A Brand New New World / Nahuatl Voynich Manuscript Theory…

The American Botanical Council (who neither I nor many of you had heard of before this week) are celebrating their 100th issue of their quarterly peer-reviewed journal “HerbalGram” (it says in this press release here) by publishing an article revealing the hitherto undecrypted herbal secrets of the Voynich Manuscript.

The two authors, Arthur O. Tucker Ph.D (“botanist, emeritus professor, and co-director of the Claude E. Phillips Herbarium at Delaware State University“) and Rexford H. Talbert (“a retired information technologist formerly employed by the US Department of Defense and NASA“) found themselves so inspired by the similarity between the plant drawn on the Voynich Manuscript’s f1v and xiuhamolli / xiuhhamolli “the soap plant depicted in the 1552 Codex Cruz-Badianus of Mexico [on f9r]” that they concluded that the Voynich Manuscript must not only be post-Columbus, but also post-Conquest Nueva España (i.e. after 1519-1521).

Voynichese, they believe, is therefore nothing more than a New World polyglot studded with “loan-words [...] from Classical Nahuatl, Spanish, Taino, and Mixtec“, but which is overwhelmingly in an “extinct dialect, keeping much of the Voynich Manuscript’s secrets intact… for now.

So… does this all reduce to nothing more than an “ethnobotanical cold case”; and if it does, have these two plucky independent authors actually cracked it? In the interests of open-mindedness and fair debate, you might want to flick through their paper for yourself here before you read the rest of my article dismissing their historical naivety and overhopeful botano-centricity.

What, you already think I’m being unfair to their abductive logic? For a start, if “abductive logic” isn’t a sixty-dollar term that means nothing much more than “generating hypotheses sufficient to explain observations” (and normally only a carefully-selected subset of observations to boot), I wasted my time studying logic at University.

I hate to start out by pointing out the ridiculously obvious here, but here in Voynich Research Land, we’re already up to our necks (and gasping for anguished breath) in plausible-sounding hypotheses that similarly seek to explain other carefully-selected observations. Selective abductivity is the disease, not the cure, and what they’ve done is terrifically selective.

The proper Intellectual History methodology (of which their methodology is the palest of shadows) is to take on board the sum-total of all the evidence across all the different analytical historical domains, and only then try to construct abductive hypotheses that explain the whole lot simultaneously. Here, the two authors found themselves driven towards a post-New Spain New World origin by a single apparently persuasive piece of evidence, and then rippled through the consequences of what that would have to mean for that portion of the rest of the evidence they allowed themselves to consider.

What they didn’t consider: the demonstrably 15th century vellum in play (radiocarbon dating), 15th century digit shapes (in the quiration), 15th century number forms (in the quiration), 15th century contractions (on the zodiac roundel hand) and 15th century parallel hatching (in several drawings). So, that’s evidence from the domains of codicology, palaeography, and Art History immediately consigned to their great big wastepaper basket of Not Examined Here Stuff.

However, the way that they bracket these multiple classes of evidence is to say “but such spurious claims [of pre-Rudolfine origins] have channelized scholars’ thinking and have not been particularly fruitful“. In fact, what has held back Voynich research most over recent decades is the set of spurious claims of post-Columbine origins (e.g. John Dee, Edward Kelley, Cardan grille hoaxes, sunflowers, etc), of which these authors’ paper is merely the most recent example. For when you bracket out evidence from multiple parallel research domains, you’re setting yourself up for a fall.

Another thing that annoyed me was that even though they tentatively identified Voynichese as Nahuatl, they nowhere mentioned John D. Comegys (twin brother of Cipher Mysteries regular James Comegys), who for years has championed a Nahuatl Voynich link. Even Kircher & Becker’s ridiculous book identified Voynich as a polyglot mess mix of “l’allemand, le suédois, le néerlandais, le latin, l’anglais, avec quelque notions de gaélique et de nahuatl“, and hence dated the object to “entre 1570 et 1610″. Hence it doesn’t seem to me that Tucker and Talbot even attempted any kind of literature review beyond a grudging scrollthrough of Wikipedia (ha!) and voynich.nu.

They also seem unaware of the light painter / heavy painter debate (i.e. they naively take it as read that all the paints the manuscript presents are original, despite the evidence to the contrary), and the bifolio reordering debate (i.e. they naively take it as read that the foliation is original, despite the evidence to the contrary). Oh, and they seem completely unaware of the post-1990 debate over the Voynich “sunflowers”, with their account starting and stopping with Hugh O’Neill in 1944.

They also bracket out the “medieval German script” on f116v (which they consistently mis-spell as “Michiton Olababas”) as a freestanding mystery, apparently unaware that Voynichese letters are embedded within both this and the marginalia at the top of f17r (which I found in 2006 with a UV blacklamp, but which were later photographed by the Austrian documentary makers in 2009).

Many other things annoyed me (their treatment of the Codex Osuna, the “maiorica”, etc, etc), but I’ve got to 850 words already and that’s more than enough annoyance for one post. But one last aside…

What I came to hate about the Voynich mailing list was that some time around 2006 it had subsumed the trendy-but-ghastly management meeting notion that “there’s no such thing as a bad idea” (usually said in a dippy, please-don’t-be-a-hater voice). Actually, if you have a whole array of basic physical evidence to work with, yes there definitely is such a thing as a bad idea. And the sooner people putting forward such bad ideas get to take their fingers out of their ears and stop saying la-la-la at all the thousands of pieces of ‘inconvenient evidence’ they’d rather bracket to tell their story, the sooner we’ll get to hear some good ideas instead.

In short, I would be delighted (and would indeed be the first to cheer) if Tucker and Talbot had put forward a good idea. But I think they have failed to do so in numerous different ways, all of which were easily avoidable.

54 Comments

  1. avatar bdid1dr January 21, 2014 4:31 pm

    What? They didn’t mention the fellows who met Christopher Columbus when he landed on the shores of what later became the American continents (North and South)? Can we say they ‘missed by a mile’?
    :-)

  2. avatar bdid1dr January 21, 2014 10:29 pm

    Same ‘ol same ‘ol, Nick — so far behind times besides no new interesting news! urg! Ennyway, what really stirred up my feathers (I’m a really old bird) was their ignorance of a couple of B-408′s folio 42r — which I fully translated and offered to you several months ago.
    When I identified them to you, I explained that the colors of the two specimens had been inadvertently switched. Another example of overworked scribes and colorists, although meticulously drawn, and which very first word (elaborately stretched over the first two words of the first paragraph) translates to ‘raddichio’ (a leaf chicory, which is brilliant red leaves with white veins).
    The second specimen is ‘cilantro’ for its green parsley-shaped leaves — and ‘coriander’ for its seeds. Now that I’ve been able to download an enlarged, and more easily read script, I’ll be able to finish translating each of the syllables for both specimens. A tout a l’heure! :-)

  3. avatar Craig January 22, 2014 12:54 am

    I’m not sure if I’d totally dismiss everything though (I am a botanist myself) and of the plant identifications that I’ve tentatively made match what are presented in this new paper. I don’t necessarily think they (the authors) should have made conclusions related to the “cipher” though. I, for example, would have been happy just with the botanical discussion as this is what I myself have been doing (with no delusion that my potential plant identification will lead to a decipherment or any other significant clue — I just like identifying plants)

  4. avatar xplor January 22, 2014 3:19 am

    This points to the Solutrean origin of the Voynich.

  5. avatar anu January 22, 2014 5:28 am

    Tucker and Talbot make a lot of specific, verifiable claims in their paper; this is not merely an idea paper. So I don’t think they deserve such a generic dismissal on methodological grounds. If their plant identifications are correct (which only other botanists could check), and if their transliterated plant names make sense linguistically (which only a Nahuatl linguist could check), it will be very hard to dismiss their argument.

  6. avatar Job January 22, 2014 7:32 am

    The strongest claim seems to be the similarity between f1v and the depiction of xiuhamolli in the codex Crux-Badianus. The roots are both unusual.

    Their general approach is best described as selective reasoning – the identification of the fish on f70v2 is IMO an example of confirmation bias.

  7. avatar Rene Zandbergen January 22, 2014 9:21 am

    One hates to disagree with people who are scholars in their own field, on topics in this very same field. I am, however, fully with you here, Nick.

    I am comforted by the fact that other botanical scholars have positively identified Asian species in the MS, so a very critical attitude towards both seems fully warranted.

    http://www.voynich.nu

  8. avatar nickpelling January 22, 2014 2:36 pm

    Rene: thanks for that! I try to stay reasonably objective, but the more I read this particular paper, the more annoyed I got, and so thought I ought to tell it like it is. Still, they’ve managed to achieve a huge amount of publicity for their herbal medicine organization in a very short period of time, which was probably a good part of the idea behind publishing it.

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  9. avatar nickpelling January 22, 2014 2:44 pm

    anu: other botanists might be able to correlate their findings (though as Rene points out, botanists have suggested matches to plants all over the world), but until such time as they cross-check those findings with evidence from other domains, it’s just a load of dandelion seeds in the wind.

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  10. avatar nickpelling January 22, 2014 2:52 pm

    Craig: I think the authors have taken a far more bombastic (and, dare I say it, TV history documentary producer-friendly) position than can genuinely be justified by their evidence. But as long as it keeps Slashdotters in drink-more-ovaltine jokes, who really cares? That’s the real metric of success in the new global economy, right?

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  11. avatar bdid1dr January 22, 2014 4:43 pm

    “Dandelion seeds in the wind”. How about coriander seeds? B-408, f42v displays two leaves which coloring were mismatched. Just recently I began translating and verifying the commentary on that folio. So, I took a side step to the A-B-Council’s site. They didn’t have any info on either cilantro/coriander or radicchio. Hmmmm, perhaps they only focus on “American” origins of various botanical specimens?
    Ennyway, Nick, I just discovered that the Tacuinum Sanitatatis (Ububchasym’s work) was apparently copied and lectured upon by several European universities. So, I can see how B-408′s contents (botanical/pharmaceutical at least) can get mis-transcribed and more confused with every subsequent lecture/discussion any particular student may have been taking notes.
    So, perhaps we can be grateful that the A-B-Council is focusing on ‘American’ botany — even to the exclusion of Hawaiian and Mexican plants?

  12. avatar nickpelling January 22, 2014 5:17 pm

    Stephen Bax: given the choice between an amuse-bouche and a ribeye steak, I’ll usually take the latter. :-)

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  13. avatar Greg January 22, 2014 5:58 pm

    Hi Nick,

    Saw your comment on slashdot, would have modded it up but I’m out of mod points today.

    Anyway, yeah. Another let-down. I think the problem with modern botanists looking at the plants is they are in general completely unaware of the fact that medieval representations of plants were much more symbolic than visually accurate as modern (post say 18th C.) ones are. Hence so much scatter in the botanical IDs.

    Rene’s Mondragone presentation and the pictures he had of other herbals should be required reading …

  14. avatar nickpelling January 22, 2014 6:33 pm

    Stephen: you may not know that Leonell Strong’s claimed decryption relied not only on each herbal page first word’s being the name of the plant in English (“aubergine” was one, as I recall) passed through his 135797531474 letter offset thing, but that they were also bound in alphabetical order (which was probably why Glen Claston fought so hard to undermine the evidence of bifolio reordering).

    However, if your “first word” herbal observation were to be true at the same time as the fact that almost all the herbal page first words begin with a gallows character, you’d almost immediately be forced to conclude that Voynichese can’t simply be some obscure language (unless nearly all plant names in that obscure language happen to begin with one of a couple of letters, which would be quite implausible). Interesting, isn’t it?

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  15. avatar xplor January 22, 2014 8:50 pm

    What I am seeing is how we bring our biases to the challenge. American botanists see American plants.
    What a surprise no mention of Art Exell, who studied plants on a global scale.

  16. avatar bdid1dr January 22, 2014 9:27 pm

    Senor Bax, thanx for watching our bax, so to speak! You wouldn’t want to mix dandelion seeds into your salad — but rather ‘coriander’ seeds. (Coriandrum sativum is nicknamed ‘cilantro’, ‘chinese parsley’, or ‘dhania’.
    Mr. Zandbergen, good to see some of your comments — it’s been a while! Were you able to understand my comments about the “mushroom page” (B-408, f-86r3) being a lecture on the dangers of confusing the edible gourmet mushroom with the ‘alcohol inky’? (Alcyone and Ceyx” legend is also being told therein. A museum in Florence has a cut glass dish which portrays Alcyone and Ceyx being turned into kingfishers)

  17. avatar bdid1dr January 22, 2014 9:47 pm

    BTW: Dandelion greens (leaves), however, are great either freshly picked and tossed into a cold salad — or saute’d as if spinach. So, maybe we all could be looking for the appearance of ‘spinache” in the Tacuinum Sanitatis — and looking for a discussion of its five qualities?

  18. avatar Ellie Velinska January 23, 2014 4:16 pm

    Hi Nick, I agree with your assessment of the Tucker’s paper.
    I just don’t understand how this paper prompted you to rant against the VMs list. The authors, as far as I know, are not on the list and did not run their ideas on the list before publishing.
    The reason all ideas are welcomed on the list is because if they shush you over your bad ideas they may miss your good ideas :)

    All the best! Ellie

  19. avatar nickpelling January 23, 2014 4:31 pm

    Ellie: since about 2007, my position is that we have now solidly reconstructed enough about the early history of the Voynich Manuscript to disprove 95% of Voynich theories out there (including Tucker’s article). Note: not ‘politely disagree with and agree to differ’, but specifically disprove.

    Life is a fragile and finite resource, and each minute spent fruitlessly reading someone’s bad (and indeed almost certainly disprovable) ideas is a minute of your life you have just lost. Multiply that by thousands of posts and by hundreds of people, and the net loss is just depressing. :-(

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  20. avatar bdid1dr January 23, 2014 5:04 pm

    I deliberately used sp-inach as an ex am ple of the use and meaning of those elaborate “gallows” which appear most frequently at the beginning discussion of any of the botanical “Esp-ec-e-ceus (g-eus/c-eus-ceae) ad infinitum ad nauseum.
    Enjoy your salads and pico de gallo folks.
    :-)

  21. avatar bdid1dr January 23, 2014 9:44 pm

    I’m still searching B-408 offerings for any hint of another leafy vegetable: arugula. Actually, arugula could probably be spelled/pronounced using only the Vms ‘R’ – ‘g or k’ – ‘ll’ – ‘a’. The backward-facing ‘S’ is actually the Vms trilled “R”, so:
    Rgla= ar u g l a — which may be a contraction of ruta-graveolens……still wonderng on it!

    bdid1dr

  22. avatar Rich W. January 23, 2014 11:27 pm

    Building on what “anu” said earlier, it seems to me that a Uto-Aztecan languages expert could take T&T’s claimed transliterations of the plant names, apply these interpretations of the Voynich letters to other portions of the text, and see if anything recognizable as classical Nahuatl or some other known UA language shows up. A good UA specialist should probably be able to do this in less than a day.

  23. avatar Mindy Dunn January 24, 2014 2:42 am

    Just wanted to point out, isn’t it just as likely (if not more so) that the ” likely Caulanthus heterophyllus” could be a Clemantis alpina. The Caulanthus heterophyllus only has 4 petals, but the depiction shows four large and 4 small. Personally, I’m not voting for the Clemantis at the moment either, but IMHO it’s at least a closer guess than the caulanthus heterophyllus. The Clemantis alpina has four large petals (purple), and smaller petals that open later. It comes out on its own long stem, and the leaves grow out in a similar fashion (though they are ridged rather than smooth, still a similar shape too). In addition, since everyone seems to get in a kerfuffle about things being from the Americas, this one has the advantage of being from Europe. I wasn’t able to figure out what the roots look like on my google search, but personally, I think it’s still a better fit than the caulanthus heterophyllus. At some point I suppose I’ll do a real search and see if it is actually a likely fit. For now, my point is the possibility on this flower being a caulanthus heterophyllus rather than another purple flower, is not very high. Although I only checked this one flower, I would imagine I might find similar discord against the other plants referenced in “A PRELIMINARY ANALYSIS OF THE
    BOTANY, ZOOLOGY, AND MINERALOGY”.
    On the point of the Nahuatl language, I don’t think it has anything to do with the voynich per se, but I DO find Nahuatl an interesting language. For example, I find it linguistically interesting that Theos (greek for deity) is similar to Teotl (Nahuatl for god). I am also interested in the similarities of the Greek and Aztec pantheon. However, whether these thoughts would be of value to the Voynich enthusiast, I remain undecided.

  24. avatar Craig January 24, 2014 12:49 pm

    Many of the plants, in my opinion, are not illustrated well. But looking at just the flowers and/or seeds and ignoring the leaf morphology (I do this with real plants as well) there are certainly many plants in the manuscript that can be at least tentatively identified — at least to the level of genus. The classic example is the Passiflora. There are no other (known) flowers that look even remotely like that and in my mind somebody making up imaginary flowers would not illustrate something so strikingly similar to a real plant. That’s not to say the illustrator(s) attached the flower(s) to incorrect leaves (either deliberately or my mistake).

    If I am given a specimen to identify and it doesn’t have reproductive (e.g. flowers, seeds) I cannot make a 100% certain identification. If I’m given a complete specimen then leaves are the last thing that I look at because they are so unreliable from a diagnostic point of view.

    I do think many of the plants are real, but I do concede there are some mysteries there. I don’t think that identifying the plant species is a very good way to determine country of origin.

  25. avatar Craig January 24, 2014 12:55 pm

    Another problem. Why should a drawing of Passiflora (for example) has text underneath it that says “Passiflora speciesName“? I doubt that the people writing the manuscript even named the plants using modern nomenclature; that’s a bit of a leap!

  26. avatar bdid1dr January 24, 2014 8:56 pm

    Arugula is also more commonly referred to as ‘rue’. I am surprised that ‘rue’ has not yet appeared in my ‘radar’, though it does appear in the Tacuinus Sanitatum (ruta graveolens)versions Vienna, Casanatense, Paris, Liege, and Rouen. So I’ll still try to locate it in B-408′s offerings. It is most likely to appear with the preceding ornate “P” ‘gallows’ figure for “S-pec-e-ceus” –ru-ta-tl-en-se-ceae……or something like that.
    beedee

  27. avatar bdid1dr January 25, 2014 4:07 pm

    I did a little more research for the word arugula, which looks like spinach (rather than ‘rue’ – ruta graveolens). So, back to my textbooks and the ‘drawing board’. I may end up on the AB Society’s pages after all.

  28. avatar bdid1dr January 25, 2014 9:23 pm

    I went back to my textbooks for ‘rocket’, roquette, rucola, rugula, colewort — and came up with the conflated name of Diplotaxis tenuifolia (the perennial wall rocket). All of these names circled the globe, so to speak, and settled on the more casual name of “Eruca sativa” — supposedly native to the Mediterranean areas of Morocco, Portugal, Lebanon, and Turkey.
    So, I’ll be returning to my 4 editions of the Tacuinum to see if I can find any mention of Brassicae/arugula such as is mentioned by Virgil (Moretum), Charlemagne, and the Oxford Companion to Italian Food.
    Meanwhile, eat your salads, while you still have water for your gardens. The drought in California seems to be continuing into another dry summer. We’re trying to keep my 300 saffron crocus corms alive with about a gallon of water sprinkled on the pots every other day. Folio 35r in Boenicke manuscript 408 (aka: Voynich).

  29. avatar bdid1dr January 26, 2014 5:17 pm

    Key West/Cuban cuisine: ‘bollos’ or ‘bollitos’: Mr. Bax, could you boost my memory as to whether it was black-eyed peas or chick-peas which were ground into a mealy powder, with garlic added, and then rolled into bite-sized balls and deep-fried. Great with a salad or pico de gallo. I’m still working on foods which liked a dash or sprinkling of saffron (spanish rice, for one). The saffron crocus illustration and commentary can be found in f 35r of the Vms/Boenicke 408.
    :-)

  30. avatar bdid1dr January 26, 2014 10:46 pm

    I forgot to write down the folio number for the plant which appears in B-408 manuscript (aka ‘The Voynich’) as an elephant ear plant: I’m now referring y’all to the plantain fruit which was much enjoyed during my years in Key West: Musa paradisiaca, Musa sapientum, Family: N.O. Musae.
    You can find discussion on Botanical.com

    Recipe for purchasing, preparing, pleasing Plantain (not banana):

    Purchase a plantain which is well on the way to turning black. Take it home and let it get as black and ‘over-ripe’ as you can stand. Peel it. Slice the fruit down its length and fry it, cut faces down, in a thinly-oiled frying pan. If you would rather have bite-sized coins, go for it! Same small amount of oil should keep the lightly browned surface from sticking.
    I’m now going to Boenicke to pull-down a copy of that folio and finish translating it. Yum!

  31. avatar bdid1dr January 27, 2014 9:26 pm

    Diane might enjoy my expanding on the “Musa” family of bananas and plantains: Musa textilus, produced commercially in the Phillipines — Manila hemp, and Manila textilis. My source: ‘New Illustrated Encyclopedia of Gardening’ edited by T. H. Everett – New York Botanical Garden in the 1960′s.
    :-)

  32. avatar bdid1dr January 27, 2014 9:44 pm

    So, when was it that Magellan did his voyaging? Do I recall correctly that Prince Henry the Navigator had something to do with that voyage? I remember discussing (several months ago) the competition between Spain and Portugal for the palm oil from nearby Benin, Ivory Coast and El Mina.

  33. avatar John Comegys January 28, 2014 1:23 am

    Dr. John Schwaller, president of list owner of the Nahuatl page,
    http://www2.potsdam.edu/schwaljf/Nahuatl/
    former president of SUNY Potsdam, eminent Nahuatl scholar says he can’t read the Voynich Manuscript. Why do T&T think its easy? Have they consulted any nahuatl experts? It looks like they are making a very broad claim with very weak evidence.

  34. avatar bdid1dr January 28, 2014 8:57 pm

    Nick and Friends, I’ve just visited Boenicke’s manuscript 408 to download folios 97r and 97v, 98r and 98v : nada, zilch! I’m suspecting they may have been portraying the mandrake and the opium poppy. Probably removed by the previous recipient(s) of the manuscript, and maybe even by the US military codiologists and their secretary D’Imperio?
    I’m planning on doing a very rapid survey of the bulleted discussion pages to see if any mention is made regarding those two ‘pharmaceutical’ plants — which may have eluded Kircher’s and subsequent owners’ attempts to obscure potentially controversial items in the manuscript. As far as I can tell, Kircher, Currier, Tiltman et al may never have had the opportunity to even review those pages/folios. Hmm?

  35. avatar nickpelling January 28, 2014 9:27 pm

    John: I’d be very happy if you’d like to make a guest post here on Nahuatl and the Voynich manuscript, it would be very good to have some properly informed opinion on the matter in play.

    http://www.nickpelling.com/

  36. avatar bdid1dr January 29, 2014 5:01 pm

    Mr. Pelling and Mr. Comegys: I’m very much looking forward to your contribution in re Nahuatl and B-408. Please, Nick, don’t bump us to the back pages in mid-stream? Please? I promise not to comment until y’all have had a chance to reply first! Sincerely yours,
    bdid1dr

  37. avatar bdid1dr January 29, 2014 7:59 pm

    I’m currently reading an historical novel about the first indigenous (Wapanoag) person to graduate from Harvard in 1665 ce. Writer: Geraldine Brooks “Caleb’s Crossing”. The frontispiece portrays his diploma.
    I seriously regret giving away my collection of “Godey’s Ladies Book” magazine (leather-bound volumes), which included illustrated discussions of the Mandan, pre-smallpox epidemics which cycled North America for many years.

  38. avatar bdid1dr January 31, 2014 12:08 am

    Nick, while doing some wiki searching in re Teotihuacan, I came across a map which can be enlarged considerably. I am only referencing this map because of one of the “Classic Era sites ca. 600 ce, besides Cholula and Cerro de las Mesas, is named Monte Alban. (shades of Father Kircher’s Frascati discussions?) Round n’ round we go for maybe the 3rd or 4th time?

  39. avatar bdid1dr February 1, 2014 4:56 pm

    Mr. Schmeh, Mr. Zandbergen, & other interested parties: Some references to early New Amsterdam and Rensellaerwyck, the ‘Halve Moen”, Schenectady, Canajoharie, Mohawk, and Iroquois: Queen Ann of England was paid a visit (early 1700′s) by one of the most violent chieftains from that area of New York: “Brant”
    You may be able to view the painting and the phonetic spelling for Brant and his companions, online. Fascinating!
    bdid1dr

  40. avatar bdid1dr February 4, 2014 10:17 pm

    Furthermore, gentlemen: no mystery in re ‘xiuhamolli’: it is the root of the “soap tree” ‘yucca” — aka saponaria americana”. Besides being a soap/shampoo, xiuhamolli can also be a ‘foaming” ingredient in root beer (and probably in ginger-ale/beer). So, look through Boenicke 408 for a botanical specimen which looks like a hugely overgrown ‘aloe vera’ plant. Meanwhile, I’ll be trying to locate the Vms script which would be identifying the “yucca” with e-u-g-a and the usual repetitions of cae-ceau-ecaes-…… or maybe a similar plant ‘agave’ — which would be even easier for the scribes to write the description and uses of the yucca roots.
    :-)

  41. avatar bdid1dr February 5, 2014 9:27 pm

    Nick & friends, my eyesight continues to deteriorate — to the point that I am not able to download and translate the various discussion pages in Boenicke 408. So, I’m breaking my promise to Nick as far giving y’all a chance to converse amongst yourselves in re the Nahuatl presentation. Howsomever, I’d like to tell you that the very first words which discuss the palm tree in folio 38 are olloxos eco ctleg…. which translates to the latin phrase: ‘to be a light for’. So, Edith Sherwood may have gotten lost in the palm forests of Benin, after all: Palm oil — Palmolive Soap — Lamp oil — cooking oil — vegetable oil — grease for WW II machinery — grease for deep-frying ‘french fries’ at our local Burger King outlets. So, I hope y’all will check some of these ref’s and compare with the Nahuatl discussions: Attalea (Amaripa), Elaeis oleifera, elaeis Guineesis…just a few of the many nomenclatural changes over many centuries. My sideways remark in re Edith is because of more recent comments I have made in reference to the Spanish and Portuguese rulers who basically over-ran that part of Africa in their quests for gold (El Mina) and slaves (Benin natives who were expert bronze workers), elepant tusk ivory, and palm OIL to light the lamps ‘back home’ and keep the cook fires burning, and to make Castile soap (rather than the South American xiuhamolli yucca soap).
    :-)

  42. avatar bdid1dr February 14, 2014 9:06 pm

    Nick, I just took a look (finally) at the publication which has been discussed and referred on this page of your blog. Hmmmph! Any so-called well-educated university-trained botanist or linguist who uses the phrase ‘most unique’ in printing, no less, will get no serious consideration of their published works, from me. Furthermore, Nahuatl script does have a symbol for the sound of “tl”. It is not the double-looped figure which appears in B-408 (for the sound of ell), but rather Nahuatl uses the single-looped figure which looks just like the ‘tl’ in B-408. I’m now going back to my earlier remarks to double check the spelling for ‘Na-juatl’ or ‘Na-huatl’…or for possibly N’ ua-tl.

    Today, in the Americas, ‘huevos’ (eggs) is pronounced with a silent ‘h’ — similar to the French l’heures (hours). Hmmmph! (Do we have a ‘smiley’ for disgruntled?)
    heh! :-)

  43. avatar bdid1dr February 18, 2014 6:57 pm

    Gentlepeople: I refer you to a wikipedia item in re Codex florentino 51 9.jpg
    The summary reads: Page 51, of book IX from the Florentine codex (1575-1577) by fr Bernardino de Sahagun. Paper,
    31.8 cm x 21 cm. Library Medicea Laurentiana, Florence
    Text in romanized Nahuatl (Nahuatl is not known to have been a written language prior to its romanization).
    I am now proceeding apace with the offerings of B-408.

  44. avatar bdid1dr March 6, 2014 9:56 pm

    So, my translations so far, for Boenicke Ms 408, by folio numbers:
    Aconite, f-3v
    Alban-Nemi Lakes, f-86v
    Artemis/Diana f-72 thru f-86 (includes “Sacred Groves”)
    Cilantro and Radicchio f-42v
    Clary (Salvia Sclerae) f-8v
    Crocus & Smilax (Saffron Crocus) f-35r
    Dianthus (Carnation/Sweet William)f-56r
    Hazel (Hamamelidae) f-28v
    Water LILY (Odorata) f-2v
    Water LOTUS (Nelumbo) f-55v
    Mandragore (Mandrake) FRUIT f-83v
    Monumentum Ancyranum f-116v (Busbecq’s note on the last, blank page of B-408)
    Mulberry (fruit of the Morus Alba) which leaves fed moth larva) folio 11v
    Mushrooms (edible vs poisonous look-alike) f-86 r & v
    Nymphaecae: A terminology which can refer to water nymphs, bathing nymphs, minor goddesses both Greek & Roman, as well as de Sagitae, de Epimedium, Lilium odorata, AND to the Treaties of Nymphaeum.
    Palm tree (oil or date, still working on it) f-38
    Psyllium seed, Plantago Ovata, f-16r
    Scabiosa caucasica f-33v
    Squash/cucurbit edible & lufa sponge: f-15v
    Turban Ranunculis (which almost drove Tiltman crazy) f-49v

    I’ve now back-tracked on several of these folios to compare with the Aztec/Nahuatl manuscript (the Classic Codex of 1552) which was returned to Mexico, by Pope John II in 1990 ce.
    So,
    xiuh-amolli is actually two words:
    amolli means “root used as soap”
    ‘xihuitl’ (herb) becomes ‘xiuh’ when compounded with another word such as ‘nelhuatl’ (root): “herb root”.
    This last note of mine is for the edification of Nick’s followers, and also to clarify a comment I made recently on our friendly ‘linguist’s comments page. I hope he’s following this discussion.

    amolli: ROOT used as soap

  45. avatar bdid1dr March 6, 2014 10:07 pm

    BTW: I recently tried to explain how to recognize the difference in the B-408 folios of the alphabet characters for “m” and “n”. He apparently still doesn’t ‘get it’. Maybe Nick can explain the difference, for example, between the names “Nick” and “Mick”.
    ;-)

  46. avatar bdid1dr March 7, 2014 10:52 pm

    typo correction: Nahuatl
    Codex of 1552 aka: Libellus Badiano
    Mention of Barberini
    Martin de la Cruz
    Sahagun
    Carlos V of Spain
    Provenance is all-important.
    Perhaps the “Voynich” manuscript which Voynich purchased from the defunct Jesuit library in Rome/Frascati) may have been a ‘rough draft’ which was to have been sent to printing presses which were beginning operations right around that time period.

  47. avatar bdid1dr March 19, 2014 1:33 am

    A somewhat disgruntled post-script:
    I have done all of my translations without referring to the offerings of the American Botanical Council site — because all they offer are video/sound (no captioning) for their discussions.
    I have, several times in the past year, laid out B4 u my translation syllabary. Some people have picked up my ideas, and ‘ran’ with them. Now I’m pleased to say that some are now questioning or debating my translations (inasmuch as they doubt my references to various ‘history/origins’ of any
    particular item). I see that as a compliment, because it keeps us all “on our toes”, so to speak. Thanx, SirH!
    :-)

  48. avatar bdid1dr March 19, 2014 1:50 am

    BTW, I now have four tutorial books at hand in re “Na-hua-tl language — which was supposedly an unwritten language until the Spanish friars/priests/missionaries taught the South American sub-group (Na-huat-l) to write, in their language, latin terminology. In 1990, Pope John II returned at least one of the many codices which were produced by native South Americans.
    I wonder what they called their homeland — and how they would have written it out in monk-taught script.
    :-)

  49. avatar bdid1dr March 29, 2014 4:18 pm

    Na-hua-tl IS the language being written in B-408′s manifold botanical folios. Latin Americans (Maya, Aztec, Peru,Yucatan…) did not have a written vocabulary-script before the European invaders appeared on their shores. Fantastic pictorial elements (some quite ominous and scary) and incredible stone monuments, but no script (supposedly).
    Peruvians had a knotted-string (‘quipu’ ?) on-foot-runners system of communication.
    Ennybody ‘out there’ in cyberspace ready and willing to add to my heavily parenthesized and overly quote-marked dialogue?
    I still 1-dr why, even today, persons of European origins tend to ignore the histories of the “Native Americans”

    Old song: “….and I wonder, wonder, who: who wrote the book of love. Who wrote the book of love……?

  50. avatar bdid1dr March 30, 2014 8:27 pm

    OK, Nick & Friends: I’ll begin my manuscript reference with a reference to my source (and you can bring it up on your own pages): Berendt-Brinton Linguistic Collection: Ms. Coll.700, Item 149, f 4r (the R is lying on its back) “Nahuatl de San Agustin A Casa Guantlan”. I am very excited because that writer was referring to Guantanamo (and bay?) Cuba, circa the reign of HR Emperor Charles V.
    That island is briefly mentioned, here and there in various discussions/films about Christopher Columbus sending one of his crew, in a canoe, to find the island.
    Today, the US has an internment camp for the suspects and co-conspirators of the World Trade Center bombing in New York City. The internment camp is at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I guess ‘somebody’ has lifted the embargo on trade with Cuba (put in place by President John F. Kennedy in 1963)?
    Too much history to absorb in one reading? :-)

  51. avatar bdid1dr April 1, 2014 4:42 pm

    Correction to Acasa-guan-tlan: Acasa-guaS-tlan
    Discussion would be Casa Augustine.

  52. avatar bdid1dr April 30, 2014 2:53 pm

    Well, Nick, it is almost a month since my last post herein. Further translations of VMs/Boenicke 408 have led me to the Lienzo de Quechquollan and various Badianus/Florentino discussions of fig tree bark (paper/amatl) which Fray Sahagun wrote upon. The Lienzo was written and illustrated upon cotton cloth. So, I am now trying to find the discussion which should appear ‘somewhere’ in B-408 in re ‘cotton’ fields or, at least, a sketch of the botanical specimen!
    :-)

  53. avatar bdid1dr June 8, 2014 12:28 am

    Nick, National Geographic magazine’s latest issue (June 2014) has a story of the latest discovery of a Peruvian tomb. I am particularly excited because some of the artifacts (woven textiles) may indicate the development of the cultivation of cotton. The other item of cultivation I’m looking for is ‘corn’ (maize). I’ve already found and translated squash (B-408 folio 15v) which very first two words translate to ‘espasos’ ‘oskwageus).
    Recently, Professor John Parker contributed to our new historical museum a huge chart of the migrations of native South and North Americans to our part of the world — and the developments of the spoken languages.
    I’m still following the pre-Columbian trails of Andean, Mayan, Olmec, Aztec, civilizations — and can now add the “Wari”. I still think B-408 was the ‘rough draft’ of Fr. Sahagun’s enormous manuscript (which he apparently worked on for over twenty years). Time will tell? (Hopefully before I die. I’ll be 71 y.o. in September.) Squinty as ever!
    ;-)

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