O’Donovan notes #13.1 Opening the Iris.

The medieval world of Voynich writers: Part 1: The Reality

(I’m actually still away on hols. so any comments will go unanswered until I return in two weeks’ time)

This series will consider the curious discrepancy between the reality of the ‘medieval world’ known to medieval people – even to some in Latin Europe – and the conception of the ‘medieval world’ found in Voynich writings from 1912 to the present day.

Within the extraordinarily narrow vision presumed by Voynich traditionalists, theorists continue to try gathering sufficient evidence to explain everything about the Voynich manuscript, from its materials to its images and written text.

In too many cases, theorists focused on finding support for their theory have ignored not only the testimony of the primary document but have determinedly ignored, dismissed or attacked anything which indicates that the theory may have horizons too narrow to explain the manuscript’s contents. How could such a curious situation occur? Perhaps more to the point, how could it have managed to survive into 2023?

First, then, the reality.

The following series of maps show the range (north-south; east-west limits) that I found referenced by drawings in the Voynich manuscript, including the few that ‘speak European’.

This is also the range over which matter and language(s) could have come to western Europe before the Voynich manuscript was made.

The first map (below) is blurred. The licensed high-res copy was lost to fire in 2013. (This is not the range covered by the Voynich map but by the drawings overall. The Voynich map refers not at all to mainland western Europe, nor to Rome, nor to Jerusalem).

The medieval world – range reflected in the Voynich manuscript’s drawings. From research published by D.N.O’Donovan

Much, but not all of that range is in this Latin-made map of c.1351. Note the convention used to signal an imperial border.

The whole of the Voynich drawings’ range lies within this the limits of this recreated version of al-Idrisi’s worldmap. The north African traveller and scholar al-Idrisi created his great work in Islamic-Norman Sicily during the mid-12thC AD):

and earlier still…

the world to as far as China is seen in a late copy made of a Roman-era route map, or courier’s map. The copy is known as the Tabula Peutingeriana. Too large to show you here, its segments can be seen on a dedicated website HERE.

Segment XII shows India and continues .. almost.. to China.

What you see are segments of the scroll in which the older route-map was copied after the 3rdC AD (the scroll has ‘Constantinople’ not ‘Byzantium’).

Late in the fifteenth century that scroll was stolen by the German diplomat and amateur archaeologist Konrad Peutinger (1465 – 1547).

Peutinger passed it on to a friend, whose death saw lost to us any chance of knowing precisely the scroll’s origins and provenance.

For an illuminating account of the medieval world from c.1300-1350 AD, I recommend the Travels of Ibn Battuta or, if you prefer, the youtube documentary version HERE. That documentary, both its text and its images, make it worth the effort of adjusting to the narrator’s Australian English and his intermittent colloquialisms.

The remaining posts in this series compare the extent of the world in those medieval maps to the ‘iris shot’ vision that has limited Voynich research since 1912.

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