Marginal Psalters: Addendum

It has just come to my attention that there is one more marginal Psalter in existence: BL Add. Ms. 40731. Like most of the others in this group, it was produced in Constantinople in the 11th century. Although it has been cropped and the illuminations have faded quite badly in places, it features a few details that I thought made it worthy of its own post.

Although it is less water-oriented than the others in this group, it does present the classical depiction of river personifications in several folios.

It also presents the same characteristic use of fluids as a framing device, but more often than in the other manuscripts from this group, the source of the water is portrayed as a natural spring, with the water originating in a rocky outcrop:

However, one of the illustrations really stood out, as it represents the source of the fluid in a way that is distinct from all the others, and which I believe Voynich researchers will find very interesting.

Capture d_écran (445)
175v

A similar structure is also found as a fountain from which a deer is drinking:

Capture d_écran (437)
69r

This Psalter’s illustrator thus alternated between several ways of depicting the source of fluids: either personified, natural, or mechanical. In the Voynich, might we be witnessing a superposition/combination of the three?

Also of interest is the image of Jesus calming the storm, in which the storm is also personified. The personification is indistinguishable from that of other fluid-bearers, but the representation of the fluid issuing forth (wind?) is markedly different, in its lines, color and orientation:

Capture d_écran (444)
147r

The manuscript also features an interesting depiction of the night sky above what the BL describes as a depiction of sunset:

Capture d_écran (439)
80v

Finally, I found this image quite intriguing, and the BL offers no explanation for the red stars in the clouds beneath the image of Christ carried up to the Heavens or for the red dots falling from the sky. What are those?

Capture d_écran (435)
27v

I must admit that I lack the skills to read the Greek labels beside these illustrations. If anyone would like to offer translations, they would be most welcome!

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8 thoughts on “Marginal Psalters: Addendum

  1. Thanks for this image of the globe! That is an interesting one…
    I have yet to find anything like text dispersed among stars, it’s just a possibility that I like to leave open.
    In fact, I have just found a pretty great example of a circular field of labeled stars and constellations, that I will post to the forum for discussion in a few minutes…

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  2. These are quite interesting VV. Wouldn’t you like to make a thread about them on the forum? That’s always more convenient for elaborate discussions..

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    1. Thanks Koen! I’m a bit hesitant to start threads about my own posts on the forum, it feels a bit like shameless self-promotion… but since you suggested it, I will start one for the discussion of these posts!

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  3. Hi VViews, thank you for sharing another great manuscript!
    I am sorry, but I cannot help with the Greek. The only label I can read is “anemos” (the wind) in the storm illustration.
    In general, I think it could be useful if you could also post page numbers together with the details you show. I am often curious to see these illustrations in context 🙂
    Thank you again for these great posts!

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    1. Thanks Marco, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I got a bit overexcited when I found this MS and the resulting post is a bit sloppy in terms of folio references, sorry! The folio numbers have been added to the pictures now (for the composites, click on the images and the folio number will appear in the enlarged view).

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        1. It is indeed!
          Images such as these tend to make me wonder if the star maps featured on 68r are really labeled stars, or just text dispersed among a field of stars. In fact I have questions about a lot of the so-called labels in the astronomy section and elsewhere… I’d welcome your thoughts on this topic!

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          1. Hi VViews, thank you for your reply!
            Of course, no possibility cannot be ruled out. I know of examples of labeled stars: possibly the best parallels for the Voynich “star maps” are some Islamic celestial globes in which only stars are engraved, with their names and without the constellation figures that usually accompany them. E.g.
            http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/collections/imu-search-page/record-details/?TitInventoryNo=54471&querytype=field&thumbnails=&irn=3596

            On the other hand, I am not aware of text dispersed among stars in a similar way (in this psalter, the starred circle contains no text). Also, the other labels in the balneo and small-plants sections look like labels to me. Have you seen parallels suggesting that those could be something else?

            BTW, I think the Psalter illustration represents the Day (blue sky with the Sun) and the Night (starred sky with the Moon). The relation with the Voynich diagram (if any) is not obvious. Still it’s a great image and an interesting parallel, in my opinion.

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