Category Archives: Questions

The Voynich X-mas List

More Wishes – Straw in Return

gas chromatograph photo

Photo by Andy.Schultz

In a follow-up to my post on The Voynich Rebinding I would like to add gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) to the wish list. Say that word aloud while you type it into your preferred search engine and before you can catch your breath you will be presented with a find on Nick Pelling’s blog. So, again I’m not alone with the desire to locate the origin of some of the ingredients used in manufacturing The Voynich.

It is also healthy to get up to date what GC (w/ or w/o MS) cannot do for you, “CSI NY style”. Anyways the conducted material analysis and it’s fallacies seems to have been criticised enough and I’m afraid we won’t see more destructive tests anytime soon. But as always, the devil pearl straw nests way down in the comments of  Nick’s post: A Mr. Thomas Spande comments about palmierite, (K,Na)2Pb(SO4)2, a mineral that has been identified as possible ingredient in the X-ray diffraction run.

Luigi Palmieri

Photo: INGV

Palmierite is a mineral with very rare natural occurrence, named in honour of Sgr. Palmieri, director of the Mt. Vesuvius Observatory, who discovered it in situ in 1906.
I have nothing to add. Besides, the other place where natural palmierite in the same form is to be found lies in Kamchatka.
This time my smoking gun is represented by a non-smoking fumarole on Mount Vesuvius.

The Mccrone analysis report states that with all possibility the inks of the drawings and the ink of the writing are basically the same. That does not convince me at all. It may be the same ink, but nowhere does it say it necessarily came from the same flask.. The missing pages could hold a possible explanation: a) there was inappropriate pre-existing content (drawings) on them and b) they were used for anaLYSIS of the inks, which the remaining chemical stains of the attempted “enhancement” of the Tepenecz signature could account for. That story was really weak to begin with.

strohstern photo

Photo by catlovers

To some this may represent a straw only. Thinking of it I always really liked the straw-stars that are common as christmas tree decoration in southern Germany and Austria. How long ’till X-mas again?

Oh, and dare I whisper: Infrared reflectography.. Hey, it is non-desctructive.

Read more on the history of pigments.

The Voynich Rebinding

Adding to the Wishlist

Photo: BBC

Photo: BBC

There are several issues with the binding of the manuscript. To sum up, the pages have been rearranged, numbered and bound at some point in the booke’s history, or maybe more than once. Now I think it would be very useful to know when this happened (and possibly where as well), not towards proving or disproving any specific theory, simply to add to the larger picture.

So there is the simple sounding question:

Can the binding of the manuscript be dated?

If I were to add to the wishlist of tests applied to the actual “hardware” of The Voynich I would like someone to look for yarn, glue (?) and method used. Maybe this is harder than I imagine, maybe it has already been done & dusted. I’ll keep looking.

The Voynich Circular Animations

A Good Question – Almost

Recently I thought to have made an observation on The Voynich (actually an impulse to start this blog), which lead me to formulate a good question – so I thought.

About 8 minutes into the 2009 ORF documentary on The Voynich there is a short part showing 3 animated clips derived from some of the circularly arranged illustrations. Clip 1 and 2 simply rotate circular illustrations, or figures in The Voynich, where clip 1 seems to be made up from page 67. The rotation is directed counter-clockwise. Clip 3 is slightly more advanced, in that a frame mask is applied. Adding intermittent dark frames would almost qualify it as a real animation.1 I can’t determine the source pages for clips 2 & 3 (yet).

The sparse commentary simply states that optic phenomena are hidden in the illustrations that come to life when rotated. There’s not much more to be found out about the matter as it seemingly failed to attract any attention. Optics, animations & the like belong to my interests so it stuck with me.

Phenakistoscope Disc designed by Edward Sang, Beinecke's Library

Phenakistoscope Disc designed by Edward Sang, Beinecke’s Library

A while ago I visited an exhibition called “Eyes, Lies and Illusions“, featuring some simple animation devices, antecessor of cinematography like a Praxinoscope, some making use of round cards with circularly arranged drawings in a way quite similar to The Voynichs’ “round tables”. Hence my connection: If these illustrations are  ment to be animated then there must exist a viewing apparatus for it, an animation device.

I did some research and found a first pitfall: All designs I looked at had rotating cards, unsuitable for the subject at hand, a book. I thought up a possible way to circumvent this problem (inside mirrors rotating in a planet gear) and even considered the possibility that an actual device never existed, yet in “ideal” form. To be found, like an easter egg in software, only by “users” (researchers) clever enough to uncover & reconstruct the necessary mechanism.

Nevertheless I felt I had something and formulated my question as:

If they are genuine, what is the purpose of the circular illustrations encoding animations?

You will notice that the “if” already disqualifies it as a good question according to my own terms.. and more ifs to come.

I asked Rich SantaColoma, who is into optics and was featured in the documentary. He kindly took the time to answer:

(…) it was not intended to be animated in the first place. There have been those who, even before the documentary artists pulled this off, thought that this could be the intent of these images. So to some people, they are somewhat “evocative” of these type of moving images.

He also pointed out the wealth of possible influences involved in creating The Voynich, especially those contemporary of the late 19th century.

So I retreated to my “if”, the necessity to find out if all or some the illustrations are actually ment to be animated, a task not devoid of quite some effort. I had a similar suspicion towards the film production crew as the source of the clips and a certain reason why the examples were short & few in number.

voynich photo

Photo by lamont_cranston

In the meantime, looking at the illustrations it turns out not a lot of them lend themselves easily to the animation idea, while a few really do seem to be ment to move. And I have overlooked another thing: I have fallen to the common error to misjudge the rather modest physical dimensions of The Voynich book, which are about that of a paperback (not as small as The Micro-Voynich in the picture) . Hence the animations would turn out rather tiny. I guess this size restriction rules out an actually existing viewing apparatus.

My partner remarked that this circumstance would be negligible if The Voynich was created with the idea of spreading photographic enlargements of it already in mind. Interesting point there, Wilfrid Voynich took the book to the darkroom first thing. This is probably another implication of The Voynich 1910 dating.

Another way to save my question would be to reformulate it towards the reason for circular illustrations (charts, tables, figures..) to begin with, if not time-related, which the majority of them does not seem to be. It complicates reading (have to turn book around) and creation (needs gauge screen and to rotate sheets) and points to another question, that of The Voynich Rebinding. It is an observation that some of the illustrations are slightly to large to fit on a page so a certain overlap is left as not to simply cut them off. Hence hey must have been created before the rebinding / rearrangement of the vellum sheets.

Another path would be to try tracking different, older sources of inspiration for the circular drawings. After all, The Voynich was supposed to look ancient. Encyclopedia Britannica says Michael Faraday looked into the phenomenon, and so did Mr. Isaac Newton (unsourced). Traces of the concept are even to be found in Leonardo’s work.

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