For a long time, I’ve been struggling to make genuine progress with many of the unsolved historical ciphers that I’m so interested in. Many of them suffer from what most would agree is an evidence shortfall, a lack that invariably leads both to a poor level of discourse and to a proliferation of wonky theories (which are arguably both sides of the same badly devalued coin).

For most ciphertexts, there is more and/or better primary evidence yet to be had: though (inevitably) researching, collecting, preparing, and publishing this in a useful way takes organization, time, and money. Of course, even though everyone would benefit from this kind of activity, nobody wants to actually do it themselves: it’s just too big a pain in the neck.

But rather than complain about this, I’ve instead decided to tackle the larger challenge myself: and to do this, have recently started a UK-based charitable foundation called The Cipher Foundation (though it is currently unregistered).

Its (as yet unfinished) website is meant to be a repository for relevant primary or secondary information about individual unsolved historical ciphers: and hence to form, in each case, far more of a practical resource than, say, Wikipedia. At the same time, the Foundation’s website is definitely not meant as a repository for cipher theories, or even people seeking validation for their cipher theories: rather, it is a means for collecting evidence able to raise the level of informed awareness about each of these mystery ciphertexts, and then for giving direct, unfettered access to it.

But how could the Cipher Foundation achieve such a lofty goal? After several months’ thought, I’ve decided that it should mainly function as a platform for discussing, designing, funding, commissioning, supporting, and publishing “microprojects”. These are small, evidence-based research tasks that aim to answer basic questions about unsolved historical ciphers that would probably never happen otherwise.

For example, there are a large number of specific microprojects that could be funded to improve our knowledge about basic aspects of the Voynich Manuscript, such as:-
* DNA analysis of bifolios;
* Microscopic imaging of individual marginalia letters;
* Raman imaging of specific layered features (e.g. f116v and numerous others);
* Making images and transcriptions of many 15th century herbals available to researchers;
…and so forth. And similarly for other unsolved ciphers, too.

Which of these microprojects should the Cipher Foundation be scoping, designing, funding, and commissioning? Right now, I don’t know – but in the long run, I suspect possibly all of them.

All in all, I want to be clear from the start that the intention is not that these microprojects should ‘solve’ historical ciphers, but rather that they should help ‘resolve’ specific uncertainties surrounding them, and thereby (hopefully) give historical codebreakers the best chance of solving them.

Nothing is set in stone as yet, and this is Day One of what will doubtless be many. Note that this site (Cipher Mysteries) will continue very much as it is, though its specific remit will doubtless shift slightly more towards qualified speculation as The Cipher Foundation’s website takes shape.

So… what do you think?

150 thoughts on “Announcing: The Cipher Foundation.

  1. Catherine on September 17, 2015 at 5:09 am said:

    Sounds great — and in America in October there is a once in two years gathering at the Cryptological Museum, just in case you weren’t aware. You might have many potential supporters there.

  2. Quite a project you’re undertaking there! All the very best and I will be watching your journey with interest and some jealousy 🙂

  3. A tremendous idea, Nick — well done!

    When I first started researching Chaocipher, there was a great need to concentrate the work in one place. This led to the establishment of The Chaocipher Clearing House web site.

    Your idea is the generic solution to concentrating and focusing research on any number of qualifying ciphers. Had the Cipher Foundation been around then, I would certainly have hosted mine and others’ research on it.

    Best of luck on the wonderful initiative,


  4. Anton Alipov on September 17, 2015 at 8:19 am said:

    A promising initiative.

    I always thought that e.g. the Voynich research suffers from the lack of funding and might be significantly advanced just by dedicated involvement of specialists in related fields like medieval culture history etc. Systematic funding of specified tasks is a thing quite different from sensational “prizes” offered for the solutions (such as that proposed by the Elgar Society etc.)

    Second, if you manage to accumulate and maintain information upon the current state of research (which is a challenging task given the scope that you undertake), this would be a great web resource even apart from the funding projects. Taking the same VMS for the example, even the excellent Rene Zandbergen’s website does not track all the research; as for, say, the Wikipedia article – it is just awful.

  5. Anton: I have only good words for Rene’s website. The issue is more one of scope: in my mind, The Cipher Foundation should completely remove theories from its scope, and focus more completely on what we do know for certain (or, rather, what we have evidence for) and what we would like to know for certain.

    The “prizes” will always be cracking the various ciphers, so The Cipher Foundation is kind of an enabling platform to help people stand a chance of winning those prizes, rather than awarding them itself. 🙂

  6. Moshe: again, I have nothing but kind words for your Chaocipher Clearing House, and The Cipher Foundation clearly has very much the same conceptual lineage. 🙂

    All the same, it is embarking upon a journey of many thousand steps, so thanks for wishing me/it luck. 😉

  7. David: given that the view ahead here is coloured strongly with apprehension, I’m not sure jealousy is entirely justified. 😉

  8. Cat: alas, I won’t be able to attend it this time. But perhaps I’ll have good news to report next time round. 🙂

  9. D.N.O'Donovan on September 17, 2015 at 10:48 am said:

    I would contribute to having some completely impartial, independent and non-Voynich-theorist connected specialists evaluate the manuscript.

    As a start, I’d suggest separate evaluations by (a) Brit.Lib. staff (b) a reputable auction house (c) a company such as McCrone – but simply asked to conduct a full evaluation of the inks, pigments and parchment without the slightest ‘input’ from anyone with a pre-existing position on the manuscript or any aspect of its history.

  10. D.N.O'Donovan on September 17, 2015 at 10:53 am said:

    PS. – Given that opinion is divided on whether or not the written part of the Voynich text is enciphered…. what level of proof would be required before a manuscript qualified as worthy of the Foundation’s attention?

  11. Diane: I think you’re looking at this back to front. The issue is more about determining what test would best reduce or remove that kind of uncertainty, and then how to carry out that test as a closed-scope microproject. Look again at the list of microprojects I suggest for the Voynich: do you think they seem cipher-centric?

    That is, the kind of uncertainty you’re flagging isn’t a roadblock (i.e. a reason to do nothing) so much as a microproject focus.

  12. D.N.O'Donovan on September 17, 2015 at 11:06 am said:

    PPS – while I think it is reasonably well established, though not proven, that MS Beinecke 408 was manufactured somewhere in fifteenth century Europe, we do not yet know the sources from which any part of it was gained. Would you consider including other than European Latin imagery, including botanical imagery, in the range of comparative material?

  13. Diane: I’d personally certainly consider it, but note that the overall decision-making process that The Cipher Foundation will employ when choosing, designing, and implementing microprojects has yet to be decided. As you might expect, I would prefer something a little more inclusive than Nick-says-we-should-do-this-so-that’s-what-we’ll-do, but quite what that will be remains to be determined. 🙂

  14. D.N.O'Donovan on September 17, 2015 at 11:28 am said:

    I think the idea of an organised and co-ordinated approach is just what’s been needed for the Voynich MS – I can’t speak about any of the others.

    But from my point of view, the most important ‘microproject’ would be that sort of start-from-scratch evaluation by independent persons, able to plan and work as they normally do “by the book” or by the usual scientific standards and methods.

    When you think what an effect the radiocarbon dating had – before it, theorists were lost in speculations about esoteric coteries among courtly elites of the the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries – then a wholly independent evaluation ‘by the book’ – and by the normal scientific standard methods – might create another instance of truly objective persons radically altering the study’s perimeters.

    DNA analysis of the bifolios might be helpful, if the matching information is already on a database. For all we know, the calf was born and bred in Persia, but how many Persian mss have been DNA tested already to enable such comparison?

    * Microscopic imaging of individual marginalia letters; – sounds fine to me.

    * Raman imaging of specific layered features (e.g. f116v and numerous others);
    * Making images and transcriptions of many 15th century herbals available to researchers;
    – again, this will only work if the sources used for the VMS botanical imagery are those used for 15thC herbals.
    If the work isn’t part of that tradition (and I don’t believe it is) then perhaps what’s needed is simply a database of botanical images made *anywhere* during a period much broader than the fifteenth century. After all, the Tacuinum sanitatis might have been copied during the fifteenth century, but if the text were unreadable, the answer wouldn’t lie in fifteenth century herbals, but in works of a different genre, from a non-Latin environment, composed several hundred years before the fifteenth century.. and ultimately in somewhere like Nisibis as early as the ninth century.

  15. Diane: the point of a DNA bifolio analysis would be to help (though imperfectly) reconstruct the manuscript’s original gathering structure (specifically, by seeing which bifolios came from the same animal skin), and perhaps even give us an insight into the manuscript’s construction phases. For example, what is the relationship between the Pharma pages and the Herbal pages? It’s all a bit of a blur at the moment, which makes it a good candidate for a microproject.

    As far as the scope of a possible 15th century herbal microproject goes, I threw that one into the mix to help people realize that the overall range of options was much wider than might otherwise be apparent. These are early days yet.

  16. D.N.O'Donovan on September 17, 2015 at 12:32 pm said:

    Your answer to the PPS is very fair. I tend to think the foundation might be better focussed on mss apart from MS Beinecke 408. After all, the history of its discussion shows consistently that theories tend to be held jealously, and defended against all argument and contrary evidence – nor is expert opinion given the usual weight among Voynicheros. I think that we could have many microprojects, all coming up with a conclusion that the work isn’t what this or that person asserts… but that person would continue on their course, regardless. Who has yet convinced you that the work is not Italian, or convinced Rene that it isn’t an expression of Latin culture? In Voynich land, contrary evidence is just “blanked” , not even treated to a balanced refutation.

    Good luck, though. The other ciphers (which are indisputably ciphers) should benefit greatly.

  17. Diane: I certainly suspect it is Italian, and I can point to the long list of evidences that has directed me in that direction. But my point is that people build all kind of fanciful theories within the wider spread that ambiguous primary evidence allows (for almost all cipher mysteries, not just the Voynich Manuscript), an activity that they then think – mistakenly – is somehow helpful for codebreakers.

    More generally, the point of The Cipher Foundation is to look not for “contrary evidence”, but for just-plain-basic evidence – stuff that helps us all better understand the object on its own terms, and can cast a sensible empirical shadow over all our analysis, research and (yes) theorizing.

  18. With respect to Anton’s comment, let me be the first to admit that I have paid much more attention to the history of the MS than to statistical analyses, lately, and whole ‘Analysis area’ is in dire need of a major rework….
    My first update since more than one month has been to add a link to Emma’s blog. If I am missing other important web sites or blogs, I will always appreciate a hint.

  19. Sounds great. With many of the ciphers/mysteries I am interested in I am confused as to what is actually ‘known fact’ and what is simply conjecture/guess work.

  20. boyfriend on September 18, 2015 at 7:34 am said:

    To Rene.
    Very nicely you wrote it. And rework it completely, it´s important. With that, I only agree. This is a step in the right direction. Surely you know what I published on page 116 th. There, I showed you what they mean pictures. And why is there a drawn key. Of course, I know what you write. But for now I just write it a little. He wants it as you write. Completely recast ant start agin from the beginning.


  21. Dan: you’re far from alone. In fact, I don’t think anyone is immune to this – and even for something like “La Buse”‘s (alleged) cryptogram(s), there is (I strongly suspect) still almost nothing that can said with certainty. With luck (and a bit of support), my hope is that The Cipher Foundation will find a way of bringing ciphers like this out into the light.

  22. Nick, good luck with this big approach.
    In my previous posting I proposed an approach more specificly to the Voynich. But since since I failed in finding co-operation on analysis of the voynich, and you have a big active audience, i am very relaxed with this initiative and i am excited to see what will happen now.

  23. D.N.O'Donovan on September 19, 2015 at 8:27 am said:

    As someone who is not a codebreaker, I am puzzled when people very obviously good at code-breaking – such as Tony or the Brig – spend a fair bit of time on the Voynich text, announce that in their opinion it is not a cipher-text, and meet little if any reaction from the many others who are good as code-breaking. One wishes for more dialogue. Is Tony’s work “evidence”? Is it better evidence than that for raw language, or for an Italian verbose cipher?

  24. Diane: you’ve got the Brig wrong again. 🙁

    It goes like this: Friedman concluded that Voynichese was some kind of artificial language, and asked Brigadier Tiltman for his opinion. Tiltman thought that Friedman was wrong, and instead concluded that Voynichese is a cipher system formed of a number of overlapping smaller cipher systems or tricks. Tony Baloney has his opinion too, and it is perhaps to be expected – given the spread of general opinion on the subject – that it is different again. Much as I like Tony, I would be surprised if he felt his own historical codebreaking achievements have yet surpassed those of Friedman and Tiltman, who without any question were two of the twentieth century’s greatest codebreakers.

    But these are all opinions (with a little bit of dialogue), not evidence. What I hope for with The Cipher Foundation is to find ways of improving our understanding the Voynich Manuscript so that the basic evidence we all start from is far more solid, as well as ways to enable much better-informed debate.

  25. D.N.O'Donovan on September 19, 2015 at 9:37 am said:

    btw – Rene’s mention of “important” sites raises some very interesting questions. I expect the same questions will be just as knotty when weighing relative merits of projected research for the foundation. All the more reason to wish you luck.

  26. D.N.O'Donovan on September 19, 2015 at 9:56 am said:

    Nick, I daresay that you have better resources than I. I was referring to the paragraph in Mary d’Imperio, where she writes:
    As he stated in his 1951 report to Friedman. Tiltman had independently arrived at the same theory about the plaintext
    underlying the Vovnich script that Friedman himself had earlier developed. He states this theory thus: -As you know. I early formed the opinion, which you held much earlier than I, that there was no cipher involved at all (in the commonly accepted sense of the word) and that the basis was more likely to be a very primitive form of synthetic universal language such as was developed in the form of a philosophical classification of ideas by Bishop Wilkins in 1667′ ( 1951. p. 1). Tiltman became convinced, from his study of the behavior of symbols within words and words within lines of text. that the phenomena could not be explained by any simple substitution system. In pursuit of confirmation for his theory, he undertook a determined search to trace back the concept of “universal’ and “synthetic” languages to a time that might be consistent with the origin of the Vovnich manuscript (I550 or earlier).

    Friedman, as we have seen above, had turned up two interesting synthetic language systems: one developed by Bishop John Wilkins (1641. 1668a. 1668b). and another of somewhat later date devised by George Dalgarno (1661, 1680).
    Tiltman studied these two languages carefully, looking for stylistic and statistical similarities to the Vovnich text. While both systems were probably of too late a date to have been used by the author of the manuscript, they might have arisen in, or been based upon. an earlier system that could have been so employed. Tiltman concluded that both Wilkins’ and Dalgarno’s languages were “much too systematic” to account for the phenomena in the Vovnich text. He postulated, instead, a language that employed a ‘highly illogical mixture of different kinds of substitution” (1951, p. 2).
    – end quote –

    Now as I read this passage, the term ‘substitution’ refers to the substitution of items from ordinary text to the text in a ‘universal’ language and its grammar.

    Perhaps you read it as implying that Tiltman believed the Voynich text a more complex sort of substitution-cipher.

    And of course, if so, I should assume you read it that way by reference to other and additional data.

    But I do not think that I’ve mis-read d’Imperio here. Each time you’ve suggested that I have “got Friedman and/or the Brig wrong” I’ve re-read this passage – but it still seems pretty clear to me that d’Imperio understood that both concluded the text was not enciphered.

  27. Diane: Tiltman’s position is exactly as Mary D’Imperio wrote it – that Voynichese (a) was not an artificial language in the way that Friedman suspected; (b) was not a simple substitution cipher (entirely as per Elizebeth Friedman’s quote about people’s searches for such being “doomed to failure”) and hence also not a simple language; but (c) was instead a more complicated substitution cipher, using a “highly illogical mixture of different kinds of substitution”.

    Plainly, this is describing a tricksy substitution cipher, just not a simple one. I really don’t see how you can read this otherwise.

  28. D.N.O'Donovan on September 20, 2015 at 9:47 am said:

    I read it otherwise because the passage begins by stating plainly that Tiltman did not believe the text was a “cipher” – though you seem to visualise the word ‘cipher’ following the term ‘substitution’. It simply isn’t there. Tiltman’s refining the argument is not a reversion to believe in a substitution cipher, but a belief that the system in the Voynich ‘artificial language’ consists of substitutions more complex than those offered by those created by Wilkins and Dalgarno.

    I won’t pretend to know more about either than is available online. Wilkins’ system is outlined here:
    http //www historyofinformation com/expanded.php?id=1874

    About Dalgarno, Jaap Maat writes:
    Dalgarno … wanted to build the language on a relatively small foundation of so-called radical words, which were to designate basic concepts. Words for all other concepts and kinds of things were to be formed by means of compounding radical words.

    Substituting for the various languages’ word for a given concept the common ‘universal’ word is a simple process – at least in theory – and Tiltman’s argument is merely that the process for *this* sort of substitution is too simple to have formed ‘Voynichese’.

    I can’t see how you can read the passage otherwise, unless by imagining that d’Imperio’s account begins by stating unequivocally that Tiltman came to the same conclusion as Friedman that Voynichese was akin to structured artificial languages and not like a cipher-text, but then ends by saying the exact opposite. Where do you imagine that this volte face occurs? And if you suppose it does, then why doesn’t d’Imperio say anywhere that Tiltman came to a view diametrically opposed to Friedman’s?

    No, I think your inserting an imagined “….cipher” after the word “transposition” is more by way of an unnecessary textual emendation. It is not there in d’Imperio’s account, nor required by the sense, nor fitting to the context in which ‘transposition’ occurs.


  29. Diane: an artificial language is not an exercise in substitution, but an exercise in semantic logic – in word construction and quite alternative grammar. This is clearly what Friedman had in mind, the suggestion that Friedman asked Tiltman to assess, and which Tiltman subsequently thought was incorrect.

    What Tiltman says is that he “early” formed the opinion that it was not a cipher, but an artificial language of broadly the same kind that Friedman proposed: but that he later changed his mind completely. What he describes as his later opinion is a kind of tricksy hybrid between ciphers and shorthand, which are both – ultimately – kinds/styles of substitution.

    Hence I think you are conflating the (at least) two (true) phases of Tiltman’s changing opinion into a (presumptive) single (false) one, a reading which does not stand up to scrutiny.

  30. SirHubert on September 21, 2015 at 9:15 am said:

    Nick: actually I think Diane is right. You might refresh your memory of Tiltman’s 1968 paper where he makes this clearer. He rejected the idea of a system as…well…systematic as Wilkins’ one, in favour of something more like that of the magnificently named Cave Beck.

    Personally, I think there can be some overlap between a nomenclator, a shorthand system, and a ‘synthetic language.’

    Tiltman himself wrote the following:

    From which I quote:

    My analysis, I believe, shows that the text cannot be the result of substituting single symbols for letters in the natural order. Languages simply do not behave in this way. If the single words attached to stars in the astronomical drawings, for instance, are really, as they appear to be, captions expressing the names or qualities of those stars, there can hardly be any form of transposition system involved. And yet I am not aware of any long repetitions of more than 2 or 3 words in succession, as might be expected for instance in the text under the botanical drawings.”
    After reading my report, Mr. Friedman disclosed to me his belief that the basis of the script was a very primitive form of synthetic universal language such as was developed in the form of a philosophical classification of ideas by Bishop Wilkins in 1667 and Dalgarno a little later. It was clear that the productions of these two men were much too systematic, and anything of the kind would have been almost instantly recognisable. My analysis seemed to me to reveal a cumbersome mixture of different kinds of substitution. When I was attempting to trace back the idea of universal language, I came upon a printed book entitled The Universal Character by Cave Beck, London 1657 (also printed in French in the same year). Cave Beck was one of the original members of the British Royal Society and his system was certainly a cumbersome mixture.

  31. SirHubert: I’m still not with you and Diane on this one. In the quotation you give, Tiltman starts by eliminating simple subtitution as a possibility; goes on to eliminate transposition ciphers too; and then – because of the absence of long repetitions – also eliminates any kind of logical language, even artificial / universal languages.

    By way of contrast, his own analysis seemed “to reveal a cumbersome mixture of different kinds of substitution”, a cipher position which then only bears a resemblance to Cave Beck’s “Universal Character”. That the two are both cumbersome is not a proof that one is the same as the other. But remember that he has already eliminated any form of logical language, even artificial or universal languages.

  32. SirHubert on September 21, 2015 at 11:54 am said:


    In Tiltman’s point o), he argues the following, with my comments in italics:

    i) “The text cannot be the result of substituting single symbols for letters in the natural order. Languages simply do not behave in this way. ” i.e. it is not a simple substitution cipher, nor a natural language of a known type written in an unfamiliar script.

    ii) “…there can hardly be any form of transposition system involved.” i.e. it’s not a transposition cipher either.

    So far we agree, I think. Our point of difference comes when Tiltman then observes:

    “And yet I am not aware of any long repetitions of more than 2 or 3 words in succession, as might be expected for instance in the text under the botanical drawings.”

    This is where we differ. I don’t think that Tiltman is using this as evidence against logical/artificial/universal languages, He hasn’t even mentioned these yet. I think this follows on from his comments on transposition ciphers. His point, as I understand it, is that the absence of long repetitions is the kind of feature one might normally associate with a transposition cipher, but as he has already ruled out transposition as an enciphering technique we therefore have to look for something else. And it is only then that he moves on to a constructed language of some kind.

  33. SirHubert: we’re not so far off. I guess I’m reading Tiltman like a cryptanalyst in this instance, in that the absence of “any long repetitions” would normally argue against straightforwardly logical languages or simple substitution (particularly over such a large corpus of text), and simultaneously argue for the presence of more complex ciphers, e.g. tricksy transposition ciphers, complex substitution ciphers, or polyalphabetic ciphers.

    Yet Tiltman has just ruled out tricksy transposition ciphers, and never attempts to argue the case for polyalphabetic ciphers (because the text is far too structured, i.e. it’s nothing like a conventional polyalpha which necessarily produces unstructured ciphertexts); and so his last man standing is complex substitution ciphers, which he unsurprisingly ends up with as his final position.

    I’d agree with you and Diane that Tiltman’s exposition perhaps isn’t completely clear in this instance: but to cryptanalysts reading it, I think there is absolutely no doubt that Tiltman is certain it is neither a natural nor an artificial language, but a complicated and rather obtuse substitution cipher.

    PS: nice point about the dragon’s painted green breath, btw, was it yours? I don’t remember reading it anywhere else. 🙂

  34. D.N.O'Donovan on September 21, 2015 at 6:54 pm said:

    I repeat Tiltman’s words, chiefly to show that he uses the word cipher quite separately from the word “system”. The two are not synonymous for Tiltman.

    “… I early formed the opinion… that there was no cipher involved at all.”

  35. SirHubert on September 21, 2015 at 9:42 pm said:

    Nick: thank you 🙂 No idea whether I’m the first to notice the dragon’s vegetarian eating habits and lack of flame. It would be nice to think I’ve spotted something new and interesting, but I hope someone will tell me if this has been remarked upon previously.

  36. Diane and SirHubert: I largely accept your point about Tiltman – Tiltman did reject simple substitution cipher (and hence simple language) hypotheses almost immediately, and was fully aware (from his 1968 paper) of numerous tricky aspects of Voynichese (such as line-initial, line-final, word-initial, word-final behaviours, lack of long phrase repeats etc) that militate against reading the page as if it were a naive / simple / pure language, but he did spend a large amount of time looking for early artificial languages, convinced that they might cast some light on what was going on Voynichese.

    I think that he felt Cave Beck’s “cumbersome” artificial language (which he briefly described various details of) was the closest match to Voynichese: and yet even that is extraordinarily different. This ‘match’ sits at sharp odds to all his cryptanalytical efforts and insights, and specifically to most of the unusual behaviours we see in Voynichese.

    All in all, I think Tiltman was looking for something cumbersome and composite, a cleverly arranged mashup of smaller substitution tricks: and Cave Beck’s language was the most cumbersome composite thing he ever found. But at the same time, he thought Friedman was wrong to try to match Voynichese with pure a priori languages, so he definitely sought to differentiate his thoughts from Friedman’s: and at the same time, I think he definitely describes Voynichese in terms of being a cipher.

    The closest he got to a structural match was speculating about whether ‘9’ was a comma and ’89’ was a plural-followed-by-comma, which was vaguely similar to a feature in Beck’s language. But that’s a bit of long stretch as matches go.

    I suppose the knot that Tiltman neither unravelled nor sliced through was that while Voynichese resembles a cumbersome composite language, it also has lots of internal cryptanalytical features that hint at complex substitution cipher, transposition cipher and cryptographic obscuration. in hindsight, I was wrong to peg him as definitely falling on the cipher side of that (internal) line: but I also think it would be wrong to place him on the cumbersome composite language side of the line too. It is – and he was – too sophisticated to be read that simply.

  37. SirHubert on September 22, 2015 at 9:13 am said:

    Nick: I think this is pretty much right. It’s important to look at the context.

    TIltman’s original report to Friedman rejected three possibilities: natural language, simple substitution, and transposition. After reading this report, Friedman then mentioned a fourth option: artificial/synthetic language. Tiltman then explored this further and gives a brief account of his findings: that Voynichese looks nothing like the ‘languages’ of Wilkins or Dalgarno, Cave Beck only gets one sentence, and I don’t think that Tiltman reckons that Beck is worth pursuing (although he’s hardly going to say that Friedman’s Just Plain Wrong in an NSA publication, is he?). But he doesn’t seem to have been sufficiently impressed to take the idea further himself.

    On reflection, I think that Tiltman’s statement, that My analysis seemed to me to reveal a cumbersome mixture of different kinds of substitution. is carefully phrased; substitution, in its loosest sense, rather than transposition, but leaving open the question of whether the system(s) may include substitution of words or syllables, plus abbreviations, contractions, nulls and goodness knows what else.

  38. SirHubert: I think we’re basically there now. Note that Tiltman’s 1968 paper does give more details (more than half a page, pp.9-10) about Cave Beck’s system:

    Of course, in these Internet days, you can read Beck’s book for yourself and see if you think Tiltman was missing any tricks:

  39. Nick — forgive me if I am totally wrong in translating each and every word of any of Boenicke manuscript 408’s some 116 folios. Tiltman AND Friedman did not come even close in TRANSLATING what was NOT a code — and D’Imperio had NO part in any of the Codiologists (Friedman and Tiltman) teams efforts at decoding a manuscript which was NOT, in any way, a code.
    Bon Voyage for your search for a Codiological victory with the Voynich manuscript (Boenicke Library Mss 408.)
    Forty folios to go! (I’m not in a race, of any kind; just proceeding at my own pace. I won’t be interfering with your decoding efforts (for a while, at least.
    Besides ‘bon voyage’, I wish you great success with your latest endeavor. I will be the first (probably) to congratulate you and your teams’ efforts!
    beady-eyed wonder

  40. Out*of*the*Blue on September 23, 2015 at 8:59 pm said:

    Nick: I don’t think the results of DNA testing will be as fruitful as you imply on your comments to Diane.

    “Diane: the point of a DNA bifolio analysis would be to help (though imperfectly) reconstruct the manuscript’s original gathering structure (specifically, by seeing which bifolios came from the same animal skin), and perhaps even give us an insight into the manuscript’s construction phases. For example, what is the relationship between the Pharma pages and the Herbal pages? It’s all a bit of a blur at the moment, which makes it a good candidate for a microproject.”

    It depends on the scenario.
    Scenario A: The VMs author gets a large sheet of parchment, cuts it to size, makes a part of the manuscript and repeats. That would fit your hypothesis.

    Scenario B:The VMs author works with other scribes, each working on different sheets of parchment. They all cut off the odd bits and and throw them in a single basket. Our author then retrieves the VMs pages from the scraps in the basket. The parchments could already be randomly ordered, relevant to their individual origins, before the author gets to them. And they could be further reordered in the selection process and so on.

  41. OOTB: there are at least ten other scenarios (Rich SantaColoma covered your Scenario A in a recent blog post, but there are a number of technical problems with it), and the point of the DNA testing is to eliminate all bar one or two of them. So actually, the existence of uncertainty here is a reason to do such a test, not a reason not to do it.

  42. D.N.O'Donovan on September 24, 2015 at 6:50 am said:

    The DNA test relates to the blank pages; it does not tell us much about the content of what is written on those pages, its date of first enunciation or its cultural origin(s).

    I suppose if it turned out to be the skin of a breed unknown in western medieval Europe, it might pose an interesting problem. Otherwise, it is pretty normal for calf-skin membranes to provide one or two quires each, depending on the manuscript size – ours is fairly small.

    I doubt that the test would necessarily help reconstruct the posited “original page order”. For one thing, the manuscript appears to me to yell “bottega” rather than “scriptorium” and even in the latter, ready-made quires might be purchased already folded down ready for use. It would be quite usual for there to be a range of animals’ skins represented.

    I’m preparing a post about the ‘bottega versus scriptorium’ issue, but there’s no particular hurry about it, so it could be a couple of weeks yet.

  43. Out*of*the*Blue on September 24, 2015 at 6:12 pm said:

    Nick; I was not saying that DNA testing should not be done. Not at all – should the opportunity arise to go through and sample all the individual parchments. I firmly agree that valid information is always preferable to no information. I just don’t yet see how it produces a result that is quite as rosy as your statement seemed to suggest regarding the use of the prospective page DNA analysis to clarify the structure in a proposed prior construction sequence of the VMs bifolios.

    Worst outcome, every parchment has a different DNA. But suppose there are several parchments in sequence that have the same DNA. That would be an example of what you are seeking. And then let’s propose there is another DNA sample in another quire that matches this group’s DNA. Does that mean that in the prior compilation we would have found that these pages were all together? Or does it mean that the parchments used to make the manuscript were only shuffled about before or even during use? What incentive does the author have to keep these DNA groups together – even if s/he had a clue? Parchment is just parchment, Lacking any other contingencies, I would say that the ‘shuffling’ hypothesis is a more likely explanation for a potential example of outlier phenomenon. Certainly preferable to putting divergent material from different quires together based on DNA matches.

  44. OOTB: my best understanding is that throughout the Middle Ages, parchment / vellum was normally bought as a complete skin, folded into shape to form quire-sized objects, and then cut to size. Unless anyone knows better, I’m taking this as the European cultural norm; and so I judge that there is a very high likelihood that this was also how the Voynich Manuscript was made too. Hence there is surely an extremely high likelihood that many of the bifolios that were adjacent in the original gathering order (but subsequently reordered) came from the same skin, and hence can be found to share the same DNA.

    Of course, there is no certainty in this: but I have long argued that if we can reconstruct the original state of the Voynich Manuscript, we may well notice many previously unnoticed symmetries and patterns that cast a very revealing light upon it.

    Right now, you have no data to back up your very specific views as to why or why not any particular action should be done: but this is approaching things the wrong way round. The right approach is to find things that help everyone produce more realistic analyses and hypotheses, and then make those things happen.

  45. Nick & all:
    Pull up all twelve volumes of the “Florentine Codex” (possible via the WWW and your computer’s ‘read’ any book posted to the internet). Focus on the bilingual (Spanish/Latin and Nahuatl) columns of text which accompany any illustration. You will eventually come upon the various circular objects and the discussion which accompanies them. You MUST ignore Anderson’s and Dibble’s translations. Focus on Fray Sahagun’s huge Florentine Codex — which was dictated by Sahagun to his two assistants (translator and illustrator). Compare all of the circular diagrams. Compare the herbal displays and discussion. Compare the displays and discussions of the deaths from the dreadful diseases which were brought to South American (and North American) by the missionaries and European sailors and soldiers. Native Americans – -south or north American, used steam baths for curing their illnesses.
    Even Fray Sahagun was clueless as to why the villagers everywhere were dying by the thousands.

    Please, if you really would like to get a ‘head start’ on forming your Foundation, please follow up my references to Sahagun’s diary (so-called ‘Voynich) and compare with the many illustrated folios which appear in the “Florentine Codex”.

    Note that I am not critique-ing anyone else’s contributions to your marvelous website’s exposition.

  46. Out*of*the*Blue on September 25, 2015 at 5:02 pm said:

    Nick: I use the term ‘parchment’ rather than ‘vellum’ as this was the stated preference of Rene Zandbergen.

    I see no reason not to follow your ‘best understanding’ of European cultural norms for the construction of commissioned or commercial manuscripts, either with costs defrayed up front or intended to be sold upon completion.

    Do you see the VMs as belonging to either of these categories?

    I see the VMs as a personal, highly idiosyncratic document. And while it may have been necessary that some whole sheets of parchment needed to be purchased for the VMs construction, it would have to have been done at the author’s expense, even if those costs were modest, without expectation of recompense. Therefore, if the author had free access to parchment trimmings and discards of sufficient size, not that big, why would s/he purchase whole sheets and cut them into little bits? This would, of course, corrupt the hypothesis you propose and confuse, if not eliminate, the usefulness of DNA information to recreate a prospective Phase I sequence.

    Standard methods apply to ‘standard’ manuscripts. The VMs is not a standard manuscript. Do standard methods still apply, or is that just an unsupported, hopeful hypothesis?

    Don’t get me wrong, Nick. I’d love to see factual advancement in VMs investigation as much as anyone. I’m rooting for you, but given the situation, the unlikely probability that DNA testing will occur in the first place, I’m still betting to the contrary on this one.

  47. Nick: When I was a child (ages 7 to 12) I was raised in Mexican neighborhoods. Not all of my Mexican friends spoke only Spanish; many spoke what I now recognize as Nahuatl. It all depended on which part of Mexico, Baja, Tijuana, and Border towns where their families crossed the border into California and Texas.
    Even today, (hearing-loss or not) I am able to exchange small conversations (in a language which is part “Tex-Mex” or “Californio”)
    It is only after I have visited and participated in discussions on your many very interesting blogs, have I been able to properly spell (and pronounce) the Mexican/Nahuatl words which I had learned by reading lips.
    Example: Similar words such as olla and hola.
    Right now I am having a ‘deja vu’ moment; so, ‘adios” (or
    ‘a dios’) can mean good-bye, or go with god,(dios).

    So, once again I urge y’all to compare the Voynich (Sahagun’s diary) and its eventually evolving (in good part) into the “Florentine Codex”.
    beady-eyed wonder aka bdid1dr

  48. D.N.O'Donovan on September 27, 2015 at 10:56 pm said:

    OOTB: There is a distinction between parchment and vellum, though both may be included in “membrane” – the term most often used these days by conservators and many libraries.

    Rene Zandbergen was mistaken, as was I, in referring to the Voynich membrane as parchment. It was described as vellum from the very first assessments, and again by McCrone. Vellum it is.

    Vellum comes from a calf (never a full grown cow), and is finished somewhat better than parchment. The Voynich vellum is “rough” and (as Dana Scott and others have remarked) still shows evidence of hair on some folios, and of follicles on others. When the difference between the sides remains evident, we speak of it as imperfectly equalized. (Sorry to get so technical, but these points affect provenancing. Many Voynicheros – not just a few – were unaware of this sense for the term “equalised” but it does matter, as I pointed out to Rene when he asked me what I meant by it.)

  49. D.N.O'Donovan on September 27, 2015 at 11:29 pm said:

    to clarify:
    “Vellum comes from a calf (never a full grown cow)”
    “Like parchment, vellum comes from a calf (never a full grown cow)”.

    Reading over the post, I realised that the sentence might be taken as implying some contradistinction.

  50. Diane: though the scans show some distinction between the two sides in some places, I can say – having handled it and examined it closely for myself – that the flesh and hair sides are for the most part very heavily equalized by feel. I hope you get a chance to handle it yourself one day in the future, you’d see exactly what I mean.

  51. Since I had the opportunity last year, when I met several conservators, I asked the standard question about parchment and vellum. The response was that the meanings have changed over time. Originally, parchment could be used for all animals, while vellum was specifically for calf (or rather cow, if one means the species).
    Later, vellum could also be used for one of (goat, sheep) but not the other. I forget which.
    Presently, they are used completely interchangeably, *in most countries*. I believe the UK is one of the countries where one still prefers to make a distinction.

    In the past, I made a point of writing parchment at my web site, since it was more general. The cover was always called ‘limp vellum’ and ironically both are wrong.

    The parchment maker who attended the Folger workshop last year was able to find a few spots in the MS, near imperfections, where both follicles and some hair leftovers were visible, just like Dana Scott before, it seems, but overall it is exactly as Nick says. The parchment has been prepared very intensively, and the two sides can hardly be distinguished most of the time.

  52. Could it be that various monks abbeys had in-house parchmentiers? It seems, to me, that newest members of various orders were assigned ‘chores’ based on their capabilities and/or intellect.
    I remember Diane and I discussing the animal which appears on one of the last pages of the “Voynich” (Sheep? Goat? Fat-tail Sheep/Goat?
    Is that last page 116v? The one and same page which Busbecq signed off on when he delivered some 200 rolled-up scrolls/manuscripts? He tells us that he visited “Res divi Ancyranum — Ankara before boarding ship with the scrolls and some exotic animals (no sheep or goats) but giraffe, lion, and purebred Arabian horses.

  53. Correction: Res divi Augustus Ancyranum (Ankara).
    Rudolph II had a severe deformity of the lower jaw. He pretty much had to slurp his meals. So fruits and vegetable purees and or soups would have been served to him.
    So, Busbecq and Suleiman may have selected manuscripts which would discuss and/or illustrate menu items for a mostly vegetarian diet.
    Nevertheless, B-408 was first delivered to the Austrian Emperor/King. Not long afterward, Suleiman’s troops invaded Austria.
    Somewhere in that same period of time, the Battle of White Mountain began a century or so of “World Wars” across Europe. Manuscripts ‘be damned’…?
    beady-eyed wonder-er

  54. Out*of*the*Blue on September 28, 2015 at 8:34 pm said:

    Hey, thanks for the divergent commentary. I think I’ve got it. It’s vellum on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. And it’s parchment on Tuesday and Thursday. And membrane on weekends. Except in England and the Commonwealth – sometimes.


  55. OOTB: the problem is that vellum/parchment sits between multiple different historical disciplines, and has literatures that cover its production, its history, its economics, its usage, and so forth. It’s all very well snarking at all that, but it’s a genuinely complicated thing, and talking about it in a precise and yet useful way is – as Rene has found – no easy matter.

  56. I’ve found Robert Steele’s comment the most interesting, because there’s no dispute that he was an expert, though not a professional.
    He noted that the vellum (he calls it vellum, as everyone did) is “coarse, [even] for the thirteenth century”. I expect that, at the time, he was thinking chiefly of French and English manuscripts, but it seems an especially telling comment. No-one disputes that German vellum was the finest in Europe from before that time. Perhaps that’s why nobody who really stopped to take a careful look at the manuscript’s materials ever seemed to think for a moment that it could have been made in Germany.

  57. Diane: if you personally think Steele’s assessment of the quality of the vellum means that the Voynich Manuscript could not have had a German origin, please say so. Projecting this view onto others (many of them long dead) doesn’t really improve the quality of the discourse.

  58. Nick – I take your point; not everyone has seen my blog.
    I personally think that Steele was better qualified than I am to form any opinion about the changing quality of vellum: place to place and century to century. I asked the rare book librarians what they could tell me; went into some of the scientific evidence and – least informative, perhaps – the various collections of manuscripts online. Plus, of course, the usual text-book sort of information.

    The results altogether seemed to me to bear out the opinions of Steele, and that private opinion given by Panofsky, before the BOI and military intelligence stuff started.

    But what I think isn’t really the point, is it? It’s whether other people can be bothered to follow up on remarks like Steele’s. I’m not sure that anyone really cares to; if McCrone wouldn’t even offer a provenance on the basis of their analysis – where will we find any truly independent evaluation? I wouldn’t believe any opinion by a person who was already firmly attached to some theory, or some person-with-theory. Would you?

  59. Possible origin(s) of B-408’s leather:
    Fray Sahagun’s parents’ stash. Fray Sahagun’s monasterial stash (The town of Sahagun had a monastery or two). The school/university which Fray Sahagun attended while becoming a monk, could have been the source of the “Voynich” parchment/vellum.
    So, Nick and all: The European university, which Sahagun attended, may be able to offer “new” discussion on the quality of the ‘leather/parchment/vellum’ being used by its students in the sixteenth century.

  60. Out*of*the*Blue on September 29, 2015 at 8:58 pm said:

    There are various potential points of distinction between parchment and vellum, but at the same time it’s just a matter of semantics (time and place and language). What will a resolution to this matter say about the VMs? Nothing about the content. And pretty much nothing about structure of physical substrate of the VMs. It provides no data in the way the C-14 test did. It’s just a matter of terminology.

    I read that during the Middle Ages, there was a certain divergence in the nature of parchment surfaces. Italy, Greece and Mediterranean areas produced material with more of a hard sheen surface, which resulted in more flaking of ink and parchment, In Western Europe a softer, more pliant and more absorptive surface was preferred.

    I am not aware that the VMs shows much flaking, What is the general opinion as to whether this distinction is relevant to the VMs or not?

  61. About the number of bifolia from a single hide.
    According to the Institut d’histoire du livre, in connection with the standard paper-sizes of the Bologna stone, the average sheet gained from a single hide was that of the ‘royal’ sheet whose measurements are somewhere between 450-440mm for the shorter side and between 608-615mm for the longer.
    Folded down, this would produce a quire of four pages, or eight sides (roughly), wouldn’t it?

    So in the whole manuscript, we could expect a fair range of different animals to be represented, and I do not think any parchminer was so likely to get a great many skins from a single herd at the same time. Then there is the question of how many different breeds a single herd might contain in the early fifteenth century. Perhaps a few of one type would be kept for their being better milkers, and a few which produced better meat?

    A quick g/gle suggests variety might have been usual.
    This from the abstract for a paper written in 1999 (link at end).

    “A panel of cattle bones excavated from the 1000-year-old Viking Fishamble Street site in Dublin was assessed for the presence of surviving mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA). …The medieval population displayed similar levels of mtDNA diversity to modern European breeds. However, a number of novel mtDNA haplotypes were also detected in these bone samples. In addition, the presence of a putative ancestral sequence at high frequency in the medieval population supports an early post-domestication expansion of cattle in Europe”.

  62. I would have thought finding out the specific type of vellum/parchment would tell us quite a bit about the VM.
    DNA testing on vellum/parchment can tell you not only the type of animal (calf/sheep/etc) but even the breed. Knowing this could tell you where in the world the vellum/parchment had been produced and this could narrow down the list of potential plain text languages.

  63. I certainly am very skeptical about the interpretations of the evidence (in particular new evidence) by people who already have formed their opinions and theories about the MS. In particular, it is interesting to see which ‘evidence’ is rejected, and which is accepted. Who is believed and who is called ‘biased’.

    The parchment of the Voynich MS continues to be an object of interest. Claiming that its further study is avoided for whatever reason is simply false.

    We have no idea how much Steele saw of the physical MS, nor what his expertise in judging parchment is. We just know he was a Bacon scholar.

    On the other hand, the people in the pictures in the attached article…

    …are top-rated modern experts and guaranteed to be unbiased w.r.t. the origin of the MS. It is their opinion I have been mentioning here and elsewhere.

  64. Rene,
    The link tells us a bit about the group, but nothing of their observations or conclusions. Perhaps there’s a published article somewhere?

  65. PS – my definition of ‘bias’ is when one person attempts to use their influence to prevent alternative interpretations of evidence from gaining a fair hearing in the first place.

    I’d be very interested indeed to read results of any new tests, with raw data and the conservators’ conclusions. Do please pass on details asap.

  66. Not yet, I’m afraid.

  67. Diane: that sounds like a very biased view of bias. 😉

  68. Nick,
    Think about it.

  69. Rene,
    Robert Steele was a medievalist, and a recognised expert in provenancing manuscripts.

    He was already a supervising editor for the English Early Text Society in the 1890s – which gives some idea of his reputation.

    In 1894 he edited a published version of Lydgate and Burgh’s Secrees of old Philisoffres: A version of the ‘Secreta Secretorum’, (1894), pp. xiv-xv.

    and that edition is still included in the Brit Library’s. catalogue description of MS Arundel 59, a manuscript of Thomas Hoccleve and Pseudo-Aristotle, ‘De Regimine Principum; Secrets of the Philosophers; Secretum Secretorum’ which was made in London between c. 1460 and 1485. but is just the sort of thing which would have been known to Dee, and would have been studied by Thorndike.

  70. Diane: a definition of bias that foregrounds certain issues over others is itself surely biased. Stet.

  71. Diane: Steele was undoubtedly good at many things, for sure. But you’re veering dangerously close to a rather medieval argument-by-appeal-to-authority here: and as I recall Thorndike was quite dismissive of Steele’s “Luru Vopo Vir Can Utriet” claim that Roger Bacon hid his recipe for gunpowder in anagrammatic form, so the traffic is very much not all in one direction here.

  72. Yes, Nick –
    I’m only considering Steele’s comment on the materials of a medieval manuscript. In that field, he had ample experience and expertise, and his comment – as I said – is among the most interesting I’ve read.

    For me to suggest that one should turn a deaf ear to Steele’s evaluation of the vellum, as to ignore Newbold’s work in classics, or even Brumbaugh’s on Plato would, I think, be a sign of bias. None of them had any particular success in tackling the VMS’ written text, but has anyone?

  73. One clear example of bias is to judge conflicting evidence by whether it fits one’s theory rather than by reliability. Examples of this are seen occasionally in the various blogs and mailing lists.

    The one-off statement from Steele is at best vague.

    To be distinguished in the case of the Voynich MS is between the quality of the parchment in the first place, and the way it has been prepared for writing.
    The quality itself is at best “medium”. It uses edges, and sheets with holes and small tears. The person acquiring it possibly couldn’t or didn’t want to afford more expensive parchment.
    On the other hand, the preparation has been very thorough, and the hair and flesh sides cannot easily be distinguished except in the areas of damage to the sheets.

    Which of the two was Steele referring to? We just don’t know. We also don’t know if he handled the MS itself. Before the MS went to Yale, hardly anyone was allowed this.

    Altogether, his judgment is therefore not to be given too much weight.
    Quite contrary to the latest (and I believe still on-going) qualified investigations.

  74. Rene,
    I realise that it would not suit your views for the vellum to be classified as more coarse, or less perfectly finished than was the usual standard in Germany.

    I realise, equally, that my own investigations and conclusions lead me to argue strongly that the manuscript cannot be a product of German Latin culture.

    Clearly, each of us is going to hope that the evidence can be presented in a way which shows our own views more favourably.

    Nonethess, the fact is that the idea of a German or “central European” origin for the MS is of recent growth, and the items produced as evidence-in-proof, especially the iconographic examples, are highly debateable. So is your asserting that the vellum is perfectly finished – it simply isn’t. This is not about flaws or holes; it is about residual hair and follicles, and the way the vellum obviously does not have that thick, “new paper” look that one finds with those superior German membranes.

    Let it be agreed that our opinions differ and that even if one tried to present a properly balanced assessment of the evidence, one would tend to emphasise the ones on which one has most relied.

    What I would like to see is some serious attempt to engage the arguments which oppose the German or “central European” idea.

    Too much is either blank contradiction, or an effort to shoot clay pigeons. If anyone produced a close match for folio 86v, or for the “sunflower” folio’s drawings, or produced a figure with a star-shaped wand for Virgo… then we’d be talking.

  75. Diane: the whole ‘German-origin-biased-and-yet-centrally-controlling-the-entire-discourse’ Rene you keep invoking is just a figment of your imagination; and from where I’m sitting, the way you keep rolling it out is getting somewhat boring.

    The Voynich Manuscript has numerous (50? 100? 150?) features which point to a European origin, none of which individually is causally definitive yet which all – when taken en masse – cannot be reasonably bracketed out except by the most doggedly open-minded or by the most biased.

    You clearly believe you fall into the former category, yet I would point out that comments like the one you have just left will leave most readers with the strong impression that you fall instead into the latter.

  76. Dear Mr. Pelling,

    First. The Cipher Foundation microprojects – shouldn’t you ask the people at Yale what they are willing to permit being done, and also, most importantly, are there tests they seek funding for that they want to do? These would seem to be the prime considerations for such an undertaking or group of undertakings. Maybe they would more readily permit further tests if their wants are taken care of first.

    Maybe they are only willing to permit certain tests being done. If so, that would place limits on what can be accomplished or even hoped for.

    Second, since the name is The Cipher Foundation, will projects for other ciphers also be put forth and funded, or just the Voynich ones?

    Third, who will be the editor(s)/judge(s) of what will be included on the foundation’s site and what will be refused/deleted/edited? If the main thrust of the foundation is Voynich related, will Yale have any input or inclusion on the board of directors or whatever?

    Thank you.

    Don of Tallahassee

  77. I’m happy to leave the parchment discussion with Nick’s appreciated statement. Time will tell.

  78. Nick –
    it becomes a little confusing when Rene responds to a remark I’ve addressed to you, and then (while I’m wondering if Voynicheros are interchangeable) you respond to a remark addressed to him.
    I rather think that I’ve done the same, more than once, and so now resolve not to answer others’ mail (as it were).

    However: you say “The Voynich Manuscript has numerous (50? 100? 150?) features which point to a European origin”.

    When you speak of “origin” are you speaking of the object’s origin i.e. time and place of manufacture, or of the origin for the matter contained in it?

    As parallel, would you say that a fifteenth century manuscript produced in Italy, containing the works of al-Biruni, from a copy which had been in Greek, gained immediately from Byzantium and more distantly from Baghdad, had a European origin – as distinct from..?

    As far as content goes, al-Biruni’s work could be said to originate In India, and specifically in the culture of Islam studying traditional learning within India.

    Which makes me wonder whether this line (between place and time of manufacture, and the very different issue of origin for the content) isn’t so often blurred in Voynich studies due to an idea that the work might one day be proven an original composition by a single Latin Christian author, as Wilfrid and many others initially supposed – and of course, as you did too in 2006, and I also first expected in 2008.

    As for the personal comment: I do think that I can be both determinedly open if arguments presented to me omit certain basic considerations,especially those which should have provided the foundation on which *any* theory was projected.

    I can also be dogged in refusing to agree with “consensus” which I feel artificially-created, or simply due to unproven assertions, including many of the ideas embedded in the Beinecke Library’s introductory blurb. This is where we see the “central European” idea (chosen from the terse comment given under dubious circumstances to Friedman’s questions).

    Because that notion has gained almost as many happy adherents as the “Roger Bacon cipher” idea did for almost a century (neither more deserving than the other of such faith), I do tend to pick on it. It is also the view of Rene, and one promoted actively in his widely-read website.

    Yet if one points to a given folio, and a given detail on that folio, and says to a theorist: “show me a comparable example from your theoretical place and time of ‘origin”..” the result is not to produce that evidence, but more often an assertion that the request is “quibbling” or “irrelevant”. Now if I asked Darwin to produce evidence of his theory of natural selection, he would produce the evidence from which that theory had been built. But when a similar question is asked about a Voynich theory, the response is markedly different: no prompt production of anything similar at all, but – quite routinely – a very determined effort to suggest that one is somehow to be considered unable to understand the preferred story, or simply “biased against it”. Thus, the process of scholarly investigation mutates imperceptibly into one closer to “believe it or die”… or to be less metaphorical, agree or be flamed out.

    I would have asked Brumbaugh to explain the motifs on folio 1r in terms of his American theory.

    I would ask you to explain the ‘bathy-‘ section in terms of Renaissance theories and practice in art – and to account for the fact that one of the most remarked upon characteristics of the imagery is its absence of Latin medieval and Renaissance custom. Both Steele and Panofsky remarked on the latter.

    I do think you and Brumbaugh might attempt a fair response. But I also know from experience that by asking similar questions of the “central European/Constance/German” theorists, one may expect personal abuse and accusations of bias. IN other words, an attempt to persuade any on-looker that not only the question, but the questioner is irrelevant and to be ignored.

    In some cases which readers here may recall, to dispute any aspect of the “central European/German/Constance” theory has been to bring down a storm of personal abuse including bias and so forth.

    Not, I should add, by Rene himself. His near-Gallic shrug is quite charming, and just as charming as his thanks to those who’ve taken up the cudgels for him.

    It is things like this – so contrary to the usual mode of scholarly advance – which has made the phenomenon of “Voynich studies” so intriguing. Not quite as much as the manuscript itself, but I’d certainly buy a social history on the subject.

  79. Rene,
    I expect that with enough time devoted to the problem, you might turn up an example of equally coarse vellum from your preferred region. Good luck with the research, and I look forward to the Yale conservators’ comments if they appear in print. I do hope *they* will not imagine that I have maligned their character and competence by failing to take into account opinions and statistics which they have never produced in print. 😀

  80. Diane: when it comes to a social history of the Voynich, I’m sure that both you and Rich SantaColoma will feature heavily.

    Me, I sharply withdrew from the Voynich mailing list when it became too antisocial for my tastes.

    As to the rest of your comment, I continue to find your new trope of referring to hypothetical interrogations of dead historians both unappealing and unrevealing.

  81. boyfriend on October 2, 2015 at 8:57 am said:

    Friends. Nick. And Rene.

    The only one who has a chance to understand what the manuscript, Mr. Pelling. Because he knows the cipher.

    Second knows what something is Zandbergen. To which a naked woman to spin and they go.

    Rene, on that page is written to make cinematograph.
    Very simple device for screening. Instructions for making written in the Czech language.
    When there is written instruction in the Czech language, so tell me what language it is written manuscript. I’ll be surprised.

    Diana. What is written on the large parchment, I’ve recently published . The author writes. Turn around. When you turn around ( Round = circle ). So you combine images together. And you the figure of the author.

  82. Don: as far as the Cipher Foundation microprojects go, these are still very early days. Stage 1 of the foundation’s overall development is simply to fill its web-pages with as much primary (or near-primary) evidence as possible on the numerous unsolved ciphers, to try to get them to a reasonable state for researchers to be comfortable and confident with. Only then would individual microprojects – to improve that evidential state of play – need to be set in some kind of motion.

    Compare and contrast this with (for example) Wikipedia’s remit and guiding philosophy, which isn’t about giving access to evidence but about presenting a kind of synthesis of the main (and often contested) viewpoints. For cipher mysteries, I think that kind of approach doesn’t even remotely work.

    As far as the Voynich Manuscript goes, consultation with the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library would be an essential part of the overall pre-funding process. And yes, the Cipher Foundation’s remit extends to all mysterious unsolved ciphers, though I personally think ones where the author/creator has been unambiguously identified, is still alive, but has chosen not to reveal anything more (e.g. Kryptos, etc) probably aren’t so relevant.

    Finally, I don’t yet know who will be the editor(s)/judge(s)/whatever(s). I have a rough (and fairly short) list in mind of the (genuinely) cryptologic great and the good who I’d like to ask, but I suspect the Cipher Foundation would need to be in a far more developed state before asking such august personages would be appropriate.

  83. bdid1dr on October 2, 2015 at 3:07 pm said:

    Nick, Diane, Rene, OOTB, Rich Santa Coloma … al, et seq: Read the danged “Voynich” manuscript as if it were written by a European (Sahagun Spain) in his own language as well as the language of the scribes on his own supply of manuscript material — and translated (in writing).
    The constant discussions of how the manuscript was manufactured does not, in any way, contribute to understanding what is being said.
    Quite frankly, I am very tired of the endless ‘circular’ arguments and comparisons’. There is a whole body of evidence that the language of manuscript B-408 is bi-lingual Spanish and Latin-American Nahuatl: Specifically Azteca.
    So, Nick: Good Going-Good Luck with your Foundation. May it thrive with generous donations!
    beady-eyed wonder 🙂

  84. Nick,
    I see that you are quite determined to be offensive, and who am I to deny you any desire so small?
    Do consider me offended.

  85. bdid1dr on October 3, 2015 at 3:16 pm said:

    Speaking of ‘dragons’ with no flame apparent: North and South American continents had desert lizards called (by native Americans) Gila Monster and Horned Toad. I had a pet Horned Toad. The Gila Monster was reputed to have a dangerous/poisonous bite.

  86. Diane: if that’s what it takes to get to you to take any notice of what anybody else writes, then so be it.

  87. bdid1dr on October 5, 2015 at 4:13 pm said:

    Nick, when are you going to present each folio of the “Voynich” manuscript (photo-by-photo) and translate any of the discussion which appears on each folio? Just so we can all be on the same page — and ignore the constant and unremitting argumentation of ‘who-what-when-why-how’.

    I do understand your reluctance to abandon the EVA. Were you the person who developed and designed the EVA?

    I was especially interested in your “Brackets” discussion pages. It is that folio discussion which gave me the boost for further translations. I was further enabled in my translations when I ‘figured out” the glyphs you call “gallows”.

    The very elaborately curlicued “P” glyphs are quite flexible in leading off Paragraphs or Particular Specimens or Presentations of Promising developments in translating the contents of Boenicke Manuscript 408.

    If, somewhere along this latest discussion page of yours, we can co-operatively develop an understanding of the contents of the manuscript rather than the constant contradictory comments which keep circling every discussion of the Voynich — we may finally come up with a full translation.

    I, for one, will not follow any discussions which focus on the manuscript material. Nor will I be reading any more discussion of McCrone et al.

    The mystery of the so-called “Voynich” manuscript is one of “Language”. Language which is NOT encoded. Again, I refer you all to the so-called ‘Florentine Codex’.

    The contents of B-408 were written by Fray Sahagun. When B-408 and all of Fray Sahagun’s other manuscripts were sent to the Papal Inquisition in Spain, much of the material was never returned to him.

    Once again, I encourage you ALL to read Professor Miguel Leon-Portilla’s magnificent biography of Fray Sahagun and his scribes, and their tremendous collaboration of one of the most interesting and comprehensive histories to be found on the World Wide Web.

    In particular, are the folios which show Sahagun’s scribes making paper (from mulberry bark and strangler fig bark) and then proceeding to write upon the finished product.

  88. bdid1dr on October 6, 2015 at 4:44 pm said:

    Nick, good luck with your info finding funding for foundation. I’m going with Leon Portilla and other Mexican Professors (Fermin Herrera, Frances Karttunen, Bernal Diaz, Juan Badkano, Martin de la Cruz, and Jacobo De Grado. All of whom tell straightforward histories and origins of such manuscripts as written by Sahagun,

    If you are still not convinced that the Boenicke Manuscript 408 was first a diary written by a monk, and with the help of two assistants, became a rough draft for the manuscript which came to be referred to as the “Florentine Manuscript”, I can only refer you to various universities and South American historians (as listed above).

  89. bdid1dr on October 6, 2015 at 4:48 pm said:

    Typo correction: The gentleman’s name is Juan Badiano.

  90. bdid1dr on October 9, 2015 at 4:16 pm said:

    Nick & Others:

    I had no idea that various “Voynicheros” had once again gathered at the knees of Paula Zyatz. She, of all people, should have been able to TRANSLATE the contents of Boenicke Manuscript 408.
    So, wayward discussions of parchment/vellum dating and/or manufacturing location, and doing tests on blank pages — really aided the translation of B-408’s contents?
    Well, if you are hoping to get valid translations from Paula’s archives of interest, I”M hoping that some of the people who attended Paula’s last presentation will be able to give you ANY new AND coherent information about the written material in B-408.

    Good luck!

  91. bdid1dr on October 11, 2015 at 3:22 pm said:

    Florentine Codex, Book 11 “Earthly Things”, item 202, Nahuatl name and illustration for a possible ‘dragon’ :


    Actually, item 201, which ‘looks like’ a rabbit — is actually an armadillo (ayo-toch-tl-i)

    So, one might possibly encounter these strange animals ‘somewhere’ in the neighborhoods of South America, Texas, and New Mexico.

  92. bdid1dr on October 12, 2015 at 2:30 pm said:

    “Somewhere” I have read that the Armadillo was/is a carrier of leprosy. I shall dig for more info.

  93. bdid1dr on October 15, 2015 at 12:18 am said:

    Furthermore, I am going to investigate the condition called ‘elephantiasis’ . I can’t remember if that disease ever reached South America and the Caribbean.

  94. bdid1dr on October 15, 2015 at 2:45 pm said:

    Physalis ixocarpa: toma-tl is the toma-tillo — NOT a large juicy tomato. Tomatillos are also known as the “husk tomato” and are easily identified by the papery white membrane which encloses the fruit. Which membrane separates into segments to reveal the ripening fruit.
    I just can’t understand why codiologists, translators, and researchers-at-large cannot identify this botanical specimen in the “Voynich” manuscript — immediately at first glance. The written dialogue is Latin/Spanish and South American Nahuatl.
    The confusion of terminology is because the Nahuatl-speaking scribe did not have a way to write the full terminolgy-ending for the double “L” “O” (llo) sound of ‘yo’.

  95. bdid1dr on October 15, 2015 at 3:10 pm said:

    “Phys” is just one of many syllables identified by the elaborately scrolled “P” which you call the ‘gallows’.
    The “gallows” can form just about any word which begins a syllable with ‘b’ or ‘p’ . Examples: parable, personable, physical, picture, piratical, possible, presentation, psalmodia, ptalyin, purpose, pyrotechnics…….

    So, imagine what fun I could have if I wrote “beady-eyed wonder” in “gallows’ alphabet:

    Something along the lines of Ptl-i-tl-u-n-tl-r

  96. bdid1dr on October 17, 2015 at 8:30 pm said:

    Actually, that very mysterious “gallows” script can actually represent such words as “Special” or “Specimen” or “Speech” or “Esteemed” “Person”………”Physician” …..”Pharma…..”
    “Psalm” “Psittacosis”……… “Experience” ……

  97. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on October 18, 2015 at 9:36 am said:

    bdid 1dr…….Actually masterious gallows ?

    Meaning of the character is for beyond your idea.
    The emblem is a symbol of the gallows. And why ?
    Because many alchemists ended his life just to the gallows.

    He could not fix the gold and he was fixated on the gallows. 🙂

  98. bdid1dr on October 19, 2015 at 5:27 pm said:

    Nick & Friends:

    There is a series of soft-bound (8 1/2 X 11 inches) fully illustrated books which present and discuss the “Florentine Codex”. Although Anderson and Dibble, once again translated the Nahuatl dialogues and species illustrations into English, one can still gain a lot of understanding if only Book Eleven is perused.
    There are a total of 12 books within the “Florentine Codex”. The Book Eleven , which discusses the usable herbs and vegetables, as well as the flying insects (bees, butterflies, and moths being some) is fascinating.
    I try to re-translate Dibble’s Nahuatl/English terminology into the Nahuatl Spanish/Latin. It works when comparing with the contents of Boenicke Manuscript 408 (aka: “Voynich”).

    Publisher: The School of American Research and the
    University of Utah


  99. Dear Mr. Pelling,

    Do you have a date or range of dates during which you think the Voynich Manuscript was created that will be the basis for your information gathering on the Cipher Foundation site? (Are you expecting possible information about the creation of the VMS dating as far forward as 1912, or so?)

    I ask this mainly because I was wondering if you were going to have a timeline up to 1450 or 1500 showing the advances, either used or envisioned in writing, on codes and ciphers – by whom the advances were used (if known) and where the written records of such work or use were made, stored and in what language(s)?

    It doesn’t seem that by circa 1421 the fields of codes and ciphers were very wide or complicated. I don’t know if anyone has made a really concerted effort to make such a list that gives only techniques, methods or ideas known from or before the period.

    I should be getting my copy of Mr. Kahn’s Code-breakers book in the next day or two and will review what it says again. I am wondering if any new information is available now that was not available when the book was published.

    Has anyone previously attacked the VMS by listing what could have been used to encode/encipher the VMS rather than supposing all of today’s alternatives were available to the author?

    Of a more general vein, Is there a rough general list of what information you expect to stockpile on the site?

    Thank you.

    Don of Tallahassee

  100. bdid1dr on October 26, 2015 at 3:40 pm said:

    Nick, and followers, you have no good ‘aes-ceus’ for ignoring the “Latin American” contents of B-408 and ignoring the comparisons of the writings and illustrations with those of Fray Sahagun and his scribes and illustrators.

    “Figures ‘8’ and ‘9’ represent the Latin-Nahuatl sounds/syllables of ‘aes’ and ‘ceus’. I can find no better eus or x-ceus for what appear to be the numerals ‘8’ and ‘9’, than what I am now providing for the ump-teenth time.

    This is so simple a translation, I no longer 1-dr why my contributions are so often ignored. Actually, I wonder why you and your friends continue to refer to old failures and their own discussions of their failures.

    Beady-eyed wonderer (Who no longer wonders about the contents of B-408). Please, people, quit calling it the “Voynich”. When will we have fully translated the contents of B-408, instead of the tedious circular arguments, contradictions, and sneers directed toward other cryptographers, codiologists, and/or translators? Will envy be the ‘constant’ which appears in every argument?

  101. D.N.O'Donovan on October 26, 2015 at 9:47 pm said:

    The material object (MS Beinecke 408) has its material dated to the range 1408-1437. The Florentine codex is dated 1577.

    McCrone’s analysis of the inks and pigments revealed none of those which were in common use in Europe by the late sixteenth century – only those used in the earlier part of the fifteenth.
    see Timeline of pigments at (e.g.)

    An illustration from Book 11 of the Florentine codex shows a fair grasp of the way feet are drawn, complete with arches to the feet, and the underlying skeleton expressed in ankles and knees – not technically well drawn, but well apprehended.
    The written text of the Florentine Codex (Book 11) shows the slanted hand characteristic of seventeenth century works, and includes use of the colon, full-stop and question-mark.
    The text is presented in double columns, within pre-ruled format, and with space set aside in advance to receive the images.
    The work measures 310mm x 212 mm.
    The subject of every image is man and his works.
    Conversation is indicated by the use of small cloud-puffs.

    in its page layout, script, punctuation and general presentation, the Florentine Codex proclaims itself a typical product of Latin European manufacture, and of the very late sixteenth century. Its imagery is entirely legible in the visual vocabulary of Latin Europe, and even the older codices (such as the Codex Mendoza) express the same attitudes to the world and the relative importance of one creature above all others.
    In none is there any point of comparison evident to me to Ms Beinecke’s form, materials, codicology, hand, imagery, or social attitudes. Far from presenting as a work produced in the late sixteenth century – or even one characteristic of Latin works from the early fifteenth – MS Beinecke 408 presents as a close copy of exemplars from about the twelfth or thirteenth.
    I might add that in none of the illustrations – neither for the earlier nor the later works is there anything remotely like the sort of fold-outs or their content which we find in MS Beinecke 408, nor the motifs which are used regularly in the botanical section. Those are to be seen in works from east of the Mediterranean, and in some particular details we find exact (and I mean exact) parallels in Syrian works of the earlier period.

    Perhaps the text will prove to be in a bastard version of Latinised Nahuatl, but I would stake a life-time’s experience of analysing imagery, that none of it originated in that environment, nor after 1438.

  102. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on October 27, 2015 at 9:35 am said:


    You do not understand characters d + q.
    A character that looks like the number 8 is the small letter – d.
    A character that looks like a number 9 is the small letter – q.

  103. Dear Beady,

    Re: “When will we have fully translated the contents of B-408, instead of the tedious circular arguments, contradictions, and sneers directed toward other cryptographers, codiologists (ibid), and/or translators?”

    I think the ‘when’ using your translation method depends on you. Or do you expect us to do the work for you?

    Why would you think that? I don’t think Voynich researchers do that. Each is intent on his or her own agenda with little time to read the ideas of, and almost no time to help, others.

    I think you need to get busy and report back when you are finished.

    Otherwise this important work might not get done.

    Maybe you should devote more time to that project and less to writing comments, unless the proposed Latin-Nahuatl translation results aren’t important to you or the work is too difficult for you.

    At the very least, you should translate fifty or so pages of the Voynich Manuscript to show us what you think it says (like I do on my site – I wouldn’t ask others to do something I haven’t already done).

    I don’t think you get to decide on whether or not we call it the Voynich Manuscript unless you can show us your official Word & Name Police badge. Maybe I’m wrong about this. I’m sure Mr. Pelling and others will tell me if I’m wrong.

    I am (and probably others are) anxiously awaiting those first fifty or so pages from you. Please don’t keep me/us waiting much longer.

    Thank you.

    Don of Tallahassee

    “In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” -Yogi Berra

  104. bdid1dr on October 27, 2015 at 4:09 pm said:

    Senor Pelling and friends:

    At the rate my eyes and physique are failing, I probably will have to rely fully on my ‘touch-typing’ skills; and bypass spell-checker — if I am going to be able to keep my comments’short and specific.
    If I still had the strength to identify various B-408 offerings and replicate the bilingual phrases word-for-word, I think you would find yourself, and your friends moving at a much more rapid pace — and cooperatively, at that.
    So, once again I refer you all to a bi-lingual on-line aid to translating the Na hua tl (silent H) (Nauatl) dialogues and specimen identifications which ultimately can be translated into Latin-based Spanish, (Leon Province).
    Names of at least two famous explorers: Ponce de Leon, and Saavedra. The third, and most prolific writer, was Sahagun.

  105. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on October 27, 2015 at 8:15 pm said:


    You’re Colleague obviously in shock. Take a pill to calm down. No Nahuanti did not write the manuscript.

  106. bdid1dr on October 29, 2015 at 4:36 pm said:

    Well, folks,
    I’ve mentioned before, before, and before that there is no way of proving provenance of B-408 by tediously focusing on the quality of the leather upon which South American scribes (taking dictation from a Spanish/European) wrote and illustrated.
    Most of the monks and priests; Dominican, Franciscan, and Jesuit, who came (by sail) to North and South America inadvertently killed off millions of Native Americans (North and South) by bringing deadly diseases –and by their military escorts’ use of heavy artillery: arquebuses and cannons .
    The above-mentioned visitors would all have brought their own supply of quills, vellum, parchment (and maybe the ink and coloring material).

    Although I have just begun reading another history of Sahagun’s work in ‘New Spain’, y’all might enjoy Professor Walden Browne’s excellent (and very witty) book:
    “Sahagun and the Transition to Modernity”.

  107. bdid1dr on October 29, 2015 at 4:47 pm said:

    Turkey feathers — which were obtained by the scribes from their most treasured bird — quill-pens.
    I’m asking you if you’ve been able to find any info on the writing materials used in the Voynich manuscript.

  108. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on October 30, 2015 at 1:41 am said:

    Dear Bdid1dr

    You’re wrong. WWatch Bdid1dr.
    Folio beginning of the manuscript 408 ( Acta).
    There, the author presents. At the beginning it is written that year 1473.
    While writing the use of the old Czech language. It is difficult to write to you in English.
    The original text after decryption :

    Kazcoe zpizco Ližcoe jac cóžco bo já. Z Polzka Zlózko coe.
    Polzka Anoe Zlohazko. Pocom ie. Oco jó oco Zléze co jez. Co ac Zléze Polóno žió. I coe Anoj znóěž. Ho Jano honós. Cóššco co ěz zpis ho.

    Text a new Czech language :
    Zkazka je spis . Liška je. Já. Kůže jsem já. Z Polzka Slezka jsem. Polzká Anna Hlohovská. O kom je. Oko jsem oko Slezka co je. Co je Slezka Polska žiji. A co je Anna znáž.
    Je Jan šlechtic. Kůže co je. Spis je ho.

    I’II try to translate it into English:
    Tales the file. Fox is. I do. Skin me. From Poland Silesia am.
    Polish Anna Hlohovska. Who is. I eye eye Silesia. What am I.
    What’s Silesia Poland. I live. What is Anna knew.
    John noble. skin that is . file his.

    In the text there are 3 names.
    Liška ( Eliška , Elizabeth )- fox.
    Anna Hlohovská , Silesian piastovna. Wife of John II of Rosenberg.
    A name John ( Jan II z Rožmberka).

    It is also written in the text :
    Zlof on. Já kopco jej róšši žio zámoc.( old czech language)

    English :
    My words. On the hill of roses they live in the castle.

    ( German language – Hill = Berg, Roses = Rosen )
    === Castle – 🙂 = Rosenberg

  109. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on October 30, 2015 at 10:37 am said:

    Colleagues, It is very difficult to explain it to you English.
    Further more , the text says.
    Old Czech language : Kožko z Folo.
    English language : The skins of ox . ( Cow).
    ( Parchment is from cattle)

    Furthermore, it is written at the beginning (folio 1.) :

    Elizo ččísla ššije . ( old Czech language).

    Meaning a new language :
    Eliška čísla šije.

    English :
    Elizabeth numbers sews . ( It shows the substitution…numbers).

    In old manuscripts are written : I write letters. Or : Sew characters.

    Friends it is a very sophisticated cipher. Very difficult and complicated.

  110. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on October 30, 2015 at 2:04 pm said:


    Friends what you write. It is written at the beginning of the manuscript ( folio 1v).
    The picture : Drawn skin ( Symbolic drawing). Skin is the name. Name – Fox. ( Eliška = Fox ). ( E …Liška ).
    Leather has claws. Root = skin !
    The root of is hidden name.
    On page 116 where it is written guidance on the translation. Fox is full. ( complete ). ( 116 = Key – Elizabeth – woman).

    Root = mean basic words. C and I. This represents the numbers 3 and 1.
    ( substitution numbers 3 = C,G,S,L ).
    ( substitution numbers 1 = A,I,J,Q,Y).

    It grows from the root symbolic plant. It is a tree Hazel . Hazel – Czech language = Líska.
    ( Líska = Liška = E ,liška = Ě Liška = Je Liška )

    Tree Hazel ( líska ) – Corylus avellana.


  111. bdid1dr on October 30, 2015 at 5:11 pm said:

    I have, in the past year or so, offered three-step translations and identifications of some 10 or 15 folios of the so-called “Voynich” ms :

    cucurbit: the ‘osh-quash’ BLOSSOM

    yucca: its root was used for shampoo/soap

    psyllium: its seed husk used as gravy thickener or as a laxative

    tomatillo: quite obviously displayed with its papery husk

    monkshood: discussion about its roots being ‘aggressive’

    jicama root: edible potato ‘look-alike”

    illustration of a mulberry fruit: discussion of leaf/silkworm food

    Besides various botanical items, one can find discussion in re the Alban Lakes (whether in Europe or Mexico)

    Also can be found in the so-called Voynich are recipes (folios 99-102 ?) which mixtures (pharma?) are indicated by the red/blue ‘measuring cups/jars (hot/cold) and illustrations of earlier botanical items. Whether edible or medicinal — ?

    @Prof Z / ‘Boyfriend’ / Champollion — May I ask you to focus on other persons translations and dialogues for a while? I would be very upset if Nick gets ‘fed up’ with any of us monopolizing his discussion pages.

    Thanks, Nick, for bearing with me!

  112. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on October 30, 2015 at 9:41 pm said:

    Dear bdid1dr. 🙂

    And who should I focus colleague ? Dear Colleague qou are writing coment : 29.10.2015 4: 36 pm. I’ve mentioned before, before, and before that there is no way of proving provenace of B – 408 by tediously focusing on the quality of the leather, …etc.

    That’s why I showed you, The parchment is the ox. And do not be nervous dear colleague. About some Nahuati is not writing the manuscript. Only he should , John of Rosenberg in his court and castle american indian as a servent. Otherwise, of course I appreciate your patience.


  113. bdid1dr on November 1, 2015 at 4:20 pm said:

    For translating the contents of B-408, I recommend that any one of you who would rather translate than carry on tedious discussions of other persons’ attempts to decode — do so.

    I recommend, for the umpteenth time, Book Eleven of Fray Sahagun’s beautiful bi-lingual and fully illustrated “Florentine Manuscript/Codex.

    Even the last pages of the Codex (Book 12 ? ) illustrates a ship coming into a harbor. And men wearing armor and riding horses……I won’t bother to discuss Cortez’s capture of Malintzin /Malinche . I’m sure at least one or two of Nick’s long-time correspondents are ‘onedering’ or . at least “Pondering” the entirety of B-408. I’m still hoping that ‘someone’ will pick up where I am leaving off.

    Nick, I hope you will pull up some of my earlier translations and insert them into your (this) Cipher Foundation folio/discussion page.

  114. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on November 2, 2015 at 10:19 am said:

    And I Champollione would agin recommend launch Nahuati. And look closely at the pictures. They clearly and distinctly show the Evropen Midle Ages. The manuscript is mot one sign of the Aztécz. A colleague retired A.O. Tucker and R.H. Talbert write jokes. No language of the Aztecz. No indian.

    Everyone eho looks at a large parchment. Called rosettes. So there is writte. Turn around ( circle). ( Rosette is therefore a circle). When you do what the author writes. Rotete the top of the right circle. About 90 degrees to the left. So you connect the picture together. And you see the man. He stands on his mine. Where silver was mined. What seems to many like a rocket. It is in fact a leather bag, which was transported to the surface of the ore ( silver) Or water. As required. Here it is drawn bag from which water flows.
    The mine belonged to the Rosenberg. Which can be traced in the archives. It is very important to read what is written on parchment.

    So no Aztec indian. But Europe. A specific area that to this day, called Rudolfov.

    Tucker and Talbert are in addition to the meal. No Azteca. No Aztec language.


  115. bdid1dr on November 3, 2015 at 12:35 am said:

    Several months later, I remember the University which Sahagun was a student: Salamanca

    It is very likely that he had to bring his own supply of manuscript material for his studies at Salamanca — as well as a whole pile of manuscript material for his documentary of his years in “New Spain”.
    When are we going to be able to get past references to Bacon (Roger and/or any relatives with the same last name)?
    When are we going to get past the constant references to Tiltman’s and Friedman’s attempts at de-coding a document which had not a single ‘code’ word?
    Even if you don’t want to consider my offerings of translations (folio-by-folio) of Fray Sahagun’s collaboration with at least two of his students (Nahuatl writer, and Nahuatl artist) — could y’all at least consider and compare the writing and artwork of the “Voynich manuscript (Boenicke 408) with the script and illustrations which appear in the so-called “Florentine ” manuscript/codex?
    beady-eyed ( and nearly blind ) wonder-er

  116. SirHubert on November 3, 2015 at 9:13 am said:

    BD: Diane has done exactly that a few posts above. Do you not consider her objections worth answering?

  117. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on November 3, 2015 at 10:57 am said:

    I also Champollion.
    Today, I would recommend. Breaking away from old surveys. They are wrong. Omit Bacon.

    Although Tepenec he certainly knew. Thus his book. Jacob Tepenec knew a lot of people. Otherwise, the manuscript is the signature of Jacobo Tepenec. It was bohemia. Jacob was a great friend of William the Rosenberg. And his brother Petr Vok. ( Vok = Eye). Rosenberg dynasty ancestor named Woko Rosenberg. Therefore, the manuscript writes about Voko. In today’s language, it says Voko = Eye. ( Wok or Voko is old Czech) .

    The entire manuscript not written symbols U,V.W.X.
    So much history and handwriting.

    Now I wrote to you how you could get the manuscript to Italy.
    My theory. 🙂
    He died Williem of Rosenberg and bequeathed a large part of the Rosenberg Library = Jesuits. ( Library Rosenberg – 11 000 books + manuscript).
    His brother ( Petr Vok) then fried to get back. But not succeeded. Among those volumes were perhaps MS 408.
    Then he discovered the Michael Voynich ( Vojnič Michal).

    Othervise what is even more important. In the courtyard of the castle of the Rosenberg and he worked for Kelly and John Dee. At the Rosenbergs were after the alchemical much alivo. Vilem and Petr knew the Tyha Braha, Johanes Kepler, Hajek of Hajek, Maier, Scott and others. Petr Vok traveled to England for the Queen. Petr Vok of Rosenberg was the founder of the order ,, Skulls,,. He was grandmaster.
    Petr Vok based on Třeboň ,,,Spa,,, and ,,,Baths,,.Names of Golden Star. 🙂

    Champollion ( seeing very good) Veni Vidi Vici.

  118. boyfriend/Champollion/etc: have you not read John Stojko’s decipherment of the Voynich? “Ви те побили Око божиє косе” = “You broke this slanted eye of God”

  119. bdid1dr on November 3, 2015 at 8:16 pm said:

    It would have been required of Fray Sahagun (and any monk or priest) to bring his own ‘home-grown’ manuscript material to any of the “New Lands” to which they had been assigned.

    So, please, focus on the actual script (bi-lingual) which appears in the so-called-after-its-last-owner (Voynich). Ignore the dam-ned provenance of the ‘leather’ / vellum / calf-skin/ lamb-skin/ ………Focus on the syllables of the text itself. Ignore the ink product. Ignore the English translation.
    Fray Sahagun was born in the late1490’s. He was in his early thirties when he arrived (with his own writing materials obtained from his family’s supplies). He was nearly 90 years old when he died. He was buried in ‘Santiago’ (now in the heart of Mexico City).
    I’m thinking he died of a ‘broken heart’ or ‘broken spirit’ caused by the stress of the “Spanish Inquisition” which never returned Fray Sahagun’s ‘magnum opus’ to him.

    Halloween has come and gone. Yesterday we had thunder and lightning — and hail the size of marbles. Full sunshine today melted the last of the hail about an hour ago.

  120. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on November 3, 2015 at 10:35 pm said:

    Nick. To this day, I did not know what he writes Stojko. Now I read wikibook ( link).
    I’m sorry Stojk’os manuscript not understand.

    At the beginning of the manuscript is written on Eliska, Anna, and Jan Rosenberg. The author writes that there comes from the Silesian Poland. At the time it mated territory under Czech crown. Important to me is Eliska ( Elizabeth). In the manuscript of her writing as eight ( 8 ). Eliska was a 8 child. Anna Hlohov and Jan of Rosenberg. ( It same writes chronicler of Rosenberg – Vaclav Břežan ). Elizabeth was very proficient through ciphers. In 1473 Eliska was 8 years old. Mother and father taught her to encrypt.

    The manuscript also writes about Jan Hus. He says the same thing as in Constance chronicle. ( Which is also encrypted).

    The great mystery of the Czech Middle Ages and our history.
    Jan Hus not died, but was saved. A lot of years have lived under another name. The manuscript is written where he is buried.
    It is far more manuscript that are encrypted in a similar way. They are mostly very sensitive and secret information.

    Date of the manuscript = letters)
    Sample .

    ( year 1473 = adoc) .

    Nick. And what is also important.
    The manuscript is also read from right to left.
    Reads from both sides.
    Very difficult for the one that encrypting.

  121. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on November 5, 2015 at 12:06 pm said:

    Nick. I know that you are interestad in ciphers.

    For you also have a very interesting manuscripts.
    Aberdeen Bestiary. ( illuminated manuscript university of Aberdeen).
    Manuscript MS. Ashmole 1511.( Bestiary Bodleian Library. University Oxford)
    I looked at them. And he found that everything about them says is wrong. In both manuscripts ( Aberdeen and Oxford) is written in Czech history.
    Everything revolves around the royal family Premyslids and Luxemburg. ( Přemyslovci a Lucemburkové).
    Everything is encrypted. ! Latin’s – suggestion. ! Under the text. It is written in old Czech language. It was written in the great mystery of the Middle Ages.

    John of Luxemburg was not the father of Wenceslas. ( Václav). Future King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. ( Karel IV).
    He says about adultery and punishment. ( nevěra a trest).
    Very interesting reading.

  122. boyfriend/Champollion/etc: both bestiaries look exactly like Latin to me, sorry. 🙁

  123. Don: sorry for the belated reply, I’ve had my hands full of hands-filling stuff. 😐

    As far as the Voynich Manuscript goes, only someone hugely obstinate and/or hoax-obsessed would date its construction to either before the 15th century (because of the radiocarbon dating) or much after the 15th century (because of the marginalia using 15th century handwriting). But beyond that, all bets are off. 🙂

    The 15th century was definitely one when a wide variety of cryptographic ideas emerged in the West for the first time, but it’s not as straightforward a story as might be imagined.

    What will be on the site? Unbroken ciphers, and whatever core evidence I can sensibly put there that stands a good chance of being useful to codebreakers trying to break them. But no cipher theories!

  124. bdid1dr on November 5, 2015 at 5:14 pm said:

    Diane & Other Doubters:
    Do the math for the age of the “Voynich” material (Sahagun’s travel diary) “circular maps and all”. (He was born in 1499, entered a monastery when he was about 17-18 y.o. — and brought manuscript material (from his parent’s supply). He was further educated at Salamanca. (Again, he probably had to bring his own supply of “parchment/vellum”).

    I’m pretty certain that Diane (if not Rene) will follow-up on this latest reiteration of mine. When all of Sahagun’s written material was confiscated by the Spanish Inquisition, NONE of it was returned to Fray Sahagun. Much of the Inquisitional material ended up in “Suleiman’s” enormous archive.
    Busbecq (diplomat from Austria) returned to Vienna with some 200 manuscripts, the rough draft (now known as ms 408/Voynich) ended up in a Papal storage room. Several hundred years later, Mr. Voynich purchased it from that derelict archive.

    The final, bi-lingual book (known today as the “Florentine Codex”) got bounced around several prominent European manuscript holdings before ending up in Florence.

  125. bdid1dr on November 5, 2015 at 7:32 pm said:

    Yesterday, I visited our Master Gardeners’ Office/Archives. I donated a copy of Book Eleven “Earthly Things” (Florentine Codex replica). Several years ago, I visited their offices (to get info on ‘dogbane’ used by our Native American women). They made mesh for the turkey-feathered dance regalia –worn by the male dancers. While doing ‘look-ups’, we couldn’t find much material in re dogbane — not even Linnaeus was of any help. So, we both shrugged our shoulders — and I Left after commenting “even Linnaeus wasn’t always right!”
    So, yesterday I was able to give her a copy of Book Eleven of the Florentine Codex (as translated by Anderson & Dibble from their University of Utah and the Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe New Mexico publications)
    So even today, whenever we get together, I greet her with “Even Linnaeus wasn’t always right!”

  126. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on November 5, 2015 at 10:44 pm said:

    Nick .
    I spent some ime Bestiar. Latin is the whole trick. As the Codex Gigas.
    I will show you. Aberden folio 11 Bestiary.
    Pictures :
    1. man – Jan Luxemburg
    2. elephant – Luxemburg
    3. hare, squirrel, lioness
    4. pair of lions ( lion and lioness)
    5 gout ( buck) immorality
    6 roe and red deer – coitus
    hare = Vilem Zajíc ( hare) of Valdec, of gender queers. royal advisor . valet – Jan Luxemburg and Elizabeth Premysl.
    Squirrel – Eliška Premysl. Wife of Jan Lux. Sitting on the tree of life. Under Elizabeth is seen fetus ( nut). Behind it sits a dark lioness. Elizabeth was a dark complexion after his grandfather Premysl Otakar II. Elizabeth had overshot. ( anthropologist colleague discovered when he examined her remains).
    Lion = king. Lioness = queen.
    Goat symbolizes evil, immorality.

    Elephant = Isidore of Seville ( 7th century CE, Etymology , Book 12,2 : 14 -16) = Elephant takes its name from the Greek word for mountain.
    ( German mountain = Burg). Back ground behind the elephant is – light. ( Luce) ( Luxe). Luce + Burg = Lucemburg.

    Writing on this page describes infidelity. For decoding, it is necessary to use the substitution. Then reads the entry for the old Czech language.
    Nick. I left a lot of time on it. I translated a few pages. All the Latin has one trick. Distract from hidden text. ( same as the Codex Gigas).

  127. boyfriend/Champollion/etc: so you’re claiming that the pictures in this 12th Century bestiary secretly allude (using an otherwise unknown animal code) to people who lived a century after those pictures were drawn?

    Presumably you’re also claiming that the 12th century Codex Gigas secretly alludes (via a separate visual code) to the same people born two centuries after it was written?

    If you’re hoping that people will read your comments here and suddenly start to see history in the way you do, I suspect you may be somewhat disappointed, sorry. 🙁

  128. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on November 6, 2015 at 11:17 am said:

    Nick . What I write is 100 percent. I translated a lot.

    Bestiary Aberdeen . = Information about its origins and patron are circumstantial. It probably comes from the 12th century and was owned by a ……etc. ( It probably comes ).

  129. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on November 6, 2015 at 11:35 am said:

    Nick. I am writing to you because. Bestiary that is easier to translate. Than manuscript Voynich. MS 408 is more complex.

  130. bdid1dr on November 6, 2015 at 4:15 pm said:

    ps: Several years ago the Pope (John Paul II ?) returned to Mexico some several hundred manuscripts. Do I recall correctly that several universities in Mexico are now collaborating with universities in the United States for researching the contents of those recently arrived documents?
    I refer you to Walden Browne “Sahagun and the Transition to Modernity” (Publisher : University of Oklahoma Press – Norman Oklahoma)
    On the cover of his hard-bound book is a puzzle which apparently nudged his “bump of curiosity”: The illustration portrays a supposed Nahua man who had a beard. Apparently Browne found that drawing in Sahagun’s “Primeros Memoriales” — Codice Matritense de la Real Academia de Historia, fol 65v.

    I am continuing to read Browne’s fascinating Ph.D from Stanford University California

  131. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on November 6, 2015 at 9:40 pm said:

    Nick. Bestiary also describes children Elizabeth of Bohemia ( Přemysl) and John of Luxemburg. For example Charles IV.
    Charles – daughter Anna Luxemburg ( Anna Czech) . Who was Queen of England and vife of Richard II Plantagenet.
    Buried in Westminster Abbey.
    The seat of the sovereign Westminster Hall.
    Apparently it was Bestiary property. Anne Luxemburg. ( describes family history.

    ( that was first listed in 1542 in the inventory of the Old Royal Pibrary of Palace of Westminster).

  132. bdid1dr on November 7, 2015 at 4:29 pm said:

    ProfZ (aka: “Boyfriend”) :

    There is no mention of European history in B-408, except Fray Sahagun’s brief mention of his origins in Sahagun Spain (Leon Province), his education at Salamanca, the Alban and Nemi Lakes, and his travels, by ship, to “New Spain”.
    What puzzles me is that there is no mention of the
    “dent d’ lion’ in B-408. (dandelion). Possibly because the dandelion botanical illustration might have been misconstrued or mis-identified as reference to the French king’s emblem.
    I’m still looking for the dandelion as maybe appearing somewhere in the Florentine Codex. We’ll see!
    At least I hope ‘someone’ besides “Champollion” may be able to find an illustration or discussion in re the ‘dandelion’ as being a very healthy green vegetable.
    Dent de Lion: ‘teeth of the Lion’ can also be written as Dent de Leon (Leon Province in Spain).

  133. bdid1dr on November 7, 2015 at 4:44 pm said:

    Nick & Friends,
    Are any of you, taking a brief look at “Book Eleven” of the Florentine Codex ? The entire “Florentine Codex” is available on the W-W-W. Book Eleven is particularly ‘enlightening’.

    beadier-eyed than ever. 🙂

  134. As an outsider, can I ask whether you consider that the writers of these messages may have had much simpler minds than those who would try to decipher their meanings?

  135. Pete: of course – but you can’t deny that there is almost always a strong imbalance between the difficulty of encrypting and the difficulty of decrypting. The thing that keeps cipher mysteries unsolved is normally a small sideways step from our expectations carried out by the code-maker: so the trick to cracking them is primarily one of reconstructing that step. 🙂

  136. Fair enough, but then you may have to consider the delirious, intoxicated, autistic and malevolent before you decide to attack the inscrutable … is that the mountain you people spend a lifetime climbing, or descending, as the case may be?

  137. Pete: most of those seem to be overwhelmingly on the decrypting side rather than the encrypting side. 🙂

  138. bdid1dr on November 8, 2015 at 4:39 pm said:

    @ Sir Hubert: Since I refuse to engage in argumentative or “objectionable” dialogues, I let others continue to practice whatever mode of ‘information gathering” was taught to them. I don’t think Nick needs ‘volunteer objectors” (contrary opinions which are argued on just about anything which may relate to the so-called “Voynich” manuscript) .

    Contributions ( which may add to the understanding of the script (and its accompanying illustrations) are probably more appreciated, by Nick, than the endless ‘argumentative/contradictory’ donations to Nick’s various posts.

    So be it. I offer my comments in the spirit of hopefully adding to the knowledge base and interpretation of the contents of B-408. I do my best NOT to contradict others commentary. About the only contradiction I’ve ever added to any of Nick’s blog/posts is “There is no code in the ‘Voynich’ manuscript (Boenicke ms 408)
    So, ‘bon voyage’ on the turbulent seas of “Voynich Discussion.


  139. bdid1dr on November 8, 2015 at 4:47 pm said:

    Ignore the goofy parentheses, commas, & semi-colons, for which I seem to be famous. Alzheimer’s still lurks in the back of my brain, but so far, seems to be lurking only. I do some ‘brainy-thinking’ (aka memory-recall) exercises just about every day. Nick’s blogs are the most interesting of all.

    b-d-i-d 1-dr 😉

  140. SirHubert on November 8, 2015 at 7:28 pm said:


    You keep asking if and when people are going to take notice of what you post here.

    I appreciate courtesy and dislike online unpleasantness as much as anyone else But if you are not going to respond to politely expressed, reasoned objections such as those Diane posted, you can’t then be surprised if people here don’t engage with you.

  141. bdid1dr on November 9, 2015 at 3:31 pm said:

    @ Sir Hubert: I don’t expect any response from any one of Nick’s guests. I don’t beg for attention nor do I engage in argumentation.
    I’ve simply expressed my dismay at the endless argumentation, rather than consideration of, the various posts (of which Nick has, in the past likened to “climbing Mount Everest with out enough oxygen).
    I like to resume’ my sources from which I gather information. Please, don’t feel obliged to respond.

  142. SirHubert on November 9, 2015 at 4:57 pm said:

    BD: personally, I think discussing a subject is normally a positive and collaborative thing to do. I’m sorry if you disagree.

  143. SirHubert: I’d say that depends on who you’re trying to discuss it with. 😐

    As my old Zen Master used to say, beware general principles, particularly this one! 🙂

  144. SirHubert on November 9, 2015 at 5:21 pm said:

    Panu men oun, O Sokrates 🙂

  145. Nick, would this interest you as a microproject? At the Musée National de la Renaissance, Château d’Écouen, they have a device they are referring to as an early cipher machine, the Boîte à Chiffrer et à Déchiffrer, belonging to Henri II (c.1550).

    I haven’t been able to find much about it other than a few low res photos from the museum’s site, and from what I can see in them I cannot fathom how it could be used to encipher a message. I would dearly love it if someone could be persuaded to go there and get a better photo of it, or even a good description of how it might have been used by someone who understands cryptology. Or to debunk it if it’s clear that it was used for some other purpose.

    (I tried to link to the museum’s listing, but I guess Mollom, didn’t like the look of them (probably because they were a mile long) and blocked me. I could send them to you some other way if you are interested.)

  146. Sorry, it seems I jumped the gun, and new information has been posted about it since the last time I looked into it. An author, Herve Lehning, has examined it closely and published an example of how it was used, although I don’t read French so I’m still a little lost.

  147. bdid1dr on November 9, 2015 at 11:29 pm said:

    Oh my, cf and Nick ! It is gorgeous. I wish I had continued my night classes in French language. Unfortunately my teacher had a very heavy “Brooklyn New York” accent.
    I hope you are going to discuss the Lehning ‘Boite A Chiffrer’ in more detail.

  148. @Rene, Thanks, and sorry, I must not refreshed before posting my comment. The illustrations are very helpful (in the photos you couldn’t even see the alphabetical characters on the rotors), so I can now see how it could be used as a simple cipher machine, in the same sense that an abacus is a machine.

    @bdid1dr, Me too. I have a friend who was nice enough to offer to translate Mr. Lehning’s pdf for me. I’m hoping the text is an interesting as the illustrations.

  149. bdid1dr on November 14, 2015 at 4:43 pm said:

    The so-called “Sunflower” to which ‘everyone refers:

    Compare the Latin discussion which appears with that illustration (in the so-called Voynich) and you will be able to read the remedy for which that plant was used — scabies and ringworm.

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