I was mooching round the British Academy’s website a little earlier (I was trying to find the Neil Ker Memorial Fund, which I had forgotten the name of), when I noticed its page on British Academy Conferences – this is where ‘any’ UK citizen can propose a conference on any subject (as long as they’re prepared to run it themselves, and don’t mind being turned down with no reason being given).

And so the (as yet hypothetical) question naturally follows: if I was organizing a British Academy-hosted conference on the Voynich Manuscript, how would I approach the challenge? What should that kind of Voynich Manuscript conference look like?

What Isn’t Worth Looking At

It’s easy enough to list all the things I wouldn’t want to let onto the podium:
* Voynich theories [– too boring for words –]
* Voynich metatheories [– too sad for words –]
* Voynich iconography / iconology [– too free-floating for words –]
* Voynich linguistics [– sorry, but it’s just not written in an obscure language –]
* Voynich cryptology [– sorry, but it’s just not written in any obviously categorisable cipher –]

Some may be surprised that I would exclude both Voynich linguistics and Voynich cryptology. The simple reason for this is that I very strongly believe that we still don’t know enough about the Voynich’s basics to do meaningful analysis about either. For example, the existence of “Neal Key”-like behaviour offers a strong counter-argument not only against any kind of simple-minded linguistic take, but also against any kind of straightforward substitution cipher argument derived from a reading of cryptographic history.

The only reference to fifteenth century non-syllabic transposition ciphers I know of is a brief passage in Alberti’s book which I read as a reported speech account of a debate between Alberti and a transposition cipher practitioner. There is (unless you know better) not even one pre-1500 non-syllabic transposition cipher cryptogram still extant.

And so Voynich research is still in a position where neither linguistic approaches nor historical cryptological approaches have any ‘moral high ground’ to argue their respective cases. The Voynich Manuscript laughs pityingly at both camps’ feeble efforts.

So… what would I want attendees to be discussing, then?

The Joy Of The Concrete

As per my recent list of 100 Voynich (research) problems, there remains – despite all the excellent work that has been done since the Beinecke first released digital scans in 2004 – a huge amount of fundamental stuff that we still don’t know about the Voynich Manuscript.

The problem with not knowing how pages, paragraphs, lines, words, and even letters were constructed at a really basic level is that this makes it extremely difficult to know whether our transcriptions are a help or a hindrance. What order were lines written? (Philip Neal points to evidence that some line interleaving may have taken place in at least Q20.) What order were strokes in letters written? (Back in 2006 in “Curse”, I pointed to evidence that on some pages, the terminal EVA ‘n’ stroke of ‘daiin’ may have been added as a separate pass). And so forth.

Hence the core stuff I would want conference attendees to focus on is purely that-which-is-concrete: things that can be seen, highlighted, measured, cross-referenced, scanned, indexed, counted, etc. What were the original gatherings and their nesting orders? What happened to those gatherings to turn them into quires? What construction stages can we solidly identify? (There must be close to twenty of them, is my current best estimate). Can we order (or even date) these construction stages? What, ultimately, was the alpha state of the manuscript?

But this isn’t just a matter of assembling some codicological dream-team (even though many of the most basic unanswered questions are clearly codicological in nature). There’s also the tricky matter of the Currier Hands and the f116v marginalia (which would require a great deal of palaeographical expertise to untangle): and also the taxing matter of the differences between the various Currier languages, which is something closer to meta-linguistics than linguistics per se.

In all cases, the central include-it/don’t-include-it criterion would be whether any given analysis would advance our knowledge of the Voynich without having to assume any given historical narrative or theory far beyond the basic radiocarbon dating.

Never mind being carbon-neutral, could such a conference be theory-neutral? My hope is that it could, but I do appreciate that this is something many Voynich researchers could easily find difficult to work to, or to achieve.

Linguistics vs meta-linguistics

I think it’s fair to say that the long-term relationship between Voynich research and Voynich linguistic research has not been greatly productive. Given that the mainstream Voynich research position has for more than fifty years been that Voynichese is simply not a “language” in any straightforward sense of the term, it is dispiriting to see Stephen Bax continually raking over the same barren concrete surface, ever-announcing to the world that the few motes of dust he has accumulated do in fact do actually form the basis of some über-obscure hybridized historical linguistic system over and above mere statistical chance.

Would out-and-out linguistics researchers such as Stephen Bax be welcome at such a conference? With the putative roles reversed, Bax has certainly made it clear online that mainstream Voynich researchers (errrm… particularly me, it would seem) would be distinctly unwelcome at any Voynich-themed seminar he would organize.

But what annoys me so much about Bax isn’t that what he puts forward is just plain wrong (even though it is), but that by mistakenly telling all and sundry that the challenge of Voynichese is one where its beginning, middle and end all fall inside a purely linguistic domain, he utterly misrepresents the specific difficulties it poses.

Rather, what Voynichese does present to researchers is an overlapping combination of linguistics (e.g. actual language content), meta-linguistics (content transformation, e.g. abbreviations, codes, and transposition), and misdirection (e.g. substitution and steganography). Hence the primary difficulty we face with Voynichese is more one of determining its internal boundaries: what is misdirection, what is language, and what is meta-linguistics? If Voynich linguistic researchers could successfully accept that this question is the real one we need to answer before trying to push forward, then perhaps we could all start to work together in a reasonably productive way.

So I have to say I’m hugely encouraged that at least one Voynich linguistics researcher out there (Emma May Smith) has recently started looking in a genuinely agnostic way at all the difficult stuff that confounds those who try to stick to fairly simple-minded linguistics accounts. If only more linguistics researchers followed her example. *sigh*

Raman Imaging

There is a final twist: in the ideal world of my imagination, the conference stage would be part-laboratory too, with a live link between a Raman imaging device in New Haven looking at a series of pages of the Voynich Manuscript, sometimes through a microscope. The conference attendees would be able to discuss and propose different tests live, so that they could see “under the skin” (sometimes literally) of the manuscript.

But once you throw that into the mix, would this even qualify as a “conference” any more? Or would it actually be closer to some kind of Reality TV historical research happening, in a way that’s so acutely of-the-moment that it hasn’t even got its own annoying hashtag yet?

Put that way, should I be thinking in terms not of the British Academy, but of Channel 4 and Smithsonian TV?

112 thoughts on “How about a British Academy Voynich Manuscript Conference?

  1. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 7, 2017 at 6:06 pm said:

    Hi a big bee scientist. Constantly groping. Because they’re trying to cram into the text of the manuscript bad language. And that’s the problem, why not a succees. Everybody who work deciphering the text. Wanders like the Flying Dutchman. And why should each ant and bee paid to what I write.
    Nick, whwn I have more time. So I’m gonna give a complete translation of the manuscript.
    As I wrote to you. Handwriting not : herbarium, astrology, alchemy, recipes and pharmacy.
    Otherwise, he writes Bax do not read at all. Bax writes crap.

  2. Jackie Speel on January 8, 2017 at 10:50 am said:

    Presumably there will be several talks to fill the conference:

    The life of Wilfrid Voynich himself.
    Creating a manuscript in the first half of the 15th century.
    The historical context of the manuscript (the timeframe of the writers, its known owners etc)

  3. Jackie: for me, the whole point of such a conference would be to collectively explore and find out stuff that wasn’t previously known. So… the post-1600 history of the VMs would only tangentially be part of the agenda, not centrally.

  4. Thomas F. Spande on January 8, 2017 at 7:17 pm said:

    Prof. Claiming to be a constant “groper” can get you into trouble with the law in the US of A. Just a friendly tip from a fellow bee!

    Cheers, Tom

  5. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 8, 2017 at 9:31 pm said:

    Bee, Tom. I do not care about the law of the United States.
    I wrote that Bax writes crap. And that’s the difference.

    Czech language : Bax píše blbosti. 🙂

  6. Thomas F. Spande on January 8, 2017 at 11:13 pm said:

    Prof. You join our president-elect in this!

    Can you write anything in Old Czech without diacritical marks (i.e. pronunciation guides )? Cheers, bee Tom

  7. Thomas F. Spande on January 9, 2017 at 1:48 am said:

    Dear all, I append a few topics that a conference such as Nick might oversee:

    To me a critical query is: When was pen or pigment put to the vellum. We know the date of when the vellum was created but not when it was written on. And not conclusively what animal provided the skin . Some argue the vellum sat around for over 100 yrs until some New World Aztec glyphs were written upon it.
    Incidentally microscopic examination might help with the age of the animal used and even the animal but DNA would be the most definitive, even getting to the species of the animal, like a fat-tailed sheep?
    Back to dating the ink or pigments. A non-destructive method such as reflectance Raman spectroscopy could be used on the ORIGINAL pigments that are seen on nearly every botanical. McCrone studied mainly the later thickly applied and opaque crayon, oil or gouache coloration. Some of their pigment mix guesses seem improbable. Raman might even be useful on the inks as oxides of iron may have formed and other elements besides iron (e.g. Zn and Cu) are likely present. Maybe some text could be sacrificed to carbon date the tannins from the oak galls? If as Nick has suggested, some of the original coloration is plant-based, and if a portion of the plant depiction can be sacrificed, then C-14 analysis could be performed. This could give a date
    BUT this would be the date on which the pigment (inks, water colors) were prepared. If after the date of the vellum preparation, we can work with that. If before, just confusion reigns. That Indian yellow stain on f93r runs down the page beyond the text and might be a candidate for reflectance IR. I think that pigment was based on the urine of Indian cattle fed a diet of mango leaves and appeared first (ca 15th C ) in the Moghul empire, where India overlapped Persia. I would focus on that one first as it clearly was applied after the text. It will be noted that iron gall ink is waterproof as there is no evidence of the ink running at all. Also there seems no bleed-through on f93v although the painted green leaves do bleed through.

    Other topics, such as why the “T-O” map on the extreme upper right hand of the nine rosettes foldout?; does the VM have any arabic?; are the botanicals mainly spices rather than herbs?; was “pricking used” to produce level lines of the VM text?; what does the scratched in “crossed out A”of f94v signify?: are there elements from Marco Polo’s Voyages seen in the VM? and finally are we seeing Hangul or other Far Eastern glyphs in the VM? I will cover these topics in more detail anon. These amount to nibbling at the edges of the VM puzzle rather than providing an answer to a fundamental question such as outlined in the first paragraph above.

    Cheers, Tom

  8. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 9, 2017 at 11:29 am said:

    Tom bee. Of course I can write, the full text of the manuscript in old Czech language. Because my whole manuscript deciphered and translated. Tom you’re using the wrong alphabeth. Also, you are not able to perform a thorough analysic of the text and images. And therefore err. and groping. For many years, just writing about ink and parchment. It is bad. You begin to think and think like a Jew. From a manuscript based on Jewish substitution, the author writen in several places in the manuscript.

    Regarding your president. This will certainly be a better president Obama. Because the Slav. When you come back after his birth. So you come to the Polish royal Piast dynasty. Why did I write ? Author manuscript was the mother of the Piasty dynasty. After his father was obviously bomemia.

    Cheers, J.Zlatoděj Prof. + Champollione. 🙂

  9. Thomas F. Spande on January 9, 2017 at 2:44 pm said:

    The VM text has no real diacriticals outside of the possible little curl above the linked c’s, i.e. c-c. Does old Czech have diacriticals or not? When you say “old Czech”, is this Czech before Jan Hus?

    Cheers, Tom

  10. bdid1dr on January 9, 2017 at 5:16 pm said:

    ThomS and ProfZ : I reiterate that the so-called ‘Voynich’ manuscript is written in two languages Latin Espanol and Nahuatl. I have also explained that what appears to be linked c-c is often c-e.
    See if you can find not often used phrases such as ‘co-r-ec-tl (correct) .

    My favorite item which appears in the so-called Voynich is the water LOTUS, not the lily.


  11. bdid1dr on January 9, 2017 at 5:25 pm said:

    Oops, I forgot to mention the saffron crocus. Y’all might be able to carry on your conversations with Nick, if you can find that item which looks like a large wine goblet — with little red ‘thingys’ appearing above the rim. Just remember the difference between bulbs and corms.

  12. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 9, 2017 at 7:05 pm said:

    Bee Tom. ( Czech before Jan Hus ) ( diacriticals ? ).
    Old Czech language has no accents ( diacriticals ). Place hook over the word. An example of a double feature.
    Characters importance ( they mean ) : cc = č.
    At the same time they mean : ss = š.
    ( substitution numerologic , number – 3 = c,g,s,l. )
    As I wrote. The manuscript was written after the year 1460. and beyond. So Jan Hus has little in common.

    Ant BD.
    I’m sorry. Lots and Lots of sorry. I have translated the entire manuscript, and so I know what is written in it.
    I am sorry. Nahuatl is wrong. You’re going down a false trail. Watch what I’m writing, and learn. Whether I can upgrade to a bee. So far it is misery.

    Cheers J.Zlatoděj Prof.

  13. A conference focused on concrete topics is a very good idea. Conducting physical research on the manuscript with modern technology is beyond a good idea, it’s a necessity. Combining these two things seems less of a good idea to me. And televising it is an awful idea. That way madness lies!

  14. Jim S: I proposed carrying out better imaging tests a decade ago, but the Beinecke’s curators turned all my proposals down. Things like that may seem no-brainers to you in 2017, but… if only more people thought that way. :-/

  15. Thomas F. Spande on January 9, 2017 at 9:35 pm said:


    Regarding the “Voynich Eagle” (“Curse”, p 96), a fly in the ointment has arisen as a result of following up one of BD’s posts. It turns out that the confederation of the province of Novaro (a tiny province in the NW Italian Piedmont) and Milano did not happen until 1706 as a result of one of the many treaties spun off during the “War of the Spanish Succession” and the rapid decline of the Habsburgs. The double headed Eagle was used by the Habsburgs and their various Holy Roman emperors, BUT the single headed eagle with head facing left, was used by some as early as Henry 6 of England (d. 1197) and the possessions of the various German emperors, e.g. Sigismond of Luxembourg in 1433. It was common in the 13th and 14th C. Europe.

    Consequently the roots of the plant shown as f46v in the VM botanicals had to have been amended, overpainted, or even drawn and painted without the involvement of heraldry of the province of Novara. That’s it from “Craze in the Basement”

    Cheers, Tom

  16. Tom: I thought that the Visconti-Sforza castle in Novara was 15th century?


  17. Thomas F. Spande on January 9, 2017 at 10:55 pm said:

    Professor, Jan Hus was primarily a religious reformer (died by fire at the stake) after the RC church invited him to Konstance for a council and then treacherously grabbed him for execution in 1415. His “sin”: insisting that Holy communion be shared by all believers and not just the priesthood.

    He reformed the Czech language as well as Luther did with the German language. I have read that he cut back on the many diacriticals of old Czech but will have to check again on that point.

    The examples you cite look to me like diacriticals. You call them “hooks” but whatever, “WHERE ARE THEY IN THE VM???” The vellum as you know was dated by carbon-14 dating to the first two decades of the 15th C, yet you claim a date of 1460 for the creation of the VM? That is a gap of at least one decade before ink was put to vellum.

    Personally, I think Hus was at least as significant a reformer of the RC persuasion as Luther was. Luther was greatly influenced by Hus.

    Cheers, Tom

  18. Thomas F. Spande on January 9, 2017 at 11:13 pm said:

    Nick, I was going by a statement of yours in “Curse” that Novara was a satellite attached to Milano. Novara is a town (one of only 8 in the tiny province of Novara) and from what I have read, the confederation resulting from the joining of the province of Novara and Milano did not occur until 1706, when the “Eagle” was allegedly adopted as the heraldic shield of the united provinces. I did not mean to rule out a Visconti-Sforza castle in the area but whether they would have used heraldry associated originally with the Habsburgs, is unclear. It is true that the Sforzas were certainly pro Holy Roman emperor and anti Pope, so maybe they did appropriate Habsburg heraldry?

    Cheers, Tom

  19. Thomas F. Spande on January 9, 2017 at 11:28 pm said:

    Dear all, Another topic for the London conference is this: How many of the VM botanicals are spices and how many are herbs. Recall that a spice by definition is a perennial with a woody stem and roots, seeds and flower heads are used and only occasionally leaves. An herb is an annual where the leaves chiefly are used. Most spices originated in Ceylon or the SW coast (the Malabar coast ) of India, with the exceptions of some from the Indian Himalayas (e.g. spikenard), and the Banda islands of Indonesia (nutmeg). I have tentative identifications for about two dozen spices from the VM botanicals. I am not alone in this belief as Diane also holds that some, at least, of the botanicals are spices. The idea of English country garden potherbs seems very unlikely.

    Today’s topic for consideration from “Ol’ Craze in the Basement”

    Cheers, Tom

  20. bdid1dr on January 10, 2017 at 12:48 am said:

    Nick, the more you depend on Paula Zyatz, who supposedly is the expert in discussing the so-called “Voynich” , the less attention is going to be focused on your proposed televised conference.

    If you REALLY want to solve the mystery of the “Voynich, I REALLY suggest you purchase a copy of Fray Sahagun’s “Florentine Codex” General History of the Things of New Spain”. Particularly Book Eleven (Libro Undecimo) Earthly Things.

    For examples: of illustrations : 1. Ocelutl 2. iztac ocelotl 3. tlatlauhqui ocelotl
    Altogether, there are 14 names for the smaller wildcat which resembles the jaguar.

    Illustrations 331 (mulberries & leaves (capolocuilli) being eaten by 332 AND BY
    333 a and b — Aua-te-co-lo-tl : the Silkworm caterpillars and cocoons.

    So, you might find that section of the Florentine Codex very easy to use when discussing at least one item in the “Voynich Manuscript” which appears to be a papillon (butterfly/moth).

    bd (who has forgotten the terms of her New Year’s resolution)…….. but still remembers the terms of the “tempest in a teapot” . Do you need any more tears in your teapot ?


  21. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 10, 2017 at 4:29 am said:

    Bee. Tom.
    I’m not writing the manuscript was written in the year 1460.
    I’m writing. The manuscript was written after ( after !) the year 1460.
    After the 1460 ! 🙂
    To be precise. So the correct date is the year 1473. 🙂

    Otherwise accents in the manuscript looks like this : cc.
    Two : cc. ( the meaning is : č ). What is written above the letter. In today’s language, it called : hook . ( ˇ ) = hook.

  22. Tom: much as it would be nice to devote a tranche of time to herbal identification, I’d hope the conference would focus on more concrete topics that could be definitively resolved.

  23. Tom: the link I included was to a page containing a picture of the entrance to the Visconti-Sforza castle in Novara, complete with eagle heraldry.

  24. Thomas F. Spande on January 10, 2017 at 2:26 pm said:

    Nick, It does have an eagle in upper left part of the shield BUT individual feathers are not shown. It really is not a very good match for the roots of f46v, at least to my eyes. The eagle’s wings on the shield above the Visconti-Sforza castle gate are sort of symbolic, as latter single-headed depictions slowly devolved from the Habsburg double-headed eagle. Now a very similar symbol is used by present day Germany.

    Cheers, Tom

  25. Thomas F. Spande on January 10, 2017 at 4:12 pm said:


    I see now where you are coming from (I think). You are stripping out what I would call a diacritical mark so in Czech c with a “hook” above it appears as cc in the VM. What about all the other cc combinations: c-c and c-c with a curl above it? There is no ss anywhere that I have seen in the VM so s with a hook above it is a moot issue so far as I can tell.

    If you now claim that 1473 was the date the VM was written on, it would mean the vellum sat unused for some 40 years. Is that your view and is this reasonable to assume precious vellum sits unused (somewhere), particularly when paper is getting better and better and letter press printing is becoming more common??

    Cheers from an inquisitive bee, Tom

  26. Thomas F. Spande on January 10, 2017 at 4:39 pm said:

    BD, A complete unabridged copy of Sahagun’s magnum opus (self-censored, oddly enough) on Earthly Things (volume 11) would, as a used, rare book, is going to take deep pockets as I have found the cheapest copy to cost $1600.

    I share the view that Ms. Zyats and colleagues. should have been better about giving citations in that 15 page review on physical nature of the VM in the facsimile. For example, I think elements of Nick’s codicology are appropriated without sourcing.

    Cheers, Tom

  27. Tom: given that the Beinecke’s curators repeatedly said in the press that the fifteenth century radiocarbon dating came as a surprise to everyone, I can only reasonably conclude that they haven’t really been taking proper notice of what’s been going on. :-/

  28. Tom: as far as the eagle goes, if you’re now saying there is an eagle but it’s not quite as similar as you’d like, then maybe we’re making progress after all. 🙂

  29. bdid1dr on January 10, 2017 at 8:23 pm said:

    @ Nick, ThomS, and ProfZ : I was referring to only one volume of Sahagun’s enormous Codex “Earthly Things” Volume Eleven. As far as I can tell, Sahagun got to Mexico long before Cortez and Cortez’ army.

    Ants ? Got a whole column marching through the roots of a Yucca cactus — on the front cover of this large paperbound replica of the “Florentine Codex”.

    Silkworm and moth/butterfly eating mulberry leaves.

    Eagle: Quetz al to to tl

    I refer you once again to an item which appears in the so-called “Voynich” mss:
    It ‘looks like’ a reddish/purplish pineapple — but it is not a pineapple. That illustration in the VMS is representing a single, ripe, MULBERRY FRUIT. So, if you find discussion of the mulberry tree leaves, discussion about the sericene moth/butterfly/papillon, you will be the VERY FiRST Person (in this century) to have identified, rather than decoded, the mulberry fruit — and its uses.

    A couple of years ago, my husband gifted me “Book 11 – Earthly Things” of the “Florentine Codex : General History of the Things of New Spain “.

    Thomas: My husband tells me (because I asked) how much this one chapter of Fray Sahagun’s “General History of the Things of New Spain”cost”$30 dollars. Fray Sahagun’s autograph appears on the reverso of the Title Page.
    I do hope that y’all might be able at least one televised program where you can hold the softbound edition of the so-called “Florentine Codex” (Book 11) in front of the camera (especially the title page which bears Fray Bernardino Sahagun’s signature (replica).

  30. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 10, 2017 at 8:26 pm said:

    Tom Bee. In order to understand handwriting . So you have to read. What is written in it. As I wrote. Tom bee. The manuscript is based on Jewish substitution. So letters. cc. They are also letters . ss.
    Jewish substitution – number 3 = c,g,s,l. 🙂

    Otherwise, the actual date is written in letter. All letters are numbers. All images are the numbers. 🙂
    The letters are numbers, writtes the author himself on many of the manuscript.
    1473 Date remember.
    Otherwise, Tom. Carbon test has a certain tolerance. Plu and minus ( + and -). 30 or 40 years + and – is tolerance. I wrotte the exact date using the carbon is not posible.

    Cheers, J.Zlatoděj Prof.

  31. Thomas F. Spande on January 10, 2017 at 9:18 pm said:

    rofessor, Is the VM “old Czech” or “Hebrew” or some use of presumably “Arabic” numbers? I use that expression in place of the actual Indo-Arabic numbers. Incidentally most folks are uncritical when they use “Arabic” to refer to the commonly used numbers in the non-Arab world.

    I think most Voynichers believe that the “cc” combinations represent vowels. There are also “a” and “o” commonly seen, with oddly enough “o” being present in a frequency much greater than any common Western language including Latin.

    The precision of carbon-14 data would by no way be stretched to include 1473.

    I think all the VM numbers (4, 8,9 ) come from Armenian and stand for the letters d, e, and t when the 4th, 8th and 9th letters are converted to Latin letters. So the commonly occurring “89” is the Latin “et”. This seems a view not shared by many. To me it is almost self-evident!

    You have an immense hill to climb to convince any ant or bee of your idea that even the images are somehow number related, much less the text.

    Bee, Tom

  32. Thomas F. Spande on January 10, 2017 at 9:23 pm said:

    Nick, Eagle yes! But in no way does it resemble the roots of f46v that you first drew attention to on p 96 of “Curse”.

    Cheers, Tom

  33. Thomas F. Spande on January 10, 2017 at 10:44 pm said:

    BD, For $30, it has to be a hugely abbreviated version of the multi-hundred paged of Earthly Things volume II. It will not have the original illustrations.

    Nevertheless enjoy it. But ponder this? It has to have been written on AFTER the discovery of the New World, an approximate date of roughly 100 yrs after the vellum was prepared. You had put forward a hypothesis that the vellum was gifted to Sahagun as a student while at the Univ. of Salamanca, Spain by mom and pop.

    Ingenious but where is the conclusive evidence for this idea?

    Cheers, Tom

  34. Jim S: How about if it were televised as a pay-per-view event? A battle-royale cage match, sixteen contestants with sixteen completely incompatible theories of how to translate the thing. “The Nauhatl Kid just body-slammed the Masked Czech! That’s gotta hurt! But he’s hit from behind by Pig Latin!”

    It might even make enough money to pay for those imaging tests…

  35. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 11, 2017 at 4:00 am said:

    Tom bee.
    MS -408. Czech Jew wrote the manuscript ! It is based on Jewish substitution. This is a very complex and complicated registration.
    For successful decryption key needed to know. It is written in several places in the manusript. The manuscript also misleading sings. ( deceptive letter ). Furthermore, the text should subsitute for a single character, the author addressed letters. Further. You can see the text in a maximum of two numbers.

    Numbers 2 and numbers 8. 🙂
    Others numbers are letters. 🙂

    Tom bee. To have more time, so I’ll write a book. Where to explain it.
    I will not write a theory ! And the theory is very much.
    I write the final solution. 🙂

    And I’m trying to help you, because you are mistaken. All ants, Zandbergen and his team, many years of wandering.
    I read a few years ago all theories. All scientists and ants. And that’s why I write. Everything is wrong. And everything is great misery.

    I want to ast you. Tom see, on the large parchment man. ( human ) ?

  36. Ken: As I wrote, and as you so beautifully demonstrated ‘that way madness lies’.

    And if getting more physical testing is simply a matter of money … I’d pitch in. Maybe a Kickstarter would work. But I suspect the Beinecke’s reluctance is not just about money.

  37. Thomas F. Spande on January 11, 2017 at 2:14 pm said:

    BD, On your husband’s $30 investment. Can you give us 1) the publisher AND “PRINTING” date. 2)the number of pages, and 3) the physical size in inches? I have The Aztec Garden on my kindle and the illustrations are even weirder than those of the VM. Still at $30 IF it were the unabridged “Earthly Things” volume 11, I’d be a buyer at ca. $30. As you know, the church had a headache over the original and forced Sahagun to censor it so he did so, probably removing some religious or sexual customs of the natives!

    Cheers, Tom

  38. Thomas F. Spande on January 11, 2017 at 2:20 pm said:

    Prof. I’ll await your book which will join the other promised treatises on the VM..

    “…and the crowd goes wild!!!”

    Cheers., Bee Tom

  39. bdid1dr on January 11, 2017 at 5:54 pm said:

    @ ThomS: I’m fairly certain that you are familiar with the translating efforts of Anderson and Dibble. The other VIP (of which I have five of his publications) is Professor Leon-Portilla.
    And then there are the records of the University of Salamanca (of which Sahagun and other monks received a thorough education).

    As far as the teamwork of Anderson and Dibble, which appears in every volume of Fray Sahagun’s enormous codex (now being referred to as the “Florentine Codex”) that is another superb example of their meticulous work. They couldn’t have done it without the earlier translations of Sahagun’s Aztec students — and the students’ parents and other village elders. The table of contents, alone, is six pages. The list of illustrations is also six pages.
    From this one volume (Book Eleven) you can translate the entire so-called Voynich manuscript. You can also then identify every pictorial item in the “Voynich”.
    Tell me again how and why Beinecke produced an exact replica of the
    ‘Voynich’ Were you able to find any translations of any item in the Voynich? Remember that large parts of the “Voynich” were not translatable because the size of the commentaries and labels were tiny and somewhat illegible, to begin with. And then somebody developed a code……. Some magnification of, at least, the commentaries or identification of the various pictorial elements woulda been neat !

    Shoulda Coulda Woulda ?

  40. Thomas F. Spande on January 11, 2017 at 6:06 pm said:

    Dear all, A topic that might be “concrete” enough for a proposed symposium on the VM, might be “Do elements of Marco Polo’s Voyages” appear in the VM?

    I think there are several. The one I am most certain of, involved the tubbed nymphs in the zodiac circles identified by the names that Nick and others deduced and are Aries (21 March- 20 April) and Taurus (21 April-21 May). Those are the classical zodiac dates although both are 31 days while the VM zodiacs (calendars) are 30 days each. The total tubbed nymphs amount to 30 in April (f70v1, f71r; 15+15 from dark and white goats resp.) and in 20 in May (f71v, f72r1, 15+5 pink and red bulls, resp. for a grand total of 50 tubbed nymphs. Some wear fancy dress and upscale tubs, others no clothes and some in ordinary tubs. OK so what purpose is served by these tubs? Nothing symbolic at a first glance, just a way of surviving the heat of the area around Hormos. I’ll return later to the possible significance of dress/undress and necklaces, caps, decorated tubs etc. Each nymph holds a sun on a leash and represents one day and the day is named (as in some cultures, like the Armenians of course!)

    Polo’s scribe writes of the intense heat, made worse by desert winds in the area around Hormos. See chapter 19 (The Descent to the City of Hormos) The heat is so intense that travelers who fall in the heat are immediately desiccated so that touching them causes limbs to separate from the body. Polo describes the environs around Hormos “as a very sickly place and the heat is tremendous” . [Hormos however does a brisk trade in Indian spices, precious stones, pearls, clothes (of silver and gold?) and elephants teeth (maybe trunks?)]

    The always useful annotations (e.g. Sir John Mandeville) indicated in that a town, BanderAbbasi. situated near Hormos, (i.e. also on the Persian Gulf), “foreigners could not stop there beyond March. [Nearly] everyone left it in April. Not a hundredth part of the population….remained in the city. Those that remained HAD THE CUSTOM OF LYING IN WATER. [my emphasis]

    What interests me about Marco Polo’s Voyages is that his routes are often retraced by many in the British military. it seems to have been a sign of scholarship!

    I have discussed also in a post of yesteryear a totally different interpretation to the odd depiction that Nick discusses on p 139 of “Curse” that I am convinced Polo refers to. It has to do with diamonds, not bees.

    Also several glyphs appear in the VM that are derived from Mongolian or Chinese/Korean like Hangul glyphs.

    IMHO, Marco Polo has some overlaps with the VM. Even the “T-O” map seen in the extreme upper right corner of the 9 rosettes page, that Diane claimed was mainly an indicator of directions, has some bearing on Polo as after his Voyage was complete, the semi-circle representing Asia took on a new significance.

    Cheers, Tom

  41. Thomas F. Spande on January 11, 2017 at 6:11 pm said:

    BD, Bernadino de Sahagun was born in Salamanca, Spain in 1499. His complete Codex was 2400 pp.

    Cheers, Tom

  42. Tom: for every Voynich theory concerning that well-known Irish traveller Mark O’Polo, there are at least a hundred opposing theories, for which an equal amount of confirming evidence can be adduced by proponents.

    Perhaps someone will want to propose a conference where theorists can debate these, maybe even in a variant of the internationally successful Big Brother TV franchise. But that’s not what I’m describing here. 🙂

  43. Jim S: the Beinecke’s reluctance was, for a long time, a matter of curatorial policy. I’m not sure what the current position would be if tested…

  44. Thomas F. Spande on January 11, 2017 at 9:09 pm said:

    Dear all, Re those tubbed nymphs: I think with the second (really red) Taurus that the counting has to start with the central ring of tubbed nymphs which would put the end of the tubs for the hot season at ca. May 10.

    Cheers, Tom

  45. bdid1dr on January 11, 2017 at 10:48 pm said:

    As far as the ladies in tubs, bath houses, and streams of water: some of the folios show the women holding items which represent their origins (fleur de lys , for one). Another bath-house discussion in the “Voynich”, was the use of mandragore FRUIT JUICE. Another woman was crying (her home was in the East/morning star).
    Other folios visible in the VMS discuss the monkshood (which stems bear clusters of bell-shaped flowers — but that the roots were invasive to nearby gardens.
    One of the very first botanical items which I identified and discussed was the large magnified squash blossom which appeared to have been split — and a couple of large seeds.
    What is interesting to me, is that I found no references to the cucurbit family. Can you find any discussion or illustration of ‘corn’ ?

    Nowadays, there is lots of discussion about corn. Our Navajo and Hopi citizens have many ceremonies involving corn and pollen. Beautiful ! If you live anywhere in the United States, you might enjoy visiting Canyon de Chelley — just for the beauty of the Canyon and “Spider Woman” rock — and the White House Ruin on the other bank of the river.

  46. bdid1dr on January 11, 2017 at 10:55 pm said:

    ps: I just remembered my earlier discussion (years ago?) regarding that large squash blossom: One of the ladies in the bath-house was holding a ‘loofa/lufa’ sponge !

  47. Emma May Smith is a new Voynich name to me. What has she spotted that the rest of us have missed?

  48. Philip: I’m not saying Emma has (yet) spotted anything, but rather that even though she’s starting from an avowedly pro-linguistic stance, she seems [in her AgnosticVoynich blog] to be taking a lot of the genuinely difficult behaviours that wreck “pure” linguistic attacks on Voynichese (such as line-terminal -m) on the chin, and then trying to roll with the blows rather than just refuse to accept them as genuine issues.

    The only notable area where Emma (currently) refuses to accept anomalous behaviour is Neal Keys: she doesn’t accept that these exist at all. Have you summarised your thoughts on these text sequences anywhere on your web pages? I know you’ve described the phenomena partially in a number of places over the years, but it would seem that the message isn’t yet getting through universally… =:-o

  49. To correct the record.

    ” “T-O” map seen in the extreme upper right corner of the 9 rosettes page, that Diane claimed was mainly an indicator of directions”

    does not reflect my opinion or the content of anything I’ve written on the subject of the Voynich map which is foliated by the Beinecke as “f.85v-and-86r”.

    In fairness to your readers, as well as to mine, Nick, I’d appreciate having this published.

  50. Thomas F. Spande on January 12, 2017 at 2:30 pm said:


    I only meant in that short aside to indicate that you had spotted it earlier than I had. I found reference to it in the footnotes to Marco Polo’s Voyages. I only meant to say that you had used the “T-O” symbol and did not deal with your extensive interpretation of the context. If my memory serves, you DID refer to using it as a North indicator “i.e. a compass rose [my expression]”., although I will be the first to say that was not your major point. I only meant to indicate you had correctly identified the symbol itself, although it would be very easy to miss in that hugely busy fold out of two bifolios. I hope you will accept my apology!

    Cheers, Tom

  51. Tom: of course, Mary D’Imperio mentioned the various Voynichian T-O maps in “Elegant Enigma” (the nine-rosette page is discussed in section 3.3.6). I would be fairly surprised if people hadn’t already flagged these T-O maps during the 1920s (if not indeed earlier), as they are one of the manuscript’s few obviously recognisable features.

  52. Nick: I had not noticed her excellent blog before. I mean to found one on similar lines, but not just yet (I have been revamping my Voynich pages and playing with my Voynich database). ‘Neal’ keys, which I never called that, are an idea from so long ago that I forget what I said about them. The point was that the first words of a paragraph do not have the structural properties of the rest of the text and that this may be related to the way the gallows characters often extend far to the right. If they are keys, I cannot say how they are used.

  53. Philip: to jog your memory a little, here’s a link from 2004:

    I believe I coined the term “Neal Keys”, but any suggestion that I have something approaching a solid idea about what they actually are or contain would be a mistake. But to my mind it seems a fairly substantial stretch for people to either dismiss them entirely or steamroller over their quite different statistics and behaviour.

  54. Nick: No matter from wich stance you start the most interesting feature of the VMS is that similar words occur with predictable frequencies. Moreover all similar words together build a single network connecting all words in the VMS with each other. This is the reason for the observation that the order of letters in a word is predictable and therefore for the low second-order entropy of the VMS.

  55. Torsten: I completely disagree with the hypothesis that there is a single “most interesting feature” about either the Voynich Manuscript or Voynichese. Rather, there is a whole constellation of radically different behaviours that you have to take into account all at the same time. This is the core reason why single-feature accounts (such as your autocopyist explanation) fail every time: the assumption that everything else about Voynichese must automatically fall into place once you have accounted for your chosen single “most interesting feature” is a presumption that is just not tenable.

    For example, I listed dozens of awkward Voynichese features in my recent 100 Voynich Problems post which could not be directly explained away by an autocopyist hypothesis, but only by handwaving speculative add-ons to the core of the theory that only serve to weaken it. Because the enormous downside of zero-meaning metatheories (such as channelling, glossolalia, autocopying, repurposed Cardan grilles, stored-vellum hoaxes, etc) is that they run against the need for any of the other features to exist at all. That is, they explain a single point away at the cost of making the existence of all the other points utterly inexplicable.

    Finally: I’m really, truly not saying that the text doesn’t resemble autocopying, and I’m not saying that I don’t understand why you see it as an appealing single-point theory. But I just can’t say with any honesty that autocopying explains everything else, when in fact it makes just about everything else less understandable, not more.

  56. Nick: Sorry but I didn’t wrote something about my auto-copying hypothesis.
    I was writing about the observation that it is possible to describe the words in the VMS with a single network. In this network similar words are connected to each other. What I say is that it is possible to describe an element connecting even words looking differently – like ‘ykaiin’, ‘yky’ and ‘ocheedy’ – together! I find this observation very important. It implies that for understanding the VMS it is necessary to analyze this network of similar words. This observation also gives the answer to your question “Do we even know how to parse Voynichese?” in your recent 100 Voynich Problems list.

    BTW: Sorry, but to say that other metatheories are preoccupied by a single feature and run against the need for any of the other features to exist says nothing about the auto-copying hypothesis.
    The assumption that only a complicated theory can explain Voynichese is a presumption that is just not tenable. My hypothesis is based on an detailed observation of the features of the VMS. If I have overseen an important feature I would be glad if you would point to it. Please publish a review and describe your concerns in detail.

  57. Torsten Timm: no, it is the notion that a simple theory can explain all of the Voynich Manuscript’s behaviour on all the different levels that have been observed over the years that is manifestly wrong. It is a notion writ large in all the meaning-free metatheories, in Stephen Bax’s theories, and so forth: and it just doesn’t work.

    The only way these single-point theories can be made to work is if the people proposing them resolutely shut their eyes and ears to all the other difficult stuff in Voynichese that is there regardless. It costs nothing to open your eyes to those many difficulties: and I get no prizes or rewards for suggesting to people that they do so. What you might gain from doing so is a smattering of intellectual humility: by which I mean the ability to accept that the world is far more complex than a single neat explanatory idea can encompass, and that maybe we all have to work together to make even the smallest difference in the face of the genuine difficulties. Because those difficulties will still be there, regardless of whether or not they are convenient for our fine ideas.

  58. Thomas F. Spande on January 13, 2017 at 12:10 am said:

    Nick, Thanks for refreshing my memory of D’imperio’s use of the “T-O” in the 1970s.

    It seems to me that D. might have more of a beef with my posts of Dec. 29 and Dec. 30 ( “100 problems”) where I stated that i thought she had made use of another “T-O” depiction, referred to as the “Mappi Mundi” (Hereford, ca. 1300), where the Tanais R. (now the Don R.) is shown separating Asia from Europe. The identification of the port of Tanais, then a Greek colony, figured into her “Breaking News”. If your generosity extends to allowing her to respond to those posts, I think both she and certainly I would be grateful.

    Cheers, Tom

  59. Thomas,
    No apology necessary. My point is that (pace Neil) the motif in question is no “T-O” diagram; on another folio, we find another fourfold form, overpainted to make it conform to a “T-O” model, but in the former we have a real place represented (with two plainly drawn roads and partial palisade) while in the latter the “world in miniature” is obviously metaphorical since the diagram is about stars winds and directions.

    Thomas if you’d like to discuss this further, do comment on my blog, since to post here is now to trespass.

  60. Nick: If I understand you right you say that a theory coming to the conclusion that the VMS is meaningless must be wrong? No need to go into the details, since to explain the complex features of the VMS a more complex theory is necessary.

  61. Thomas F. Spande on January 13, 2017 at 4:07 am said:

    Nick, An idea that I think is worth considering in the grand scheme of things is whether or not elements of “yin/yang” symbology of Eastern medicine are seen in the botanicals. such as seen and discussed in the illustrated Chinese Materia Medica (Oxford, 2005). These ideas, I think, are implied in the following aspects of the VM botanicals: 1) the directionality often seen where leaves or blossoms are all on one side of a stem; 2) the limited color palate of blossoms: blue (= male principle or yang) or earth colors (brown to red = female or yin and the “paisley” shape of leaves that resembles the symbolic yin/yang shapes. The fern-like plant shown as f38r has, to my eye, 5 yangs, indicating the plant is for male use. It had 6 yangs but one was removed by a horrible scar. Six doses of that leaf would have made each dose less effective that the optimum so five was best.

    With all due respect, I think it is easier to argue yin/yang (see S. Korean center symbol? than the appearance of “sails” in some plants.

    Why is this important? I think It is hugely important if the membership buys into yin/yang as it indicates that at least some of the botanicals were influenced, by Eastern medicine.

    Cheers, Tom

  62. Thomas F. Spande on January 13, 2017 at 4:35 am said:

    Nick, Maybe if we peer over the abyss long enough, we go over the edge. One last time I will try and sell the management on the appearance of Armenian in the VM text. The Armenians were not into yin/yang so I doubt the VM was actually written by Armenians BUT I think the occurrence of three numbers in the text, 4, 8 and 9 are derived from laying out the Armenian language from their “A” to “Z” (I use this for purposes of argument since Armenian, being phonetic actually had 39 glyphs) and is written L->R. Anyway, in the fourth position we have 4=d; 8th position=e and ninth =t. So the frequent occurrence of “89” is the much used Latin conjunction “et” and 8 is always e, and 9 always t. Other Armenian glyphs are the “tipped 2” (=ch); so “8a (tipped 2)” is “each” (English, not Latin) and the Armenian glyph that is “8-like” but with a rocker at the base and is not closed up is “f” so “8af” = eaf or “leaf” , again English, not Latin which would have been “folio”.

    A new idea: If the VM is a mix of old and classical Latin (“mixta”) maybe “cu” is seen for “qu” and the single occurrence of “c”. not linked as a pair, is usually followed by an “o”. We known from vowel frequency analysis that way too many “o”s are present in the VM text so I propose that “co” is to be read as “cu”=”qu”. So “o” following the isolated “c” is a “u”. That’s it from “O’ Craze in the Basement”.

    Cheers, Tom

  63. Torsten: all the meaning-free metatheories I’ve seen to date explain away roughly 10%-15% of the open issues we see with Voynichese, but at the same time make 50% or more of the remaining problems even less explicable.

    I’m not against metatheories in general – large parts of Voynichese’s behaviour may well have a big picture explanation for them. But metatheories that seek to explain only a small part of the behavioural landscape at the cost of the rest of it don’t really work for me.

  64. Nick: Someone generated the text of the Voynich MS using some method. After the auto-copying hypothesis he was doing this with the idea to change words which have already been written in mind. By arguing that with this idea it is not possible to create something as complex as the VMS you underestimate the creativity and the capabilities of the human mind.

    Anyway, I was not talking about the auto-copying hypothesis. I was talking about the observation that it is possible to describe the words in the VMS as network of words similar to each other. You didn’t say anything about this observation.

  65. Torsten: using unbounded human creativity to explain away all the pieces of the Voynich jigsaw left out from a different metatheory is just as much an explanatory metatheory as any hoax theory, in that it fills in any conceivable gaps while being untestable. As such, it is not a real explanation, it is a way of handwaving away objections.

    The observation “that it is possible to describe the words in the VMS as [a] network of words similar to each other” is what specifically drove Friedman to conclude (wrongly, I believe) that Voynichese was written in an a priori artifical language, and also what drove me to suggest that the text stream being enciphered had already been converted to an abbreviating shorthand. These are both rational explanations to the same phenomenon that don’t need to press the the-text-is-meaningless nuclear button (which is, in effect, a throw-all-the-toys-out-of-the-pram metatheory, i.e. “if I can’t make sense of it, nobody else can”).

    And yet you keep telling anyone who’ll moderate up your comments that your explanation for this behaviour is the only conceivably correct one. Really?

  66. Nick: Your point was that it is only possible to explain all the observations if the text of the VMS has some meaning. All I want to say is that it is not possible to argue that something as complex as the VMS must be meaningfull. This in not an argument in favour of the auto-copy hypothesis!

    I only say that with all the oberservations for the VMS in mind I came to that conclusion. That it “is the only conceivably correct one” is only your statement.

  67. Torsten: no, my point was that all the theories I’ve seen so far that have a requirement that Voynichese is meaningless (a) seek to explain only a small subset of the numerous ways that Voynichese behaves, and (b) explain away the many other features by handwaving. Yet the structural problem with those arguments is that by their very nature they almost always seem to exclude the possibility of any other explanatory mechanism being possible at the same time: because if Voynichese is meaningless, why would it exhibit any other structure?

    For example, Gordon Rugg’s “modified grille” theory explains away a fair few of the issues surrounding word structure (though even there not always in an entirely satisfactory way): yet it does not explain away line-initial and line-terminal behaviours, nor does it really reconcile the word dictionary statistics with the word usage statistics (a point which he doesn’t properly address, IMO). It also only loosely addresses the kind of network-of-words phenomena you focus on, and does not really satisfactorily explain why certain repetitions occur frequently (daiin daiin / qotedy qotedy etc).

    So my point isn’t simply that zero-meaning theories are insufficient, it’s that because they require that the text be meaningless they also remove their ability to combine with other mechanisms (however small) to explain the rest. To fill the gaps, zero-meaning theorists end up trying to shoehorn yet more levels of complexity into their generating tables (or whatever). Which means that the zero-meaning theories (or rather, the ones I’ve seen) are necessarily complete in and of themselves.

    For me, abbreviating shorthand and even Friedman’s artificial language would both be better explanations for the same phenomena as autocopying not because they are ‘cleverer’ (or whatever) but because they can be combined with other explanations for different phenomena. Because autocopying necessarily excludes other explanations, it has more to explain all on its own, and is therefore stretched over a larger area of the problem space, making it fragile. If it then fails to explain other very basic things, it is without any real doubt wrong.

  68. Nick: Yes, it is not possible to explain all the features of the VMS with the cardan grill hypothesis. But this doesn’t say anything about the autocopying hypothesis.

    It is not required that the VMS is meaningless for the autocopy hypothesis. In fact even for the autocopy hypothesis it is possible that the VMS contains meaning. For instance with the Bacon’s cipher it would be possible to use autocopied words to transport information. My point is only that I didn’t see any features making it necessary to add something on top of a plain autocopied text and that the autocopying method is only a very efficient for generating a text if this text has no meaning.

  69. Davidsch on January 13, 2017 at 1:33 pm said:

    Thanks for the link to the neal keys. Those are only related to the gallows. I needed to be certain of that. That answers my question(s) in full. (mail)

  70. Torsten: I’m far from convinced that you can have it both ways like that. Autocopying is surely a thing quite apart from semantic reuse, and – high frequency words (such as dain) aside – there’s not that much reuse going on.

    Either autocopying explains the dictionary structure in toto or there’s some warped kind of semantic reuse going on: I can’t really see how you can steer a path between the two.

  71. Hello everyone !
    Is there among you an expert who can say how many words should we translate to be able to consider that it is not due to chance?
    Is there among you an expert enough patient to compare the different alphabets proposed until today?
    If there were programmers in the Voynich group, this problem would have been solved since a long time. It would suffice to replace EVA with proposed alphabets and to compare them with known languages. Fortunately for us there is no one who is willing to complete temporize once and for all. We can continue to have fun in our free time.
    Good luck to all researchers !

  72. Ruby: if you compile a dictionary of all the words in the Voynich Manuscript EVA transcription and then look for all the English words, you will find around ten. Similarly, you will find around ten French words there (as I recall). I also have a reasonably strong memory that ten words is almost exactly what Brumbaugh managed to extract with his method. It is almost certainly no coincidence that Stephen Bax’s search for a linguistic reading also found nine words.

  73. My question is serious, Nick! Do we have an expert with enough qualifications to be able to teach us how many words should we translate to claim that our alphabet works? He may be able to publish his theory in Nature? And we all, we will benefit.

  74. Nick: My suggestion was that the network of similar words is worth further investigation. On first view words like ‘lkl’ are unexpected. But within the network of similar words this word fits perfectly since it is similar to words like ‘lkal’ and ‘lkol’. In this way the network tells us something about the VMS.

    BTW: It is not alway as simple as in ‘sain ain aiiin’ to find the source for a word. Anyway, I didn’t think that this thread is the right place to go into the details of the auto-copying hypothesis.

  75. Thomas F. Spande on January 13, 2017 at 7:18 pm said:

    BD, I did not wish to link the “tubbed nymphs” of the zodiacs for March, April and a bit of May to the actual bathing scenes. If I left you (your post of 1-11-17) or others with that impression, I correct the record here. They represent two different ideas. It is true that Mark O’Polo does comment at many places on the existence of hot springs in his Voyages, throughout the Middle and Far East, I am not going there at the moment.

    I have commented on the bathing nymphs and I think it could be argued that they represent the many cisterns on the island of Chios. Note that, as shown in the VM, the pools are never very deep as would be true of the way the above ground cisterns on Chios were described.

    Cheers, Tom

  76. bdid1dr on January 13, 2017 at 7:33 pm said:

    Long before Zyatz started roaming around to various book clubs in re the “Voynich”, I had twenty translations of various items in the “Voynich”. Nick and I discussed the last folios (recipes and or pharmaceutical remedies).

    It was only recently (post-facsimile production) that I realized that Zyatz was selective in content matter while producing the $60 facsimile/replica whatchamallit.


  77. bdid1dr on January 13, 2017 at 8:14 pm said:

    @ProfZ : Boast all you want (or as long as Nick allows you to). I suggest that you tone down your negativite/contradictory contributions toward other persons contributions. I speak from experience. (Tempest in a Teapot).

  78. To Ruby Novacna, and all others:

    ” how many words should we translate to claim that our alphabet works?”

    This is very simple. The correct solution, if it exists, will translate the entire MS from beginning to end, with some allowance for errors (a few percent, I suppose).

  79. Thomas F. Spande on January 13, 2017 at 8:42 pm said:

    Dear all, Still flogging the notion that our intrepid Voyager, Mark O’Polo’s writings can be mined for some ideas that pop up in the VM, I submit a different interpretation of Nick’s than that given by him on p 139 of “Curse” where he alleges from the VM illustration of f86 v3, that what I think are plain old rain drops are actually swarms of bees, leaving and returning from hives. I find no discussion on the white eagle-like birds flying or nesting. Polo writes on his return from Mongolia and China, while passing India via Ceylon, that the natives have a curious custom to collect diamonds.

    I quote: “You should know that in this kingdom are many mountains in which diamonds are found, as you will hear. For you should know that when it rains , the water rushes down through the mountains , cascading wildly along vast ravines and caverns. And when the rain has stopped and the water has drained away, the men head out into the ravines through which the water has flowed, in search of diamonds, which they find in plenty. In summer , when there is it a drop of water to be found, they uncover plenty of them in the mountains themselves. The heat, though, is so intense as to all but intolerable. And let me tell you that these mountains are so heavily infested with great fat serpents that men cannot go there without fearing for their lives. But all the same tey make their way as best they can and find some very large diamonds. I can also tell you that these serpents are highly venomous and vicious, so that men do not dare enter the caves where these vicious serpents live. And again I will tell you that the men extract the diamonds by other means.You should know that there are great deep valleys whose rocky sides are so steep that no one can penetrate them. But I will tell you what the men do. They take some lumps of bloody meat and fling them down into the depths of the valleys and the places where the meat is flung are littered with diamonds which become embedded in the flesh [ i.e. the flung meat]. NOW THE FACT THAT MANY WHITE EAGLES LIVE AMONG THESE MOUNTAINS AND PREY ON THE SERPENTS [ my emphasis]. And when these eagles see the meat lying at the bottom of the valleys, they swoop down, seize the lumps and carry them off. The men, meanwhile HAVE BEEN CAREFULLY WATCHING where the egles go, and as soon as they see that one has alighted and is swallowing the meat, they rush over as fast as they can. The eagles are so fearful of the men who have surprised them that they fly off and fail to take the meat. And when the men reach the place where the meat is, they pick it up and find it studded with diamonds.The men also get hold of the diamonds in the following way. When the eagles eat the meat I have told you about, they also eat-or rather swallow- some of the diamonds. And at night, when they return to their nests,,they pass the diamonds they have swallowed along with their fecal matter. Then the men arrive and collect the eagle’s excrement, which also turns out to be rich in diamonds.” Polo’s scribe writes in a chatty conversational style but isn’t great on paragraphing.

    Polo continues with more on diamonds but this is the gist I think of the strange imagery of f 86v3. The cited comments above can be found in Book 3, chapter 19.

    I have no explanation for the anthers that Nick writes about in detail except possibly it has to do with a preferred nesting spot the the eagle, perhaps a tree in blossom? I think the man reaching upward at the bottom is reaching for diamonds.

    Anyway, There you have it. Another possible connect to Marco Polo!

    Cheers, Tom

  80. Rene, your answer would be perfect if we were absolutely sure that the manuscript is written in one single language, without any mixture.

  81. bdid1dr on January 13, 2017 at 11:51 pm said:

    Nick and Fellow “Codiologists” :

    I’m fed up with the constant ‘nit-picking’ codiology . I’m going to follow Professor Miguel Leon-Portilla’s extensive record of Fray Bernardino de Sahagun – “First Anthropologist”. Fascinating — as well as disclosing many of the so-called Voynich Manuscript’s mystery elements; no longer mysterious — and very much educational.

    I reiterate that Fray Sahagun WAS a student at Salamanca — before boarding a ship bound for the “New World”. He began his diary on manuscript material before his departure from Leon Province, Spain.

    Good luck, y’all, with your codiology efforts. !

    This time, I mean it, Nick !

    No longer ‘wondering’ — bdid1dr Beady-Eyed-Wonder-r”

  82. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on January 14, 2017 at 2:54 am said:

    Ruby. One language. Old Czech language. 🙂

    Zandbergen : You have to endure. I publish a book. Final solution.

    Blue eye : You can read on my blog. What can you me. 🙂

    Tom : M.Polo is bad. Very bad. 🙂

  83. To Ruby,

    the MS could have parts in different languages. A good solution would explain all of them. A partial solution would explain part of them.
    If such a partial solution is good (consistent, sensible), this would of course be valuable,

    The best property of a good solution is that it doesn’t need a lot of convincing and people easily see that it is correct.
    Nothing like that has ever been produced for the Voynich MS.
    Conversely, for some lost languages and some encrypted manuscripts this has been achieved.

  84. Ruby : i have many words and phrases . every word is corresponding to the illustration . 9 words of stephen could be wrong .

  85. Ruby: similarly, I always suggest to anyone genuinely trying to understand the Voynich Manuscript’s “language” (whatever that may turn out to be) that they should tackle only one part of the text at a time. By which I specifically mean that they should restrict their attacks to just Q13, or just Q20, or Herbal-A pages, or perhaps even Herbal-B pages.

    In the best possible case (i.e. where they can indeed crack one part), then whatever scheme they devise for that part would almost certainly need tweaking or adjusting to make it work with the other parts.

  86. Rene: now you start to understand how you can put the MS on its knees. it is time to return to the right way .

  87. Thomas F. Spande on January 14, 2017 at 4:26 pm said:


    In a future post I will write about some glyphs that occur in the VM and came back to Italy, likely via Marco Polo, and appeared in religious art there and are scattered throughout the VM, like the “inverted v” with a cross bar at the apex that occurs in the text as well as the circle shown in f57v. There are glyphs from Mongolia {square Tibetan) as well as Hangul from Southern China and Korea. Some were on a golden pass that the great Khan gave to Marco and was in a language of the court used for only about 100 years.

    Before you bad mouth Marco any more,, I urge some restraint and more collegiality on your part. You are giving Czech professors a bad name and should refrain in the future from insulting the ideas that people put forward in this forum. Just a tip from a friendly bee!

    Cheers, Tom

  88. Thomas F. Spande on January 14, 2017 at 4:53 pm said:

    BD, real “nit-picking” is where I am headed next. Stay tuned for something that will really put you to sleep. Before the day is out I will try and answer a question formulated on these pages by “explor” under “under 100 questions” and that is “why are the lines of the VM so level and orderly without any trace of a guide. I think, as I suspect many have also, that it was done by pricking the start and end of a line. Furthermore, it will have occurred to those who are interested in such arcania that often the recto and verso on a page will start from the same distance from the top of the page.

    Later in the day, I will commence with one installment on this topic and also pay attention to whether the “folio mirror imaging” is scribe related or not.

    Cheers, “Ol’ Craze from the Basement”


  89. Thomas F. Spande on January 15, 2017 at 1:14 am said:

    Dear all, For those who care about picking at nits, I have completed 18 pages from the start of the VM. I have measured the bottom of the left and right side of the bottom of the top line in cm from the top of the page and compared recto and verso sides. Some pages can be eliminated by inspection (pp 1, 2, 3, 8, 11) while others by measurement (pp 17, 21) where differences of 1 cm are seen between r and v sides. Some approximations (+/- 0.1 cm) were necessary due to the ragged edge of the top of some pages. Otherwise I have assumed that pricking would be used to locate the top line on r and v sides of a page if the measurements came to within +/- 0.2 cm. One observation supporting the pricking hypothesis is that seen with f 10r/v
    where r is 2.8->2.4 and v is 2.5->2.8. The recto side was done by the tight scribe and the verso side by the loose scribe. In all the matches of the r and v sides of a page, 11 were done by the loose scribe; 6 done by the tight scribe and f10r/v done as both scribes as reported above. Another observation is seen with f 18r (2.4-2.2 cm) located on the left side of the folio while on the verso side (2.5-2.4 cm) the image lies to he right side of the folio, both done by the tighter writing scribe.

    So, maybe nothing new here as researching medieval manuscript writing, indicated pricking was done to make level lines with a ruler presumably lined up between the prick marks. The pricked hole would penetrate the page, so it would do double duty. Too big a job at the moment, to do more than measuring the top line of the folios.

    I will do one more installment of ca. 25 pages. But not immediately.

    Wake up BD! It is only 5:10 PM Pacific Time! Nit picking is over for the day!

    Cheers, Tom

  90. bdid1dr on January 18, 2017 at 6:36 pm said:

    10:00 am West Coast time:

    I’ve done my share of nit-picking — the hard part (translating, rather than decoding).

    #1: WHO developed the lousy ” EVA ” ? It is useless and sidetracks any translation efforts.
    #2: WHY are so many persons trying to de-code the “Voynich” manuscript ?
    #3: How does Paula Zyatz get away with murdering burying any translations ?
    #4: When will Nick have “Translation Get-together” with ‘old friends and fellow
    Codiologists/Translators” ?
    #5: Would any women be invited to participate (put Paula aside for now) ?
    #6 Where would be a good place to convene ?. I’m thinking of Yale’s library.
    #7 I’m wondering if any South American, Mexican, Spanish would participate.
    #8 When will ThomS climb out of the basement (and bring his archive)s ?
    #9 Will Mr. Pannozzi be participating in Nick’s next demystifying meeting?
    #10 Will I be invited?

  91. I object to the repeated slurs against Paula Zyats, that are published here without comment, and are unjustified.
    They bother me more than the unjustified statements about my person or my work.

  92. Rene: comments that are plain ridiculous (such as the foolish ones about Paula Zyats to which you refer here) are – unfortunately – utterly normal for the Internet. Even thought I delete the worst, being a moderator is a lot like trying to clean the Augean stables with a toothbrush.

    In fact, the comments that bother me much more are those expressing insidiously well-constructed fantasies that the unwary might be tricked into believing. And even though it is more than a century since WMV got his hands on his eponymous manuscript, it seems to me that there are more of those than ever before. So much for science. *sigh*

  93. SirHubert on January 19, 2017 at 1:52 pm said:


    With respect, I don’t agree with you.

    I respect your preference to moderate only when absolutely necessary, and I can see that having the occasional ridiculous comment appearing here is a consequence of that. My personal view, however, is that it devalues your blog if you allow posts which are not only ridiculous but also abusive to appear here without comment. And I wonder what Paula Zyats or anyone else from Yale would think if they read this thread as it currently stands?

    You do have the power to remove the slurs Rene mentions, if you choose to do so, and in my opinion your blog would only benefit by doing so. That is the only reason why I presume to suggest it.

  94. SirHubert: I understand and respect your view on this. For what it’s worth, I do now find myself having to delete a fair few comments (perhaps because the volume of commenting to Cipher Mysteries has increased so much over the last year), and the boundary of what I happen to consider acceptable at any precise moment is far from rigid.

    Having said that, comments are merely comments (and Internet comments even less so): so I’m not losing sleep over this.

  95. bdid1dr on January 19, 2017 at 4:53 pm said:

    @Nick, Sir Hubert, and Mr Zandbergen (spelling?) :
    I am hoping that you have reviewed some of my TRANSLATIONS of several of the larger, foldout folios. My translations (NO code) are verbatim comparisons of the so-called “Voynich” manuscript with the Florentine Codex. The Florentine Codex was the production of Fray Sahagun and his Native “New Spain” students. When the Inquisition did not return any of Sahagun’s works to him, he died not knowing where they ended up (a long while after his death).
    So, compare the contents of the so-called “Florentine Codex” with the contents of the so-called “Voynich Manuscript”. By doing so, you may better understand, and be enabled, to translate the mysterious manuscript which ‘everybody’ is calling the “Voynich”. How about calling it the “Sahagun Diary cum Manuscript.


  96. Thomas F. Spande on January 19, 2017 at 5:28 pm said:

    Dear all, I thought in the fast reading I did of the 15- page essay “Physical Aspects” [of the VM] that many points made by Nick or others were passed over. For example there is no indication that the swallow-tailed merlons were usually an indication that the castle holder was not just found in N. Italy but was a supporter of the Holy Roman Emperor, not the Pope.

    I thought many points raised in Nick’s work on VM codicology were discussed without referencing “Curse” (copyrighted 2006). I think Zyats et al., are incorrect that NONE of the VM botanicals had been identified. I would not hold my hand over a candle on this point but I think at least some of my identifications of spices from the Malibar coast of SW India are valid.

    Nick did raise the question whether the carbon 14 dating of the VM vellum was discussed It was discussed in some detail in the facsimile essay on p 24.

    My chief grumble with the Zyats et al., essay is that it has not mentioned the efforts of folks like Diane, Rene, Nick and others who have toiled over the years in maintaining excellent blogs, largely open to all.

    That is my view on the Zyats essay. “Close but no cigar!”

    Cheers, Tom

  97. Thomas F. Spande on January 19, 2017 at 7:43 pm said:

    Dear all, Another point that the essay of Zyats et al., misses, in my opinion, is their statement (p 24) that the botanicals are “roughly colored”. For an essay dealing with fine points of binding, quire arrangement, etc., this misses THE VERY FINELY DONE ORIGINAL COLORATION. This can be observed by inspection on nearly every botanical page. Whether this was done with natural non-inorganic pigments, as Nick has put forward as a possibility (ahead of the facsimile publication date as I recall) . Zyats et al., suggest saffron was used for some original yellow.

    Yet to kiss off the coloration as “roughly colored” is to step over the original state. That is evident from even a cursory inspection although most agree that untrained hands participated in several recolorations over time.

    A point raised by Zyats et al. (p 26) about the spine-padding is evidently still being studied. It was manuscript paper that had the same type of iron gall ink as the VM and they are not willing at this moment to consider it “modern”.

    Where I think path-finding work of Nick is being ignored is their citing without attribution the following statement (p 24), “…evidence that some leaves were removed or lost at some time”.

    I agree that no one should attack the motivation or character of Paula Zyats, however some conclusions of the essay of Zyats et al., could be challenged.

    I would personally give the Yale curators a thumbs up for their discussions of the use of spectroscopy in the study of the VM., even though I think the Terpenecz signature the Rene has produced is superior to theirs.

    Cheers, Tom

  98. bdid1dr on January 19, 2017 at 9:01 pm said:

    @ Nick and ThomS:

    This morning I went through my pile of downloads of Fray Sahagun’s diary and his assistants bilingual identification of every item in the so-called “Voynich” manuscript:

    Here is some for you:
    3r : Ranunculus
    3v: Monks Hood
    4r illegible
    4v illegible
    5r: TURBAN Ranunculus (compare with 3r)
    llv: A single mulberry fruit

    13 (v or r, I forgot to note which) : lor (ec or ce) eos opreceous : palm & fruit
    18 v : dandelion?

    99r pharmaceutical jars are : ‘elixers’ of previously drawn,and discussions of , the various botanical items : glloxargeus .

    There are descriptions of the individual parts of above botanical items (mostly the root shapes of the previously illustrated botanical items. Nick and I discussed, briefly, the last few folios which seemed to be recipes for use of the other (edible ?) parts of each illustrated botanical item (folios 100 – 102 ?)


  99. bdid1dr on January 21, 2017 at 12:29 am said:

    folio 11v : one mulberry : The reason why this particular very enlarged specimen appears for at least TWO other mysterious illustrations is :

    The mulberry tree, itself, was extremely valuable for at least two reasons:

    The leaves of the mulberry tree were eaten by the silkworm larvae. Eventually the larvae each made a cocoon around themselves. Before they could emerge (as winged insects: butterfly/moth) from the cocoon (silk thread which was enclosing them) — they were thrown into vats of boiling water.

    The Chinese had developed a whole industry for making silk thread and garments — and for their silk ‘paper money’. All hell broke loose when those monks filled their walking staves with larva and moths/butterflies.
    Fray Sahagun discusses the sericene ‘butterfly/moth — and its larvae eating the leaves of the Mulberry tree.

  100. bdid1dr on January 21, 2017 at 6:03 pm said:

    The other use for the mulberry tree was its bark. Sahagun’s scribes mashed the bark of the mulberry tree with the bark of the strangler fig (lower quality paper).
    I’m now wondering if the Florentine Codex/Manuscript is written on top quality paper or animal skin.
    At least we can compare the “Voynich Manuscript”, written on animal skin, with the papyrus/paper ( ? ) of the “Florentine Codex”.


  101. SirHubert on January 21, 2017 at 7:23 pm said:


    The Florentine Codex is written on paper, not membrane. Google is your friend.

  102. bdid1dr on January 22, 2017 at 11:09 pm said:

    Thank you, Sir Hubert ! Are y’all going to look up that specimen which appears in the “Voynich” manuscript — which is a peculiar way of identifying a single mulberry fruit. Once you translate the script which accompany’s the peculiar berry, you will then be able translate just about any of the folios — including the tiny script which appears ON Each of the pharmacy jars. Next to each jar are drawings of various botanical items which roots, mostly, were mixed into ‘elixirs’ . Correct my spelling of the word — but take a good look at each of the botanical items and compare with the contents of each ‘pharma’ jar.

    So far, I have not been able to any discussion/illustration of the two major foodstuffs in “New Spain” : Corn and squash. In higher elevations (Peru?) the major food was potatoes.


  103. bdid1dr on January 23, 2017 at 12:16 am said:

    At least two of Fray Sahagun’s students went on to writing ‘medical/botanical’ books (Martin de la Cruz, and Juan Badiano).

    Six books (which I have, at my elbow) :
    Fermin Herrera (Hippocrene Concise Dictionary English-Nahuatl (Aztec)
    Martin De La Cruz “An Aztec Herbal — Classic Codex 1552
    Bernal Diaz “The Conquest of New Spain”
    Friar Diego de Landa : ” Yucatan Before and After The Conquest”
    Thomas M. Whitmore and B. L. Turner II : “Cultivated Landscapes of Middle America on the Eve of Conquest”

    On my large book cases, I have several books of translations and histories of “New Spain”. Also, Fray Sahagun’s “Psalmodia” .

  104. bdid1dr on January 23, 2017 at 6:44 pm said:

    Earlier (a few days ago) I was trying to explain that the words which are written on the pharmaceutical jars, themselves, are explaining their use for making ELIXIR.
    Folio 99r reveals the Nahuatl word glloxargeus for elixir.

    The remaining folios illustrate which part of the previously discussed and illustrated botanical items are going to be used for elixirs / elixus (Latin word for ‘boiled’.

  105. SirHubert on January 23, 2017 at 8:44 pm said:


    Sorry, no.

    ‘Elixir’ is from the Arabic al-iksīr, ‘the elixir’, which I read ultimately comes from a Greek word for a desiccant powder. It has no Latin root, and the Arabic term was adopted into Latin (complete with the definite article) during the Middle Ages.

    You may possibly be confusing it with ‘decoction’, which does come from the Latin ‘decoquere’, meaning ‘to boil down.’ But that, pretty obviously, is a completely different word.

  106. bdid1dr on January 24, 2017 at 12:51 am said:

    So, Sir Hubert: I hope you will take a very close look at the various pharmaceutical jars and find at least one jar which has the writing : G l l 0 X A R G E U S written on its ‘waistline/joint’. I’m posting the alphabetical letters in Capital size print, in the hope that you will be able to find that word on folio 99 R pharma jar illustration.


  107. SirHubert on January 24, 2017 at 9:41 am said:


    I don’t know the first thing about Nahuatl, although I’m as sure as I can be that the Voynich Manuscript isn’t written in it.

  108. bdid1dr on January 24, 2017 at 8:39 pm said:

    But the so-called Voynich IS written in TWO languages : Spanish dictation and Nahuatl translators and Nahuatl illustrators. Sahagun’s Psalmodia is also translated AND illustrated (flowers and Saints days) Spanish and Nahuatl languages.

  109. SirHubert on January 24, 2017 at 9:30 pm said:


    You post something along those lines here most days, and it’s clear that you’ve come up with a method of reading the manuscript which you find convincing.

    As I’ve said, I know nothing about Nahuatl. For all I know, ‘glloxargeus’ may be a recognised form of a Nahuatl word. To my ignorant eye it looks like the l-x-r of ‘elixir’ with a vaguely Meso-American ‘ll’ at one end and an incongruous Latin -eus termination, but I simply don’t know.

    My problem, I’m afraid, is that some of the etymological stuff you’ve posted here is demonstrably wrong – like the derivations of ‘elixir’, ‘hallucination’ and a few others I forget now. With that in mind, I can’t just take your assertions about Nahuatl on trust, sorry.

    I know I’m not the first to suggest this, but if you want a sensible critique of your proposed Nahuatl ‘translations’ you need someone with a proper knowledge of Nahuatl. That isn’t me, and there aren’t too many active on this blog. I’ve no idea whether the Comegys brothers can help? But the rest of us can’t. Plus – and I know I’m not the first to make this point either – you really need to get your thoughts into a more coherent form so that people can follow you more easily, rather than spreading them all over random threads here.

  110. SirHubert on January 24, 2017 at 9:44 pm said:

    Sorry – missed the last paragraph:

    I wouldn’t presume to tell you what to post or what not to post – that’s solely between you and Nick. But it seems a shame when you keep asking people here to look at what you’ve done…and keep getting no response.

  111. bdid1dr on January 24, 2017 at 11:43 pm said:

    Take a close look at each of the pharmacy jars — top (some have green script on top/lid. The variations in the red and white or red and blue bands indicate the measures of botanical materials and the temperature of the liquids being used. Every jar has a label. Every jar is accompanied by a discussion of the botanical items which are going to be used. Most, if not all of botanical folios identify the particular specimen — which is going to eventually end up in a pharmaceutical mixture.

    Three times in my life, I was in the top 10 percentile of my university studies. I was first derailed by tropical storms . Second time, my car got snow and solid ice above the hub caps and telephone lines pulled down by the icicles. Third time my landlord sold the house and gave us (me and my two sons) three days
    (at Christmas time) to move out.
    Just so you know I’ve had a very rough life. I am very grateful that I can correspond with Nick and his friends from all over the globe. I’m hoping to be able to get in touch with another friend (Cheyenne School, Busby, Montana).
    Time for a coffee break –husband’s home with munchies !
    Y’all got your hearts set on Valentine celebrations ?

  112. bdid1dr on January 25, 2017 at 9:27 pm said:

    I refer you to the SAFFRON CROCUS (B-408, folio 35 reverso) Identified by its corms (rather than bulbs) It is NOT a tulip. It is most important for saffron’s use as a flavoring ingredient in ‘yellow rice’. It has also been mixed into raw egg-white for use as gilt/gold color in medieval manuscripts.

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