Here’s a 2011 paper by Grzegorz Jaskiewicz of the Faculty of Electronics and Information Technology at Warsaw University of Technology, entitled “Analysis of Letter Frequency Distribution in the Voynich Manuscript“.

Essentially, Jaskiewicz used some Java code to screen-scrape a mini-corpus of text from 23 different languages via Wikipedia’s Random Article button, and then compared each of them with Voynichese (he used Glen Claston’s Voynich-101 transcription): cutting to the chase, the top five matches were Moldavian, Karakalpak, Kabardian Circassian, Kannada, and Thai.

Obviously, if you’re a Voynich cipher true believer (or even a Voynich hoax false believer), none of this will cause you to lose any sleep. Similarly, if you’re a Jacques Guy-esque Chinese language supporter (and Jacques Guy himself isn’t, Voynich trivia fans), you’ll probably be patting yourself hard enough on the back to send your dentures flying.

Personally, I think there’s something utterly wrong with the Chinese hypothesis, and indeed about this kind of experiment. In effect, what people are doing isn’t comparing Voynichese with a language, but instead comparing a clunky transcription of Voynichese with a clunky transcription of a language. Wherever a given language fails to be captured by ‘pure’ Romanized letters, it almost inevitably ends up being expressed using paired language groups – letters and modifiers. I’ll give some examples from, let’s say, Jaskiewicz’s top 5 matches:

First example: Kannada. Its 49-letter alphabet includes “half-letters” which combine to form a huge number of compound letters known as “vattakshara”.

Second example: Kabardian Circassian. This is a language shoehorned into the Cyrillic alphabet by forming compounds of letters to create a single sounds (one such compound is four letters long).

Third example: Moldovan and its various transcriptions form a hugely political issue – I can’t even display the Moldovan Wikipedia page in Internet Explorer, that’s how bad it gets. I can only presume it has ended up in some kind of 16-bit Unicode limbo.

Fourth example: Thai. This has 44 consonants (“phayanchaná”), and 15 vowel symbols (“sàrà”) that further combine into 28 or more compound vowel forms, as well as four tone marks. It’s a complicated compound transcription.

The point I’m making (in a somewhat laboured way) is that what Voynichese shares with these languages is a clunky transcription that does not naturally capture the essence of the language itself (and the stroke-based EVA transcription is probably even worse for this). Yet for Voynichese, I argue that this is not a linguistic feature but a cryptographic feature: even though Voynichese letters like “o” and “a” are intended to resemble vowels, their statistical structure is that of modifiers – “4o” / “ol” / “al” / “aiir” / “aiiv” all statistically operate as compound letters.

So ultimately, I have to say that I find such language comparisons futile and misguided: they are almost always built on an insufficient grasp of both the nature of Voynichese and the nature of languages and transcriptions simultaneously. What’s behind this isn’t innately bad science or bad history, just an unrefined (and actually rather primitive) human desire to understand things by trying stuff out. Yes, for all the newmedia technology sheen and stats smarts, it’s no more than hitting a rock with a hammer and hoping for a perfect diamond to fall out. But yuh ain’t gonna get no diamonds that way this week, bubba. 🙁

50 thoughts on “2011 Polish Voynich paper…

  1. bdid1dr on March 14, 2012 at 10:10 pm said:

    Nick, no comment here but to refer you to my post, this morning, on your “Alternative Voynich” page. (Re my locating a hand-written doc this a.m.).

  2. Reed Johnson on March 15, 2012 at 12:00 pm said:

    bdid1dr: I can save you some time; the letter you linked to is clearly Cyrillic, which the VMs is clearly not (my field is Slavic languages).

    Nick: I agree with your overall point, though I didn’t see the evidence for your claim that VMs ‘compound letters’ must necessarily be different from the compound letters found in languages written in an alphabet not designed for its phonemes–which is probably the most common situation of all (see English, for example). The poorer the fit, the more compound letters, and that lowers the digraph entropy (while lengthening the words, of course). I agree with you that this explanation for VMs ‘compound letters’ and low digraph entropy is probably unlikely, though I personally wouldn’t rule out anything. But you’ve been in this game longer than I have, of course. 🙂

  3. Reed Johnson on March 15, 2012 at 12:12 pm said:

    Of course, the underlying difficulty of all statistical measures of the text, including entropy, is that nobody is certain of how to parse letter boundaries. Just as a small example: in Russian, there is the letter ‘ы’ and there is the letter ‘ь’ (and in older Russian, ‘i’). VMs researchers, looking at such a letter, would assume that ‘ы’=’ь’+’i’, when in fact they have absolutely nothing to do with each other.

  4. bdid1dr on March 16, 2012 at 1:08 am said:

    Thanks for tuning in, Reed! Last night, I was able to sit and try to compare the ONLY handwritten document I was able to find at all for 14th-16th century Europe. I was only able to find some info at synaxis.info (14th-15thc). The only manuscript that came close was Neacsu’s (which was fascinating in itself). I’m now trying to find 16th century HANDWRITING that could be compared with the VMs handwriting.

    I’ve been focusing on the area around Prague because, supposedly, the ms first appeared at Rudolph II’s court. Also because Rudolph reportedly was very much a supporter of the arts, entertainment, and alchemy. Romani (being somewhat transient?) may not have had much to do with the “fine arts” but were they not known for tarot (playing card art), music, dancing, herbal medicine, animal (horse) medicine, blacksmithing, metal-working, and pan-European transiency?

    I’m also researching some of Kircher’s publications because he begins all of his articles with the expression found in the Michitonese pages of the VM: Cherish liber etc. One of Kircher’s publications refers to the Phlagraen Fields. Interestingly enough, the hot springs on Naples Bay aren’t all that far from where Rudolph’s Hapsburg relatives had mansion/castles. Take a close look at all nine “rosettes” and the NON-michitonese writing that appears near the “portals”.

    I can’t seem to get across my idea that the Michitonese (folio 116) writing was added to the Ms by a second writer, possibly Kircher. Kircher began nearly all of his published “articles of interest” with the Latin (Michitonese) greeting: Cherish liber….etc.

    Now, if we can determine that the rest of the handwriting and its language is other than Latin-based would we not be closer to finding a hand-written document that would match the repetitive “phraseology” and “labels” such as appear on the “Rosettes” pages? Maybe the botanical/herbal/pharmaceuticals? Maybe even the “balnealogical? Maybe the VMs had been dictated (storyteller/nomad) to a clerk in Rudolph’s court? What written language was being used during his time?

  5. Diane O'Donovan on March 16, 2012 at 8:22 am said:

    here’s an idea from nowhere. What if manuscripts to be printed in foreign scripts were actually written out in reverse so that printers would get the fonts right?

    Recently voynichanalysis blog mentioned a couple of places where the letters appear to be reversed – a slip by the scribe.

    as I said, the idea just popped into my head. Contradicts everything I’ve ever thought about the manuscript, but there you go.

  6. Diane O'Donovan on March 16, 2012 at 9:26 am said:

    Wipe this if you like, Nick – could be too irrelevant altogether.

    However, re type faces. We get an idea of the range of languages available to the Papal printers from references to Napoleon’s “visit” to Italy. One source says he helped himself to Arabic and Syriac typefaces. Another speaking about the Irish, says:

    “The Rome Irish type had been just one of an array of exotic punches pillaged in Italy and transported to the (Napoleonic) Imprimerie at the beginning of 1801; in an effort to obtain from the Propaganda samples of a range of foreign letters to complete the magnificent Paris collection, boxes of Arabic, Armenian, Brahmanic, Chaldaic, Coptic, Hebrew, Georgian, German Greek, Irish, Illyrian, Indian, Malabar, Persian, Ruthenian, Syriac and Tibetan (!) had been unceremoniously looted and shipped northward. Ultimately, the original punches and matrices of the Rome Irish type were returned under threat of violence by the commissioners of the Tuscan Government.”

    Now, I took this note about 7 years ago off a web-page – but the quote has recently been repeated so I guess it was real.
    http://luc.devroye.org/fonts-42932.html

  7. Diane O'Donovan on March 16, 2012 at 9:32 am said:

    Until about the time that Kircher got the manuscript, it looks as if members of the missionary orders could just swan up and get things they want printed. However:

    In 1629 the Society for the Propagation of the Faith (Lat. Propaganda Fide) – which owned most of the fonts (punches)
    “decided that no book could be printed at its press without a special decree. In 1655 it prohibited the printing of any book by missionaries without written permission. [Official -D] Missionary policies tended to favor the publication of catechisms and other explanations of the Christian faith.
    this cites as source:
    Willi Henkel, “The Polyglot Printing Office of the Congregation”, in Sacrae Congregationis de Propaganda Fide Memoria Rerum: 350 Years in the Service of the Missions 1622-1972, ed. J. Metzler, Vol. I/1: 1622-1700 (Rome: Herder, 1971), 343.

    before that time, though, missionaries didn’t want to teach catechisms: they wanted to teach the usual subjects of the curriculum, with the usual overlay of Christianised commentary. So astronomy, herbals, lapidaries..you know.

    Ain’t saying it’s so. Not arguing for this. Just so’s you know.

  8. Diane O'Donovan on March 16, 2012 at 9:36 am said:

    I mean, of course, so that the makers of the first set of punches would get it right. After that, the printers would be cool, I expect. You learn quickly to read back to front and upside down,even.

  9. Diane O'Donovan on March 16, 2012 at 9:56 am said:

    The existence of print in Rome is much older than that suggests. I recall that whoever was pope at the time introduced printing to Italy by importing some German monks. This may have been even before gutenberg. But as with other minorities, to even mention such facts can lead to suspicions of partisanship. So sad.

  10. Diane O'Donovan on March 16, 2012 at 10:19 am said:

    Ah -here it is.It suggests that printing was known in Prague before it was known in Italy, and once again, Nicholas of Cusa pops up:

    Info from an official history, written almost exclusively from primary documents.

    Concerning Paul II:
    “He summoned to Rome many scholars whose acquaintance he made while a Cardinal .. the Florentine, Lionado Dati… and Sigismondo de’ Conti and Vespasiano da Bistecci … In the year 1470, Paul II… caused
    some Chronicles to be copied for him… Among the scholars advanced
    by Paul II… was [Nicholas de] Cusa’s friend, Bussi of Vigevano, a
    man who deserves the highest praise for his labours in the diffusion
    of printing throughout Italy. The numerous books dedicated by [Bussi, who writes in one of his dedications to Paul II] “your pontificate will never be forgotten because this art has been taken up to your Throne…”

    Bu the author of the history adds: “It is impossible to say.. who was [the individual who] summoned the first German printers – C.Schweinheim from Schwannheim.. Pannartz from Prague …Hahn from Ingoldstadt – to Italy.

    Cusa died before these Germans arrived in Italy…[and] there can be no doubt that to Subiaco, the Mother House of the Benedictine Order… is due the honour of having given home to the first German printers.

    Constant relations between [Subiaco] and Germany had been maintained since the days of Abbot Bartholomaus III (1362 etc).. who had invited many German monks, remarkable alike for their learning and their austerity of life [this is a tacit allusion to the Egyptian tradition – d].

    In the retirement of Subiaco …, S.nd P. printed first the Latin grammar of Donatus.. then Cicero’s work to Orators, and the Instructions of Lactantius against the Heathen. The last of these books was completed on the 29th October, 1465. Two years later, an edition of Augustine’s City of God…from Subiaco’s Press. …

    “The States of the Church may therefore claim, after Germany, the honour of first producing printed books”
    But the printers came from Prague, and germany, etc..

    Already by the years referred to, paper was regularly produced by the Dominican preachers, as well as in centres of medicine, such as Bologna. The Domicans, btw, were one of the pre-Jesuit preaching/missionary orders, so they had a real interest in scripts and languages – in fact the first chairs in Arabic were established by and for Dominican academic institutions.

    quoted passages from: Vol. 4 of Pastor’s “History of the Popes from the close of the Middle Ages” (the printed volumes). Once more these are very old scrap-notes surviving from some papers written as much as ten years ago, and only what has been retrieved from one or other of two catastrophic ‘computer-disasters’ meanwhile. Please forgive lack of page refs.

  11. Diane O'Donovan on March 16, 2012 at 10:40 am said:

    errm nick, if you prefer to remove this and have me use m.o.b.b instead, quite understand.

  12. Diane: it’s entirely true that the papacy shipped in German printers from year dot, but I’m struggling to see how this links with the Voynich Manuscript. There are plenty of fragments of evidence that I believe all indicate copying:
    * a gap copied from the original text (an ornate capital letter)
    * a gap copied from the original manuscript (a damaged right margin)
    * a hole copied from the original vellum (rubbed through by hand in the copy’s vellum)
    * incorrect letter shapes, such as “oiiv” for “aiiv” (consistent with a copyist making mistakes along the way)
    * malformed letter shapes (there are a whole load of gallows that are messed up)
    * etc
    However, your step from “malformed” (by mistake) to “mirrored” (by intent) eludes me – cockup theories of history are usually closer to the truth than conspiracy theories. What am I missing here?

  13. Diane O'Donovan on March 16, 2012 at 3:06 pm said:

    Please dont mistake a question for an argument. I’d not really want the idea to prove true.

    Thing is, the blog author’s point about reversal seems reasonable, and this had me wondering if the script mightn’t all be reversed, and the errors actually where the scribe copied on automatic, forgetting to reverse.

    Another thing: the script is counter-intuitive for people normally writing with quill pens, as far as I can see. Doesn’t flow so well.

    So then the question is, why bother writing in reverse: it’s not a very clever way to obscure what’s written.

    And the idea occurred to me that one reason you might write in ‘mirror’ is to assist with the carvers of a print-block. Early 15th century, the whole technology is still pretty new. Especially if you want a foreign script printed up.

    So I checked the dates: just to see if it might be possible a block was carved in a non-Romance language before 1438. It was possible. But probably only in Germany or Prague, and most likely by the people *interested* in having books printed in really unusual foreign scripts – such as missionaries, or something of that sort.

    Nick, I’m not positing this, just raising the possibility, and saying that the history of print and the context of the early 15thC printers is no objection.

    But having spent so much time on the imagery, from which I’ve taken rather different conclusions, I really would be somewhat gruntled if this ever proved to be so.

  14. Diane O'Donovan on March 16, 2012 at 3:09 pm said:

    Blog author at voynichanalysis. com.

    (Sorry all)

  15. Diane O'Donovan on March 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm said:

    I can see this makes no sense to anyone, so ignore the whole thing – and I’ll get back to what I should be doing, which is a world away from things Voynich.

  16. bdid1dr on March 16, 2012 at 5:04 pm said:

    Diane! Don’t go away dis-gruntled! It ALL backs up what I’ve been trying to say: Look for HAND-written documents in whatever 15th-16th century vellum/parchment manuscript archives — regardless of nationality. I also commented several posts ago, that I had read some of the VMS characters from right to left (on the Rosettes upper-righthand page below the “portal-entry to the kastl kartl”).
    In this case, it wasn’t individual letters backwards, but the words read to me as if : yeht erew ot eb daer sdrawkcab. Much as typesetters would have to arrange the individual words, as well as each individual letter die would also have to be reversed.

    By the way, I got to the Rosette’s pages just shortly after visiting the Carroty pages to which Nick had referred us.

    Please “hang in there”! I’m hoping that Reed Johnson will also “take a gander” at our latest posts. He is the soul of diplomacy. As is our host, Nick. Take a bow, Nick!

  17. bdid1dr on March 16, 2012 at 9:46 pm said:

    Nick, Diane, Reed, and Rene:

    Here’s a link to “Faust Vrancic (latinized Faustus Vrantius, 1551-1617). Who worked as secretary to Rudolph II in Hradcani in Prague. A quote from this website: “It is known that he collaborated with Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler.”

    Two of Vrancic’s most famous achievements were: a five-language dictionary and a parachute (which he tested himself) in Venice.

    Here’s the link, if anyone should still be interested:

    http://www.croatianhistory.net/et22al.html

    Lemmeno if link is good– or not. Please!

  18. Diane O'Donovan on March 17, 2012 at 12:23 am said:

    bdid1r
    We need ‘tone-icons’ as well as emoticons. I meant it, really. If something isn’t making sense, and was just a passing thought.. meh. I don’t mind, really.

    It is fun, though. Take a section of the script, flip it horizontally. I also decided to reverse the colours. Hmmn. If I were advocating something here – and I’m not – it might matter that no-one gets it; but I’m not, and honestly don’t mind. Really.

    I do mind – just a bit – that no-one reads my botanical blog.. so here’s the plug.
    (voynichbotanical.blogspot.com)

  19. Diane O'Donovan on March 17, 2012 at 12:28 am said:

    bdid1r

    We need ‘tone-icons’ as well as emoticons,perhaps.

    I meant it literally; the reversal thing was just a passing thought. I had no investment there at all.

    *emoticon for small shrug*

  20. Diane O'Donovan on March 17, 2012 at 12:30 am said:

    and to add to everything else…

  21. Diane O'Donovan on March 17, 2012 at 12:36 am said:

    In case anyone wonders – the link dropped out as I tried to post the first comment. So Nick you can choose now between the Dickensian and the Reader’s Digest versions of that post. 😀

  22. bdid1dr on March 17, 2012 at 6:19 pm said:

    Hmm, it could be that when I refer a link on these pages, protection software goes “on alert”.

    So, it could be that one has to link to the website I mentioned from one’s own computer setup.

    It is a fascinating look at some of very active (sane) minds. In this case, it appears that Rudolph II financed Mr. Vrancic’s works.

    I still haven’t been able to find any handwritten scripts that are written in lower case — backwards or forwards.

    I shall now try to link to your link, after I sign off from here. I have tried in the past to link but seem to get shuffled off into sign in/sign up process before I can respond to your excellent blog. Several weeks ago, I tried to leave you a message from here (Nick’s pages) as to why you might not be getting responses.

    I still hope we can establish communications.

  23. bdid1dr on March 17, 2012 at 6:53 pm said:

    Diane,

    I tried several ways to link, and many possible links appear but all have botanical “imagery” as part of the link. And, if one tries to comment etc., one is faced with a sign-in requirement to post. Also, many of those links refer to Botanical Blogspot….to a dead link. (?)

    So, it appears to me that when I originally was able to view your website (school?) I had the opportunity, then, to link. I regret not taking the opportunity! Classics With Women In Mind — ??

    Ennyway (my deliberate mis-spelling) I’ll keep in touch via our host, Nick.

  24. Diane O'Donovan on March 17, 2012 at 9:02 pm said:

    really? Something strange there: it’s an open blog.

    Here’s the link which should work. I know that blogger has decided to go parochial and changed all blogger addresses from global to local ones. So now in full:
    http://voynichbotanical.blogspot.com.au/

    thanks for letting me know.

  25. Diane O'Donovan on March 17, 2012 at 9:05 pm said:

    Oh – and another comment irrelevant to Nick’s post. I think that at least part of the text of Beinecke 408 – at the very least the ‘bathy-‘ sections are taken from a lost Hellenistic work, Timosthenes ‘On Ports’. Probably collated with bits derived from Theophrastus’ works on plants.

  26. bdid1dr on March 17, 2012 at 10:55 pm said:

    Re “bathy” or “balneological”, I made the comment not too long ago, that the VM pictures that portray a group of women entering a pond of water was “copied” from a classic painting (which name I can’t remember). Not too long ago, that copy was “hacked” by a cut n’paste virtuoso (nutcase?) with a sketch of a man wearing a cape (?) and what looked like a diver’s “wetsuit” hovering overhead –and in one hand he carried archery equipment. Strange. Admittedly, that particular “specimen” appeared on crystal-links website. Still fun and strange, but that site is quite often very informative.

    What is very intriguing to me (with my latest find on the Croatian website) was Mr. Vrancic’s various inventions (parachute VERY much like what our “parasailers” use today.

    As I mentioned in my earlier post, Mr Vrancic was Rudolph II’s personal secretary — besides having, apparently a very active mind. So, I also wonder if Vrancic and Tepenecz were both in the Emperor’s service at the same time?

    I, personally find Kircher’s offerings to be flat-out plagiarism of his various missionary writing/reports. So, I wonder if it might have been Kircher “tweaking” various observations.

    Ennyway, try to find the Croatian website. Some very interesting articles of various famed writers/inventors…….

  27. bdid1dr on March 17, 2012 at 10:57 pm said:

    I forgot to mention that Vrancic tested his parachute himself — in Venice.

  28. bdid1dr on March 18, 2012 at 8:52 pm said:

    Further comment re Vrancic:

    It was after I googled Croatian writers that I found the website: History of Croatian Science.

    Fascinating and extensive Musem holdings, amongst which I found Vrancic’s writings. I’ll be going back to their website to find out which printers were involved with the various manuscripts in their holdings. Many of the documents are apparently in various museums in London. Several of their documents apparently ended up in the Beinecke/Yale holdings also.

    Ennyway, the item of interest mentions that Vrancic was Rudolph II’s secretary. I’d like to find out the name of the printers that published what must have been Vrancic’s HANDWRITTEN document.

  29. bdid1dr on March 18, 2012 at 9:10 pm said:

    ps: Diane’s observations re handwriting in the usual way vs “reversed handwriting” as well as “reversed letters” and the direction in which typesetters would have work with in order for the final PRINTED manuscript to be proofread (if proofreading was even part of the newly invented printing process) makes perfect sense to me.

    I speak from personal experience. Every one of my bosses depended on me to proofread, as well as correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation — and even “run the numbers” on their spread sheets in case they had left out a zero or two. Many of their documents involved nationwide cost analysis surveys being done for the USPS (US Post Office) in various regions of the US.

  30. bdid1dr on March 18, 2012 at 9:32 pm said:

    I do know how to spell “anyway” and use the term correctly as opposed to “ennyways”. Quite frankly, I go into “ho-hum” mode as soon as the guys start “guy-stuff” such as cryptanalysis, code-speak, numbers theories, etcetera — or is that et cetera?

    I can’t get my “smileys” (now there is a term that sure to puzzle future codiologists) so I will explain this one: %^ beady-eyed-wonder-with-a-smirk!

    Yes, I also note that my post (30 above) is missing two words. If you read that post fast enough, you may not have even noticed.

    bdid1dr %^

  31. bdid1dr: Faust Vrančić / Fausto Veranzio is indeed a fascinatingly polymathic character – a high-ranking chancellor (rather than secretary) at Rudolf II’s Imperial Court during 1598-1605, as well as Member of the Congregation of St. Paul in Rome during 1605-15, he finally retired to Venice in 1609, allowing only the briefest of possible overlap with Jacobus Sinapius (who gained his de Tepenecz title in 1608). Hence there is a small chance he was at the Imperial Court when the Voynich Manuscript arrived there: others have argued that the Voynich Manuscript probably arrived at Court after 1600, an earliest date I’m quite comfortable with.

    Vrančić’s love of machines is apparent from the plates of his extremely cool Machinae Novae, self-published in 1615/16 not too long before Vrančić’s death (January 1617), while it seems that he worked with both Brahe and Kepler (though in what capacity I don’t know). So an interesting question is whether Vrančić was part of the scientific “Republic of Letters” that was so much in evidence circa 1600, and if so if any part of his correspondence was ever retained to the present (or indeed ever published). If his letters are in an archive somewhere, perhaps we will find the earliest mention of the Voynich Manuscript yet there, who knows? Something to consider, as there seems not to be a definitive biography or description of his life.

    http://hispanismo.cervantes.es/documentos/Verancio_MachinaeNovae.pdf (if you read Spanish)

  32. bdid1dr on March 18, 2012 at 10:02 pm said:

    Thanks, Nick!

    I will be heading Cervantes/Verancio-way inamo or two. I may have to write out the link and go there via google. Mostly, I want to find out who submitted Vrancic’s contributions to science/technology to the Beinecke. I’ll also probably be online most of the day –I truly am beady-eyed, with a huge “bump of curiousity”!

    I do love a good puzzle! Oh, and a belated Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you and yours!

  33. bdid1dr on March 18, 2012 at 10:26 pm said:

    I am hoping to find some samples of handwriting amongst the holdings of ms’s at Beinecke. Do you think you might find anything related to Vrancic in various holdings in London?

  34. bdid1dr on March 19, 2012 at 1:12 am said:

    Oh boy, I tried to cruise Beinecke’s enormous archive (without beginning at the “beginning portal”). Ended up with a very elaborately full-colored ms/book entitled “Hours”/Use. It didn’t seem to have anything to do with Vrancic’s works. BUT, it seemed to be more of a calendar based on the impending birth of the Christ-Child. The pictures were simple paintings of Joseph and Mary (on a donkey). Mary and Joseph under a simple shade w/swaddled infant in a nest of straw in front of them……two other paintings in the same theme. I was totally distracted from the paintings, themselves, by the very elaborately illustrated “borders” of each painting: (1) a turbaned “mermaid” bowing a mandolin-shaped musical instrument. (2) A cat strumming a mandolin/lute. (3) A woman’s upper torso extending from a lion’s body. (4) a man wearing what looked like a red “wet-suit” climbing some kind of “tree-trunk ladder.

    If you are at all curious, you might be able to validate my “hallucinationic” point of view by going to Beinecke and bring up MS 662. Did I just invent a terminology? Gonna get my second mug of coffee for the day. Time to settle down with a novel (as opposed to some really “novel” illustrations!

    Really, it is my husband who is the punster in our family! coffee…..

  35. bdid1dr on March 19, 2012 at 7:12 pm said:

    BTW (by the way):

    Has anyone been able to locate one of Vrancic’s published five-language dictionaries? Or (better yet) Vrancic’s handwritten manuscript for the dictionary? Perhaps the Croatian History museum may have handwritten documents and/or proofs, AND maybe some printers’ dies? I understand that quite a lot of his writings ended up in London. Y’got time, energy, or inclination to check (Czech?) your London/England sources, Nick?

  36. bdid1dr on March 20, 2012 at 11:54 pm said:

    I shall re-phrase my plaintive question:

    Who knows (ANY ONE) where the HANDWRITTEN drafts/manuscripts disappear to after the type has been set and proofs have been run off the press?

    There is a severe dearth of handwritten manuscripts on-line. I’m going blind trying to search Beinecke’s, Stanford’s, and Oklahoma University’s extensive holdings. Most of what I am finding (except Beinecke’s fabulous library) are icons (usually, if there is any print at all, it is elaborate and all caps) or breviaries/books of hours: most, if not all, in Latin or Greek.

    The entire VMs is handwritten non-Latin script (except for the “michitonoladabolabadababble” which we can now translate thanks to Kircher’s publications.

    So, we’ve found some of Vrancic’s publications in one museum. His was published in Venice.

    Do we have any access to Venetian/London/Dutch/Belgian/ printers who published more than just Atlases (Blaeu) or the publishers who printed Sir Thomas More’s works? How about the University of Leyden?

    I have zero credentials for approaching University level archives anywhere.

  37. For those looking for any of Vrancic dictionaries – according to this
    http://katalog.nsk.hr/F/6YBPRHF35LDQ1IGRINNIAAAYYS1ELCHJF4AP1C8MCDKEEBSXCR-27946?func=full-set-set&set_number=031973&set_entry=000326&format=999
    there exist a manuscript of it. The rest I found were either reprints from XX or second editions published [read: printed] in later years.

  38. bdid1dr on March 28, 2012 at 9:04 pm said:

    Thank you, “M”, for your gr-r-r-r-r-r-reat, lengthy link!

    Now, if it ever gets onto Wikipedia, we may eventually be able to get a Wiki-translation.

    Mostly, I am (anyway) trying to find handwritten documents from which typesetters/ printers would have had to read the handwritten sentences backwards while also remembering to place the letter dies backwards also. We all may benefit while trying to decode the handwritten labels that appear everywhere in the VMs.

    Thanks again for responding! Please see my recent posts to Nick’s “Alternative Voynich Manuscript Wikipedia” page. Fun!

  39. Diane O'Donovan on April 9, 2012 at 1:22 pm said:

    Thai sounds interesting. Hope someone investigates that line a little further.

  40. bdid1dr on April 16, 2012 at 9:57 pm said:

    Diane:

    Where does “Thai” appear anywhere in this conversation/posts? Other than your comment in item 40?

  41. bdid1dr: see example 4 (Thai) in the main post

  42. Diane O'Donovan on June 9, 2012 at 10:59 am said:

    Yes. Apart from the usual demurrer – that I’m no linguist and not much interested in the manuscript’s written text – I have to say that not only the botanical section’s plants, but the content of the pharma section (i.e. plants with vessels), and even the stylistics of other sections again indicate a use for the material in the context of the eastern trade and its routes. One could argue for use by people living adjacent to the Mediterranean: in Syria, or Egypt, where the Europeans obtained their Chinese (or pseudo-Chinese) ceramics and so forth, but if the whole thing is to be read consistently, I’d go with an eastern language anyway, and perhaps those areas in the far north where Asian routes debouched: Georgia or Caffa (which was a Genoese linkage). So it seems rather pleasing from that point of view that the stats should list languages from these areas.
    Of course modern distinctions between ‘Thai’ and ‘Kannada’ ignore the hybrids, or ones which used a language more like one, but a script more like another.
    Thai might sound good – since the trade-ceramics often came from Vietnam and Thailand, but the spice trade was largely focussed on Java, while the Armenians were in what is now the Malaysian peninsula (Nusantara). We don’t know exactly what dialect the foreigners used there – just as we don’t about the foreign enclaves in China.

  43. Diane O'Donovan on June 9, 2012 at 11:09 am said:

    Nick –
    Sorry. Of course you can’t accept that description of the imagery, since it would contradict your own conclusions, and one can hardly expect anyone to do that. I wouldn’t!

  44. Diane: 🙂 To be honest, it contradicts most of my starting points, never mind my conclusions! 😀

  45. thomas spande on October 3, 2012 at 7:35 pm said:

    Diane (in particular), I think we have come at Caffa (Kaffa) from two unrelated directions; you from trade routes (if that fairly summarizes some of your research) and me from a comparison of medieval Armenian cursive in Stone et al.’s corpus. It was as you indicate a port city controlled by the Genoese and being on the Black sea in Crimea, ideal for Mediterranean trade as well as trade into Russia on the Don via Tana. Of Kaffa’s population of 70K in 1470, 46K were Armenian. Now I need to find a letter frequency of Armenian without having to enroll in a course or buy a book, Incidentally, was Armenian one of the languages studied by the Polish researcher? Cheers, Tom

  46. thomas spande on October 3, 2012 at 7:50 pm said:

    Folks, Does not the appearance of the ampersand as normally written in Roman/Latin argue that the VM is not written in a mirror image manner? Getting into early printing in Italy, the involvement of the pope and all (when not participating in the Montefeltro conspiracy!) and the introduction of paper to Europe is an interesting aside that we all can profit by but I am guessing is only remotely connected with the VM. Here’s one factoid: paper came to Europe via the Moors of Spain in the mid 1400s. Many examples exist of Armenian cursive on paper prior to 1400. Vellum was less common. My own irrelevant aside. Cheers, Tom

  47. thomas spande on October 3, 2012 at 8:33 pm said:

    Dear all, well, I could read the work by the Polish researcher as blessedly it was in English. The author did check Armenian and it was just behind thai in having its letter frequency match the VM. But I am thinking “whoa” ! this approach is ignoring the gallows characters which cannot just be kissed off as nulls. If they were nulls, then why not make them all the same or vary them even more? Until the gallows can be definitively encyphered, and maybe those pesky “c”s and “8”s, we can only work with the remaining letters and many do resemble Armenian glyphs. I think that letter frequency analysis has to be considered a work in progress. Cheers, Tom

  48. Hi,
    CS&P isn’t a large conference. I’m glad that someone has read my paper, even if he/she doesn’t agree with me 🙂

  49. I’ve tried to post four times. Mr Spmfilter evaporated them.

    Here written in antispam.

    samuelzinner[.]com[/]uploads[/]9[/]1[/]5[/]0[/]9150250[/]voynichupdatesrev03[.]pdf

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