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Notes on the letter of Ethel Voynich (1930)

Wilfrid Voynich died in the USA on 19 March 1930, leaving the manuscript in his will to his widow Ethel and his secretary Anne Nill. Ethel Voynich died in 1960, leaving the manuscript to Anne Nill. (Gerry Kennedy and Rob Churchill, The Voynich Manuscript, London 2004, p. 248). The purpose of the letter is thus to preserve title to the manuscript and record its provenance while maintaining commercial confidentiality for as long as possible. Anne Nill sold the manuscript to Hans Kraus in 1961, who donated it to the Beinecke Libary in 1969.

'The Vatican' is probably loose usage. It is clear from other evidence that Voynich bought the manuscript from the Roman province of the Society of Jesus and not from the Vatican City State or the Holy See. Ethel Voynich, who is remembered for her anti-clerical novel The Gadfly, might not have thought the distinction relevant. She repeats the story about a 'castle' but is clearly not sure of it: she is certain about Frascati, the location of the Villa Mondragone, which is probably meant.

'The Quirinal': the Italian government, from the Quirinal Palace, the residence of the kings and later the presidents of Italy. The anti-clerical governments of late 19th century Italy were hostile to the Jesuits and had nationalised a large part of their libraries. There is further information about Jesuit contrivances to evade the confiscations on Rene Zandbergen's site.