For a decade, I’ve wondered whether any of the Voynich Manuscript’s circular drawings depict astronomical instruments – for before satnav there was celnav (“celestial navigation”). Here’s a brief guide to three key instrument types from the VMs’ timeframe, and my current thoughts on the enigmatic circular diagram on f57v…

* * * * * * *

A key navigational problem of the 15th century was determining your latitude. Though many different instruments (such as the quadrant, the cross staff, and the back staff) came to be used to do this around this time, I’m restricting my observations here to the three purely circular ones – the astrolabe, the mariner’s astrolabe, and the nocturnal.

(1) Though astrolabes were originally used for determining the positions of planets and stars, people realised that they could also be used for telling the time (if you knew your latitude), or for working out your latitude (if you knew what time of day it was). Astrolabes were constructed from a complex (but well-known and well-documented) set of multilayered rotating components:-

  • A backplate (the mater) whose edge (the limb) is marked round with 24 hours or 360 degrees
  • A large circular central recess (the matrix, or womb) in the mater, into which you insert…
  • A disk (the tympan) containing a stereographically projected map of the sky for a particular latitude
  • On top of the tympan goes a rotating spidery net-like thing (the rete) containing easily recognizable stars;
  • On top of the rete goes a long rotating rule (the rule)
  • On the back goes a second rotating rule-like thing with two sighting holes / marks (the alidade)

If you haven’t seen an astrolabe dissected, there’s a nice annotated diagram on the Whipple Museum website.

My understanding is that most medieval European astrolabes were inaccurate because they were made of wood, though this improved when they started to be made of metal (an innovation which I understand mainly began in the 15th century). Yet even with well made astrolabes to hand, using them can be a bit tricky, particularly when you are at sea: and they’re not very convenient to use at night either.

(2) So, step forward the mariner’s astrolabe (or sea astrolabe or ring). Though this was little more than a cut-down version of the astrolabe, its key design feature was that it was built to be particularly heavy (and so was much more stable at sea). In contrast to the thousands of astrolabes out there, only 21 mariner’s astrolabes are known: the earliest description of one is from 1551, while historians suspect they came into use in the late 15th century.

Really, this was little more than a superheavy astrolabe limb hanging from a ring and with an alidade on the front: but it did the job, so all credit to its inventor… whoever that may be. The Wikipedia mariner’s astrolabe page notes that it might possibly have been Martin Behaim (1459-1507), but because it seems he was adept at relabeling other people’s discoveries and inventions as his own, probably the most we can pragmatically say is that the idea for the mariner’s astrolabe was ‘in the air’ in the mid-to-late 15th century.

(3) Solving the astrolabe’s other major shortcoming, the nocturnal (or nocturlabe, nocturlabium, or horologium noctis) was specifically designed to be used at night. A 2003 paper notes that the first evidence of nocturlabes was not a textual mention in 1524 (as was long thought), but rather a series of actual devices made by Falcono of Bergamo and dating from 1504 to 1507 (who also made astrolabes, such as this one from the British Museum). For a nice picture, the National Maritime Museum has a 17th century nocturnal here (D9091).

As far as construction goes, a nocturnal consisted of: a rotating outer ring marked both with the months of the year and with the 24-hour time; a hole in the middle of the central pivot that you could see through; and a second rotating ring with one, two, or three pointers. Once you had rotated the outer ring to closely match that day’s date, you would hold your nocturnal at arm’s length, line Polaris up through the central hole, and then align the second rotating ring so that its pointers pointed at some well-known stars (normally Shedar [α Cassiopeia], Dubhe [α Ursa Major], and Kochab [ß Ursa Minor]): there’s some nice discussion here on why these were chosen.) Once you had done all that, you would find (as if by high-tech magic) that the major pointer on the second ring would be pointing to the current time of day marked on the first ring. (Well… pretty much, anyway.)

Here’s a simplified look at the night sky, highlighting the four key stars referred to on a typical nocturnal:-

Incidentally, an open history of science question is whether Columbus had a nocturnal on his well-equipped voyages of discovery. This well-informed page seems to imply that he did, and that it was used to determine midnight – the ship’s boy would then turn over an “ampoleta” (a little sand-glass that would take half-an-hour to empty) to start counting out the daily cycle of shifts. Unfortunately, it turns out that Columbus didn’t properly understand how to use his various astronomical instruments, and that he faked a number of his latitude records. Oh well!

To summarize: though the astrolabe had been used and developed since antiquity, there was little about it that was secret circa 1450. However, this was the moment in history when people were starting to apply their formidably Burckhardtian Renaissance ingenuity to get around the limitations of the traditional astrolabe, by adapting the basic design for use at sea and at night. Yet for both the mariner’s astrolabe and the nocturnal, the documentary evidence is silent on who made them first.

* * * * * * *

What, then, of the Voynich Manuscript?

I have been trying to get under the skin of the ringed diagram on f57v for many years: even by the VMs’ consistently high level of (well) anomalousness, this page has numerous anomalies on display that seem to promise a way in for the determined Voynich researcher:-

  • Its drawings most closely matches the circular astronomical drawings in Q9 (‘Quire #9‘), yet its bifolio is bound in the middle of the herbal Q8
  • It has a curious piece of marginalia at the bottom right
  • There’s a spare ‘overflow’ word at the top left [marked green below]
  • The second ring comprises essentially the same 17-character sequence repeated four times
  • Each 17-character sequence contains an over-ornate anomalous “gallows” character [marked red below]
  • The 17-character sequence contains a number of low-instance-count letter-shapes
  • The fourth ring contains another long sequence of single characters [marked blue below]
  • It has four strange ‘personifications’ drawn around its centre (seasons? winds? directional spirits?)
  • It is far from clear what the four personifications are depicting, let alone representing
  • Finally, it has a ‘sol’-like dotted sun at the centre

I therefore think that any proper account of f57v should therefore not only offer a high-level explanation of its intent and content, but also a low-level explanation of these anomalous features. The problem is that any reasoning chain to cover this much ground will almost inevitably require a mix of codicology, palaeography, history, astronomy, and historical cryptography… so bear with me while I build this up one step at a time.

First up is codicology: Glen Claston and I agree that f57v was probably the very first page of the astronomical section Q9 – by this, we mean that the two bifolios currently forming Q8 have ended up bound upside-down. So, even though the current folio order is f57-f58-(missing pages)-f65-f66, the original folio order ran f65-f66-(missing)-f57-f58. The page immediately preceding f57v (i.e. f57r) has a herbal picture on it, which is why Glen and I are pretty sure that f57v formed the first page of the astronomical section: while both sides of f58 have starred paragraphs (and no herbal drawings), which also makes it seem misplaced in the herbal section.

A second clue that this is the case is the marginalia mark at the bottom: I think this is a scrawly “ij” with a bar above it (i.e. secundum), indicating the start of Book II (i.e. where Book I would have been the herbal) – this probably isn’t a quire mark because it doesn’t appear on the end folio of a quire. And a third clue is that the page we believe originally facing f57v (i.e. f58r) has an inserted blank block at the start of the first paragraph, which I suspect is a lacuna [highlighted blue below] deliberately left empty to remind the encipherer that the unenciphered version of this page began with an ornamented capital.

As for the odd word at the top left, the odds are that this is no more than an overflow from the outermost text ring: a similar overflow word appears in one of the necromantic magic circles famously described by Richard Kieckhefer as I described in “The Curse” (though of course this doesn’t prove that this page depicts a magic circle).

I think codicology can also help us to understand the mysterious 17-glyph repeating sequence, a pattern that has inspired many a high-concept numerological riff over the years: for if you look carefully at the four over-ornate gallows, you might notice something a bit unexpected…

Even though I’d prefer to be making this judgment on the basis of better scans (which seem unlikely to be arriving any time soon, unfortunately), I’m pretty sure that what we’re seeing here is a pair of characters which have been joined together to resemble a non-existent gallows. I’d even go so far as to say that I think that the decision to make this change was probably made while the author was still writing the page: from which I infer that 18 x 4 would have been too obvious, but 17 x 4 was obscure.

If you accept that this is right, then this changes the number patterns completely, because whereas 4 x 17 = 68 doesn’t really have much numerical (as opposed to numerological) significance, 4 x 18 = 72 does – for you see, 72 x 5° = 360°. And if we are looking at some kind of 360° division of the circle, then all of a sudden this page becomes a strong candidate for being some kind of enciphered or steganographically concealed astronomical instrument, because division into 360° has been a conceptual cornerstone of Western astronomical computing for millennia.

For several years, I therefore wondered if f57v might be depicting an astrolabe: but I have to say that the comparison never really gained any traction, however hard I tried. However… the question now comes round as to whether f57v’s circular drawing might instead depict a mariner’s astrolabe or a nocturnal.

That this might be a mariner’s astrolabe is perfectly plausible. The ‘overflow word’ might denote a ring, the second 360° ring could be the scale round the edge, and the four people in the middle could simply be decorative “fillers” for the four holes normally placed in the middle.

Comparing f57v with a nocturnal, however, is particularly interesting. The obvious thing to hide in the central design would be depictions or denotations of the constellations and the sighting stars so crucial to the operations. Given that there are plenty of different strength lines and curious shapes in the four characters to be found there, let’s take a closer look…

Now, the four elements we’d expect to see in a description of a nocturnal are Cassiopeia, Ursa Major, Ursa, Minor and Polaris: and I suspect that this is what we have here. Look again at the woman’s face on the left, and I wonder whether her name has been quite literally written across her face:-

As for the top and bottom characters here on this page, they have long puzzled Voynich researchers – why are they so wildly hairy and apparently facing away? What kind of a person is being shown here? Perhaps the answer is simply that these represent not people but bears, specifically the Great Bear (Ursa Major) at the top and the Smaller Bear (Ursa Minor) at the bottom.

The final character of the four would represent Polaris (short for stella polaris), which in the 16th Century (?) came to be called ‘Cynosura’ (the Greek mountain nymph who nursed Zeus in Crete). I have to say that I don’t really know what is going on here – perhaps other people better versed in astronomical history or mythology might be able to tell me why this person should be carrying a ring or an egg (?), and what the character’s curious strong lines (nose and top of upper arm) might be denoting.

Yet perhaps the biggest clincher of all, though, is the ‘sol’-like shape right at the centre of f57v. We might be able to discount the possibility that this represents the astrologers’ glyph for the sun, because this only came into use around 1480 (as I recall). For in the context of a drawing of a circular astronomical instrument, is this not – almost unmistakeably – a depiction of Polaris (the dot) as viewed through a hole in the pivot (the circle)?

As always, the evidence is far from complete so you’ll have to make up your own mind on this. But it’s an interesting chain of reasoning, hmmm?

Spookily, the kind of analogue computing embedded in nocturnals has a thoroughly modern equivalent. Polaris does not sit precisely on the Earth’s pole but rather rotates around it very slightly, and so requires a correction in order to be used as a reference for true North (on a ship, say). Hence a spreadsheet can be constructed to make this fine adjustment – essentially, this is a nocturnal simplified and adapted to yield the north correction required. Some good ideas can remain useful for hundreds of years!

51 thoughts on “Astrolabes, nocturnals and Voynich Manuscript page f57v…

  1. Diane on July 1, 2010 at 10:08 am said:

    Fascinating thesis.

  2. Diane on July 1, 2010 at 10:45 am said:

    On the ‘seventeen’ units, I may have something relevant, but will have to blog it.

    I notice that if you look at the four characters in sequence, each differs from the next by a quarter-turn. Non sequitur, I think.

  3. Diane: I probably should also have noted that the ornate gallows in the 4 x 17/18 character sequence are the only glyphs on the whole page which go outside the annular bands of their containing ring, which perhaps also points to something strange going on with them… 🙂

  4. Vytautas on July 1, 2010 at 3:25 pm said:

    Nice thesis, but I have another: symbols which you marked in red are mini pictures of door keys, this picture is not mariner’s astrolabe but coder’s 🙂 In this page f57v you will find famous “mirror” by Steve Ekwall… Ok, now I must disappear 🙂

    Vytautas

  5. Vytautas: so… you’re saying that the VMs is the Quattrocento equivalent of coder art, but with nymphs rather than ASCII?

    *sigh* Why didn’t I see that Voynich theory coming? =:-o

  6. Vytautas on July 2, 2010 at 7:56 am said:

    Hi, Nick
    I am very lazy person: my personal thesis is in work about two years, but I was not able to finish it for publication consistence. IMHO VMS is coder’s art with glyphs rather than ASCII 🙂 IMHO tool for enciphering of VMS is public, it’s section is in f57v. Symbols like keys which you marked in red IMHO are delimiters of sequences. And last but not least thing for thinking: if in sequence without “key” delimiters is 16 symbols, is there relation with second from center ring, where is 32 groups of glyphs? Thats all…until next time 🙂

  7. Vytautas: There are at least ten more mysterious features on this page that I would have mentioned had I been writing it as an Encyclopaedia Voynichiana entry, such as the delimited “^ sa l y saeos ^” at the start of the outer ring, which I suggested in The Curse might be a mini code table (presumably referred to by the ‘^’s that appear in the two number sequences). Similarly for the shorthand symbol that so vexed Glen Claston; the picnic table glyph; and so on. Really, there are so many things on f57v to excite the imagination that it’s a wonder there isn’t a “f57v theories” page all on its own. 🙂

  8. Vytautas on July 2, 2010 at 11:43 am said:

    Yet one mistery: on all rings have lines on about 10 hour clock position, their direction is towards center. Line on third from center ring is dual, and in others VMS circular diagrams we can find similar lines. Are those marks of copyist or intention of author ( this question is retorical, IMHO 🙂 ? Word outside rings says “Authors intention”, but… I am afraid of events version in which almost all pages have tryings to correct text by someone (writing ‘<' and 'c' for example). Was it after manuscript demage, or may be is done intentional ? Occitan writings on Zodiac pages may show scenario (completely fantasy of mine) in which manuscript was got by Spain inquisition, after some hopeless tries to read someone adds some gibberish… Or this may be authors implication of rule "Where to hide leaves ? Ansewer: in forest", as has been said by G.K. Chesterton in "Pater Brown". Where are our scientists with scaning equipment ? 😀

  9. Nick,

    Strange idea occurred to me when I was looking at folio f57v : while there is no similarity between Enochian and Vioynichese script, ther former has also its OWN language. If that is the case with the VM as well, that would explain why nobody could ever crack the VM . . . And most likely he or she never will . . .

  10. Jan: my best guess is that there is probably an element of private shorthand involved in the VMs – and because this is combined with a tricky cipher system, they together yield a door that seems perpetually beyond our ability to open. That is, we need elements of the language to crack the cipher, and elements of the cipher to read the language. Can we do it? I hope so… but we’ll see!

  11. I doubt it is a cipher… although most still sense it is, and so apply themselves to that end. I think this is a code (syllabic or code book) or artificial/natural language, and if it is either, I agree with Jan’s assessment.

    How do you guys feel about the f57v person holding the circular object? As I’ve said, I feel that it could be a speculum or crystal ball, making him a scryer. It seems to fit well, I think. Before the vellum was dated, and because I thought “scryer”, I had privately wondered if two of the gentlemen could be Dee and Kelly.

    Nick I like your ideas in this… and as I recently said on the Voynich Revisited’s FB page, f57v should continue to get this sort of attention. For so many reasons it implies there may be some answers on this page.

  12. Diane on July 3, 2010 at 4:48 am said:

    Nick, I have precedents for the central motif, and found one interesting “17” set that might sound arcane today but was common knowledge among the educated in the fifteenth century.

    Have posted the latter on the blog. Will email the former, in case you find it interesting enough to add to the above.

  13. Hi Nick,
    Astrolabes, Cassiopeia, Pollaris? Sounds like you are moving over to the dark side – or is there nothing new under the sun?

  14. P. Han: there is no dark side under the sun! By now, Voynich researchers should all have developed a particularly acute sense of what the relevant jigsaw pieces would look like, but the clever step will always be placing them in the right order to reveal the correct big picture. 🙂

  15. Except on earth during a total eclipse.

    I always look forward to any theories that reference astronomy, and particularly to a correct and clever solution.

  16. This was a great discussion on my favourite folio. Well done Nick.
    I think those who have some interesting results need to advertise their data…so, here’s what I’ve found (you may need to cut and paste into a document using a font like courier new, to get the text to align).

    For the students of F57v, most have found the first 11 characters bounded by EVA “v” to be curious. Nick mentions this above, and I agree that it seemed a curiosity. Now, if you continue that thought and analyse the following text, we have two sets of three letter repetitions (EVA ees and ofo), also spaced 11 characters apart. Thus, some evidence for an 11 letter keyword of a poly-alphabet type cipher. Now, understanding the short-comings of poly-alphabet ciphers as applied to the entire VM, I still thought the above to be quite a co-incidence, so I continued.

    I’ve condensed the work here for the sake of brevity (hopefully not too much), but here’s my analysis of the above.

    Taking a portion (just following the first 11 letters mentioned above) of the outer circle VM cipher text of F57v (using EVA and spaces removed) we have:

    sarokeesodsocfcheeslgsosokeydefoforkedamshofolsarddalytysy

    Now, using a modified EVA alphabet where c=e, s=c, o=m, f=o, d=l, l=d, r=t, g=d, and m=i, results in:

    catmkeecmlcmeoeheecdlcmcmkeyleomomtkelamshmomdcatlladytycy

    Now, apply a poly-alphabet decipher (typical Latin alphabet without j,u,w, on a reverse table or cipher wheel, ie aa bz cy dx etc) using two 11 letter keywords, “vcieanavfli” and “lvkmgvpvttg”.(I don’t have the space to explain how I got these, but “vcieanavfli” is loosely linked to the first 11 letters “vsalysoeosv”, shifted by…yes – 11 letters). If we repeat these keywords about 2.5 times we get the following:

    vcieanavflivcieanavflivcieanlvkmgvpvttglvkmgvpvttglvkmgvpv
    catmkeecmlcmeoeheecdlcmcmkeyleomomtkelaishmomdcatlladytycy

    Scorpivssagiytarivscagiaxtvpaqvarivlpigcccarimstavavgomyny

    Which is about 75% of the zodiac from Scorpivs to Gemyny with some errors (about 15 errors out of 58 letters). Although the above is curious, it doesn’t explain the structure of the entire manuscript, as it cannot be a simple polyalphabet structure. If, however, you examine the errors, a method of composing the script comes to light.

    Working in reverse, I looked at the errors.

    Catmkeecmlcmhoeheecdlsdsgphaleomomtcelniqqmomlcatlsadhtycy
    Catmkeecmlcmeoeheecdlcmcmkeyleomomtkelaishmomdcatlladytycy

    The top line is the cipher text result using the zodiac with no errors (tavrv was used to keep alignment). Here, one sees a very curious result. There appears to be a pairing of letters. Looking at the letter “e” we have two errors (ie “e”’s that don’t align with another “e”). If this were random, we would expect two different results. Curiously, the first “e” aligns with “h”, which could be argued as essentially the same symbol- EVA “c”. Further, when I looked at the second “e” error, it also aligns with “h”. The data seems to suggest the use of one symbol, namely EVA “c” as switching between an “e” and an “h”. Even more co-incidental, when one checks the errors for the letter c (EVA “s”)…we find that in both cases, the fix is the letter “s”. Again, it appears that we have a single VM symbol being used for two plaintext letters, namely EVA s = “c” or “s”. Looking further, we have the fix for the error at “d” being an “l”. Note that I already swapped “d” and “l” in the alphabet, suggesting that EVA d could be “d” or “l”.

    Thus, to the point of structure…the above has the appearance of a poly-alphabetic cipher, with some “leeway” on letters. So, the results seem to respond to a mix of a poly-alphabetic and polyphonic approach.

    Now, anticipating the berating one will receive from suggesting poly-alphabets and polyphonic solutions to the VM, I offer that the polyphonic characteristics above do not automatically mean ambiguity…but certainly more complexity (ie stenography, predecessor indicators, flipping of alphabets from reverse to forward etc).

    Note that this is an observation of this particular text and how it responds to a poly-alphabet analysis. Clearly a poly-alphabetic cipher alone cannot support the overall structure of the VM, but if you introduce a polyphonic element, it opens some possibilities of producing VM–like text…as the above clearly demonstrates.

    This was a quick, condensed summary…glad to discuss further any element of the above. Clearly there’s more at work here, as the biggest problem with the above is the natural pairing of the VM (ie al, ol, ar, or, etc) which counters a keyword driven poly-alphabet solution. This discussion is not a solution, but the co-incidence of some elements are pushing the limits of random findings IMO.

    Respectfully,

    TT

  17. Completely forgot that you’d mentioned astrolabes etc. I could quibble about the order of use here i.e. did astrology come before surveyong – but more importantly, thanks for the codicological notes.

    I’ll link to them in a post sometime soon. Dealing now with the fold-outs from 67v onwards.

  18. Viviane on February 21, 2012 at 1:13 am said:

    I’m no expert but of all that I have read and it has been quite a lot P. Han’s theory is the most intriguing and plausible.

    P. Han, change your site to black text over white so we can read it easily, and keep writing! The old vellum maybe in purpose, with the author trying to make it look old so he could not be traced for prosecution!!! Or carbon dating maybe wrong. KEEP GOING P. HAN

  19. bdid1dr on July 23, 2012 at 5:11 pm said:

    If it looks like a manual for taking night readings with an astrolabe, how would the navigator be counting the seconds/minutes? Maybe by holding one’s fist in the air and counting polydactyly?

    %^

  20. Pingback: Welcome to the diagrams « voynichimagery

  21. The figures may be imaginary addenda to the points and alignments like zodiac figures. Points cannot be definitely located but they are too well defined by each other for coincidence. Referring to my diagram, can anyone make sense of it?

    http://notakrian.pbworks.com/w/page/f57v%20geometry

  22. The maritime version of the astrolabe was never much good. No-one invented it before Europeans because only Europeans had such dependence on instruments, and so little knowledge of navigational method. It didn’t last long – not least because using it on the heaving deck of a ship was to say the least, problematic.
    E.G.R. Taylor’s ‘Geometrical Seaman’ has some nice pics.

    But what I really wanted to add to your post was a recent discovery that the centre of 57v contains what seems to be deliberate ratio between the radii pointing to the four human or anthropomorphic figures. The ratios are: 4.5 : 4.75 : 5.0 : 6.0 with longest radius pointing to the East. (he whose arm is upraised in the east was a traditional epithet for Orion, but that may be co-incidental).
    D.

  23. Oh blast. re-reading comments, I see Vytautas makes a comment about the inscriptions on month-roundels similar to that I made on ‘Findings’ – have to trawl through the old posts and add note if necessary. *sigh*

  24. Sorry, Vytautas – my post was May 26th. 😀

  25. Don V. on October 8, 2013 at 11:10 pm said:

    I had a thought recently about the above quire that it was a tongue in cheek reference to the cipher disk used to encipher the MS. of course it would be a cipher disk that has had its keys further enciphered by an actual device. Alas the Cipher wheel was not invented until 1470 by Leon Battista Alberti, which brings us back to the Averlino Hypothesis.

  26. Yerrrrz.
    Don – *was* a cipher disk used to encipher the manuscript? Is that demonstrable?

  27. Don V. on October 9, 2013 at 12:24 pm said:

    Of course you can not prove that a cipher disk was indeed used but I put the notion forward as an alternative hypothesis. Another observation and possible explanation for the creatures/humans drawn at the center is a reference to an armature used on the disk.

  28. Don
    I’ve been having cold chills down my spine since reading what I *think* is the opinion of the Brit.Library on some Voynich-like script in another 14thC manuscript.. that it’s written in Greek and/or in a 17thC hand.

    I say ‘think* because it may just be vagueness in the catalogue’s expression.

    But while I wait for clarification on that score, I’m starting to wonder if the whole thing, from beginning to end, isn’t Kircher’s personal scrap-book of haute antiquite , and the Marci letter in it nothing but a former bookmark of sorts – as one does – later glued to the flyleaf, which must have been done after the late binding, if not in 1910.

    But this is all till I get a response from the Library. Too soon to panic.

    On which point, I note that
    “Kircher gave [Libra’s] Coptic-Egyptian title as Lambadia, Statio Propitiationis.

  29. and what if the script were Kircher’s personal shorthand for the elements he saw comprising the Egyptian hieroglyphs? He was also trying to invent – or re-invent, from his point of view – some imagined ur-script and -language.
    Too scary!

  30. Diane: do we yet have any evidence that Kircher even received the Voynich Manuscript?

  31. Don V. on October 9, 2013 at 3:39 pm said:

    Well when I first looked at the ms my first thought was an almanac, my second thought was that it was Written in what I thought of as a correspondence language made to hide the exchange of revolutionary or heretical ideas and that the emperors court actually knew exactly what was written. unfortunately this idea is simply more speculation on my part.

  32. SirHubert on October 9, 2013 at 5:15 pm said:

    And if Kircher actually wrote the thing in the seventeenth century, how does this fit with the carbon-14 dating?

    Diane – I’d be interested to see a link to the manuscript in the BM with similar script.

  33. SirHubert,
    The ms is bound with the Brit.Lib. copy of Kitab al-Bulhan, as its first section.

    Please don’t think the seventeeth-century idea is a theory of mine. On the contrary, just a ghastly possibility.

    But the brief cat. entry *seems* to say so; I’ve written asking more detail. the writing does looks similar, though and without seeing RAMAN results, I have to say I’ve no date for the VMS inks.

    Nick,
    You’re trying to get me to say “r*asonabl* inf*r*nce” aren’t you? Shame, sir! 🙂

  34. PS – Nick, what is a cipher-wheel but a paper flower, to which letters are inscribed on each petal rather than words, as Lull’s were? Then there are the preacher’s wheels… I wish Alberti had described his ah-ha moment.

  35. For those interested in medieval digrams, there’s a bibliogrphy online through Trinity College Cambridge. The spam filter won’t let me give the link direct, so

    begin with the usual prefixes then
    trinDOTcamDOTacDOTukB’SLSHsk111B’SLSHdiagramsDOThtm

  36. Nick
    re October 9th question – I supposed the time it was rhetorical. Surely Kinner’s letter writtern just before Baresch’s death rell us so ~ or do you meaan that you think Baresch’s mightn’t be the Vms?

  37. Please do forgive typos. My laptop keyboard is increasingly short-circuiting or whatever they do when in their teens, and filled with biscuit crumbs etc. for all those years. The ‘a’ key has recently quit for good.

  38. Diane: as I recall, Kinner’s letters tell us that the “arcane book” had been sent but not necessarily that it had been received (DHL was a later German invention 🙂 ). We suffer from a great asymmetry in Kircher’s correspondence, in that it tells us about what others did but only implicitly about what Kircher himself did.

  39. SirHubert on November 10, 2013 at 8:46 pm said:

    Nick: actually DHL was a later American invention. Please FedEx me my anorak.

  40. I see – but the letter doesn’t say “a certain book which he sent” or “a book which he sent”; but “that book which he sent via the Father Provincial” as if Kinner is sure Kircher knows it .

    Is there evidence to the contrary?

  41. Please tell me this isn’t a case of someone’s theory needing history re-arranged to prevent the book’s being taken to Kircher’s Italy?

  42. Diane: my point is simply that we have a surfeit of evidence that the Voynich Manuscript went towards Kircher, but a complete lack of evidence about what happened next. I (and doubtless several others) have been trying to close this particular gap for a while, but it has proved quite difficult, e.g. the line from Kinner fails to prove that this particular book arrived. I’m not trying to be difficult or prove anything here, I just like having evidence to work with. 🙂

  43. SirHubert: I stand corrected. Which is good, particularly in zese lederhosen. 😉

  44. Nick,
    You say
    “I’m not trying to be difficult or prove anything here, I just like having evidence to work with”.

    Absolutely. I’d like to know whether other books which Voynich obtained from the same source had plates or franked or stamped ‘ex libris’ from the Villa Mondragone. And what the ‘J’ code might have meant: name of binder? For whom bound? Nature of content? or perhps more boring like shelf number or proto-Dewey.

    I’d also (while on the subject) like to know more of what was in the letters from Kircher’s correspondent in Lyons.

    I reckon between us all, we could probably keep some globe-trotting, Latin-educated undergrad student in work every long hols. 🙂

  45. If I had my druthers, I’d wish the ms loaned to the Brit Library or some such for few months, and let it be treated like any other medieval manuscript.

  46. Pingback: f57/v – Could it be a compass reading? | Voynich theories from David Jackson

  47. Anton Alipov on April 11, 2015 at 3:56 pm said:

    The central shape of f57v has precedents, see e.g. Cod. S I 167 of late 14th century: http://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/en/zbs/SI-0167/64r

    The picture is apparently unfinished, but since Sol is already there in the fourth orbit, this object is not the Sun. Perhaps it represents Earth in this apparently geocentric view. What’s the stuff all about, I don’t know; not quite fluent in Latin, I’m lazy to decipher the text block. But the text says “Sol in quarta, Venus in quinta etc.”

  48. Anton Alipov on April 11, 2015 at 4:14 pm said:

    BTW, in the same MS there is the “10 o’clock” item in f109r, marked as “Oriens” (East).

  49. Behaim’s globe shows a neat hand.

  50. xplor on April 26, 2015 at 4:38 pm said:

    Over 8 hundred years before 50 42 70 76 13 66 48 10 71 95 36 the Vikings were in firm control of the 61st parallel north .

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