In August 2016, I spent a day at the British Library trawling through many of its palaeography books (as I described here). What I was specifically in search of was examples of handwriting that matched the handwriting in the Voynich Manuscript, along with its marginalia.

As mentioned before, the document I found was Basel University Library A X 132: it’s a Sammelband (anthology or collection), with sections copied from a number of different medieval authors. The section I was most interested in (dated 1465) was fol. 83r through to fol. 101r.

With a little help from Stefan Mathys (thanks, Stefan!), I ordered some pages, along with some from the start and end of other sections, just in case the same scribal hand reappeared and included a little biographical information about that scribe. I’ve just begun writing this up as a paper (heaven knows that so little of any authority has been written about the Voynich, so I want to do this properly): but as I was going through, I noticed something interesting that I thought I’d share separately.

One of the extra sections I asked for began on f202r: and I must admit to being surprised to see an oddly familiar piece of marginalia there. Recalling the tiny marginalia at the top of the Voynich Manuscript’s page f17r…

…now look at the tiny marginalia at the top of A X 132’s fol. 202r, a “vocabularij hebreicus et grecus” (according to this):

The listing remarks that f202r is covered in “Stegmüller, Rep.bibl.6,93 Nr.8665”, i.e. Friedrich Stegmüller, Repertorium biblicum medii aevi, 11 vols. (I don’t believe that volume 6 is online, but please let me know if you manage to find a copy.)

Have you found any better matches than this?

26 thoughts on “Possible Voynich f17r handwriting match…

  1. Nick,
    In ‘The curse’ you made a good argument for the marginalia on f.117r ‘s being Occitan, and commented on how that line of script begins in Occitan yet ends in Voynichese. Have you changed your mind about that? It would be helpful, I suppose, if others could see the illustration that you put in the discussion. (For those with a copy of it – p.30). I might add that I also found reason to think that the content had first reached Europe from what I suppose one might call the ‘Occitan sphere’ – within which Genoa, Mallorca, Avignon and England were all interacting, even before the events of 1415.

  2. Mark Knowles on September 9, 2017 at 11:26 am said:

    Nick: Fascinating!

    When it comes to handwriting what scope do you believe there is for carrying out a reliable comparison? What is your opinion regarding handwriting experts? I ask this as one might feel two samples of handwriting look very similar. However it would be nice to be able to support or undermine this hypothesis on the basis of a more rigorous scientific foundation.

  3. Mark Knowles on September 9, 2017 at 11:29 am said:

    Nick: I am not suggesting you engage a handwriting specialist at this point. However it would be nice if we could have a consensus as to what the gold standard of proof for reliable handwriting comparison should be.

  4. Charlotte Auer on September 9, 2017 at 11:44 am said:


    the handwriting of the marginalia is in both cases the very common Bastarda (i.e. Schleifenbastarda) as you may find it in countless 15th century MMs.

    Here you will find the transcription of the marginalia in Voynich f17r:

    A transcription of Voynich f116v (same hand, same Bastarda) together with an iconographic explanation is given here:

    I published this already in January 2017 on my website but none of the Voynicheros seems to be interested in correct paleographic work. Boring

  5. Diane: my 2006 suggestion of Occitan still seems to me like the best match for the non-Voynichese part of the f17r marginalia, though French isn’t far behind. More broadly, the f17r handwriting seems to me to be very much in the sphere of Switzerland and Savoy, as I’ve suggested before: but it would be nice to do better than that. Unfortunately A X 132 still hasn’t been digitized and placed online, which is a shame, or else we’d be able to discuss its handwriting more fully.

  6. Charlotte: that is your own transcription, and I have to say that I disagree with your reading of many of the letters, and of almost all the words as well.

    Here is a scan of the f17r marginalia which I suspect is at higher quality than the one you relied upon (click to see full scan):

    And here is a brightness/contrast-enhanced version of the same scan:

  7. Charlotte Auer on September 9, 2017 at 12:51 pm said:


    of course it is my own transcription and not someone else’s, and there is absolutely no need for you to agree with!

    Btw. I relied on Beinecke’s high resolution scans of the folios and made contrast-enhanced versions myself. But thanks for yours.

  8. @Charlotte Auer
    Kleiner Hinweis zu f116v nach Leber.
    Was Du siehst heisst ( vmen ).
    Wenn Du es ausspricht es ist die Dialektform von ( von einem )

  9. Charlotte Auer on September 9, 2017 at 4:07 pm said:


    leider verstehe ich nicht so recht, was du meinst. Würdest du mich bitte über das Kontaktformular auf meiner Website anschreiben, damit wir das klären können, ohne Nick’s blog damit zu belasten? Das wäre nett und hilfreich. Danke!

  10. Helmut: I found that previously (but thanks for pointing it out anyway). The problem is that every search I tried within it came up empty, and I couldn’t see any part of the site that would let me browse Volume 6 “Commentaria: anonyma A-O”, even though that’s listed at the front. Is there some guide to using the site that explains how to do even the most basic thing?

  11. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on September 9, 2017 at 5:43 pm said:

    Nick. And ants.
    Everything is wrong. The characters are.


    Old Czech language : ( jewish substitution ).
    Malpa sů….a slov….Fůzo…nosí….vešš….munio.

    New Czech language :
    Malba je …a slova…Vousy….nosí….vši….muňky.

    English language :

    The painting is ( drawing is )…..and words…..beard ( hair )….she wears….lice….mules.

  12. J.K. Petersen on September 9, 2017 at 6:26 pm said:

    Nick, regarding the marginalia you found at the top of A X 132’s fol. 202r…

    Glancing at it, I notice greater connectivity between letters and a different style of “r” in both -lary and hebre- Also the stem of the g extends above the loop (which means the stroke order is different from the VMS g) and the descender is shorter and more curled, also the base of the ell has a serif and connector (and the first leading stem on the first letter is very long).

    But! …it is a good find (a very good one, not only for shape but for context as top-folio marginalia), and there are many similarities in the h, b, and l. It’s difficult to find hands as close or closer.

    I am working at the moment, but will run it through my mathematical filter later today when I can access my files, and will let you know how it scores in relation to the VMS marginalia.

  13. Helmut Winkler on September 9, 2017 at 6:57 pm said:


    the site is selfexplaining.

    You have to use the Suchmaske, last entry “Suche in RB”, then you put in the data you have got, in your case 8665 into lfd. Nr. (laufende Nummer/sequential number), click on Suchen. then you get Band. 6, 1 Treffer, (vol. 6, 1 hit) and you get the Stegmüller entry by clicking on 8665. I dont dare to suggest that you can browse vol. 6 by entering other numbers

  14. Helmut: thank you very much, my ability to navigate German websites is clearly a skill I will have to work on. 🙂

  15. Josef Zlatoděj Prof. on September 10, 2017 at 12:08 am said:

    Nick and ants.
    The translator has misinterpreted it.
    There is written that he has lice on of the pussy hair.

    lice ( Anoplura ). ( Phithirus pubis ) 🙂

    pussy = (!).

  16. Undoubtedly Bastarda, undoubtedly characteristic of 15th century Germany. But are the two sequences actually the same handwriting? What they have in common is that they are both section headings in a smaller format than the main text of the section. The first question to be tackled is whether the heading of the A X 32 extract is in the same handwriting as the section text, the Hebrew-Greek vocabulary.

    As for ‘malhor alhor’ [or whatever the transcription], nobody has ever made sense of it in a known language, but there is an echo of ‘qokchey okchey’ to it. Can it be that the VMS script is a superencipherment of a verbose ciphertext in Latin script?

  17. The painting is ( drawing is )…..and words…..beard ( hair )….she wears….lice….mules.

    Well that certainly clears everything up…

  18. @Helmut Winkler
    Were there in the old German also other th connections than only for double tt?
    With the grammar reform Muther is now written Mutter.

    Since I read it so: “mather aller lueg her vu …….”
    In my dialect it would mean: ” Mutter aller, schau ihr vu…..”
    in english: “Mother of all, look at her …”

    Where I can put the word where I can not read exactly “vulnerar” (wounded), since it is on this page are wound clusters (Anthyllis vulneraria)

  19. Noel: I believe they are talking out of their ars. 😉

  20. Hi Nick,

    The Codex Otlazpan has perfect matches for the following EVA letters: EVA a, c, d, e, h, i, j, k, l, o, r, y, and z. Códice de Otlazpan by Birgitta Leander, (1967), Instituto Nacional de Antropologia e Historia, Mexico.

    The Codex Osuna has precise matches for the following EVA letters: EVA a, c, d, e, h, I, k, m, n, o, r, v, and x. Pintura del Gobernador, alcaldes y regidores de Mexico “Codice Osuna” Ministerio de Educácion y Ciencia, Dirección General de Archhivos y Bibliotecas. Here is a link.

    The Códice Santa María de Asunción has precise matches for the following EVA letters: EVA a, e, h, I, k, m, n, o, t, u, x, y, and z. The Códice Santa María de Asunción: Households and Land in Sixteenth-Century Tepetlaozto, Barbara J. Williams and H.R. Harvey, 1997, University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.

    There is a perfect match for EVA T and the following other EVA letters EVA a, d, e, h, I, k, o, r, s, and t, in the Códice de Santo Toribio Xicotzinco Documento A on page 256 of La Escritura Pictografica En Tlaxcala: Dos mil años de experiencia mesoamericana by Luis Reyes Garcia. 1993, Universidad Autónoma de Tlaxcala.

    You may find each of these letters circled or otherwise indicated in the appendices to my little monograph Voynich Manuscript Aztec Herbal from New Spain in, or

    Happy hunting,


  21. J.K. Petersen on September 10, 2017 at 5:26 pm said:

    John, I’m wondering why you would look for handwriting matches to the VMS in 16th-century New World documents when those same styles are evident in European documents from the 15th century from which the New World hands are descended.

    I’m also not sure why you are discussing in detail the subject of the main-text handwriting on a blog specifically about the marginalia style, which is in a different hand. Is it because you see them as the same hand?

  22. Hi JK,
    I looked for handwriting matches in 16th century documents because my brother told me he had seen documents like the Voynich Manuscripts at El Escorial in Spain and because he thought , and still does, that the Voynich Manuscript was part of the work of Dr. Francisco Hernandez. (I don’t, but it is reasonable that he may have included it in his works, along with works of others, such as Sahagun.)
    I neglected to say that the marginalia is only of marginal interest to me. The main text is much more central. The marginalia are being explored, I think, to give clues to the main text. I have gone straight for the prize. If you will trouble yourself ever so slightly by actually looking at the link to the Codex Osuna you will easily recognize several of the Voynich letters. That might encourage you to read my monograph where you can see the EVA letters written in other documents besides the Voynich in the appendices. I hope I don’t sound too snarky, but really–you look, you will see.

  23. I must apologise for our host’s lapse. One can only say “Helmet” when referring to a once popular rockband, which originally wanted to call itself Helmut (just that the record label said “nah”).
    The meaning of the name best translates to “high-minded”.

  24. Helmut: my apologies, Cipher Mysteries is getting so many comments each day at the moment that I’m having to respond using my mobile, with all the perils of unexpected AutoCorrect. 🙁

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