Weed seeds

In attempting to return to more a rigorous and more transparent approach to this manuscript’s discussion, revisionists must first accept that not all  the speculative matter in Voynich writings to date has been presented as such.  The field is strewn with ‘weed-seeds’ which induce belief in an idea without any evidence presented, or indeed existing to support it.  The revisionist must not only read and isolate these from solid data, but must often trace them to their source to determine whether or not they were ever supported by evidence.  This is so not only for what one finds in ‘fringe’  writings, but in many that one could usually suppose reliable.  ‘Weed-seeding’ can become so prevalent because standards of documentation have been so systematically eroded.

I’ll refer again to the ‘Physical Materials’ essay in the Yale facsimile edition to illustrate this point.


The  ‘weed-seed’ phenomenon.

Speaking of the manuscript’s plant pictures, ‘e.h.’ has  adopted the usual theory that the pictures should constitute a ‘herbal’ but has exceeded the traditional in substituting for the usual ‘flowers’ the far more specific term ‘blossoms’ – a word implying both a geographic restriction and the association of that term with none but deciduous fruit trees:


Blossom: (Botany) –  the flower of a plant, especially of one producing an edible fruit.

‘e.h.’ presumes a great deal. including a presumption that s/he can foist those associations on readers of the Yale edition without troubling to justify them by so much as a footnote.   When it has been usual since 1912 to use the general term ‘flowers’, what excuse has ‘e.h.’ to employ that term and its pre-emptive associations?   ‘e.h.’ – in ‘Voynichero’ style – asserts this notion as if it were a fact so widely known as to need no evidence adduced.  It isn’t.

Surveying writings published, or comments offered online, one finds this substitution suddenly prevalent after about 2016.   As just one example,  Thomas Spande’s comment to ciphermysteries (December 25, 2016 at 8:35 pm) employs it, and again without references … “The color blue for VM plant blossoms is rare …”  after which the term appears elsewhere with greater frequency but always in that manner.

Digging deeper for the notion’s origin, one finds that in a paper published in 2016,   Alexander Ulyanenkov had claimed decipherment of Voynichese and, further, that Voynich manuscript was a certain ‘Book of Dunstan’.  On page 24 of his paper we find:

[pdf] Ulyanenkov,’Voynich Manuscript (The “Book of Dunstan”) coding and decoding methods’.
The first thing to notice is that Ulyanenkov cannot ever prove the Voynich text is the ‘Book of Dunstan’ which the charlatan, Edward Kelley brought to John Dee – because as far as we know, no copy of that ‘Book of Dunstan’ exists.  Nor is the ‘Dunstan’ idea a new idea, but –  as so often – one already discussed on the first mailing list more than a decade ago.   One begins to wonder whether mining that list for ‘ideas’ isn’t the only research that a couple of Voynicheros do.  It has become a constant of the ‘weed-seeding’ that when an idea is revived its original source is always omitted but regularly discovered if one hunts the records of that list.

From the first mailing list  –

Date: Thu, 20 Dec 2001 12:40:43 +0000
From: Nick Pelling <xxxxxxxx@xxxxxxx>

Hi everyone,

Here, Don Tyson gives his particular answer to the (very reasonable) question “What ever happened to John Dee after he broke up with Edward Kelley and returned to England?”

[online reference provided]

He also has another (overlapping) page on Dee and the Enochian angels… [online reference provided]

…..and another page specifically on Kelley… [online reference provided]

If Kelley – apothecary’s son and would-be alchemist – did come into possession of the VMS (but, because of its alleged Glastonbury-related provenance, knew it as the “Book Of Dunstan”), I’m certain that he would have found it almost unbearable not to know what its contents were.

As Blade Runner puts it: “Nothing is worse than having an itch you can never scratch”. :-/ [online reference provided]

Cheers, ….Nick Pelling….

The whole line of this speculation-on-speculation arises for no reason other than that in  imagining how a book which he ascribed to a thirteenth-century English franciscan author turned up in seventeenth-century Prague, Wilfrid Voynich created the fictional tale of its being brought by John Dee, whose associate Kelley became after claiming to have found the marvellous ‘Book of Dunstan’ – of which no known copy exists.

So much for Ulyanenkov’s speculation about the Voynich manuscript itself.  To judge his interpretation of that unit as ‘Plasom’ – let alone that it is supposed to mean ‘blossom’ we might turn to specialists in Old or Middle English on the one hand, and on the other to ‘Voynich’ linguists and  specialists in manuscript studies, but on that score we meet little but resounding silence in public writings and comments.

The past three years has not seen Ulyanenkov’s efforts hailed as the long-sought key to ‘Voynichese’.

One has to ask, then, why ‘e.h.’ should insert this particular ‘weed-seed’ into the  Yale essay on physical materials.  It serves as little more than subliminal advertisement for Ulyanekov’s highly dubious speculations and claimed ‘decipherment method’.

Given that the idea of the ‘blossom’ is his, why does ‘e.h.’ not cite the 2016 paper?  And why insert such a ‘subliminal advertisement’ for a doubtful theory into the ‘Physical Materials’ essay. ‘E.h.’ cannot be unaware that in doing so s/he is invoking Yale’s scholarly authority, on which  trusting academics and the general public are accustomed to rely.

It is clear that a good number of ‘weed-seeded’ writings are the result of too much trust in ‘authoritative’ voices, especially given the practice of omitting proper documentation.  Ideas attributed to no-one are interpreted as facts too well established to need documentation, and thus the process of error becomes exponential.  They are, like weed-seeds, dispersed on the wind.

This is certainly another among the many problems faced by a revisionist attempting to distinguish demonstrable fact from ‘canonised myth’ and both from individual speculation.  The key to weeding the Voynich field is surely a return to providing and demanding  that an original source be cited.

There is a difference, too often ignored by Voynich writers, between fact and ‘idea’ but in either case to subject an idea to the third, and so often avoided stage of experiment, we need the original source or lineage for that idea to be plainly stated.

However, here we meet a further difficulty; that in adopting an ‘idea’ for which proof is absent or insufficient, many have attempted to provide it with retrospective justification and some have invested so much in the promotion of that ‘idea’ that they perceive objective critique as personal criticism.  It becomes permitted – or not – to discard an ‘idea’ more on the basis of who espouses it, rather than whether it is true.

I’ll give an example of this, again, from the Yale facsimile, though from a different essay, before returning to the invaluable scientific information in the ‘Physical Materials’ essay.

[spelling corrected and pdf link added for A. Ulyanenkov,’Voynich Manuscript (The “Book of Dunstan”) coding and decoding methods’ 16th. May 2019]

Notre Dame de Paris

Jeanne de Montbaston


As I write, the spire of Notre Dame de Paris is collapsing into smoke.

Reports say that the towers are burning, that windows have melted. Notre Dame de Paris is on fire. This cathedral has stood for over eight hundred years.

Trauma is not logical or rational; it clings to more than bricks and mortar. If your house burns down, what you mourn is not the structure.

Imagine the people who build Notre Dame. Far more people than you would think. Yes, there were the masons who put stone upon stone. Someone, far back in the twelfth century, sat there without a zero to make the calculations easier and worked out how to make arches soar. A priest must have traced alphabets, in Greek and Roman letters, crosswise on the cathedral floor in chalk. A smoke of incense rose to the rafters, hanging, safe and comforting, in the air. Racks…

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