Steel True, Blade Straight

In the wake of the latest VM dating results, my old research buddy Rich SantaColoma has admitted defeat of his “New Atlantis” theory about the VM.

Rich has for several year pursued his theory which first assumed that the VM was a notebook on optics and early microscopy by Cornelius Drebbel, and in the light of ongoing examinations modified this to the more comprehensive concept of the VM being a “prop book” to enhance the credibility of Francis Bacon’s work on New Atlantis.*)

While Rich was able to gather quite some impressive circumstantial evidence, the crucial point of this theory was that the VM would have to have been created in the early 17th century, some 200 years after what mainstream considered the VM origin. This has brought him into much conflict with other VM researchers, and Rich had to fight an uphill battle for his ideas against the odds, the numbers, and at times also against stupidity and ignorance.

While I was sympathetic with his ideas, I never made them mine (due to just the dating problems), but I always had the highest respect for Rich’s pluck and mettle in the face of adversity, and for his professional, reasonable and courteous stance.

Now Rich has done something unheard of in the history of VM research: He has withdrawn his theories in the consequence of conflicting evidence — namely the VM dating, which would have required huge leaps of faith to stay in line with the NA hypothesis.

This has earned Rich even more respect in my eyes. So many people out there will, in the light of adverse evidence, modify their own theories and go to ever wilder lengths to keep them alive. Rich has simply done the right, honest, and straightforward thing. No whining, no bitching, no twisting of facts.

The downside is that he has announced that he probably will take a step back from VM research. (Holy cow, this is beginning to sound like an obituary. To the best of my knowledge, the man is still alive!) It would be sad if he did so, because it is my conviction that not only has he already contributed greatly to VM research in the past, but that he would also do so in the future. While I understand the disappointment and the frustration, I’d love to continue to see Rich on the web, coming up with new ideas for the VM, and bringing us all closer to our goal.

“You lost today, kid. But that doesn’t mean you have to like it.”

*) I hope I correctly summarize Rich’s theories here. Apologies if I don’t!

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8 thoughts on “Steel True, Blade Straight

  1. Elmar! You nut! No, just kidding… thank you for the nice post, and the nice comments. And yes, I am alive, not typing from “beyond”.

    Well certainly it’s always been about the facts, and we finally have one… and it seems like a really solid one. The now determined, proper time frame will certainly need more attention, to help solve the problem… and it may get it now. But as I responded to René Zandbergen on my blog, I’m not sure I will have much to contribute to this time, as it has been pored over so thoroughly by so many, for many decades. But I will certainly follow it with interest…

    I’m going to get back to my American Turtle Submarine research, and my experiments with, and reconstructions of, Cornelis Drebbel instruments and inventions. But of course we will stay in touch… it’s been the most enjoyable part of this whole thing… meeting really cool people, like you and René. Rich.

  2. I don’t know where else to ask this question, if it is completely inappropriate here please ignore it. Anyway, it now seems that in light of the new dating results all the forgery/hoax/prop (I consider Rich’s theory as one of those) theories have lost considerable, but certainly not all, ground. While I am on the subject, Rich’s pages on the VM are excellent, his research on microscopes enlightening. My question however deals with the alleged letter that was supposedly found by Voynich within the manuscript, written by Marci to Kircher. I am curious if any dating or other type of verification was ever done on this letter…the reason why I have thought that the VM may be some kind of a hoax was primarily due to this letter. Taken together with the manuscript itself and especially its vague “code-like sequences” it reminds me too much of a Victorian treasure hunting puzzle, something in the vein of the Beale cipher – but much more elaborate of course, where one’s appetite is initially whetted by a hint of a possible solution, or by an appeal to one’s vanity. I understand that this letter is also at Beinecke; it would be great if someone had a chance to take a much closer look at it.

  3. To my knowledge, no dating on the letter has been performed.

    The pretty much conclusive dating of the VM itself though seems to rule out a modern hoax, since it would have required someone finding a huge batch of century-old vellum plus havnig the expertise to concoct ink and paint according to period recipes. (A “contemporary” hoax of the 15th century is still conceivable.)

  4. You can see the letter for yourself. It is
    available as a very high resolution scan at the
    Beinecke website:
    http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/
    search for ‘marci letter’ (all of these key words).
    Select the ‘zoom’ button to get the highest
    resolution.
    When handling the letter, one can see how it has
    been glued into the manuscript.

    In the end, of course it will always remain
    possible to assume that it is all a fake. The
    likelyhood has become vanishingly small by now,
    though. For example, there are other letters, kept
    in a different place, which refer to this one,
    which massively complicate the ‘plot’.

  5. Thomas: Thank you for the nice comments about my work.

    As for the letter, I do agree with Rene that they are most likely real… when all the evidence is taken together. This of course undermines the possible that the Voynich is a modern hoax. If they are real, then the only (and exceedingly unlikely) possibility would be that the Marci letter was referring to another (lost) manuscript, and W.M. Voynich used this as a basis to create a manuscript which would fulfill the description in it. But he did not know about the other letters which have come to light… nor that the dating of vellum would someday be possible… I think too many factors, all of which would have had to work out, and work together, make this all very improbable.

    The most important things I personally glean from the letters is that they show a definite earliest age of existence for a “written in” Voynich Ms., but more importantly, that the writers of the letters were all Catholics, and also happened to be clueless as to the Voynich. This is not a slander against the religion… but perhaps another indication, considering the time and politics… that it “drifted” over the line which then divided the known world. I mean, I still wonder, and do hope, that someone in Protestant Europe may have still known just what this was, before it settled into their enemies hands. I think it is in pre-1620 Protestant records, therefore, we have the best hope to find an answer… Rich.

  6. Rich – just as a matter of historical fact: the scholars of medieval Europe were clerics, and before some groups broke away from the church, everyone of the scholars was catholic. Catholicity wasn’t a sect; it was the western church.

  7. Diane- I understand what you are pointing out, as it relates to medieval Europe. I probably use a sort of inaccurate historical “shorthand” to explain my concepts, which I incorrectly assume a general reader will also know of.

    I was referring to the time just after the fall of Frederick at the Battle of White mountain (1620), when Europe was basically divided between those loyal to the Vatican (who perhaps I incorrectly labeled “Catholics”), and those loyal to the Protestant forces… meaning the Dutch, English, Frederick and the Palatine, and so on. Something like 80,000 books were looted from the Heidelberg library on a 200 mule caravan… I think they have so far gotten about 38 back from the Vatican. I suspect that the Voynich is a Protestant work from at least the mid-16th century on, and when it was captured at Prague or Heidelberg, it’s new owners did not know what to make of it… it was new and unfamiliar to them, and it’s symbolism and purpose alien.

    Of course by the time it was found again, in 1912, it was alien to all of us… much of the VMs’s intended symbolism since blurring with many other eras and disciplines. But I still suspect that if it had made it out of Prague in 1620 with the retreating Protestant forces, that it would not have become such a mystery, as it did to the Catholics Marci, Kinner, and seemingly, Kircher. I suspect (a theory) that if (for instance) Elizabeth had it in her Hague library, and showed it to a visiting Huygens, or Maiar, or Andreae, they would have had a much better idea of it’s origin, purpose and content… just as she herself would have… if and because it came from a background they were more familiar with, as I surmise.

    My post here goes into this idea in more detail, and gives examples of books which were captured:
    http://proto57.wordpress.com/2009/07/23/another-path-to-prague/

  8. Pingback: Bird Glyphs, Aztecs, Aries, Hakluyt et al. « The Voynich-New Atlantis Theory

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