Tuesday, 8 July 2008

The Voynich Manuscript - Who Cares?

Note: this article has now moved to the-voynich-manuscript-who-cares on Cipher Mysteries

I've been debating giving a talk on the Voynich Manuscript at Treadwell's, but I keep coming back to the same problem - what angle should I take?

For me, while its content is occulted ("hidden"), it's not really an occult object per se. (Well, apart from the magic circles, and they were pretty mainstream natural magic circa 1450). And it's neither religious, nor sacrilegious, nor nonsensical, nor a conspiracy, nor a hoax.

In short, if some well-meaning rationalist has stripped away the terror, the fantasies, the heresies, the necromancy, the madness and the delusion, would anyone want to hear about that which remains - an object that is just ordinary (albeit extraordinarily well disguised)?

And similarly: in the whole process of re-writing my book, the hardest chapter to tackle has been (and continues to be) the very first chapter: yet in the first edition, this was the easiest (probably because it was mainly a high-speed roll-call of the VMs' post-1600 history).

These days, I'm reluctant to waste any of my readers' time on any of the could-be might-be nonsense that most VMs writers (such as Kennedy and Churchill, D'Imperio to a large degree, and the Wikipedia entry almost entirely) tend to fill their entire works with. Rather, my interest lies in the dogged hunt for the-thing-that-the-VMs-is, whatever it turns out to be - and that's the quest I want to take my readers on, too.

And so in the revised first edition, Chapter 1 will have almost no pussyfooting provenance, but will instead launch straight into the very specific art history evidence that places the VMs at a certain place and time - Northern Italy circa 1450.

And so in many ways, I'd like to run my talk just about the art history of the VMs (like a try-out of Chapter One) - but in other ways, perhaps I should talk about the VMs' curious cultural channelers (such as Dan Burisch, Terence McKenna, Colin Wilson, David Icke, and so on) whose streams/dreams sometimes tend to hog this blog.

I can't do both at the same time - but which should I do? What do you think?

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