Getting lost in Wikipedia

I was reading about the Voynich manuscript on Wikipedia today after someone mentioned it to me. (I’d wanted to get the quickie Wiki information before I delved into René Zandbergen‘s site.)  I’d never heard of it before, but it’s a fascinating little mystery.

Of course, the problem with Wikipedia is that you never just stay in one article: you start in Voynich and then head off to read about John Dee, which then leads you to Enochian, which takes you to Tolkien’s Quenya and Tengwar and on and on. Multiple windows/tabs open. Back Back Back up to where you started only to take another path down through more pages. And I still haven’t finished reading the blasted Voynich page.

Looking at the Quenya and Tengwar pages made me recall being a teenager. I was a bit of an oddity. I graduated at 16 and didn’t really hang around with people my age (or my grade, I should say) a great deal. I generally stayed home and read. Had the Internet been around then, I would probably have been in heaven — all that information there for easy picking. Even then I had this sort of compulsive-obsessive thing, where I would get really engrossed in a subject for weeks or months. During my Tolkien phase, I soaked in everything Tolkien I could find — all of the books, including the Silmarillion; artwork; articles. A mere fraction of what’s available now, to be sure, but it was a treasure trove then, especially for a school girl. From those books, I built a fairly comprehensive dictionary of Sindarin and Quenya Elvish. I learned calligraphy in order to be able to properly write Tengwar and I used it to sign yearbooks the year I graduated. (I couldn’t tell you now what I wrote — some long, moody Elvish poem, I think — though at least I had the foresight to write it in both Tengwar Quenya and English. I have no idea what ever happened to that dictionary. It would be interesting to see how good (or bad) a job I’d actually done based on currently available linguistic information for those languages. Probably should have been a linguist except that I really never knew it was a field you could get into. It’s nothing that ever came up in discussions with guidance counsellors (not that they were particularly helpful) nor was it ever mentioned by anyone else — my parents mentioned translation and interpreting frequently but never linguistics. And I just didn’t have a clue.

Around the same time, i.e. high school, I also got hung up on Greek mythology. Not Roman, not Norse, just Greek. I can remember repeatedly signing out this huge encyclopedia or dictionary of mythology — it wasn’t Bulfinch’s Mythology but it was comparable. Better, because it just gave the bare facts without the long winded stories. That was important because I was building family trees of the gods. I filled several coil notebooks with meticulously researched, laid out, and cross referenced pedigree charts, showing marriages, children, and the rest. It took months. I think I’d even tried to lay it all out on bristol board before finally settling for numbered and referenced pages and subpages in the notebooks instead. Again, I have no idea where those notebooks went, but I would love to see them again. I see that someone published a Genealogical Guide to Mythology in 1993 so I was obviously way ahead of my time. LOL

So, you see, I *still* haven’t finished reading that Voynich page, all because Wikipedia has sent me off in other directions entirely.

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