Rudolf IIThe Holy Roman Emperor is believed to have owned the Voynich manuscript before passing it on
to the head of his botanical gardens in Prague, Jacobus Horcicky de Tepenecz. The emperor opened his first imperial parliament in June 1582 in Augsburg. Here is a description of it from The Magic Circle of Rudolf II: Alchemy and Astrology in Renaissance Prague, by Peter Marshall (page 42):
Huge crowds invaded the city, along with the ambassadors of the Pope, the Protestant Electors, and most of the Catholic Kings. Even the recently crowned Czar of Russia, Ivan IV, who was soon to earn the soubriquet of “the Terrible,” attended. The meeting proved to be the first step of Russia towards the West.
The principal decision of parliament at Augsburg was to adopt the new Gregorian calendar which replaced the old Julian calendar, which was twelve days out of kilter with the cycle of the Sun. Pope Gregory XIII accepted the new calendar and chose the first day of January rather than Easter as the beginning of the New Year. At the parliament, the Catholics accepted the proposal: the Protestants, suspicious of a papal plot, rejected it. One Lutheran prince saw it as a sign of impending Apocalypse.
Rudolf, who was fascinated by astrology and astronomy, found the subject far more interesting than affairs of empire. This was his natural intellectual territory. “It’s a question of mathematics which has nothing in common with religion,” he said quietly in one of his rare interventions. “The essential is that the calendar is good. Its origin does not matter.”
During the years leading up to the Augsburg parliament, Ivan had been invading and attacking several regions.
Conquest of Kazan
Attacks on Livonia
- January 1558 - ordered an attack on Livonia, capturing twenty forts.
- January 1559 - ordered another invasion
- Captured Livonian fort of Tarvast, later destroying it.
- August - sent a force to build a fort on \Donets River.
- January 1560 - defeated a Livonian army at Ermes
- Captured the Fellin fortress and Grand Master Wilhelm von Fürstenberg.
- Fought a Polish-Lithuanian attack.
- 1563 - seized Polotsk on the Dvina River.
- October 1567 - confiscated Fedorov’s lands and wealth
- September 1568 - had Fedorov killed.
Such military campaigns afforded generous opportunities to plunder, and few leaders have shown more of a talent for murder and confiscation. It is wholly possible that Ivan IV or someone under him brought the Voynich manuscript with its star charts and Wheel of the Year to Rudolf II or someone under him at the imperial parliament of 1582 as either a gift (he wished the Holy Roman Emperor to join with him against Poland and Lithuania) or simply to add to the discussion of choosing a calendar, the central topic of that event.
Finno-Ugric folk à Russian invasion/persecution/confiscation à Ivan IV (the Terrible) à Rudolf II