Contrary to what some Voynich people like to assert, the point of History is really not to allow a thousand speculative flowers to bloom. Rather, the idea is to work so closely with the available evidence that we can cull bad theories inconsistent with it. So for the Voynich Manuscript, where pseudohistorical theories run amok (typically blindfolded, and with a Japanese carving knife in each hand), the Voynich battle is only just beginning.

What I’m trying to say is this: because History is primarily the study of what actually happened, it is by nature a cruelly eliminative mistress – its heart is one of disproof, and that’s OK. Yet in the case of the Voynich Manuscript, the ongoing absence of incontestable evidence (let alone “smoking gun” proofs) has meant that her machete has rarely been employed in the Voynichian garden. By this measure, I’d say that there has been little done to date that would be worthy of the title “Voynich History” (understanding its post-Rudolfine provenance has, though often fascinating, so far been more of an exercise in historiography than in actual History).

Sorry, people, but this is going to have to change.

Radiocarbon Dating? *shrug*

You might reasonably have thought that the 2009 University of Arizona radiocarbon dating of the Voynich Manuscript’s vellum (to 1404-1438 with 95% statistical confidence) should surely have brought some kind of veridicality to the whole arena. Yet it has apparently achieved nothing: Rich SantaColoma merely shrugs forwards (asserting that if the vellum was used one or more centuries after it was manufactured, who cares? So what?), while Diane O’Donovan merely shrugs backwards (asserting that the date of its actual writing-down-ness is meaningless; and given that the origins of its contents ‘clearly’ lie centuries if not millennia earlier, who cares? So what?).

These two are good examples of the rampant denialism that currently passes for normality in the Voynich world. So, have any Voynich theories been modified as a result of the radiocarbon dating? My guess is that so far no, probably not even one has.

As for me: even though I have a technical criticism of one of the test’s four samples (the apparently-earliest radiocarbon dating sample was taken from one of the most contaminated parts of the manuscript, I strongly suspect affecting the very consistent results yielded by the other three), I’m far from a critic of radiocarbon dating. If we broaden slightly to the wider dating range implied by the three most consistent samples alone, that range does sit comfortably with other solid dating evidences I have pointed to over the last decade.

So I don’t see the radiocarbon dating as inherently problematic (beyond a technical quibble over its claimed precision). Yet it has made not a ripple: why?

“I Am Your Father”? Riiiight…

In the mixed up world of Voynich research, even though there is no “mainstream” central account of the Voynich Manuscript and its 15th century origins, people such as Rich SantaColoma and Diane O’Donovan invest much of their efforts into kicking back against figures they perceive as representing that mainstream (usually either me or Rene Zandbergen, whose fact-centred Voynich website I have nothing but praise for).


A lot of the time this comes across as a kind of rage against the Evil Empire: as if Rene Zandbergen and I are Darth Sidious and Darth Vader, darkly paternalistic forces looming over them all, conspiring against their Rebel Alliance’s plucky fight for historical freedom of expression. I guess this would also paint Rich and Diane as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, twin mystery researchers mysteriously separated at birth, but fighting on the same side: I doubt I’m even close to being the first person to note this.

But really: me? I’m certainly not their father, and I’m definitely not the mainstream. All I’ve done for the last fifteen-odd years is to try to date tiny features of the Voynich Manuscript by isolating them and locating them within their individual micro-histories. All of which has been worthy but boringly mundane; and about as far from constructing some kind of theory-zapping epistemological Death Star as you can get.

[Yes, I did put forward a theory about one possible author back in 2006: but if I had found other candidates that matched the dating evidence even half as well I’d have written about them too. All the dating evidence remains.]

The Voynich Mainstream

Whether or not it suits Voynich denialists, the things that actually form the Voynich mainstream are those historical dating observations that chime most solidly with the (I would suggest slightly wider-range) radiocarbon dating. This is because radiocarbon dating is almost never used in isolation: it is at its strongest when carefully combined with other kind of dating evidence. In the case of the Voynich Manuscript:

* The presence of 15th century marginalia in the zodiac section (the “zodiac hand”) suggests a latest date of 1500
* The presence of 15th century number forms in the quire numbers suggests a latest date of 1500
* The transitionary numbering style used for the quire numbers suggests a latest date of 1500
* The presence of parallel hatching suggests a earliest dating in Germany from 1425, in Florence from 1440, in Venice from 1450 or later: and a latest dating of about 1480 / 1490 everywhere
* The presence of Islamic-influenced geometric designs on the albarelli-like “barrels” in the zodiac section suggest a date range of 1450-1475
* The dot pattern on some of the ‘pharma’ glassware (i.e. f89r1 and f89r2) is strongly reminiscent of post-1450 Murano glass decoration, and (to the best of my knowledge) is found nowhere else until significantly later
* The baths in the balneo quire suggest a dating of not later than 1500, because that was when baths sharply fell from fashion in Europe because of their [incorrect, but persuasive] association with syphilis (Klebs, 1916)

So the Voynich mainstream is not so much a set of paternalistic individual theorists for the denialists to kick back against, but rather a constellation of specific ideas that point to dating ranges consistent with the radiocarbon dating. The reason I’m forever in the Voynich denialist firing line is that I happened to latch onto much of this group of ideas a number of years before the radiocarbon dating was carried out, and gave many of them an airing in my 2006 book.

Of course, based on what has happened over the last decade, nobody in Voynich Land will accept any of this from me without more evidence turning up. But regardless of whether I’m alive or dead or flying my TIE Advanced x1 through space, the ideas that make up the Voynich mainstream are now what they are.

Yet what kind of an Intellectual Historian would want to take any of this Voynich battle on board? Or has the Voynich Manuscript gone beyond the point where there is any real hope of its being reclaimed by mainstream historians as a genuinely interesting artefact?

171 thoughts on “The Voynich battle is only just beginning…

  1. Anton Alipov on December 31, 2015 at 4:10 pm said:

    There is too much fuss (not in the above post, I mean, but generally in the Voynich discourse) about “Voynich theories” – about what the Voynich manuscript *might* be and what it *might* not.

    We need to move from “Voynich theories” to Voynich-theories-invariant analysis. There have been publications which analyze – with intermittent success, but that is the way of science where you have one success for a hundred failures – which analyze various aspects of the Voynich Manuscript not bothering about “Voynich theories”. To give a couple of examples – the article of Montemurro & Zanette about the co-occurrence patterns and the article of Cham (assisted by Jackson) about the “curve-line” system. I also would not shy away from presenting the example of my own article about the contextual analysis of “objects” – not to claim its real or imaginary merits, but simply to illustrate the approach that I personally consider more fruitful than endless disputes about “Voynich theories”.

    There is still a *good* deal of stuff to be analyzed before we are left with only mights and might-nots.

  2. For the record, I consider the origin of the Voynich Manuscript to be 1400s Europe, and believe that this well established. Only extraordinary evidence—far beyond mere suggestion or speculation—could counter that. I support any researcher who wishes to strongly assert these facts or even ignore those who deny them. Theories which run contrary to these facts are of no interest to me.

  3. bdid1dr on December 31, 2015 at 5:43 pm said:

    So, if for example the rhyming verse, “Columbus sailed the ocean blue in 1492” etc. etc. with letters of permission from Queen Isabella of Portugal and her husband Ferdinand, of Spain (and, maybe ,HRE Charles V, why would any historian ignore the provenance of the “Voynich” , much less the date of the manuscript’s manufacture? Have any professionals age-dated that document?

  4. SirHubert on December 31, 2015 at 7:45 pm said:

    I have slogged my way, teeth gritted, through the comments on ‘The Voynich Manuscript and the poverty of disproof’, much of which is occupied by Diane restating her position once again, To quote from her posts there:

    “By the early fifteenth, in some part of Europe, our copy was made and some details ‘modernised’.”


    “But MS Beinecke 408, albeit manufactured early in the fifteenth century, very obviously derives from earlier works.”

    I don’t think you can reasonably use her views as an example of ‘denialism’ of the carbon dating. In fact, she seems to be agreeing entirely with it.

    Diane may or may not feel that, if the imagery predates the fifteenth century by some hundreds of years (as she believes), the date of manufacture is less relevant. But that’s not the same thing as not believing the object dates from the fifteenth century, which is what your blog entry implies.

    I’m not a cheerleader for Diane or her work, but if you’re going to cite her as an example of someone who is misrepresenting you, it seems important that you don’t misrepresent her in turn. And this does seem to be her current position.

    While nobody is likely to care much, I’m sufficiently jaded by the amount of noise and personality-driven stuff on your blog that I’ve unsubscribed from your email updates. I’ll continue to look in, but the present exchanges aren’t very edifying.

  5. SirHubert: I’m disappointed, and always sorry to lose even one subscriber.

    The point about Diane was not that she doesn’t believe that the radiocarbon data is false, it’s that she believes it has nothing to do with what she considers some putative ‘real’ Voynich Manuscript, of which the version in the Beinecke is merely a mangled fifteenth century copy. By taking that step sideways, she moves away from actually dealing with the object that is: her commentary refers entirely to a predecessor of which she has no trace or proof beyond her need for it to exist for her longstanding Hellenistic theories to hold water.

  6. Nick, I am somewhat surprised at your latest response to a person who has at least three degrees in various studies. Yes, she is a voracious ‘looker-upper’ for any evidence of similarity between various historical ‘mysteries’. What is over-weening about that?

    She definitely is not alone when some of the objects of whatever is being discussed is being confined to an arbitrary ‘time-span’. Yes, there are many objects displayed in the VMS which can cause unintended diversion from whatever you have posted.

    I suspect that she is not the only person, who responds to your various mysteries, who holds more than one university degree. Is there, by any chance, that you will follow up my references to the “Florentine Manuscript’ as basically being written and illustrated by the Franciscan Monk and his students (who each became famous for their publications) ?

    I also have, in the past, offered an explanation of the B-408 manuscript being separated from Sahagun and his scribes/illustrators/paper-makers work by the Spanish Inquisition. You can find all of this information on the WWW — including the pardon which was sent to Sahagun. Much of B-408 was separated from him by the Inquisitioners (and not returned to him).

    Right about the time the Spanish Inquisition was in full-power there was a ‘hellish’
    war impending with Suleiman’s army. So-o-o, I’m hoping you will not be interpreting my defense of another very long-term donator to this fascinating discussion as being
    contradictory to your views.

  7. Happy New Year to you — and all of your world-wide-web friends and other hosts!!!!!!!!
    errrr: beady-eyed wonder? Ahem!

  8. ps: All radio-carbon dating was inadvertently skewed (1940’s-1950’s) by nuclear fall-out from tests being done at White Sands and Nevada. On other conversations (that ‘Vinland Map’) i have volunteered the same information as above.

  9. Out*of*the*Blue on January 1, 2016 at 12:15 am said:

    I proposed a conversation just the other day to investigate the use of hatching lines and the possible presence of heraldic images in the first three VMs Zodiac pages. And now you propose this:
    “* The presence of Islamic-influenced geometric designs on the albarelli-like “barrels” in the zodiac section suggest a date range of 1450-1475”

    No heraldry at all there, eh?

    Surely, if you take the patterns on the tubs in isolation of context and chronology, there are a good number, despite their rough nature, that are indistinguishable from traditional heraldic patterns. Besides Wikipedia, see Do we get to count them up and see who wins? Was there someone who said that similar patterns cannot occur in multiple times and places? How is it that heraldic interpretation cannot be given any consideration?

    Heraldic interpretation is strongly supported by various elements found in these three pages of illustration and particularly in White Aries. Those elements are pattern, pairing, the red galero, and a list of objective positional confirmations, such as proper hierarchical positioning, etc., that are clearly displayed in the text. It is not accidental. Heraldry did exist in your preferred time period.

    On the other hand, if they really are only albarelli patterns, then who needs a red galero or hierarchical positioning and all that??? There’s really nothing there at all; move along. It’s all a waste of time. But there they are, plainly in the illustration anyway. The objective positional relationships are all still in place. I wonder why?

    In reality, the VMs author is a master of his knowledge. He works like a magician doing slight of hand before a group of dangling jaws. If we look at albarelli as a possible interpretation; simplicity proves nothing either way. If we look at heraldry; complexity proves intentional construction. What we need to grasp is the intention of the illustrations, how the specific elements interrelate. There are both radial and non-radial interpretations of blue-stripe orientation in the White Aries illustration. And here is the first indication of a deceptive element. Raise your hand if you thought the VMs solution was going to be a walk-through, everything open and nothing hidden. Interpret, consider, and reinterpret the elements built into the illustration, they will speak for themselves.

  10. Dear Mr. Pelling,

    Your lumping of Rich and Diane together as if they were both of the same ilk amazes me.

    Rich tries to play ‘what if’ with every new discovery of others about the VMS, building an increasingly statistically unlikely house of cards in support of his ideas and refuses to take any challenges of his ideas seriously (like the fact that there are no long forgeries known from anywhere near 1421 of the length and scope of the VMS – only a handful (5?) of historical multipage forgeries total, none like the VMS).

    Diane tries to use her skills and education to figure out where the various things in the VMS really came from (and show the proof) – without making them fit a predetermined timeline or pet theory (or to otherwise be discarded) and without hiding or denying any inconvenient facts or discoveries. She seems to be one of about five or six people actively researching the VMS with an open mind, not someone just trying to find proof of her own individual preconceptions or pet theory or imagined place of origin.

    If you are complaining that she does try to defend her own theory, you should also include me…and yourself…in your complaints.

    I think you should be ashamed of yourself for trying to conflate Rich and Diane.

    Thank you.

    Don of Tallahassee

    “No notice is taken of a little evil, but when it increases, it strikes the eye.” -Aristotle

  11. D.N. O'Donovan on January 1, 2016 at 6:22 am said:

    You are mistaken.
    By all means invite me to provide a post summarizing my findings, and my opinion of them, but this facile misrepresentation is unworthy of your undoubted analytical skills. That’s not meant chiefly as a compliment; it’s just my judgement of your earlier study of this manuscript.

    I might point out that despite a determined effort to pretend that my research is just cobbled together, and to be ‘paid no attention’, a surprising number of ideas now accepted without second thoughts, albeit also without acknowledgements, originate from my analysis of the imagery and my opinions about it.

    If you go back to 2008-9, and read comments anywhere from the mailing list to your own blog, and the matter which at that time was taken as the ‘common sense’ opinion, and thus included – then – on, the change which has since occurred is fairly noticeable.

    Trying to shoe-horn everything into a theory of all-European Latin cultural origin, despite the clearly contrary evidence of the content didn’t get people very far. It led to a number of inherently foolish ideas such as that one might not read literally the ‘ladies’ in the zodiac-section-which-isn’t-a-zodiac, but must read them literally everywhere else. It led to nonsensical “parallels” from Latin herbal literature – because no-one considered any other genre of botanical imagery even in Europe – and the similar argument that the ladies in the ‘bathy-‘ section could only relate to the Balneis Puteolanis tradition – because Europe had no other.

    Manufacture of an object does not determine the date of composition for the content. Obviously. Determining the evolution of the imagery allows one to come a little closer to the sort of content which might be in the text, and its origin, history and development.

    If the “all Latin Christian European” set of assumption had provided any useful insight into the sense of the written text, well and good. It hasn’t, has it? What’s that they say about doing the same thing with determination despite nothing’s changing?

    Fortunately, things are changing, with or without acknowledgements. Today I had a comment made about Odoric of Pordennone. Now is there someone else who should be acknowledged as first having brought his name to notice in Voynich studies? Point is, I brought it up because of the *content* which I’d discovered in the imagery. Without recognising the nature of the botanical section as referring to plants east of Suez; without recognising that folio 86v was a map in which details pointed to the overland, and the maritime routes east, there would have been no reason to refer to the Franciscan ambassador.

    Theory-wars don’t interest me. The primary document’s evidence does. And it announces on every folio a non-Latin Christian origin and history. Not so much an ugly ducking, though, as a Cindarella, whose shoe is being fitted wrongly to her Latin step-sisters’ feet, blood-shed or not.

    I’m another who may drop by occasionally, mainly for auld lang syne. Happy memories of earlier days. Cheers Nick

  12. Diane: you have several blogs of your own as a platform for your opinions and summaries.

    The “all Latin Christian European” presumption is a millstone you carry on your own back.

    Yes, “Manufacture of an object does not determine the date of composition for the content” is a necessary absolute truth: but using it as a sword to cut every Gordian knot going – as you repeatedly do – is unhelpful and misleading. The as-yet-unstated and as-yet-imperfectly-championed mainstream position on the Voynich Manuscript is that it was manufactured, composed, and encrypted in the 15th century (its cipher system was without doubt designed in the 15th century, as attested by the presence of the ‘4o’ symbol in a good number of other early-to-mid-15th century Northern Italian ciphers), and there is – to the best of my knowledge – not a jot of evidence that implies otherwise.

    The things that you propose are always interesting and challenging: but at the same time, in almost every case they sit sharply at odds with the kind of “mainstream 15th century” position I describe here. Why you continually kick back so hard against something so ill-defined is a mystery to me.

  13. Don: you are comprehensively mistaken when you say that I try to defend “my own theory”. What I do champion – and should probably have championed far more loudly and clearly over the years – is the hypothesis that the Voynich Manuscript was manufactured, composed and encrypted in the fifteenth century. This is the underlying hypothesis that both Diane and Rich fight so hard against, each in their own very different way: that’s hardly ‘conflating’ the two, nor a matter for ‘shame’.

  14. Out*of*the*Blue: if you place the designs on *all* the barrels within the widely accepted timeline of the development and evolution of designs of maiolica, this 1450-1475 dating is what you get. It may or may not be helpful to your interpretation, but it is what it is.

  15. bdid1dr: a very large amount of the process of radiocarbon dating specifically involves compensating for the effect of nuclear fall-out. This is done by calibrating radiocarbon dating values against known artefact ages, so this is not the issue you think it is.

  16. Helmut Winkler on January 1, 2016 at 4:48 pm said:

    as much as I agree with your opinion about the efforts of Diane and Rich, there is no good reason to believe that the VMs is a ciphre. The 4o is just an abbreviation for quarto (whatever it may mean in the VMs context) and appears again and again in 15th c. mss. and if it appears in ciphres, it is nothing but a character and the conclusion that you have a ciphre when you see a 4o is just faulty logic. And bathing did not fall out of fashion after 1500, there were fewer people who could afford it because of rising fuel prices.

  17. bdid1dr on January 1, 2016 at 5:28 pm said:

    Nick, Diane, Rene, Ootb, Sir Hubert, Anton, ProfZ (aka: Zladovich): Have not even one of you bothered to compare the languages (there are two languages being written for every illustrated object). There is no need for provenance nor explicit translation. When I first entered Nick’s “Voynich discussion and tried to understand the “code” which was being written in ‘EVA’, I tried to find out who had created the EVA — and for what purpose it was developed. I was told that the Voynich language was a code.
    Do you have any new news as to when and why the EVA is no longer being used or referred to?
    I stopped 1-dering a long time ago. My path of discovery may never get around the latest contentious discussions and cross-arguments. I am continuing to translate every page of the so-called “Voynich Manuscript’ by comparing its contents with the contents of Fray Sahagun’s fabulous “Florentine Codex”
    I don’t intend to attempt to publish my results. I will be writing to Salamancan archivists, Mexico City University, and Kevin Knight’s Papal Bulletins — in the hope that they may enjoy reading the results of one of their students (a Franciscan Friar) and the Friar’s students’ writing and illustration efforts: first on vellum, then later on paper of their own manufacture.
    Happy New Year (regardless of the recent unhappy discussions) !

  18. Helmut: according to the magisterial Leon Voet, “As far as is known it was Aldus Manutius the Younger who first employed the expressions folio, quarto, octavo, and 16mo in his catalogue of 1541“, and I personally have yet to see the specific ‘4o’ shape in 15th century mss. However, I do recall seeing ‘4o’ once in a 14th century ms (in a legal context, as I recall), so do believe that it was a shape or abbreviation that was used slightly earlier and appropriated by cipher makers. Hence I would be genuinely delighted if you can point me to any examples of (non-numerical) ‘4o’ being used in 15th century mss!

    As far as I am aware, there are at least ten good reasons why Voynichese is in cipher, of which the presence of ‘4o’ in six or more early-to-mid-15th century cipher alphabets is merely one. My original statement was clearly not intended as a proof of the presence of cipher in Voynichese, that would require far more than a single sentence. 😉

    I should also have been more exact about balneology. Much of the balneological literature I have relied on (e.g. Klebs 1916 etc) was in turn largely built on the Northern Italian balneological writing tradition (Pietro d’Abano, Bartolomeo Montagnana, Michele Savonarola, etc): this died out during the 1490s, because (Klebs asserts) bathing went out of fashion there once baths became (incorrectly) associated with the spread of syphilis. But in Germany, balneological treatises continued to appear for the first part of the 16th century (Widman, Dryander, etc), and followed quite a different pattern. In both countries, the difficulty of getting to spas (which were often located in hard-to-get-to places) was frequently high, but I don’t know of any source that asserts there was a specifically economic reason for this as you say. Please say if you have a more recent book on balneology you think I should read!

  19. bdid1dr on January 1, 2016 at 8:10 pm said:

    Could ‘hangovers’ possibly be causing some ‘irritable’ discussions? Since I now weigh only 76 pounds, I skipped the eggnog (except for a sip) for New Year’s Eve celebration.
    So, Nazdrovnya to any suffering celebrants!
    beady-eyed won-der-er

  20. Out*of*the*Blue on January 1, 2016 at 9:08 pm said:


    I know only one thing about VMs translations. Don’t use EVA as a phonetic guide.

  21. Out*of*the*Blue on January 1, 2016 at 10:12 pm said:


    I’m curious to see your examples of the patterns on Islamic albarelli. I sent a good reference for my examples of heraldic paly etc., but you have omitted any specific citations. And since you seem to be claiming a match with the “designs on *all* the barrels”, there are three in particular that might be interesting.
    Pisces outer ring c. 5 o’clock
    Dark Aries inner ring c. 12 o’clock
    Whites Aries outer ring c. 3 o’clock

    I would also like to see if your examples make use of the hatching lines or not.

    Seems to me that if we accept Rene’s general supposition of a central European origin, then we may well have a central European source of VMs composition.
    Then would you say that this person would have been more familiar with Islamic albarelli than with at least two centuries of heraldic tradition? More familiar with Islamic albarelli than with Catholic history? That seems sort of strange, all this person knew was albarelli, but somehow s/he managed to insert a well known historical reference that is based of armorial heraldry into the White Aries illustration. Imagine that.

    Why do albarelli need the red and white galeros found in the White Aries illustration?

    Why do two particular albarelli nymphs require the proper hierarchical placement in the celestial spheres of White Aries? Albarelli patterns explain nothing. Heraldry makes a valid historical connection, a specific identification. Heraldry requires the objective positional confirmations found in the illustrations to reinforce the heraldic identification. For allbarelli, the whole complex construction is useless. The label for the illustration is not seen first off, at the beginning of the investigation, the label is found at the last. Papelonny.

  22. Out*of*the*Blue: I went through the maiolica literature more than a decade ago, but will try to dredge up specific references for you.

    Unlike you, I’m not claiming a match for one or other individual barrels, I’m extending a line of reasoning that if these are all in some way maiolica albarelli, then they all resemble the kind of Islamic-style geometric design that featured so prominently during the 1450-1475 date range for maiolica, but which promptly disappeared as other styles became the fashion of the day.

    All the rest is your interpretation only.

  23. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on January 1, 2016 at 11:11 pm said:

    Only to specific ” 4, 0 “.
    After all, I wrote you. That the manuscript is misleading sings. ( deceptive letters). Number 4 , means a group of letters : D,M,T.
    Zero means that the group will be erased. ( group 4 – is deceptive).
    The trick used by many scribes that time.

    Write Nick somewhere characters from the manuscript. And I’ll write their significance.

    Otherwise , I wish you all happy new year.

    blue eye : I will explain what the word : Zlatoděj. 🙂
    This term ( word Zlatoděj – czech language ) is used for those who makes gold , does the word alchemist.

  24. bdid1dr on January 2, 2016 at 6:41 pm said:

    Besides several pieces of Majolica ware, I had, at one time, a small lidded pottery jar from the Japanese Kinkozan family. Exquisite enamel colors. I gave it to my weaving teacher as a consolation to her grieving for her mother’s recent death. Her mother had lived for quite a while in Japan.
    So, you never quite know how various artifacts and manuscripts end up where they do.
    I have a pair of elaborate gold earrings (made in Spain, in the 1800’s) which my mother inherited from her foster-mother.
    An interesting thing about the 1800’s — especially the “Victorian period” (yes, Queen Victoria). There were ‘blood relations’ to the last Russian Emperor: His wife (Alexandria) carried the gene for hemophilia. I’m pretty sure you, Nick, are familiar with this history. I know, I know–what does any of this have to do with the “Voynich Battle” ? I’m just hoping for a better ‘meeting of the minds’ for this new year.

  25. bdid1dr on January 2, 2016 at 6:46 pm said:

    Prof Z — 4 o simply means ‘quarto’

  26. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on January 2, 2016 at 8:33 pm said:

    Blue eye. What about so you can know about the medieval encryption ?
    At that time , every scribe who wrote a secret text, he used deceptive characters. In MS is deceptive character. In MS sign is misleading – the letters – M,T,D. ( substitution, No 4 ).
    Still you got lots and lots to learn. So do not be angry, blue eye. And really read what you write. When I wrote to you that it is fallacius character in the text. You Never know, never, never know. Because it is written in the Czech language. At the beginning of the manuscript.


  27. I’m happy to see that the battle wages on. Looking forward to the day when my translation of the text reveals the VMS to be a housewife’s pedestrian and fanciful recipe book for making bath salts and oils. 😀

    Although, the speculation and intrigue is much more fun, right?

    Happy 2016!

  28. bdid1dr on January 3, 2016 at 8:05 pm said:

    Whew! Ms Kaune, your note could probably be better understood if you referred to a twentieth-century song (movie?) : ‘Annie Get Your Gun” Heh!
    beady-eyed wonder – er

  29. bdid1dr on January 3, 2016 at 8:21 pm said:

    Correction, Prof Z: What looks-like a straight-legged lower-case ‘g’ is actually a ‘q’ . The Nahuatl scribes working with Fray Sahagun did not have to write a word such as ‘quest’
    by inserting a ‘u’. A fairly good translation into Spanish/Nahuatl would be the
    phrase: “Quo Vadis” : qo ue a tl eus

  30. Please tell me why the lines of text on separate pages are written not exactly (not aflat).
    When and where they began to rule page for the letter (layout the line) using a thin rounded sticks and straightedge (to press a sheet of parchment)?
    Why do not insert a “lined notebook” stencil?
    PS Nick. If “4o” indicator code, then that “o4o”, “4e”, “49”?

  31. FILIP: medieval scribes often ruled lines onto their pages to align both lines and margins, yet there is only one place in the Voynich Manuscript where this happens – the paragraph at the bottom of page f67r2.

    Currently I believe that “4o” is a distinctive code-group all on its own (I still suspect it encodes “lo”, i.e. ‘the’), and that all its variants (“4e”, “4o”, etc) were just miscopied by the scribe, who didn’t understand the niceties of Voynichese as well as we do. 😉

  32. First I thought “4o” analog particles “anti.” My page is about 60 examples spelling words with the prefix and without the prefix. Example (4oH*u9, oH*u9, H*u9). Later I found that in some the beliefs “4” symbol of death. That is nonbeing (absence).

  33. FILIP: I suspect our understanding of Voynichese is at a far more rudimentary level than ‘anti-‘ / ‘un-‘, when we can’t even see numbers, ‘the’ or ‘and’. 🙁

  34. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on January 4, 2016 at 2:30 pm said:

    Colleague Blue eye .
    It can see that you are learning, and that i good. The manuscript is not a character G. Neither small nor large. Instead of the letter G. It is written letter C. ( substitution 3 = C,G,S,L ). 🙂

    And colleague is manuscript is not written in symbols , substitution , number 6. These are letters – U,V,W,X. 🙂

    Just correct it nahuati. Think while read what I wrote. And if you don’t not know anything, so fear not ask.


  35. bdid1dr on January 4, 2016 at 5:45 pm said:

    aquamarine (a color much preferred by scribes ‘anywhere’ :

    a q oa ma R n (the R looks like a backward S ——- m and n look like parentheses with either one short bar or two short bars at the bottom of the ‘parentheses’.

    No Code. No Voynich alphabet, but rather Fray Sahagun’s scribes ‘shorthand’ — being translated and written at great speed (in order to keep up with ‘the boss’ or ‘teacher’.

  36. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on January 4, 2016 at 9:13 pm said:

    Blue eye. It can see that you have a hunger for knowledge.

    Letter – R – looks like a No. 2. ( R = 2). Why ?? 🙂

    Because the substitution of number 2 = B,R,K.


  37. Hi Nick, upthread you said: “As far as I am aware, there are at least ten good reasons why Voynichese is in cipher, …” Is it possible to put together such a list? I think there could be a positive discussion on the merits of the various reasons, which will hopefully sharpen up both cryptological and linguistic sides of the debate.

  38. Emma May Smith: here’s how I argued the case in 2011, perhaps I should revisit it with a different kind of argument in 2016 🙂 –

  39. Helen Ensikat on January 5, 2016 at 5:47 am said:

    I came here for the Somerton man posts, but I stay to eat popcorn while reading Voynich comment threads.

    Citation needed, people, citation needed.

  40. I should like to remove the doubts about the consistency of all four samples of the radio carbon dating. The apparently earliest sample was from foldout folio 68. This sample is not different in any sense, neither a priori nor a posteriori. The problem of contamination is of course clearly recognised, and on the samples from this folio both a standard and an intensive cleaning procedure was exercised, showing that the intensive cleaning was indeed required. This was then used for all samples.

    All samples were taken from the edge of each of the folios, so potentially contaminated (by more recent carbon). In fact, the edge of f68 is partly folded in, so if anything, could even be less contaminated.

    The results confirm full consistency. What the process measures is the fraction of C-14 compared to the 1950 reference fraction. This measurement has a measurement error (standard error or standard deviation). All four results were tightly grouped, i.e. they were even closer together than the standard error predicted. Even when one can see the differences in the numbers, and f68 appears ‘more different’, this difference is still within the measurement accuracy. With four samples, already one of them “should” have been outside the standard deviation but this was not the case.

    Finally, one can still check what happens if one makes the combined age estimate while leaving this sample out. When I do the calculations, for the four samples I get a 95% confidence interval of 1404-1435. With only the three samples this turns into 1407-1439, i.e. not a great difference.

    What matters is what it all means. In the end, the book creation process may have taken a significant amount of time. From conception to completion could well have taken decades. The uncertainty in carbon dating is also several decades. We have no idea at which point in the process the parchment was acquired, nor whether it was all acquired at once or in batches. The time resolution simply is not good enough for that.

    Thus, it could be that the MS was conceived completely, and penned (copied) on brand new parchment at the very end, a process that could have taken from (say) 1380-1410.
    Alternatively, it could have been acquired in the beginning, in which case the process could also have taken from (say) 1430-1460.
    All numbers fairly arbitrary.

  41. Helen: some days it’s salty, some days it’s sweet. And the popcorn too! 😉

  42. Rene: I was in no doubt that a consistent process (including intensive cleaning) was employed by the U of A. But f68 is half of the widest multi-page folio in the Voynich Manuscript, and to my eye there seems to be a lot of contamination on its outer edge, presumably arising from handling. Furthermore, it’s a one-off procedure, so there’s no way of knowing whether the cleaning was sufficient to physically normalize the results to the degree that you seem to be asserting here. Ultimately, we are dealing with very small numbers here: so this isn’t so much of a big difference as a minor finesse.

    I do also wonder whether f68 was from an older animal than the others, given that it would have had to have been so much physically larger to fit the wider format onto a skin (and so presumably that’s an animal armpit (legpit?) at the bottom edge?) – which may have yielded the maker difficulties in sourcing fine vellum that could be big enough. I touched on these kind of layout issues in “Curse”, but I don’t know if any of the Beinecke’s experts have thought about fitting the folios onto hides in any depth.

    For merging the four results, I used the formula given in the radiocarbon literature and got quite different results from you. I’ll dig out my spreadsheet and send it to you, you’ll see what I mean. Making reliable inferences from multiple radiocarbon samples is a tricky business. 🙁

    Right now, the dating evidence I have found seems inconsistent with the earliest of the four radiocarbon samples, and so I am naturally suspicious that a process error or systematic lab processing bias might have shifted it (or indeed all four) slightly “to the left”. So there may well be a small absolute shift involved.

    All the same, there is (as you know) a long-standing suggestion that f1/f8 may well have been added last (if the “paragraphs” on f1r link to sections of the manuscript), which would fit with the relative order suggested by the four radiocarbon samples’ apparent dates.

  43. Nick, I should add that none of the samples can be said to be older than the other. Statistically they are all identical.
    The proper way to convert and combine the dates was certainly employed by the U.of Arizona. I attribute the 3-year difference in the upper limit (my 1435 compared to their 1438) to rounding errors most probably made by me, and these are in any case insignificant.

  44. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on January 5, 2016 at 1:16 pm said:

    To Zandbergen. You also mistaken for a long time. Years and years of research and still can not find anything.
    I ask you why ?
    In twenty years you are not able to translate any word. Why is that ?
    Nice blog you have, but nothing substantial in it is not. I will advise. Yale’s letter, which probably familiar with. You interested in a key that is written on the side of 116. So, focus on the letter. On the envelope is written guidance on the translation of the manuscript. The instructions are same as on page 116 of the manuscript. It should be easier for you. Because there have signs. Which you will surely understand.
    Otherwise Colleague . At the beginning of the manuscript Elizabeth writes, And it slowly on each side . Year ( era), 1475.

    And when you translate a letter, find the correct meaning. The letter is written, who discovered Michael Habdank Vojnič, as author. And his name is Czech.
    Bacon’s no or what writes Rich. Voynich also not the author.
    Voynich, He worked on the manuscript long enough to establish its encryption.

    Translate the letter and you’ll find plenty. You’ll find instructions. Key.

    Champollione. 🙂

  45. Rene: I’ll send you the spreadsheet anyway, there’s no point anybody duplicating that work, and at least you’ll be able to see the figures you get if you use the right formula. 🙂

  46. Anton Alipov on January 5, 2016 at 3:54 pm said:


    There are automated tools such as OxCal to assist the process.

    What should be taken into consideration, I believe, is that some of the wormholes seem to have been already there at the moment the content was put down. I wonder what is the average time for vellum to get wormholes and what are the storage conditions that facilitate the worms’ access.

  47. To Anton Alipov,

    I’d be interested to see which wormholes you mean, because I have noted exactly the opposite. Wormholes are only seen on the very first and very last few folios, where they cut through a few lines of drawing.

    To Nick: 🙂
    I’m sure you are aware of the web page where I explain the C-14 data reduction.

  48. Rene: I’ve gone through that page, very nicely done (of course). 🙂

  49. Anton Alipov on January 5, 2016 at 4:38 pm said:


    f72v, for example.

  50. bdid1dr on January 5, 2016 at 7:03 pm said:

    I refer you to a somewhat more modern reference to a South American writer of the 1780’s (Monterey in 1786) : Life in a California Mission : The Journal of Jean Francois de La Perouse

    The title of this small book, alone, provides provenance, and its introduction begins with “At about three o’clock in the afternoon of September 14, 1786, two ships appeared out of the fog off the coast of Monterey.”

    I’m introducing Nick and friends to references to the French ships, L’Astrolabe and
    La Boussole ———
    Much discussion of ’eminent scientists, navigators, cartographers, illustrators, and physicians’ …..

    A very small book, indeed.


  51. Hello Anton,

    the big hole in f72 wouldn’t be a wormhole. It’s either an imperfection in the parchment that came about during the manufacturing process, or (as I believe Nick argued in this or other cases) a hole created by the author/scribe.
    If you google for ‘Erik Kwakkel’ and bad parchment, you will find some interesting blog entries on the topic by an expert.

    Holes created by insects can be found for example on folio 1, and are seen to cut through the drawings of the root on f1v. These arose after the MS was completed. A very plausible reconstruction of the place and time where this happened follows from this blog entry in Italian:
    The collection including the Voynich MS was most probably affected by this.

  52. Anton Alipov on January 5, 2016 at 9:10 pm said:


    I confess I am not an expert to distinguish between wormholes and other kinds of holes. There is quite a number of holes which to all probability have been there before the content was put down. I don’t have a full list, but f11r and f15v are ready examples if we look through from the beginning.

    If this is OK for new parchment to be in this way defective, then this of course simplifies the matter.

    Thanks for the reference. Indeed, there are some similar examples provided by Kwakkel.

  53. Out*of*the*Blue on January 5, 2016 at 10:09 pm said:


    I’ve been looking at albarelli photos. Any luck with your references? Do you have a specific search term perhaps? Where did the albarelli you refer to come from?

    Nobody has a monopoly on stripes or striped patterns. That being said, nobody , practically nobody, uses them on maiolica albarelli. Albarelli designs are often intricate, elaborate, detailed and delicate, rather than plain, bold stripes. Nevertheless, I did discover an almost iconic example of equal-sized, blue and white, vertical stripes. An excellent pattern match with the vertically striped patterns in the VMs which would also be blue and white in the standard heraldic interpretation of the hatching lines.

    The particular albarello was an item of Kashan pottery, all that I saw was vertical blue and white stripes, except for a bowl which was radial. The Kashan examples originate in 12th – 13th Cent. Iran. And that’s a bit of a stretch. And they are only vertical, where the VMs Pisces page shows designs where the stripes are vertical, horizontal, diagonal and as chevrons. I’ve found no albarelli with chevrons.

    Looking at the overall shape of the VMs tub patterns, there is nothing remarkable. There is nothing to indicate any potential rim, neck, shoulders or foot that might potentially be seen as representing the albarelli outline. The VMs depicts only very roughly drawn rectangular outlines – with general similarities to certain armorial shied shapes.

    Further on, I also found that some of the patterned albarelli did have a band of decoration that gave an appearance of hatching lines. Two horizontal lines encircle the vessel and a series of short dashes almost cross the space in between. These lines are always on the diagonal. The hatching lines in the VMs Pisces striped patterns are always perpendicular to the length of the stripe. VMs has a set of pattern orientations, but the albarelli examples only seem to exist in a horizontal orientation. I noticed that sometimes the dashes that make up the line would, when painted more carefully, have a certain curvature at either end in the shape of a lengthened and flattened ‘S’, that is inclined either forward or reversed. This clearly implied to me that the intended pattern here was a spiral, like a spiraled cordage of some type. Something that might be a reference to earlier pottery or even to basketry. I don’t recall any spirals in early armorial heraldry.

    The best example, so far, of this unusual pattern is a white albarello with a fair number of horizontal blue stripes, some of which are connected by a series of short blue or red dashes. Always at a angle. Google at ‘vintage Italian albarello’. Perhaps it is something similar to what you have in mind. Vintage helps a lot, right?

    The VMs tub patterns of Pisces, when they are striped, exhibit only perpendicular hatching lines in their construction. This is compatible with a heraldic interpretation. The VMs illustrations are not drawn with the diagonal orientation that is found in the albarelli. It even seems as though the inclusion of these lines into the hatching terminology will require the creation of a third type of hatching line. The first for artistic shading, the second for tincture in heraldry, and the third for creating spirals on albarelli.

    Looking at other examples of VMs tub patterns, there are a number that were decorated with a line that is easily defined by the heraldic example of an engrailed line. Such lines seem to be entirely lacking in any relevant albarelli I have seen. The VMs Pisces page also contains other illustrated examples of designs that are highly evocative of specific, standard heraldic patterns like the papelonny and the semy of roundels. Where are their equivalent representations among the albarelli? I’m finding nothing in the albarelli and a clear match in the heraldic examples.

    The heraldic interpretation of all these images in the first three pages of the VMs Zodiac has many firm legs to stand on, while the connection of some of these same images with the interpretation of any patterns found on medieval albarelli stands on only one leg, and it’s twisted into a spiral.

    As you said: “All the rest is your interpretation only.”

  54. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on January 5, 2016 at 11:13 pm said:

    Hello Zandbergen,

    What and who makes a hole in the parchment ? 🙂
    So, they know that each pipe. Somehow you forget me to answer. You just keep you handle minor things. How ink I have already written many years ago. When there were endless discussions about the used ink. I also showed you that upper figure ( 116), is the key. When you’re writing, you do not know its meaning. Now I show you where it is written in the key. Fuck some dimpero and the like. And take it to what you write . Otherwise, you will wander around for many, many years. Does it understand what I write ? F**k frequence analysis and focuses on the letter. Who is at Yale. There’s the key.

    Glad to help all the good people, that is my mission. Champollione. 🙂

  55. bdid1dr on January 6, 2016 at 12:11 am said:

    Nick, Rene, and Anton,
    Over the many months past, I have queried as to why no “Voynichero” has been able to translate even one folio of the so-called “Voynich” Manuscript. Even the Boenicke Library does not call B-408 “The Voynich Manuscript” .
    I quit wondering – 1-der-ing – a long time ago. I have not hesitated to X-plain each and every ‘alphabetical’ specimen which appears in B-408 AND interpret the words which are formed. It is interesting that Nick has yet to answer (or recognize? ) my translations and referrals to provenance.
    I am still wondering why the “Voynich” manuscript is still undergoing various tests of what kind of leather, date of its creation, where it came from, what type of inks were used, papillony (heraldry?, nope!) . Constant references to Roger Bacon ( with no proofs being offered) — ad infinitum! None of the maneuvers I’ve just described have given you even a single word which might have enabled you (long ago) to publish a sequel to your book. I’m fairly certain that some of the newest contributors to your (this) blog are not even aware of your earlier publication.

    So far, I’ve seen no response to referrals I’ve made to another of your
    mystery items : “Kort” . Rene was able (inadvertently musing) to refer me to the rebels of the French Revolution (who occupied an old Cordelerian monastery). Cordelerian monks (Franciscans) wore a knotted cord around their robes.

    Eventually Fray Sahagun (born in 1499) was a Franciscan monk who was sent to “New Spain” (not too long before Cortez and his military ‘escort’ invaded).

    Thanks, Rene !

  56. OOTB: there is a huge literature on maiolica, and I did most of my research on it at the British Library, not on the web. A good maiolica bibliography is here:

  57. OOTB: here’s a good source available online from the J. Paul Getty Museum with lots of pictures of maiolica –

  58. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on January 6, 2016 at 1:12 pm said:

    Colleague Zandbergen ,

    You are a scientist and I’m a scientist. You like a mathematician. And I again studied the analyst. Because you’re an expert on numbers. So I will help you.

    As I wrote you, so it is very important letter to Yale. That’s all I have written many many years. But you can see that how much you do not know. That’s why I’m here to help you. Because you are familiar with numbers, so you and I will write in numbers. Then perhaps you will understand. It’s that simple. So do not fear.

    On the cover letter is written :

    Concerninq the Cipher MS.

    Substitution :
    1- a,i,j,q,y.
    2 – b,r,k.
    3 – c,g,s,l.
    4 – d,m,t.
    5 – e,h,n.
    6 – u.v,w,x.
    7 – o,z.
    8 – f,p.

    C.o.n.c.e…r.n.i.n.q….. the Cipher…. MS.………the Cipher….MS.
    C.z.e.c.h…k.n.i.h.a…….the Cipher….MS.

    So the letter M. it is made of two characters. Character I. a rotated number 2.
    ( character MS. refers to the substitution. It is therefore the numbers 1,2,3.
    The leter ,S, is the value of number 3.)

    Czech kniha = czech language. ( english – Czech book ). 🙂

    Czech kniha the Cipher 1,2,3.
    Czech book the cipher 1,2,3.

    When you do not understand this. so come diplom.

    the next line is written guidance on the translation.
    In the words : Not to be……
    Under English word is written in Czech significance.
    Which is : I Cod tobě……

    Which in English means : I code you…..

    Not to be…..
    I. C.o.d… t.o.b.e……….……


  59. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on January 6, 2016 at 3:05 pm said:

    To Zandbergen.

    How do you see the colleague, so handwriting in Czech. Or do not trust the numbers ?
    To make it clear. So the entire letter is encrypted. This is the same style as the manuscript. In the letter reads. Who wrote the manuscript.

    Under English language, it is written in the Czech language. Ethel studied Slavic language.

    These are important things. And mot any holes in the parchment.

    Can you read whal’s there name ?
    Whom , Voynich declare as an author ?


  60. Dear boyfriend / Champollion

    I have two important points.

    The first is that your method cannot work, because, when applied on a Czech (or German, or Latin, etc.) plain text, the resulting code will not exhibit the word length distribution of the Voynich MS, as first analysed by Jorge Stolfi, and looked at again by Reddy and Knight (and I am sure others). The result will equally not follow the Zipf law at all.

    The second point is, that you need to give a demonstration. Take a plain text, apply your method, and show that the result is the same as what we see in the Voynich MS. If you can do that, then we can start talking. (Your first challenge will be to find a solution to the two problems I indicated under point 1).

  61. bdid1dr on January 6, 2016 at 5:26 pm said:

    At ProfZ/Champollion: I’m suggesting that you leave ‘foul’ words / ‘curse’ words out of your posts. Also, I don’t think Nick needs a volunteer moderator to contradict the posts made by other participants.
    I’m surprised that Rene was kind enough to respond to your last comment.

    Thank you, Rene, for your translation of the word ‘ Kort ‘ (Cordelerean history) and the French Revolution, and the mysterious death of Marat, and the beheading of his partner. Today, the old Cordelian monastery’s cloister is a winery.

    Thank you, Nick for your graceful responses to various ‘tetchy’ persons contributions.

    Not that I’m on my knees, doing the ‘kow-tow’ . ( For those ‘youngsters’ out there:
    look up the term.)

  62. Out*of*the*Blue on January 6, 2016 at 6:26 pm said:

    Thanks Nick,

    The first was interesting, we’ll see how far I get in the second. But let’s start with the simplistic view that pottery is pottery. And what matters is when it was made, where it was made and the pattern, design or illustration that was made upon it, as vast and varied and beautiful as they may be. The real issue is to match patterns with the VMs.

    I believe I have adequately set forth a strong set of examples where heraldry appears to provide the prospectively matching correspondents. You have suggested that these correspondents might come from albarelli patterns. Where are your best examples? Where do albarelli show patterns like those in the VMs?

    Did you actually find the ‘Vintage Itallian albarello’ that I mentioned? Is that the type of pattern to which you originally referred? It was the closest potential match to anything in the VMs, but only superficially. The depictive intent of these albarelli patterns is unique unto itself (the spiral pattern) and not transferable to the VMs. I’ve found nothing in the patterns of any tub in the VMs Zodiac illustrations that shows any indication that angled hatching lines have been used in the attempt to produce this spiral effect. The VMs examples of striped patterns in these illustration always show hatching lines that are perpendicular, not diagonal.

    It’s all about the patterns! Which ones are you using as your references?

  63. boyfriend , Champollion,,. :-) on January 6, 2016 at 9:37 pm said:

    Zandbergen – you do not know much.

    Blue eye – you can kiss my donkey. my donkey.

  64. Dear boyfriend / Champollion,

    if you meant to say : “you know nothing” , then I need to thank you.

    know = no = si (obfuscation, to confuse. Rudolf knew Spanish)

    y o u -- s i -- s i t h i n g
    7 1 7 -- 7 1 -- 7 1 8 4 1 5 4
    v a s -- s i -- v a z h i m h

    = Vážím si vás (Czech)

    The table, to help:

    1 : a i/j o
    2 : b c d
    3 : e f p
    4 : g h k
    5 : l m n
    6 : q r x
    7 : s u/v y
    8 : t w z

    Thanks again.

  65. OOTB: the difference is that I’m using all of them (i.e. the whole ‘flow’ of Art History), rather than a handful of individual items that appear consistent with a given story.

    Incidentally, a few paragraphs early in the J. Paul Getty reference gently upbraids people like me who sometimes simplistically refer to the 1450-1475 albarelli decoration fashion as having been influenced by Islamic themes: a more accurate way to express this flow is that the 1450-1475 Northern Italian albarelli decoration phase was influenced by popular Florentine decorative design features of the day, which were (in turn) influenced by Islamic geometric themes.

  66. Champollion. on January 7, 2016 at 4:29 pm said:

    dear Zandbergen,
    That table. I wrote you. It is a very old table. Her name is.

    Cabalistic numeralogic system. Gematria. 🙂

    The system adds the letters a specific numeric value.

    Here table I have not sucked out of a finger. It is determined and used for hundreds and hundreds of years.

    So I’m not Train.

  67. Out*of*the*Blue on January 7, 2016 at 7:44 pm said:


    Interestingly, I read the same thing just the other day. It called the imported pottery style ‘Hispano-Moresque’.

    The invoking of this bit about ‘the whole ‘flow’ of Art History’ seems rather contradictory. It seems to me that the vast array of your art history has nothing to do with the actual patterns on the VMs Zodiac tubs. I have asked repeatedly for specific examples, not a lesson in ceramic art history.

    What about the whole “flow” of Heraldic History??? Your pottery example, if you would be so good as to present one, is – by your own definition – very limited in time and extent. Would it have been known to the Franciscan cleric you’ve just proposed? Heraldry on the other hand was much longer and more widely recognized than some briefly lived, pottery designs, which have yet to be seen. And still — somehow, this brief, and very conveniently timed, little fashion flare-up is more weighty that centuries of standard heraldic tradition??? What about papal heraldry in religious institutions??? The real difference is that I follow the evidence.

    Entirely separate from the topic of hatching lines, which is where your matching of albarelli patterns is apparently concerned, there are other patterns easily seen in VMs Zodiac illustrations: the chevron, the papelonny (2) and the semy of roundels (2), apparently not even on your radar at the pottery barn. And yet the VMs illustrations are best designated in terms from the traditional heraldic vocabulary. They fit into the whole heraldic *flow* thing. Where are your pottery equivalents to these?!!!

    Do you really want to set a potential, very brief, Florentine pottery style against the whole of heraldic tradition? I’ve provided examples from a well-known and wide-spread historical tradition and you’ve provided what? Subtle, misguided hints and arm-waiving? How about talking through your hat? Let’s be serious.

  68. bdid1dr on January 8, 2016 at 12:36 am said:

    Gentlemen, are you still on the subject/object of Majolica ware? If so, how does this latest discussion relate in any way to the bi-lingual so-called “Voynich” manuscript? There is not one relic or discussion in B-408 about pottery of any kind.

    What you may find interesting is the folio in B-408 which, when enlarged, reveals a lot of details of the area of the Alban Lake and Lake Nemi. The road which appears in that illustration has identifying script and/or mention of a roadside drainage tunnel (supposedly built by the Romans). Well, a couple of weeks ago, I tried to alert you to the recent archaeological dig: A Roman bath house dedicated to the goddess Diana.
    That tunnel was diverting water to the underground baths.

  69. Out*of*the*Blue on January 8, 2016 at 7:09 pm said:


    The matter originates with the investigation of patterns that are found on the tubs of the so-called “nymphs” of the VMs Zodiac, specifically the Pisces and Aries pages. And Pisces alone is good for starters. In my view these patterns relate to heraldry and make a heraldry-minded investigation of the VMs a rather interesting possible option. Nick’s position (IMO) is that the VMs tub pattern designs were influenced by the patterns of a specific, and very elusive, style of Florentine Maiolica.

    I have cited six different examples of tub patterns in the Pisces illustration, some with multiple examples either on Pisces or one of the Aries pages, along with other heraldic information in the VMs illustration such as engrailed lines and annulets. All of which has yet to be demonstrated with relevant pottery examples.

  70. OOTB: it can’t be that ‘elusive’ if there are more than a hundred books written on it. 😉

  71. OOTB: I think that you’re putting 2 and 2 together to make 222 here. Maiolica has a perfectly good literature, which you seem not to want to look at out of impatience.

  72. Out*of*the*Blue on January 8, 2016 at 10:54 pm said:


    Then you should have had no problem in citing or even describing a small set of examples, that show any of the specific elements that are comparable to the tub patterns from the VMs Zodiac.

    I want you to show me relevant examples of pottery that use the hatching technique without it being intended as a representation of a *spiral* motif. The spiral motif seems to have come through Islamic sources and turns up in Italian examples, That’s all well and good, obviously it happened.

    The problem is with the comparison with what was drawn in the VMs illustrations.
    The Islamic spiral *always* uses crossing lines that are set on the diagonal. The Zodiac tub patterns *never* use crossing lines on the diagonal. All the hatching lines in the VMs are perpendicular to the length of the stripe. There is never any attempt in these tub patterns to use diagonal crossing lines in order to create the spiral patterns. To conflate these different styles of usage is a mistake, in my opinion, a failure to distinguish apples from oranges,

    Such an endeavor would require the reading in of diagonal lines and the Islamic spiral motif into certain VMs illustrations where *clearly* no such motif exists. Is that good investigative technique? Not in my book.

  73. OOTB: I don’t even understand what “hatching technique” design feature you’re trying to describe here. On the ‘zodiac barrels’, I can see vertical lines, horizontal lines, diagonal lines, dot patterns, concentric circles, patterns of circles, “fish scales”… in fact, something approaching a miniature portfolio of all manner of abstract, non-representational designs.

    As I pointed out before, Quattrocento maiolica closely followed the Florentine decoration style of the day, which was arguably more Islamicist than strictly Islamic. I doubt the painters in Perugia were consulting classical Arabic exemplars for their work, so I’m not sure what precise point you’re trying to make here. 🙁

  74. bdid1dr on January 9, 2016 at 5:24 pm said:

    Gentlemen, have any of you considered that the ‘tubs’ may not be tubs, or containers, or horsedrawn coaches, or heraldry of any kind? Could the possibility be considered that the ‘tubs’ may be the parapets of various walls?

  75. Out*of*the*Blue on January 9, 2016 at 7:33 pm said:


    So, even after I’ve provide a good and relevant reference, with specific examples, you’ve not even looked at it? You are Mr. Crypto-heraldry, are you not? And since I have asked for your specific examples on several occasions, I can only assume you have none available?

    But, yes, most definitely, let us look at the top of VMs Pisces, where there are two tubs with vertical striping. And let’s look more closely at how the stripes are made. Besides the vertical lines crossing the tub pattern, there are other elements involved. Alternate stripes in these patterns have been given a regular, internal pattern of much shorter crossing lines. And for most people, these lines could be designated as hatching lines. Certainly they fulfill the heraldic definition of the Petra Sancta system, for example.

    So here on the Pisces page there are vertical, horizontal and diagonal striped patterns on the tubs, all illustrated with the same technique of using hatching lines in alternate stripes to add emphasis to the alternating band effect, An effect just like that is found in the traditional heraldic patterns called paly, bendy and barry. And, of course, chevrony. But it’s merely ” abstract, non-representational designs” to you. Semy of roundels – quite a sophisticated term, not the least bit abstract. And “fish scales” – that’s the technical term, eh? In truth the VMs patterns seem to come from a rather limited palette, Many are repeated. Lots of stripes, for the most part.

    What does Islamicist pottery contain that can approach the patterns that are found on the VMs Zodiac tubs? Since we’re looking at lines and stripes, the pottery designs should have a similar pattern. The best striped / line type of pattern I have found on any potentially relevant pottery is a pair of horizontal lines with and encircling series of short crossing lines between them. You might even say, aha, just like the VMs. But look more closely. The Islamicist pottery band always consists of crossing lines on the diagonal because it is intended to depict a spiral pattern.

    In contrast, the hatching on the VMs tub patterns is always perpendicular! It is never diagonal. Therefore it is not a spiral nor intended to appear as a spiral as it would if the VMs pattern were derived from the pottery example. Therefore it is not demonstrating this Islamic motif in the VMs illustrations. Therefore the use of this motif is not relevant to VMs investigation, because it is not in the VMs.

    And on the other hand, with your knowledge of maiolica, and since it is your preferred explanation, show me a banded pattern with something like hatching lines in relevant Islamicist pottery that is not intended to represent a spiral band. Then you might have a leg to stand on.

    There is a simple, clear, little difference between always and never – always diagonal; never diagonal – a simple, clear, little and critical difference. Did you miss it? Go back to the VMs examples and ask whether the images which the author has put forth are intended to be representations of the Islamic spiral band or something as simple as a subtle emphasis of light and dark. And the answer is that there is no such spiral influence to be found in the tub patters. There are specific patterns of alternating light and dark in these striped VMs tub patterns. And these have not been shown to be particularly relevant to anything in your pottery hypothesis, but they are fully compatible with heraldry and with centuries of heraldic history.

  76. Out*of*the*Blue on January 9, 2016 at 7:39 pm said:


    Does that somehow change the patterns??

  77. OOTB: so am I right in thinking your argument is that the Voynich Manuscript – an object made in the 15th century, and with 15th century quire numbering and 15th century marginalia – includes diagonal heraldic hatching, a technique that was developed late in the 16th century? And that to you, this is the only possible explanation of those diagonal lines, so our collective search for the secrets of the Voynich Manuscript need go no further?

  78. Out*of*the*Blue on January 10, 2016 at 12:35 am said:


    No!! Not at all!! Though I am saying that what was drawn in the VMs is compatible with various systems that used hatching lines as a method of tincture designation, whereas it has none or the necessary hallmarks that would make it representative of the Islamic spiral motif, Perhaps it is an early example similar to the the two value system used by Vincenzo Borghini. Perhaps it is nothing more than indications of light and dark to emphasize and clarify the patterns. Heraldry per se is certainly not anachronistic to the VMs text.

    As to the text itself, we have the parchment dates, What we do not have with equal certainty is a date of composition. As to quire numbering and all parts of the composed text, what is written at one time can always be copied or imitated subsequently. I don’t feel the need to hold the dating in that tight a range, I believe the VMs is old, but I have no need to stick a pin in it.

    As to your totally misrepresented statement of my opinion: “so our collective search for the secrets of the Voynich Manuscript need go no further?”, I cannot disagree vehemently enough with mere words. I believe that the heraldic patterns found on the Zodiac tubs are the beginning of a line of investigation whereby we can glimpse something of the author’s intent. And that through our ability to discover this intent we will learn more about the VMs.

    What I think can be said, based on the clear dual interpretation of the optical illusion on White Aries, is that the author has not chosen to lay out all the relevant information with a little sign that says; “Here are all the answers. Help yourself.” With six different heraldic patterns recognizably represented of the Pisces page we need to work with the images that the illustrations depict.

  79. OOTB: so, even though your diligent searching has thrown up no example of heraldry hatching prior to 1550 (Vincenzo Borghini lived 1515-1580), you still manage to conclude that the detailing on some of the zodiac ‘barrels’ in the Voynich Manuscript is indeed an “early example” of heraldry hatching, though of an unknown type, with no similar example in any text, and a century adrift from the established heraldry hatching literature (such as it is).

    You then look at the blue colouring on some of the barrels and conclude that this is papal heraldry: yet the whole point of heraldry hatching was to reliably represent colours in media that were monochrome (specifically printing): and so – by your own argument – the heraldry hatching in the Voynich Manuscript cannot be “heraldry hatching” as the term is used elsewhere, because a coloured manuscript would seem to have no need to represent things in a monochrome manner. Which rather weakens your overall argument when looked at from the outside, it has to be said.

    All the same, I’m pleased that you see that the heraldry hatching argument stands in opposition to the evidence that makes up what I call the “Voynich mainstream”: “As to quire numbering and all parts of the composed text, what is written at one time can always be copied or imitated subsequently.” OK, I think we’re there now! 🙂

  80. Out*of*the*Blue on January 10, 2016 at 8:45 pm said:


    Some improvement, for sure, but I’m still getting a bit of your typical tongue in cheek. And it seems you are reacting with a bit of sarcasm to what I say, *rather than looking at the VMs illustrations!* And seeing things for yourself.

    In the VMs Pisces illustration, there are reasonable representations of a heraldic semy of roundels and a particular heraldic fur, called papelonny. These are repeated on the next page. I see these as good heraldic representations. And they are examples *that do NOT require the use of any hatching lines!* Heraldry is in the air here, so to speak. It’s in the Pisces illustration. But you will take any excuse to dismiss the idea.

    And even though it does use the hatching technique, the chevron pattern is also interesting to consider. The chevron is said to derive from the Greek lambda. [Lambda for Lacedaemonia.] Where else does one find a chevron pattern other than in armorial heraldry? So the VMs illustration of some other traditional heraldic patterns, paly, bendy, barry, that all comes as some outlandish intrusion to you, does it?? And the repeated use of the heraldic engrailed line – what has that to do with hatching as tincture designation? Nothing. Look at the illustration for yourself, instead of nitpicking my explanations. I’m not saying that what is found in the VMs will neatly fit into your predetermined slots. I’m saying *look at the illustration!* Undeniable heraldic similarities are there, deal with it. Better yet, learn from it!

    And again in your classic style you say “You then look at the blue colouring on some of the barrels and conclude that this is papal heraldry”. How trite! How obstinately trite!! I look at the White Aries illustration and I see two blue-striped patterns. It clearly depends on how they are viewed and whether they are recognized as to how the illustration is interpreted. Suffice it to say that the ignorant will see nothing. No heraldry, no nothing! Recognition can not occur!!

    I see some alternating blue stripes, I see a red galero on one of these associated characters. I know a unique little bit of papal history that matches these elements in the White Aries illustration *amazingly* well. How can that be?? I see the historical identification confirmed in the VMs illustration by the proper hierarchical placement in the celestial spheres for a Fieschi pope and a Fieschi cardinal with a red galero. They are also given the favored heraldic placement in the illustration. (And more.)

    Where’s Baldo? By which I refer ***exclusively*** to Sinibaldo Fiesch, aka Pope Innocent IV, who made his nephew, Ottobuono Fieschi, a cardinal in 1251. This seems like a reasonable interpretation of the author’s intentional depiction. Can you find the pope and cardinal? It’s something like a political cartoon, in a medieval style, a language with which you apparently are not conversant. But it is also something not left open and obvious as the two interpretations of pattern orientation clearly demonstrate. That is why objective positional confirmation, drawn into the illustration, is significant. There is historical grounding for the paired interpretation of bendy, argent et azur. This is intentional construction built into the illustration, from the optical illusion to the papelonny pun. This is a built-in intellectual gateway that relies on the recognition of something in history that is fairly specific, yet it is also the origin of a church tradition that continues to the present day. It is medieval data intentionally hidden from other (probably) medieval eyes, but recoverable by those who know the selected heraldic and historical details and discover them in the illustration. Do you see what is in these three illustrations? Do you see the author’s intention? Once the gate is opened, the investigation can begin. Look carefully at all the details in these illustrations, that is all I ask.

  81. OOTB: “Suffice it to say that the ignorant will see nothing“. That’s brilliant. You crack me up. Keep at it. Priceless.

  82. Out*of*the*Blue on January 10, 2016 at 11:40 pm said:


    I gather you’re laughing your sox off, and that prevents you’re making **any relevant comment** regarding the content of the VMs Zodiac illustrations.

    And here you have regressed to one-liners. Are you Bob No Hope? Or Nick Can’t See?

    Either you see how the author has manipulated the illustrations to carry significant, historically-grounded content or you still seen nothing. And we can leave it at that, as long as you are unwilling to give these illustrations an adequate examination.

    Isn’t it great to be cheered up, after that gloomy mood you started the year with?

  83. bdid1dr on January 11, 2016 at 1:40 am said:

    OK, Ootb: When do you plan to set up your own publishing press? Do you have a press?

    Nick and Rene: I thank you both for your tolerance and patience (with this old fart’ anyway). Have either of you had the time (or opportunity) to look into the “Kort” document? (The French rebels used a derelict Cordillerean (Franciscan) monastery building for their ‘headquarters’. Marat was a writer (besides an early ‘politician’) . His death was ‘mysterious’. His partner was beheaded.
    It is fascinating to me (who really has very little interest in politics ‘ennywhere’). My husband’s family origins go ‘way back’ to Rensselaerswyck and the massacre at Fort Schenectady, New York.

  84. OOTB: hey, I can do either-ors too, e.g. “either you have imagined the presence of historically-grounded content manipulated into the zodiac content or you haven’t”.

  85. D.N. O'Donovan on January 11, 2016 at 7:49 am said:

    I understand that you may have done a lot of hard work, some years ago, comparing elements in some folios of the manuscript to land-forms in America.

    If you are the person concerned, I have been remiss. Perhaps in any case you may know who did first have the idea?

  86. Diane: I thought it was David Suter who did that?

  87. Thomas on January 11, 2016 at 2:34 pm said:

    For long, I had this idea to make a modern opera, titled the High Street Opera. In it, all the common high street retail giants are represented by garishly dressed actors-singers, their primary colour fancy attires alluding to or reflecting the shops’ corporate brands. For instance, the character Boots would wear oversized blue boots, in order to put his boot, as it were, in many things in the story line.

    However, the story line itself is nothing elaborate. In fact, there is no evolving story at all. There is no denouement. The stationary story is about asserting domination. The singing itself is the heart and essence. Loud disharmonic cacophony is the right description. In deepest bass to coloratura soprano in every register. And, endless repetition. Duets, trios, quartets etc., vying in ceaseless crescendos. Enters a blue stripy clown. “Tesco! Tess-Coo!” sings in Bartokian tones. Then a character howling in thick glasses: “Viiision, viiision, viiision express!”

    This enjoyable avant-garde opera of mine is of feature length, so it is not over very quickly. Or, seemingly, ever. The high point of course is the chorus when everybody sings their own part en masse in fortissimo. Aida or Nabucco, these are dwarfed. Sorry, maestro Verdi. Eat your heart out.

    Then… I think I have an even better idea. My opera should not be about the high street retailers. But instead… 🙂

  88. Thomas: I’m sorry, I can’t quite hear you. Perhaps if you sang a bit louder… 😉

  89. Thomas on January 11, 2016 at 4:29 pm said:

    Nick: I guess you are implying that I too have got a part in it. 🙂

    But I entertain myself with another image, too:

    I went to Bletchley Park back in 1940 and find everybody there discussing the Germans. “The Germans are Germanic people.” “No, they are Teutonic.” “They like their strudels, don’t they?” “The lederhosen are an outrageous garment!” Etc.

    Then I left, and only returned four years later in 1944. The same people were in the room, and their conversation was essentially the same. It was about the Germans. “The Pickelhaube is a Prussian thing.” “Yes, and that is why it is so funny.” “Sauerkraut was not invented until 1470.” Yes it was” “No it was not.”

    So I looked and found that the old German cipher code on the blackboard was still not solved during those four years, but the heated discussion was going stronger than ever. ;D

  90. Thomas: doesn’t the screenwriter always want to write a part for him/herself? 😉

    Your German image is all too familiar – and not just for the Voynich Manuscript, I’m sad to say. 🙁

  91. Out*of*the*Blue on January 11, 2016 at 5:53 pm said:


    If you are referring to efforts to investigate a type of crypto-cartography, particularly in relation to San Francisco, then indeed it was David Suter, not me.

  92. Thomas on January 11, 2016 at 5:55 pm said:

    Nick: It is not necessarily always so. Of course it is inescapable for me not to be part of the farce that I perceive and lampoon with my fictional works. It is like Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. For it is true, some time ago I too was talking about theories and not about the real point of cracking the secret text.

    But now I feel the ever more irrelevant theories will not help solving the cipher. And so far I myself have failed to solve the cipher. Hence my fun-poking return. I do not intend to keep my jokes rolling for long, though. I’m happy if I can be moderately witty and gentle while not being a wiseacre.

    By the way, what exactly do you mean by your comment about my German image? My great-great grandma was German. 🙂

  93. Thomas: the “German image” was in your comment – “But I entertain myself with another image, too:“. Two of my great-grandparents were German too. 🙂

  94. Out*of*the*Blue on January 11, 2016 at 8:50 pm said:


    If by ‘imagined’ you mean, specifically and repeatedly pointed to known heraldic and historical facts as represented in the VMs Zodiac and the tub patterns, then you’re right. But the elements are all aligned for only one interpretation. And recognition has failed. All the buzzing of the elements drawn into the illustrations, they have to mean something. It is far too complex to be accidental. There is no other alternative to intentional construction.

    Hypothetically, let’s say that I introduce the topic of the semy of roundels. Your comments, hypothetically, might agree or object on some basis such as anachronistic, wrong culture, too sloppy, they are really not circles, they are rounded squares. Matters of this type are open to discussion and the presentation of evidence. Look at the illustrations and learn from what is drawn there.

    Your responses to my providing these examples and citing historical evidence reads to me like something along the lines of: “Hey, Nitwit, your shoe’s untied.”

    So let’s keep it simple! Do you agree or do you disagree that VMs Pisces presents six different, traditional, armorial heraldic patterns in the outer band of tub designs? If you disagree, do you have a reason? And if you agree, should we just wad it up and stuff it somewhere? Or does heraldry provide a widely known context upon which further investigation might take place?

    Examples of patterned tubs are found on only three pages. A seventh heraldic pattern is added. It’s bendy the right way. See for yourself. It’s almost punny, now that I think of it.

    This is all part of an intentional construction in the VMs Zodiac. The choice of these basic heraldic images and their placement was made at the author’s discretion. I’m going to go with the intentionally created historically-grounded representation found in White Aries based on point after point of what has clearly been drawn into the illustration and interpreted so that it is based on historical fact. The confirmations built into the illustrations are redundant.

    You may state whatever you choose about the content of the patterns in the zodiac tubs. I suggest that you examine the details first.

  95. OOTB: keeping it simple is fine by me. Personally, I see no reason whatsoever to conclude that the tubs represent anything at all beyond a portfolio of decorative patterns – while running Cipher Mysteries, I have been presented with well over a thousand I-say-it-and-that-makes-it-true theories, that share the same basic set of qualities as your theory. It convinces you: great, that’s your prerogative. Has it convinced anyone else? Not to my knowledge. And so do you honestly think it’s strong enough to convince me? I don’t think so: I think you’re just having some kind of demented sport with me, like some kind of SantaColoma mini-me. Good luck with that one.

    What I do think is that your heraldry hatching is a century too early for everything else, and I remain very strongly unconvinced that the blue paint was applied in the 15th century either. So why should I invest my time into researching a theory that I don’t believe holds water even before it begins? Heaven knows having to moderate your comments without replacing them with [bla][bla][bla] is a taxing enough job as it is.

  96. Out*of*the*Blue on January 12, 2016 at 3:22 am said:


    Thanks for your heartfelt reply, Thanks for coming out from behind your perennial, snide sarcasm and redundant ridicule and saying what you really think. That makes things clear.

    I take it that you completely reject any similarities of the VMs Zodiac tub patterns with any of the acknowledged standard evidence of traditional heraldic patterns that I have presented. In essence what you’ve said is that the whole of medieval heraldic tradition is only in the VMs if you allow it to be there. If Nick doesn’t believe it, then it’s not so – that goes for one and all.

    Beyond the little incident with the eagle and the lion, Mr. Crypto-heraldry apparently doesn’t see any other illustrations having to do with heraldry in any part of the VMs Zodiac illustrations. But then, he did not find papelonny. I doubt he first saw the semy of roundels, He clearly doesn’t see that heraldry can be substantiated in the VMs Pisces illustration without the use of any hatching lines. He has never countered these clear, heraldry based, pattern identifications with a single, relevant fragment of evidence. And 1001 theories or not, finding the pair of papelonny patterns in these particular VMs illustrations does make it so.

    Instead of any relevant commentary, Mr. Crypto-heraldry has again resorted to insults, “some kind of SantaColoma mini-me”, he calls me. Is this the Pelling method of scholarly discussion and investigation? If so, it is obnoxious, appalling and pathetic.

    You are too busy; you can’t see it; you don’t believe it; you’ve not got a moment to spare it; it doesn’t fit into your plans. I understand. No need for insults. Just say it. I get it. No worries then, let’s keep it simple and I will hope for the thing you seem to want most. May the scales never fall from your eyes.

  97. OOTB: none of what I wrote should have been a surprise, because I gave you my specific opinion a very long time ago. Since then you have reiterated the same theory close to a hundred times as comments here. Should I have just cut-and-pasted the same set of objections as a response each time? Perhaps that’s what I’ll do next time round, however dull that may be.

    At some point, I genuinely hope you realise that what you’re doing is not obviously different to the kind of sophisticated-sounding denialism Rich SantaColoma goes in for: and that unfortunately the inconsistencies with the dates means you’ve nailed your colours to a mast that’s demonstrably travelling in the wrong direction (or, rather, in the wrong time-frame). It doesn’t take brains to unnail your colours: it just takes common sense, self-awareness and humility.

  98. Thomas on January 12, 2016 at 9:04 am said:

    Nick: Then vee are bruders. 🙂

    My fun making with the Germans as well as the British was purely incidental.

    Properly, my described image was of a fictional British code breaker team that failed to break a certain code while bickering endlessly about things that had little to do with the breaking of that code.

    Seriously, the VMS fascinates me, and for me all the theories about it are interesting. But what I most desperately wishing for is the deciphering of its text. And there seems to be no progress in it at all.

    I feel the same about the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Countless theories exist but I want to see a complete sectional diagram of all its comprehensively explored internal structures. How long must I wait for this, and for the cracked Voynich code too?

  99. Thomas: in some ways, I think we’ve made really great progress with the Voynich – it’s just that many people would rather we hadn’t, because those results invalidate their theories. 😉

    I’ve covered the Great Pyramid a little here, must come back to it one day soon:

  100. Nick.
    You not misunderstood my question “rule sheets” (parallel lines) of 4 January. I mean temporary self disappearing “rule sheets” . Why is the text (2v,14v, 18r, 20r, 21v, 25v ) on the pages of was written exactly one. This professional scribe? Helped “rule sheets”? Other pages written crookedly. This is the result of haste? Marching conditions? ….

  101. Out*of*the*Blue on January 12, 2016 at 6:21 pm said:


    Then, begging your pardon for the 101st time, (I thought I was still under half a dozen.) but I have, as you say, nailed my colors to the blue stripes. I have nailed my colors to half a dozen heraldic patterns displayed in VMs Pisces. Etc, etc. etc. I have done so because they are clearly illustrated in the VMs. Not because I need psychiatric intervention.

    If the VMs is intended to be read. Then the person for whom the VMs author created this manuscript is not one expected to require the use of radio-atomic physical tests and computerized statistical analysis. The prospective reader needs to be someone who shares a common field of knowledge with the author.

    Within the perspective of the Middle Ages, Renaissance etc., heraldry is a widely dispersed field of common knowledge, including even those who don’t have a scrap of literacy. Heraldry is detailed, compact, consistent and it changed very little over the centuries. How dull!

    So I have started with the illustrations of VMs Pisces, *not with a set of preconceptions* and if I had just a fundamental knowledge of the basics of heraldry, I’m going to say that some of the tub patterns on VMs Pisces look a lot like traditional heraldic patterns and I can name them one for one.

    So starting with what is seen in the VMs Pisces illustration, I say this is a definite connection with traditional heraldry, somehow including hatching lines. It’s there on the page. HOW does that occur?? I start with what I see. I believe the heraldic connection is solid. That is to say, the VMs author knows heraldry, and the designs on the tub patterns in Pisces etc. clearly show it. Where’s the problem?

    You have taken the position that the VMs needs to fit into a particular time slot. And in order to do that, any visible evidence that is contradictory simply needs to be labeled as indefinite, unrecognizable and don’t pay that no never mind. But the patterns are still there; the hatching lines are still there. The perceived implications of a traditional heraldic interpretation don’t fit your chronology. So they must be rejected. But what is your explanation for what can be seen? That it is just something that is not significant. The Pisces tub patterns are just generic, just nothing to do with nothing designs.

    I disagree. I say the patterns are there in the VMs illustrations and any standard reference on heraldry will provide the evidence to support the comparison. I say that heraldry is in the VMs Zodiac illustrations because the author put it there. And that anyone sufficiently familiar with basic, traditional heraldry can find the corresponding patterns in the VMs Zodiac and make that judgment and that verification for themselves. I see good representations of six different examples of traditional heraldic patterns in VMs Pisces. You propose that there are none. I guess that’s as plain as it gets.

  102. Hi OOTB!

    Maybe the patterns you describe are what you think they are.
    Even so, that still only accounts for 3 folios out of the whole MS. Even within the astro section, it only accounts for a minority of the folios. Even within the folios you describe, it still only accounts for 6 or 7 of the tubs. What about the other ones? What about unmarked tubs, what about astro folios without tubs? How do papal references help us figure out the plants, the star “lists”, the “balneo”, the jars, etc… that make up the vast majority of the MS?

    I’ve read your comments with interest because I think that heraldic imagery may well have been part of the illustrator’s cultural baggage.
    But after reading you repeat the same things for a very long time now, I would think that if your explanation really was the “key”, it would have allowed you to unlock a lot more by now. It hasn’t.
    Even for the 3 folios you keep referring to, it hasn’t brought you any closer to deciphering even one word, let alone make sense of the whole text.
    Until someone does that, no one can declare that any explanation of the imagery is likely or probable or even less, undeniable. The burden of proof is on you.

    Also: what about Nick’s point that colors in the MS were probably added later, not necessarily by someone who understood the MS, or possibly to obfuscate things that may have been clearer before color? We just don’t have any proof that their addition is simultaneous with the MS manufacture, and in fact several clues point towards their later addition. So IMO they shouldn’t be seen as determining factors in an iconographic study of the MS. What would happen to your theory if the red and blue you base yourself upon turned out to be red (and blue) herrings?

  103. bdid1dr on January 12, 2016 at 6:57 pm said:

    Nick and Friends:

    About fifteen years ago, the Great Pyramid’s interior (main corridor) was photographed, using a custom designed ‘caterpillar’ robot which filmed, live, the walls of the corridor — right up to a door, which had copper handles. The major find was that the corridor apparently (may) have been an ‘observatory” to the Pharoah’s final resting place: Orion’s ‘Belt”.

  104. bdid1dr on January 12, 2016 at 7:26 pm said:

    @ Ootb: Why are you demanding Nick’s agreement / validation of your contributions to Nick’s website? The so-called “Voynich” manuscript, in its entirety, does not discuss “Heraldry”. Not one word. One or two of the circular diagrams MAY be discussing the suitability of marriage between two persons who MAY already NOT be suitable because the families are too closely related . Forget I asked — we don’t need to be ‘educated’ in heraldry.

    A very good example would be the “Infanta” . There is a very famous medieval oil painting which can be seen on the WWW. I’ll be going back to the Infanta’s marriage. I hope I’m rightly remembering that she married her uncle, and had several children, of which only one or two survived infancy.
    BTW: The only papellony being discussed in the VMS has to do with butterfly or moth.

  105. bdid1dr on January 12, 2016 at 7:34 pm said:

    Nick, forgive me, if I have involuntarily stepped into your ‘realm’ . I meant well.

  106. The Voynich was most likely copied by an itinerant secular scribe. to a price. It has many abbreviations. It may have been hand colored as late as 1940 possibly by Wilfred Voynich himself.

  107. OOTB: heraldry indeed “changed little over the centuries”… apart from the heraldry hatching which was first introduced roughly a century after the Voynich Manuscript was made.

    There, I’ve repeated a dating objection in response to your comment, just like I said I would.

    You wrote:

    You have taken the position that the VMs needs to fit into a particular time slot. And in order to do that, any visible evidence that is contradictory simply needs to be labeled as indefinite, unrecognizable and don’t pay that no never mind. But the patterns are still there; the hatching lines are still there. The perceived implications of a traditional heraldic interpretation don’t fit your chronology. So they must be rejected. But what is your explanation for what can be seen? That it is just something that is not significant. The Pisces tub patterns are just generic, just nothing to do with nothing designs.

    No. If a particular hypothesis contradicts core dating evidence, then it is a broken hypothesis: in which case it is the hypothesis that should be rejected, not the core dating evidence. Further, the notion that these decorative designs somehow require an explanation is only your opinion, it is not a fact. Why do they require an explanation at all? Just because a certain bagel looks like Mother Theresa to you does not mean that that bagel was required to look like that at all.

  108. Goose: be slightly careful about the painting layer issue. Jorge Stolfi proposed (correctly, I believe) that lighter, paler paint layers were probably added during the original composition phase, and that the heavier, blockier (and far more carelessly-applied) paint layers were probably added much later. One can characterize the heavy blue paint we’re talking about here as very probably having been added by his putative “heavy painter”. One convenient way of thinking about this is that defined by the advances in paint technology: the light layers may well have been primarily organic paints, while the heavy layers may well have used inorganic paints, which were (as I recall) a feature introduced during 16th century painting practice. But all the same, my understanding is that this is something that hasn’t been analyzed in depth, even though Stolfi first proposed the idea many years ago.

  109. The yellow paint in the MS has faded to a pale beige, which makes it almost certain that this was an organic yellow, and is necessarily not very recent.
    See for example here:

  110. Rene: nice article, thanks for the link! 🙂

  111. bdid1dr on January 13, 2016 at 5:55 pm said:

    @ xplor: As far as the colors go (whether the VMS/B-408 or the/Florentine Codex) : An excellent small book: “The Colors of the New World — Artists, Materials, and the Creation of the Florentine Codex”

    Diana Magaloni Kerpel – publisher Getty Research Institute Council Lecture
    Fascinating and beautiful fully-illustrated with extracts from the Florentine Codex.

    Still beady-eyed but thoroughly enjoying the “historic travelogue and adventures” which appear in B-408 as well as the “Florentine Mss”.

  112. Out*of*the*Blue on January 13, 2016 at 9:57 pm said:

    Nick and Goose,

    Any hypothesis that contradicts perceived facts needs to be re-examined, I’ll grant you that.

    Why do the Zodiac tub patterns need to be examined? Why does any part of the VMs need to be examined? Let’s toss it in the chipper and be done with it.

    Or we can look at the evidence that the VMs presents. Anyone with normal eyesight and a few moments spare time can match some of the patterns on VMs Pisces outer ring with traditional heraldic patterns found in almost any standard reference, if they take the notion to do so. And those choices will jolly well be equivalent from person to person, as long as we’re not playing games. I just don’t get the hangup. How can someone specifically identify a heraldic eagle and not be able to recognize traditional heraldic patterns clearly and repeatedly drawn and referenced???

    In my view, hypotheses need to explain evidence. On the VMs Pisces and Aries pages, the evidence is derived from heraldry. Don’t deny it. Explain it! [Obviously, if you prefer to deny it exists, that’s your decision. It will not change my interpretation of what is illustrated in the text. Anyone can see it.]

    How’d you like your bagel? Are you sure it’s Mother T*? Most people prefer the Virgin Mary bagel. And we also have a special on George Orwell and Sun Tsu. Talk about your blah, blah, blah. Did someone draw a picture on your bagel??? This is yet another ridiculous misrepresentation. Well someone clearly DID draw the patterns in the VMs Pisces illustration. Traditional heraldry existed two full centuries before the VMs parchment dates. That is the evidence. And if the hypothesis does not match the evidence, then the hypothesis needs to be examined. The VMs provides the evidence. Bring your own hypothesis. One where evidence that is not dismissed, not ignored, let’s have an explanation of what is drawn in the Pisces illustration, hatching lines and all.

    As I have said before, heraldry is not the solution to the VMs. It is the beginning of an investigative pathway. What exists in the first three VMs Zodiac pages is not the six or seven examples, as claimed. It is seven different types of examples, with several cases where double and triple examples of the same pattern are presented. Plus the fact that ‘Plain’ is a valid heraldic pattern. Plain is any heraldic tincture with nothing else added. So if Plain is argent, and argent is white…then white is blank. Add ’em up. And there are the ‘All Blue” patterns in White Aries. So it is not just the few one might know of off the bat. There is more heraldry here to discover. Papelonny took a while.

    The discoveries continue as a traditional heraldic interpretation with a factual historical context is applied to these Zodiac images. Heraldry is the means by which notable individuals and families were identified through the time in question. And there is a significant historical reference to be found, tucked away in a little VMs niche, if you know papal heraldry. How many investigative lines that lead to historical grounding does the VMs need to contain? How does the author present valid information without giving away obvious information?

    I advocate for the heraldic interpretation of the VMs Pisces and Aries illustrations and the results that flow from that investigation. This is an intentional construction by the author based on armorial heraldry *and a host of other factors* as represented in the VMs Zodiac illustrations. I contend that intentional heraldry offers some access to understanding the author’s intent. From my investigation into intent, I have suggested that not only is heraldry intentional (the Pisces examples), the historical correspondence in White Aries is intentional, the pairing paradigm is intentional, the painting paradox is intentional, the papelonny pun is intentional. These things are in the illustrations because the author put them in the illustrations. And it shows us where we are at in relation to the author’s abilities.

    The contrary position is that heraldic interpretation of these illustrations is invalid. This is not heraldry. There is no indication of any alternative explanation for why we have images that look like heraldry and yet are not heraldry.

    What this is is an example of evidence discarded to fit a hypothesis. Relevant, traditional, historical information drawn into the VMs illustrations is compared to Mother T* on toast. A peculiar form of flattery, what?? Or some kind of scholarly ploy where facts get thrown out the window?

    I’m not glued to the Petra Sancta timeline by any means. I’ve already revealed where the VMs and the PS have certain problems with their interpretations. It’s an area still open to interpretation. My point is that these three zodiac illustrations contain a significant amount of very specific heraldic information, and that cannot be an accident. Any hypothesis that is based on the negation of this information has a problem. The evidence is in the VMs Zodiac illustrations, not on a bagel.

  113. Milongal on January 13, 2016 at 10:23 pm said:

    I know very little of the Voynich specifically (other than the snippets I get here), but wouldn’t Carbon dating provide the oldest possible time not the newest? I have paper in my cupboard that used to fit the old dot matrix feed printers (granted not 100 years old, but old nonetheless), so (though perhaps unlikely) the notion that the document is 100 years younger than the Carbon dating is not impossible (I don’t know how valuable paper would have been back then, but I’m guessing they weren’t as quick to throw stuff out because they ran out of ink in their printer 🙂 ).

    Further, the lack of examples of Heraldic hatching pre 1550 doesn’t itself mean it didn’t exist before then – or wasn’t already beginning in some small circle at some time before that.

    As I say, I know very little of the Voynich (and for that matter even less about heraldic hatching), but the idea that we can categorically dismiss an idea because it doesn’t quite seem to fit into a particular timeframe seems a little blinkered.

    I think the “…core dating evidence…” certainly questions (and/or weakens) such a hypothesis, but I’m not convinced it absolutely breaks it. But everyone has their own opinions, eh?

  114. Milongal: the radiocarbon dating indeed gives us the earliest date for the construction, but thankfully we have lots of other good dating information to work alongside it. For example, we can clearly see at least two (and probably three or more) fifteenth century hands in the marginalia, which were either (a) genuinely added in the fifteenth century, or (b) faked up by someone with a peculiarly twentieth century idea of what faking is all about.

    By those dating measures (and there are plenty more besides), the hypothetical presence of “heraldry hatching” looks hugely suspect.

    But of course you’re right, insofar as reducing the probability of any claim to zero can be challenging. But once it goes below 0.01%, we’re getting pretty close. 🙂

  115. Ellie Velinska on January 14, 2016 at 1:03 am said:

    Hi Nick,

    Did you notice that the carbon dating of the bones of Richard III, King of England came up wrong – about 50 years before his actual death… The explanation they came up with for the failure was – he ate too much fish 🙂 Not kidding.

  116. Ellie: that’s right, this variation is known as the “reservoir effect” – there’s the marine reservoir effect (MRE) and the freshwater reservoir effect (FRE). For the latter: freshwater fish absorb the carbon from dissolved ancient limestone, and then people eat the fish, thereby absorbing the fish’s skewed radiocarbon dating. It’s one of a number of effects that make radiocarbon dating less precise than a straightforward reading of Wikipedia might have you believe. 🙂

    There’s a recent paper here that tries to estimate the magnitude of the FRE:

  117. Hi Nick,
    Thanks for this info regarding Stolfi and colors, I wish I could read what he actually wrote about this… any links would be appreciated!
    Regarding organic vs inorganic: I don’t really understand your 16th century date: mineral pigments were in use as early as the 9th century in manuscripts and paintings (For the early XVth C, see Cennino Cennini’s handbook): Cinnabar, orpiment, lapis lazuli, azurite, lead and copper among others, were common base ingredients, although tricky to use. Maybe I misunderstand what you mean?

  118. Goose: while some inorganic pigments had certainly long been in use in the Middle Ages, I personally don’t recall seeing the kind of heavy paints Stolfi was talking about in broad use in the 15th century. I would agree that this is in need of a proper Art History analysis, though. 😐

  119. Stolfi’s heavy painter was mainly discussed on the Voynich Mailing List, e.g.
    Stolfi summarized his retouching thoughts here:

  120. It would be very helpful if I could read what Stolfi was talking about directly in order to address his remarks in a relevant way. All I could find online was his brief discussion about reds.
    In the meantime, I’ll just say that heavy overpainting by a later artist doesn’t really help with dates. It has more to do with the illustrator’s personal skill at preparing and using paints, the fashion of the time/place, his inspiration and how carefully he worked on a particular illustration, or even part of an illustration. Too-heavy paint brings a higher risk of chipping if proper binding agents are not used.
    To give just one example of well-done medieval heavy overpainting: in the Hamersleben Scriptorium’s Gospels, where the XIIth C portraits of Sts. Mark & Matthew were overpainted with high opacity pigments 25 years later, in the same monastery.
    Although the second painter was faithful to the original for the faces of the saints, he fails to pick up on some of the finer ornamental details of the underlying original, and adds or tweaks others intentionally to update the style of the portraits (especially draping patterns) and fit the new trends of the time.
    As you will see (Aliza Cohen-Mushlin’s study is available in Google books) the overpainting of the borders of these portraits is done in the kind of heavy, opaque, solid green and blue that we see in the VMS. Its just much better done than the VMs overpainting.
    What is more striking to me in the VMS is the overpainters inability to color within lines or even sometimes, to produce a homogenous color with his paints. This would point towards personal limitations (poor eyesight, poor hand-eye coordination, lack of familiarity with the materials used or extreme haste) rather than help us find a specific date. The paint transfers we see on opposite pages also point towards this hasty/”amateurish” work.
    Colors were added later. How much later will remain unclear until some extensive chemical (and ideally DNA) analysis of the ink is carried out.

  121. Thanks Nick, and sorry hadn’t seen your link before posting.

  122. bdid1dr on January 14, 2016 at 8:39 pm said:

    Rene, your discussion on ‘yellow’ pigments just adds to my discussion of several months/years ago. The saffron crocus was quite valuable (for its little sex organs). The powder was often mixed with eggwhite (not yolk) for ‘gilding/gold’ on more valuable manuscripts. B-408, folio 55v (I think) discusses the saffron ‘corm’; the shape of the corm (rather than bulb) identifies a crocus rather than daffodil or lily.
    When a very large forest fire recently swept through our neighborhoods, many of my neighbors lost their homes. I grabbed my B-408 file (all of them) and we evacuated to our property on the other side of the lake. I shall be bringing them home soon.

  123. bdid1dr on January 14, 2016 at 8:49 pm said:

    Hello Ellie !
    Whoo! I’m still trying to catch up with you and some of Nick’s friendlier long-time visitors to his great website!
    I’ll now let you get a word or two ‘edgewise’ so to speak.

  124. Out*of*the*Blue on January 14, 2016 at 10:39 pm said:


    You have hyper-extended your assumptions.

    Goose: “What is more striking to me in the VMS is the overpainters inability to color within lines or even sometimes, to produce a homogenous color with his paints.”

    You assume s/he intended to stay within the lines (etc.) and could not. Perhaps that level of precision simply was unnecessary for VMs purposes. Perhaps the rough-cut look is something done on purpose to create a more culturally ambiguous appearance. How have you made your definitive distinction?

  125. Ellie Velinska on January 15, 2016 at 1:06 am said:

    I agree with Rene regarding the faded organic yellow. There are very few things about the VMs that would bet a dollar on, but if they ever manage to test the yellow – I put my money on weld (Reseda Lutea), which may be the plant featured on fol. 6r of the VMs

  126. Goose: my inference from the the way the paint contact transfers lined up is that the Voynich Manuscript’s drawings were almost certainly “heavy painted” while they were in their final binding state. The few “light paint” and ink transfers line up with a different binding, from which I infer they were done while the folios were in an earlier binding state. It’s in Curse, as normal. 🙂

  127. I should add that the suggestion for the use of an organic yellow is not mine, but was made by a conservator of the Walters Art Museum. It is indeed a suggestion, not a firm statement.

    I think it would be great if we had some sort of a list of paint transfers throughout the MS. It would be a non-trivial amount of work, so I’m afraid I can’t volunteer to make it.

  128. Rene: I compiled such a list a decade or so ago, but as to whether I would be able to find it again is another matter… I’ll certainly have a look this evening, see what I can dig up.

  129. D.N. O'Donovan on January 15, 2016 at 3:39 pm said:

    This is the same old site to which I’ve been referring Voynich newbies for about five years, but it’s still handy reference.

  130. Out*of*the*Blue on January 15, 2016 at 6:07 pm said:

    Greetings Ellie,

    I’d like to say that I believe your matching the Oresme cosmos and the VMs illustration is a discovery whose significance is still not fully realized. If researchers want to connect the VMs to the real world, then what is this clear demonstration as you have presented it?

    I hope I did not impinge on your work when I described the meandering boundary line common to the the VMs and Oresme illustrations using the term nebuly line as it is defined in heraldic tradition.

    Oresme leads to de Pizan. Her nebuly lines in the Queen’s book are more ornate than the Oresme example. But in the Knight’s book she used wavy lines and rainbows. Don of Tallahassee did some digging on nebuly lines and pointed out the Apocalypse Tapestry, Bunny found rainbows in the VMs.

    The central Rosette contains the best VMs example of the nebuly line, though there are a number of examples of such lines in plain ink associated with the nymphs of Quire 13. And as nebuly equates with cloudy, one can wonder at what interpretations might be applied to those VMs illustrations.

    The Oresme correspondence is a discovery of great significance in that it demonstrates that there is VMs content with a strong historical grounding intentionally included in the manuscript.

  131. OOTB,

    If color was applied in order to create ambiguity, then that would fall into the obfuscation hypothesis, wouldn’t it? I have no problem with that, but you should.
    If color was applied to create ambiguity, then why base yourself upon it for your own interpretation? It seems that, carried away by your desire to contradict others, you must not have realized you were contradicting yourself.

    See 30r, which I’m sure has been noted before: the green paint job is so wildly outside the lines that one brushstroke even continues onto the underlying page (31r). There’s just no way that was done before binding. There were clearly a series of people who added their touch to this MS over time, and colors are a part of that process. None of this is breaking news.

    Beyond the identification of pigments (figuring out that the blue is azurite-based won’t help us much), the most revealing results of a deeper analysis of the paints would be to analyze the binding agents and additives used, which may be a treasure trove of specific info. Egg, earwax, urine, various saps & gums…

  132. The spilling of paint from f30r onto f31r is new to me, and after a closer look, it is not so clear to me that this is necessarily what happened. In general, I don’t yet think that there is particularly strong evidence that any paint has been added to the MS long after its creation (by which I mean: long enough for it to have been done independently of whoever created the MS, e.g. a later owner).

    There are pros and cons. f31r is not the same language and hand as f30r, so the pages may not be in the originally planned order. Still, the same green paint seems to have been used on both. The spill (if it is one) is not exactly on the edge of the upper sheet, but a bit beyond. All this combined opens up a whole range of possible scenarios.

    The fact that the painting is generally very bad quality is not something unique to the Voynich MS and can be seen as well in at least one of the alchemical herbals (Paris MS Lat 17844).

  133. Rene: for me, the case of f2v and f3r is the most telling.

    There, we can clearly see an ink line being transferred off the stem of the f2v plant across onto f3r, as well as ink details from the f2v roots being transferred from the bottom left of f2v to the bottom right of f3r. Yet neither of these line up with the current (final) binding state of these two folios, which surely implies that these contact transfers happened *before* the final rebinding. Moreover, there are additional (red) paint transfers from f3r back to f2v, which *do* line up with the current (final) binding state of these two folios, which surely implies that these contact transfers happened *after* the final rebinding.

    Ergo, the red paint on f3r was applied at part of a different construction layer to f2v. And you can go on (as I did in Curse pp.66-67) to demonstrate that the heavy painting layer on f46v and f47r were added after the quire numbers were added. And reconstructing the bifolio nesting order on Q13 demonstrates that the quire number there was almost certainly added by a later owner (because that person was clearly unaware of the correct nesting order for those pages), never mind the other evidence about mixing up the A and B bifolios. 🙂

    The green paint apparently crossing from f30r to f31r is a good observation: though it is probably best as supporting evidence at this point.

    By the way, I remember that you posted about the folio number on f42r. Was that above or below the green paint there?

    Also: on f51r, might an arc of green paint from f49v have been transferred through the hole going through f50?

    Finally: if the green paint transfers on the Sagittarius page came from the green paint used on Q13, then that layer must surely have been applied after the Capricorn / Aquarius folio was removed? Just a thought!

  134. Hi Nick,

    this is exactly why we need this comprehensive list of paint transfers etc.
    A number of the points you raise above are speculative (primarily regarding Q13), and the entire reconstruction of the order in which things happened has several elements which are very uncertain.

    One example is that we don’t know for certain if the MS was ever bound in the correct order before. This might be settled in the near future. I know that there are different opinions about this

    The only thing I see as almost certain is that the present page order is not original, indicating that this was done by someone who didn’t know the correct page order.
    However, this wasn’t done *very late* because the stitching is old. Could even be 15th Century, but that is unfortunately not confirmed. This would clearly make a huge difference on the interpretation of everthing.

    In general, even if we see several layers, it is impossible to say how much time elapsed between their application.

    On the folio nr. 42, I know, but I am still uncertain. After all, the ink will be drawn into the parchment and the pigment will lie on top, independent of the order of application…

    Some things would be unusual. The painting by a later owner falls in that category for me, but certainly cannot be excluded. What would be most unusual would be for a later owner who doesn’t know the right page order to add quire marks. From their form it is clear that these quire marks belong to the MS’s earliest history. At least one of them was ignored when the present page order was established.

    When the cover was replaced by the Jesuits, the original stitching was kept. Kraus added some reinforcements to it, which look very modern compared to the rest.

  135. Rene: if we start from the position that the Voynich’s page order is not original, the question about quire numbers is whether or not they were added by the original author (or, at least, by someone who had some idea of authorial intent and/or structure of the book), i.e. whether or not the quire numbers tell us anything meaningful about the original content (however small), even if the bifolios nested within those outer quire-numbered bifolia ended up in the wrong order.

    Yet my understanding is that only in a small minority of cases were quire numbers ever consciously added as an indexing tool: the overwhelming majority case was that they were added to a set of bifolios solely to instruct a binder (a) what gatherings to sew together to form quires, and (b) in what order to bind those quires together to form a volume or book. As such, quire numbers are primarily incidental historical markings, remnants of a private communication between a book’s owner / manager and that book’s binder.

    Given that the quire numbers are in a 15th century hand (and use a rare Latin-style abbreviated longhand ordinal numbering system that I would not expect to find outside of a religious library), the first binding seems almost certain to have been done in the 15th century, so we’re not obviously in any huge disagreement there. Yet as I mentioned in my presentation in Frascati, there does seem good reason to think that the binding order of the quires took a little time to settle down (e.g. with the rosette page apparently being ripped out, restitched along a different fold, and bound back in in a different place: while Q19/Q20 would seem to need a different kind of explanation again).

    But if you’re suggesting that the “pm9” quire numbers were original (as opposed to just “very early”), I think that notion will always sit uncomfortably with Q13’s codicology. It’s true that there isn’t a lot of evidence either way, but right now the only evidence I see that points in either direction points away from the quire numbers’ being part of the original author’s contribution.

    My own position for some years has been that in its original state, the Voynich Manuscript was formed of a set of unstitched gatherings: and that its quire numbers were added by a later (probably monastic) owner who did not know how the bifolios should be nested or bound, and who was very probably unable to read a word of it. In general, I’d be delighted to be pointed to any evidence that points to a different conclusion, because I don’t currently know of any.

    Don’t forget that there are also some quire number downstroke overruns onto other pages that complicate the picture further which I discussed in Curse p.18: e.g. the downstroke of Q2’s quire number continues on an internal page within Q6, while the downstroke of Q5’s quire number continues on an internal page within Q3. I do hope that the Beinecke’s codicology expert(s) took note of these things, I would be somewhat disappointed had he/she/they not even bothered to skim Curse. 😐

  136. Helmut Winkler on January 16, 2016 at 3:19 pm said:

    I suppose it is my fault,very likely I am blind and dumb, but I don’t see any of your precious colour transfers, not on 2v/3r and I am quite sure there is no crossing from 30r to 31r.

  137. Helmut: please have a look at the following image I’ve put together for you, where the left and right columns of images are from f2v and f3r respectively.

    The bottom-most pair of pastes are contrast-enhanced versions of the ones immediately above them: these show the distinct outlines of contact paint transfer from the root section, which I contend is likely from the earliest phase of the Voynich Manuscript’s construction.

    Does this help?

  138. bdid1dr on January 16, 2016 at 6:43 pm said:

    Nick, Ellie, Helmut & any other interested parties: a small book:

    The Colors of the New World — Artists, Materials, and the Creation of the Florentine Codex — Diana Magaloni Kerpel — Publisher: Getty Research Institute Council Lecture

    She discusses various minerals and bugs used in making the paints and ink. I find no mention (yet, I’m still reading) of plant parts: crocus sex organs for saffron. Saffron was a major contributor of yellow dye/pigment. On other of your very recent discussions, I have also identified and mentioned the use of saffron’s use for gilding various very valuable manuscripts. Have fun Ellie; I’m thrilled to see your re-appearance on Nick’s discussion pages. Wheeee!

  139. Helmut Winkler on January 16, 2016 at 6:50 pm said:

    thank you for taking the trouble, I really appreciate it. I admit the second and third pair of images from above could be colour transfers, my personal opinion is these are just smudges. But what worries me more: The colours on 3r Iook intact, there don’t seem to be any losses or abrasions, which should be visible, especially in the second and third image from above in the right column. But let’s admit for arguments sake a colour transfer. Even then I don’t see how one can take any conclusions about when and how the colour was applied and when and how the ms. was put together. There are some stains on 2v which look very much like water stains, a ‘rewetting’ and a transfer could have happened any time.

  140. Donald Vaughn on January 16, 2016 at 7:28 pm said:

    I find it curious that a book that may have passed not only secular hands but also apparently monastic hands, that could not be read and contained little of obvious religious significance survived. From my perspective it would seem likely it would have been either scraped and reused or set aside and allowed to decay. Obviously though it has been repaired, probably more than once, and treated with some level of care amongst those who handled it.
    I think the mere fact that it has survived is perhaps indicative of the level of curiosity it generated from the very time it left the authors/initial owners posession on.

  141. Out*of*the*Blue on January 16, 2016 at 8:16 pm said:


    Your statement below is simply not correct.

    Goose: “If color was applied in order to create ambiguity, then that would fall into the obfuscation hypothesis, wouldn’t it? I have no problem with that, but you should. If color was applied to create ambiguity, then why base yourself upon it for your own interpretation? It seems that, carried away by your desire to contradict others, you must not have realized you were contradicting yourself.”

    What you originally referred to was the *level of skill with which the paint was applied*. You said the artist lacked the skill to do a proper job. And I said that your assessment of the author’s *skill* was *not necessarily accurate* because of other factors. That is not the same as saying that the choice of a particular color that was used was made randomly. They simply aren’t the same thing.

    And as I think more about it: “If color was applied in order to create ambiguity,” you say. Could you give me an example of that? And then one in the VMs? There are various ways of creating ambiguity, and I have cited some of them. But, suppose I want to have red stripes, and I painted them blue instead, how is that going to work? *It’s not.* There are limits to ambiguity. Alteration may succeed, but substitution will probably fail. For VMs investigation, let us say that color can not be obfuscated, i.e. substituted. But patterns can be hidden and modified.

    We are no longer on the same topic. I referred to your assumption, regarding the artist’s *level of skill*. And here you’re on to something else entirely. Something that always seems to involve a misrepresentation of my VMs investigation. Then, shooting down the misrepresentation. I am only comparing the illustrations in the VMs Zodiac with standard heraldic tradition and known historical fact and discovering numerous positional confirmations built into the VMs illustrations. But, of course, that can’t be right, because, look over there – it’s a dead misrepresentation. I hope I may be allowed to contradict those misrepresentations.

    In other words, as it is relevant to the White Aries investigation, the blue stripes are blue because it is necessary for them to be blue. They have to be blue. Any other choice negates the historical grounding. It really doesn’t matter as to how neatly the task was performed as long as the paint was blue. The neatness factor clearly does have an effect of the perceived style of the representation, but neatness does not alter the ideological content of the illustration.

    Another topic involved with painting and the VMs involves the nature of the work done in the Zodiac. It is clear that a good deal more effort and attention was paid to f71r than any of the other remaining zodiac images as far as the application of paint. Is there a reason for this? ‘Happenstance’, ‘It is what it is.’, and ‘That’s the way the cookie crumbles.’ can all be used by those who would like them. Does the detailed work on f71r have any particular reason?

  142. Donald Vaughn: I have long suggested that what has come down to us as funny-looking “michiton” text on f116v was in fact an emended “nihil obstat” message (actually written “nichil obstat” in this instance, I believe), signifying that the manuscript had been examined by a church censor and had been deemed to be free of doctrinal or moral error – “nothing stands in the way”.

  143. Helmut: the problem with water stains (some of which we can see near the top of a sequence of herbal pages) is that they aren’t selective about what they get wet.

    So: if these colour contact transfers were caused by water stains, why were they so specific about what colours they affected and what colours they left behind? In those circumstances, we should surely not see any kind of sharp edge from one colour being transferred but not from another colour immediately adjacent (and often in fact touching).

    Even if you look only through the Voynich’s herbal pages (which isn’t that long, truth be told), you will find that almost all the colour transfers don’t look at all like water stains. For example, there are two colour transfers from f5v across to f6r (a red transfer and a blue transfer near the bound edge): the pattern and effect seems completely inconsistent with water staining to my eyes. And so forth.

    But please, go and have a look for yourself, and let me know what you see.

  144. Donald V. on January 16, 2016 at 9:11 pm said:

    The question then remains if indeed F116v is a nihil obstat how was the text defined as such with out readability. Are we missing the elephant in the room on this? I think I need to go back and find your post and any others that may be relevant to this subject!

  145. bdid1dr on January 17, 2016 at 2:13 am said:

    @ Donald V. : B-408, f-116 v — is not nihil obstat — but rather is Busbecq’s sign-off – and reference to the monument of Ancyranus Augustus at Ankara, Turkey. It is likely that the sketches were references to the Turks fat-tail sheep and Augustus’ mother.

  146. Helmut Winkler on January 17, 2016 at 11:03 am said:

    1) I am not convinced, but I will have to take another careful look at possible colour transfers, could be you are right.
    2) i don’t think something like a Nihil obstat is possible outside a printed book and before the decree Dominici gregis custodiae, 24 March 1564 of the Council of Trent. There was no approbation of books in the Middle Ages, only a declaration of books and persons to be heretical and we have to consider the time frame of the ms..

  147. Helmut: I will be happy to debate the pros and cons of any (of the many) colour contact transfers in the Voynich with you, if you will but take the time to look at them for yourself.

    The question you raise about the “nihil obstat” is a very good one indeed. In my mind, I had always suspected that the practice must have started around 1497, the time of Savonarola’s “bonfire of the vanities” – for we can be sure that, throughout both that and the burning of what the Church liked to call “silent heretics” (i.e. books) throughout the sixteenth century, the Voynich Manuscript was itself clearly not thrown on the flames.

    However, I have not found a single source giving the earliest early modern use of “nihil obstat” (which refers to the moral and religious content of the book, whereas “imprimatur” refers directly to printing), or even of “nihil obstare” or similar forms. This is clearly something that requires further research, thanks very much for bringing this up!

  148. Nick, Rene
    Look at the upper left corner 50r. There is imprint of only four petals. If that happened due to moisture during storage, it should have stayed a faint trace of the two other petals.
    Most likely, after stitching was done touch up. The question when? Immediately or “restoration”?

  149. Gert Brantner on January 17, 2016 at 5:09 pm said:

    148 Coments and counting.. I hope someone does understand that this page has become unusable by now due to it’s format. The discussion needs to be held in a forum-type style.

    But, aww, I need to hook into nicks-possibly-new-great-pyramid-theory sometime I find some time to do so. It touches my core-believe in the secret of the construction – different building stages over a looong range of time.

  150. Gert: I (of course) agree that it’s far too long – but I haven’t yet been able to find an alternative commenting layout that would work better (though I shall try to look harder). 😐

  151. Gert Brantner on January 20, 2016 at 6:36 pm said:


    There are dozens of WP plugins for threaded discussion, each having it’s pros and caveats.. of course it is quite some effort.

    I’d like to invite you to take part in


  152. bdid1dr on January 21, 2016 at 1:17 am said:

    Nick, you are doing just fine with a bunch of ‘bullheaded’ ‘know-it-all’s’. My feelings won’t be hurt if you’ve added me to the ‘bunch’. You, Rene, Ellie, and Diane keep me entertained and somewhat up to date with ‘current affairs/developments’ in the “Voynich” world — which I prefer to call B-408 (at least until the Boenicke sez ‘enufalready’ !
    Still hangin’ on to your every word……….

  153. I didn’t read all the comments so pardon me if I repeat anything already covered.

    None of the additional evident you list proves either that it wasn’t a later fake or that it wasn’t a 15th century copy of an earlier work.

    Marginalia and page numbers could have been added when the manuscript was produced or later.

    The hatching could be a 15th century style used when copying an older manuscript or producing a new one, or it could be a 15th century style used in a later forgery. Ditto for the presence of Islamic-influenced geometric designs and the glassware patterns.

    “The baths in the balneo quire suggest a dating of not later than 1500” is true only if it’s an original manuscript and only if the baths are literal baths, and even then they only suggest a dating.

    In short, the reason that the radiocarbon dating causes people to shrug and go on is that it tells us nothing about the information in the manuscript and reinforces what most people believed about the parchment anyway.

    As far as the battle heating up, looking at it from the outside it looks like more of a food fight. The battle won’t heat up until someone comes forward a translation they are willing to defend with words stronger than “possibility” and “appears likely”.

  154. CRezac: on the one hand, it is *possible* that the fifteenth century handwriting that was added by several hands was faked by a later faker or hoaxer. It is also *possible* that, like The Matrix, we are all living in a giant simulation of reality: it’s all a matter of probability.

    In the case of The Matrix, the chances of that actually being true are infinitesimally small: life is too detailed, too fractal, too arbitrary for wise guy computer overlords to be adding in special case algorithms every time physicists do a new particle-smashing experiment.

    In the case of the Voynich Manuscript, we have letters and a solid chain of ownership in the 17th century, so we can immediately rule out a 20th century fake without any difficulty, whatever scenarios Rich SantaColoma may come up with. So the only real issue is whether or not it’s (say) a late 16th fake / hoax. And I would be utterly astonished if you could find a 16th century fake that has even remotely the level of codicological layering that the Voynich Manuscript does: someone not only would have had to have faked an extraordinary document (hard) but also sufficient incidental detail to imply all manner of 15th century ownership. Oh, and they would have had to have used 150-year-old vellum from a very narrow 15th century date range.

    And as for it being a 15th century copy of an earlier work, its cipher alphabet uses a character combination that appears in a number of Northern Italian ciphers from 1440 to 1470. It would therefore be anachronistic if these were to have appeared in a work from the previous century.

    As for what will resolve the mystery of the Voynich Manuscript, there are a thousand different things that could emerge and make a significant difference, not just a complete translation.

  155. bdid1dr on March 19, 2016 at 6:58 pm said:

    OK, gentlemen: You really should be referring to the so-called “Voynich” manuscript by its Benicke Library’s manuscript number B-408. So far, I’ve been able to translate Fray Sahagun’s Spanish language script and his Nahuatl scribes language script into English.

    I’ll be catching up with some of Nick’s more recent blog postings; namely the codiology teams’ efforts (Friedman & Tiltman in particular). Even more particularly Elizebeth Friedman’s works (including her husband’s name for her: “Divine Fire”.
    Keep on keeping on, Nick!

  156. D.N. O'Donovan on March 20, 2016 at 6:17 pm said:

    I think you have to consider that if you were to copy a fifteenth century Psalter today, and encipher its text, while reproducing the original imagery, then you would have content in the text which was about three thousand years old, a script which was modern, and imagery dateable to six hundred years ago.

    Seems to me that it’s important to distinguish constantly between form and content, exemplars (which I think have to be presumed) and present copy, and to avoid any a-priori assumption of an “author”. We have no evidence of which I know which permits the idea of an ‘author’ contemporary with the manuscript’s manufacture.
    Of course, if and when the written part of the text is translated, we may find that it constitutes an original, fifteenth-century one, but I cannot see any way to reconcile the evidence presented by the imagery with a similar attribution.

  157. Diane: the reason that you do not know of any “evidence […] which permits the idea of an ‘author’ contemporary with the manuscript’s manufacture” is that the supposed impossibility of this evidence’s existence is the presumption from which you started your journey.

  158. D.N. O'Donovan on March 21, 2016 at 7:24 am said:

    Nick, when I began the ‘journey’ I presumed nothing at all. I worked from the primary source and scholarly sources for eighteen months before having anything to do with the online Voynich world, apart from contact with you. It was then that I learned the common ideas – yours that the work was an original creation of a fifteenth century Italian author, as you proposed in 2004-2006, and Rene’s that it was a German cultural product which had been owned by Rudolf II and improperly acquired at some stage by a person of lower social status. The past eight years have produced nothing to change your attachment to your hypothesis, nor Rene’s in its essentials. At the same time, I have read nothing to confirm either view, and a myriad objections to both views within the primary source.

    These certainly altered my initial expectation that the work would prove related to some standard medieval European corpus. I have the evidence which informs my opinions, but – as I say – have yet to see any confirming your hypothetical history for the work, or Rene’s imperial and german one.

    If evidence comes to light, then of course I’ll take it into account, and if there is enough, and it’s solid enough I’ll change my views. Responding to information is essential, one would think, if a person’s work is to be of real service to anyone else.

  159. Diane: I think it’s fair to say that the things you and I would respectively consider “primary evidence” do not obviously overlap.

  160. Goose on March 21, 2016 at 1:19 pm said:

    More of the same from you, Diane.
    Always on about how you’re so much better than everybody else, all without any tangible results to show whatsoever.
    Decode the VMS, then you can boast all you want. Until then I suggest you quit disparaging Nick & Rene, who unlike you, actually have made useful, recognized contributions to VMS studies.
    “I presumed nothing at all” is complete bull biscuits: there’s hardly a VMS blogger more presumptuous than you.

    I challenge you to put up your very first ten posts from your first blog, in full, unedited, on your current blog, as a Throwback Thursday event. Then everyone will see clearly just what your original assumptions were.
    See you next Thursday.

    PS: you’ve said about three times that you “shan’t be posting here anymore”… how I wish you would keep your word and stop embarrassing yourself.

  161. D.N. O'Donovan on March 22, 2016 at 3:49 am said:

    Goose – how can I resist reading any original, objective and insightful contribution to our common study of MS Beinecke 408? It is such a pity that you choose to obscure your identity behind a pseudonym – I should have enjoyed reading your own blogposts too.

    It is well that you remain a student of Nick’s. In time you may learn how to make original contributions to the study, well-considered, intellectually engaging, meticulously referenced and expressed in English.

    Remember, if you try very hard to keep your concentration focused on the subject of Nick’s post, that a new thought may come to you about that subject, and you might find you can form a comment of real interest to the author and his followers. Best of luck to you, anyway. I’d appreciate your addressing comments to Nick, and not to me. Having a watch-goose was an old Roman custom, for very good reason.

  162. Diane: I’m sorry to have to say it, but your leaving stupidly sarcastic bullshit comments demeans you yet further.

  163. D.N. O'Donovan on March 22, 2016 at 8:32 am said:

    And I’m sorry to have to say it, Nick, but your encouraging Goose to engage in this sort of childish nonsense and wasting all our energies reading it, adds nothing to your blog, lessens your own reputation for fair mindedness, and introduces the same mindless pack-attack mentality which so infected Santacoloma’s blog.

    Every one of your readers has their rights, and I’m sure it’s quite clear to everyone that Goose behaves as he does because he expects to receive pats on the back from his ‘team’ – a google group no doubt. Your adding such remarks will only encourage him to think that he, rather than you, should decide who may or may not add comments to any of your posts. It is also quite clear that if little Goose directed such remarks at SirHubert (who also left for a time) or to Philip Neal (who rarely writes here), or to almost anyone else, you would prevent it. Surely as moderator, a more impartial attitude would be appropriate. Let us hope that the pseudonymous goose has the self-restraint to address no more remarks to me which have to be answered. Perhaps you might also consider that addressing a comment to someone rather expects that they will take the trouble to return to your page, and respond.
    The usual habit in Santacoloma’s arena, was to respond to a comment about the manuscript with abusive personal, and largely nonsensical insults – this done in turn to everyone except the footy-boys themselves, until there was no-one else.

    Not a good look, Nick.

  164. D.N. O'Donovan on March 22, 2016 at 9:39 am said:

    Let me put it another way. If you were standing in the street, speaking to a woman of your acquaintance – whom you might or might not necessarily like – and a complete unknown came up, smacked the woman in the mouth, told her not to open her mouth again or she’d get more of the same… would you pat him on the back?

    I don’t know Goose, but I’ve watched him at work for some years on Santacoloma’s mailing list. His behaviour, if it occurred on the street rather in virtual reality, would have surely had him in some trouble by now. His usual practice has been to wait until the ‘boss’ shows signs of irritation, and then act like a second-rate henchmen. This is why he will never act on his own initiative. He’s out to please you and his mates, I should think.

    And I am, after all, a sixty-five year old and female. Obviously a safe target. One day I must tell you a few of the “snigger-names” which he and his mates used to circulate. Not the sort of person to introduce to Friends.

  165. Diane: if you genuinely want to improve the quality of Voynich discourse (here and everywhere else), stop sniping at people and stop leaving sarcastic comments. This kind of behaviour is not part of the solution, it’s part of the problem.

    As a moderator, I try hard to be impartial, but having to read emotionalized nonsense such as these comments is definitely a trying experience from which nobody gains.

  166. “I don’t know Goose, but I’ve watched him at work for some years on Santacoloma’s mailing list.”

    BWAHAHAHA, WTF?? You are completely delirious! I am not on SantaColoma’s mailing list, nor have I ever been! How on earth could you have watched me there? That is an outright lie. Once again you’re mistaking your assumptions for facts.

    Someone over there must have called you out over the same stuff I do, therefore you assume that we must be the same person, which just shows how much your reasoning is clouded by your raging paranoia.
    If you’re causing the same reactions in people on several sites you post on, it’s more likely to be due to the things you say than to these people being one and the same.
    Your irrational thinking on this is a further confirmation of your lack of basic analytical skills and failure at understanding how causality works.

    Earlier, I called your bluff and challenged you to show your earliest posts.
    Rather than lay down those cards, you acted offended and launched into wild speculation and lies.
    Your refusal to accept the challenge, and the ravings that ensued, are actually the most revealing response you could have made…

  167. D.N. O'Donovan on March 22, 2016 at 11:43 am said:

    Nick, Like everyone else I would like not to have to think in advance about whether or not a comment about a fifteenth century manuscript will result in flaming.

    I remember that when I first joined here, in 2010 or so, the atmosphere was ideal. Comments kept to the topic, everyone engaged, and any member who descended to ad hominems was soon reminded of the usual standard.

    After so many years of suffering the snide comments and ad hominems from Zandbergen, Santacoloma, and their little group in the mailing list I really have had enough. I recently handed the file to a friend.

  168. Diane: you obviously don’t like being on the receiving end of flaming, so why do you do it yourself?

  169. D.N. O'Donovan on March 22, 2016 at 12:29 pm said:

    More of the same from you, Nick.
    Always on about how you’re so much better than everybody else, all without any tangible results to show whatsoever.
    Decode the VMS, then you can boast all you want. Until then I suggest you quit disparaging me, who unlike you, actually have made useful, recognized contributions to VMS studies.
    there’s hardly a VMS blogger more presumptuous than you.

    … and that for seven years, without respite, from Santacoloma (who even abused my students, under the delusion that anyone using the same laptop was the same person)… Rene, who constantly counters objections to his theory by insinuating that anyone holding a different opinion is deranged, and objecting to his insinuations is paranoid… Goose who thinks the idea of calling a sixty-five year old Quaker a pole-dancer is funny… seven..endless..years.

    This was the one safe and fairly equitable place where my remark to an issue was answered with sober, courteous, balanced and informed responses.

    And now, on advice. No further comment.

    Quite enough.

  170. Diane: to anyone looking in, I’m sure it would seem richly ironic that my comment about not flaming (and treating others with respect) triggered such a lather of disrespect back from you.

  171. Goose on March 22, 2016 at 1:40 pm said:

    “Goose who thinks the idea of calling a sixty-five year old Quaker a pole-dancer is funny”
    I have said no such thing.
    I don’t know where the heck this is coming from but obviously you are conflating me with someone else, which is either malicious intent on your part or a genuine delusion.
    Either way, your statement is incorrect.
    Finally, just for the record, I have nothing against pole-dancers and wouldn’t call someone that as an insult. I actually gave it a try once in Barcelona (now THAT was a funny story!), it’s very physical, requires a lot of strength and stamina, and the experience gave me even more respect for the ladies who do this professionally.

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