Here’s a quick Voynich Manuscript palaeographic puzzle for you. A couple of months ago, I discussed Edith Sherwood’s suggestion that the third letter in the piece of marginalia on f116v was a Florentine “x”, as per Leonardo da Vinci’s quasi-shorthand. I also proposed that the topmost line there might have read “por le bon simon s…

Going over this again just now, I did a bit of cut-and-paste-and-contrast-enhance in a graphics editor to see if I could read the next few letters:-


OK, I’m still reasonably happy with “por le bon simon s…“, but what then? Right now, I suspect that this last word begins “sint…” (and is possibly “sintpeter“?) – could it be that this is the surname of the intended recipient? Of course, in the Bible, St Peter’s name was originally Simon, so “simon sintpeter” may or may not be particularly informative – but it could be a start, all the same.

But then again, the “n” and/or “t” of the “sint” could equally well have been emended by a well-meaning later owner: and the last few letters could be read as “ifer“, depending on whether or not the mark above the word is in the same ink. Where are those multispectral scans when you need them? Bah!

Feel free to add your own alternate readings below! 🙂

30 thoughts on “Por le bon Simon Sint… what?

  1. Emily on June 23, 2009 at 10:08 pm said:

    With a little imagination, I can read the “sintpeter” as “Lucifer”, although the initial L looks oddly shaped and smudged.

  2. Nick,

    I still think the VM’s a Duran Duran songbook, perhaps with a real weird tabulature… for lute or harp? (IIRC the guitar as we know it nowadays had not yet been invented, so this might account for that.)

    But if there’s a copyright notice related to Simon le Bon… that’s compelling. 😉


  3. Hi Elmar,

    Well, let’s look at the primary evidence:-!res.y.kor.sholdy!-
    See them walking hand in hand across the bridge at midnight

    Heads turning as the lights flashing out it’s so bright

    OK, though it’s far from a brilliant match, I must confess to having been shown worse Voynich theories. 😮

    Cheers, ….Nick Pelling….

  4. Pingback: Blog for the Illiterate? « Thoughts about the Voynich Manuscript

  5. Vytautas on July 13, 2009 at 8:45 am said:

    IMHO in first word i can read ancient greek letter “gama” and word sounds in German: “gotleben” … Too many possibilities for reading 🙁

  6. Too many possibilities, too few probabilities: it’s The Voynich Way. *sigh*

  7. Diane on July 6, 2013 at 9:14 am said:

    Came back to this post.
    Recently had a blinding revelation – no one including Baresch, ever said the manuscript contained ‘ancient’ Egyptian medicine.

    Ancient Egyptian was a bee in Kircher’s bonnet, and not neccessarily the sort of script which Baresch expected at all. He also speaks of a thesauros – which certainly can mean ‘treasures’ as Neal translates it, but more literally a warehouse, or a thesaurus-as-glossary of which we have at least one example in medieval medicine – by a chap called Simon!

    He was a Genoese (which I rather like) and Bacon clearly had a copy of his work, because he refers to him in his tract against physicians. Approving of Simon, though.

    So perhaps this Simon (or another) set out to compile another glossary of ‘Egyptian’ medicine and its languages, too.

    So ‘Simon’ is a good name to find inscribed here. If it is.

  8. Diane on July 12, 2013 at 11:41 pm said:

    Not sure if this has already been mentioned –
    a Symon Semeonis (OFM) left Ireland to travel through Crete, Egypt and the holy land with one ‘Hugo the Illuminator’ in 1323. On the offchance that the inscription on f.116v does read ‘pour le bon Simon S..’ – then Bdid may be justified in taking this inscription as a colophon rather than a prayer (recent interpretation on the list) etc..

  9. and another one…
    Bonet de Lates.

    inventor of an astronomical ring-dial by means of which solar and stellar altitudes can be measured and the time determined with great precision by night as well as by day.
    Too late to have composed the Vms, or to have first copied it, he might yet have received part or all of the ms from his predecessors – who mostly wrote ‘Lattes’

    Among them, in the thirteenth century, is Isaac de Lattes who mentions one ‘Master Viole’ credited with a text called the Strategems of Compounding, about the pharmaceutical gradations.

    This ‘Maestro Viole’ might possibly have been from Rhodes.

    Tzvi Langermann says the text is that of Ibn Rushd.

    We have just one copy, in MS Guenzsburg 642, written in a Spanis hand of the 15thC-16thC.

    Perhaps Spanish hand was as popular as Spanish costume and Spanish word-games just then?)

    Langermann’s article:

    Tzvi Langermann, ‘Some New Medical Manuscripts from Moscow’,

  10. Simon Nucifero.

    The only surname that seems to fit if it ends with “fero”.

  11. Folatt: could be, could be… but the first letter still looks like the same ‘s’ used in ‘simon’ immediately before it. 😐

  12. I found some others ending with “-ifero”


    I’m going for SintTrifero.

  13. Folatt on January 14, 2015 at 1:24 pm said:

    I just re-read your article.

    Yeah, if the n and t were added later, then at some point one could only read: “Simon Si.. Trifero”
    Perhaps it was Simon Si.(Simonis) Trifero instead. You know, like Simon’s son.

    Sleuthing forth, I found that Trifero is a rare surname originating in Catania, a city in Sicily that flourished during the Renaissance period.


    Maybe it was a gift because the University opened there in 1434?

  14. Folatt on January 14, 2015 at 2:37 pm said:

    I’d just like to send one more message to strengthen my argument that it reads “Simon Si(monis) Trifero”.

    Now I’m just an amateur sleuth, so correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe both the two ‘s’es and the ‘t’ are written in capital letters.
    If the t was a small t then it wouldn’t have such a long “ceiling”.

  15. Folatt on January 14, 2015 at 2:47 pm said:

    One more thing..

    Perhaps the “n” Between “Si” and “Trifero” is one of those double comma characters added later to indicate a repetition, which messed up the space between the patronym and surname.
    So it reads: “Simon Si,, Trifero”

  16. Folatt: palaeographically, the thing that bothers me about this line is that even though I’m comfortable with the idea the ‘/\’ character is for ‘s’, I’ve never seen any sample of handwriting that actually does this. I suspect that if we could find such a sample of handwriting, this line would instantly become much clearer to us. Because right now, it’s just too difficult without any external reference point to work with.

  17. Folatt on January 15, 2015 at 9:37 am said:

    Maybe he was a few centuries ahead of his time and started to write in cursive ;-P.
    He also wrote all the ‘r”s in reverse which look more like a cursive ‘r’ than a Rotunda ‘r’, so why not? ;-P

    Something that bothers me, by the way, is
    “Por le bon”. Now I never studied Latin, but that strikes me as bad French.
    I suggest that “le bon” is actually “liber” (reverse ‘r’ strikes again) and that whatever po’scribble’ stands for, it’s gonna be short for pontifex.

    So I’m wild guessing now that if Antonio Averlino (I prefer Fontana though) wrote it, he must then have given it to Eugene IV, who then put it in his new University of Catania and a clerk called Simon Si Trifero who writes ‘s’es like it was the 20th century wrote this down.

  18. Folatt: now you’re starting to understand why this is genuinely difficult – here, even though there are lots of pieces that make sense individually, trying to assemble them into a coherent palaeographic picture isn’t really working satisfactorily.

  19. Do you have any books/writings from 15th century Sicily in humanist miniscule then to compare?

    By the way on Voynich marginalia: French Secretary hand? you said:

    “Anyway, good luck looking for French Secretary hands with topless p-shapes (but be careful of the keywords you use on Google, you may get something of a high ranking surprise)… 😮 “

    What is the high-ranking surprise?

  20. Folatt: I meant “I’m sure there are plenty of sites with videos of topless French secretaries, but they may not help with your palaeography search“. 😉

  21. Ohhh… and here I thought you meant that a topless p is reserved for the pope. 😀

  22. Folatt: I’m sure there are plenty of books detailing the excesses of past popes, though I’d be somewhat surprised if (m)any of them are on sale in the Vatican Museum’s gift shop. 😉

  23. Folatt on January 15, 2015 at 2:48 pm said:

    I just sleuthed on again and found a pdf of a book by James J. John that talks about Paleography. According to him there’s two types of humanist miniscules: round and cursive, of which the latter was informal and not so much bound by any rules.

    The example he shows of humanist cursive is from a book from the Cornell University Library Department of Rare Books from 1500? Naples(?), who uses the cursive miniscule ‘r’.

    Doing some wild guesses here:

    If you search the Cornell University Library Department of Rare Books (where that book is from) for more (South) Italian Renaissance books and you’ll find a cursive ‘s’ too.

    If you search Catania’s genealogy you find Simon Simonis Trifero and you know from which decade the book was held, perhaps even given a clue to what year VMs was written.

  24. Surely someone has already said, somewhere, that the inscription might relate to Symeon Seth?

    11thC. Jewish physician. added information from Islamic and Indian sources to the Byzantine Greeks’ repertoire?

    His first major work was a dictionary focusing mostly on the medical properties of certain foods (most of the material came from the Muslim world and some from India). In this work, he introduced Arabic words into the Greek language. These were words that were also adopted in the West in translations into Latin, for example, camphor, musk, ambergris, julep and syrup. Sarton points out, “Most, if not all of these drugs and spices are here mentioned in Greek for the first time.” Seth also wrote a botanical dictionary.

    – but I’m sure someone has already mentioned him; just nothing turns up for me through Giggle.

  25. neglected to add that most of the above info. is quoted from an enthusiastic study entitled ‘Studies in Islamic Civilization: The Muslim Contribution to the Renaissance’ by Ahmed Essa and Othman Ali.

    A different slant on his work is offered by the wiki article, which spells his name ‘Simeon’. But it does offer an excellent list, and links, to extant mss of Simeon’s work.

    If the Voynich turned out to be mainly from his text, I think honour would be satisfied in many presently opposing Voynich camps. But who knows?

  26. Anton Alipov on February 25, 2015 at 2:05 pm said:

    No, that’s definitely not an “S”, so I think “Simon” is a completely wrong discourse, he can be safely dismissed.

  27. Anton Alipov: if you look at handwriting from Savoy circa 1400-1500, you often see ‘s’ written in a very similar way, so the answer isn’t as straightforward as you think.

  28. Anton – how do you know?

  29. Anton Alipov on February 25, 2015 at 6:03 pm said:


    That would mean that line 0 is something altogether different from lines 1-3. Because the latter do feature a totally different shape of “s” (like in “six”, line 2), and perhaps yet another one (like in “oladabas”, if “s” that is). Both shapes are met in German (sorry! ;-)) MS’s of the time.

    No Savoy-like “s” in lines 1-3.

    Yet I admit that that character is not transliterated easily. To me it looks like an “u/v” or perhaps the survived part of a “p”.

  30. Anton Alipov on March 16, 2015 at 11:52 am said:

    I published my thoughts on line 0 in a blog post

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