Parallels suggested for a few details

Nick Pelling’s latest post mentions posited parallels for a few details in the manuscript.

These Pelling credits to Linda Snider, Marco Ponzi and Koen Gheuens and it is a real pleasure to have information about a mailing list conversation shared with the wider reading public.

Pelling says that Linda had noticed Erlangen-Nürnberg, Universitätsbibliothek MS B7 (made…. date…);   that Marco had noticed  – – apparently in the same manuscript(?) –  fish; and that in different manuscript, Koen had noticed the figure of a child, or youth (Heidelberg Cod. pal. germ. 330  – made Nordbayern (Eichstätt?) in 1420 .

Of the three, I found  the third a very fair comparison, though the other two – while the first is certainly like  – are too common to allow a de-contextualised detail to tell us much.    Even so, and without considering his manuscript more closely, I did think  Koen’s comparison impressive.

[Postscript – Koen left a comment under Nick’s post, noting that “many of the WG images feel very distant from the VM, jousting knights for example” and that the youth/infant figure in the Vms is exceptional in being “one of the two or three which are drawn in profile” and that it has “11 fingers, three of which are thumbs “…  on which point I’d note that this isn’t the only figure whose hands are drawn to have it   (in medieval terms) a ‘monster’.  The preacher in Mongol dress was given six fingers. ]

The manuscripts from which the several details  were taken do share a written text  –  a poem in the educational/moralising style.    Composed by a visiting cleric it gained the title  ‘The Italian Guest’ and it aims to instruct members of a German court in the manners of contemporary Italy, or perhaps France or even –  given his time (c. 1186 – c. 1235) of Sicily.

It would be interesting to know which.

Such things were always of interest in Germany, just as the manners of the French court long served as model for refinement in England.  The same  would be so even in fifteenth century Germany, when the Renaissance Italian model was being emulated.

In its Italian form, the cleric’s name is Tommasino Di Cerclaria . In German,  Thomazin von Zerklaere.

No other of his compositions appears to have survived.

All remaining copies of that poem are –  naturally enough – in  middle High German and I cannot say whether the German text simply copies a written version by the poet,  or records  or translates a poem delivered  viva voce –  and  given, again, the era and his genre, who is to say the language he used was not a courtly Provençal?  No others of his compositions have survived, so one cannot know.

All that matter I, personally, found  far less interesting than that the poet he was a native of  Friuli, that part of  north-western Italy, which has repeatedly cropped up, over the years, in the work of numerous Voynich writers.

It has been mentioned in connection with the nearby University of Padua. It has been mentioned in connection with the  herbal garden which served students at the university before the University itself owned the land. (the wiki article writer seems determined to suggest an unbroken tradition of botanical gardens in Europe from ancient times, and with a focus on Germany – but such is far from being the general view and is not an idea supported by the extant literature).

However, in this context, an interesting, if fragmentary herbal from nearby Udine has been a subject of interest among Voyicheros, as has been the fact that nearby Pordenone was the place of birth and death for another cleric, a Franciscan, who was among the earliest to  travel east as a European ambassador – a role then primarily entrusted to the Franciscan order.

Of course Venice itself has often been mentioned – too often, by too many, and for too many reasons to list here without distracting attention from our chief subject: Nick Pelling’s latest offering.’

Having listed manuscript copies of the poem and illustrated their posited relationships, Pelling doubts that there is any necessary connection between the poem itself and those few details noticed by Linda, Marco and Koen. Pelling writes:

“the Welscher Gast was probably a recipient of these images, not a source.”

  • Nick Pelling, ‘Thomasin von Zerklaere’s “Italian Guest” (Welcher Gast), ciphermysteries, March 20th., 2020


Postscript-  Just in case it’s of interest, I add (courtesy of wikipedia and an Italian website) the languages and dialects said still to be spoken in modern Friuli.

Friulian is spoken in the provinces of Udine, Gorizia, and Pordenone.

Venetian and its dialects are usually spoken (for historical reasons) on the western border regions (i.e. Pordenone), sparingly in a few internal towns (i.e. Gorizia, etc.), and historically in some places along the Adriatic coast.

In the southeastern part of Friuli, a Venetian transitional dialect is spoken, called Bisiaco, that has influences of both Slovene and Friulian.

Slovene dialects are spoken in the largely rural border mountain region known as Venetian Slovenia. German (Bavarian dialect) is spoken in Val Canale (mostly in Tarvisio and Pontebba); in some of Val Canale’s municipalities (particularly in Malborghetto Valbruna), Carinthian Slovenian dialects are spoken too. Slovene is also spoken in the Collio area north of Gorizia. In the Resia valley, between Venetian Slovenia and the Val Canale, most of the inhabitants still speak an archaic dialect of Slovene, known as Resian.,,,

German-related dialects (like Rogasaxon) are spoken in several ancient enclaves like Timau, Zahre (Sauris) and Plodn (Sappada).

One thought on “Parallels suggested for a few details

  1. D.N. O'Donovan says:

    Alternative spelling for the poet’s name is Thomasin von Zerclaere’

    Kathryn Starke, A Courtier’s Mirror: Cultivating Elite Identity in Thomasin von Zerclaere’s Welscher Gast (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013).

    In this connection a not terribly friendly reviewer, James A. Schultz, notes that the poem exists today in “25 manuscripts, of which about half contain a relatively consistent cycle of images.”

    Starke’s own web-page refers readers to a different reviewer
    Will Hasty in The Medieval Review (September 2014)

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