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RE: RE: Re: Toresella

Sorry Philip,

I didn't mean to draw attention or to be overly critical myself.  I'm just a
collector of Voynichiana.  A couple of years ago a series of letters became
available to the Voynich list, two of which were from Hugh O'Neill, the
botanist.  These related to William Friedman, and since I have an interest
in the man, I stored the letters on my computer.  This is a narrow slice of
history I focus on, to be sure.

I've been following the botanical identifications by Dana F. Scott, which is
why I recalled these letters and their contents.  I also have an original
copy of O'Neill's article, which I purchased on the internet.  I'm from the
school of thought that cryptography (if it is cryptography) didn't reach
these heights until the 16th century, and since I have my own ideas I'll
leave the finer points to the professionals.

It's just that to me, having read his article, O'Neill made it abundantly
clear that his identifications were in no way conclusive, and that while he
had no interest or professional expertise in deciphering the manuscript, he
could at least add his "for what it's worth" to the subject, in the hope
that it would help future investigators.

I sent the letter information privately to Rene Zandbergen, but I'll copy it
here.  In the first letter, dated Jan. 2, 1945, from Hugh O'Neill to Dr.
Leonnel C. Strong, O'Neill informs Dr. Strong of Friedman's efforts to
decipher the manuscript.  He also informs him of his acquaintance with R.G.
Kent, and how he disagrees with Prof. Kent's assessment of Newbold's work.
The information interesting here is that O'Neill and Friedman both live in
Washington, D.C., and by all accounts Friedman's work on the Voynich at this
time was secret, yet O'Neill knows about it and directs Dr. Strong to
William Friedman.  It is quite possible that O'Neill and Friedman actually
met, which might have been the instigation for O'Neill publishing his short
article on the plant identification in the manuscript.  (speculation in
Speculum?) It is certain that Friedman consulted with O'Neill, otherwise
O'Neill would not have had the information he had at the time.

O'Neill directly mentions his notes on the subject.  These notes may no
longer exist, but they did at one time.

"I have a number of pages of notes and conclusions based on the none too
certain identifications of the numerous plants figured in the MS.
Considerable additional work will be necessary before any of this is in
shape for publication."

Even a cautious person would assume that O'Neill continued his analysis of
the plants for some time after he wrote this letter, since this manuscript
does foster a great deal of devotion?  And if Dr. Strong had such a
difficult time obtaining a copy of the Voynich, isn't it reasonable to
assume that O'Neill got his copy for analysis either from Kent or Friedman?
I'd love to see these questions finally answered.

As to elements of costume worn by the human figures, D'Imperio charted those
waters quite well.  Additional identifications of costume design have been
posted by members from time to time, and the concensus appeared to me at
least to be that the designs were no earlier than 15th century.  This of
course places only the earliest possible date for authorship as late 15th

Since you are a botanist and I am not, I think you have a better footing
than me, a simple observer, but I can't imagine that all of these plants are
drawn from imagination.  What European could have imagined a sunflower
before it arrived?  Is there some other flower that could have been used to
fuel this imagination?  Explain folio 34r and 93r.  I grow sunflowers, or at
least they grow in my yard without my help, and everytime I look at one in
its different stages of growth, I see one of these two images.  Do you have
a European replacement for this plant?  Why is it that just about everybody
who looks at it who has ever seen a sunflower says "sunflower"?

The first time a sunflower appeared in European herbals was what, 1528 or
1535?  If it is a sunflower and these dates hold, it's a 16th century
manuscript.  I'm not a botanist by any stretch, but I think Dana is on the
right track, and I think that track was cautiously followed earlier by Hugh
O'Neill.  Sometimes science takes awhile to catch on, but when it finally
does, it makes great progress.

Back to my usual pursuit.  We're publishing Selenus, Vigenere, and
eventually Porta on www.all-things-bacon.com.  We're about halfway through
Selenus now.


-----Original Message-----
From: philip.marshall@xxxxxxxx [mailto:philip.marshall@xxxxxxxx]
Sent: Friday, May 25, 2001 4:46 PM
To: ddhopper@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Cc: voynich@xxxxxxxx
Subject: Fwd: RE: Re: Toresella

Perhaps I was too critical of O'Neill's paper, but there is a great deal
of controversy over his identifications. Stolfi discusses the
"sunflower" on his site(http://www.dcc.unicamp.br/~stolfi/voynich/
98-01-17-sunflower/) with the conclusion that it could not be a
16th-century depiction of a sunflower, and as a botanist myself I am not
convinced that the "Capsicum" on folio 101v is even botanical (despite
the red color, and a similar figure elsewhere in green, it looks like a
piece of laboratory equipment to me). That said, a 16th-century date
does seem correct to me (the MS is certainly not medieval). I wonder
what can be gained from the study of elements of costume worn by human
figures in the MS.

Philip Marshall

---------Included Message----------
>Date: Thu, 24 May 2001 04:40:52 -0500
>From: "ddhopper" <ddhopper@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>Reply-To: "ddhopper" <ddhopper@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
>To: <philip.marshall@xxxxxxxx>
>Subject: RE: Re: Toresella
>The botanist Hugh O'Neill, a friend of R.G. Kent, did publish his
>identifications as "tentative", and drew his speculation on that
>phrase.  I don't think his identifications were "careless" or his
>presumptuous or "provocative".  He simply chose the two most
>plants and wrote his brief pamphlet as a guide for researchers.
>people have identified the flower as a sunflower, and the capsicum is
>distinctive.  When Dana's views are added to O'Neill's identification
>only a couple of plants, a pattern builds toward early to middle 16th
>century.  Perhaps it is not O'Neill who was careless, but other
>in ignoring or not pursuing the more obvious.  Perhaps...
>In O'Neill's unpublished notes he identifies quite a few more plants to
>-----Original Message-----
>From: philip.marshall@xxxxxxxx [mailto:philip.marshall@xxxxxxxx]
>Sent: Thursday, May 24, 2001 12:13 AM
>To: voynich@xxxxxxxx
>Subject: Fwd: Re: Toresella
>If the VMS were penned in the second half of the XVI
>>> century, then I have no difficulty in accepting the presence of
>>> samples from the Western Hemisphere; however, I am not convinced
>>> the sunflower identification is accurate.
>>	It was Brumbaugh that said that the sunflower and pepper showed that
>>it was written after the discovery of the New World.  He thought that
>>the text
>>was nonsense, written by Dee and Kelly to make money.  He did think
>>labels were meaningful, Latin enciphered in a rudimentary cipher.  We
>>accept any of this.
>More precisely, I believe that it was Hugh O'Neill who first
>(carelessly, I would say) the "sunflower" and "pepper" and emphasized
>that they would date the MS to after 1493 (when Columbus returned to
>Europe with seeds). Brumbaugh was responsible only for the
>popularization of O'Neill's provocative claim.
>-Philip Marshall
---------End of Included Message----------