An interesting-sounding document referred to by Alfred Martin in 1906 (pp.174-175, thanks to Stefan Mathys!) is Cod. Sang. 760, the contents of which the St Gallen archivists describe as follows:

This manuscript, illustrated with numerous colored pen drawings, originated in a secular environment in Southern Germany or in Switzerland around the middle of the 15th century. It describes the signs of the zodiac, the planets, the four temperaments, and the four seasons regarding their influence on human health. This is followed by dietary guidelines primarily regarding bloodletting, but also regarding eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, resting and moving, as well as, in concrete terms, regarding bathing (illustration p. 101) or defecating (illustration p. 120)

As to the manuscript’s origins, the archivists suggest:

Most likely an amateur doctor with an interest in astronomy, from the Southern region of Germany, wrote the original text around 1400 and assembled it into a compendium. Later the text was repeatedly supplemented and modified.

There are numerous reasons why I’m intrigued by Cod. Sang. 760: not only its zodiac roundels, but also the sun-moon roundels on adjacent pages, and the textual focus on all the things I’ve recently been wondering whether the Voynich zodiac pages encode – blood-letting, baths, clysters (enemas), etc.

“Iatromathematisches Hausbuch” manuscripts

Yet Cod. Sang. 760 (which was only digitized in 2014) is but one of a series of “Iatromathematisches Hausbuch” manuscripts, some of which were discussed on Stephen Bax’s site back in 2015, e.g.:

* Cod. Pal. Germ. 291

* Cod. Pal. Germ. 557

…and so forth. The 30-element list of Saint’s Days that appear on twelve pages at the start of these also appear in other manuscripts, perhaps most notably this one from Konstanz in 1463 (as mentioned by Rene):

* Planeten-Buch – BSB Cgm 7269, Konstanz, Anfang 15. Jh. bis 17. Jh. [BSB-Hss Cgm 7269]

What is interesting in CGM 7269 is that not only does the Sagittarius crossbowman appear, but also the image of two people in a bath (previously used to illustrate bathing) has been appropriated for the Gemini zodiac sign.

(There’s also Tübingen Md 2, MS Cod Sang 827, and Strasbourg Ms.2.120 to consider, etc.)

I could go on, but I hope the basic point – that we are looking at a family of manuscripts with many similar features – is clear.

The copied crossbowman hypothesis

I’m acutely aware that what follows is less of an outright answer than a provocation towards approaching an answer.

The first step is hypothesizing the origins of the Sagittarius crossbowman: I now feel quite sure that it was a copying error within the basic Iatromathematisches Hausbuch manuscript family, where a crossbowman roundel originally drawn to accompany the constellation Sagittarius was miscopied into the zodiac roundel accompanying the zodiac sign Sagittarius.

This is hardly a huge departure from what has been noted before, specifically when Rafal Prinke and Rene Zandbergen asked Prof. Ewa Sniezynska-Stolot of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow and Prof. Dieter Blume (respectively) about this.

However, by positing the crossbowman drawing as a copying error, we can start to view the Voynich Manuscript’s zodiac section not just as something visually influenced by a set of manuscripts, but as a member of the cladistic tree of a specific family of manuscripts.

The iatromathematical table/label hypothesis

Structurally, these iatromathematical housebooks have quite stylized layouts and contents. For example, they typically start with a nineteen-column computus table (which was no secret at all), followed by a set of twelve tables of Saint’s Days (I believe), with 30 elements in each list.

In the Planeten-Buch, these lists have further become associated with zodiac signs, in much the same way that we see in the Voynich Manuscript (albeit in a non-obvious way).

It would therefore seem reasonable to secondly hypothesize that the contents of these tables might have (in some way) ended up as the Voynich zodiac labels (e.g. using some combination of abbreviation and acrostic), i.e. from tables to labels.

Incidentally, this would be the kind of “block paradigm” match I’ve talked about for some time here. The reason I think it is of particular cryptographic interest is that there is good cryptanalytical reason to suspect that the Voynich’s “labelese” (i.e. the version of the text used to write labels) is only a subset of the ‘language(s)’ used to write the main text. As such, labelese may well be weaker and hence easier to break.

Where next?

So far, I have only looked at a handful of manuscripts, and from these have elicited only the outline of a research angle.

But the real historical heavy lifting – building a complete list of these fifteenth century manuscripts, and then deriving a cladistic tree linking them all together – must have been done already, surely?

Can I therefore again ask my German-speaking readers for their help, this time to dig up any literature looking at this family of manuscripts as a whole?

I’m sure it’s out there, but I haven’t yet found it. All pointers, tips and suggestions gratefully received! 🙂

31 thoughts on “Cod. Sang. 760 and the “Iatromathematisches Hausbuch” Voynich hypothesis…

  1. I should point out that Prof. Stolot was approached by Rafal (in 2001), not by me.

  2. Rene: fixed, thanks. 🙂

  3. Donald: it’s a very nice-looking astronomical manuscript, though (it would seem) from a quite different family of mss. Still, study of its text might yet reveal things of interest to us – and I did like its depictions of comets. 🙂

  4. Donald Vaughn on July 27, 2017 at 9:27 am said:

    I just wish we knew who this Michael Haintzmann of Babenhausen is. It would appear after doing a further search that Marco Ponzi had already found this MS, perhaps he has some further insight into it

  5. Donald: the point I was trying to lead the post towards was that we should understand and map the whole family of mss before getting too involved with any single manuscript. And surely some plucky German historian has already done this?

  6. Don Vaughn on July 27, 2017 at 11:46 am said:

    Oh! Fair enough. Can we really be sure what family of manuscripts that the Voynich belongs in. Assuming of course that its not a manuscript written old Alpha Centaurian by a Druid priest channeling the ancient spirit of a yeti.

  7. Nick,

    My point all along has been to propose to decode the number and word sides by different encoding systems. Numbers in the 15th century were undergoing a great change after 1454, when Byzantium was over run, when rational numbers were encoded by a greedy algorithm based on seven distinctions recorded by Fibonaccii’s Liber Abaci. The first six offered variations of a subtraction context where (n/p – 1/m) = (mn – p)/mp with (mn – p) set to unity (1) such that 2-term unit fraction series were written from right to left, in the Greek and Egyptian style.
    When impossible, i.e. 4/13 a second 1/m was selected to compute a 3-term unit fraction series .

    Astronomy facts were often encoded by zodiac metsphors, the issue that you have been stressing for awhile. It appears that you have been unaware of long term practices of recording lunar calendars by alternate 29, 30 days to some specific periods , 270 in the cases of Hebrew and Islamic calendars, phased by different cycles. Calendar styles offer challenges in Germany, and other pre-base 10 decimal number systems that were not standardized until Gregorian calendars came on the scene, coincident with improved base 10 decimal notations improved Stevin’s 1585 structure by Napier and others after 1600.

    Let me stop here, knowing that the word side of 15th century encoders offers a range of choices, some of which overlapped with number encoding practices.

    Best Wishes,


  8. Thomas on July 27, 2017 at 2:29 pm said:

    As far as I can see, Sudhoff’s book is the only online available source:

  9. Thomas: thanks for the reference. Unfortunately, Sudhoff is only really strong on 16th century printed books on iatromathematics, and a bit lightweight elsewhere, so not a lot of use to us. 🙁

    However, he listed a number of titles I wasn’t previously aware of, so it all worked out OK in the end. 🙂

  10. Milo: if only we could identify the Voynich’s numbering scheme! :-/

  11. Don: we’ve already done the Mongolian shaman thing here, so Druids are a bit passe. 🙂

  12. Donald Vaughn on July 28, 2017 at 12:16 am said:

    To quote Barf from “Spaceballs” “Funny, she doesn’t look Druish”

  13. This is not a comment about the Voynich manuscript, but a response to your saying
    “This manuscript, illustrated with numerous colored pen drawings, originated in a secular environment in Southern Germany or in Switzerland around the middle of the 15th century. It describes the signs of the zodiac, the planets, the four temperaments, and the four seasons regarding their influence on human health. This is followed by dietary guidelines primarily regarding bloodletting, but also regarding eating, drinking, sleeping, waking, resting and moving, as well as, in concrete terms, regarding bathing (illustration p. 101) or defecating (illustration p. 120).”

    I’m not sure that there was such a thing as a secular environment in fifteenth century Europe, but that’s by-the-bye. I suppose you mean a non-clerical one rather than one unaffected by the pervasive character of the time.

    I’d like to commend to you the essay by Judith Spencer, included in her edition of an important copy of the Tacuinum Sanitatis – a text which as you surely know is derived from a typically eastern Mediterranean/Mesopotamian tradition in medicine.

    Spencer explains how copies of the text were disseminated, first in Italy and among families related to Italian nobles, and then a copy made for a German dignitary who’d been appointed to a post in Italy, only to return – apparently – without the copy commissioned for him. The German ‘hausebooks’ seem to read rather like efforts to reconstruct that eastern traditional style in medicine.

    One thinks of the Yemeni calendars, for example, which combine all sorts of information in the context of the lunar year and the stars that mark its progress.

    However, to stick to the subject of how this sort of medical melange reached northern Europe – the essay is in
    Judith Spencer, The Four Seasons of the House of Cerruti and I see that you can now get through Amazon, for a pittance, the same hardback copy that I bought when it came out in 1984. As a facsimile it’s not brilliant. But Spencer’s essay is rather good, for all sorts of reasons.

  14. Diane: the summary was exactly as presented by the St Gallen archivists, feel free to sound off at them if you feel aggrieved at their use of the word “secular”.

    I suspect barking at the moon might prove more productive.

  15. Mark Knowles on July 29, 2017 at 3:20 pm said:

    Nick: How far and wide would we expect that these kinds text would have been distributed? Are there Italian or Latin versions of these kinds of text?

    I guess you can probably see where I am going with this. Naturally, from my perspective the association of Voynich related manuscripts with German Switzerland can’t help, but pique my curiousity, though I do like to think that any associations are worthy of my interest whether they seem to fit my narrative or not.

  16. Nick,
    My momentary musing seems to have distracted.

    Spencer’s essay is, I think, much to the point – because we the Tacuinum is an earlier form of household book of health and because the German-speaking regions of the mid-fifteenth century, especially printers, were quite keen on taking up the latest Italian fashion. There’s also the system informing this medical lore, as you’ve described it – and which seems very close indeed to the much earlier and long-established approach to medicine that finds its reflection in the Tacuinum. So I recommended an essay in which all those things are set out, and which also suggests at least one direct link between the early copies of the Tacuinum and Germany.

    It was just a reference. No big thing.

  17. Diane: I’ll put Spencer on my list of things to look at at some point. Right now, I’m looking for literature on the specific iatromathematical hausbuchen, which would seem to be a quite separate tradition.

  18. Mark: the first sensible step would be to investigate the basic literature landscape, which is what I’m trying to do. :-/

  19. Mark Knowles on July 29, 2017 at 7:00 pm said:

    Nick: What you are doing sounds very wise to me. I was querying your knowledge of the distribution of these texts; it would appear prematurely. I think the notion in general of situating the Voynich in a landscape of literature is a very intelligent strategy, although somewhat arduous given the sheer quantity of literature. This approach could lead to some very useful insights indeed, I am inclined to think. In fact I think any comparisons of other texts with the Voynich should really be part of this more general framework rather than considered solely in isolation.

  20. Mark: I suspect that the total number of these iatromathematical hausbuchen and planeten buchen still extant will be somewhere between ten and twenty, which would be a good amount to work with. 🙂

  21. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on July 29, 2017 at 9:39 pm said:

    Nick and Ants.
    You are already in Germany. Next to Germany is Czech. 🙂

    If you continue thys way, you will be in Bohemia in a few years.
    You also start thinking about numbers. And that’s good.
    Also try to think about the language. Specifically, the Czech language.

    This is the language in witch the manuscript is written. ( MS-408).
    Then it will be good.
    Diana has finally started to write about the Jews and the Rose. 🙂
    It is abvious that he is also trying hard and learning.
    ( Eliska was , of course, Rose ). 🙂
    Her family was Rosenberg. ( Rosen – Berg ).

    Otherwise, I hawe to write to you.
    There is no astrology and astronomy in the menuscript.

  22. Peter on July 30, 2017 at 9:20 am said:

    @Josef Zlatoděj Prof.
    You write, it was Eliska Rožmberka who wrote the VM.
    Meanwhile I know 3 with this name. But none would fit the c14 analysis.
    From which line (Rožmberka) does it come from? (Father and mother?)
    Thank you !

  23. Peter on July 30, 2017 at 10:55 am said:

    @Josef Zlatoděj Prof.
    Why give it to the painting on your website (Eliska Rosenberg) If you know But it should be Perchta of Rosenberg (Bílá Paní).
    The signs on the painting include a legend or folk tales, but have nothing to do with the VM.
    I’m waiting for Explanation

  24. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on July 30, 2017 at 7:40 pm said:

    Peter. You must know the history of the Rosenberg family.
    Eliška, who wrote the manuscript. She was a child. John II of Rosenberg. ( Jan II z Rožmberka ). And her mother was a Polish nobleman. Anna Hlohovská.
    Find the wiki information.

    Otherwise, the manuscript is written :
    My name is Eliska. I’m 12 years old. I was born in 1460.

    Otherwise to Perchta. ( Perchta of Rosenberg ).
    Peter. Perchta was her aunt. Perchta was the sister of John II of Rosenberg.
    The picture you write about. It is painted by Eliska z Rožmberka. The mysterious text is treasure hunt.
    The picture is written by chronicler Václav Břežan. Who was the librarian and manager of the Rosenberg family manuscript. This is especially the case with the last Rosenberg. Petra Voka.

  25. Peter on August 2, 2017 at 6:16 am said:

    @Josef Zlatoděj Prof.
    Eliska, her baptismal name was (Elisabeth / Alžběta (born 14 February 1466),)
    Sister of the twins (Barbara and Margarete) (born 8 June 1460),
    And she was married to Heinrich Prüschenk, Count of Hardegg (austria)
    Even their descendants are known to date (family chronicles).

    Václav Březan (* 1568 in Březno near Laun; † 1618) Historian.

    The painting was painted much later, to the legend of the white woman.
    Historic Castle Krumau.

    I have now compared all the data, and found no match.
    Not even the year of birth of Eliska is korekt.
    I do not know what to say about your story.

  26. Mark Knowles on August 2, 2017 at 7:09 am said:

    Peter: If she was born in 1466 then that goes completely against the carbon dating. I would politely suggest that Josef has no idea what he is talking about. On the basis of questions I asked him his replies were completely unconvincing. In addition he refers to people who disagree with him as “ants” which I find offensive.

  27. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on August 2, 2017 at 10:32 am said:

    Peter. Eliška writes in the manuscript. There are ten children.
    4 men. And 6 women.
    1. Jindřich V. of Rosenberg.
    2. Kateřina of Rosenberg.
    3. Vok II of Rosenberg.
    4. Barbora of Rosenberg.
    5. Marketa of Rosenberg.
    6. Petr IV of Rosenberg.
    7. Hedvika of Rosenberg.
    8. Eliška of Rosenberg. 🙂
    9. Johanka of Rosenberg.
    10. Oldřich III of Rosenberg.

    Eliška writes that it is eighth . 8.
    The manuscript reads : I am 8 am.
    Of course in the Czech language. ( sem 8 am ).
    (sem – mean = I am ).
    ( 8 – means = I was born as an eighth child ).
    ( am – means = the Jewish word. It means the people. Or man )

    Eliška uses several Jewish words in the manuscript. For example, the words : am . ajin .

    Otherwise, Vaclav Břežan. He was librarian. For the last Rosenbergs. Wilem of Rosenberg and his brother Petr Vok.
    And Břežan writes about Eliška as a white lady. So the picture is not a Perchta. But Eliška.

    Peter. I’ve translated the whole manuscript. So I know what’s written about it.

    Eliška also writes the manuscript. Father is called Jan II of Rosenberg. ( Pokojný). He was born in 1431 and died in 1472. He died of plague. ( mor ). In Ortenburg, Germany.

  28. Mark Knowles on August 2, 2017 at 1:48 pm said:

    Josef: How do account for the fact that your date does not fit with the carbon dating? It appears you date the manuscript to 1472, but carbon dating dates it to between 1404 and 1438.

    If you have translated the manuscript why don’t you post your translation as a pdf, not your commentary or your insults to other people, but your word for word translation. Or otherwise just stop bothering people and wasting their time. I asked you before to provide a complete translation word for word of the 9 rosette foldout 86v, but instead you made a few vague and highly implausible comments on this page. No commentary just complete translation word for word.

  29. Peter on August 2, 2017 at 3:03 pm said:

    @Josef Zlatoděj Prof.
    I know how many children it was.
    Eliska was born in 1466.
    In the painting is Perchta and not Eliska.

    When I have time I read the whole family where Václav Březan wrote. The original is located in Sweden in the Royal Library. And she was also translated into German.

    And I can not believe that a 12 year old has written the VM. In an 8-digit system with knowledge, where one finds at this time only in a monastery library or university.

    And here is the story about Perchta to read for yourself.

  30. Peter on August 2, 2017 at 5:08 pm said:

    Thanks to the discussion about Eliska, I came across a very interesting subject. On the brother Peter IV

    The first references to the existence of a Library in the Český Krumlov Castle come from the 14th century. A larger development of literary culture, however, didn\’t start until under the administration of Petr IV. von Rosenberg (1462 – 1523). He studied at the Italian schools with Bohuslav Hasištejnský z Lobkovic, and from Italy he brought some incunabula for the Castle Library.

    That would explain how the VM came from italy to the Czech Republic.

    The next:
    In 1602, the Emperor Rudolf II. von Habsbursg bought the Krumlov dominion.

    This would explain how the VM came into the possession of Rudolf.
    At the time, the library consisted of several thousand copies, and today it is one of the largest in Europe, with more than 55,000 books.

    I would not be surprised if you sold Rudolf his own book.
    For me this is a more accurate research.

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