Of all the text in the Voynich Manuscript, one section stands a particularly high chance of giving us information: f116v, the final page. This has a set of marginalia that (by all rights) ought to have been written unencrypted, but which we mysteriously are unable to read.


This text is often called ‘michitonese’, because William Romaine Newbold famously transcribed the first two words of the second line as “michiton oladabas”. There are snatches of clarity interspersed with what appears to be Voynichese, Latin, German, and even ‘+’ signs (normally used in written prayers to indicate when to make the sign of the cross when reciting the prayer). In short, it’s a bit of a mess.

The essay on imaging in Yale’s recently-released photo-facsimile edition mysteriously omitted to make any mention of this final page, nor of any recent attempts to try to read this page. And yet a couple of years ago, a group most certainly did try to use a range of multi-spectral imaging techniques to do precisely that.

I know this for certain because I found a set of low bitdepth JPEG files the team had accidentally left on one of the Beinecke library’s file servers: and – having recently installed BIMP, a simple automation plugin for GIMP – thought you might like to see them.

The quality admittedly isn’t good (the images would have been captured using a bitdepth closer to 16-bit, but these were stored as 8-bit JPEGs), but it might serve the purpose of goading the (as yet unnamed) team into finishing their paper, or (if it turned out they had nothing to say) releasing the full bitdepth images so that we can study them openly. 🙂

I’ve only included 26 of the 46 images they made of 116v, because the others were too noisy or too blank to be informative in their low bitdepth form. (I had to run an auto-equalize filter on all the images in order to make them even remotely visible).

Disappointingly, I was not able to refine my reading of the top line (usually called the “pox leber” line), because there was insufficient contrast in the JPEGs. Perhaps with a copy of the 16-bit scans, this might start to become clear…

The Multispectral Images

80 thoughts on “Multispectral images of Voynich f116v…

  1. bdid1dr on November 19, 2016 at 3:29 pm said:

    It is interesting to me because it may have been Busbecq’s sign off when he departed Suleiman’s court with some 200-odd manuscripts gifted to the Austrian Emperor. Busbecq’s Letters (a recently published book — in this century ) discusses his return to Europe. Evidently, he was not successful in his diplomatic efforts. Not long after he returned to the Austrian court, Suleiman’s army attacked.

  2. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on November 19, 2016 at 3:29 pm said:

    yeah. important page of the manuscript. 🙂 And also important three pictures.
    Above is drawn = key.
    Amid is drawn = fox.
    And below is drawn = woman.
    On this side is written tutorial on translation. Key. 🙂

    Otherwise, the manual is written on multiple page of the manuscript. Of course, even on the first page.

    These instructions are the same as in the letter. Which is at Yale ( Beinecke L.)

    Each researcher and academician, you will notice that the character – E -.
    E has a woman on a goat. ( breast ). 🙂
    That is name Eliška. ( English language – Elizabeth )
    ( Czech language – Eliška ).
    English language – fox.
    Czech language – liška. ……..+ E. = Eliška. ( liška + E = Eliška ).
    ( E + liška = Eliška ).
    Eliška z Rožmberka. ( Elizabeth of Rosenberg – English language).

  3. bdid1dr on November 19, 2016 at 4:42 pm said:

    Ancyranum Augustus : Busbecq’s sign-off includes his visit to that monument. The monument still exists. So, if we can get past the constant Czechoslovakian discussions, and focus on what Ambassador Busbecq was visiting, way back some six or seven centuries ago, we may be able to identify Augustus’s mother. We can also identify that animal Angora/Ankara Goat.
    BTW: I have five or six bags of sheared sheep wool. I have been very busy identifying the breeds ( while spinning samples of each). I hope to be able to warp my Navajo loom — some time soon.

  4. SirHubert on November 19, 2016 at 5:04 pm said:

    BD: Augustus’s mother was called Caesonia. What has she got to do with the price of (Czech wide-mouthed) fish?

  5. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on November 19, 2016 at 6:32 pm said:

    Blue eye. You oversleep time. There is no longer Czechoslovakia. There are already a bohemia. Or Czech republic. 🙂

    You see it on the breast the letter E ? 🙂
    About this page I wrote five years ago. ( page 116 – key ).

    Blue eye. You see already on a large parchment – fish – ???

    ( you’re finally Jan Beda H. ?? )

  6. bdid1dr on November 19, 2016 at 8:32 pm said:

    @ Sir Hubert: Don’t get my discussions on Nick’s mystery pages confused with Professor Zladodej’s offerings. ProfZ follows me around constantly.
    Thanx for the reference to Caesonia. Have you looked into my previous discussions in re Busbecq’s Letters ?
    It was only a few months after Busbecq returned to Europe (with several hundred manuscripts , including the so-called “Voynich” manuscript) that Suleiman’s army attacked.
    Are you saying, Sir Hubert, that that the naked lady was Augustus’ mother? If you haven’t had the opportunity to read “Busbecque’s Letters”, you might find them as fascinating as I do.
    beady-eyed wonder-er

  7. bdid1dr on November 19, 2016 at 8:59 pm said:

    ps: You may still be able to find a copy of Caroline Finkel’s “OSMAN’S DREAM” ‘The History of the Ottoman Empire’ Her indexing is meticulous — and makes for fast and fascinating reading.

  8. bdid1dr: I know you’re enthusiastic etc, but can you please try to show a little bit of restraint with your commenting? I’ve just deleted three ‘ps’ comments from you that you really didn’t need to send. 🙁

  9. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on November 20, 2016 at 1:13 am said:

    Blue eye, you write. Fascinating reading. – BTW : I havw five or six bags of sheared sheep wool. 🙂
    That’s the only thing you have. When you have so many waves. Produce caps, or glaves.
    The MS- 408 is too complicated for you.

  10. B Deveson on November 20, 2016 at 4:09 am said:

    are there any indications of the wave lengths and the band width(s) used?

  11. Byron: the information is in the EXIF, e.g. for the first file (before I rotated, cropped, and auto-equalized it):

    Filename – Voynich_116v_MB365UV_007_F.jpg
    ImageWidth – 8176
    ImageLength – 6132
    BitsPerSample –
    Compression – 1 (None)
    PhotometricInterpretation – 1
    ImageDescription – Main banks

    Make – MegaVision
    Model – E7 SN:26R01339/Lens: APO-DIGITAR 5,6/120 M-26 (7.5590 secs)
    Orientation – Top left
    SamplesPerPixel – 1
    XResolution – 740.00
    YResolution – 740.00
    PlanarConfiguration – 1
    ResolutionUnit – Inch
    Software – Adobe Photoshop CS6 (Macintosh)
    DateTime – 2014:10:10 11:24:07
    Artist – 15th-16th
    Copyright – Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University
    ExifOffset – 480
    ExposureTime – 7.6 seconds
    FNumber – 12.50
    SpectralSensitivity – (MB365UV, 7.450s, 100.0w) (MB365UV, 7.450s, 100.0w)
    ISOSpeedRatings – 100
    ExifVersion – 0220
    DateTimeOriginal – 2014:08:19 10:14:41
    DateTimeDigitized – 2014:08:19 10:14:55
    MaxApertureValue – F 6.96
    Flash – Fired
    FocalLength – 120.00 mm
    ColorSpace – sRGB
    ExifImageWidth – 8176
    ExifImageHeight – 6132
    SensingMethod – Color sequential area sensor
    FileSource – DSC – Digital still camera
    SceneType – A directly photographed image

    Thumbnail: –
    Compression – 6 (JPG)
    XResolution – 72
    YResolution – 72
    ResolutionUnit – Inch
    JpegIFOffset – 942
    JpegIFByteCount – 949

  12. bdid1dr on November 20, 2016 at 6:39 pm said:

    Nick, I thought you and your long-time correspondents were discussing the contents of Beinecke’s newest offering of the contents of B-408. So, if I have interfered with technical aspects of the multispectral images, I 1-nce again apologize.
    I will no longer be interfering or ps-ing your various puzzlements.

    beady-eyed wonder (who is going blind with cataracts).

  13. milongal on November 20, 2016 at 10:00 pm said:

    I can almost see the microwriting 😛

  14. milongal: then it’s almost a very sad day… :-p

  15. bdid1dr on November 21, 2016 at 4:56 am said:

    Years ago, when I was studying Busbecq’s correspondence and diplomatic relations with Suleiman’s world , there were histories of Piri Reis (and his beheading). There was also discussion of European boys being kidnapped and neutered — and trained to be a marching army. And even more about kidnapped European women in Suleiman’s harem.
    At the same time Busbecq was visiting, a young European artist had the freedom of the streets and marketplaces. I’m not saying that the young man was, in any way, the creator of the so-called “Voynich” manuscript.
    I am, however positing that it MAY have been either Busbecq’s historian/artist companions who MAY have delivered some 200 scrolled manuscripts to the Austrian court.
    Although Busbecq did correspond with Clusius, I found no mention of Busbecq bringing bulbs and corms to Europe. Clusius, however, has been mentioned as the the person responsible for the international Tulipomania which ruined many very wealthy patrons of the arts and gardens.

  16. Nick,

    I have never seen any of the original multi-spectral images, and I don’t know in what format the raw image data is being stored. I also don’t know how much, or which type of work has been done with them.
    How these JPEG’s relate to the multi-spectral images is an open question.
    A few other JPEG’s have been circulating, where the same image was shown in different frequency bands, and with different false colours. These are the result of some processing of the original image data of course.

    Whether your JPEG’s are extracts of the scanning with discreet frequencies is not at all certain to me, and even if so (i.e. even if they are close to the raw data), not knowing the frequencies means one cannot do much with them.

    I am also suspicious of the spatial resolution. The pixel sizes in your images seems way too large for the quoted resolution…

  17. Rene: the original pictures were of the entirety of f116v plus a generous border, so the 8176×6132 resolution as quoted is correct. And as I mentioned in the post, I used BIMP batch automation to rotate the images upright, crop them to a rectangle, and then auto-equalize the brightnesses so that they were reasonably visible as web-friendly JPEGs. Each original image has the wavelength in its EXIF data (e.g. “MB365UV”), but I chose to retain the original filenames. They give every indication of being raw (but low-bitdepth) data, captured exactly as described in the EXIF data.

    Mathematically, knowing the precise frequencies isn’t actually a great help for multi-spectral imaging (unless you’re trying to profile individual ink contents, when you’re better off using spectroscopy and Raman imaging anyway): all you need to know is that the images are at independent wavelengths, so that you can do statistical analysis en masse.

    The point of my posting these was merely to point out that (a) multispectral scanning of f116v took place more than two years ago, (b) nothing seemed to have been done with the scans since, and (c) I’d like access to the full-bitdepth data, please. 🙂

  18. That’s actually interesting, because this means that they are close to the raw data. Each individual image isn’t that interesting, and if many of them do not show much, this is still important data.

    Since I know that you’re interested in detecting the different kinds of ink that may have been used in the text, one will have to process all images together (of course), and I beg to differ, but knowing the individual wavelengths is important.

    I am certain that a great deal could be done with them.

  19. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on November 21, 2016 at 9:31 am said:

    Ok. Researcher, academician . Resolution 8176 / 6132 is correct.
    Of course,each image can be enlarged. To this size. The utility is in the Yale Beinecke.
    Certainly it every researcher doing. For a good reading of the manuscript it is necessary. Resolution is the largest library in what it can achieve.

    I want to ask you. Have any of you understand what they mean top 3 rosettes. ?? ( upper rosettes ). If so, will write. What do the other circles means.

  20. Rene: a great deal could indeed be done with the full-bitdepth images… but rather less with these low-bitdepth JPEGs. 🙁

  21. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on November 21, 2016 at 10:06 am said:

    Ink ? So I wrote you. So about five years ago. Parchment can only write oak apple ink. No other. This will confirm any restorer. Every other ink. On parchment does not hold.

  22. bdid1dr on November 21, 2016 at 8:30 pm said:

    Well, Nick: I’m tired. I will be writing my own translation of the so-called Voynich manuscript. We have several small-book presses in our part of California. Of special interest are the European and Mexican invasions “General Vallejo” and Gold Rush pioneers from every country in our world.
    My husband’s genealogy goes back to Germany and Austria (16th Century).
    Diaries, correspondence, souvenirs of their gold rush ships “around the horn”. In this case the “horn” refers to pre-Panama Canal. My family history goes back to New Netherlands (pre-New York) : Muller and Ibele (Scots-Irish, German, French).

    I reiterate that the so-called “Voynich” manuscript folio which discussion is accompanied by a sketch of a naked woman and a fat-tail goat is ‘all about’ Busbecq’s discussion of his ambassadorial adventure in Suleiman’s court.

  23. bdid1dr on November 21, 2016 at 8:52 pm said:

    I am NOT saying that Busbecq wrote the so-called Voynich manuscript; only that he signed off from the Ottoman Empire and boarded ship near Ankara. Busbecq wrote an entire diary of his experience, once he had returned to Europe.

  24. One last comment: Get yourselves a copy of Busbecq’s Letters. You will then be able to translate the discussions which appear with every item in B-408. You will then also be able to follow the timelines of the manuscript’s disappearance and its reappearance in the archives of the Pope’s monasterial library (post-Gregory) — and Mr. Voynich’s purchase of the manuscript which we now identify as B-408 .
    Good luck with that botched replica which, as far as I can tell, Mz Zyatz’s teams had no idea of what the manuscript was all about.

  25. bdid1dr: I have a copy of Busbecq’s letters, and I haven’t got the faintest idea what you’re referring to, sorry.

  26. bdid1dr on November 22, 2016 at 4:58 pm said:

    so-called michiton oladaba phrase. If you can find a copy of Busbecq’s handwritten notes/travel diary, you’ll be able to translate that phrase. You will then be able to realize that the so-called “Voynich manuscript is written in a ‘different’ language. You will then realize that very few of the botanical items are identified by name — but only by their uses — written in Nahuatl and Espanol/Latin.

  27. Donald Vaughn on November 22, 2016 at 10:37 pm said:

    Hey bd! Just a quick question, why did Busbecq write his so called sign off in the back of this manuscript. And to quote tv detective Colombo “I just have one more question” In 2013 you were certain that Busbecq wrote the whole manuscript, what made you change your mind? Maybe i should just wait for your book.

  28. bdid1dr on November 23, 2016 at 3:46 pm said:

    @ Mr. Vaughn : I have not referred to Busbecq as having been the writer of the manuscript — only that Busbecq wrote about his return to Europe — on one of the shabbiest of some 200 manuscripts : f-116v . The contents of that manuscript were discussions (bi-lingual) and illustrations written and illustrated by Fray Sahagun’s Nahuatl students .
    When Fray Sahagun’s writings/manuscripts were confiscated by the Spanish Inquisition, they were never returned to him. They ended up in Spain and then in Suleiman’s Court. Austrian diplomat Busbecq was sent back to Europe with some 200+ manuscripts. Busbecq wrote about his visit with Suleiman on the most decrepit manuscript in the pile. The rest of the story is/was in a decrepit monastery which was selling (in the 1920’s) the contents and closing down their order.

  29. B Deveson on November 23, 2016 at 9:56 pm said:

    there is quite a bit of information available regarding the MegaVision EV camera and illuminating system. I note that the description (below) indicates that eighteen wavelengths are available and I note that there are twenty six images in total so I would be a guessing if I tried to assign the wavelengths used. However, I think it is a reasonable guess that the first image is a daylight photo and the images are then taken in a systematic way starting at the shortest wavelength (UV 365 nm) and proceeding through to the highest wavelength (NIR 1,050 nm).

    “A revolutionary EV™ LED illumination system provides unprecedented opportunities in imaging and image quality. This system enables imaging in multiple distinct narrow spectral bands or combinations of spectral bands over a range of wavelengths from the near ultraviolet to the near infrared. The lighting system is fully integrated with MegaVision’s Photoshoot™ software and typically includes light emitting diodes (LED’s) with 10 to 20 specific wavelengths, for example:
    UV 365, 395 nm
    Visible 420, 445, 470, 500, 520, 560, 590, 620, 630, 650 nm
    Infrared 700, 735, 780, 860, 940, 1050 nm.”

    There is something unusual about images number 2,3,4 and 5 in that the writing is not visible in the second and only slightly visible in images 3,4 and 5. Assuming that these images were made using the ultra-violet and violet/blue light then it seems that the ink is fluorescing. And that is strange and implies that the ink has an unusual composition. I know that the areas adjacent to the margins of iron gall ink on parchment can fluoresce under UV light, but I have not found any references that claim that iron gall ink itself can fluoresce. And it is well known that iron 3+, and iron 2+ to a lesser extent, are very effective at quenching fluorescence. In the past trace amounts of iron were measured using fluorescence quenching methods.

    IMHO I think that the apparent fluorescence of the ink is worthy of investigation. When I get back from the bush I will make some batches of iron gall ink and see if I can make it fluoresce. All I can think of at present is that the ink contained unreacted (unreacted with iron) organic material that is fluorescent. But, tannins and polyphenolic substances (ie. the components of galls) are not fluorescent.

    In a later post I will describe how it is possible to take multispectral images using equipment that costs less than $1,000. A single frequency (say NIR 1,050 nm) image can be made with equipment costing less than $100.

  30. Byron: thanks for that. I’ll try to make time to extract all the wavelength names from the EXIF data over the next few days, but I don’t expect there to be any great surprises relative to that list. 🙂

    Incidentally, identifying specific lighting conditions where the ink is not visible would be excellent for doing glancing / oblique illumination, i.e. for looking for the tiny indentations made in the vellum when the writing was originally added. That might be a good place to start a forensic analysis of f116v (i.e. without going to full-blown ESDA).

  31. B Deveson on November 24, 2016 at 1:27 am said:

    Chabries et al (2003) noted “that parchment reflectance increases at longer wavelengths, resulting in greater contrast of text in infrared images.” Chabries, D.M., Booras, S.W., Bearman, G. 2003. Imaging the past: Recent applications of multispectral imaging technology to deciphering manuscripts, Antiquity 77(296), 359. However, this finding appears to be directly contradicted by the reflectance spectra given in “Colour Analysis of Degraded Parchment. Lindsay MacDonald, Alejandro Giacometti, Tim Weyrich, Melissa Terras and Adam Gibson. University College London.

    I note that judging from the reflectance spectra given in MacDonald et. al. the greatest contrast between the ink and the parchment occurs at about 540 nm in this case and the contrast decreases at longer wavelengths (red and NIR).

    I suspect that the reflectance spectra of both iron gall ink and parchment may depend upon the method of preparation of each, and particularly upon the raw materials used. I note that parchment was often prepared by rubbing with powdered limestone, chalk or pumice. And that might provide a way to establish where the VM parchments were prepared because these materials (limestone, chalk and pumice) could carry a trace element signature that might allow for the identification of the locality where these materials originated. I am presuming that traces of the limestone, chalk or pumice would still be present on the parchment.

  32. B Deveson on November 24, 2016 at 1:51 am said:

    From memory the McCrone report mentioned that the ink could have been made with gum arabic and I note that gum arabic is fluorescent. This could explain why the writing is not visible in the presumed UV images.

  33. bdid1dr on November 24, 2016 at 4:12 pm said:

    @ B. Deveson:
    Have you any knowledge of the entire chemical assay of gum arabic which would make it fluoresce? Do you know if Beinecke Library considered having Raman studies done before they manufactured the facsimile?

  34. Thomas F. Spande on November 25, 2016 at 12:21 am said:

    Deveson and BD, The McCrone assay indicated, as D. recalls, the likelihood that gum arabic was used as a binder for the iron gall inks used in text and the line drawings. But they also report that something else with an IR absorption at 1000-1100 cm-1 was also present in the inks. This absorption probably indicates a C-O stretching frequency absorption and might imply a sugar or glycerine is present. It seems to me that pine resin and mopa-mopa gums are not starters as the gum additive (p 5 of their hard copy report) as the former is not water soluble and the latter is New World and based on latex. I have no idea how a sugar/glycerine additive would affect UV absorption and fluorescence but they are unlikely to quench the fluorescence.

    Daveson’s suggestion that UV might possibly indicate how the VM vellum was prepared and the locality of origin is a great idea. I am guessing that the high frequency end of the UV absorption might indicate carbonate (present in limestone or chalk) and this spectroscopic data might already have been collected? Traces of the mineral pumice might show up using non-destructive high magnification microscopy?

    Cheers, Tom

  35. B Deveson on November 25, 2016 at 10:12 am said:

    BD, I am away from any refs. but if you have access to a good library any of the Merck Index, Martindale or Food Chemical Codex would describe the significant components. The fluorescence is attributed to tyrosine and phenylalanine moieties of Gum Arabic. I would also think tryptophan. These amino acids are components of the proteins that occur attached to the sugar polymers and also in the free protein
    The Journal of Luminescence. Vol. 155 Nov. 2014 pp 322-329.
    Fluorescence spectral studies of Gum Arabic: Multi-emission of Gum Arabic in aqueous solution. Namasivayam Dhenadhayalen et.al.

  36. B Deveson on November 25, 2016 at 11:11 am said:

    Yes, I agree that the NIR peak at 1,000-1,100 cm-1 could very well be due to a sugar. I note that some recipes for the preparation of iron gall ink call for a fermentation step and I suspect that some sugars might be formed by hydrolysis from the gum arabic. Unfortunately I no longer have an IR spectrophotometer otherwise I would do the required experiments myself.
    I suspect that the reference IR spectrum was obtained from modern gum arabic, probably of British or US Pharmacopoeia grade, so the reference spectrum will probably be a lot cleaner that that for traditionally prepared gum arabic. That might account for the lack of the 1,000-1,100 cm-1 peak. I think (and I think that you do also) that this anomalous peak should have been more thoroughly investigated. It could tell us a lot.
    I note that the McCrone report indicates that the parchment has a surface layer containing significant calcium so it would appear that there might be particles of limestone/chalk, or pumice, on the parchment. As you say, these might be visible under the microscope and an investigation might reveal their geographic origin. And it might be instructive to find which pages come from the same batch of parchment. If they are all significantly different this would be evidence of forgery IMHO.
    I think that it would be worthwhile to scan each page with a hand held XRF (non contact and non-destructive) in a few place where there is no ink or colourant. A hand held XRF has a sampling area of only about 5 mm diameter and the penetration of the X-rays is only 2-4 mm (so, the page would have to be scanned with a backing of some low atomic weight substance – wood might be OK provided blanks were run first) and scans could also be made of various coloured areas. Each scan would only take 1-2 minutes. I think the XRF scans would be sensitive enough to help identify the components of the colours. And it would probably yield details of the limestone/chalk/pumice. Of course there are far more sophisticated analytical methods available, but these are of no use to us unless somebody has access to them and is will to do the work (and report the results). A hand held XRF can be hired for a couple of hundred bucks a week.
    Incidentally, a recent work has found that gum arabic contains significant amounts of copper, zinc, iron and manganese. From memory the McCrone report found some of the ink samples contained copper and zinc.

  37. bdid1dr on November 25, 2016 at 4:16 pm said:

    ProfZ was trying to tell you that it was ‘oak gall” ink. Whether his observation was valid or not can probably be determined by you or one of your long-time contributors.
    Can any of your long-time contributors follow up on my query as to whether a Raman study of the current replica would resolve some of the murky aspects in the “Voynich replica” presented by Ms Zyatz.? I don’t remember seeing any shiny/reflective/polished appearance on any of the folios in the original item which is B-408.

  38. B Deveson on November 25, 2016 at 9:09 pm said:

    BD, agreed – it is a iron-tannin based ink but the tannin may not be from oak galls. That point remains to be determined. Gum arabic is a component of iron tannin inks and it is added to thicken the ink and make it flow onto the parchment better, and to make it adhere to the parchment better.

  39. I have to ask the question- how regionalized did inks stay? Given the variety of ingredients in them, especially the colors which I know were added later, it seems many areas throughout Europe would not have the necessary components needed to create them. I don’t know, but they could have easily travelled along the trade routes. There also could be ink “signatures” from certain manufacturers, like a component not needed but added because the maker liked it? This could make it trackable to the ink origins, but I am not sure how it would necessarily place it in a location if inks were imported, a possible scenario. Or is this a wrong thought?

    The same argument could be made for the vellum, but I think DNA testing would likely reveal a near exact location of manufacture. (See my most DNA post on the Nov. 6 discussion.) As cows/sheep/etc. were throughout Europe, I would expect purchased vellum to be near its point of origin. Of course one could surmise possible ways it could travel e.g. a student buys it in his homeland, travels elsewhere for school/research, doesn’t need it and sells it.

    I know some about chemistry/flourescence/quenching as it has been used in genetic assays. Obviously everyone has their expertise bias, but I think DNA is the way to go initially, and would likely place the vellum in a distinct part of Europe. Ands the UV light doesn’t degrade it. I would also wonder about comparative samples of the inks- without that, their make-up would seem somewhat trivial in placing an origin.

  40. Thomas F. Spande on November 26, 2016 at 5:56 am said:

    Dear all, Carly raises an important suggestion regarding the vellum that has come up from time to time. Despite DNA analysis being destructive. it could and should be done in view of the small strip already sacrificed for the C-14 assay. One or more small strips from the edge of a page could be carefully cleaned of contamination and used. If a single hair can provide a sample for DNA analysis, then not much is needed. It should be able to distinguish the animal, even species (like the fat-tailed sheep vs other sheep!) used for the vellum. I think this should be made priority #1!

    I think some simpler non-destructive microscopic tests might easily be done in the interim, that just might provide information as to the likely origin of the vellum. Some cultures (like the Armenians) chose still-born goat skin for their finest vellums. Has microscopy been used to to check whether hair was ever present on the VM vellum, and if so how large are the remaining follicule holes? Is the recto side used for the inside or the outside of the skin? I seem to recall that Nick has dealt with this topic but cannot lay my hands on the posts at the moment. A simple micrometer measurement should reveal the thickness of the vellum and by inference, the age of the animal from which the vellum was made. I am guessing the many holes and rips of the VM indicate that the vellum was from a young animal.

    Pumice is likely to have been an article of commerce in the 15thC and if present on the surface of the VM vellum, it would be useful to retrieve some to determine its chemical composition (neutron-activation analyis?). It might, for example, be traced to a certain area that had or has volcanic activity?

    My reading around on iron gall inks indicates however, that they were not articles of commerce as they had to be made fresh every few weeks as molds would set in, I think, caused mainly from the sugars/glycerine used. Like fine wine, they might not travel well! We are talking early 15thC here and I am guessing that all nut gall iron inks were home-made or at the most, swapped around in a small area, like maybe between libraries?

    I am also guessing the C-14 dating of the carbon black inks used for folio numbering is just going to add confusion in dating the VM folio numbering as the carbon black (probably made simply by burning a candle in a glass lantern) will have varying dates as will the likely seed-oil vehicle. Seems to me this assay is not worth the destruction of the recto page number to get at something that was not contemporaneous with the VM text anyway, as Nick has argued.

    Cheers, Tom

  41. bdid1dr on November 26, 2016 at 7:46 pm said:

    ps: This latest offering from Beinecke reminds me of the many years of records/manuscripts being microfilmed at the City Clerk’s office. The microfilms were stored in a man-made cave near Lake Tahoe. I wondered, even now: how are the microfilms going to be read? They they did not know how. I asked my boss if she would be interested in a convention hall nearby was exhibiting huge silvery/rainbow discs. The inventers told me each disc could hold tens of thousand ‘bits’ of information. Of course, I asked them how are we supposed to retrieve any particular item of interest stored in those disks.
    Well, I’m pretty sure y’all know the rest of the story.

  42. bdid1dr on November 27, 2016 at 4:30 pm said:

    @ ThomS: Besides ‘young animal skin’ being used, sometimes stillborn lambskin was the most available source for making vellum. Sheep sometimes birthed triplets. Lamb was probably the most often eaten meat source.

  43. B Deveson on November 27, 2016 at 11:48 pm said:

    The basic ingredients of iron tannin inks (also called iron gall inks) are water, a source of water soluble iron in the ferrous state, a source of tannin and a gum, usually gum arabic. The second and third ingredients can be made from materials that can generally be found within a few miles of any locality in Europe and I would think that most ink was prepared as required by the scribes. It is so easy to make that I can’t see many scribes buying their ink, particularly as the ink isn’t particularly stable and it goes mouldy after a while. Carly, as you have said, some later recipes included dyes such as logwood and ingredients such as wine and vinegar, and later clove oil was added as a preservative.

    The source of the tannins can be quite varied. The best sources are said to be oak galls, oak apple galls and pistachio galls, but other vegetable sources of tannins can be used. Aleppo galls are said to be the best galls and contain 80% tannins. Which is to say there is 20% of other material that could carry over into the ink and give it a useful finger print. Bark, leaves, wood, stems and fruit of various plants have been used as a substitute for galls. Things as diverse as chestnut wood and pomegranate peel.

    The source of the soluble ferrous iron can also be quite varied. There are potentially a very large number of ways whereby soluble ferrous iron can be made from scrap iron, rust or minerals such as melanterite, pyrite, marcasite, bog iron ore and other iron oxide minerals. I have previously described why an analysis of the iron oxide particle that was observed in one sample of the ink is worth studying in detail. There is a reasonable chance IMHO that the mineralogy and the trace element signature would narrow down the geographic locality from where the iron mineral raw material was obtained. As Thomas has said iron gall inks were unstable and only lasted for a few weeks so it is unlikely that they were common articles of commerce. Yes, one can buy iron tannin ink today, but this would be made from pure chemicals and stabilisers and preservatives are probably added to increase the shelf life.
    The raw materials used to make iron gall ink, with the exception of the gum arabic, would generally have been locally available at no cost, so I think it is safe to assume that the ink would contain locally sourced ingredients.

    It might be possible to establish the source (and hence maybe narrow down the geographic locality) of the source of the tannin because the vegetable matter from which the tannin is crudely extracted would also contain many phytochemicals and it is likely that the signature of these phytochemicals would identify the vegetable source. Tannins denature DNA but there might be sufficient fragmentary DNA to allow the species and maybe the geographic location of the plant source to be determined.

    The place to start would be to check if ink samples made from different tannins (galls from different species of trees and from different geographic locations) have different finger prints (phytochemical and perhaps DNA).

  44. SirHubert on November 28, 2016 at 10:56 am said:

    Byron: this is fascinating and goes far beyond my knowledge. Have such tests been carried out on mediaeval manuscripts before?

  45. B Deveson on November 29, 2016 at 12:56 am said:

    SirHubert, I haven’t been able to find any significant work dealing with these matters and I am hoping that someone will be inspired to do some testing. The Wikipedia article concerning Quercus infectoria (Aleppo oak) is interesting in that the minor components of the galls are described. The article concerning Andricus kollari which is a species of wasp which causes the formation of marble galls on oak trees is also of interest.

  46. Thomas F. Spande on November 29, 2016 at 5:06 am said:

    Dear all, particularly Deveson, It seems to me likely that McCrone Assoc. might have kept reference samples of the ink samples they took from the VM for analysis. This would be standard lab practice in case someone questioned a particular result.

    I suggest that some information might be obtained if such a retained sample could be had and that would be a mass spectrometric determination of the iron isotope ratios. There are four stable iron isotopes (see Wiki or any chem handbook) and these are Fe-atomic weight 54; Fe-56; Fe-57; Fe-58, with naturally occurring average percentages ranging from 5.8; 91.8; 2.1 to 0.28, respectively. Some work has been done that indicates the exact ratio of iron isotope masses can indicate by tiny differences where the iron-containing sample originated. With the sophisticated methodology employed by McCrone in 2009, this measurement would have seemed within their armory of tools.

    And a belated tip of the hat to Nick who in “Curse” had already raised most of the same topics (see pp. 52-57) on the properties of vellum as raised in posts by Carly, Deveson, BD and myself. Except, I think Nick (in 2006) has assumed DNA analysis would “be unlikely to happen anytime soon”. Why not now? One can get a pretty complete human DNA sequence from a bit of spit and $99 in the states?

    With all due respect to Nick, I do think the ant analogy misses a major point and that is the fact that ants often mark trails by pheromones. A leaf cutter ant will follow along a trail laid by another for great distances as a huge chain of tiny beads. I see Nick’s point but the metaphor, in my opinion, could use some fine tuning! It seems to me that unlike ants (at least of the same species), Voynichers tend not to follow the lead of others but enjoy a creative scrap! Current Voynichers are not “standing on the shoulders of giants”, it is true, but on nuggets of analytical information that the original NSA researchers would have loved to have, like the vellum carbon-dating, the composition of the pigments used to color the botanicals and pools of water and maybe scholarly imagery evidence for a non-European venue?

    I think, rather than “ants”, “game players” is more apt. Or at its best, when tempers are under control and hurt feelings mended, thoughtful “conversationalists” where each player may bring some little insight or novel way of looking at the VM to the table? From “Crazy down in the Basement”!

    Cheers, Tom

    ps. I read a paper once where the FBI had analyzed ball pen inks using a simple thin layer paper chromatographic (TLC) system. A tiny dab of ink might reveal by TLC, that some (deliberate or unintentional) admixture of metal ions besides iron was used? HPLC might also indicate, as Deveson suggests, that other phytochemicals besides tannic acid were present.

  47. bdid1dr on November 29, 2016 at 5:35 pm said:

    Will we still be subjected to deliberate obscuring of the written dialogues — such as happened with the recent replica of B-408 ? Perhaps I’m being paranoid in my thinking that Beinecke Library will be shutting down (filing/shelving?)mss 408? It used to be that any item in B-408 could be enlarged many times its actual size. I was able to translate thirty items/discussion from their online facilitation.


  48. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on November 29, 2016 at 6:51 pm said:

    Ants. Why are you still investigating ink ? Parchment is written only oak gall ink. I already wrote you five years ago.
    The manuscript is written. The parchment is from a cow. ( cattle ). I already wrote to you too.

  49. Thomas F. Spande on November 30, 2016 at 3:08 am said:

    Professor, Ant behavior is blindly following the ant ahead! Let’s take some time to prove things and not rely on “ex cathedra” pronouncements from anyone! Surely this is the fundamental principle underlying academic work that you are familiar with!

    Cheers, Tom


  50. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on November 30, 2016 at 8:15 am said:

    Ants and Tom.
    You’re a good ants. And also you have the stamina. Of course I know what you write on your blog. But I’m sorry, it’s not good. Really sorry. Otherwise. if you do not like it, I can say bee. Bee It is too hardworking. Of course I can skewer my comment technical terms. But why ? I write in order to understand each bee and ants.

    Cheers, J.Zlatoděj prof.

  51. Thomas F. Spande on November 30, 2016 at 6:31 pm said:


    I have always relied on the web site (s) of Nick Pelling, and years ago on that of Diane O’Donovan. I have never had a web site of my own.

    Nick has the philosophy of “letting every flower bloom” even if some turn out to be thistles!

    I urge you to refrain from being so judgmental! It is not fitting in anyone who has the title “Professor”. Congeniality or at the least, respect for others is encouraged by contributors to Nick’s web site.

    Cheers, Tom

    Cheers, Tom

  52. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on November 30, 2016 at 10:26 pm said:

    Sure ants Tom. Nick has a very nice and informative site. There are also many ants can learn a lot !!!
    It is certainly interesting for you to read what others are posting here ants and researchers. So read and learn !!!
    Of course I also read what I write !
    If something is not clear, so do not be afraid to ask. Very glad to help you.
    Helping everyone !

    Cheers, J.Zlatoděj prof.
    Cheers, J. Zlatoděj Prof.

  53. Thomas F. Spande on December 1, 2016 at 3:33 am said:

    Dear all, Just got this link from The New Yorker online. Just a rehash of what is known.


    Cheers, Tom

  54. B Deveson on December 4, 2016 at 2:44 am said:

    Nick, I wonder if the TV doco company, ProOmnia Film and Video Promotion GmbH,
    that commissioned the McCrone report might be willing to release the full report to you. It is quite possible IMHO that your readers could add considerable value to the McCrone report findings if the full report was available. Maybe enough new insights would emerge to spin a new investigation and a new VM documentary? I note that the samples have been retained. See page 6. “The samples taken from the manuscript were forwarded to Mr. Andreas Sulzer on 27 February 2009. We have retained the microscope slides and other specimen preparations in the event you may require further analysis”.

    Upon re-reading the McCrone report I noted the following matters of interest.

    page 1. “When examined with ultraviolet radiation, the paint appears quite dark, and the writing is a deep velvety purple-black, suggesting an iron gall ink.” OK. So the writing might be more legible under UV light. It is a pity that the wavelength of the UV light used in the test was not stated, but the two common UV test wavelengths are 254 and 360 nm.

    page 2. “Some of the particles (of ink) were adhered to the vellum substrate in which case they also often included small particles of anisotropic calcium carbonate”. OK, so there is the possibility of locating the source of the calcium carbonate/limestone.

    page 2. “In sample 2 (black ink) it (X-ray diffraction) identified three crystalline materials, potassium lead oxide, potassium hydrogen phosphate and syngenite, a basic potassium calcium sulphate.” I have no idea what is meant by “potassium lead oxide”. All I can come up with is that this substance might be artificial minium (red lead) which can be prepared from potash (potassium oxide) and a lead salt such as lead acetate (sugar of lead). Maybe the inkwell had previously held red paint containing minium. I note that minium was commonly used in manuscript paint during the medieval period.

    page 3. “…. ultraviolet fluorescence, which provided more contrast and readability.” I suspect that the calcite (limestone?) used to prepare the parchment is fluorescent and the fluorescent spectrum (and the phosphorescent spectrum) might identify the locality from where the calcite/limestone was obtained. I note that large blocks of re-crystallised limestone occur in the ejecta from Mt Vesuvius.

    page 4. “The spectra include several sharp peaks in the region 1100-1000 cm-1 that are not expected for a gum as per the spectra in our library.” As I have previously mentioned these peaks could be from sugars that can be formed if a gum such as gum arabic is subjected to physico-chemical conditions that cause hydrolysis (such as, but not limited to, acid condition, enzymatic action and heat). I note that the reference spectrum probably relates to modern pure gum arabic (possibly Pharmacopoeia or Food Chemical Codex grade) and medieval gum arabic may have contained sugars (particularly the sugars arabinose and ribose which were first discovered in gum arabic) and proteinaceous material. The sugar and the protein would complicate the IR spectrum.

    page 4. “The blue paint was unambiguously identified as ground azurite with minor amounts of cuprite, a copper oxide. The red-brown particles visible in Figure 4A, the blue flower, are cuprite. PLM, EDS in the SEM and XRD were all in agreement on this identification.”
    I note that the mineral azurite sometimes contains small amounts of the mineral cuprite and this association suggests that the blue paint was prepared from azurite obtained from a mineral orebody. I have looked the various methods that have been used to prepare artificial azurite and it is clear that cuprite would not be formed concomitantly with azurite. So the mixture of the two clearly points to natural mineral azurite “bluebird” being used.

    page 4. “Sample 12, the clear/white material, was identified as proteinaceous (Figures 12B through 12D), with a large amount of calcium carbonate present. A mixture of glair (egg white) and calcium carbonate is likely.” If the calcium carbonate is limestone then the locality where the limestone was obtained could possibly be discovered from the trace element signature of the limestone. Limestones can have fairly distinctive fluorescence and phosphorescence spectra that could locate the source of the limestone (personal research).

    page 5. “The red-brown paint was identified as a red ochre by PLM and EDS in the SEM. XRD characterized the crystal phases present as consisting of haematite, iron sulphide, possibly minor amounts of lead sulphide, and palmierite …” As I have previously note Palmierite is a very rare mineral, but it occurs with all the other minerals that have been identified, or tentatively identified –
    calcium sulphate, atacamite, azurite, cuprite, haematite, iron sulphide, lead sulphide, syngenite, palmierite etcetera – at Mt Vesuvius. The traces of mercury found in the ink could very well be impurities in the materials used to prepare the ink. I note that traces of mercury are unremarkable in a volcanic mineral system. I note that there are some reports of traces of palmierite on oil paintings but I have checked one of these published reports and the evidence for the identification of palmierite is very weak.

    The calcium carbonate (limestone?), calcium sulphate, atacamite, azurite, cuprite, haematite, iron sulphide, lead sulphide, syngenite and palmierite can all be man made, but they are also natural minerals that occur in mineral deposits throughout the world. I note that all these minerals occur around Mt Vesuvius. I think it would pay to establish if each of these minerals is natural or man made.

    The finding of titanium in sample number 17 needs to be followed up because if it is present in a man made mineral then this would be compelling evidence of forgery. However, titanium containing materials are widespread in nature (the soil in your garden would generally carry 0.5% TiO2 equivalent). Small amounts of titanium minerals are also commonly associated with many mineral deposits and samples of minerals like iron ore for example are likely to contain significant traces of titanium, either present in trace amounts as impurities, or present as trace amounts of titanium minerals.

    I note that sample 4 (paint from the blue flower) was found to contain azurite and cuprite. Azurite-cuprite mixture is known from many copper orebodies that contain azurite. This material is sometimes cut and used as a semi-precious gemstone called “Bluebird” (see Google). IMHO a mixture of these minerals is unlikely to be artificial (man made) and this mix does occur in nature and is used as a semi-precious gemstone “Bluebird” (see Google). The mix of azurite and cuprite occur as a natural oxidation product of copper sulphide ores.

  55. Thomas F. Spande on December 4, 2016 at 8:27 pm said:

    Dear B. Deveson, I agree with you, that some additional dating and source information might be obtained by re-examination of the ink and pigments used in the VM, particularly the iron gall inks that were likely prepared soon before enscribing the vellum.

    What surprised me was the absence of lapis lazuli in the common blue coloration of the VM. It was a pigment well known to medieval Europe, particularly in Italy (see “Book of Art” by Cennino Cennini written in the early 1400s.

    Its usual source is he mountains of NE Afganistan where it has been mined since antiquity. It is however also found near Vesuvius in Italy as well as Russia and North America. Oddly enough, the source of the color, lazurite (25-40% of the mineral), does not contain any chromotropic metal (like copper) but relies for its color on the presence of the S3 anion, that results in an intense UV-absorption in the visible range at ca. 617 nm.

    If the VM were prepared in Italy and using precious vellum (when paper was available) , then why not use lapis lazuri for its very common blue coloration used, for example, in the botanical flowers and some bathing pools?

    Maybe this specific pigment absence implies that the VM was not prepared in Italy or that it was at least was colored outside of Italy?

    Cheers, Tom

    ps. That link to The New Yorker online piece does make a good point and that is medieval iron gall inks often deeply etched the vellums to which they were applied. The scribes of the VM were extremely skilled pros and this did not happen.

  56. Thomas F. Spande on December 5, 2016 at 6:18 am said:

    To B. Deveson, In the course of your “personal research” on calcium carbonate in the form of calcite or limestone. can you rule in or out plain old building stone as a source for the limestone found on the vellum or admixed with the ink or pigments?

    Anywhere the Romans went, they likely quarried local limestone for buildings, aquaducts, temples etc. A single block of one of these could provide an in situ source of limestone for vellum preparation and manuscript writing.

    I have read that sugars such as honey were often added to iron gall inks to increase flowability. If enough ink could be scraped off the vellum, perhaps after derivatization, the sugar (s) could be identified using GC as either an enzymatic break down product of the gum arabic as you suggest or some sugar additive?

    Cheers, Tom

  57. Outsiter on December 5, 2016 at 7:01 am said:

    Cheers Tom,

    May be “the blue cube” depicts namely lapis lazuli and the whole recipe describes method for producing a blue pigment ?

    And Cheers again

  58. TigerOfDarkness on December 5, 2016 at 11:15 am said:

    Thomas and B, I see the Wikipedia article on iron gall ink says that some users added crushed egg shell (which contains calcium carbonate) to reduce the acidity of the ink. That could explain the lack of etching in the VM.

  59. Thomas F. Spande on December 5, 2016 at 5:18 pm said:

    Dear Outsiter. Thanks for the feedback on lapis lazuli. I think McCrone would have picked up lazulite in the blue pigments. Instead they detected mainly azurite. That pigment was known in antiquity as “lapis armenicus”. It could be argued that their sampling was limited and they might have missed lapis lazuli? It has the reputation of being resistant to fading so I’m guessing that if it were originally present in the VM coloration, it would still be there and would not have needed recoloration.

    The “blue cube” depicted in the VM remains, to me, a mystery. Lapis lazuli is rarely found in such a crystalline form and even good samples are admixed with pyrite, calcite and sodalite. The pyrite (sulfide of lead = “fool’s gold”) leads to golden streaks in the lumps of deep-blue colored ore.

    The ancients (with deep pockets) often took crushed-up minerals, even diamonds, as a way of treating various complaints. I am guessing the “blue cube” served that purpose although I am not certain what mineral is depicted.

    Cheers, Tom

  60. Thomas F. Spande on December 5, 2016 at 5:26 pm said:

    Dear Tiger, Thanks for that info. The vellum itself also had calcium carbonate on its surface but being present in the ink would also, as you speculate, serve an additional buffering role in keeping the iron gall inks from etching the vellum, by neutralizing tannic acid and other acids.

    Cheers, Tom

  61. Thomas F. Spande on December 8, 2016 at 5:37 am said:

    Dear all, The inverted Greek gamma, that appears throughout the VM, often following an “o” was used in Hindu-Arabic numbering throughout the 13th and 14thC. It gradually developed into the number “4” by the 15thC. See Wiki on mathematics. Oddly enough that site also includes a French compendium of numbers (“Anciens Characters”) indicating that Roger Bacon used the inverted gamma glyph for “4”.

    Our so-called Arabic numbering really came out of India and differs hugely from true Arabic numbers. The concept of zero was an Indian concept as they used counting boards and needed an indication that nothing was in a certain square. Fibonacci (Leonardi Pisano) introduced the idea of zero into the Western world in the 15thC. With the advent of printing, a special character for “0” was developed but before then, most got by with the letter “o”, that is true of the folio numbering of the VM.

    Cheers, Tom

  62. Thomas F. Spande on December 10, 2016 at 6:10 am said:

    Dear all, A quick survey of the VM botanicals (n=128) indicates what I think are some obstacles which lie in the path of interpreting the postulated Neal pairs. Some are indicated as follows:

    1) NO single-stemmed gallows are found to occur in the VM text at all in the following: f15r; f29v; f38r; f56v and f90r2. All are enscribed by the looser writer.

    2) One single-stemmed, single-looped gallows with no other single-stemmed gallows is found on f5r; again written by the looser writer. The plant depicted on f5r seems unique in the sole occurrence of this single-stemmed glyph anywhere in the VM botanicals text.

    3) Three single-stemmed, double-looped gallows are found as follows with no single-stemmed, single-looped gallows being observed: f35r; f35v and f38v. All three folios were done by the looser writing scribe.

    The single-stemmed, single-looped gallows are in the distinct minority with only ca. 50 being present in the 128 plant depictions.

    I think extracting information contained somehow in the positioning or arrangement (or even glyph-height?) of the single-stemmed gallows will be more of an uphill struggle than looking for frequently occurring VM glyph pairs. The tighter writing scribe seems to care more about inclusiveness than the looser writer.

    I have also surveyed the occurrence of the single-stemmed gallows: a) restricted to a single line (as many are) and b) as the lead glyph that is also common. I will convey these results anon for all who care about such details.

    Cheers, Tom

  63. B Deveson on December 10, 2016 at 10:35 am said:

    I tried a couple of simple experiments with an illuminated parchment (of sorts – it is written on what I think is parchment paper) that dates from 1882 in Australia. I only had a few minutes to spare so the results are fairly crude. But I will follow up with more investigation.
    This first thing of interest that I noted was that the iron gall ink signatures (I am assuming that they are iron gall ink because of their faded yellow brown colour) are less intense when viewed with sun light illumination and a filter that blocks out wavelengths less than 715 nm. I photographed the writing with a camera (Nikon 500D) modified so as to be sensitive to light out to about about 1250 nm (ie. Near infra-red; NIR). One signature was written in what appears to be a fountain pen ink (dark blue black) and this signature is still as distinct as it is to the naked eye.
    I also checked the manuscript under Ultra-violet light (UV) with wavelengths of 256 nm and 360 nm. The parchment paper did not fluoresce and the iron gall ink (?) writing was less distinct (paler) than when view with the naked eye.
    I suspect that the VM parchment would fluoresce when illuminated with ultra-violet light, unlike the parchment paper used in my test. I say this because the McCrone report mentions particles of calcite and parchments were prepared by rubbing with either limestone powder (=usually calcite in many localities where the limestone has been re-crystallised by geologic events such as metamorphism) or pumice, so we could expect that parchments would generally have enough calcite ingrained in the surface to fluoresce under UV light. I don’t know of any marbles or limestones that don’t fluoresce under UV light. See Google. So, I would suspect that the contrast between the iron gall ink writing of the VM might be a bit better under UV illumination than under visible light because the background would be a lot brighter.

  64. Thomas F. Spande on December 10, 2016 at 11:31 pm said:

    Dear all, Picking up a thread on frequently occurring “glyph pairs”, I suggest a really persistent pair: the inverted Greek gamma preceded either most commonly by an “o” or less commonly by an “a”. I have not found any other combination, although my inspection was cursory and involved only 12 folios within the VM botanicals section.

    The inverted gamma occurs either in the middle of a “word” or at the end of a “word”, i.e. preceding a space. If Nick’s ideas are correct and the VM text when separated by spaces really does separate encrypted “words”, then one can state that the inverted gamma is not the lead glyph of a word.

    ps. To Deveson: A tip of the hat to you for your own experimentation!

    Reliable fountain pens and their inks would be comparatively rare in 1882, if used to write on your parchment paper shortly after it were made. Was that paper watermarked, i.e. was it laid paper? That paper date would be late also for commercial laid paper unless it were a boutique paper.

    Cheers, Tom

  65. SirHubert on December 11, 2016 at 8:56 am said:

    Tom and Byron,

    Just wondering – was the ‘parchment’ from your 1882 document actual animal-skin membrane (parchment) or a paper? ‘Parchment paper’ is paper, not membrane.

    The first modern fountain pen, as I understand it, was patented by Waterman in the mid-1880s. There were evidently other types of ink-feed pens around at the time but they were unreliable and blotted a lot. But I understand that any pen using a feed system tends not to use iron gall ink because it clogs and corrodes the feed mechanism.

  66. B Deveson on December 12, 2016 at 6:50 am said:

    Tom, the document is written on what appears to be parchment paper which is stiff and about 2 mm thick. There are no watermarks of any sort and there are no obvious marks from drying on a mesh. The document was written in 1882 (it is signed and dated) and contains more than one hundred signatures. Two of the signatures were made with a dark blue ink and the strokes of the pen suggest a fountain pen (the width of the up and down strokes is fairly uniform) and the other signatures are a light orange brown colour, consistent with iron gall ink. These light orange brown signatures are very much less legible when viewed under infra-red or UV light.

    SirHubert, yes it appears to be paper of some type. I will see what structure I can see under the microscope. I am trying to get access to a written parchment (animal skin) to check the legibility of iron gall ink when viewed under UV or NIR illumination. There are advertisements and articles regarding commercially available fountain pens from the late 1870s in Australia (see Trove). For example: Border Watch (Mount Gambier) 13th March 1880 page 2
    Newcastle Morning Herald and Miner’s Advocate 3rd December 1879 page 2

    Melbourne (the Capital of the State of Victoria), where the document was prepared in November 1882, was probably the richest city in the world at the time if the overall wealth and health of all it’s citizens is counted, so the presence of a couple of fountain pens in a group of a hundred or so isn’t remarkable. Melbourne in the 1880s was known as “Marvellous Melbourne”.

    Tom, SirHubert, I can send you some IR photos of the document. I think Nick would be happy to give you my email address.

  67. Thomas F. Spande on December 12, 2016 at 6:23 pm said:

    Dear Deveson, That paper is unusual in being so thick. A good choice, in my opinion, as a stand-in for vellums, which may actually be thinner. In comparison to the VM, 75 of your paper sheets would be a stack 3 inches high. Can you determine by microscopy whether the paper is linen- or cotton-based or from wood pulp (uggh!)? As I recall pulp paper was being introduced roughly at the time of your document date. If the latter, it would probably be badly “foxed” and browned by now; in fact it likely would not have survived for ca. 150 yrs.

    And evidently your paper was machine made. Watermarks were easier with laid paper as one had only to place a symbol made of wire atop the “mesh grid”. I would guess that such thick paper as you experimented with, would make spotting a watermark difficult although most commercial papers still have watermarks. It is always the first thing to check when dating a document. Because laid papers had impressed lines due to the mesh-work, for a time, even machine-made papers were made with a “dandy roller” that impressed phony lines into the paper.

    One can still buy commercially produced iron-gall inks but I am uncertain why anyone would want to in view of the many good inks based on particles that are permanent and virtually waterproof, an occasional quest of mine. I have found at least three good black or blue-black inks that are commercially available and that dry rapidly (30 sec or so) and are totally waterproof, not just water resistant.

    I take your point that fountain pens were available in parts of “Oz” at the date stamp on your paper. These babies must now be very collectible!

    Thanks for the offer of making available infrared photos of your manuscript text. As for me, I will accept your interpretations without any more documentation.

    Best wishes on continued experimentation with your vellum substitute.

    Cheers, Tom

  68. Thomas F. Spande on December 13, 2016 at 12:09 am said:

    Dear all, A grumble or two with McCrone Associates.

    Why on earth bring in mopa-mopa gum as a possible reference for gums used in the VM? It is a) New World; b) latex-based; c) Used by Incas only on wood. Totally a goofy pick!

    Also why bring in “palmierite” [(Na,K) Pb2(SO4)2] as a pigment for the red-brown VM coloration? It was first discovered in 1924 after an eruption of Vesuvius. Another very rare mineral Atacamite, Cu2(OH)3Cl is picked, originally found in Chile in 1801, and that can gradually transform to malachite, Cu2 (CO3)(OH)2 , Atacamite is isomorphic with two other minerals, Malachite is an ancient mineral found in the Timna valley of modern Israel, where it has been mined for 3K yrs. The Greeks also mined it, It would have been a natural green pigment for the VM. It is often found with azurite, Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2. ,Another green pigment is verdigris, scraped off of copper or copper alloys, even from copper ores.

    Raman spectra is often used for mineral identification and might have been applied to some of the ORIGINAL coloration of the VM.

    Cheers, Tom

  69. Thomas F. Spande on December 13, 2016 at 3:46 am said:

    Dear all, Back to those mysterious single-stemmed gallows. Many have noted they tend to cluster on the first line of VM text and often are the first glyph-occasionally elaborated with grand scribal flourishes, particularly from the pen of the tighter writing scribe. Following are a brief summary of the single-stemmed gallows that ALL occur on one line (not necessarily the first line) with an asterisk indicating a single-stemmed gallows is the lead glyph.

    1) f2v, 5r*, 6r*, 6v*, 7v*, 10v* (all by the looser-writing scribe)

    2) 11v*, 13v*, 14r*, 15v* (all loosely enscribed); f18r*, f18v, f19r*, 19v* (tighter)

    3) f21v, f23v*, f25r*, f25v*, f27v*, f28r* (all loose), f29r* (tight).

    4) f35r*, f 35v*, f38r, f38v, (all loose), f39r (tight)

    5) f41v*, f46v*, f48r*, f50r* (all tight)

    6) f53r (loose), f55r*, f55v, f56r (all tight)

    8) f90v1* (loose)

    9)f 93v* (tight).

    It is hard, at the moment, to get a handle on the purpose that the single-stemmed gallows play in the VM glyphs. It does appear that the looser enscriber prefers putting these all in a single line, though often not the first line of text. Sometimes a random line is picked, sometimes the lead line of another paragraph. Of the 36 folios examined where the single-stemmed gallows are all on a single line, 22 are by the looser-writing scribe; 14 are by the tighter scribe. The difference between the two scribes in using a single-stemmed gallows as the lead glyph is less with the loose scribe choosing this positioning in 17 cases; the tighter scribe, in 11 cases.

    I find it hard to get my head around the idea that the single-stemmed gallows represent a consonant or any language character, for that matter. More likely, I think, is their role in being markers of some sort, maybe being positioned over another page as a grill of some kind?

    I think I will give this quest for single-stemmed gallows a rest for the time being.

    Nick, if you can shed any light on the topic, I think the membership would be grateful!!

    Cheers, Tom

  70. bdid1dr on December 14, 2016 at 7:00 pm said:

    Nick & ThomS:

    I’m very tired — especially this morning; we had a 5.0 magnitude earthquake. I am also giving up entirely on the constant Voynich Manuscript discussions.

    Years ago, I identified the location being Frascati, and the Lakes (Alban) and Nemorensis. At that time, I also mentioned the mysterious hole at the side of the the major road (Alexander’s Road)

    So, the very attractive Ms Zyatz has once again conned a whole bunch of Voynicheros into buying a $60 replica of what has been thoroughly TRANSLATED.

    So, I thank some of your frequent ‘flyers” who sometimes visit Fray Sahagun’ s magnificent Florentine Codex (Spanish Latin and Nahuatl) which is very helpful in translating the commentary/puzzle/of the Alban and Nemi Lakes of Italy. Roman Latin as spoken in Frascati.
    Please let us all know when you have solved the mystery — and put poor Mr. Voynich to bed (or his death-bed so to speak). Could it be that Ms Anne Nill (Mrs Voynich’s secretary) kept a diary before she sold the manuscript to a
    millionaire ? Which millionaire eventually donated/sold to Yale ?

  71. I am 73 years old. Much of the content of Ms Zyatz’s latest facsimile of Frascati and not too far away from Rome, is very familiar to me. I started to read about Rome’s Colosseum (Quo Vadis ? ) at a very early age (5 or 6 year old).
    When I was about 10-12 years old, I was reading about Frascati (the vacation spot for the Pope). and the Alban Hills — and vineyards.
    In more recent years (World War II ) I suspect that there are several contributors to Nick’s fascinating pages –who know about the so-called rescue of Rome’s and Frascati’s museums and works of art — much of which ended up in Nazi Germany. American pilots were strafing the railroads in an attempt to drive away the invading armies. Meanwhile, Italians (civilians and other local thieves) were also helping themselves to artworks and even statuary.

  72. Thomas F. Spande on December 15, 2016 at 5:54 pm said:

    BD, A new VM facsimile can be found on Amazon for 36 USD.

    Italy and WW2: Expanding on some of the points raised by you. The greatest library in the world (considered so by Dickens) was that of Montecassino monastery. Americans did not want to bomb it, but were under orders from a New Zealander officer in charge of securing the route to Roma. Clark, the Am general was opposed to bombing it since his intelligence indicated that the Germans holding Cassino had no plans to occupy the monastery.

    Then two German officers, Schlegel and Becker, one RC, the other Protestant, of the looting-prone Hermann Goering division, decided on their own to use German Army supply trucks normally returning empty to supply depots, to carry the library one load after another to various smaller libraries run by Benedictines. On each trip, a monastery monk rode, to make certain, the destinations were as agreed to and no looting occurred. In this way the library, every title, was saved.

    Shortly thereafter, the abbey was bombed by the US Army AF and reduced to rubble which then made excellent surveillance and refuge sites for the Germans in the battles that ensued. Finally the monastery was simply bypassed by Clark and the Americans who forced into retreat, the German troops in Roma. Later the destroyed abbey site was taken, mainly by Polish troops, as by then it was an important forward artillery spotting position for the Germans.

    I got into this topic as 1) the Montecassino library was a repository of ancient manuscripts including many written in Beneventon, a modified Latin. 2) was the Villa Mondragone, although Jesuit, a recipient of some of the Montecassio library? Evidently not. So that possibility was abandoned.

    In the overall WW2 strategy, It was peripheral to the main trust of the Americans through France but Churchill, always fixated on “second fronts” like Gallipoli (WW1), like Greece (totally an abortive operation) carried the day on attacking the Germans through the “soft underbelly” of Europe. It did tie up a lot of German troops and led to their separate surrender (under OSS Swiss head, Allen Dulles) to the allies, not including (to their immense displeasure of Stalin) the Russians.

    Cheers, Tom

  73. Thomas F. Spande on December 16, 2016 at 2:39 am said:

    Dear all, I have a huge dish of crow before me! Using a hand lens, I have discovered other additional single single-stemmed gallows, each located on lines other than the one I had picked in my post on Dec 13.. I discovered the errors during my identification of the gallows as single-stemmed single looped (1′) or single-stemmed double looped (2′).

    1) f2v (2′); 10v* (2′, 2′) (by the looser-writing scribe).The others were in error and are discarded. Elsewhere the difference between the folios listed in my post of Dec 13, are deleted if they were found to be in error when a single glyph slipped by that was on another line.

    2) 11v* (2′, 2′, 2′); 13v* (para 2, 1′, 2′); 14r* (2′, 2′); 15v* (2′, 2′) (all loosely enscribed); f18r* (2′, 1′ ); f18v (line8, 2′), f19r* (2′), 19v* (2′, 2′, 2′, 2′) (tighter)

    3) f21v (1′. 2′); f23v*( 2′, 2′, 2′); f25r*(1′. 2′); f25v* (2′, 2′. 1′); f27v* (1′, 1′ 1′, 2′);, f28r* (2′, 2′. 2′) (all loose); f29r* (2′, 2′) (tight).

    4) f35r* (para 2, 2′); f35v* (2′); f38v (2′) (all loose),

    5) f41v* (2′, 1′, 2′, 1′, 2′, 2′, 1′;, f46v* (2′, 2′, 2′, 1′); (all tight)

    6) f53r (line 5, 1′, 2′) (loose); f55v (2′); f56r (2′). (all tight)

    9)f 93v* (2′, 2′, 2′, 2′, 2′) (tight).

    As observed, the number of single-stemmed double looped gallows is 45; the single-stemmed single looped gallows number 12 for roughly a 4:1 ratio. All but two of the latter are the lead glyph (the numbers 1′ and 2′ are in the order of their appearance in the line).

    Again, I am sorry for the errors in my original post of Dec 13.

    Cheers, Tom

  74. Thomas F. Spande on December 18, 2016 at 6:41 am said:

    Dear all, If as many, including me, consider the VM to be written mainly with Latin words, then one can expect to find the conjunction “and” expressed as “et” as well as NO articles (like “the”. “an/ a). I have argued for years that “et” is found in the “89” combination borrowed from the practice of Armenians using letters for counting as many ancient languages did. When the Armenian alphabet is laid out in the “a to z” sequence, the eighth and nineth characters when converted to Latin characters are “e” and “t”, respectively. Other Armenian characters also appear as the “tipped 2” for “ch”; the “ampersand-like” glyph but with a rocker and no closure of the bottom rocker, for “f”, the “o” or Latin “o” and a few others. I think, also that using numbers = arabic letters, that “4” = “d”.

    If others accept this argument, then it seems to me that common glyph triplets that one finds in the VM, like c-c o “inverse gamma”; c-‘c o “inverse gamma” c-c a-inverse gamma; and c-‘c-a-inverse gamma” are likely PRONOUNS with the inverse gamma used as a word delineator or end marker, and having no other function.

    These then generate eo, ea, io, and ia combinations. More on Latin singular and plural pronouns anon.

    Cheers from an icy Maryland. Tom

  75. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on December 18, 2016 at 3:43 pm said:

    Bee Tom. It is bad. Sing second ( 2 ) character’s number 2. This means. It is letters – B,R,K.
    What ant sees a number 9. It is a small letter q. It is numbered 1. This means. It is letter – A,I,J,Q,Y.
    He sees an ant or a bee, a symbol 8. It is number 8. This means. It is letter – F,P.

    Cheers from an icy Plzeň. Josef Zlatoděj Prof.

  76. Thomas F. Spande on December 18, 2016 at 6:42 pm said:

    Professor in icy Pilsen,

    I think 8 is always “e” in Latin (or maybe sometimes English) and that 9 is always “t”. The letter “e” is sometimes also supplied by one of the “c c” combinations. So some redundancy is evident. If my idea of “89” being “et”, then maybe some redundancy may also occur with what I think is the “&”, that is, oddly enough, a ligature that stands for “et” and is still carried on modern Western keyboards.

    Your assignments for 8 and 9 still require “throwing a dart” to pick whatever vowel or consonant is intended! Anyway that is my view from the “hive”.

    Cheers, Tom

  77. The apparent c – c is sometimes c – e . If one ‘c’ is smaller than the other, you are looking at ce or ec . What can confuse the ec or ce combinations or de-confuse the combinations would depend on the context of what is written:
    acc i dent
    ec ol ogy
    ce met ery
    on ce
    ne-ce – ss -ar y
    ne ce ss i ty (ne ce ss i tl in Nahuatl)


  78. Giuseppe BIANCHI on December 19, 2016 at 8:20 am said:


    here it is!


    Maybe now you also have understood how Voynich was written…



    I did my bit, now you have to do your’s

  79. Gregory on December 19, 2016 at 9:26 am said:

    Giuseppe, is a terribly interesting what do you suggest, I think that these revelations you should confirm with the electron microscope.

  80. bdid1dr on December 22, 2016 at 3:54 pm said:

    Merry Christmas ! (Just in case y’all are planning on a long holiday, right through the New Year’s celebrations.)

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