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Tucker & Talbert on Voynich ms. (winter 2013) (Read 2646 times)

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Tucker & Talbert on Voynich ms. (winter 2013)
31.01.2014 at 09:32:42
Arthur O. Tucker & Rexford H.  Talbert:
A Preliminary Analysis of the Botany, Zoology, and Mineralogy of the Voynich Manuscript
in: "HerbalGram : The Journal of the American Botanical Council" 100 (Winter 2013), pp. 70-85

PDF version is available at http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbalgram/issue100/HG100-voynich-online.pdf .
This possible indication of a New World origin set us down a path that diverges from most previous Voynich researchers. If our identifications of the plants, animals, and minerals are correct as originating in Mexico and nearby areas, then our abductive reasoning should be focused upon Nueva España (New Spain) from 1521 (the date of the Conquest) to ca. 1576 (the earliest possible date that the Voynich Ms. may have appeared in Europe with any documentation). If the Voynich Ms. is, as one reviewer of this article indicated, “an invention by somebody in, let’s say Hungary, who invented it based on images of early printed books,” then this forger had to have intimate knowledge of the plants, animals, and minerals of Mexico and surrounding regions, in addition to its history, art, etc. Some of this knowledge, such as the distinction of Viola bicolor (Violaceae; which is not illustrated in earlier books to our knowledge) vs. V. tricolor, was clarified only in the 20th century. A forgery is certainly possible, but applying the principle of Occam’s Razor (which says that the hypothesis with the fewest assumptions should be selected), attention should be focused upon Nueva España between 1521 and ca. 1576, not Eurasia, Africa, South America, or Australia (or alien planets).

Thus, is quite easily transliterated as nashtli, a variant of nochtli, the Nahuatl (Aztec) name for the fruit of the prickly pear cactus or the cactus itself. Then we looked at plant No. 4 on folio 100r, which appears to be a pressed specimen of a young Yucca spp. or Agave spp., quite possibly Agave atrovirens Karw. ex Salm-Dyck (Agavaceae). Here transliterates to maguoey, or maguey. These initial keys of proper names allowed us to uncover further names, and details are listed in the Appendix of this article.


We note that the style of the drawings in the Voynich Ms. is similar to 16th century codices from Mexico (e.g., Codex Cruz-Badianus). With this prompt, we have identified a total of 37 of the 303 plants illustrated in the Voynich Ms. (roughly 12.5% of the total), the six principal animals, and the single illustrated mineral. The primary geographical distribution of these materials, identified so far, is from Texas, west to California, south to Nicaragua, pointing to a botanic garden in central Mexico, quite possibly Huaztepec (Morelos). A search of surviving codices and manuscripts from Nueva España in the 16th century, reveals the calligraphy of the Voynich Ms. to be similar to the Codex Osuna (1563-1566, Mexico City). Loan-words for the plant and animal names have been identified from Classical Nahuatl, Spanish, Taino, and Mixtec. The main text, however, seems to be in an extinct dialect of Nahuatl from central Mexico, possibly Morelos or Puebla.


This hypotheses has found considerable ressonance: cf. Markus C. Schulte von Drach: Was das Voynich-Manuskript mit Mexiko zu tun hat ("Südeutsche Zeitung" 2014-01-30) (the text originally pointing to this) and Klaus Schmeh: Neue Forschungsarbeit: Ist das Voynich-Manuskript bald gelöst? 2014-01-27) for reports.
And see (at least) Klaus Schmeh : Experten zweifeln an angeblicher Voynich-Lösung (2014-01-29) and the comments there, and Nick Pelling aka nickpelling: A Brand New New World / Nahuatl Voynich Manuscript Theory… (2014-01-21) and the comemnts there for criticism.

Leaving aside the mesoamerican hypothesis: IMO it is well worth to keep in mind that many many renaissance texts are to some degree "mixed language" (even if we should decide to treat the macaronic ones as a special type (and I myself am on the fence there)), and that cryptographic analysis of the Voynich ms (or any <other> Renaissance artifact) should consider "mixed language text" as something possible.    
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for contact information etc. concerning hck (Heinrich C. Kuhn): see http://www.phil-hum-ren.uni-muenchen.de/php/Kuhn/
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