Thursday, July 26, 2012

Voynich Manuscript: the Visconti Tarot Cards

The Voynich Manuscript and the Visconti di Modrone Tarot Set rest today in the same library at the Yale University. This is not the only thing they have in common. The carbon dating of the VMS velum and the production of the Filippo Maria Visconti cards are believed to be close in time – somewhere in the first half of the 15th century. It is not surprising then to find similar art patterns in those two – including series of ‘vases’ or ‘cups’( or whatever the real name of the objects is) – they look very similar.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Voynich Manuscript: the Animals of Jean, Duc de Berry

The most famous result of the two year visit of the Byzantine Emperor Manuel II to Paris (beside his inability to get help for Constantinople) is the cultural influence that the princes of the East inflicted upon the artists that witnessed their stay. The Limbourg Brothers used the coiffure and dress of the Greek Emperor in The Meeting of the Magi, Folio 51v of Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. On the same picture, among the exotic wise men, we find few animals that carry resemblance with the group of three creatures sketched on Folio 79v of the Voynich Manuscript.
The forth creature from Voynich 79v can be found on Folio 113v, Les Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Welcome to Purgatory!
Jean Colombe illustrated this one seventy years after the Limbourgs left the manuscript unfinished. The question is: did Colombe followed sketches from the original design or came up with the purgatory creatures on his own? May be he was inspired by looking at the Voynich 79v. Notice the women on 113v of Les Très Riches , who are done with their penance and on their way out of purgatory.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Voynich Manuscript: the Coconuts of Jean, Duc de Berry

While reading by the pool under the Carolina sun, I discovered coconut recipe in the Voynich Manuscript. Experts in the field already think: must be the 100 degree heat!

The recipe is encoded in some Slavic language in every other letter on Fol 88v, first page, starts like this:

edlvoi os ceesriaice vlazen coco dv okoe likier oka ed voda ….
Edible .. fourteen moist coco two oka likeur one oka water….

If you care for details – let me know. The good folks at the Cipher Mysteries blog challenged me to prove that coconuts fit my story line so far. In short: the VMS is product of social mingling among royal and noble women between 1400 and 1410 during increased diplomatic activities in Europe dealing with the Great Schism and the rise of the Ottomans. The court of Jean, Duc de Berry was diplomatic and cultural center at the time.

The coconut was not common site at the beginning of the 15 century. So people of knowledge are skeptical that anybody around the Duke even knew what that is. The record, however, is clear. Duc de Berry was in possession of coconuts.

Donald Frederick Lach writes in his book ‘Asia in the Making of Europe: A century of wonder’:
That brought me to the actual inventory of Duc de Berry in which two items caught my attention (besides few mentions of Noix d'Inde). Number 167, which is something white with inscription in Greek letters. The next item, number 168, is 14 shells of nuts.

14 nut shells? The number is right but the nut is unidentified. Bummer! Still, coconuts being so scarce, what are the odds of Duc de Berry actually producing something eatable or drinkable out of them?
Umberto Eco and Hugh Bredin in The Aesthetics of Thomas Aquinas have this to say about the coconuts of Duc de Berry:

Unicorn horn? Talking about nuts… What did they do with the unicorn horns? According to Mark Kurlansky in ‘Salt: A World History’ they ate it:

If Duke de Berry was turning into spice something as precious as ‘unicorn horn’ he probably didn’t hesitate to crack few nuts open.
Ironically, if I had discovered unicorn recipe, instead of 14 coco, in the Voynich manuscript, it would have been easier to convince skeptics.
Anyway, coconut drink demands umbrella and I sure found one in the Voynich manuscript.

Cheers!