• <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> A Rare 3-rotor German Enigma I Enciphering Machine. $70,000 to $90,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Important collection of correspondence between Werner Heisenberg and Bruno Rossi. $40,000 to $60,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Walt Whitman Autograph manuscript containing his thoughts on death. $20,000 to $30,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> David Roberts. <i>Holy Land</i>. Six volumes. 1842-1849. First edition. $15,000 to $25,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Extensive collection of Ray Bradbury's primary works, most signed or inscribed. $15,000 to $20,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Peter Force. Declaration of Independence. $12,000 to $18,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Steinbeck. <i>Grapes of Wrath</i>. A fine copy of the first edition. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Lewis & Clark. <i>Travels to the Source of the Missouri River</i>... First English edition, extra-illustrated. 1814. $10,000 to 15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> Manuscript document signed by Nuno de Guzman relating to Hernan Cortes, 1528. $8,000 to $12,000
    <b>Bonhams, Feb. 11:</b> “Nos los inquisidores..." The first book in English printed West of the Mississippi. [1787]. $5,000 to $8,000.
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> <i>The Massachusetts Magazine: or Monthly Museum of Knowledge and Rational Entertainment,</i> 1789. Signed by George Washington. $28,000 to $32,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> George Washington Signed Letter to John Marshall. $12,000 to $14,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Picasso Signed “Vallauris” 1952 Exhibition Poster. $6,000 to $8,000
    <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Military appointment commission document signed by both President Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of War Henry Dearborn, dated January 27, 1803. $2,400 to $2,800
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Doris Ulmann and Julia Peterkin. <i>Roll, Jordan, Roll.</i> New York, 1933, deluxe edition, preceding first edition of the same year. No. 74 of 350. $5,000 to $6,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> John Marshall. <i>The Life of George Washington,</i> Philadelphia, 1832. Signed by author. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Samuel L. Margolies (American, 1897-1974). Aquatint and etching, "Builders of Babylon," 1937. $4,000 to $4,500
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Two Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) signed documents as President of Washington College. $3,000 to $3,500
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> William C. Harris. <i>The Fishes of North America That Are Captured on Hook and Line</i>, Vol I., New York, 1898. 40 chromolithograph plates. $2,000 to $2,500
    <b>Case Antiques: Historic Winter Fine Art and Antiques Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> $100 "Date Back" bank note 1902 from the Clarksville National Bank, Clarksville, Tennessee, depicting the portrait of John Jay Knox, Jr. $1,400 to $1,800
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> View of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville and Monticello, Taken from Lewis Mountain, drawn and lithographed by Edward Sachse. $800 to $1,000
    <b>Case Antiques, Jan. 27:</b> Large Civil War photograph mounted on card stock depicting Rossville Gap in Missionary Ridge. $400 to $450
  • <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 39: Presidential Pardon Signed by John F. Kennedy. November 1962. $7,000 to $9,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 537: Marc Chagall. <i>Illustrations for the Bible</i>. Features 28 lithograph plates. First American edition, 1956. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 252: Jack Kerouac. <i>On the Road</i>. 1957. First edition. $5,000 to $7,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 143: Arthur Rimbaud. <i>A Season in Hell</i>. With photogravures by Robert Mapplethorpe. The Limited Editions Club, 1986. $600 to $800
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 72: Group of 11 Harry Truman Signed Letters. Typed & signed by the former President. 1962-1970. $1,500 to $2,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 157: Arthur Conan Doyle. The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by The Limited Editions Club. 8 vols. 1950-52. $300 to $500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 173: Jacob Lawrence. <i>The First Book of Moses, Called Genesis</i>. Illustrated with silkscreens by Lawrence. 1989. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 239: William Faulkner. <i>Sartoris</i>. First edition. New York: Harcourt, Brace, & Company, 1929. $2,000 to $3,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 286: Walt Whitman. New Year’s Eve Postcard Signed, “Walt Whitman,” to the poet Gabriel Sarrazin. January, 1891. $4,000 to $6,000
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions: Fine Books & Manuscripts. January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 351: Pair of European Fine Bindings. Including Gesanbuch (1831) & Naboznych Vylevov (1911). $200 to $300
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 423: August Luben. <i> Naturhistorischer Atlas der Saugethiere </i>. Includes complete set of 30 loose plates. Leipzig: 1858. $1,000 to $1,500
    <b>Potter & Potter Auctions Jan. 27:</b><br>Lot 386: <i>Famous Monsters of Filmland No 1</i>. Art by Will Elder, text by Forrest Ackerman. Warren’s first monster magazine. Feb, 1958. $2,000 to $3,000

Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2017 Issue

Three New Theories Attempt to Unravel the 500-year-old Mystery of the Voynich Manuscript

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Venezuelan swamp or European bath?

It is perhaps the greatest mystery of the book world. A 240-page illustrated manuscript, whose history can be traced back almost five centuries, remains indecipherable, its language, creator and origin unknown. For centuries, people attempted to crack its code. Then, for about two centuries, it disappeared, returning to visibility in 1912 when purchased by Polish bookseller Wilfred Voynich. It is from Voynich that it received its common name, the "Voynich Manuscript." Since 1969, it has been owned by Yale University's Beinecke Library, a gift from bookseller H.P. Kraus. In these more recent years, attempts to break the code have been even more intense and frequent. And yet, the mystery goes on.

 

It is written in a language that has confounded even the best code breakers. Whether it is an actual language, a code, or just nonsense writing is uncertain. Its subject is generally understood based on its illustrations. They appear on most pages, and break into categories – herbals, astrology/astronomy, biology (mostly nude women in pools), pharmaceuticals. In 2009, a major breakthrough was achieved in dating it when it was subjected to radiocarbon testing at the University of Arizona. It was determined to date from sometime between 1408-1438. While not eliminating the possibility, that made the chances that it was some sort of elaborate forgery or fraud less likely. Still, the who or why remains a mystery.

 

In the past month, three more theories were put forth to explain this mysterious book. The first explanation comes from Morten St. George, who describes himself as "an independent researcher who has challenged establishment thinking on several issues." Indeed he has. St. George's theory takes us back to the 1200's, well before the creation of the Voynich Manuscript, to a group that disappeared 600 years or more ago. The Cathars were a dissident Christian sect in the days before Protestantism, a time when for the most part there was but one Christian Church, the Catholic Church. They lived in southern France and northern Italy. The Cathars had a series of castles, most notable the castle fortress of Montségur.

 

The Cathars had some unusual beliefs, at least by today's standards. They believed in two Gods, the good, as personified by the New Testament, the evil, personified by the Old. Since it was the God of the Old, or Satan, that created the world, material things were evil. Therefore, worldly goods were to be avoided. Procreation was worldly, so that was bad too. Such an attitude is never good for preservation of a group (ask the Shakers if you can find any), but the Cathars must have been good at conversions. They had but one sacrament, a sort of dry baptism of laying a hand on the forehead. Water was avoided as, after all, it was a worldly substance. They were peaceful people, did not believe in violence or war, were vegetarians, treated women almost as equal to males, perhaps their most unusual custom of all for the day.

 

Their peaceful ways made them well-liked by their neighbors. Neighbors, even the nobility, defended the Cathars, and obviously provided continuing members. However, this still did not sit well with the Catholic Church, which sent numerous leaders out to convert them. They had little success. The Cathars found the Church leaders too worldly. They were content with their own system of beliefs.

 

In 1198, Pope Innocent III came to power and he was determined to exert more control over the various kingdoms and regions of Europe. In 1209, he launched what is known as the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars. It was bloody, thousands of Cathars killed. The Inquisition began during the latter stages of this crusade. While locals at first attempted to aid the Cathars, the unfortunate turn of events made it too dangerous to take their side. In 1244, Montségur fell, some 200 Cathars were burned at the stake, and the movement was essentially dead. Their terrible fate has been mostly forgotten as unlike other groups whose sufferings are known, the Cathars had no survivors to tell their story. Some followers converted, others disappeared into the countryside. By the time the Voynich Manuscript was created, the first half of the 15th century, they were no more.

 

Or were they? St. George's theory was that some escaped by boats, perhaps supplied by friendly neighbors. Since flames awaited them if captured, the Cathars had good reason to flee, even if it was risky. He believes that they made it to the coast of Africa, and then, following currents, sailed to Venezuela. They didn't know where they were going, but that is where the current took them. While the date of such a trip is unknown, the date of the Voynich Manuscript dictates that if they created it, they made it to America long before Columbus.

 

St. George bases his theory on the illustrations within the Voynich manuscript. While the most common theory has placed its origin in northern Italy, he points to tropical appearing scenes, many plants that do not exist in Europe (most do not appear anywhere, although one he has identified as a water plant from Venezuela). A flower looks much like a sunflower, indigenous to the Americas but unknown in Europe at the time. The images are virtually all women, surprising recognition for European Christians, except for the Cathars. Still, a woman with a cross indicates they are Christians. Various scenes depict the women allegedly trudging through green swamps, common to Venezuela but not Europe. They are naked, appropriate for the tropics, but not Europe (okay, maybe those southern French beaches contradict this point). There is even a castle that looks like Montségur, though that would have been a memory in Venezuela. Another shows a bonfire with a person inside, the castle in the background, perhaps illustrating its terrible end.

 

St. George also notes an absence of children, despite all of the women, typical for childless Cathars. One image looks like it could be a man pursuing a fleeing woman, perhaps displaying the aversion to procreation. This could also explain their disappearance. While new members were drawn from other Christians in Europe, such may not have been possible among the natives of South America.

 

Another theory recently put forward comes from Patrick Lockerby, described as a "linguist specialising in language acquisition and computational linguistics," on the Science 2.0 website. Lockerby has used some sort of program on the symbols in the manuscript and determined it is based on a medieval form of Latin. While he does not have a clear translation, he believes it shows this to be a book for apothecaries and those selling bath oils. He points to jars on a shelf as evidence this is for use by apothecaries. Water scenes, he says, display pipes, common in public baths. Rather than Venezuelan swamps, he believes the women are bathing in European baths.

 

Stephen Skinner, an author with a long bibliography, recently postulated that it was created by a Jewish physician, the naked women in the water being Jewish women in ritual mikvah baths. His explanation is this is the only place in Europe at the time that there would be naked women and no men in a communal pool. This doesn't entirely explain the rest of the book, and the mysterious writing reads left to right, not right to left like Hebrew.

 

Of course, the cases these researchers have made are tilted toward their beliefs. Supporting evidence is highlighted, but there are many more illustrations in the Voynich Manuscript that may not clearly support their theories. These individuals are not traditional, university type of researchers. They are perhaps advocates for a belief which they have bolstered with reasonable arguments.

 

I have no idea whether any of them is correct. Most likely, they aren't. The most likely idea to me seems to be some sort of physician. Such a person in those days would have been part physician, part herbalist, part astrologer, part mystic. Perhaps he invented his own language or code to protect his secrets of the trade.

 

I am struck by the apparent lack of religious symbolism in a document from this era. Even the one image with a woman apparently holding a cross could be some other object composed of two crossed sticks. I find this aspect particularly surprising, even for a physician, though it might support Skinner's thesis that the author was Jewish. European Jews might have found it safer to downplay religion, while Christians would have felt it better to display their faith.

 

Still, I find these new theories reassuring. They have at least come up with rational explanations for something that has been a total mystery. Claims of some incredibly sophisticated hidden code or hoax all the way to created by space aliens stretch the limits of credibility. Even if these new theories are wrong, they reassure us that there is most likely a reasonable explanation for the creation of this manuscript, though the exact details may yet to be discovered.

 

Link to Morten St. George's website: www.mortenstgeorge.net

 

Link to an article by Patrick Lockerby in Science 2.0: www.science20.com/patrick_lockerby/the_keys_to_the_voynich_manuscript-225224


Posted On: 2017-09-08 03:23
User Name: mairin111

Excellent piece from Michael Stillman on the enigmatic, continually contested Voynich Manuscript. This is a subject receiving generous play in the media, most recently a cover feature in this week's TLS, "Bathers in Green Liquid" by H.R. Woudhuysen. Readers will appreciate Stillman's information on the manuscript's Cathars connection, and also what the unfailingly interesting Morten St. George has to say on the matter. A fascinating topic. Our thanks, indeed, to Mr Stillman (and keep writing, have enjoyed your contributions).

Maureen E. Mulvihill, Princeton Research Forum, NJ.
Rare Book Hub guest writer, 2016, "Old Books / New Editions" (3-essay series).
_____


Posted On: 2017-09-11 05:26
User Name: wallyj

Nicholas Gibbs presents a well reasoned explanation of the various aspects of this manuscript at the following link:

https://www.the-tls.co.uk/articles/public/voynich-manuscript-solution/

It too appears in the current edition of the Times Literary Supplement (September 5, 2017) as the article mentioned in the other comment here. It manages to avoid the patronizing and irritating references to the "gals" of Mr. St. George.


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Feb 15:</b> Icons & Images: Photographs & Photobooks
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 1:</b> Vintage Posters Featuring Highlights from the Gail Chisholm Collection
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 8:</b> Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 13:</b> 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 22:</b> Autographs
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Mar 29:</b> Printed & Manuscript African Americana
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Apr 12:</b> Printed & Manuscript Americana
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Apr 26:</b> Fine Illustrated Books & Graphics
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 3:</b> Graphic Design
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries May 15:</b> 19th & 20th Century Literature
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jun 7:</b><br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, Jun 21:</b> Revolutionary & Presidential Americana from the Collection of William Wheeler III
  • <b>Arader Galleries Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Snowy Heron, Plate 242. John James Audubon (1785-1851). First Edition Engravings with Original Hand Color. London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Great Blue Heron, Plate 211. John James Audubon (1785-1851). First Edition Engravings with Original Hand Color. London: Robert Havell, 1827-1838.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> The Clouded Leopard. Charles Robert Knight (1874-1953). Oil on canvas.
    <b>Arader Galleries Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> A Bouquet of Daffodils and Other Flowers with a Butterfly on the Stem. Pierre-Joseph Redouté (1759-1840). Black Chalk, Watercolor And Gum Arabic On Vellum.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> CELLARIUS, Andreas (ca 1596-1665). <i>Harmonia macrocosmica seu atlas universalis et Novus</i>. Amsterdam: Pieter Schenk and Gerald Valk, 1708.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> HOMANN, Johann Baptist (1663-1724). <i>Grosser Atlas über die gantze Welt</i>. Nuremburg: J.H.G. Bieling for the heirs of Homann, 1737.
    <b>Arader Galleries Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> LEVAILLANT, Francois (1753-1824). <i>Histoire naturelle des perroquets</i>. Paris: Levrault frères (later Levrault, Schoell & Co.), 1801-1805.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> FUCHS, Leonhard (1501-1566). <i>De historia stirpium commentarii insignes. adiectis earundem vivis plusquam quingentis imaginibus</i>… Basel: Michel Isingrin, 1542.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Original Manuscript Map "Plano De Una Parte De La Provincia De La Luisiana..." AN EXCEPTIONALLY FINE AND HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT MAP SHOWING THE ORIGINS OF THE STATE OF TEXAS AT THE TURN OF THE 19TH CENTURY.
    <b>Arader Galleries Auction<br>January 27, 2018</b>
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> J. De Cordova's Map of the State of Texas Compiled from the records of the General Land Office of the State by Robert Creuzbaur, Houston. Hand-colored lithograph. New York: J. Atwood, 1850.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Texas. David Burr (1803-1875). Engraved Map with original hand color in full. New York: J. H. Colton & Co., 1834. Second Edition.
    <b>Arader Galleries, Jan. 27:</b> Map of Texas with Parts of Adjoining States Compiled by Stephen F. Austin. Engraved Map with original hand color. Philadelphia, 1830. First Edition.
  • <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> <i>Verve: Revue Artistique et Littéraire/An Artistic and Literary Quarterly,</i> nos.1-38 in 26 vol [a complete set], numerous colour lithographs by Picasso, Chagall, Matisse & others. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Wesley (John, Church of England clergyman and a founder of Methodism, 1703-91). Autograph Letter signed to Rev. John Bredin, 1782. £8,000 to £12,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Austen (Jane). Brock (Charles Edward). A group of seventeen ink and watercolour drawings for Dent's edition of Jane Austen's <i>Sense and Sensibility,</i> 1908. £6,000 to £8,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Tibullus (Albius) and Gaius Valerius Catullus. <i>Elegiae, sive Carmina,</i> Venice, Andreas de Paltasichis, 1487. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Doves Press. English Bible (The), 5 vol., one of 500 copies, signed and inscribed by Laurence Hodson, Doves Press, 1903. £5,000 to £7,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Africa. Smith (Andrew). <i>Illustrations of the Zoology of South Africa,</i> 5 vol., first edition, original cloth, [1838-50]. £4,000 to £6,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Longitude. <i>An Act for providing a Publick Reward for such Person or Persons as shall Discover the Longitude at Sea,</i> first edition of this highly important act, John Baskett, 1714. £3,000 to £5,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Shirley (James). <i>Six new playes, viz. The Brothers. Sisters. Doubtfull Heir. Imposture. Cardinall. Court secret,</i> first edition, 1653. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Heaney (Seamus). <i>Ugolino,</i> number 77 of 125 copies, Dublin, Dolmen Press, 1979. £3,000 to £4,000
    <b>Forum Auctions: Fine Books and Works on Paper. January 25, 2018</b>
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Lasinio (Carlo, 1759-1838). <i>[Ritratti Originali de Pittori Esistenti Nella Reale Galleria de Firenze],</i> 99 engravings, circa 1791-96. £1,800 to £2,200
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Japan. Kusakabe Kimbei. Photograph Album, 50 hand-coloured albumen prints, oblong folio, [c.1890-1900]. £1,500 to £2,000
    <b>Forum Auctions, Jan. 25:</b> Polar. Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin. Arctic Expedition in search of Sir John Franklin, printed flyer, 1852. £1,000 to £1,500

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