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Manuscripts Voynich acquired in 1911-1912


This is one of two pages at this site that look more closely at Voynich's acquisition of the Voynich MS. It was one of several manuscripts he acquired in 1911 or 1912, and it came from a larger collection of books and manuscripts. This page aims at reconstructing the set of manuscripts that he acquired, and looks at their origins. The parallel page concentrates on the questions where the manuscripts were preserved when Voynich acquired them (traditionally: Villa Mondragone in Frascati), and how he was able to find and buy them. There are occasional cross-references between the two pages, but both can be read independently, without having to go back and forth all the time.

There is a third page that paints the historical background of this collection, which is optional reading, and not absolutely needed to understand the present page.

The first step is to present the sources that are available for this analysis. We will find that they are largely consistent, with only minor differences. We will also see that the group of manuscripts that Voynich acquired is positively identified as a subset of a collection that was being sold to the Vatican library in 1912. This collection traces back to the important Jesuit library of the Collegium Romanum.

A comparison of all listed sources then allow us to set up a 'maximum' list of manuscripts that may have been acquired by Voynich. This maximum list is presented as a table. Among this list there are several manuscripts of which the present whereabouts are unknown, and some for which there is no evidence that Voynich ever owned them. It includes 20 manuscripts of which we can be certain that Voynich acquired them from the Jesuits. Many of these manuscripts can be traced back to earlier owners, and for three of them we have reports that they were studied while they were in the Roman College of the Jesuits as late as 1870.

Apart from these manuscripts, the larger collection that was for sale also included a number of early printed books (including some incunabula), but this page (at least in its present version) concentrates primarily on the manuscripts.

Finally, some illustrations of several of the manuscripts that Voynich acquired are presented.

1. Introduction

Voynich acquired an important group of manuscripts in 1911 or 1912. One of these was the MS now known as the Voynich MS. As he writes in his 1921 paper (1):

In 1912 [...] I came across a most remarkable collection of preciously illuminated manuscripts. For many decades these volumes had lain buried in the chests in which I found them [...]
While examining the manuscripts, with a view to the acquisition of at least a part of the collection, my attention was especially drawn by one volume. It was such an ugly duckling compared with the other manuscripts, with their rich decorations in gold and colors that my interest was aroused at once.

The present page presents a reconstruction of the list of manuscripts that Voynich acquired. It is work in progress, and additional information is still being gathered. The location of the sale, usually assumed to be the Villa Mondragone in Frascati, is analysed on another page, that equally describes work in progress.

2. Available sources

2.1. Overview

The main sources used for this reconstruction are:

Additional information about the manuscripts acquired by Voynich was obtained from modern on-line library catalogues and from several additional publications, which are cited when relevant.

2.2. Summary of information from Ruysschaert (1959)

Ruysschaert (1959) (see note 2) is a key source for this page. Part of it has been transcribed here. This erudite and very detailed catalogue describes 296 Latin manuscripts out of a larger MS collection that came from the old Jesuit Roman College and were incorporated into the Vatican Library in 1912. According to Ruysschaert, the complete collection consisted of:

He further states that a book dealer named Voynich had acquired approximately 30 manuscripts out of the original collection, which therefore did not enter the Vatican library. Ruysschaert explains that the collection of Latin manuscripts that entered this library consists of two separate parts. The first derives primarily from the collection of Muretus (about whom more will be said further below), and this now constitutes the MS collection Vat.Lat.11414 - 11615. The second part is the MS collection of Lagomarsini (4), which now constitutes the MS collection Vat.Lat. 11616 - 11709. The manuscripts from both collections were mostly classical and humanist works from the 15th Century.

Pope Pius X acquired these manuscripts, and donated them to the Vatican library. Ruysschaert writes that essentially all of the manuscripts described in his catalogue have the following attachments or annotations:

Thanks to the on-going digitisation project of the Vatican Library some of these manuscripts are visible online, which allows us to see these attributes, for example: >> MS Vat.Lat.11504.

Petrus Beckx S.J. was the 22nd General Superior of the Society of Jesus from 1853 to 1883 (i.e. effectively. Formally: until his death in 1887). He experienced some of the most difficult times of the Society of Jesus, including the expulsion of the Society from Rome in 1873, and the confiscation of the Society's possessions.

2.3. The 1903 catalogue

The catalogue is preserved as Arch.Bibl.109 in the Vatican archives. This manuscript was mentioned by Ruysschaert in the introduction to his catalogue. It is also briefly described in Kristeller, Iter Italicum (...), Vol.2, 3rd edition (1998), p.347:

The original which, according to Kristeller, should be in the Università Gregoriana has not been found, but Arch.Bibl.109 is a photographic copy of it. Its title page says: Catalogo di codici e stampe acquistate dalla Biblioteca vaticana nel 1903 or: catalogue of manuscripts and prints acquired by the Vatican Library in 1903. This is the same text as the description by Kristeller, except that he had the year (incorrectly) as 1913 instead of 1903.

This catalogue has a total of 294 entries, of which 259 are of MS codices, 32 are prints, and 3 are duplications of other entries. Out of these 259 MS codices, 187 are identified (in the right margin) with an entry in Vat.Lat.11414 - 11615, 36 with an entry in Vat.Gr, and one with Vat.Turco 80. The remaining 35 items are either not commented on, or traced to an entry in De Ricci's Census (5) or to the De Marinis who was also mentioned by Ruysschaert and who is described further below. Two of the printed books have also been included among Vat.Lat.11414 - 11615, presumably because they contain significant handwritten annotations.

This shows that this catalogue only covers the MS collection that Ruysschaert described as 'from Muretus', while items Vat.Lat.11616 - 11709, i.e. the MS collection of Lagomarsini, are not included in it. Out of the 202 manuscripts making up Vat.Lat.11414 - 11615, 189 are included in the catalogue, which means that 13 are missing (6-7%). Among the Greek manuscripts (Vat.Gr. 2341-2390) 14 are not mentioned, and we may conjecture that these would also have come from the Lagomarsini collection. They do not form a contiguous block.

Each entry in the catalogue is a short description, usually just one line, giving author(s), title(s), whether the MS is on parchment or paper, and from which century it dates (which is occasionally given as 'uncertain'). Of particular interest is of course the description of the Voynich MS, but unfortunately this is so unspecific that it would not have been possible to identify the MS by this desciption alone. It is simply described as: Miscellanea, c.m.s.XV, where the abbreviation means: codex membranacaeus saec. XV. It is the only item in the entire list that has neither author nor title. The right margin has a handwritten reference to the Census p. 1846 (see note 5), which lists the Voynich MS, also in accordance with Ruysschaert (1959).

The catalogue says that the collection was offered for sale in 1903, but the manuscripts only entered the Vatican Library in 1912, as clearly stated in Ruysschaert (1959) (see note 2). I do not know to what extent such a long time span is unusual, and we may only speculate why and how Voynich was offered a chance to acquire some of the items.

The catalogue also includes 32 printed books, some of which are incunabula. The printed books are not discussed by Ruysschaert, and the annotations in the catalogue provide no information about the present whereabouts of about two thirds of them. There is a suggestion in Sowerby (1967) (6) that Voynich also acquired a number of these, but this still needs to be confirmed. Sowerby writes:

Mr. England, next-door in No. 70, was making a catalogue of the newly discovered printed books, and when I could I used to go in to see him and ask him to explain to me. Almost every book he showed me was a discovery, and was therefore unknown to bibliographers.

Additionally, we read in a Kansas City newspaper clip that Voynich acquired early prints at the same time as this set of manuscripts.

2.4. About De Marinis

Both Ruysschaert (1959) and the 1903 catalogue refer to two publications by the antiquarian book dealer and bibliophile Tammaro De Marinis (7). I have consulted both. The first, dated 1913 (8), is one of his sales catalogues of manuscripts and printed books, of which I own a copy. This catalogue includes B/W plates of most of the manuscripts.

Seven of the manuscripts in this catalogue can be traced back to the present collection, but Voynich is not mentioned in the text at all, nor is the Collegium Romanum. The prices of these manuscripts are indicated in Lira, which was one of the currencies (together with the French, Swiss and Belgian Francs) united in the Latin Monentary Unit. In 1913 there were about 5 Lira (or LMU) to one US Dollar. One of these seven manuscripts is offered for sale for 1000, while four others range from 15,000 to 20,000. The remaining two manuscripts are indicated as 'sold', and fortuntely we know that they were sold to the Morgan library in New York. From correspondence preserved in the Morgan library (9) we know that Voynich received 300,000 Lira (equivalent with 60,000 US$ in 1912) for the pair!

None of the printed books in this catalogue seem to trace back to the Collegium Romanum.

The second book by De Marinis, from 1947 (10), is a monumental multi-volume work, analysing the library of Alfonse, King of Naples and Aragon. Three out of the seven manuscripts from Voynich that were mentioned in De Marinis' 1913 catalogue trace back to the library of Alphonse and these three manuscripts are described in some detail in this book. Here, the author also mentions that he acquired them from the London book dealer Voynich.

Interestingly, an appendix to this volume was written by Mgr. J.Ruysschaert, so we see that De Marinis and Ruysschaert knew each other. This is the most likely explanation how Ruysschaert found out that Voynich acquired some of the manuscripts that he later described in his 1959 catalogue.

3. Some initial conclusions

3.1. Correspondence between the 1903 catalogue and Ruysschaert (1959)

It is clear that Ruysschaert used the 1903 catalogue as a source (he refers to it), and that both documents refer to the same collection. The comments in the right-hand margin of the 1903 catalogue, which were added later, provide a link to the Vatican library shelf mark or, in case the MS did not enter the Vatican, a (tentative) identification of the present whereabouts of the MS, which may be in De Ricci's Census, or one or both of the above-mentinoned works by De Marinis. These lists are consistent between the 1903 catalogue and Ruysschaert (1959). An interesting additional detail is the following phrase in Ruysschaert (1959):

His codicibus addendi sunt sex alii, Biblicos textus et due Breviarium Romanum praebentes, ut apparet e quodam elencho cuius imago photografica servatur in Archivo Bibliotheca Vaticanae, t. 109

The catalogue has a handwritten table on the page labeled "B", where the Bibles and Breviaria are counted with stick figures, resulting in 6 resp. 2.

3.2. The bibliographical paper slips

The 16 bibliographical paper slips now preserved in the Beinecke library were found by H. Garland in the London book shop after Voynich's death, at the time when the shop was being 'wound up'. He sent them to A. Nill in the USA. This must have happened in or before 1937. The envelope in which he sent them is still preserved (11). Two examples of these slips are shown below. For the second, click on the picture for an enlargement.

They may also be observed in the digitised manuscripts of the Vatican library (click on the thumbnail).

See also:
>> MS Vat.Lat.11504.
>> MS Vat.Lat.11506.
>> MS Vat.Lat.11539.
>> MS Vat.Lat.11543.

A comparison of these paper slips clearly shows that:

A third feature, not visible in the above illustrations, is that on the reverse of these bibliographical slips (both in the Beinecke and in the Vatican) there are annotations in pencil. These are discussed in the parallel page, where the conclusion is that these are the original shelf marks from the Collegium Romanum library of the Jesuits.

3.3. Correspondence between the 1903 catalogue and the bibliographical paper slips

Each entry in the catalogue is a short description, usually just one line, and from a comparison of these entries with the bibliographical paper slips it is clear that the person(s) who made the catalogue wrote these short descriptions by summarizing the entries on these paper slips. I have found no instance where any additional information is included. For each of the manuscripts the catalogue entry specifies whether it is parchment or paper, and from which century it dates (which is occasionally given as 'uncertain'). The following table shows a few examples of text on the bibliographical slip and in the catalogue.

On paper slip In catalogue Presently
AEliani opus de instruendis aciebus ex graeco in
latinum conversum a Theodoro Graeco thessalonicen-
Codex membranac. in fol. po. Ms. saec. XV. cum
ornatu et stemmate gentilicio in prima pagina depictis,
et cum pluribus initialibus aureis. Constat foliis scriptis
Aelianus / Opus de instruendis aciebus - versio Latina Theodori
codex membran in fol saec XV
Voynich: J01
Boneti Nicolai Metaphysica, nempe: de X praedicatis,
de 1is et 2is intentionibus, de theologia naturali,
de philosophia morali.
Codex chartaceus in fol. Ms. saec. XIV. Constat
foliis scriptis 227.
Bonetus Nic. / Metaphysica _ cd. chart. saec. XIV Vat.Lat.11504
De Leonibus Leonis Ioannis (peru-
sini) De philosophico ac theologico
sapiente – De vita ac gestis Theodosii
Codex membranac. In fol. Ms. saec. [blank] cum plu-
ribus initiailibus pictis et inauratis. Constat
foliis scriptis 109.
De Leonibus Leonis Ioan / De philosophico et theologico sapiente ecc. Voynich: J21

This allows us to suspect, though not with great certainty, that the paper slip of the Voynich MS would have specified that the MS was from the 15th Century.

3.4. The covers of the manuscripts

So far, the information contained in the sources described above does not give us any irrefutable confirmation that the Voynich MS was included in this collection, even though there is no particular reason to doubt it. There is, however, another common feature of the collection that allows us to confirm it. This is the standard cover that was given to almost the entire collection, while it was still in the Collegium Romanum library.

The binding of the MS.

Ruysschaert briefly describes this feature of the manuscripts in his catalogue. Mrs. Christine Grafinger (12) of the Vatican library explained to me that this is a light-yellow parchment, and identified the cover of the Voynich MS as being very similar. The above-mentioned links to the manuscripts in the Vatican library can be used to judge this for oneself. The style of the binding is exactly the same, and this is not just true for the Voynich MS, but for most of the other manuscripts acquired by Voynich.

In a >>blog entry of the Historical Archives of the Gregorian University (in Italian) we read how a large collection of Jesuit manuscripts was rebound, probably between 1824 and 1870, since they were "infested by worms". This appears to be the explanation for the consistent set of covers. The Voynich MS has certainly been affected by woodworms, and MS conservators have derived from this that its original cover was of wood covered by leather. The same is true for at least one other MS acquired by Voynich: the Boccaccio MS now at the University of Chicago.

4. Reconstruction of the list of Manuscripts

4.1. Completeness / correctness of the reconstruction

Ruysschaert lists approximately 30 items and from Voynich we have 16 paper slips. The catalogue of the Jesuit books sold to the Vatican includes 35 entries for manuscripts that are not traced to the Vatican library. It is of course possible that some of these missing items were not purchased by Voynich but by someone else. The number 16 is definitely the minimum number and of these 16 we can be certain. It is also certain that Voynich acquired more than these 16, and the paper slips of the additional items are now lost. One case is that of a pair of manuscripts originating from the library of Matthias Corvinus. These books have been together from the time they were in Hungary until the present time, yet the paper slip of only one of the two has been preserved (13). Another interesting example is a MS of Marcanova sold by Voynich in 1924, which was identified independently as originating from the Collegium Romanum library (14), and had been seen in that library by several people up to 1873, after which it disappeared. Its paper slip has also not been preserved (15).

Another MS of which we can be certain that Voynich acquired it is called "Constitutiones Venetae". It is listed in the 1903 catalogue, where it is marked as missing, and it appears in De Marinis (1913). This brings the total to 20.

Three of the items that were certainly acquired by Voynich are missing in the catalogue, namely the Aristotle already mentioned above, for which the slip has been preserved, and the two items mentioned in the previous paragraph (one Corvinus MS and the Marcanova MS). The last two were, however, listed by Ruysschaert. Two other items, which are not listed by Ruysschaart but for which the paper slip has been preserved by Voynich, can however be found back in the catalogue. In summary, the maximum number of manuscripts that may have been acquired by Voynich seems to be 38. In addition, of the 32 printed books in the catalogue, 23 are not traced to the Vatican library, so this would be the maximum nr. that Voynich could have acquired in addition. We don't know if the Lagomarsini collection included any printed books. None of the printed books in De Marinis' 1913 catalogue matches any of the 23 titles of missing prints. Voynich's own catalogues have not yet been consulted.

4.2. Table legend

Table entries:

ID My identifier for this MS. It is highlighted in case this is one of the 20 certain manuscripts.
Author Author of the MS
Title Title of the MS, or a shortened version of it
Ruysschaert How it is referred to in Ruysschaert (1959)
Slip preserved? Whether the slip is still preserved in the Beinecke, and whether it contains the attached Ex Libris of P.Beckx
Earlier owner Any known owner before the MS entered the library of the Collegium Romanum. These are briefly discussed below the table.
Present Present Library and Shelf Mark of the MS
Comment Additional comment

The following abbreviations are used in the Table:

Listed in De Marinis (1913) (see note 8)
Listed in De Marinis (1947) (see note 10)
Identification in De Ricci's "Census of medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada" (see note 5)
Mgr. José Ruysschaert
Typescript ex libris of Petrus Beckx SJ

4.3. The Table

ID Author Title Ruysschaert Slip preserved? Earlier owner Present Comment
J01 Aelianus Opus de instruendis aciebus DM13 No 2
Yes, with P.B. Alfonso of Aragon Bodleian MS. Lat. class. d. 38 (16)
J02 Alfraganus Astronomia (D.R. II p.1845) Yes, with P.B. - Still uncertain J.R. identification probably incorrect (17)
J03 Alfonsus Tabulae astronomicae D.R. II p.1845 - - Still uncertain The 1903 catalogue refers to D.R. 1899, which would be MS Kane 51
J04 Anonymus Constitutiones Venetae DM13 No 11 - - - Not yet identified
J05 Aristoteles Ethica etc. - Yes, with P.B. (shown above) Pier Leoni a) Univ. Illinois, MS 0008
b) Newberry MS 23.1
c) Huntington HM 1035
Book split into three parts (18). See also here
J06 Ausonius Epigrammata DM13 No 6
Yes, with P.B. Ferdinand Duke of Calabria,
Alfonso of Aragon
- (16). Trace lost after Sotheby sale (19)
J07 Th. Balsamon De sexta sinodo - - - - Paper MS of the 16th C. Appears in the catalogue without any annotation in the right margin.
J08 Biblia Sacra p.vii note 3 Yes, with P.B. - - Not yet identified (20)
J09 - J13 Biblia Sacra p.vii note 3 - - - Max. 5 more Bibliae Sacrae (20)
J14 Boccaccio Genealogiae Deorum D.R. I p.564 Yes, with P.B. Coluccio Salutati Univ.Chic. MS 100 see here
J15 Breviarum Romanum p.vii note 3 Yes - - Not yet identified (20)
J16 Breviarum Romanum p.vii note 3 - - - (20)
J17 P. Candidus Dec. (Four treatises) D.R. I p.961
DM13 No.14
Yes Borso D'Este Harvard: Houghton MS Richardson 23 -
J18 Cicero Rhetorica ad Herennium D.R. II p.1894 - M. Antonius Muret Princeton: Kane MS 29 -
J19 Cicero Officiarum - Cato Maior Laelius, Paradoxa - - - Uncertain Paper MS of uncertain date. Appears in the catalogue with just a cross in the right margin.
J20 Cicero De natura deorum etc. D.R. II p.1461
DM13 No.10
Yes Matthias Corvinus Morgan MS 497 Seen in the Collegium Romanum library (13)
J21 L. Giovanni de Leoni Flagellarii Malorum etc. D.R. II p.1848 Yes, with P.B. - Univ. S.Cal. MS 14 -
J22 Dydimus De Spiritu Sancto D.R. II p.1461 - Matthias Corvinus Morgan MS 496 Not included in the catalogue.
DM13 No.15 (overlooked by J.R.). Seen in the Collegium Romanum library (13).
J23 Hieronymus Vitae Patrum D.R. II p.1473 - - Morgan MS 626 (21), (22)
J24 Isidorus Originum D.R. I p.82 Yes - Huntington, HM 1034 -
J25 S. Isidorus Sententiae D.R. II p.2047 Yes, with P.B. - Free Libr. Phil., MS Lewis E 136 (21)
J26 Manetti De dignitate et excellentia.. DM13 No 23
Yes, with P.B. Alfonso of Aragon - Trace lost after Sotheby sale (19)
J27 St. John Chrysostom Homilies on the acts... D.R. I p.1105 - - Univ. Michigan, William L. Clements Library Greek MS.
Present MS ID not yet found
J28 Justinianus Novellae Constitutiones D.R. I p.585 - - Univ.Chic. MS 423 -
J29 J. Baptista Mantuanus Carmelit. Parthenice, sive de laudibus... - Yes - - Not yet identified
J30 Marcanova Antiquitates D.R. I p.897 - M. Antonius Muret Princeton: Garrett MS 158 Not included in the catalogue.
Seen in the Collegium Romanum library by Cardinal Mai (23). (21).
J31 Miscellanea D.R. II p.1846 - Marci, Kircher (a.o.) Beinecke MS 408 The Voynich MS (21) (24)
J32 Ptolemaeus Almagestum D.R. I p.49 - Pier Leoni Huntington, HM 65 -
J33 M. Ritius de regibus Gall. etc. - - - - Paper MS of the 16th C (25).
J34 Rufinus / Origenes Periarchon D.R. I p.516 Yes, with P.B. Pier Leoni Art Inst. Chic. MS 20.97 Greek work by Origenes, translated into Latin by Rufinus; with other works.
J35 Valerius Maximus Dictorum et factorum... - Yes, with P.B. - Univ. Mich., William L. Clements Libr. D.R. II p.1120 (overlooked by J.R.)
J36 Valturius De Re Militari D.R. II p.1848 - Malatesta Library of Congress
Rosenwald 13 or 14
Probably nr. 14 with the supposed Mantegna sketch (21)
J37 Vergilius (Opera) D.R. I p.886
or II p.1896
- - Princeton: Garrett MS 110
or Kane MS 36
One of the two
J38 Vergilius Aeneis, Bucolica, Georgica D.R. II p.2057 - Antonio Caboge of Ragusa,
M. Antonius Muret
Free Libr. Phil., MS Lewis E 198 -

It of interest to note that approximately half of the manuscripts that was offered for sale by the Jesuits was on parchment and half on paper, as indicated in the 1903 catalogue. Voynich, however, clearly preferred parchment manuscripts, because among the set he acquired only one appears to have been a MS on paper, or more specifically a mixture of parchment and paper, namely one of his favourites: the Valturius MS (J36).

5. About some of the earlier owners

5.1. Alfonso of Aragon

King of Spain and Naples (1396 – 1458), who possessed a very rich MS library. This has been described extensively in De Marinis (1947) (see note 10). Three of Voynich's manuscripts originate from his library (i.e. before they entered the Collegium Romanum library), and at least one more is now among Vat.Lat.11414-11709.

5.2. Borso D'Este

Duke of Ferrara and Modena (1413 – 1471). The Biblioteca Estense (Estense Library), was the family library of the dukes of Este. Dating at least to 14th century, it was largely enriched during Ferrara's Renaissance, and finally established in Modena in the beginning of 17th century. The reference to the Dukes of Modena and Ferrara by Voynich in his 1921 publication (see note 1) refers directly to Borso. (See also below, MS J17).

5.3. Malatesta

Sigismondo Pandolfo Malatesta (1417 - 1468).

5.4. Matthias Corvinus

King of Hungary (1443 - 1490). Founder of a famous humanist library that was dispersed after his death. Many of his manuscripts have been lost, or are at best untraceable.

5.5. Pier Leoni

Physician to Lorenzo il Magnifico (~1440 – 1492). Three of the manuscripts acquired by Voynich come from his library, plus the following among Vat.Lat.11414-11709: MS 11433, 11496, 11504, 11520, 11575, 11576, 11581, 11585, 11600, 11610 and 11612. Leoni's library was first researched by Dorez (26), who found a catalogue of it, but none of the manuscripts. That discovery was achieved by Ruysschaert based on the collection that is the subject of this page. This is described in great deail in Ruysschaert (1960) (27).

5.6. Antonio Caboge of Ragusa

Ragusa is modern Dubrovnik. Beside the one MS acquired by Voynich, there are four more of his manuscripts among Vat.Lat.11414-11709. All five of these were owned by Muret (see below) before they entered the Collegium Romanum library.

5.7. M. Antonius Muret

The large library of this famous French humanist (1526-1585) was donated to the Collegium Romanum some time after his death. Three of the manuscripts acquired by Voynich, and a large number among Vat.Lat.11414-11709, trace back to this library, including the library's catalogue of books issued before 1585 (Vat.Lat. 11562). Other manuscripts that were owned by Muret are now in the archives of the Gregorian Library (APUG) and many of his printed books are in the national library of Rome (BNCR).

5.8. Athanasius Kircher

Among the manuscripts acquired by Voynich only the Voynich MS traces back to Kircher, but in the overall MS collection of 380 volumes there was at least one additional MS that used to belong to him. This is now in the Vatican library, MS Vat.Lat.11698, described in detail by Ruysschaert. That means that this second Kircher MS was in the Lagomarsini collection. Other manuscripts that used to belong to Kircher have been dispersed along various collections. This is analysed in more detail in a section in the parallel page, which also includes a graphical representation of this dispersion, showing the path of the Voynich MS from Kircher to Voynich.

6. Final comment

As seen in the introduction, Voynich described the collection of manuscripts as "a most remarkable collection of preciously illuminated manuscripts" and further refers to them as "with their rich decorations in gold and colors" (contrasting to his "ugly duckling"). The following links to on-line images of some of these manuscripts may illustrate this, in particular the two Corvinus manuscripts (J20 and J22).

The illustration of f4r of MS J17 is of interest as this shows the arms of Borso, Duke of Ferrara and Modena, which Voynich highlighted in his 1921 publication (see note 1).

J05c Aristotle >>f1r  
J17 Petrus Candidus >>f4r  
J20 Cicero >>fiv   >>f1r   >>f98r  
J22 Didymus >>f1v   >>f2r   >>f3r   >>f92r   >>f93r  
J23 Hieronymus >>f26r   >>f27r  
J24 Isidorus >>f1r   >>f9r   >>link   >>link  
J30 Marcanova >>full scan (with intro)
J32 Ptolemaeus >>f1r  
J38 Vergilius >>link  


I would like to acknowledge the very helpful support in these investigations from APUG (Rome, Historical Archives of the Pontifical Gregorian University/ Roma, Archivio storico della Pontificia Università Gregoriana).
Illustration of the paper slip of the Aristotle MS shown with kind permission from the Beinecke Rare Book and MS Library in New Haven (CT).
I am grateful to the various libraries who make available digital scans of their manuscripts in the table above, and to the Vatican Library / Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana for the digitisation of several of the manuscripts among Vat.Lat.11414-11709.


See Voynich (1921).
Ruysschaert (1959), see also partial transcription.
He also mentions Vat.Lat.13479, but this appears to refer only to the donation by Pius X, not its origin from the Collegium Romanum.
Hieronymus Lagomarsini S.J. (1697-1773) was a professor at the Collegium Romanum, and famous for his critical edition of the complete works of Cicero. Most of his manuscripts were Cicero texts.
De Ricci (1937)
E. Millicent Sowerby (1967) (pp.13 and ff.). She describes one of Voynich's European "hunting trips" shortly before she joined the staff, which was in December 1912.
Some information about De Marinis may also be found here
De Marinis (1913)
I am grateful to William M. Voelkle of the Morgan library for this information.
De Marinis (1947). I am grateful to the Library of Congress for an opportunity to consult this monumental work.
It is in the Beinecke Library, and it has several useful annotations from Anne Nill. I am grateful to J. Speel for providing the closing date of the London shop.
In a private communication in 2014.
The two manuscripts have been together since the time they were in the library of Matthias Corvinus. They were taken to Rome and ended up in the Jesuit library in the Collegium Romanum, where they were seen by the Hungarian historian Csontosi. Voynich sold them to De Marinis, and his partner Forti sold them through Alexandre Imbert to John Pierpont Morgan. The latter sale was concluded in July 1912.
Holmes Van Mater (1927). I am grateful to Rich SantaColoma for the reference.
It is possible that this MS, and other manuscripts acquired by Voynich, actually come from the collection of Lagomarsini. I also still need to find out whether the Lagomarsini collection also had the paper slips with the bibliographical descriptions. That the MS was originally in the Muretus library does not prevent it from ending up with Lagomarsini. Another book with Latin inscriptions, from the collection of Kircher, equally ended up with Lagomarsini and is now MS Vat.Lat.11698.
De Marinis writes about the Aelianus and Ausonius manuscripts (J01 and J06) that he acquired them from the London book dealer W. Voynich, and for the former, that this sale took place in Rome.
The MS proposed by Ruysschaert is #1 in the Estate of W. Voynich and has size 21 x 15 cm, however, we know from the catalogue slip in the Beinecke that the MS was in quarto. It also had 154 folios (not 163 as the one listed in De Ricci). From correspondence preserved in the Grolier Club in New York, there is a suggestion that the MS could be Princeton MS Garrett 99, which was indeed sold by Voynich, and which appears to be in quarto. This is still to be confirmed.
The MS cannot be clearly identified in the catalogue, and is also not identified in Ruysschaert (1959). However, it was certainly one of the Collegium Romanum manuscripts obtained by Voynich, because the paper slip has been preserved. Furthermore, it is one of the manuscripts that trace back to the library of Pier Leoni, as documented by the Huntington library. The MS is described in more detail here. In Ruysschaert's 1960 publication about the Pier Leoni library, this MS is equally overlooked. There is one Aristotle MS in the catalogue with the title 'Varia', which is identified as Vat.Lat.11509, though with some erasures, a question mark and a cross. This could potentially be an incorrect identification.
The two manuscripts went through several hands. After De Marinis they were owned by Patetta, Hoepli, Hornby (named by Ruysschaert), Major J.R. Abbey, and after his death they were sold by Sotheby's after 4/6/1974 (part 8) to (an) as yet unknown collector(s) or institute(s).
There are six MS copies of "Biblia Sacra" and two of "Breviarum Romanum" that are not traced to the Vatican library, as also mentioned by Ruysschaert. The paper slip of only one of each has been preserved.
Several of these manuscripts were on display in the Art Institute in Chicago in 1915. They are mentioned in the AIC Bulletin (1915):
Among the most important is an unpublished and unsolved cipher manuscript by Roger Bacon, thirteenth century. The profuse illustrations give sufficient clue to the importance of the cipher content. = J31: the Voynich MS,
A tenth century Spanish codex, one of a very few Spanish manuscripts of such antiquity, is especially important for its rich decoration with ornaments showing strong Irish and Moorish characteristics = J25: S. Isidorus / Sententiae.
The finest treasures of the collection are an Archaeology of Rome and Italy, compiled by G. Marcanova; = J30: Marcanova / Antiquitates,
a treatise on military and naval matters by Pandolfo Malatesta, Duke of Rimini, and Roberto Volturio, his minister of war; = J36: Valturius / De Re Militari,
and a fourteenth century Lives of Martyrs, containing three hundred water color sketches = J23: Hieronymus / Vitae Patrum,
The bible receiving most attention in the Bulletin cannot be positively identified with the one listed in the table above (J08).
From the beginning the most highly valued MS in the collection, with water colour paintings supposedly (but not actually) from the hand of Giotto.
As recorded in Holmes Van Mater (1927).
It is somewhat unsatisfactory not to see any reference to the unknown writing. On what basis Ruysschaert decided to make this identification is not yet understood, and further research in the papers of Carusi might be enlightening. In any case, the anecdote reported by Kraus further clearly suggests Ruysschaert's conviction about the identity of this MS.
Whatever was written in the right margin of the 1903 catalogue has been erased. A few lines higher up there is a MS with the same author and title, also paper, from the same Century. The present entry is the first one written in a different hand, so there is a possibility that this is just a duplicate entry. Three other duplicate entries exist in the catalogue, but these have been marked as such.
See Dorez (1894) and Dorez (1897).
Ruysschaert (1960), which again mentions Voynich's acquisition of some of the manuscripts coming from the Collegium Romanum library. See also Note 18.


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