I recently received a note from independent Dutch researcher Esther Molen describing her Voynich theory: she was happy to see it given a post of its own, so… here it is!

* * * * * *

Here is my [Esther Molen’s] translation and ideas.

The Voynich Manuscript is mainly written in medieval Latin in combination with medieval French and medieval Italian. I conclude this from the research I did on the last page (f116v).

In order to make it easier for the reader to understand this translation I decided to transliterate the words into Latin and add the missing letters between brackets, followed by a translation in English.

Transliteration in Latin:

po(ti)s Leber fomen(to) a(d)iutas sero

michi con(atus) ola labo d(e) mil(le) cod(ex) e(t) c(e)t(e)ru(s) ceu e(t) poi cad(o) m(i)

sis magic(u)s myst(i)c(u)s uis alch(imi)a magica

arar(e) cust(o)s rus valde n(ae) ubi er(o) is(t)o n(a)m us(u)a(r)is mi quaestio

Translation in English:

Cherish Liber for he has the power to help you with sowing.

In an attempt to accomplish a desire, I worked on the book of a thousand vegetables and then the rest of the remaining part fell into my hands and

exists of magic, mystic, the magical properties of alchemy.

Everywhere you plough the fields intensely, you will truly keep me in a good condition for that I may be used by someone for inquiries.


From the first sentence of the transliteration and of the translation we can see that the writer speaks about Leber, an archaic form of the Roman deity Liber, and that he tells readers to cherish him for he has the power to help with sowing. If we look at the references on pages 231 and 232 of Llewelyn Morgan’s book Deity of Patterns of redemption in Virgil’s Georgics, we can read that both Diodorus and Plutarch identified Liber with the God Dionysus, the son of Zeus and Persephone. This Dionysus was believed to be the pioneer of both ploughing and sowing which is also consistent with the last sentences where the writer speaks about ploughing the fields.

From the second sentence we can conclude that since the writer is talking about ‘the book of a thousand vegetables’ all the plants or part(s) of the plants in this manuscript can be used as food. We can also conclude that since the writer had the intention to write about a thousand vegetables he wanted to add more vegetables than the ones that are currently included in the manuscript or there are quite a few pages missing from this manuscript. Either way this means that the writer must have been well known with sowing – perhaps he was a farmer.

If we have a closer look at the idea that this manuscript was written for inquiries concerning sowing and ploughing in combination with the illustrations of the ten months in the manuscript, starting with March and ending with December, we can conclude that this represents the Roman calendar which is attributed to Romulus. This calendar was ten months long beginning with March and ending with December. The winter months were not included because there was no agricultural work due to the weather conditions. This would be consistent with the Roman deity Liber.

From the third sentence we can conclude that the remaining part of the manuscript exists of magic, mystic and the magical properties of alchemy and not the six sections as many researchers thought. We can also conclude that the variation in handwriting style throughout the entire manuscript is due to the fact that this part fell into the hands of the writer and therefore was written by someone else.

If we look at the last sentence then we can conclude that the writer had the intention to share his knowledge with others. Something most ancient and medieval writers wanted. They wished to pass on their knowledge.

Another fact according to the translation is that since the writer knew what the content of the total manuscript was, this last page is part of the total manuscript and was not added at a later stage.

Unfortunately we can also conclude that the writer did not leave his name or the place of his origin on this page but if we look closely at the language the writer used than there are two things that stand out, which are:
– the use of the letter q in magiques (magicus) and mystiques (mysticus)
– the use of the words aiuti (adiutas) and chesta (quaestio)
While the use of the letter q as mentioned above is clearly of French origin, the second two words are obviously Italian. This narrows down the origins of the writer.

Please let me know what you think!

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42 thoughts on “Esther Molen’s Voynich Manuscript f116v theory…

  1. bdid1dr on February 4, 2012 at 2:01 am said:

    Ooh boy!

    Is Esther going to be able to tackle “the rest” of the VMs? Has she already downloaded the botanicals that are in a different hand (per Currier) than the Michetonese?

    Please keep us posted. Thanks, Nick, and Esther. My eyesight is so bad I can no longer read the “captioning” that appears with each plant. I’m especially interested in the plant in F3v that has tentatively been ID’d as crassula (Cretan dittany) — no way! That strange root with the “hook” on the end is, no pun intended, is a “clue” toward the mouthpiece of a hookah, narghile, water pipe for smoking opium. Compare the plant with drawings, photos of papaver somniferum.

    Go, go, Esther!

  2. No objection here. term alchemy is attested in English, anyway, from 1144. Liber Pater associated with Dionysus, and worshipped at Lepis Magna, which suits the map on fol.86v. The ‘crusher’ god’s memory survived, in Christian form, to at least the twelfth century. I have a nice (Christianised) image of the type from France. Majid says Noah planted the first vines in North Africa, which may reflect an historical fact, since vines are originally from northern India, and another early writer says Dionysus came from India. And vine-imagery figures in Carthaginian steles. So on these grounds I think it sounds ok. But why take Liber as a name, not as ‘book’, even though we have codex offered later – a 1stC AD usage in Latin, I believe. As ever, though, on the language, I pass.

  3. Sorry – I don’t mean Noah as an historical fact, but ‘Noah’ as symbolic of the navigators’ supposed ancestor. Actually the same vision of history is in the Atlas Catala and in numerous works of Norman Sicily and England. But none of this changes my opinion on the actual content of the botanical section. It’s more than a kind of works-and-days.

  4. Nick – one question. What do cryptanalysts call veiled language? I mean as in double entendre?

  5. What do you think, Nick?

  6. Nick, Please assure us it’s not another of Jacque Guy’s guys. The period in which a kind of alchemy coincides with the older spelling for Liber is a squeeze.

  7. Esther Molen on February 4, 2012 at 12:07 pm said:

    Thanks for your comments. I translated Leber into the deity Liber because my dictionaries say so (Oxford Latin dictionary and Lewis and Short) and it seems to be consisted with the rest of the text. At the moment I am working on the first page of the manuscript. After that I will continue with the rest. I will keep you guys posted.

  8. Rene Zandbergen on February 4, 2012 at 6:23 pm said:

    Some of the transliterations are really interesting and warrant a closer look. On the other hand I am not yet convinced about the “cust(o)s” for Voynichese (Eva) “sheey”.

    Is ‘mysticus’ attested for 15th C Latin?


  9. Blue Stripes on February 4, 2012 at 9:17 pm said:

    In addition to the explanation presented, the translated text also contains the possiibility of an allegorical interpretation along the lines of the biblical passage: As a man sows, so shall he reap. With ‘Liber’ translated as ‘book’, this passage becomes a brief codicil stating the purpose of the VMs through the use of an agricultural metaphor, not as a text concerned with agriculture per se.

  10. John: my position on f116v remains essentially unchanged from 2006 – that the reason we have upwards of two dozen different readings of it to choose from is probably that the text there has got emended along the way, I suspect by someone trying to well-meaningly salvage an already badly-faded text. That is, I think we need to resolve more of the codicological uncertainty before we can sensibly resolve the palaeographic uncertainty (let alone the translational uncertainty).

    Esther Molen’s translation of f116v is, then, (in my opinion) brave but not necessarily correct, because of the many levels of codicological and palaeographic guesswork needed to get even remotely that far.

  11. Well, I must say I rather like it, because for all sorts of reasons it ties in extraordinarily well with the imagery not only in this section but in the general history and history of religions for the region indicated by the figures beside the text, and e.g. the tone of Ibn Washiyya’s introduction to his translation of books owned by the Kasdanian Nabati. I’m not in fact a fan of the ‘Nabataean’ hypothesis re the Vms, but one important point was that the Kasdani used books written on parchment, whereas the norm in Islam, even by Ibn Washiyya’s time, was paper – as he says ‘.. a material called raqq (parchment) of the same size as the largest sheets of paper..’ (p.97)
    I’m quoting from Hameen-Anttila’s translation (2006).

  12. Esther Molen on February 5, 2012 at 12:27 pm said:

    Nick: In order to be able to come up with this translation I used the traditional hermeneutics method. This is a method used by many great philosophers like Plato, Aristotle and Martin Luther. It is the study of the interpretation of texts in the area of literature, religion and law. In order to be able to interpret the text on this page I had to look at the entire context of this manuscript including comparing it to other texts like the Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci by Jean Paul Richter (1883) and E.M. Thompson Volume: An introduction to Greek and Latin Palaeography (1912).

  13. Esther: I understand what you did (Chapter 7 of “The Curse of the Voynich” specifically discusses hermeneutics), it’s just that I have rather less confidence than you that the current state of the marginalia accurately reflects its original state.

  14. On a personal note – when Esther appeared in stats as a reader of my own blog, I thought she was my sister-in-law, who also lives in Groningen. 🙂

  15. bdid1dr on February 6, 2012 at 12:39 am said:

    I’ve spent all of my morning online w/Boenecke. Now that I have speedier/more powerful online research tools, I’d like to compare/or pair a couple of folio drawings:

    Folios F3v and tri-folio 89r/v

    f3v may have been field notes w/only brief comments to oneself of salient value. Coloring may have been done by apprentice.

    f89 entirety has the first appearance of the apothecary jars with several leaves and roots of different colors and shapes (which were drawn and colored in previous folios). Note that the two apothecary jars each have their own allocation of various plant parts. Note also that each jar has a predominence of either the color blue or green. Even the shape and contours of the jars may be vitally significant depending on whether one will be working with benign or toxic ingredients. (Ask a nurse (any nurse) what calculations she has to do to set up an IV drip.)

    Now…I have been consulting piles of books, manuscripts, and many online documents. Have any of you noticed how difficult it is to get decent downloads/photos of opium poppy botanical drawings or photos?

    So, while going even more blind (beady-eyed) every day, I DID find TWO Voynich plants which may be one and the same:

    f3v: “possibly” id’d as crassulatea (Cretan Dittany) Most striking element (beside the shape of the pods with the ridiculous leaves) is the root: I’ve already mentioned my perception of the root being a mnemonic for a smoking pipe.

    Trifolio 89: Same big pods,w/no petals to speak of. Leaves are more characteric of poppy leaves. Also note that this drawing shows the “tiller” stem with another pod. I suspect that the apprentice who was going to have to follow the apothecarian’s instructions only needed to know this much about the plant.

    I’m pretty sure that all of the written pages that follow the botanical photos are “bulleted” paragraphs that each pertain/reference the drawings in the same order as the individual plant drawings.

  16. SergeyK on February 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm said:

    I think that all a little bit easier. Transliteration of the first row.
    v(p)ox leber nmer nutrici (o).
    The voice of the book by number is supplied.

  17. This is all sounding rather Etruscan/Praeneste-an, isn’t it?

  18. bdid1dr on February 7, 2012 at 4:43 am said:

    Diane, Praeneste (hmh)? Etruscan? I’m not sure to which “first row” Sergey refers.

    I’m certainly confused. I have faith, however, in Nick, you, Rene, and many others who have been working this mystery much longer than I have. I love a good mystery. It keeps Alhzeimer’s at bay.

    When I’m not googling, writing posts, reading an average of 10 books a week, I go to Spring food/dance festivals (aka: “Kolo”) Mostly Greek, but also Russian, Serbian, Armenian, Macedonian, and Turkish/Arabic. I may not be able to converse in any of those languages, but I have been known to lead lines of as many as 80 people, and TEACH the dance steps and patterns without saying a word. (At least some of the dances.)

    Please expand your Praeneste reference. Otherwise, I shall remain curious and sleepless.

    Several years ago, I purchased a set of hand-painted tile “coasters” from the GOC Philoptochos sales booth. Each tile had a woman dressed in ethnic costumes of mainland Greece and the islands. One particular woman’s head-gear (cap) struck my “bump of curiousity”:

    It was red. It looked like a soft felt “dunce cap” that had begun to sag in the middle. I spent several days on-line (had a much slower server then). What I discovered was fascinating. Perhaps you could tell us a little more about the hat’s significance/origins? (ps: the hat was still being worn by the French underground during the Nazi occupation of Paris.)

  19. bdid1dr
    Oh – the archaic spelling ‘Leber’ and accent on division of the fields, and of ‘enquiries’ suggested early Roman environment, when Etruscan dvinatory practices were still influential (Cicero ‘On Divination’).

    *A* pointed hat is associated with figures of Etruscan-Roman-Asia Minor[ite?] Marsyas, and also with a young lad supposed by some in the renaissance to have been an Etruscan prefiguring of Christ. Anyway that sort of divination or ‘enquiry’ by divisions is easy enough to find described online. In the Vms you see a pointed hat – not necessarily Etruscan, of course – on one of the stars from the tail of Scorpius in the astronomical section; I don’t recall the folio number offhand. In some sources you’ll see that the Astrampsychus papyrus is a fake, but we now know it wasn’t. Copies in Oxyrhyinchus, and some Byzantine, and even (I thnk) Latin. Must stop, with politely apologetic bow to our host.

  20. bdid1dr on February 8, 2012 at 4:46 am said:

    Diane, I googled and was finally able to refresh my memory:

    It was a “Phrygian” cap. I now vaguely remember why I have come “full circle” with this reference. Sometime, in Greek and Roman “pre-Christian” history the Phrygian cap became a symbol of freedom. Over subsequent centuries the “cap” reappears as a symbol of “liberty/freedom” among many “subjected/conquered” peoples. Most recent appearance of the “cap” was in France during WWII German occupation/invasion of France.

    I, too, politely, “throw a kiss” of apology and thanks to Nick! A great forum!

  21. dbid1dr
    Yes, I realised the French adopted the ‘Phrygian’ cap. as they thought, but I don’t see much connection to the Voynich. The type shown on fol.67v is not of that type, I think.

  22. bdid1dr on February 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm said:

    Back on topic, I hope, is my idea that maybe those long lines of repetious qoteedy or other cipher combinations may be nothing more than telling someone, who can not read or count, how to place “so many” dabs of “this/qoteedy” in individual tiny piles. And “so many” tletl tletl tletl in little piles …
    all so that the “Master” can check the apprentice’s work before mixing the ingredients himself. “One qoteedy, two qoteedy, three qoteedy, 4, …..one tlttl, 2 tlttl,…. potatoes, carrots, peppers…..?

  23. Esther,

    Where are you?

  24. bdid1dr on February 16, 2012 at 7:28 pm said:

    Nick and Friends:

    Why are so many deciphering efforts focused on the “danged” Michitonese page?

    Why is there not more interest in the paragraphs I mentioned before? Those paragraphs that have what look like long-curving “upright: bars. The bars which have tiny loops on the upper surface.

    I’ll call those loopy P’s by what I think may be a more modern symbol:

    Modern writers, when indicating a new paragraph, use a symbol that looks like a backward capital P with an extra upright bar.

    I still think the similar Vms P with the curliques is indicating references/remarks to the folded folios.

    Why are we not focusing a little more attention to deciphering those paragraphs?

    I know I’ve come-lately to Nick’s cipher page, but still and all, I hope I’ve asked some “new” questions.

    Esther, Go for it!

  25. bdid1dr: ‘michitonese’ deserves attention because it’s unreadable in a quite different way from Voynichese, and so could possibly be read.

  26. bdid1dr on February 17, 2012 at 2:40 pm said:

    So, IF the Michitonese page can be read, we are hoping it has clues to deciphering/reading the rest of the Ms? Even if the two “ciphers” may conceal totally different base languages?

  27. bdid1dr: for one, there’s no obvious reason why the michitonese page should be in cipher at all, so I’m betting that it will turn out to be unreadable for a completely different reason. And for two, the big reason for trying to read it would be to try to gain any kind of insight into when it was written, where it was written, who wrote it, and if anybody’s name is mentioned on it. Right now the Voynich Manuscript has zero verified external history prior to Rudolf’s Imperial Court: so, having even a single pointer would be an extraordinarily positive step forward.

    Furthermore, plenty of people have indeed speculated that michitonese might somehow provide a key to Voynichese: even I have speculated that the erased michitonese at the top of f17r might encipher ‘luz’ i.e. light, but I actually don’t hold out a lot of hope. A name might be good enough, though!

  28. bdid1dr on February 19, 2012 at 5:13 am said:

    Well, to me anyway, the Vms is beginning to look more and more like a “Field Guide”” written by a European who has discovered the remnant citizens of a “lost” civilization. The only way one might be able to take dictation of the “lost” tribe’s speech would be to phonetically spell each word or syllable. Hence the okeedy etc. Somewhere, maybe at one time an appendix to the Vms, may have existed that would have explained the phonetics as well as provided definitions and a “bibliography”. (?)

  29. bdid1dr on February 23, 2012 at 9:24 pm said:

    Nick, Esther:

    After “signing out” a couple of days ago, I went online with Stanford U’s extensive Kircher holdings. I also, just this morning, went online with Oklahoma U’s Kircher holdings.

    In re the Michitonese section of the Vms, I’d like to refer you to Kircher’s mundus sub-terraneus and his Phlegraen Fields which also were illustrated. Sure looks like the “Rosettes” to me!

  30. Nick, Esther:

    Several days ago, I posted to Nick that the same lines of “Michitonese” that you translated appears in each of the several volumes (of hundred of books) written by Kircher.

    I’m beginning to think that Friar Kircher may not have travelled as extensively as has been told by historians. Could it be possible that he was an “armchair tourist”?

    Could it be that Rudolph II’s extensive manuscript library, art collection, and “oddities”, as well as the crown jewels, ended up in the Hrad Karlstejn?

  31. Esther Molen on February 29, 2012 at 8:35 am said:

    I asume you are speaking of Athanasius Kircher who lived from 1602 – 1680. The problem here is that the manuscript was dated by the University of Arizona to be fabricated between 1404-1438. In the mean time I have been translating the first page and I can reveal that it was quite interesting to discover that I wasn’t that far of with my translation of the last page. I discovered that one of the four sections in the manuscript is a commemoration to a famous Greek poet. But I will reveal the rest of my translation when I am completely done with the entire manuscript.

  32. Esther & Nick:

    After posting my last notes to you both, it dawned on me that I might be interfering with Nick’s plans for his upcoming conferences. I will be “silent” for the next several months.

    Thank you both for your patience with me.

    BTW: carbon-dating of vellum doesn’t necessarily reveal the time period of the writing. Most often vellum/parchments would be scraped and used again. I can recall only a few instances where vellum may not have been re-used. Some religious documents that have gotten too worn/unreadable have been “stored” in abandoned watchtowers/cisterns/between walls…

  33. bdid1dr on March 14, 2012 at 4:05 am said:


    I’m hoping you have the resources to investigate on-line drawings of HANDWRITTEN European scripts of the 14th and 15th centuries at http://synaxis.info/asbuka/2_scripts/manuscript/handwriting/01_Poluustav.jpg

    Translating the “michitonese” section is not going to prepare you for the rest of the manuscript. You may also enjoy and/or gain some very interesting material from Mr. Muzaref Bislim’s “home movie” where he briefly displays his HANDWRITTEN dictionary of Romany and his Bible that he has translated and handwritten in four languages. I’m pretty much done for a while with visiting Nick Pelling’s Cipher Mysteries site.

    Are you aware that we recently have found similarities between the Voynich Astological drawings and India’s astrological diagrams and paintings of Indian god/goddesses? A gentleman named Reed Johnson posted to Nick’s site recently in response to a question I had posed re the possibility of the writing being Romany.

    Good luck with your translation. Are you planning to join Nick, Rene, and Reed at their next meeting at the Villa Mondragon in Frascati in May?

  34. bdid1dr on April 7, 2012 at 1:46 am said:


    It is probably time for you to catch up with the rest of us. Nick, Rene, and Reed have “gone silent” for probably the next month or so. I have referred them to several of Athanasius Kircher’s published writings which identify many of the features on the “Nine-Rosettes” tri-folded folio. The entire folio is a map of the Alban Lakes where the Pope had his summer palace: “Rocca di Papa”. Kircher also identified the structure that appears in the uppermost right corner rosette.

    You may still have time to sign up for their next get-together in Frascati (May 10, this year).

  35. bdid1dr on April 23, 2012 at 7:30 pm said:

    So, Esther, I’ll try to explain to you that it was very likely that the writer of the “Michitonese” pages was NOT the writer of the manuscript.
    I strongly believe that when the Ms was received by Athanasius Kircher, he recognized the “Rosettes” pages as being a map of the Alban Lakes near Frascati.

    So, when he had engravings made for his various publications, he would have had to dismantle the manuscript.

    I also strongly believe that Kircher added the Michitonese phrases, himself, to what was probably a blank endleaf of the ms.

    Have you had a chance to correspond with Rene Zandbergen? He is meticulous with his research, and seems to be fairly unbiased.

    I don’t have a blog/website of my own. So, I depend on the kindness of Nick and some of his correspondents. You may enjoy Rich Santa Colonna’s three-dimensional map of the Rosettes.

    A very good source of Kircher’s publications (which begin with the phrase “Cherish liber”) is Stanford University’s website.

    Good luck! Have a good summer.

  36. Diane O'Donovan on May 19, 2012 at 2:48 am said:

    I’ve been looking for Esther’s own web- or blog-page. No luck. Would appreciate a link.

  37. Diane O'Donovan on May 19, 2012 at 2:54 am said:

    Latin + Italian + French? Why?

  38. thomas spande on September 5, 2012 at 8:19 pm said:

    Dear all, If the botonical section of the VM indeed depicts plants for food, there is total absense of any obvious vegetable above ground although greens remain a possibility. The VM plants would otherwise have to be root crops. Some do look like they could be tubers or turnip like. I think it is more likely the whole VM botonical section represent herbs used for medicinal purposes. Cheers, Tom

  39. Just a footnote for those who come hereafter:

    Another translation of the marginalia on f.116v was offered to the Voynich mailing list by David Jackson [sanenet] on Tue, Sep 3, 2013 at 5:05 AM.


  40. Diane: could be, could be… but probably isn’t. Add it to the long list of (very probably failed) attempts.

  41. Nick, I was sure I’d read somewhere here an attempted translation of the supposed ‘corpse’ page marginalia, where the phrase ‘Mus..de/r’ occurred, but couldn’t find it.

    I only added a note about David’s effort because finding earlier work, and cross-referencing is so unusually difficult in Voynich studies – I needn’t tell you.

    In earlier years, I can’t count the number of hours – days – I wasted in research and writing up, only to to have someone tell me later that they ‘vaguely remembered’ it being said earlier by someone, sometime, somewhere. Or else afterwards using the search function here, to find I needn’t have done more than credit-and-link.

    So (hope you don’t mind) I add the occasional footnote for posterity. 🙂

  42. WL Holland on September 3, 2013 at 10:46 pm said:

    I agree with Thomas, medicin, not food

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