… yet there’s madness to it.
Lately I had speculated about the nature of the recipe section and the stars therein. What about the theory that it really is an almanac of kinds?
Threshing wildly around in my rhetorics, I surmised that —
- This part of the manuscript might have been rebound (as the rest obviously has been), and
- With all pages intact, the number of stars would not have added up to 365.
Now, nothing stops us from stumbling on in the fog and assume that the recipe section indeed did have 365 stars in the beginning, because it is logical to assume it was an almanac of sorts. That in turn would mean that the missing pages would have to constitute the beginning or the end of the recipe section, because only part of it is required to arrive at 365 entries.
Namely, there are 18 to 20 stars missing (depending on whether you count the odd ones in or out.) Now, the recipe pages have 11 to 20 stars each, which makes it probable that the missing stars would all be on one single page, rather than on two pages.
One likely candidate for the missing section is the bifolio f109/f110. As you can see from Rene Zandbergen’s survey, at the time of foliation this bifolio was the center of quire 20. This would mean four pages for the 18 stars, which is clearly too much (unless we assume that the quire contained a foray into a different topic before coming back to the recipes.)
The other option is that f109/f110 was originally enveloping the rest of the recipe section.
If this was the case, f109r would have concluded the pharmaceutical section, while the missing stars were on f109v, which would be a bit unusual. On the other hand, the recipe section ends on f116r, with the subsequent page f116v initially left empty (or wasn’t it?), so it’s probably safe to assume that this really was then the intended end of the book. (Not to mention that f116r ends with a long text paragraph without a star, which makes it look like a coda of the section.) But if this is the case, and if f109/f110 was wrapping the rest of the quire, then f110 also had to be empty, ie the VM would have ended with three empty pages.
So, summing it all up, this is what at the end of all my fancies the recipe section would have looked like:
- f109r, concluding the pharmaceutical section, and f109v with the missing stars,
- f103, f104, and f108, in any order,
- f105 through f107,
- f111 through f116,
- f110, empty.
All of this has only one drawback: If f109/f110 contained one page with pharmaceuticals, one with stars and two empty pages, why was it at the time of rebinding put into the center of the quire, where it so obviously did not belong…?
“Or are these things just stories, without point or truth, brought to mankind from the pages of poets?” (Euripides: Iphigenia in Aulis)
P.S.: For what it’s worth, the three “irregular star pages” (with more or less random sequences, as opposed to the regular on-off sequences on the other pages), are all rectos. Weakest trace of all, it might just hint to the recto pages being adorned with the stars first, then followed by the versos.