whether vox populi is really vox dei, or merely vox asinorum. — Cyrus H. Gordon.
I have heard the laments of traditionalists who deplore the fact that in tracking the source and transmission of certain persistent errors in Voynich studies, I didn’t stop before 2000, but am following them in writings produced more recently.
The persons expressing such sentiments appear to me to be making two assumptions: first that in the field of historical studies and art history no objective standards exist; and secondly that there is no meaningful difference between objecting to a theoretical narrative’s construction and methodology, and attacking a person.
The first assumption would be demonstrably wrong, and the second no more than evidence of that over-attachment to a Voynich theory which leads theorists to lose their capacity to distinguish between a theory and a personality.
On the other hand, if that second assumption is now widespread, it helps explain why a certain theory-clique has always defended their theory by attacking any dissenter ad.hominem rather than having a reasonable debate about facts and methods.
Once a person starts believing that to disagree with their theory is equivalent to a personal attack, it’s not long before they start supposing that the way to eradicate the reasons for dissent is to attack the dissenter without addressing the substance of dissenting position.
It might also shed light on the very peculiar phenomenon by which, if one theory-clique dominates a given Voynich arena and its leaders make plain in one way and another that certain dissenters’ names “shall not be spoken”, people submit to that silent rule. No, I’m not kidding, it happens. Try expressing real enthusiasm for any matter incompatible with the ‘all-European-central-European’ storyline at voynich.ninja these days and test that out for yourself.
I must say, though, that when a group’s divorce from the normal world of medieval studies becomes too pronounced, the results can be very funny.
Imagine – you’re an ordinary member of some ‘Voynich community’ in which you’re simultaneously forbidden from naming dissenters, and obliged to show loyalty by denigrating all dissenters ad.hominem. Reasoned debate about details, data and method is prohibited if it involves mention of sources or persons non-conforming whether impartial academic sources or Voynich writings. So then you have the problem of how to show the necessary loyalty while pretending not to have read any but theory-supporting matter, and while also being prohibited from naming the persons you are expected to denigrate.
One way is to ‘minimise’. If the person contributed a solid, original and academic study which explains some matter in depth, but their conclusions show your theory is lightweight, you say they’ve “written a lot” but never, ever give details of the publication or admit it was an original contribution from original research. Assert airily that ‘it’s not new’ and dare the others to ask you to provide the details.
There are better ways to work around the ‘must attack/must not name’ dilemma within a Voynich community. For his fine facility in using this two-edged genre, let me introduce someone whose skill I admire: Karl Kluge.
On April 1st of this year, Karl posted what follows and when I say I admire his work, I really do.
His introduction combines an evocation of the first lines of Dante’s Inferno with a hint of the [John] Dee Voynich myth and from there moves onto work done by a few current researchers whom he ‘does-not-name’ in quite the approved manner.
I dreamt that I was looking at .. Dee’s scrying equipment .. I found myself standing in a mist-filled void .. and as I examined the page the snake in the root of the left plant turned to fix me with its steely gaze, speaking as follows:
“Though at first glance I seem mild snake,
T’would be a foolish error to make!
No garter snake, I! Don’t void your bladder —
I am, in fact, the loathsome Adder!
While I seem brown, I fade, alack!
So know, in truth, my hue is BLACK!
Heed me well, though ’tis hard to imagine it,
For I am the glorious serpent Plantagenet!
Think any member of that forum is going to refer openly to me, or to that ‘Cerastes’ post, or begin a stimulating discussion on the implications for this study of a cerastes’ depiction in the manuscript? IDTS
Fact is. there are Voynich theorists out there (not Karl) whose feelings are so exquisitely sensitive that if you critique anything they’ve ever said, they’ll smash your face. 😀
that’s ‘face’ in the metaphorical sense.
Seriously – what matters more to you? Beinecke MS 408 or getting warm fuzzies online?
Think it over.