Friday, July 22, 2011

Hypergraphia and Illustrated Manuscripts

Voynich Manuscript

The Voynich manuscripts are believed to be written between 1404 and 1438. I was searching for information on graphology and hypergraphia when I came across them and I was amazed at how contemporary they look. 

By comparison, here is a page by Jane LaFazio, a celebrated local artist and teacher:

Sample journal page, Jane LaFazio from her web page
And another by Vivian Swift, author:
Vivian Swift, from "When Wanderers Cease to Roam" page
The Voynich book has been described as "the world's most mysterious manuscript". Illustrated journals fascinate me. It's all I can do to get words on paper - how some extremely talented people have the ability to not only write but to decorate each page as they go is beyond me.

One of the many interesting things about this journal is that nobody has been able to translate it. The language is not known and no one can break the code if it was written in code. One can infer from the illustrations what various sections are about.  From Wikipedia: The book is named after the Polish-Lithuanian-American book dealer Wilfrid M. Voynich, who acquired it in 1912. The Voynich manuscript is owned by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University, and is formally referred to as "Beinecke MS 408". The first facsimile edition was published in 2005.[5]  It's now owned by Yale University. 

Voynich Manuscript

Voynich Manuscript

Voynich Manuscript

Voynich Manuscript

Finally, I found my way to information on Hypergraphia. What is it? From Wikipedia: Hypergraphia is an overwhelming urge to write. It is not itself a disorder, but can be associated with temporal lobe changes in epilepsy and mania in the context of bipolar disorder.

Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland, is said to have had hypergraphia.[4] In his lifetime he wrote over 98,000 letters varying in format. The letters were written backwards, in rebus, and in different patterns, such as the "Mouse Tail" in the former book. Some examples of his letters can be found here.

The Reverend Robert Shields maintained a diary chronicling every 5 minutes of his life from 1972 until a stroke disabled him in 1997. The hypergraphic work filled 81 boxes and contained approximately 38 million words.[5]

Outsider artist and writer Henry Darger would appear to have been a case of hypergraphia, having produced what has been described as the longest novel in existence, The Story of the Vivian Girls.

American composer Alan Hovhaness is acknowledged as one of the most prolific of the 20th century and may have been affected by hypergraphia. He carried paper and pen wherever he went and is known to have composed almost everyday, in shopping malls, restaurants, and even on buses. He claimed to have thrown over 1,000 of his early compositions into the fireplace in the 1940s whilst still a young man, and even at the time of his death, in 2000, had penned around 500 more, most of which are published.

Former United States Senator Bob Graham has maintained a meticulous account of the daily events of his life. Between 1977 and 2003, Graham filled almost 4,000 notebooks,[6] recording such varied items as the movie he and his daughter rented on the eve of his grandchild's birth (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, which, he noted, he rewound and returned), as well as details of strangers he'd met at airports so that he could follow up with a friendly letter. Each notebook, color-coded by season, covered two to three days. His daily entries included minutiae like his weight, clothes into which he changed, what he ate and where, as well as serious matters of state. When the company that manufactured Graham's notebooks ceased production, Graham bought up hundreds of the remaining stock. During the 2000 Presidential race, Vice President Al Gore considered Graham as a potential running mate, but campaign insiders worried Graham's habit of filling notebooks with daily minutia would be perceived by the public as eccentric.[7] Finally, late in the selection process, Gore decided against Graham.[8] Nevertheless, Graham maintained his notebooks were not diaries—as they contained no introspective commentary—but rather an efficient system for life management.[6] "I would rather have more detail than less," Graham told Time magazine in 2000. "I use [the notebooks] as a working tool. I review them for calls to be made, memos to be dictated, meetings I want to follow up on and things people promise to do. I would be reticent to be too open in describing personal feelings and emotions."[9] In the same article, an anonymous source close to Graham suspected the suicide of Graham's half-brother spurred Graham to seek control and discipline, one form of which was Graham's notebooks.[9]

Arthur Crew Inman (1895 - 1963) was a reclusive and unsuccessful American poet whose 17-million word diary, extending from 1919 to 1963, is one of the longest English language diaries on record. The diary was edited by Daniel Aaron and published in 1985 by Harvard University Press.

1 comment:

  1. This was so interesting but I was too overwhelmed to comment. Imagine - an unknown written language!!! & hypergraphia ?????

    I love it that we follow so many of the same blogs- like one big blogger neighborhood.