Monday, 21 July 2008

Voynich Documentary (for 2010)...

Note: this article has now moved to voynich-documentary-for-2010 on Cipher Mysteries

Well, you can't say I'm not looking ahead. News reaches my ears of a lavish Voynich documentary being made by the ORF (Austrian Broadcasting Corporation) "Universum" Natural History Unit and Pro Omnia Film & Video Promotion GmbH, in association with "ARTE, ZDF and the Smithsonian Network".

Now we've got past the broadcasting acronym jungle, what is its angle? It's still early days, but its producers Klaus Steindl and Andreas Sulzer seem already to have focused on the VMs' Bohemian history as being worthy of study: we'll just have to wait and see what their research harvests...

Well-known Voynich expert Rene Zandbergen is helping out in some way (hopefully they'll remember to listen to him, particularly as Voynich research is more about avoiding problems than solving them), and they promise:
"Now analysing the illustrations will give a new angle to decoding the manuscript. Wrapped around the text on almost every page there are drawings of plants, star constellations of the zodiac, bathing female figrues and structures remniscent of piping systems and microscopic views. Do these patterns hold the key? For this documentary a team of scientists takes a new interdisciplinary approach to crack the Voynich code - including the first forensic examination of the book itself."

Somehow, I get the feeling that they haven't yet read my book - oh, well. :-( But let them continue...
"A recently discovered signature is a new lead: It identifies the early 17th century scholar Jakub de Tepenec - an alchemist in attendance on Habsburg emperor Rudolph II. How was he connected to the unknown author? Did he possess some kind of secret knowledge about alchemy, magic plants and the fabled fountain of youth he tried to hide from the inquisition?"

OK, OK, even though these are supposed to be rhetorical questions, you'd have to say that "only through ownership" and "no" are both pretty good answers. And "recently" isn't usually used to mean "85 years ago", but I guess they're looking at the big picture here. Regardless, there is an incredible wealth of information from this fascinating period in the numerous Czech archives, so I wish them all the best in their search for whatever it is they're looking for.

Yet as Charles Hope cautions, archival research is best approached more as an exercise in hopeful serendipity than in one of historical problem-solving: as my friend Sergio Toresella said, "In my life I went twice in an Archivio and I haven't got a spider in a hole (as we say in Italian)." You get the idea.

Me, I think I'll stick to the Quattrocento. ;-)

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