Examples of 17th Century Dutch Pen and Ink

It has often been pointed out that the style of the art in the Voynich manuscript points to it's creation sometime in the 15th to the mid-16th century. This runs counter to my theory that the manuscript actually may date from the early 17th century. But also supporting these early dates of creation is the fact that the manuscript is on vellum, or parchment, and that this material would have been rare and expensive by the early 17th century, and had long gone out of use as a material for books. It has been pointed out that such a book as the Voynich would have been very expensive to make, and such an expense would have been illogical.

I recently found a catalog book at a thrift shop, Seventeenth-Century Dutch Drawings: A Selection from the Maida and George Abrams Collection, H.O. Zimman press, Massachusetts. Imagine my surprise when I found that it was actually quite common to use vellum and parchment for pen and brown ink, watercolor and chalk artwork. In fact, in one case, a sewn vellum book was made of such work.

I'm not making the case that there are not other possible times or sources for the Voynich. It well may be a 15th century herbal, as many believe. And I am not attributing any of the artists mentioned in the book, as author of the Voynich. I am only making the point that in the period of my theory, 1610 to 1620, it was quite ordinary to use vellum as a base, and brown ink as a line, and ink and watercolors as a wash. Also, the type of work in the Voynich may be "freer" in line and form than more formal examples known, but nonetheless uses similar lines and and cross-hatching for outlines and shading.




Here is one example of the artwork in the Voynich, from the Rosettes page.

This is a detail from "Landscape with a Bridge and a Tower", by Hendrick Avercamp, 1585-1634.

This example is pen and brown ink, with watercolor washes, over black chalk, on paper.



The above is a detail from Gerrit de Heer (@ 1606-after 1652) "A shepherd and His Flock amidst Ruins". It is pen and brown ink, on parchment. The deformation of the edge of this natural skin can be seen on the right of the image. While this is a finer example than both the above examples, the ink line is used as hatching, for shading, in a similar manner. This particualer work is attributed to approximately 1630 to 1640.


This detail is from "Landscape with a Blasted Tree and a Cliff". It is also pen and brown ink, with a pale gray wash. The artist is Nicolaes Maes, 1634-93, Amsterdam. It is on watercolor paper.

From the book, note "...the delicate, parallel pen lines that denote shadows on the cliffs...". This is very similar to the technique which is used to illustrate the cliffs on the Voynich's rosettes page.


This warm and funny depiction looks absolutely nothing like anything from the Voynich. But what is so surprising, or was surprising... but should no longer be to anyone with questions of inks and washes on vellum in the 17th century, is that this is on parchment (skin). And it dates from the end of the 17th century!

Cornelis Dusart, 1660-1704, "Five Peasants in an Interior", 1690. Pen and black ink, brown and gray wash, watercolor over black chalk, on parchment.







There are many other examples in this collection. The book describes a bound vellum book of art, created from 1621 to 1641, containing artworks of various mediums all on vellum, "Although the character and form generally resemble those of a friendship album, and Abrams volume consists entirely of drawing, so it lacks the literary component of a traditional album amicorum. As a comendium of drawings by many artists, without texts, representing a wide rangw of subjedcts, and entered directly into a bound volume over a periosd of several years, this little book is evidently unique in Durtch seventeenth-century art.". I would point out that if it was lost, there would be no other examples of it. It is unique.

Also shown are examples of the more refined watercolors of Jacob Marrel (tulips), Herman Saftleven (flowers), Johannes Bronkhorst (birds), and Antoni Henstenburgh (flowers... 18th century).... and more, all on vellum.

While the use of vellum and parchment in books may have slowed to almost a stop by the turn of the 17th century (friendship, heraldry, and autograph albums still often used vellum), it was clearly still used extensively in art, and even, in a similar way to that which is found in the Voynich. There must have been some reliable level of production, and source, of vellum during this century, which allowed it's use for drawings and watercolors. To suggest that anyone wanting to create a book such as the Voynich, in the time frame I suggest, that they would have had any great difficulty or expense in obtaining vellum, or even, that it's use would have been very unusual, is in my opinion, is incorrect. Visit my site, linked to the logo below, for an overview of the theory.

H.R. SantaColoma