Voynich Manuscripts (AKA the VMS)

Here's my contribution to Voynichology: a list of practical tasks, each of which help sharpen our picture of where the VMS came from and what they're all about.

Advances in knowledge come from explorations of its edges. My hope here is that collating the VMS' edges in one place, and suggesting challenges to resolve them provide a call-to-arms to the world!

But this is just the beginning - please send your comments (and suggestions for better challenges!) to me (Nick Pelling), or to the Voynich mailing list. Or better still, accept a challenge - and share what you found with the world!

  Challenge <As suggested by>
    SubTask Being looked at by (date)
Physical evidence  
  What can we learn from the binding? <Seth@loomcom.com>
    Systematically examine and catalogue the VMS' binding  
    Determine how/when/where/by whom it was originally bound  
    Determine how/when/where/by whom it was rebound  
  Are the same range of colours used in similar era documents?  
    What precise pigments were used in the VMS?  
    Are there systematic pigment analyses in the literature?  
  What can we learn from the physical materials themselves? Dr. Hans-Hellmuth CunoH

"Has there been any test of the isotopic composition of the material of the document, its paper, pigments etc.? Also a microscopic examination can probably give some insights into the origin of the materials. That could possibly shed light onto the date and place of creation.

The modern method of accelerator mass spectroscopy allows the determination of the isotopic composition of miniscule amounts of material. When there is any interest Professor Walter Kutschera of Vienna University (walter.kutschera@univie.ac.at) can certainly help you further. There is also one institution for accelerator MS in the States."

  What can we learn from the ink itself?  
    From what/how/where/when was it made?  
  Has the vellum been examined for embedded pollen? Glen Claston
    This can often provide dating and location evidence  
  Has the history of crayons been examined? Rene Zandbergen?
    Some pages appear to have been coloured using crayons: what does this tell us historically (etc)?  
  What can we learn from the pen itself?  
    Try to reconstruct a page of the VMS using contemporaneous materials and writing tools - what does that tell us about the chosen writing style and alphabet?  
  Tepenicz's erased signature was made visible via UV light - has there been any modern scanning of the VMS beyond visible wavelengths?  
    Perhaps propose this to Yale? Would UV images of the VMS need the same level of copyright protection as normal scans?  
Stylistic evidence  
  Can we get palaeographic evidence to assert/deny Currier's hands/languages theory? <FSG>
    Ask a contemporary palaeographer (eg, Dr Philomena Connolly?)  
  How do the VMS' script(s) compare with other humanistic hands?  
    Has a list of documents in humanistic hands been compiled?  
    Can we post partial images of these onto the Net for comparison?  
  How do the VMS compare with other "alchemical herbals"?  
    Has a list of extant alchemical herbals been compiled?  
    Were any of these written on similar paper?  
    Who bought alchemical herbals? What was the market?  
Historical evidence  
  Is the VMS' folio numbering in the same hand as Edward Kelley's numbers? <Rafal Prinke>
    Examine the "Liber misteriorum" at the British Library Nick Pelling (08AUG2001)
    Result: looks like Edward Kelley's numbers to me!  
  The signature on one of the pages: are there any other samples of this person's signature to compare this with? <Mik Clarke>
    Upload an image of the signature to the web?  
  Is the VMS similar to Matteo Ricci's spelling system? ?mailing list?
    Examine the original document in the Vatican Library!  
  Is the VMS similar to Thomas Harriot's phonetic Algonquin (1584)? ?mailing list?
    Find any extant examples of this!  
  Has anyone found silphium still existing in modern Libya? ?mailing list?
    Find out if any modern botanists have been looking for this!  
Provenance evidence  
  Villa Mondragone - are there any (now aging) Jesuits from there with a VMS story to tell?  
    Does anyone know who they were, or more of the Villa's history?  
    Has anyone traced any of them?  
  Mgr Jose Ruysschaert - why did he think the Vatican owned the VMS?  
    Was he ever asked? If so, what did he say?  
Statistical evidence  
  Could the gallows character be both a character and a "change codelist" command? <Steve Ekwall>
    Examine the statistics of the blocks of characters following each of the 8 (4 + 4 struck-through) main gallows characters.  
  What is the longest span of continuous duplicated text in the VMS? ?mailing list?
    Any theory would need to explain this kind of data!  
  Examine "hundreds of undeciphered documents" for similarities with the VMS Glen Claston/Nick Pelling
    Find them, scan them in, and post them to the web!