In our attempt to find the source of the VM Zodiac figures, we will now have a look at another set of Lauber’s manuscripts. In this post, I will argue that Diebold Lauber’s Buch der Natur offers further evidence of some relation between the Alsatian workshops and the VM Zodiac figures.
It’s important to keep in mind that Lauber and his team used a limited set of example images which they kept copying and adapting to suit their needs. If you were to print and cut out all illustrations from Lauber’s manuscripts, you could redu
On the purpose of this research, I think along the same lines as Nick Pelling, who commented on his recent post:
what I’ve said for more than a decade is that the Voynich’s zodiac roundel drawings appear to me to have been copied (albeit fairly ineptly) en masse from a single (probably German) calendar of the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century.
Nick has been early to notice that the Zodiac figures are somewhat different than the other human figures in the manuscript. In my own research as well, they always surfaced as the odd ones out. Hence, it is very, very likely that they were copied from a different source than whatever the rest of the VM is. As Nick says, we’re likely looking for a source a few decades before or after 1400. I don’t think it has to be a calendar, but it certainly could be.
Buch der Natur
The manuscripts contain Konrad von Megenberg’s most popular work “Buch der Natur” (1349) which was still widely read two centuries after its completion. Three copies were made in Lauber’s Haguenau workshop, all around 1440.
- Frankfurt, UB, Ms. Carm. 1 (Ausst. 47) (around 1440)
- Heidelberg, UB, Cod. Pal. germ. 300 (1443-1451)
- Stuttgart, WLB, Cod. med. et phys. 2° 14 (1440-1444)
I have not been able to find any images of the Stuttgart manuscript, the other two are digitized entirely. In a 2016 post, J.K. Petersen already noted similarities between the Heidelberg manuscript and the VM. To this, I would like to add two observations from the Frankfurt Buch der Natur. They will reveal that Lauber had access to images very similar to the VM bull and crayfish.
The bull might be the least spectacular, but still it adds to the pile of evidence. It was found on this page which chronicles an apparent shouting contest between two rows of confused animals.
We have little to go on since it is hidden behind a horse, and the VM bulls are extremely badly copied. Still, here it is compared to the VM bulls:
Note the overall curves, long, lyre-shaped horns, the tilt of the head. Especially the ridiculously slender neck and the un-bull-like way it stands on the body.
Now, most of these properties are found in some other manuscripts. But Lauber’s bull is about as close as you will get.
And here’s the main course. One thing JKP has often noted about the VM lobsters/crayfish is that their legs are erroneously placed on the tail instead of on the body. Even though Voynich researchers have scoured hundreds (thousands?) of Zodiacs and related images, no parallels for this quirk have been found.
Even manuscripts with rather frivolous crayfish, like the below Munich Clm 59, always put the legs on the right part of the body.
So despite years of vigilance, even JKP – who pointed out this detail, has not found a convincing parallel; it doesn’t exist.
So there’s only one conclusion right? It’s an error by the VM artist. He miscopied from an example or simply drew from memory without knowing where the legs were supposed to go.
Well, not quite…
Enter Diebold Lauber’s Buch der Natur f169v:
It’s some kind of lake full of large, blue fish. But what’s that in the top left corner? Let’s zoom in.
Finally, let’s put it in between the two VM creatures:
BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
I’m not sure. Nick may be right to resolutely posit a source (or source group) common to Lauber and the VM. Kind of like the biblical Q source. We might call this hypothetical document QVL (Quelle Voynich-Lauber). Based on the commonalities between Lauber’s stock and the VM Zodiac, we can reconstruct what QVL almost certainly contains (if it still exists).
- A lobster/crayfish with legs on the tail
- A red bull with:
- long lyre-shaped horns
- an upright, long, slender neck
- A man and woman in romantic pose with:
- holding both hands
- very likely crossed arms
- man striding forward
- green turban-like hat for the man
- green half long belted tunic with tight sleeves for the man
- man shaven, with specific hair style
- woman with long, blue gown, likely wide sleeves
Throughout this series of posts I’ve also been pointing at stylistic similarities between Haguenau works and the VM in general. This is something JKP noted as well in his 2016 post. Whether this means QVL must be a Lauber or pre-Lauber work, as Nick believes, I don’t know.