Voynich Manuscript

The infuriating Voynich Manuscript (A.K.A. “Beinecke MS 408”, or “the VMs”) contains about 240 pages of curious drawings, incomprehensible diagrams and undecipherable handwriting from five centuries ago. Whether a work of cipher genius or loopy madness, it is hard to deny it is one of those rare cases where the truth is many times stranger than fiction.

Its last four hundred years of history can be squeezed into eight bullet points (though there’s much more detail here if you’re interested):-

  • Circa 1600-1610, it was (very probably) owned by Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II
  • Circa 1610-1620, it was (very probably) owned by Rudolf II’s “Imperial Distiller” Jacobus z Tepenecz
  • Circa 1630-1645, it was owned by (otherwise unknown) German Bohemian alchemist Georg Baresch
  • Circa 1645-1665, it was owned by Johannes Marcus Marci of Cronland, who gave it to Athanasius Kircher
  • For the next few centuries, it was (almost certainly) owned by Jesuits & moved around Europe
  • In 1912, it was bought (probably for peanuts) by dodgy antiquarian book dealer Wilfrid Voynich
  • He bequeathed it to his wife Ethel, who bequeathed it to Anne Nill, who sold it to H. P. Kraus in 1961
  • In 1969, Kraus donated it to Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library

However, before 1600 things quickly get murky, to the point that the list of “very probably true” things we can say about the Voynich Manuscript’s early art history is embarrassingly short:-

  • Radiocarbon tests carried out in 2009 date itsvellum to between 1404 and 1438 with 95% certainty, though as yet there is no cast-iron proof that the text and drawings were added straight away
  • The clear, upright handwriting is most often described as being reminiscent of either Carolingian minuscule (800-1200) or its Italian Quattrocento revival form, the “humanist hand” (circa 1400-1500) – the radiocarbon dating points to the latter
  • Several of its drawings have parallel hatching (similar to Leonardo da Vinci’s); so it was probably made after 1410 if from Germany, after 1440 if from Florence, or after 1450 if from elsewhere
  • Two owners have added writing in [what appear to be] fifteenth century hands; so it was probably made before 1500
  • Some marginalia (in the zodiac section) appear to be in Occitan, where the spelling most resembles that known to be from Toulon; so it is probable that the manuscript spent some time in South West France
  • There is strong codicological evidence that the current page order and binding order differ from the original i.e. that both the folio (leaf) numbers and quire (group) numbers were added at a later date
  • A small number of the manuscript’s plant drawings do seem to depict actual plants (f2v has a water lily, for example), though most do not

It should be pretty clear that we have two quite separate types of historical data here – pre-1500 (codicological) and post-1600 (archival) – with no obvious way of crossing the roughly century-long gap between them.

My opinion (which you can take or leave) is that if we put more palaeographic effort into reading the VMs’ marginalia, we would very probably improve on this unsatisfactory situation. For example, I believe that the top line of f116v says [something like]por le bon simon s(int)…“, and that this was possibly even written by the original author. Furthermore, I suspect taht some of the ‘chicken scratch’ marginalia may be ink blots saying “Simon”, and that these were added in the middle of the 15th century, near the start of the VMs’ life. But who was this “Simon”?

Putting all the wobbly factuality to one side, this VMs account would be woefully incomplete if it failed to mention the sheer intellectual romance of such a mystery-filled mega-object, the tragi-comedy of all the mad theories surrounding it, let alone the blood-spattered trail of ruined reputations and wasted lives dripping behind this inscrutable “Sphinx”. For centuries, it has acted as a blank screen for numerous people to project their (often somewhat demented) historical / cryptological / novelistic fantasies onto, or if not that then an academic cliff to throw their hard-earned reputation over: yet recently there are signs that a few people are (at long last) starting to look at the VMs with (relatively) clear eyes. (Better late than never, I suppose!)

Arguably the biggest question to face up to is this: when people try to understand the VMs, why does it all go so wrong? I suspect that the confusion arises from the central paradox of the Voynich Manuscript – the way that its text resembles some unknown (perhaps lost, secret, or private) simple language while simultaneously exhibiting many of the properties you might expect to see of a complex ciphertext (i.e. an enciphered text). Any proposed explanation should therefore not only bridge the century-long historical gap, but also demonstrate why the VMs appears both ‘language-y’ and ‘cipher-y’ at the same time.

To illustrate this, here are some practical examples of the way Voynichese letters ‘dance’ to a tricky set of structural rules. Individual letter-shapes frequently occur…

  • …as the first letter of a page (e.g. the ornate “gallows” letters, EVA “t”, “k”, “p”, “f”)
  • …as the first letter of a paragraph (e.g. EVA “t”, “k”, “p”, “f”)
  • …as the first letter of a line (e.g. EVA “s”)
  • …as the last letter of a line (e.g. EVA “m” or “am”)
  • …as the first letter of a word (e.g. EVA “qo”)
  • …as the last letter of a word (e.g. EVA “y” or “dy”)
  • …as separated pairs on the top line of a page (e.g. EVA “p” or “f”)
  • …as a paired letter (e.g. EVA “ol”, “or”, “al”, “ar”)
  • …unrepeated, except in EVA “ee” / “eee” / “ii” / “iii” sets.

…and so on. From a code-breaker’s point of view, this basically rules out Renaissance polyalphabetic ciphers, because they use multiple alphabets (or offsets into alphabets) to destroy the outward signs of internal structure – and what we see here has even more signs of internal structure than normal languages. Yet just to be confusing, some of the letter-shapes resemble shorthand both in their shape and their apparent positioning within words.

So… is ‘Voynichese’ a language, a shorthand, a cipher, or perhaps some carefully-orchestrated jumble of all three? Right now, nobody can say – but perhaps it is this ‘hard-to-pin-down-ness’ that has managed to keep the Voynich’s mystery alive for all this time. Once you can appreciate that Voynichese is almost the opposite of chaotic – that its absence of randomness is possibly its most remarkable aspect – but yet none of the many visible patterns seem to help us decrypt it, you’ll perhaps begin your own journey into its mystery. Enjoy!

346 Thoughts on “Voynich Manuscript

  1. Pingback: Six Questions with Nick Pelling: Author of The Curse of the Voynich » Mysterious Writings

  2. Nick,
    Do you recall who gave the opinion that the script was like “Carolingian minuscule or its Quattrocento revival”?

  3. Diane: Barbara Barrett argued for this most forcefully, but many others have pointed out the same thing many times.

  4. OK – thanks – I’ll see if I can find a citation.

    It’s very kind of you to answer these questions on posts four years old (and still solid gold). I should name you as technical advisor, I think.


  5. Witchcraft?.

    A “how to” instruction book. A form of ciphered communication in times of persecution. Fixation on herbs, the female body and astronomy.

  6. Diane O'Donovan on May 7, 2013 at 11:36 am said:

    Nick – all the facts (and deafening absence of evidence) considered, it is time that the solitary second-hand allegation that Rudolf had ever owned the book really ought to be dropped.

    The known provenance of ms Beinecke 408 begins with Tepenec and passes through Baresch-and-Marci to Kircher.

    That’s it.

    I’ve just enquired of Rene Zandbergen, as the person most likely to be au fait with the latest information, if we had any more evidence for that reported assertion by Mnishovsky thanfor the other two – vis. Bacon’s authorship and the 600 ducats.

    Rene seemed to find the question distressing, but from his responses, I gather than the answer is the same for all three of those assertions.

    They are things which Marci says Mnishovsky alleged.

    No proof of, or supporting evidence for, *any* of the three has ever been found.

    The Baconian authorship has generally been discarded, I think it’s fair to say.

    Rene Z. himself has argued in various ways to minimise the “600 ducats” – no record of any such amount has ever turned up in any relevant account, just as the manuscript has never been found in any Habsburg inventory.

    So – logically – all three are equally unsupported ideas which if maintained may serve only to misdirect research.

    I’ll post the same on my blog.

  7. Amit Gupta on June 16, 2013 at 8:05 am said:

    I have solved the mystery of Voynich manuscript.
    The cipher code’s are with me.

  8. Amit: why are you so sure that your decryption is the correct decryption?

    It is relatively easy to devise a plausible decryption for a few words of the Voynich, extraordinarily hard to sustain one for a whole page, excruciatingly hard to do the same for the entire manuscript.

  9. Joao on July 26, 2013 at 3:08 pm said:

    First of all let me thank you for your wonderful blog. I am no code-breaker and never had the “brains” to even try once to decypher any text or manuscript whatosever. I’ve “landed” into your world because of McCormick notes (Which I think if they’re actually encrypted code messages it wasn’t wrote by him) but it’s not because of those weird notes I am about to comment but about the absolutely remarkable and everestian top cypher called The Voynich Manuscript. I already read dozens of texts and material about it and I still don’t understand how contemporary people still say (even if they say he was not the one) that friar Roger Bacon wrote the manuscript. For God sake’s, the University of Arizona technicians already examined it in 2009 thru RadioCarbon and dated it with 95% probability to the 15th century. Roger Bacon died in 1294… that’s the 13th Century!

  10. Joao: it’s only a few centuries, too small a period to get really upset over… the Voynich theories involving aliens and time travel are the ones that you really have to watch out for. 🙂

  11. Joao on July 26, 2013 at 3:52 pm said:

    Well Nick, those theories I can handle it very well… if I start to read ufos or something similar, I just click that useful X bottom on my upper right corner of my webbrowser. eheheh

  12. Joao: if I did that for every rubbish Voynich theory I see on the Internet, I’d probably wear my browser’s [X] button out. 😉

  13. Joao on July 29, 2013 at 9:27 am said:

    @Nick: Lol. Well Nick, there is an absolute certainty about the images: They were drawn on the manuscript before the enigmatic writtings. Although, many say the drawings about the flowers doesn’t resemble anything seen in our world, we can suppose the creator of them was very childish while illustrating them. The illustrations are so bad delineated that the author could be picturing a poppy, but the thing seems to go awfully wrong.

  14. Joao on July 30, 2013 at 9:51 am said:

    Nick can you point out the best non-fiction book about the Voynich? I don’t know if this is correct, but your book at Amazon UK is being sold for a staggering $1,177.83????? (http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0955316006/ref=dp_olp_new?ie=UTF8&condition=new). A mistake? What do you think about Gerry Kenedy’s book about it? Thanks

  15. Joao: ah, that is because you are looking at the Amazon US site (.com), whereas I sell it new for £9.95 on the Amazon UK site (.co.uk). Sorry, but that’s just the way that Amazon Marketplace works.

    Of course, when I stop selling it, the price will shoot up to silly levels… but for now it’s still affordable. 🙂

    PS: if you order direct from Compelling Press instead, I’ll sign your copy & add your name anagrammed at the front: http://www.compellingpress.com/voynich/

  16. @Nick: Thank you for the info. About the high price, it was a typo in the UK ackronym. I meant US. Ok, I am in doubt about buying or your book or Gerry Kenedy’s. I made a bit of research and you two seem to hold the best info about the Manuscript even if both of you go in different directions. Maybe I buy both. You publisher is based in the UK? I usually use Amazon UK because the delivery to Portugal is much cheaper rather than acquire something from the US. Have you read “The Voynich Manuscript: The Unsolved Riddle of an Extraordinary Book Which has Defied Interpretation for Centuries” by gerry Kennedy? If so, it’s any good? Thanks again.

  17. Joao: Kennedy & Churchill’s book is readable and a good all-round reference, but Curse contains fairly cutting-edge research – I’d advise getting both, they are completely different beasts.

    Incidentally, the postage to Portugal is lower from Compelling Press than from Amazon Marketplace – I should have increased the postage charge last year but never got round to. Buy it before I change my mind! 😉

  18. Joao on July 30, 2013 at 2:32 pm said:

    Nick: Thanks for wasting your time replying to my questions. Unfortunately you make business with PayPal, an e-commerce payment company I had a grave issue back in 2005. If I am to buy your book will be thru Amazon UK regardless of shipment costs. No autograph for me I guess. 🙁 Anyway, I went to René Zandbergen’s website as you had pointed and after reading some pages I feel I am becoming more and more addicted to know about this, as you say correctly, infuriating manuscript. For me the major key before talking about cyphers or cryptos is the ultimate question: What the purpose of the manuscript? Why coding it? Secret remedies using botanics? If it was written in subsequent years by other persons, there surely have to be some sort of keys to allow the coding to continue. As everybody says… an altogether baffling, enigmatic and perplexing mystery.

  19. Joao: I’ll have a word with Compelling Press’s shipping department (i.e. me) and will see what I can do about adding a dedication. 😉

    My Voynich “old-timer” perspective is that anything to do with motives or reasons are best left for discussion over a beer or two. Though fun, such talk is only ever a distraction from the gritty business of working out what actually happened. 🙂

  20. WL Holland on September 3, 2013 at 11:24 pm said:

    Hi I dont know Latin, but just take a look at the Trotula and compare it with the VMS? I think it must be that, if text relates to drawings… There should be enough keys to start. You can see for example a white lily. They were mixed with honey. So the word honey must be on that page. Etc. Also the Viola Tricolor is clearly visible. What was it used for? Skin, cold, cough, high bloodpressure, indigestion etc. So you can expect these words to be present in some language. Please check trotula connection, I am not smart enough!

  21. mindy dunn on October 7, 2013 at 9:55 am said:

    Just wanted to post an update. Last night I finished a page on Elizabeth, Mary, their as yet unborn children, john, and jesus, and zachariah. Note: Zachariah, Mary, and John were mentioned by name. Elizabeth and Jesus were derived because of the story. Oh, Herod and his tax was also mentioned by name. Fairly similar to the biblical version, except it named a place of refuge, which I have likely identified.

    In addition, I figured out how to read one of the pages that has a column of letters separate from the text. I am super excited about this find and have just begun translation of the page.

    Also, I want to let people know, thus far, all the stories seem to be historic, and so far, even the myths have provided data which makes them seem more historic than mythological. Also, although some of the stories I have shared are religious, not all stories I have translated are. Further, not all religious stories are christian. Thus far at least one page is muslim, and at least one more may also be (the translated page is about a famous imam). Further, ancient myths are also present. And finally, there are likely pre christian jewish stories in the book. Currently, one page I have partially completed may reference a fairly famous Jewish king. Only because that page is not complete, I hesitate to state for certain the page is about the Jewish king i believe it references. I shall update on that later.

  22. Jeff Haley on October 17, 2013 at 9:08 pm said:

    Hi Nick

    Long time since we talked last. Hope you are well. Did you see the report of the analysis by Marcelo Montemurro?

  23. Jeff Haley on October 17, 2013 at 9:27 pm said:

    Simon in the margins? Remember Dee saying he say in Prague a book with strange symbols. Well….

    Could Simon Baccalaureus Pragensis have written it already in Prague and this had been passed to Baresch?

  24. Patrick David on October 21, 2013 at 1:31 am said:


    Just got my reproduction Voynich manuscript at the link above. great for researching the manuscript. it handmade and got the full foldout and everything.

  25. Wow, I really want that reproduction book (I’m a graphic designer and love things like that).
    Unfortunately I can’t afford it, but I can afford Nicks book, so I shall be buying one from your website soon. Sounds like a good read, I’m interested in reading more about the manuscript.

  26. Pingback: Episode 65: Voynich Manuscript

  27. I think, author of the ”voynich manuscript” knew the prime numbers

  28. hakan: errrm… why?

  29. Because, a prime number has no positive divisors. And he (she) also did so.

  30. hakan: ok, but what in the Voynich Manuscript are you looking at that displays things with no positive divisors?

  31. Mr. Pelling, i am working on. I believe, i have found a small clue. But i need more positive evidence. Whichever is most convenient to work in the first alphabet? Currier, EVA, Bennett or even? This is a big problem. Sorry, My English is not enough. Hopefully you can understand what I mean. Thank you.

  32. hakan: I’m most comfortable in EVA, as are most of my Voynich world readers. 🙂

  33. OK, many thanks

  34. Emergency! Brain error! This is a full dependency. What to expect in the final stages of Voynich Dependency Disease?

  35. hakan: apparently there are some online support groups for the untreatably Voyniched. 🙂

  36. This is a challenge to human intelligence.

  37. Anyone previously been formed relationships with prime numbers? But, this relationship does not work

  38. Hi, anyone translate to first line of folio 17v with EVA? Many thanks.

  39. Daniela on January 26, 2014 at 1:29 pm said:

    Hi everyone, i just looked at the manuscript in PDF .Find some interesting things .At page 94(book page) is a plant ,actually is coloured so ,that when you scroll up and down fast ,is generated a optic ilussion.Check this out ,and give a feed back please .Sorry for my english:( not really good

  40. Daniela on January 26, 2014 at 4:36 pm said:

    Taking a better look on the drawings today ,saw some pics with plants am root drawings ,and actually i think it`s explains there how you can Combine some plants and make new species of plants and trees .And again later in the drawings ,i supose that there are some calender with the right time to plant them .Is just a Theorie ,please give me some Feedback

  41. 29 Feb. 1420. Is it meaningful ?

  42. why, i can not sent a message?

  43. kbnz on March 7, 2014 at 3:38 pm said:

    Being a member of the SCA, the first thing I noticed was the archer wearing a chaperon and houppelande or waffenfrock (sp). I agree with the carbon dating and disagree with anyone who says the vm was illustrated before the 14th century. Unless the illustrator time travelled to 15th c europe.

  44. Walrus Annsrul on April 14, 2014 at 3:31 pm said:

    From the Bible in English:
    Lucifer is Satan
    firSt cLue is ana

    Read/Listen “The Heavens Open”, available on youtube

    She has talked to me from two different wombs/moms (reincarnated) in last couple years, the little girl Anna who dons the shoes with no soles, but yes she has a SOUL.
    It’s some kind of inside joke between her and the CREATOR I think I’m just starting to understand.

    All the kids now wear the new suits that have shoes without soles.

    And I don’t mean the author of the book Anne has talked to me, but the little girl who is a very old soul. No reason to be afraid of any spirits or even demons just tell them to go away out loud & they will. They have to if you tell them.

    M can be nn or w
    t can be f
    p can be b or d
    etc etc etc

    We are all eternal and have had multiple incarnations.

    Once you can learn to forgive everybody else it becomes easy to forgive yourself!

  45. Carmen on April 16, 2014 at 10:18 pm said:

    Hi Nick.
    I have a question that keeps going round my head and you or Rene Zandberger or any other scholar may know for sure.
    Two years ago or so I was reading “Fuentes para Paleografía Latina” written by Professor Juan Jose Marcos Garcia guindo.pntic.mec.es/~jmag0042/palefuen.html
    I asked him if he had heard about the Voynich MS but he had not. And he also said he recognized a humanist hand behind the MS. However, when I read his work on Paleographic Latin Fonts again (just few days ago)and I saw something related to the humanist handwriting. This new style did really start being used at the end of the fourteenth century and/or at the beginning of the fifteenth cent. But what is really interesting here is its use. What was it used for? According to Prof. Marcos Garcia, this humanist style was kept just for exquisite bibliophiles (sic). Therefore manuscripts in humanist handwriting were only transcriptions from classic works. Neither doctors nor lawyers would have used humanist writing if they were to publish their findings. The Gothic was still being used by that time. I mean humanist writing did not re-place the Gothic from its birth, a Caroline revival.
    So If the VMS is in humanist handwriting, does this not mean that the document was made on purpose for someone? A bibliophile? If so, for whom?
    As I often say, it is just an idea, not a theory.
    Thanks. 🙂

  46. Carmen: the issue of Voynichese’s palaeographic hand isn’t quite as clear-cut as is often thought. Humanist handwriting was itself a revival of an earlier hand – Carolingian minuscule (IIRC), from several centuries earlier – and before the vellum radiocarbon dating this was sometimes held up as being evidence consistent with a much earlier date for the Voynich Manuscript. This implies:-
    * The VMs might be an intentional humanist hand (i.e. it’s deliberately supposed to look like that)
    * The VMs might be an unintentional humanist hand (i.e. the scribe had been trained to write with a humanist hand, and that’s just how it came out)
    * The VMs might be intended to resemble a much older (Carolingian minuscule) document

    It is easy to adduce evidence to support all three positions… but much harder to eliminate any of them. What do you think?

  47. Carmen on April 17, 2014 at 11:06 pm said:

    I don’t have an answer for that question. The more I read the less I know. And sorry to say I have more questions than suggestions. But If someone asks me what my hypothesis is, well, I think the answer is there, in front of us and the author must be laughing at our blindness. We are too near the picture to see the whole portrait.
    Now what I think about the three main points you have mentioned :
    * The VMs might be an intentional humanist hand (i.e. it’s deliberately supposed to look like that)
    1.- Why was the scribe going to use a completely new style, not even used by Dante, Petrarch or G. Boccaccio? These three humanist writers were aware of this revival. They loathed the baroque Gothic style and defended (as a part of this coming back to the classic world ) a renewal inside culture.
    And what’s more, they died before the Voynich was written. Do you see what I mean? If these three authors did not even use it, why was the scribe going to use it? Did he think he was a genius? 🙂

    * The VMs might be an unintentional humanist hand (i.e. the scribe had been trained to write with a humanist hand, and that’s just how it came out)

    Unintentional… hhmm… I guess there is much more intention than what we really think of. The VMs is intentional on every page and behind most ducti there is an intentional mind writing an intentional text.=-O

    * The VMs might be intended to resemble a much older (Carolingian minuscule) document.
    (Carolingian, and not Caroline as I said. Sorry, my native language fault).
    That’s a very interesting idea because it agrees with the use of humanist handwriting at that time. He may want to resemble an expert scholar, what does he do then? He designs a very complicated manuscript in humanist writing devised to…whatever. If using the humanist style was seen as an exclusive fashion for wise men, he might have made of the manuscript his way of gaining popularity.
    En fin…(sighing in Spanish)
    Words, words, words… as Hamlet would say.
    Thanks for reading. Gracias.

  48. Anton Alipov on April 20, 2014 at 7:59 pm said:

    You may find my note about abomasum in f116v to be of interest.


    Thank you for your continuous VM research and popularization effort. Regards!

  49. Anton: interesting! Though I have to say that I’m far less confident than you are that we can read those three letters reliably from the scan – there seems to be a fold in the vellum running through, and the first letter looks (to my eye) closer to an interrupted ‘P’ character than to an ‘L’. But it’s definitely something that should be examined closer – it might be that Rene Zandbergen has access to better scans of that section from the Austrian documentary, I’ll ask him, see what he says. 🙂

  50. Sukhwant Singh on April 29, 2014 at 8:51 pm said:

    I have already submitted my research to Beinecke’s library.

    My name is Sukhwant Singh and for the past 2 months I have extensively researched in depth on MS-408 better known as the Voynich manuscript.
    I hope, my explanation will lead to resolving the Voynich manuscript once and for all.
    The origins of the VM ( Voynich Manuscript ) lies in 6000 miles east from its current location. The place is in North Eastern Sindh region which is a part of Pakistan right now. The explanation in the VM is copied from an even older original book written in “Brahmi” language about ( 300-400 B.C ). The knowledge and editions of the books were passed through generations of merchants( Known as Mahajan’s with Vedic knowledge ) in ancient Indus valley civilization which also gave the name “Sindhustan”, the Sindh region in particular which was divided into India and Pakistan in 1947.
    The book is divided into 4 parts as mentioned by the author( details below ) written in early 15th century as that’s the time period when Khojki was more prominent.
    The book was taken by the “Holy” man from town to town and based on the knowledge he had( He was the go to guy and first person to approach in case of issues, either injury or some depression, bad dreams, marriage and business, Hex etc. ) , and the facts he collected from the inhabitants/customer. This man would then recommend to-do things. The book also deals with what kind of women she is based on the type of hair she has, what type of clothes she wears, what to expect from the second wife of the husband etc. What to do if someone has Hex on you and how to figure it out and recommendations for getting rid of the Hex.
    The book is not written for others to read and is usually passed within the family from Father to Son or someone more capable whom the Mahajan has taught and guided himself.
    Some background…..
    When the Arab conquered the Sindh region in about early 700 ADs and moved more towards the east they started eliminating learned Sindhi scholars and Holy men, who enjoyed rich merchant heritage and were established in the region. With passage of time, “Urdu” language was forced in the region and subsequently became an official language and in current times known as Sindhi language (Descendent language of Landa script) which is currently written in Urdu script.
    In early 15th century Khojki language was used by many to write prayer hyms and guidance songs. The extended use of this script and the underlining Landa script also indicate that the author didn’t revise his book into the periods urdu language but made it’s knowledge more hidden by superimposing Khwaja Khoji Vowel marks on top of Brahmi languages ( K, Ki, Ku, Kuu, Kay, Kaay, Ku, Kho, KHU, KHUU Gutturals ( Guttural).
    Brahmi language is considered as the main language based on which current northern India languages are based on. It itself is part of Indo-European set of language whose base is Sanskrit in general. This timeline spans 1000’s of years from the period of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro.
    This VM manuscript is a very important book and will be another key to bind “Roma” people in Europe with their Sindh region ancestry. Most likely this book was taken along with the movement of Sindh’s migrant population 100’s of years ago( as slaves by Arab rulers ) and was preserved in good condition because the knowledge it would provide and likely the person owning it wanted to one day use it to establish the same respect the merchants of the Sindh region held. “Roma” migration from Sindh region resulted in scores of people being moved as slaves into Turkey and then current Europe.
    There has been plenty of scientific tests conducted on the origins of Roma people. The book landed from a Roma person into the hands of Italian rulers as the poor Roma people faced many atrocities in Europe and many times were eliminated by the countries in which they tried to make their settlements.
    The main issue to decipher the VM had to do with the place where it ended first and then later in America. Considering the “Nasal” phonetic words particular to “Landa” language (Ancestor language of Khudabadi, Mahajani, Gurmukhi, Khojki, Sindhi languages) are not spoken in Europe and for that matter in America.
    English does not have these sounds at all. So for that matter it becomes next to impossible to decipher it and all the false theories it has generated, including its origins.
    In America, it being predominantly English speaking world it adds to the problem where from ages researchers started emphasizing that the VM is some sort of miniscule Roman language or some false code system( It is not ).
    That miscategorization has hindered the deciphering of the language for such a long time.
    I have deciphered the alphabet to what I think it is( As I originally belong to Punjab region and I am aware of the cursive writings from the region as well as phonetics ).
    The alphabet contains 4 different character set from languages spoken in same way but written in different form. There was no consistency of a set language in the region.
    The merchants/judicial holy Sindhu men started using 3,4 languages mix in order to hide the contents( depending on the knowledge of the person and area he travelled ). This was done to protect business knowhow and maintain superiority at that time. The languages used by the merchants of North western Multan and Sindh were “Multani” and “Landa/Khudabadi/Mahajani” apart from other regional dialects and written words. It was what the Sindhu Mahajan’s( Merchants ) used to do. This kind of book and knowledge was in demand as people relied on auspicious moon cycles and it was part of daily life and it is still in many parts of the world.
    Day and night are divided into 15 “Mahurats” or auspicious times, Year is divided in 12 months based on astrological signs ( Not January February etc.. ) The day and night each were divided into 8 parts each based on Sanskrit astrology ( pages 67v and 69v clearly depicts the division of 8 parts segments around the sun and moon )
    The times, days, years were not depicted as in Roman date forms, nor did they had the same timeline of 24 hours. This book is thus written with calculating moon cycles and the positions of 9 planets and the Vedic astrological knowledge is gathered from the original Brahmi book ( 300-400 BC or even earlier ).
    Some details of which are recorded in India’s archeological preservations.
    The characters are also intermingled from dialects in the region but they sound and mean the same example
    CH, TA, JJH, K, KH are written in mixed scripts, which makes it difficult.
    The Brahmi scipts usage from which the MS 408 book was copied adds to more complexity, but the words used are common short 2-3 characters found in recent Devanagari language. This book probably had 1-2 readers( at that time, Mahajan himself and probably his son or someone else he took along on his business in various towns There were other people who had similar books but probably not as detailed as this one. Holy men were killed by Arab rulers and their books were burned so that Arab rule could be established in force and almost everyone follow one language, which was Urdu ( like Persian script ). This book most likely was hidden by the author and usually people like him belonged to higher castes who had good people connections as they were respected for their knowledge and guidance. The so called lower caste people were made slave labor and soldiers to fight in wars. It is likely that this book’s author was killed and as this book was hidden was later picked by someone else and taken along as an important document to be used later. The problem occurred to decipher it at that time too, so the Roma person kept for generations hidden in the belongings until it ended in front of some Italian king’s subject.

    The languages used in MS 408 are ( Yes, there are multiple languages, but their pronunciations are almost same ).
    Landa, Khojki and Brahmi are used throughout the book.
    1. Landa ( Which later became Sindhi, Khudabadi, Khojki )
    2. Brahmi ( 300- 400 B.C ) Which gives a reason to believe that MS-408 is copied from an original book
    3. Multani
    4. Mahajani
    5. Khojki
    6. Gurmukhi which is also a descendent of Landa script ( Words which cuts at the end and sounds individual standing separately ). Gurmukhi usage is very minimal, which tells that the book was written prior to the era in which the Gurmukhi was main stream in Punjab region around 1430 AD.

    The last page 116V is written by someone else other than the original writer as it contains characters from Sarada and JaunSari scripts from mountainous region of Southwestern Kashmir as those few lines are similar to later on what became Kashmiri Dialect and scripted language.

    First paragraph from 1r goes like this.

    “Many 100’s of years desire tradition and as requested by the cultivator from his pouring knowledge in under increasing guidance
    To accomplish it this promise of the interrogation of field subjects and about those manner for eating about their power learning from oneself condition about
    under ongoing sufferings about stuck in those conditions which has already affected them learning from them in self-help either called for taking care during taking care or
    When called by the messenger one about trees provided information in parts and about desire….”
    you tube 17x7epchEQY

  51. hakan on May 7, 2014 at 6:20 am said:

    One old blank pages may have been written in the modern era? Vellum pages are old, ok, but ink may be new ? E. L. Voynich was a writer. It is a suspected case. Perhaps the key in her books. The Gadfly?
    If this book is real, the author took into account the possibility that the cipher never be solved? The disappearance of truth. Who takes this risk?

  52. Diane on May 13, 2014 at 3:04 pm said:

    Dear Hakan
    Though I don’t have my copy of the ‘Nabatean Agriculture’ by me, as I recall them, Ibn Wahshiyya’s introductory remarks are very like the text you offer for folio 1r’s first paragraph.

    Links between MS Beinecke 408 and that book, or Nabateans more generally, has been suggested by various people over the years.

    Perhaps you might find it useful to obtain a copy of that work.

    What everyone hopes for, I think, is a consistent and comprehensible parallel text. Good luck.

  53. Nick, here’s something interesting.

    It’s well known that there aren’t many repeated sequences of three or more words in the VM. On the other hand there are quite a few repeated two-word sequences.

    The following plots show all word pairs and triplets that occur more than once in the text:

    What i find surprising is not the apparently high number of recurring word pairs, but the comparatively low recurrence of word triplets. As a matter of probability alone, it would be justified to see more triplets in some of the folios.

    Do you have any thoughts on this? I’ve not performed a comparative analysis with other languages yet, but this seems off.

  54. hakan on May 18, 2014 at 2:56 pm said:

    A lot of Voynich investigator says those are ”The Pleiades (süreyya) for stars at page f68r3. I think they might be anything else

  55. Ruby Novacna on June 6, 2014 at 11:53 am said:

    Hello Nick!
    I need your help. You closely follow everything said about VM. Someone has already made statistics EVA letter “f”? I once saw a list of all the words (I think) the manuscript made ​​by someone, unfortunately I do not remember by whom. Help me, please.
    Best regards

  56. Ruby: what do you want to find out? There are quite a few interesting websites that let you search for Voynichese word-patterns, most recently (and arguably most prettily) http://www.voynichese.com/

    If you create a new query there and click on EVA f, it will graphically show you where all the 499 instances of it are (click on the “exact match” icon to see the 8 places where “f” is a complete word), etc.

  57. Ruby Novacna on June 6, 2014 at 1:32 pm said:

    I watched the first 20 botanical pages and I saw that the words with “f” are always at the first line of a paragraph, rarely repeat. Someone has already offered an explanation? Thank you for your link, I hope it will go faster.
    Best regards

  58. Has anyone tried producing a data transcript of the text replacing each char for a digital symbol and number?

    It looks to me to be an alchemist cook book or remedies with Astrological charts. A cross between Latin.French and Cyrillic. But That is just from a glancing view. The drawings certainly look French to me in style. They remind me of an early Tarot deck I once saw.

  59. John Nelson on August 1, 2014 at 10:23 pm said:

    If you had more experience in linguistics, Medieval Studies and ancient writing systems, you could see, like me, that the Voynich Manuscript and the Rohonc Codex are asemic writing hoaxes, like BS MS 73525. The key to all of them are the statistics on the signs and their sequences. Natural languages and asemic speech and writing work in certain ways which is perceptible to computers as well as trained linguists. And then the illustrations are give-aways, if you know medieval studies. It’s not surprising that so many people take these two seriously because linguistics is very poorly understood outside of its Academic discipline. The popular concept that Voynich’s symbols are a code is out of touch with what we have from antiquity regarding the creation of texts, encoded or otherwise.

    I have a BA in Linguistics and am an independent scholar of the linguistics of logographic writing systems, though I study other topics as well.

  60. John Nelson on August 1, 2014 at 10:25 pm said:

    I still hope to use a font I invented to approximate all the symbols in the codex. Or maybe just a few pages or so. There also needs to be an online machine-readable version of the Voynich. But that would just take a month or two worth of solid work hours, and is not very promising in my eyes.

    There is currently no machine-readable free online Indus Valley Corpus, and it is much smaller than the Voynich corpus.

  61. xplor on August 3, 2014 at 6:20 pm said:

    machine transcriptions of the Voynich are available if you look.

  62. From what I have read of the VM it makes me think of a (possibly apprentice) physician’s almanac. In the middle ages I believe astronomy played an important roll in medicine, with there being a ‘right time’ to perform particular procedures.

  63. , Rick A. Roberts on August 19, 2014 at 9:07 am said:

    To hakan; There was a Lunar Eclipse on February 20, 1420.

  64. John, you really should try to meet Mr.Santacoloma. You’d get on like twin brothers, I expect.

  65. hakan (efeler1971@yahoo.com) on November 28, 2014 at 11:04 am said:

    Hi Rick. Thanks for your answer. it is interesting, but I interest 29 febr. 1420 not 20 febr. if it was 29 febr 1420, It would be meaningfulI for me. Thanks…

  66. I just found out about the Voynich Manuscript yesterday, and as a mystery buff, downloaded the pdf version, I quickly glanced through it and found from page 69 onwards with the little lady circles were in fact a resemblance of the Zodiac symbols, I also recognise grafting when I see it, any ways like I said I have only glanced through it and one weekend I will sit down and glance through it properly have fun ppl

  67. mark on May 8, 2015 at 10:25 pm said:

    The precision of the writing in circles is really accurate, at least I couldn’t duplicate it. I just looked up who invented the compass and found that Galileo happened to invent a modern one in 1597 (?)

  68. mark on May 9, 2015 at 8:39 pm said:

    I forgot to say Miriam Green was the source on Ask.

  69. Of the month name forms which seem to be shown (this list shows my best guesses) in the Voynich Manuscript, the following are what seem to be the closest examples of matches from continental Europe and Britain I have yet found, mostly from Books of Hours calendars of the Fifteenth Century (and before)(dates & locations of authorship/construction are approximate – furnished by present owners)(Middle English Dictionary, U of Michigan entries show dates) and are in italics:

    Mars – many examples in different Books of Hours – (Mars) – workshop of Rohan Master (Paris) 1415-1420; workshop of Baucicaut Master (Paris) 1483-1515; (Mars) – Book of Hours of Carlos V, workshop of Jean Poyer(?)(Paris) 1483-1515); (Mars) – shown on a ring of the Geared Astrolabe in the Science Museum, London, probably made in Picardy around 1300. The name Mars is still used today.
    Middle English Dictionary, U of Michigan – (Mars) -1393, 1395, circa 1500

    Abril/Aberil/Avril/Averil(?) (not sure of spelling of this one) – (Abril) – many early Catalan or Spanish examples – still used today. (Apuril) –Book of Hours, Use of Orleans, unknown author, circa 1490; (Apuril) – Book of Hours, use of Rouen, unknown painter (France) 1475 – 1500; (Auril/Avril) – common forms during the Fifteenth Century.
    Middle English Dictionary, U of Michigan – (Aperil) – circa 1425; (Aueril) – circa 1400

    May – many French examples, some with a mark over the y, some without – just a few are: – (May) – Rohan Master (Paris) circa 1415 -1425; workshop of Bedford Master (Paris) 1440-1450; follower of Eggerton Master (Paris) 1405-1420; Book of Hours of Carlos V, workshop of Jean Poyer(?) (Paris) 1483-1515; shown on a ring of the Geared Astrolabe in the Science Museum, London, probably made in Picardy around 1300.
    Middle English Dictionary, U of Michigan – (May) – circa 1325, 1375, 1385 – 1425?, 1393, circa 1400, circa 1500

    Jong/Joing/Yong/Yoing (?) – (Jong/Joing?) – shown on a ring of the Geared Astrolabe in the Science Museum, London, probably made in Picardy around 1300; (Juing) – was a common French form in the Fifteenth Century).
    Middle English Dictionary, U of Michigan – (Juny) – circa 1400?, 1420; (Iuny) – 1400 – 1440?, 1440; (Ione) – 1400 -1540?; also (Jone) – no quotation. The MED also gives Old French month names (Juing), (Joing) and (Jon). None of these are very close matches.

    Jollet (??)(very hard to read – not sure of what it says) – (Jullet) – shown on a ring of the Geared Astrolabe in the Science Museum, London, probably made in Picardy around 1300; (Jullet) – Book of hours, use of Rouen, Master François (France) 1475 -1500; (Jullet) – Book of Hours, use of Paris, unknown painter, (France – Tours?) circa 1500; (Juillet) – Rohan Master (Paris) 1420 -1425 – this form rather common. No actual use of Jollet spelling found yet. Might the VMS word read (Julius) –which is a common Latin and OF form found in many books of hours (– doubtful)?
    Middle English Dictionary, U of Michigan – (Juille) & (Julius) – no quotation for either. MED give OF forms Julie and Julius.

    Augst – Book of Hours in Kelvin Smith Library, Case Western Reserve University, unknown author (Flanders & Amiens (?)) 1450-1460.
    Middle English Dictionary, U of Michigan – (Augst) – circa 1393.

    Septeb- – (w/line over 2nd e and dash (?) at the end) – (Septeb’) – w/line over 2nd e and squiggle or apostrophe above the b – Maastricht Book of Hours, unknown painter (Liege?) 1300 – 1325; (Septemb’) – w/apostrophe at end – Case Book of Hours, Kelvin Smith Library Case Western Reserve University, unknown author (Flanders & Amiens) 1450-1460; (Septebre) – w/line over 2nd e – shown on a ring of the Geared Astrolabe in the Science Museum, London, probably made in Picardy around 1300, (Septebre) – w/line over second e – Book of Hours, Eggerton Master & others (Paris) 1405 -1410; (Septebrie) – w/line over 2nd e – Murthly Book of Hours, unknown author (Paris) 1280; (Septebre) – w/line over 2nd e – Book of Hours of Carlos V, workshop of Jean Poyer (?)(Paris) 1483-1515; (Septembre) – Petit Heures of Jean de France, Duc du Berry (Jean Le Noir from 1372, Jacquemart de Hesdin 1385-1390, Limbourg brothers (Herman, Jean Paul) 1412-1416; (Septembre) -– Rohan Master (Paris) circa 1415 -1425; (Septebre) – w/line over 2nd e – Book of Hours, use of Rouen, Master François (France) 1475 -1500; (Septebre) – w/line over second e – Heures de Notre Dame, use of Troyes & Sens, unknown painter, (France) circa1470.
    Middle English Dictionary, U of Michigan – (Septembre) – circa 1121, circa 1126, circa 1300, circa 1300 – 1325, circa 1393, circa 1398, circa 1400, 1460, circa 1500; (Septenbre) – circa 1400; (Septembr) – circa 1465 – 1466? MED also gives OE and OF forms of (Septembre) and (Septenbre).

    Octebre (w/line over 1st e) – (Octembre) – Petit Heures of Jean de France, Duc du Berry, 5 painters – Jean Le Noir from 1372, Jacquemart de Hesdin 1385-1390 and Limbourg brothers (Herman, Jean Paul) 1412-1416; (Octembre) – Book of Hours, Eggerton Master & others (Paris) 1405 -1410; (Octembre) – shown on a ring of the Geared Astrolabe in the Science Museum, London, probably made in Picardy around 1300.
    Middle English Dictionary, U of Michigan – none found close to VMS word except (Octobre) which isn’t too close.

    Nouebre/Noueb(r)us(?)(not clearly written) w/line over 1st e – (Nouebre) – w/line over first e – Book of Hours, Eggerton Master,& others (Paris) 1405 -1410; (Nouebre) – w/line over 1st e – Book of Hours, use of Rouen, Master François (France) 1475 -1500; (Nouebre) – w/line over 1st e – Heures de Notre Dame, use of Troyes & Sens, unknown painter, (France) circa1470. (Nouembre) – workshop of Bedford Master (Paris) 1440-1450; unknown author (Paris) 1415-1420; Petit Heures of Jean de France, Duc du Berry (Jean Le Noir from 1372, Jacquemart de Hesdin 1385-1390, Limbourg brothers (Herman, Jean Paul) 1412-1416; Book of Hours of Carlos V, workshop of Jean Poyer(?)(Paris) 1483-1515; (Nouembre) – – Rohan Master (Paris) circa 1415 -1425; (Nouembre) – shown on a ring of the Geared Astrolabe in the Science Museum, London, probably made in Picardy around 1300; (Noueb’) – w/line over 1st e and squiggle or apostrophe above the b – Maastricht Book of Hours, unknown painter (Liege?) 1300 – 1325’
    Middle English Dictionary, U of Michigan – (Novembre) – commonly found.

    Decembre(??) (not clearly written, at all)– (Decembre) – Rohan Master (Paris) circa 1415 -1425; (Decembre) -follower of Eggerton Master (Paris) 1410; Petit Heures of Jean de France, Duc du Berry (5 people – Jean Le Noir from 1372, Jacquemart de Hesdin 1385-1390, Limbourg brothers (Herman, Jean Paul) 1412-1416; (Decembre) – Book of Hours of Carlos V, unknown author (Paris) 1483-1515; (Decembre) – Book of Hours of Carlos V, workshop of Jean Poyer(?)(Paris) 1483-1515; (Decembre) – shown on a ring of the Geared Astrolabe in the Science Museum, London, probably made in Picardy around 1300; (Decemb’) – w/line over 2nd e and squiggle or apostrophe above the b – Maastricht Book of Hours, unknown painter (Liege?) 1300 – 1325; Decebre) – w/line over 2nd e – Book of Hours, use of Rouen, Master François (France) 1475 -1500; (Decembre) – w/line over second e – Heures de Notre Dame, use of Troyes & Sens, unknown painter, (France) circa1470.
    Middle English Dictionary, U of Michigan – (Decembre) – commonly found.

    *Note – The various Books of Hours calendar pages can be found on the internet & a really nice image of the Geared Astrolabe can be seen at:


    Also, I think the drawings with nebuly (wavy and bulbed) lines found on many pages of the VMS match in pattern with ones found on several pages found in the Harley MS 4431, Cité des Dames, written by Christine de Pizan (or Pisan) (b. Venice 1364 – d. Paris c. 1430) and decorated by the Master of the Cité des Dames, active in Paris in the period 1400-1415 and the Bedford Master (perhaps “Haincelin of Hagenau” in Alsace) who was recorded in Paris between 1403 and 1424. Christine de Pizan lived most of her life in Paris. Of the pair of painters, the Master of the Cité des Dames seems to be the one who used the distinctive pattern in other works. I wonder if it is a datable or regionally identifiable pattern/motif used by other artists of the time? I could find no other Book of Hours artists who seem to have used it.

    I added the corresponding possibly matching Middle English month names shown in the University of Michigan’s wonderful online Middle English Dictionary. I will add more as I find or receive them.

    You may use any of this in any way you wish. I’d like to hear about any pertinent items others may discover.

  70. Diane on June 9, 2015 at 12:50 pm said:

    Don, just btw, the term ‘nebuly’ – cloud-like, is only used in heraldry. The same meaning, exactly, is in the term which came to be used in European art history books, though they adopted the German version: ‘wolkenband’, in much the same way they adopted the Italian ‘chiaroscuro’ – just to denote a technique. In fact the motif comes into western art very early, and from the east where it remained conventional. Another nice example is in the Rohan hours, but there are literally thousands of examples and at least a dozen distinct varieties of the “cloud-band” line, even just in the Latin works. It doesn’t date our manuscript’s use of the wiggly line, unfortunately. For that we have to go rather deeper. What you have done – and very well – is show how popular the motif was in French manuscript art of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Very true.


  71. Anton Alipov on June 10, 2015 at 10:28 am said:

    Don’t know what’s meant by nebuly above, but if you mean the pattern representing heavens, I wrote a post on that a week ago: http://athenaea.net/index.php?id=59

  72. Diane on June 10, 2015 at 1:24 pm said:

    The pattern was inherited by the fifteenth-century artists who used it, and they use it to mean the same as it always had: the limit of the human domain. As a rule it means that between the heavens of men, and that of the divine, but not invariably. I’ve treated it before in my blogs, but the main point is that it isn’t a peculiarly fifteenth-century motif, and most certainly not one either native to Europe or exclusive to it. It’s very well known in the history of art.

  73. Anton Alipov on June 10, 2015 at 4:17 pm said:


    Thanks for the explanation! I replied to your comment in my blog.

  74. Out*of*the*Blue on June 10, 2015 at 5:07 pm said:

    The example of a nebuly line can be seen in Wikipedia under lines of division as part of heraldry.

    The possible origination of it’s discussion dates from Ellie Velinska’s comparison of VMs f68v3 with the Oresme illustration know as BNF Francais 565. Her description of the inner sphere, “surrounded by stars on blue background in a space with air/clouds pattern on the edge.”

    With my prior investigations into heraldry, I saw this as a boundary as a nebuly line. And it would seem that the specific use of a nebuly line in both illustrations is a significant factor in the comparison Even though a wavy line or some other substitution could have been used in its place, that would, in my opinion, significantly weaken the comparison.

    So, besides f68v3, the VMs shows the clear use of regular nebuly lines repeatedly in the illustrations of Quire 13: f75r, f75v, f79r, f79v, f80v and f82r. And also relating to certain plant leaves in f35v, f41v and f50r. And in the Rosettes. The question then becomes which medival artists show a preference for the use of nebuly lines. Who drew BNF Francais 565 and when, exactly? Christine de Pizan in Harley 4431 used some rather similar nebuly lines, but in Bodmer 49 has used wavy lines in comparative illustrations. Other artists present divine manifestation in other ways.

    The present inquiry, which Don and I support, is to gather data and follow the nebuly line as far as possible.

  75. Diane on June 10, 2015 at 8:20 pm said:

    Thank you.

  76. Carmen: it’s a widely repeated ‘Internet fact’ that the Voynich Manuscript is in humanist handwriting, but the reality is much subtler and harder to parse, let alone to digest. 🙁

    As I understand it, the right way to phrase it is something like this: that the formation of Voynichese letters is consistent with their having been written by a scribe trained to write in a formal humanist hand. As such, its set of letter shapes is not itself the kind of beautiful humanist font that was (not long after) immortalised in Italic print shapes: but, rather, the internal structure of its letter formation is consistent with the internal structure of humanist handwriting of that generation.

    If you accept this as a starting point, then the logical follow-on inference is that the Voynich Manuscript was almost certainly written by a professional scribe on behalf of someone else. And because humanist writing was primarily an urban, high-culture affair, it is also probable that the Voynich Manuscript was made in a city with an affluent urban elite, because that is where the overwhelming majority of formal humanist writing was done. It is also likely, I think, that the Voynich Manuscript’s scribe(s) was/were young (and hence affordable for this kind of work), rather than older and expensive.

    However, I’m sorry to say that this still doesn’t tell us much about why the document was made, or for what purpose.

  77. Diane on June 15, 2015 at 11:45 pm said:

    Nick, this comment on the handwriting is fascinating. Is there a formal report somewhere?

  78. Diane: it’s a summary of a larger post I’ve been writing for a while, but which is proving somewhat tricky to rein in. 😮

  79. Diane on June 16, 2015 at 9:57 am said:

    You know, speaking of editing and such. I’ve always thought that if one had the time etc., it would be marvellous to have a published anthology in 3 vols (vol 2 re pictorial text; vol 3 for written part and cipher efforts; the first couldn’t make a volume yet – it would be the one on materials.)
    Then I could read that article by Barbara Barrett, and a few from Cryptologia which are now of historic interest, though not enough to be worth my taking out a subscription so far.

  80. Diane: I think Vol 4 (the decryption) would be the one most people would want to spend any actual money on. 😉

  81. Diane on June 16, 2015 at 3:38 pm said:


    you know, about the script. I think it has been artificially “humanised” – made to fit into one narrow band, as the best humanist round bookhand did, but I reckon it didn’t look like that originally. In fact, I would like to see what happened if the “gamma” looking one were sat up on the line, and the vertical “8” dropped a bit. That sort of thing.

  82. Thomas on June 16, 2015 at 5:00 pm said:

    My problem is that I cannot easily find a machine readable Voynich text with original Voynich characters. I would like to scan its pages with my eyes as well as search for strings, if only I could have it in, say, a zoomable black and white MSWord document. It’s a pity that the transcribed texts cannot convey to me what I expect to see, nor can the high resolution photographic images of the pages of the manuscript. So, why do we not go back to basics and try figuring out the meaning of the script as it is written? Why should we try learning Russian using various transcriptions instead of the authentic Cyrillic alphabet of that language?

  83. Thomas: you can just download all the scans from the Beinecke website.

    With the Voynich Manuscript, a good way to go back to basics is to try to write the letters yourself, trying hard to match the specific directional flow of each stroke in the original. Using a fountain pen with a narrow italic nib should give you a reasonable sense of the difficulty involved in writing Voynichese fast and reliably with a quill. Or you can teach yourself to use a quill and make your own ink, if you want to be properly authentic. 😉

  84. Diane: I’m really not so sure. I have little doubt that what we see is not so much “Voynichese 1.0” as “Voynichese 6.1 SP2”. Even something as simple as the “4”-shape stands apart from the rest of the letters: while the gallows family seem to have its own physical logic, also quite apart from the rest of the Voynich alphabet. And so forth. 🙂

  85. Anton Alipov on June 17, 2015 at 7:43 pm said:

    Yes, the gallows clearly suggest sequential logic: two “legs” + two “ears” (t), two legs + one ear (k), two ears + one leg (p), one ear + one leg (f). As if the script inventor was in need of four additional characters and designed them thus.

  86. Anton: you could add the ar/or/al/ol family, and the aiv/aiiv/aiiiv/air/aiir/aiiir family, and the dual-use 9- / -9 shape… and before long you’ve got yourself pretty much an entire alphabet. 🙂

  87. Diane on June 18, 2015 at 4:38 am said:

    ‘gamma’ lifted up the line (stave?) becomes a ‘d’.

  88. Thomas on June 18, 2015 at 8:22 am said:

    Nick: the scans are not machine readable unless one OCR-s them with suitable program. Is there somewhere such an OCR? What I have in mind is viewing, machine searching or manipulating by highlighting, ordering, replacing etc. the content of, the Voynich script in a clean, black and white true Voynich font document format. I know that such font versions exist and are available.
    I accept the historical need for the early transcriptions of the Voynich script into various symbols other than Voynich characters. But I don’t see why we should use such transcriptions in our computer age. I am unskilled in creating the proposed form. The people who are skilled in this apparently did not make it available so far. The Voynich researchers tend to use a funnily encoded Voynich script of kokedy-okedy-dot-dot form. This is even funnier when we think about weather the original Voynich is an encoded text or natural language. Well, amusingly, the okedy-kokedy version of it is certainly an encoded version. But why? Why encoding something before decoding it straight from its plain form?
    I see laziness, as an answer. There is no easily or readily available proper SI symbol for microfarad or ohm on most PC-s, which is why people started arbitrarily corrupt these to UF or R, even in academic fields.
    One disadvantage of the Latin character transcriptions for the Voynich script is that reading them, they straightaway bias the mind. The mind need not be made to make unnecessary loopy rounds in its workings. A music learner who is told to beat the steady rhythm with his foot in order to adjust his playing to that rhythm, is precisely doing just this loopy thing. First, his mind tells his foot to beat, and then his foot tells his mind that it has beaten OK, and only then the mind tells him to play? What nonsense. The mind should tell straight to him to play in rhythm, omitting the totally unnecessary foot thing.
    If there was a Voynich with proper Voynich characters in electronic format, and a reasonably sophisticated at that, then wonderful new opportunities could open. Here, in sophistication I mean adjustable text blocks that mirror the original to the best possible degree. Or, moveable text blocks for matching, comparison, or merging for trying to gain insight in every inventive or fanciful manner. Even with variations for individual characters could be incorporated, to visualise vertical rivers of spaces. Another possibility is to create an equally spaced set of the proper Voynich characters, to view and scan vertical patterns in hope of any new and meaningful revelation.
    My ideas may come across as odd or naive but we may be surprised if one day somebody, even an autistic person, notices something significant this way.

  89. Thomas: you seem to have misunderstood the history, purpose and scope of the various EVA interlinear transcriptions. They are essentially stroke transcriptions, that are designed to copy what is on the page in a reasonably consistent manner such that it can be transformed by the theorizing researcher into the specific glyph transcription they are testing. So, you might reasonably transform the EVA ‘ch’ into a single token, or even EVA ‘ckh’ into a single token: the important thing is that EVA does not tell you which glyph transcription is right (because it doesn’t know).

    Having said that, EVA does have a few shortcomings, but that’s another story entirely. =:-o

  90. Thomas on June 18, 2015 at 10:29 am said:

    Nick: You are right. I know little of these details. I only know that a finite number of Voynich characters had been identified, which comprise the Voynich alphabet. These are now in the available electronic fonts.

    I did not know of the nuances or the implied ambiguities. Still, these could be handled with suitable markings or differentiation on my planned format.

    My simple plan is to have an electronic Voynich Manuscript at my hand, and seemingly I will have to work for it. Either I will have to type it for myself, copying from the scans or transforming the transcripts back to Voynich-looking text. No one will shell for me the sacks of peanuts that I need to gorge on for my fancy. 🙂

  91. Thomas: there is also Glen Claston’s glyph-based Voynich transcription, which may be more useful for you than EVA, but which suffers from a quite different set of problems.

  92. Thomas on June 18, 2015 at 11:30 am said:

    Nick: thank you for this helpful guidance. I will definitely try it.

    Just yesterday I came across this term, “glyph-based Voynich”, on the Google, and tried to see one. Several download came up on Torrent, which I heard is a grey legal area, or dodgy. My terminal is also outdated and limited browser-wise, so I managed to see nothing of those files so far.

    Incidentally, I realise I have made a mistake in my previous note, in misspelling “whether”. I typed “weather”. Allegedly, there is no mistake committed by the scribe or scribes in the Voynich Manuscript. But how do we know? The weather could be important in a discourse of plant life, and the word could be confusable with other similar ones in other languages, too. 😀

  93. Thomas on June 19, 2015 at 9:09 pm said:

    I am wondering about how likely it is that the herbal pages contain descriptive elements. I am not familiar with the general herbals of the era. If it is expected that there are plant descriptions on the pages, then, in my view, words for leaf, stem, root etc could be found.

    Also, say, a leaf with six round lobes may be described with the appropriate words. For a page like that, I just intuitively feel that it may be worth wile to search on it for a word that may mean six, having the number six in various ancient languages at our disposal.

    On similar lines, as pregnancy is a possible assumed subject of some parts of the MS, this word’s ancient forms could be tried to fit some recurring ones in the relevant parts.

    Arabic, Latin, etc words and forms similar to these could be tried for both herbal and “pregnancy” chapters.

  94. Thomas: feel free to try what you like, I ain’t the Voynich thought police. (I know, I’ve already had them knocking on my door a few times).

    The problem you’ll find is that Voynichese isn’t language-y enough for proper linguists to be interested in, and it’s also too language-y for proper cryptanalysts to be interested in. Meanwhile, the herbals aren’t herbal enough for proper herbal historians to be interested in, while… I think I’ve made my point. 🙂

  95. Anton Alipov on June 19, 2015 at 10:33 pm said:

    As for cryptanalysts. Sorry for the amateurish question, but is there any possibility of the VMS “words” being just references to some “vocabulary”? “Page X, column Y, line Z”, like in “The Valley of Fear”, you know.

  96. Thomas on June 19, 2015 at 11:18 pm said:

    Nick: Then it looks like these proper experts in their fields leave the whole thing to us, proper cranks.

    By the way, please don’t think I am not looking at this book in other manner than trying to read its presumedly just medium language-y text. I try deciphering its encoded content as well. And of course I try seeing machinery and bees in the depicted images, too. 😉

  97. Thomas on June 20, 2015 at 7:04 pm said:

    I wondered about the astrology diagrams or the others where seemingly perfect concentric circles are shown.

    Is it conceivable that the artist drew them freehand, or did he use a pair of compasses, or maybe circular templates? If compasses were used, what early kinds of it are known? Were those always similar to today’s instruments with a sharp point to dig lightly into the sheet? Or did the usage of sharp pinpoint enter at some known time in the history of the development of the drawing compasses?

    If microscopic examination revealed pin holes or pits in the vellum in the centres of the drawn circles, then even this tiny information may help a little in the determining of the time of these drawings’ creation.

  98. Thomas on June 30, 2015 at 4:53 pm said:

    The circular zodiac figures gave me the idea that they may depict a single lady or nymph in every day in a month. If pregnancy or the female cycle is implied, then signs could be searched for these. I am just picking up codicology in my amateurish way! 😉

    If we could place these discs into a phenakistoscope and rotate them, we may see a gradually growing belly!

    Seriously, I cursorily looked for this and for possible depiction of menstrual discharge, but did not note anything.

    It is only an idea and I thought I put it here into the think tank.

  99. Thomas on June 30, 2015 at 5:11 pm said:

    It looks like Patrick Feaster already considered this sort of animation in his writing, “Primeval Animations and the Voynich Manuscript”

  100. Thomas on July 2, 2015 at 11:46 am said:

    More of my musings…

    Why not each of the persons in the zodiac pages have a star? I have noticed one without. Why some stars are filled with colour while others are not? Why some stars have no outline at all and only drawn with a fill colour? Why it is that the fill colour is red in at least one case and not yellow? Why some stars have one dot in the middle, some more than one, and some none? Why some stars have strings and others not?

  101. Thomas on July 2, 2015 at 5:11 pm said:

    The left roundel on f69v has twentyeight, while the middle one has nine divisions, whereas other roundels elsewhere usually have four, eight or sixteen. The numbers twentyeight and nine may allude to the female cycle and the nine months of pregnancy. Moreover, the central image is sort of organic or human cell-y, like zygote…?

  102. Anton Alipov on July 2, 2015 at 6:34 pm said:


    The notion of cell was not yet known in that time.

  103. Thomas on July 3, 2015 at 7:57 am said:

    Anton: It is probably true that the notion of cell was not widely known in that time. But we cannot know for sure what knowledge was held secretly or kept unpublished by advanced individuals. This however is not an argument on my part that the depiction is that of a cell.

    We tend to use this reasoning that this or that discovery or advancement was not known at the time, therefore we must discount its possibility. For example the statement, “No such advanced encryption methods as of today’s were known in that time”. How do we know? Does not the VMS itself appear to be a very strong and thus just such an advanced encryption?

  104. bdid1dr on September 2, 2015 at 7:44 pm said:

    Nick, gentlemen:

    In addition to the DOC ID I referenced several weeks/months ago, you might like to see another document which was released from the National Security Agency (30 April 1959) as declassified by Paul S. Wiilard (Colonel) AGC, Adjutant General: “REF ID:A58472

    You’ll know you’re on the ‘right’ page if an Aztec pictograph appears with alternating Nahuatl words and italicized English translation.
    The header for this item reads: Umol-huum tah-ciyal
    William Frederick jetel Elizebeth Smith Friedman
    This document is the last proof that the so-called “Voynich” manuscript is written in Nahuatl — and that the same Nahuatl language-speaking scribes translated Fray Sahagun’s Spanish/Latin discussions of botanical interest, the balnealogical section, the dialogues of the various circles/diagrams, and the earliest mention of the European invaders who enslaved much of the native populations of the country we now call Mexico.
    I recently found my quetzquemetl (some 50 years old, now) on a discussion page I can no longer recall. I’ll be 72 y/o next week.
    beady-eyed wonder

  105. Jerenie on September 3, 2015 at 8:19 pm said:

    Dear Nick (or to whoever else may help),
    I read in a paper about the VMs that you had a good quality photo of the rosette map (f86v) posted on your website. Now, i’m not sure if you still have this photograph or if you’ve taken it down or if you’ve just never posted it, but if you do have such a photograph or if anyone else knows where I can get one, I would greatly appreciate it. It would be great to have a hard copy of this page, and I don’t really want to spend $300 on the whole manuscript from ambush printing.

  106. Jerenie on September 3, 2015 at 8:47 pm said:

    As a ps on my last comment, I’d like to add that I’m very interested in getting into applied linguistics and cryptology. I was just wondering if you can help at all with that and give me advice (what are good schools, are there jobs, etc.) Any information would be greatly appreciated.

  107. Jerenie: you can download excellent quality images of the Voynich Manuscript from the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library’s website:-

    Everything is there, including the nine-rosette page. 🙂

  108. Rick A. Roberts on November 10, 2015 at 10:12 pm said:

    To hakan; I made an error back on 19 August, 2014 when I replied to your query about 29 February, 1420. There was indeed a Partial Lunar Eclipse on 29 February, 1420. It start at 13:16 UT (OLD STYLE) Time. The Partial Lunar Eclipse lasted for one hour and thirty minutes.

  109. D.N. O'Donovan on November 11, 2015 at 11:13 am said:

    about your comment of July 2, 2015 11:46 am

    If we accept for the moment that Don of Tallahassee has rightly zoned in on the region of France from which the month-names have come, and that each of the star-holders are holding stars or even mini cornucopii of heavenly goods as stars, then why not test the possibility that the red-dot stars mark red-letter days on one of the many regional calendars – those from 13th-15thC Picardy perhaps?

  110. So if I look at the VM the way they say u should its a jumbled mess but if u look at it upside down I at least see a bunch of numbers manly 6 and 8 anyone else?

  111. Misty: the Voynich alphabet is similar to many cipher alphabets of the early-to-mid-fifteenth century, which used a number of shapes before they became used as number shapes. ‘9’, for example, was used as a shorthand sign at the end of words to mean “-um” or “-us” before it was used as a digit. 🙂

  112. Dear Nick and colleagues,

    I am pleased to let you know that finally we managed to launch the Voynich discussion forum, which initiative was brought forward by Gert somewhere in comments here back in summer.

    We aimed to make it not only a discussion tool (which a message board naturally is), but also a research- and task-oriented one. We expect it to be a place for quality and fruitful discussions, enriched by the functionality of a modern message board engine and some custom tools and features that we already have in place.

    The forum is located at http://voynich.ninja

    Please be welcome to participate!

  113. Anton Alipov: it all seems very admirable and straightforward. If only solving the mysteries of the Voynich Manuscript were as simple!

  114. Thomas F.Spande on February 4, 2016 at 7:27 pm said:

    Nick, et al. I have been out of the loop for a bit as I closed up a lab (that smallpox scare hit me hard as I worked with frog toxins but hey, skated free of the FBI!). My daughter Helen, an art conservator has put forward to me in private conversations over the years that the gallows glyphs are pilcrows. Pilcrows for those of you not conversant with these, amount to start/stop symbols in renaissance manuscripts. Our paragraph symbol is the most commonly used one at this time but others existed. Anyway, no real role for those gallows has been widely accepted and I adopt my daughter’s idea that the four gallows serve the function of pilcrows. The pilcrow was adopted from the French in 1440 (Wiki). It had nothing to do with a printer’s mark as some assumed. The two most common, in fact dominant ones are the two that have two ascenders and one loop (I will refer to this as 1) and the one with two ascenders as 2. Glyphs 1 and 2 abound in the herbal section but vary according to whether the loose or tight scribe is at work. Often 2>1 for the loose scribe and 1>2 for the tighter. Doing simple stats on the occurrence of repeats, one sees a pattern emerge. Often (>>50%) one gallows is followed by another of the same: not random at all. I have noted that some “rubbish” text like “898989” (etetet in Armenian) does not appear between the same gallows. I am going to toss a cat among the pigeons and guess that this will prove true of other Voynich gibberish. This leads me to postulate that only the text between the same gallows will be meaningful; the rest are nulls. Well that is a lot of nulls and I think others have proposed that a template or grill has to be placed on the text to get at the reality of the Voynich. The idea above may indicate that the grill is already in place and it is provided by the gallows which are being used in the manner of pilcrows, start and stop instructions. Cheers, Tom

  115. Thomas F.Spande on February 5, 2016 at 5:04 pm said:

    Nick, et al. Expatiating on the above, I would make the following points:
    1) Until recently, I bought into the idea Nick has expressed above, that the gallows
    glyphs are consonants and had some in common with Nick’s assignments,
    assignments based mainly on appearance. Now on closer examination, I doubt
    that any of the gallows represent any letter, consonants or not. Using the simple nomenclature above where 1=double ascenders, one loop; 2=double ascenders, two loops; 1’=single ascender, single loop and 2’=single ascender, two loops, it can be observed by inspection, that the looser scribe on 29v uses gallows glyph 1 a total of 13 times while 2 is used 30 times. Neither 1′ or 2′ appears at all.
    If one provides a statistical answer to the pilcrowesque question, “how often is 1
    followed by 1, and 2 by 2 ?”, we get 5 and 19, respectively by inspection, or 38% and 63%. The theoretical, if no scribal preference is in effect would be 13/30 or
    43% for 1. Examination of 29v, one of the herbal pages line by line gives a range of
    one glyph (line 6) to 7 glyphs (line 4, where we see 5 examples of 2 vs two of 1. Three repeats of 2 are seen. I think on an explication of 29v or any other herbal page will reveal that the gallows glyphs are not letters but markers of some kind.
    Note also that no examples of a gallows glyph followed immediately by any other gallows glyph is not seen, or anyway, I have not seen any. This could be a linguistic characteristic or it could support the view that the gallows are markers of some kind, like a pilcrow. My daughter has told me that looking at a renaissance ms, one will see it peppered with pilcrows and they might just set off an “amen” in some plain song text. In discussing the VM, I have used the word “pilcrow” in what must be an approximation. One line, 4, for example, what is one to make of five glyphs of type 2 following one another? Still no clue yet on what many of the letter glyphs represent although I think 8, 9 and the ampersand like glyph stand for e, t, and f. “eaf” is all over the place and I think is a truncated form of “leaf”. All for now. I will also discuss soon an example of the tight scribe’s work, page 33v,, where 1 appears 25 times (19 repeats) and 2 appears 13 times (3 repeats). All for now from “Somewhere Land”. Cheers, Tom

  116. Thomas F.Spande on February 5, 2016 at 7:01 pm said:

    Nick, Do you recall a few years back, someone (julian rings a bell?) had an optical character recognition software/hardware package that he used to scan the ENTIRE VM? I have lost my copy of the results but as I recall it went no further than just detecting gallows, since his main interest (as I recall, don’t hold my hand over a candle on this!) was in looking at possible differences among the herbals, bathing, astronomy and horascope sections. If you agree that the gallows could use a new examination, could this person be approached? Perhaps the four gallows can be distinguished? Maybe this has already come to pass in my absence from Voyniching? If so, could you direct me to the citation among your blog entries?
    Ultimately I would like to see connectivity between like gallows but if the gallows
    are identified as 1,2,1′, and 2′ then I am a happy camper. I can fill in the connectivity myself. If you disagree and think I am passing over more than just “markers” I will understand and just plug along on this myself. I think my idea of “pilcrowesque” markers throws out about a third of the text and one wonders about the wasted scribal effort here? But then again, on the herbs, how much info do we really need. Some bone setting, puncture wound healing, fever reducing, laxative properties, etc. and that will be it. Cheers, Tom

  117. Thomas F.Spande on February 5, 2016 at 9:49 pm said:

    Nick and Rick Roberts, If a partial lunar eclipse is mentioned in the VM, (Ricks post of Nov 10, 2015), could this not be useful in locating the venue of the VM? Maybe this is already known to Rick? Cheers, Tom

  118. Thomas F.Spande on February 6, 2016 at 6:00 pm said:

    Nick, et al., First off, I really hope I am wrong, wrong, wrong in postulating that the
    gallows glyphs are not consonants or even letters. We needed those in our decrypt attempts!

    The tight scribe produced folio 33v with its 11 lines. Gallows glyph 1 occurs 31 times; 2 occurs 13 times. 1′ occurs once; 2′ is not used. The glyphs range from twice (line 11) to seven times (line 5). The number of repeats for 1 is 19 times; with 4 times for 2. A total of 23 repeats out of a total of 45 gallows glyphs.

    If the gallows are “markers” and not letters, then “Houston, we have a problem!”
    There remained at one time in my digging into the Pilcrow issue, that the pair of identical glyphs might be included in the text. Does not seem likely at the moment, mainly because of the jamming together of gallows in, for example, lines 2, 3,,4, 5. 7, and 8 but few in lines 1, 6, 9, 10 and 11. When a gallows is superimposed on a two conjoined letter glyphs, and another glyph identical but without imposition on a letter pair, I have taken the letter that follows the leading glyph and incorporated it into the line of “valid” text.

    Now why did the scribes add this additional level of complexity to our decrypt stuggles (if I should prove to be correct). I think the gallows are meant to distract
    the casual reader and look somewhat like Urdu or Hindi glyphs. None are identical that I have found but they do resemble writing of the far East. Just smoke and mirrors here, BUT they do put one into the mindset of the scribes. Note
    that the scribes seem to have liberty in picking their favorite gallows. I have one example of an herbal page where the numbers of 1 and 2 are essentially the same. Will continue on this melancholy task but I fear it is going to complicate life for VM decrypters. A bit like VP Harry Truman’s reaction to becoming president after the death of FDR. “A haystack just fell on me!”. Cheers, Tom

  119. Thomas F.Spande on February 6, 2016 at 7:18 pm said:

    Nick, Incidentally, I did look at the possibility that the prs of the same gallows glyphs might be used to indicate punctuation, like prs of commas, parentheses, semis etc., but the occurrence of gallows with only one character in between made this a difficult idea to support and I gave up on this. It is worth reiterating that nowhere in the VM, do we find any example of punctuation or even diacritical marks. I am ignoring the little curlicue (B’s lingo) above the joined c’s. I think it is a phonetic language (the tipped question mark like glyph, I think is the Armenian glyph for “ch” so that “8a?” is “each”. We still have a mountain to climb! Cheers, Tom

  120. Thomas F.Spande on February 7, 2016 at 4:37 am said:

    Nick, et al., If the gallow glyphs are out of play, then consonants will have to be located in the non-gallows glyphs. I think the “h” is incorporated in the tipped “?” which in Armenian is the phenome “ch”. I think the reverse “S” which is made in two
    strokes using a “c” underlaying a reverse “C” could be an “st”. But this is the end of
    guesswork at the moment. Cheers, Tom

  121. Thomas: indeed, my working hypothesis about the gallows is that they somehow function as consonants – however, I don’t currently see any way at all that they can be mapped one-to-one with a single consonant each, in the kind of way that simple language mappings for Voynichese necessarily require. Rene Zandbergen makes precisely the same point about single-leg gallows, so (for once) it’s not just me. 😉

    You mentioned the pilcrow here before: but even though I can see the resemblance between the way modern pilcrows are rendered and at least one of the four gallows characters, I’m far from convinced that pilcrows circa 1400-1450 looked like that at all.

    Incidentally, one online source on pilcrows asserts that very early printed books often left space at the start of paragraphs for pilcrows to be added by hand after printing, but that people usually never got round to adding them in: which is supposedly why we leave indented spaces at the start of paragraphs – fossilized lacunae where hand-decorated pilcrows once (briefly) used to go. Which would, if true, seem to make the pilcrow the most unprinted printing character in history, for what it’s worth. 🙂

  122. Thomas F.Spande on February 8, 2016 at 7:28 pm said:

    Nick, Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I still think that the gallows are some kind of markers and not consonants or any other letter. I am aware of their involvement in printing (also the pointing finger) and was surprised that the French evidently used the pilcrow for handwritten ms to indicate parargraphing. The double ascender, single loop sort of looks like the classic paragraph indicator but is written backward. Occasionally the double ascenders get closer, and more closely resemble the original pilcrow even more.

    I wondered if text separated by the same gallows would extend across the paragraphing we see in the VM or the paragraphing (like word lengths) might be just deception. It does appear that the same gallows in the last line of what we might call a paragraph is NOT followed by the same
    gallows in the first line of the next “paragraph”. Exceptions exist but are rare.

    Following is the gallows analysis in f20r, the tighter scribe. Note that he uses gallows 2 way more than 1 so I either have misidentified this scribe as “tight” or the observation the the tighter scribe preferred 1 to 2 (my post of 2-6) is incorrect.

    Folio 20r has a total of 38 gallows in three paragraphs with only 6 examples of 1; 26 examples of 2; one only of 1′ and five of 2′. There are 19 repeats of 2, i.e. 2 is followed by another 2, 19 times. No repeats at all of 1 or 1′ and just one repeat of 2′. The occurrence of gallows ranges from 0 (line 8) to 5 (line 9).

    The positive side, the the pilcrow idea (if correct) and that only text between the same gallows is valid, is that the VM might be European after all. I think the gallows are there to resemble some of the far East languages (even Brahmic as Sinh alleges above) but the text that counts is mainly Latin. I still think though that Eastern ideas are in the VM drawings, mainly the blue/brown(red) [females, closer to the earth are referred to in brown or red, the male dreamers are sky blue] coloration for plant blossoms and leaf or petal shapes and directionality that whisper yin/yang to me. The concept of yin/yang is at the heart of far Eastern folk medicine. The classical Chinese Materia Medica is built around yin/yang.

    “I will continue along the present line if it takes me all summer” (quote from US civil war general, US Grant). Cheers, Tom

  123. Thomas F.Spande on February 9, 2016 at 2:52 am said:

    Nick, To resolve any doubts about which scribe did f20v, I have analyzed a pretty
    obvious example of the tight scribe’s work, f34r and found a real surprise. The top section of 10 lines had 18 examples of gallows 1, 24 of glyph 2, and two each of 1′ and 2′. Eight repeats are seen with glyph 1; eleven repeats are seen with glyph 2; one repeat with 2′ and none with glyph 1′.

    Now the surprise is seen with the bottom section of six lines, done I am certain by the scribe with the same tight writing style as appeared in the top lines. Here we find 22 examples of 1, Eight of glyph 2, one of glyph 1′ and none of glyph 2′. There are 17 repeats of glyph 1 but none with the other two glyphs.

    So we have 2>1, (but not by much) in the top section (maybe in fact a paragraph?) but 1>>2 in the bottom section. Furthermore ALL the pilcrowesque markers in the bottom section are seen only with glyph 1.

    I really find it hard to imagine a distribution of consonants, if the gallows are indeed letters, that would fit the pattern we observe with f34r. Baffled even more than ever. It appears a totally arbitrary decision of a single scribe as to whether to concentrate on 1 or 2. Just a coin toss. Cheers, Tom

  124. bdid1dr on February 9, 2016 at 5:47 am said:

    Oh my! When the cat’s away, the mice will play. Helllllooo Thomas! Lately, I’ve had to leave y-all to yourselves. I’ve been translating B-408 contents one folio or sets of folios as they become intelligible to me. My favorite is the single mulberry fruit which, so far, everyone wants to call it a pineapple. The discussion which accompanies that fruit is about food (mulberry leaves) until she spins herself into a silk cocoon. She is not allowed to eat her way out of the cocoon (after having transformed into silkworm moth). If she were not prevented from eating through the silk cocoon, the silk thread would be unusable for making silk cloth. (Sericine is the word to look for in that folio.)
    Still be de eyed

  125. Thomas F.Spande on February 10, 2016 at 10:21 pm said:

    Hi B, I was out of the loop, mainly closing up a lab under extremis conditions (that small pox scare which expanded into any toxic chemicals and caught me in the net). Anyway back to Voyniching and picking away at the gallows glyphs. Oddnesses galore there. BTW, you have occasionally mentioned vision problems. I was diagnosed with a dry eye (just one) and have tinkered around with about 8 over the counter drops. Rohto (a Japanese company markets drops for severe dryness and two a day work fine for me). In addition I bought for little money a visor magnifier (Optivisor DA7 model, 2.5 magification, focal length ca. 7 inches) that makes peering at Voynichese tolerable. Up close one notices a lot of scribal corrections and reinking, often of those mysterious gallows glyphs. Thanks for the insights on making silk. Cheers, Tom

  126. Thomas F.Spande on February 10, 2016 at 10:40 pm said:

    Nick et al., I looked for an extreme case of gallows preference by the tight scribe and for the moment, f23r will serve as an example. We see 31 examples of glyph 1 (25 repeats); nine examples of glyph 2 (double-legged, double looped) (2 repeats); five of glyph 1′ (2 repeats) and two of glyph 2′ (1 repeat). It is seen that solely the double legged-single loop gallows (1) appears in lines 7-11 and occurs a total of 18 times with 17 repeats. I cannot imagine any circumstance where one consonant only is used eighteen times to the exclusion of the other three in ca. 40% of the text, but that is what we see! I will take a look at what glyph PRECEDES OR FOLLOWS that glyph to examine the possibility that the gallows glyphs are operators of some kind and might change the preceding or following glyph in some way? I kind of doubt this survey will go anywhere but deeper into the weeds!

    I will also try and find an extreme case of the looser writing scribe. Cheers, Tom

  127. Thomas: you’re really not too far away from what I conclude – which is that even though the gallows largely seem to function as if they are consonants, you can’t ever get close to tying them down to any single consonant… they’re far too slippery. “qokedy qokedy dal qokedy qokedy” etc! 🙂

  128. Thomas F.Spande on February 11, 2016 at 5:03 am said:

    Nick, Fine that we’re on the same page so far as those gallows go. At the moment, they pose a really annoying puzzlement. An example of a folio done by the looser scribe is provided by f49r. Here in 21 well-spaced and separated lines and maybe two paragraphs (breaking at line 11 to 12), we have 10 gallows of type 1, 22 of type 2 and five of type 2′ and none of type 1′. The double legged single loop glyph has only 4 repeats while the gallows of type 2 has 13 repeats. There are three lines (3, 10 and 15) that have no gallows at all, even though complete lines so far as the drawing permits. Lines 16-18 have one, one and two of type 2 gallows. Line 19 has three of type 1 only. Lines 20 and 21 have only one each of type 2 gallows. Just a game of darts so far as I can tell at this moment. The tentative conclusion so far though is that each scribe has his own preference so far as the number of gallows he picks and which style predominates. On inspection, it does seem the looser scribe prefers glyph 2 and the tighter scribe, type 1 but this assumption needs a more rigorous testing. Using the scribal gallows glyph preferences would be a tedious way of distinguishing the scribes but I think it could be done.
    Generally inspection suffices. Cheers, Tom

    ps. I think it might be worthwhile to try and locate a language that might have close facsimiles of the gallows glyphs when written in cursive. This might be where the smoke and mirrors originates. I lean to the idea that they are markers, or bullets as my daughter prefers when multiple pilcrows are seen in medieval manuscripts. Sometimes there are multiple glyphs per line and they might even be in different colors. If they do not serve the purpose of bullets, then maybe they have no textual function at all but are just for deception?

  129. Thomas: if they’re nulls, they’re highly structured nulls, which isn’t normally how nulls are used (i.e. nulls normally disrupt the patterns in text, rather than add to them).

  130. Thomas F.Spande on February 11, 2016 at 3:51 pm said:

    Nick, I guess I mentioned nulls in passing in a fit of exasperation. My best guess is that they serve some function akin to pilcrows and that text outside the markers might be null, but not the gallows themselves. I agree totally that what makes it difficult to discard them totally is that the single-legged double-looped gallows glyph often starts an herbal folio and may have an embedded macron by virtue of extending the upper part of the glyph over an entire “word”. Scribal flourishes abound also on that first glyph. So your point about the gallows being structured, as for example starting a paragraph or sentence is one I would agree with. The single-legged gallows are comparatively rare; sometimes one type is not present at all. Sometimes they appear to be re-inked or inserted into text as an afterthought and are really skinny.

    I’ll search for an even better example of an herbal folio by the looser scribe. Until then, in my opinion, the gallows mystery deepens. I have not gone into that bathing, astronomy or horoscope sections yet. I prefer staying with the herbals for the time being as we have on each folio, drawn and tinted images, that may assist us. Cheers, Tom

  131. Thomas F.Spande on February 11, 2016 at 9:59 pm said:

    Nick, I decided for grins to do a gallows glyph analysis of f49v, i.e. the flip side of f49r which was done above; same loose scribe. A total of 26 lines with 70 gallows glyphs, The lines tend to have just a few gallows per line although lines 1,3, 14, 15, 16 and 25 have four or more; most are 1-3 gallows. None are devoid. There are 39 cases of the double legged single loop gallows (type 1) and 28 double legged double loop gallows (type 2). The single legged glyphs are one only of type 1′ and two of type 2′. There are 21 repeats for type 1; 11 repeats for type 2; no repeats for either of the single ascender glyphs. The repeats for 1 are 54% or if corrected for dilution by 2, amount to 21/39×39/28 or ca. 70%. There seems a definite tendency to repeat a gallows glyph. Now in this case the loose enscriber of the flip side of f49r uses type 1 20% more than type 2, reversing his use of 2 more than 1 on f49r. Looks again like a coin toss and the gallows glyphs cannot directly be used for consonants. Same scribe, doing recto and verso sides of a folio with greatly differing ratios of the two simplest gallows glyphs, type 1 and 2.

    The top five numbers running down the left side of f49v are entered by the same hand as numbered the folios, but I think this point has been made before. The numeral 1 appears to be a palimpsest. Some of the other column running down the left side, like 0 (or o?), the dot, 9, might be Eastern arabic numerals. Cheers, Tom

  132. Thomas F.Spande on February 13, 2016 at 2:50 am said:

    Nick et al., As promised (threatened?) here are the recto and verso sides of f39, written by the scribe with the tight style: f39r: The double-legged single loop gallows glyph (type 1) occurs 43 times with 30 repeats; the gallows glyph with two ascenders, two loops (type 2) occurs 10 times with 2 repeats; The single ascender, single loop glyph of type 1′ is used 7 times with 1 repeat; Type 2′ occurs 5 times with no repeats.

    For the verso side, f39v, we see type 1 gallows glyph used 51 times with 36 repeats’ gallows 2 is used 8 times with no repeats; glyph type 1′, six times with no repeats and gallows 2′ appears 4 times with no repeats.

    So of of a total of 65 gallows used on f39r, we see 43 appearances of glyph 1; with 70% being followed by another glyph of the same type; With f39v, we see a total of 69 gallows with 51 of type 1 having 38 repeats or, again, this glyph is followed by another of type 1, 70% of the time.

    I find this rather extraordinary. The repeats seem not to be random at all but follow a pretty strict plan. But what is this plan telling us? The tightly writing scribe is way more consistent in gallows usage than the looser enscriber. Type 1, just type 1, hugely predominates.

    By the way, as an aside relative to the plant shown on f49v above, note the inserts on the plant with blue and brown arcs on several of the leaves. I think this indicates the plant leaves are used for eye problems affecting both brown and blue eyed folks. I did some brief research on blue-eyed Armenians and they do exist. All for the moment. Cheers, Tom

  133. Thomas F.Spande on February 13, 2016 at 10:28 pm said:

    Nick, You have been patient in accepting my posts on the gallows glyphs. This one will be the last on frequency analysis of these four unusual glyphs. I have looked again at recto and verso sides of a folio clearly done by the tighter writing scribe, in particular, folio 40. For 40r the following pertain: A total of 55 gallows that break down to: 47 of the double legged single loop glyphs (type 1) with 41 of these following another of the same kind for a repeat frequency of 77%. There are only 4 of the double legged, double loop gallows with no repeats; two each of the single legged glyph with one repeat for 1′, none for 2′. What seems to me worth commenting upon is that 8 of the gallows have been partially or totally reinked. Some other glyphs are also reinked but they tend to be in the vicinity of the gallows. It seems that the scribe may want these to “stick out” either to deceive or remind?

    The verso of 40, i.e. f40v shows a total of 61 gallows with the following gallows frequencies: One sees 42 occurrences of the double-legged single loop gallows (type 1) with 28 repeats or 67% of the type 1 glyph followed by another of the same type; Ten glyphs of type 2 (no repeats), five of type 1′ (no repeats) and four of type 2′ with one repeat. There seem to be roughly 7 gallows that have been reinked.

    Again there is a huge propensity of the tighter writing scribe to choose the double-legged single loop gallows for some purpose. I think it would be hard to argue that these glyphs function somehow directly as consonants, when one type is so predominant among this scribe or another appears much more commonly used by the looser writing scribe.

    Next I will turn my attention to the appearance in the VM of total nonsense repeating text and check reinking by both scribes in greater detail.

    Cheers, Tom

  134. Thomas F.Spande on February 27, 2016 at 6:34 am said:

    Dear Nick, et al., I have looked at those single-legged gallows. The mystery of their function deepens. I have concentrated on the herbal section and find: four folios (f15r (loose scribe); f29v (loose scribe); f38r (tight writer) and f56v (tight scribe) that have no single-stemmed gallows at all. In the vast majority of the herbal folios, there is a huge preponderance for the single-stemmed gallows 1′ and 2′ to appear in the first line of text with 2′ comprising most of the glyphs. In some cases ALL the single stemmed gallows appear in the first line (e.g f14r; f27v; f46v; f48r), often supplying the first glyph. Sort of like a pilcrow. The single stemmed double looped gallows (i.e. 2′ ) greatly predominates over 1′. At the moment, I cannot even guess at the function of these two gallows glyphs; I doubt they can be letters. I will prepare a proper statistical study (for those who care about this sort of thing!) and report in good time.

    Some additional oddnesses: In a couple of folios (f55r, see line 8 for two instances) and f94r (line 7), an unusual glyph appears that looks like an inverted v underneath an attached overbar. This appears. interestingly, in Tibetan “Square” scripts (used at one time by Chinese Buddhists but longer used) where it serves as the vowel “o”. Am digging a bit more into Bengali and Uyghur Mongolian scripts as some tend to resemble the gallows.

    Possibly pertinent to far Eastern glyphs, one is reminded of Marco Polo’s trip to China. He was under the sod at the time the VM was likely composed, dying in 1299. He had an interest in Chinese herbs but I find no evidence that he ever compiled any herbal. He did suggest using turmeric as a substitute for saffron in dying cloth, in fact he refers to it as “Indian saffron” Related to this are several herbs that I think I have a pretty good ID for herbs found mainly in China. Will report on these anon.

    Some punctillios: At several places in the VM herbal, we find “898989” which I thought originally was just static but if one accepts an Armenian derivation for 89 as “et”, the expression “etetet” curiously is still used in modern Hungarian often in place of “etc”. The expression “etc” or “&c” is more recent than one might guess according to “dictionary.com” originating in 1375-1425. It does appear that “&” does appear in the VM but unfortunately the Armenian glyph for “f” closely resembles it in cursive. Even Michael Stone, the world’s expert on Armenian paleography, I think, mistakenly considered it represented in his mighty tome (personal email).

    Nick, I’m sure you have doubled the number of Voynichers by your talk today! We need all the help you can generate. Cheers, Tom

  135. Thomas F.Spande on February 28, 2016 at 4:44 am said:

    Dear Nick, et al., I propose the following ID for the herb on folio 20v. In my identifications of herbs or plants, I shall use mainly the “Illustrated Chinese Materia Medica” (MM) by Jing-Nuan Wu, Oxford, 2005. I believe the herb shown is found on page 148 and is Flos Buddleiae (Buddleia officinalis Maxim (family Loganiaceae)). The buds and flowers are dried and eaten for complaints involving the eye such as cataracts, dry eyes, corneal abrasions, redness, and light sensitivity. Note what appears to be sunglasses on each bloom. Smoked glasses were known in the 1300s in China by judges who wished to hide their eyes from the accused. Italians made and sold them in the 1400s. The thistle-like blooms are faithfully reproduced in f20v but the leaves are a rough approximation only. The fine illustration in MM 149 shows ovoid leaves non-alternating but the VM shows lanceolate opposite leaves. The leaves and roots were not used in eye complaints. I think this depiction in the VM stresses by some pretty overt clues, the use of the herb. I have several more IDs from MM and will unload them one by one. Cheers, Tom

  136. Thomas F.Spande on February 29, 2016 at 12:30 am said:

    Dear Nick, et al., Following up on my post of 2-22-16, I have copied and pasted a portion of Andrew West’s blog site on those curious square Tibetan/Mongolian/Chinese glyphs created by a liguistic genius around the end of the 13thC: “The Phags-pa script is a Brahmic script based on Tibetan that was used for writing Mongolian, Chinese and other languages during the Mongolian Yuan dynasty (1271-1368). Although it is no longer used for Mongolian and Chinese, it is still used to a limited extent as a decorative script for writing Tibetan. Unlike other Brahmic scripts, Phags-pa was written vertically from left to right after the manner of the Uighur-derived Mongolian script.

    The script was devised by the Tibetan lama Blo-gros rGyal-mtshan བློ་གྲོས་རྒྱལ་མཚན་ (lodoi ǰaltsan ᠯᠣᠳᠣᠢ ᠵᠠᠯᠼᠠᠨ in Mongolian), better known by the title ‘Phags-pa Lama (འཕགས་པ་བླ་མ་) “Reverend Lama” (transliterated as Bāsībā 八思巴, 巴思八 or 拔思巴 in Chinese), at the behest of Kublai Khan in about 1269 for use as the “national script” of the Mongol empire. The script was originally simply called “Mongolian new letters” 蒙古新字 in Chinese, and is still known by this name in Tibetan (hor-yig gsar-pa ཧོར་ཡིག་གསར་པ་), but is now referred to as dörbelǰin üsüg ᠳᠥᠷᠪᠡᠯᠵᠢᠨ ᠦᠰᠦᠭ “square script” in Mongolian and as bāsībā zì 八思巴字 “Phags-pa letters” in Chinese. In English the script is sometimes referred to as the “Mongolian Quadratic Script”, but is more commonly called ‘Phags-pa (or variants such as ḥP’ags-pa, hPhags-pa, vPhags-pa, Phags-pa etc.). On this site the script is referred to as Phags-pa for conformity with the Unicode name for the script.”

    The blog (Babelstone) of West has a very useful entry of Nov. of 2007 showing a table of the 43 glyphs with an observation that many appear in the frescoes of Giotto (finished ca. 1305) in the Arena chapel of Padua and also in Assisi. Giotto in the Arena chapel had 40 coworkers over a period of 3 yrs but it has been noted by West and others that some square Tibetan glyphs appear in the hems of garments worn by the Wise Men, Mary and others, along with Arabic. There is some speculation that Giotto or a coworker may have seen official passes given to Marco Polo in his travels through Mongolia where Phags-pa was still being used in official documents. See Wiki on “Mongol Elements in Western Medieval Art” that covers the period 13-15C. Some of West’s blog amounts to a polemic with Lawrence Bergreen (writer of “Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu”) over his referring to Phags-pa as a “constructed language”. West argues that it amounts to a cipher used to replace some Mongolian glyphs. By the time the linguist inventor died, the invented script began to fade from use.

    Now one wonders what appears to be a vowel (“o”) from Phags-pa shows up in the VM. I have only noted a few in the herbal section and have not searched the VM for any other Phags-pa glyphs. One might argue that we may have another traveler to the Far East “In the Steps of Marco Polo”?? Cheers, Tom

  137. Thomas F.Spande on March 1, 2016 at 8:23 pm said:

    Nick, et al., A tentative ID for the herb shown on f30v is found on page 592 of the Chinese Mareria Medica, where it is identified at Rhizoma Smilacis Glabrae (in English, glabrous greenbrier rhizome). Only the dark brown lumpy rhizome is used, mainly for joint disorders or “mobility of joints”. I think the embedded clue in the VM are in those little berries that are uncolored (not used) and are 20 in number, five on each side of the upper two twigs and five on each of the lower two twigs. Each has a single spot and I think these are the nails of fingers (upper twigs) and toes (lower twigs). The leaves are colored and only roughly the shape of the plant leaves of page 593 of MM, where they are green lancelate shaped and alternate (not brownish ovoid as depicted in f30v). The rhizome can be used throughout the year and maybe this is implied in the brownish atumnal (?) leaves?
    Why are not the herbal drawings of f30v and the VM in general, a more accurate
    depiction of reality. One possibility is that they were done by non-experts and for non-experts, where only the parts that count were emphasized and clues as to use were provided? So non-herbalists were keepers of the VM herbal part? Maybe just purveyors of herbal extracts or sliced rhizomes as a business venture? Cheers, Tom

  138. Thomas F.Spande on March 2, 2016 at 8:36 pm said:

    Nick, et al., Another VM herb ID, that, I think, is close to certain and that is the one on f11v. I seem to recall other Voynichers putting forward turmeric (aka tumeric) for this herb. It is officially Rhizoma curcumae longa. Only the rhizome is used and is an ingredient in curries throughout the far East and in place of saffron for imparting a flavor and color to food in general, particularly rice and mustard, I has been used also for dying cloth. I think the embedded clue for the use (see MM231) is to relieve arm pain, among other bodily aches and pains. Note the little elbow-like hook on come of the other rootlets of the rhizome. Cheers, Tom

  139. bdid1dr on March 3, 2016 at 8:07 pm said:

    Dear Nick, Thomas, Diane,
    I am begging you (and your followers) to take a good look (and compare) the figure eight/figure-nine combination is SAYING aes geus. The smaller figure nine is “X’: It is used throughout the botanical section of the so-called “Voynich Manuscript”.
    I give up!
    May you eventually arrive at a valid translation of the so-called Voynich. I have translated some thirty folios of the so-called Voynich manuscript. Since no one seems to be interested in my translations (any more than they are willing to compare the “Voynich’ manuscript with the Florentine Codex).

    If what you are discussing as ‘gallows’ happens to be the elaborate figure “P”, you are discussing PRE-LIM-I-NAR-Y or PRE-FER-A-TOR-Y or new PAR-A-GRAPH…..PER-TI-NENT
    PAL-ACE ——-BE-lief —BE-tl (better). Endless combinations, of which you will not find PH-O-NE-TI-CAL — but rather PH-o-n-tl-tl
    Apparently, the history/translation of B-408 (so-called “Voynich ) willNEVER catch up with Fray Sahagun’s final draft: The So-Called “Florentine Codex” .


  140. Thomas F.Spande on March 3, 2016 at 8:50 pm said:

    Nick, et al., Some miscellaneous ideas on the gallows glyphs. They are too idiosyncratic, too random (like the bulk being in the first line of text) that I find it hard to accept that they serve as consonants or any letter at all. My latest idea is that they serve as markers but of a special sort. They amount, not to simple nulls, but as a null placeholder. They hide a blank that, sort of like a cross-wood puzzle square,, has to be filled in, with a letter, likely a consonant but not the same one as designated by a certain gallows type, So in short an individual glyph of one kind of gallows might represent several or even many consonants. Random consonants that have to be worked out by trial and error.

    A simple stat on gallows glyphs and being the first glyph of a lead paragraph. In 121 herbal folios, I find only 47% are of the single stemmed type; none are double stemmed. Here they may serve as pilcrows of a sort. I will sort out lead glyphs of additional paragraphs where more than one paragraph appears on an herbal folio, but will have to examine this more carefully as it is sometimes difficult to tell the paragraph breaks. More on that anon.

    A plant ID: I think the herb on f2v is not a water lily as many maintain but is a specimen of the Manchurian wild ginger (see MM 113). The whole dried plant is used (one leaf has been harvested as will be noted), The root has been pruned drastically as all those little face-like root residues indicate. The MM indicates wild ginger is used for commonplace runny noses and coughs. The wild ginger has a single blossom as this depiction indicates but it originates from the rootlet and is brown or red and has three petals and is not white with four petals. There are some 85 species of Asarum and this may be one of them or is incorrectly recalled by the herbalist.

    More Phags-pa glyphs are found on the inner circles of f57v, in particular the inverted “v” with an overbar (several examples), a “T” with a short ascender that is perpendicular to this stroke and a “7” . Some others appear to be distortions of Phags-pa glyphs or perhaps come from some other source?

    I have ordered a copy of the voyages of Marco Polo to check whether this includes
    a Mongolian travel pass that might have influenced Giotto, Lorenzetti and others in introducing Phags-pa glyphs into their art work. Cheers, Tom,

  141. Thomas: as far as the gallows being a consonant placeholder of some sort, that was one of the specific cipher avenues I explored in “Curse” back in 2006. I have some more recent ideas that might help explain the strikethrough gallows (e.g. ckh etc) and that might also tighten the range of consonants in play there, but that will have to wait for a more detailed post… 🙂

  142. Thomas F.Spande on March 4, 2016 at 7:08 pm said:

    Nick, Sorry I missed that post of yours. At that time I assumed, I think as did many (like Bax), that the gallows stood for “constant, immutable” consonants. On closer study of the gallows glyphs, prompted by my daughter’s suggestion of their function as pilcrows, I noted that the two scribes, “tight” and “loose”, differed in their choice of the gallows and their frequency of occurrence and this seemed difficult to rationalize in terms of the gallows representing the same consonant (or any glyph) between the two scribes.

    The gallows as a null replacement for variable consonants would certainly be an easy code maker. Copying an unencoded (presumed) original text (that regrettably no longer exists or was deliberately destroyed) would be an easy job. The scribe while copying and encountering a consonant would replace some with a gallows glyph in a random manner. I think some consonants do appear in the VM such as 9 (equals “t”, in Armenian) and “s” , for example. The variability of the choice of gallows between the two scribes argues that the plaintext being copied was likely not coded and their own idiosyncratic choices were made in their copy work. In short, coding for consonants would be arbitrary and variable. I am glad that we seem to have arrived at the same point on this subject.

    I plan to return to herbal identifications with the aid of a work, I consider of likely importance, the Illustrated Chinese Materia Medica. Interestingly, I picked up a likely unused copy with dust jacket (>500 pages alternating text based on yin-yang ideas with really very fine fully colored prints for $50 at abebooks. com (American book exchange but actually operating out of Canada). Abebooks also sold me a copy of the English translation of Marco Polo’s voyage (Penguin books) for $2.32 and free shipping from the UK. Cannot be any kind of moneymaker! Another remaindered book? Cheers, Tom

  143. Thomas: it was actually a chapter of my book rather than a post. 🙂 But the mountain to climb is more about the mechanism behind the gallows. That is, if the cipher system is in any way reversible, then the gallows character must somehow tell the decipherer to bring in a letter from elsewhere… but where exactly is that elsewhere?

  144. bdid1dr on March 5, 2016 at 11:45 pm said:

    I give up on you all : I’m so sorry, Thomas, you are taking the well-worn path to a dead end as far as TRANSLATING the Spanish and Nahauatl texts which appear in the so-called “Voynich” manuscript. The “Voynich” manuscript was Fray Sahagun’s diary — until he landed on the shores of Mexico. He immediately began instructing students at the School in Tl-a[tl-o-co: Two of his students were Juan Badiano and Martin De la Cruz. Both of whom went on to write their own manuscripts.

    You will find full translation (online) of every word in the so-called “Voynich” manuscript ; by using “Adobe Reader” when reading Fray Sahagun’s beautiful “FlorentineCodex” – General History of the Things of New Spain” . Especiallly
    helpful is ” Book Eleven – Earthly Things. “

  145. bdid1dr on March 5, 2016 at 11:59 pm said:

    ps: Please forgive my ‘iffy’ punctuation — I am so upset that ‘everyone’ can still not ‘decode’ a document which was NOT a coded document. The so-called “Voynich Manuscript” was Fray Sahagun’s diary (begun in Spain) which also recorded his interviews with various village elders, as well as his efforts to teach his Nahuatl students how to write in their language as well as Sahagun’s Spanish.
    Currently, we call the “Voynich Manuscript B-408.

  146. bdid1dr on March 6, 2016 at 12:05 am said:

    BTW: Apparently the Boenicke’Benicke Library is still undergoing renovations and improvements. If any of you happen to get queasy at great heights, remember you are viewing the new improvements from the ground floor……

  147. Thomas F.Spande on March 7, 2016 at 6:37 pm said:

    Dear “B” et al., I find Stephen Bax’s “Voynichese” much handier in viewing the entire VM than the Yale site. My only quibble with Bax is that he tends to cut off the roots/rhizomes of the herbal depictions, that I think are often key to the use of the plant.

    You are looking westward for help in deciphering the VM, I am looking eastward. You have a mountain to climb to convince Voynichers that this thing came from any part of the New World. I remain skeptical. Cheers, Tom

  148. Thomas F.Spande on March 7, 2016 at 9:20 pm said:

    Nick, et al., A herbal ID for 18v. I think it is Panax notoginseng (Burk), (Family Areliacecae) that has a rhizome rather than the root of the common Ginseng plant. It is depicted in MM on page 462/3. It is found in China and Japan and used for stanching bleeding. The more common Ginseng plant has 5 leaves but the herbalist who drew the plant on 18v was correct in indicating seven leaves although many appear to be lobes. The rhizome is indicated in the literature as being in three parts ; f 18v looks sort of like three with many nodules and rootlets as the natural plant (see Wiki). Cheers, Tom

  149. Thomas F.Spande on March 7, 2016 at 10:49 pm said:

    Nick, Oops, I meant six leaves. Some varieties have seven but I think six is meant by the VM herbalist. Sorry for the error. Cheers, Tom

  150. Thomas F.Spande on March 8, 2016 at 4:29 am said:

    Dear “B”, The grand work of Fray Bernadino Sahagun in 3 volumes and 2400pp was not started until 1545 and finished in 1590. Two thousand copies existed at one time. It was written in two columns with Nahuati on the right and Spanish on the left. I find the 6 ethnobotanical drawings included in the Wiki piece, of a completely different style (no roots or rhizomes for example; a workman included in one) to believe it compares at all to the VM herbal section.

    Are we to think that the precious velum of the VM sat unused for approximately one hundred years before pen was put to it?

    I think it is you who have a mountain to climb before convincing me that the VM came mainly out of the Aztec culture of Mexico, I may be embarked on a path leading to a dead end in thinking that the VM embodies plants and some glyphs of the Far East and maybe it is just an n+1 hypothesis BUT the time line of Marco Polo’s voyage fits the VM better than does the magnum opus of Sahugun. I do remain open,however, to argument. Cheers and Best wishes, Tom

  151. Thomas F.Spande on March 8, 2016 at 5:08 pm said:

    Dear “B” and others, Sorry I missed “B”s post of March 3rd.

    I would respond that many older languages (Hebrew is an example), that used an alphabet, employed letters for numbers. India, incidentally, is responsible for western numbers. We do not use Arabic numbers, although a few do resemble Indian numbering. The Indian numbering system, used the concept of “0” which was not introduced into Europe until the Italian mathematician Fibonacci came along in the 1400s. For awhile, the vowel “o” was used until a special digit for zero was created. Anyway I have picked Armenian since the eighth and ninth glyphs when Romanized are “e” for 8 and “t” for 9.

    So the many occurrences in the VM of “89” are simply “et” and can mean “and” or parts of a word like “set”. I was working backward while analyzing the VM and assumed that the frequent occurrence of “89” was some kind of conjunction like “and”. I think, in short, that eight and nine represent single letters and not syllables as you propose.

    Armenian also fit the bill for being a strictly phonetic language that used no diacritical marks and had some VM “look alike” glyphs such as the tipped “2” (Armenian for “ch”), the backward “S”, the “4” and the ampersand-like glyph for “f”
    Cheers, Tom

  152. Thomas F.Spande on March 9, 2016 at 1:23 am said:

    B. I spent a bit of time with my E-copy of “An Aztec Herbal: The Classic Codex of 1555”, Dover Books, Wm. Gates. It does have 185 water colors (finished in 1933) and the majority have rootballs surrounding the roots but some show the roots clearly. The E-book is b/w unfortunately. The herbs are laid out by medical complaints, some of which we might consider beyond herbal help, like being hit by lightning or a tornado. Pretty much all of human maladies are covered by some herbal preparation. The Aztec drawings are stylistic only, just blobs of greenery and what seems to count is environment. An interesting one has a man’s body half-obscured by plant to indicate it is one half the size of another species. The watercolor artist was Marie Therese Vuillemin, niece of Cardinal Eugene Tisserant keeper of the Vatican Library. They were done at the request of Gates. Some sort of look akin to the depictions of the VM herbals but were done 500 yrs later.

    If my ID of Panax notoginseng holds up, it will be the first depiction of the herb in any European herbal until a German herbal of the 17th C. This is despite the fact that Marco Polo brought back a substantial amount (the weight of a Venetian goat) from the mountains of Manchuria. Cheers, Tom

  153. Thomas F.Spande on March 13, 2016 at 6:15 pm said:

    Dear Nick, et al., I have examined in some detail the herbal pages for leading glyphs of the paragraphs when the folios have paragraphing. I find no major tendency of using the same lead paragraph glyph(s) as for the folio itself. I realize I made a major mistake in my post of March 3rd, indicating that when the lead folio glyph is a single stemmed type (either one loop (1′) or two loops (2′) that NO double stemmed glyphs appear as lead glyphs. This is totally false and I apologize for this error. The lead glyphs, when not single stemmed and (with the exception of f38v) are ALL double stemmed and mainly of the double stemmed, double looped type (27 of 122 herbal folios) with the remainder being double stemmed, single looped type (19 of 122 folios).
    Turning to lead glyphs for the various paragraphs found in the herbal folios. I find that 79 (65%) of the 122 folios have one or more paragraphs. Of these 42 (35%) are of the double stemmed, double loop type; 13 (11%) are of the double stemmed, single loop type; 32 (26%) are of the single stemmed, double loop type; and only 6 (5%) are single stemmed single loopers. Another 5% are just “Voynichese”. Conclusion of this little exercise is that the gallows definitely serve as lead glyphs in the manner of pilcrows for the VM herbal section.

    Incidentally, another odd glyph of the inverted “v” with overbar occurs on f55r (two examples in this folio). All three folios of the VM herbal section having this glyph are done by the “tighter” scribe. Close by in the VM (f57v) are other examples of this glyph and others such as an inverted “y” with overbar (4 examples), tipped “Ts”, a recumbent “7” an “X thickened at one end as well as some that are still cryptic to me. I think some of these are glyphs exist in a constructed language most commonly called Hangul, that was used in the southern Chinese province of Jilin and adjoining Korea. A problem arises is that this created language was not completed until 1444/1445 and has begun to fade from current use, being replaced by Chinese ideograms. Hangul was created to bring illiterates along more quickly to literacy as the ideograms were designed to be constructed logically from combinations of from two to six simple glyphs such as appear in the VM in those inner circles of f57v. The timeline for Hangul is a problem in view of the VM vellum dating being just too late to be reasonably considered. It is possible that some time elapsed between the completion of the vellum book and the VM being written? Another idea that I am investigating is whether some of those “square” Tibetan glyphs might have been used and reported back by travelers such as the Polos. Always darkest before dawn. Cheers, Tom

  154. Thomas F.Spande on March 13, 2016 at 10:36 pm said:

    Nick, I seem to recall from years back, a submitted cipher that had a lot of angular glyphs, like the corners of a square, a triangle etc. that I think were a submission in Hangul? Do you or anyone else recall this?
    Cheers, Tom

  155. Thomas F.Spande on March 15, 2016 at 3:38 am said:

    Nick, et al., Well my brand new copy of Marco Polo’s travels arrived in today’s mail; however instead of being the complete voyages, it was merely a chapter “Travels in the Land of Serpents and Pearls” Penguin classics, 2015. translated by Nigel Cliff. As my son remarked, “more of a day trip!” Anyway I read a bit about his travels through India and found a few pages (26-28) that got my attention. These deal with obtaining diamonds. The heavy monsoon rains wash diamonds off the mountain sides and into deep snake infested ravines. The locals toss fresh meat into the ravines to which the diamonds stick and “white eagles” that normally feed on snakes, take the fresh meat back to their nests, eat same and leave the diamonds in their feces. The enterprising locals climb up to the nests and retrieve the stones, some of which they are allowed to keep. The bulk go to the king and his cronies. I am inclined to think that the weirdnesses of f86v3 might depict this. Rain, birds and their nests, lurking men and maybe showers of diamonds. Awaiting the full annotated Travels in two volumes (Dover). I cannot say that I did not get my money’s worth on this tiny paperback but I expected a better description of this book from Penguin. Cheers, Tom

  156. Thomas F.Spande on March 15, 2016 at 5:12 pm said:

    Nick, Here’s a totally unhappy thought. The clues to what consonants/vowels are coded by the gallows glyphs lie in “hidden writing” seen in leaves and roots in the herbal section (at least) but have been re-tinted, re-crayoned, re-goached to the point where they are no longer visible! Techniques for reading palimpsests have been improved and were recently applied to an ancient Mt. Sinai codex thought to be beyond comprehension. Perhaps this hidden writing since it would leave impressions on the VM vellum could be applied in this quest? Perhaps in the case of any hidden writing (since it would leave impressions on the VM vellum) such techniques could be applied in this quest?

    In terms of what we don’t know about the VM. it seems to me a key question that has not been answered with certainty is when the vellum of the VM was written upon? I think most assume it was shortly after the vellum was prepared. This makes a pretty logical assumption but it may not stand up to rigorous scrutiny? When I argued with “B” that it likely was written on before the mid 16C. I may have employed faulty logic? Have we ANY evidence for when the VM was actually created? Cheers, Tom

  157. Thomas F.Spande on March 16, 2016 at 6:28 pm said:

    Nick et al., A reference to the work on palimpsests found in the library of the monastery of St. Catherines (in a valley below Mt. Sinai) is to be found in the March/April 2016 issue of Archaeology. We find in an article by Eric A. Powell, pp 38-43 that their collection of 3300 titles (second only to the Vatican library) is being digitized and the underlying originals of the palimpsests (ca. 130) are being read using a multipectral (largely UV) technique. Some of the originals are in dead languages (like Caucasian Albanian and, Christian Palestinian Aramaic). See also the site: sinaipalimpsests.org.

    Turning to Marco Polo: We find in his discussion on the city of Kinsay (modern Hangchow in central China} the following interesting entry on baths: “You must know also that the city of Kinsay has some 3000 baths, the water of which is supplied by springs. They are hot baths, and the people take great delight in them, frequenting them several times a month, for they are very cleanly in their persons. They are the finest and largest baths in the world; large enough for 1oo persons to bathe together.” Cheers, Tom

  158. dawit on March 18, 2016 at 6:49 am said:

    i can solv this mistries book .

  159. dawit: yuo r teh solvr

  160. Thomas F.Spande on March 19, 2016 at 3:54 am said:

    Nick, Some loose ends. Has anyone proposed an explanation for the odd roundel for Novermbre of f73r? I doubt it is European. I think it comes from the Hindu tradition where it represents a man-eating alligator. The constellation on which this is based is Draco (the eighth largest constellation) which lies between Ursa major and minor near the pole star, so it is visible anywhere north of the equator. The gator of f73r is crunching down on a luckless child but is I think drawn by hearsay since the legs are too long. The Hindu word is “shi shu mara”. It could possibly be Persian for a serpent (Azhdeha) which is another interpretation of Draco. Originally Draco meant Dragon in Greek. Marco Polo actually never set foot in India but sailed near it and knew a lot of its mercantile and religious history. Like most of the lands he visits or passes by, he kisses off the inhabitants as “idolators”.

    On the origin of Hangul: (see Wiki for its origin”. Some of the characters were influenced by Phags-pa but the origin is more complex than just incorporating them. This is for linguists to continue hashing out. For Voynichers it means for all practical purposes that some Hangul-like glyphs were likely available to the VM compositors. Such as those seen in f57v. Note of f86v3 that the light pen scratching includes the inverted v with an overbar but the glyph is on its side. Two Armenian ampersand like “fs” are also seen, one large, one smaller.

    I withdraw my idea that the gallows glyphs can be decoded by hidden letters in the herbal plants. The simple reason being that other parts of the VM, such as the horoscope section abound with gallows glyphs. I then tried with one herbal folio, taking the gallows and the following letter thinking that since many of the following ones are vowels (all those “c c” combos, “o” ) that maybe the consonant just ahead of those is what has to be put in play. Problem here is that a gallows is sometimes followed by “a” so unless we look on the alphabet as a loop, where this could code for “z”, I think this idea hits a brick wall. Likewise if the character preceding the gallows be taken as the code, this becomes even more difficult as most are either “9” [“t” in Armenian] or “o”; Just too many to be useful. The clue as to the use of the gallows must be embedded somehow within the environment of the gallows.

    To sum up this unfocused post: If someone else has posted an explanation for the depiction of the “Novembre” roundel, I missed it and would be grateful for your point of view. This is something that Diane O. D. (sorry I missed wishing you a Happy St. Patrick’s day-Mar 17 in the US of A.) has tackled? I seem to recall some discussion on that scratching seen on f86v3 where you and she presented opposing views? I would just add that it could both be pen trials AND Voynichese. I don’t see that one rules out the other. Cheers, Tom

    ps. OK, dawit, the floor is yours. Go for it!

  161. Suzanne Redalia on March 19, 2016 at 5:17 pm said:

    Would anyone like to give some feedback on my Voynich script sign list posted at Quora under the blog ‘Fun With Jiroft Script’? I arrived at the sound values by comparing Voynich script with Linear B and Byblos script, both syllabary writing systems. The language encoded has many cognates or borrowings from Greek, French, German and Italian, but the grammar and basic words are Italo-Celtic, possibly Venetic.
    Common words and phrases that have come up are a-me (friend), bi-ra (bring, beer), bi-ra-de (bread), biwe (life), bo-a (bag), bo-ka (taste), bo-ku (plenty) bo-li (bowl, bull), bomo (produce), bo-ra (food), bou (cattle), bou-ku (veal), bou-ra (butter), de-li (pleasant), de-a me (my goddess), de-ra (clamor), fo-ra (plants), fo-ra-ka (pork), ii (deictic particle), ka (and, also), ka-bo (cabbage). ka-ku (chickpeas), ka-ra (dear one), mo (I, me), mo-ra (great), ra (give) ra-ma (cream), we (good), we-ra (rain).

    The text of the herbal section appears to be children’s primer-like, repetitive, full of internal rhymes and simple concepts about food, cooking, gardening and edible plants.

  162. Thomas F.Spande on March 20, 2016 at 9:26 pm said:

    Nick, et al., Marco Polo’s chapter on India, “Travels in the Land of Serpents and Pearls”, has the following interesting passage regarding Brahmins, “They have very healthy teeth thanks to a herb they chew with their meals.” I find this little teaser abridgment of his Travels, very entertaining although it does rely on a lot of “hand waving” as page turners. I think the herb referred to by Polo could be Radix Achyranehis Bidentatae (family Amaranthaceae) where according to Materia Medica (p39), the root is chewed for toothache. It is depicted in the VM by the looser writing scribe on f47v where the root stem is shown with two teeth protruding and flowers that indicate its use by males (blue petals on flowers (yang)) and females (red cnters (yin)). The leaves are ovoid and opposite as also indicated in the MM.

    In my opinion, from what I have read (and inferred from embedded clues as to use), I doubt the herbs shown in the VM are potherbs but are for various medical complaints.

    Turning again to those mysterious gallows glyphs: If they serve as “placeholders” for an intended letter, why do the two VM compositors use FOUR, when one would seem to fit the need? In increasing complexity we have the two single stemmed ones (1′, 2′) and two double stemmed (1, 2) or the order would be: 1′, 2′,1, 2. If an alphabet were used, abjada or abugida, might not the four gallows be used to select an even number of glyphs divisible by 4? Coincidentally arabic with a 28 glyph “alphabet” would fit. Some are single characters, some are graphemes. So, in short, a specific gallows would indicate the following glyphs are from part A of whatever letter set is being used; a different gallows could indicate part B, or e.g. the next seven glyphs are in play. etc? I think some arabic does appear in the VM and soon I will repeat my guess as to what “rot” actually represented.

    A quick response to Suzanne: I think most Voynichers have ruled out a language for the VM based on syllables. If you prepare a convincing case for “Jiroft” symbols taken from an ancient dead language (>3K yrs old) and being used in the VM as syllables, better linguists than me, may well take this up again. That is my “feedback”. Cheers, Tom

  163. Thomas F.Spande on March 21, 2016 at 1:23 am said:

    Nick, et al., To reiterate on the reason for FOUR gallows as placeholders: The simplest one, I would consider to be the single-stemmed-single looped gallows (1′) , that I propose draws a consonant from the FIRST quarter of some alphabet; the slightly more complex single-stemmed glyph (2′),, draws a consonant from the SECOND quarter of the same alphabet (likely); the double-stemmed single looper (1) picks a gallows from the THIRD quarter and the double-stemmed double looped gallows (2) from the last quarter of the alphabet. The exact consonant choices are trickier: Depending upon the alphabet, e.g. Latin or Armenian (39 glyphs or 40 if 9 is counted although it would be redundant for “t”) (this ignores 8 which is a vowel). This is tonight’s little Eureka. Next approach is to go to Frequency tables for glyphs for various common languages and make some tentative assignments. Would the VM scribes had a feel for the commonness of consonants in whatever language(s) they were working with? Maybe? Cheers, Tom

  164. Thomas F.Spande on March 22, 2016 at 10:08 pm said:

    Nick et al., One last commentary on the gallows glyphs and the possibility that the four form some kind of a ordered sequence that would amount to a consonant “filter”. If one takes English as an example and subtracts the six vowels, one is left with 20 letters that would give four groups of five each. I propose that group A would include letters b-g with the two greatest letter frequencies of d=4.3 and c=2.8; this sequence is represented by the single stemmed, single loop gallows (1′). The next group (B) of five letters, h-m, would include frequencies of h=6.1 and l=4.0 and might be covered by the single stemmed, double looped gallows glyph (2′); the next group (C) of five would cover letters n-s, with the three letters of greatest frequency being n=6.8, s=6.3 and r-6.0. This group would be covered under the double-stemmed single looped gallows (1). The final group (D) would encompass letters t-z, with the two characters of greatest frequency in texts of t=9.1 and w=2.4. It would be covered under the double-stemmed double looped gallows (type 2). What if anything can we squeeze out of this proposition?

    I have looked at examples of folios from the VM herbal section and find for the tighter writing scribe that seven of the eight examples I picked, have gallows 1>>2; one folio (f34r) has 1=2. The five examples I picked of the looser writing scribe have the opposite but not as extreme with the occurrence of 2 slightly greater than 1 for three cases and use of 2 roughly twice that of 1 (f20v; f21v). There are two interesting pages where on one folio, the tighter writing scribe adopts the gallows ratio of the looser writer (f20r, f20v) and the looser writer on f18r adopts the gallows pattern of the tighter scribe (f18r). It seems a consult occurred between the two scribes that the gallows patterns should be the same for the page?!. For 1>2, one can propose as an example that gallows 1=n; 2=w for the tighter scribe and in the case of 2>1, for the looser writer, we have 2=t; 1=r. This is total guesswork but might stimulate some decrypt attempts? The single stemmed gallows occur infrequently (typically ca. 5 times in an herbal folio for either scribe or either 1′ or 2′,

    Why pick English? This language has well worked out letter frequencies and is fairly close to Latin. I plan to examine Latin in more detail but the same general idea of the four gallows glyphs each taking on a discrete block of letters in a consecutive manner. The take home on this exercise is that the two scribes differ in their gallows preferences UNLESS they are involved in each composing a folio on the same page, where for some reason, uniformity is desired. The hefty two volumes of Marco Polo’s voyages with way more many pages devoted to commentary by modern authors, arrived in today’s mail. This epic work gives new meaning to “fussnotes”! Cheers, Tom

  165. Nikolaj on March 27, 2016 at 6:58 pm said:

    Good day!
    My name is Nikolai.
    To a question about the key to the Voynich manuscript.
    Today, I have to add on this matter following.
    The manuscript was written no letters, and signs for the letters of the alphabet of one of the ancient languages. Moreover, in the text there are 2 more levels of encryption to virtually eliminate the possibility of computer-assisted translation, even after replacing the signs letters.
    I pick up the key by which the first section I was able to read the following words: hemp, hemp clothing; food, food (sheet of 20 numbering on the Internet); cleaned (intestines), knowledge may wish to drink a sugary drink (nectar), maturation (maturity), to consider, to think (sheet 107); drink; six; flourishing; growing; rich; peas; sweet drink nectar and others. It is only a short word, mark 2-3. To translate words consisting of more than 2.3 characters is necessary to know this ancient language.
    If you are interested, I am ready to send more detailed information, including scans of pages indicating the translated words.
    Sincerely, Nicholas.

  166. Thomas F.Spande on April 1, 2016 at 5:20 pm said:

    Dear all, “On the road with Messer Mark, aka Marco Polo” [incidentally Marco is at variance with common English usage in that one should not refer to oneself with the honorific “Mr.”; let others refer to you that way]. He writes in book 1, page 108 (in the Dover book), as the area around Hormuz (now southern Iraq) as being so “intolerably hot that it would kill everybody, were it not that ….they plunge into water up to the neck and so abide…” A foot note (these can be useful but abide also, many pages of footnotes per page of text). One indicates that the locals stand it until March with everyone leaving by April. The VM “zodiac” has 30 tubs in Pisces (Feb 19-Mar 20); 30 tubs in Aries (March 21 to April 19) and 5 in Taurus (April 20-May 20). Note the counting of days probably starts from the inner circle and goes outward. This seems to fit with real honest to God tubs and not some kind of symbolic dating device. The portions of Marco’s text that I have deleted deal with hot winds from deserts to the south.

    I think Nicolai, above, is likely correct since even the “gallows glyphs” appear to be encoded. I think they represent consonants that vary according to the whims of the scribe and differ between the two scribes.

    Back to Marco’s strange and unusual voyage where he seems to do things the hard way. It just might be however, one of the keys to understanding the VM. Incidentally, most scholars agree that it was written originally in French while Marco was cooling his heels in a Genoese prison, having been greeted on his triumphal return to Venice by being clapped into irons and transported to Pisa for two years imprisonment. Well, likely we would not have the adventures of Marco Polo in manuscript form had this not happened and had he not had a prison companion who was a writer of note. Cheers, Tom

  167. D.N. O'Donovan on April 2, 2016 at 8:05 am said:

    Dear Tom,
    Do I understand your argument correctly. You seem to be saying that if the manuscript were a record of Marco Polo’s travels, and if the figures in the ‘bathy-‘ section were meant for images of Omani people cooling off, then the figures set around in their tiers in the calendar would also represent people of Oman cooling off, and thus that the ‘barils’ represented tubs of a sort made and used in Oman in Marco Polo’s day. Have I understood the line of argument correctly? And have we any images of personal bathing tubs as made in fourteenth-century Oman?

    I might add that I have no objection at all to the idea of the manuscript relating in some way to 13thC Oman, and have already written on the relevance of that region and time – though in relation to matters such as the Genoese presence, the maritime culture, the region’s history and so on.

  168. Thomas F.Spande on April 2, 2016 at 9:46 pm said:

    Diane, At the moment, I am of the opinion that the compositors of the VM were merely aware of Marco Polo’s voyages and for reasons not yet clear, incorporated some of his observations into their corpus. I slowly adopted this position by determining that some of the strange glyphs in the circles of f57v likely came from the square Tibetan script (Phags-pa) used briefly for official documents and that overlapped Marco Polo’s visit to Manchuria and Northern China. Some glyphs were also picked up by another short-lived script used in Southern China and Korea called Hangul and a few of these also appear on f57v. Since some art historians speculate that the “oriental decorations” in clothing borders used by Giotto in Padua and Assisi and Lorenzetti and others (a topic dealt with in an entry in “Wiki” on Mongol elements in Western medieval Art in the 13-15th C.) and might have been influenced by the travel pass (in Phags-pa) issued to Polo by Kublai Khan, I began searching that work for a description in his own words. Later drawings appear in the Dover ed. of the Voyages but I have yet to find a description of the pass in the text.

    Let me say that reading the Voyages in the Dover ed. is taxing to a fare thee well. Not a page goes by without extensive footnoting that can go on for three or four pages. Much is useful but it does create detours. I have noted some factoids above in Nick’s blog site, where Polo comments about something that I perceive as relevant to the VM, such as: that roundel for “Novembre” that appears to have a crock-like beast and was used in Hindu India; the baths you noted, and lately those tubs used to cool off in southern Iraq. At the moment, I think the inclusions of these indirectly in the VM were included to add an air of mystery to the whole thing. It is possible (since more than 100 yrs elapsed between Polo’s voyages and the alleged composition and copying of the VM plaintext), that the VM draws on observations of other travelers and perhaps even some first hand experience but that is totally speculative. Incidentally, the nymphs populating the zodiac, I doubt are bathers but rather each represents a day, sort of mother-earth like. The star on a leash is a representation of the sun. I think many have commented on this before.

    I think what drew me “East of Suez” was the “yin/yang” symbiology in the VM herbal section and the likelihood that many of the herbs are found in India or China and are not likely English potherbs.

    If I have ignored various posts of yours on Genoese excursions into Asia, I apologize. I have been out of the loop for about two years, because of clearing out a laboratory and winding up a life’s work as an organic chemist. I suspect you might have an idea, maybe the same as Polo’s, on that November roundel? That was so out of the European tradition, that I speculated years ago on its origin likely in the middle East, maybe a Nhang river monster from the Euphrates? Cheers, Tom

  169. Thomas F.Spande on April 3, 2016 at 6:19 pm said:

    Dear Nick, et al. I put forward a different interpretation of the strange writing on the stem of that plant of f4r, discussed briefly by Nick in “Curse” on page 98. You have, from an understandable Eurocentric predilection, interpreted the three glyphs as running from bottom to top and spelling “TOA” when viewed from the right. If viewed from the LEFT, however, I think the case can be made that these glyphs are Arabic and the glyphs are from bottom to top, “d”, “m” and “h” as represented by the upside down “T”, the lower case “o” with a dot on the lower left side and the tipped “s” like glyph with a dish like accent mark. Problem here is that these do not match with a close examination of the Arabic letters where the inverted “T” should have the downward arm longer than the upper arm, the dot is on the wrong side of the “o” and the complex glyph opens to the upfolio side. These do not match the “initial, medial and final positions in Arabic and certainly not the “stand alone” forms. I propose a radical operation and that is the three glyphs be lifted from the bottom edge and FLIPPED so that the sequence is reversed. This makes the downward cross arm of the “T” shorter, puts the dot on the “o” on its other side and runs the complex end glyph in the other direction. Everything fits except the center “o” is initial and should probably be medial. The inverted “T” fits for “final d” and the complex glyph for “an initial h”. It was not clear even from the helpful enlargement in Nick’s ‘Curse” whether the inverted T has a little dot atop the long arm but that would just be a phonetic “dh” rather than “d”. The operation is essentially looking at this as a mirror image but still reading from bottom to top. So, in biblical terms, “the last shall be first!”

    I have hesitated to put this forward but I will throw it out for argument’s sake. I still am not sure what the significance of these three Arabic letters are but I suspect it has something to do with the date at which those letters were put down, since Arabic used letters to represent numbers.

    If this exercise is correct, then it gives one an additional headache as if we needed that! Are there other parts of the VM hidden writing. or God forbid, the text itself that are in mirror image form. It is true that engravers worked with mirrors routinely as the end product of their craft was a mirror image of the original. But scribes? Dunno about that. Cheers, Tom

  170. Thomas: it’s possible that the genesis of these three letter-like things was as you suggest. But it would be a small rock to build a cathedral upon, all the same. 😐

  171. Thomas F.Spande on April 3, 2016 at 7:34 pm said:

    Nick, No cathedral. Just an observation, if true, that the scribes were familiar with Arabic or even writing from an area where Arabic was used. I think there may be a few more examples and I’ll try and provide these anon. Still it doesn’t bring us much closer to a decrypt of the VM, just another excursion into the weeds. Cheers, Tom

  172. SirHubert on April 3, 2016 at 8:33 pm said:


    I’m afraid it’s not Arabic. I’m pretty sure it’s just ‘rot’, a German-language instruction to an illuminator to paint that bit red. There’s another instance in the left-hand part of the root on f7r, where it’s written horizontally, and another probable one elsewhere.

    This has been discussed previously here:


    and is on Rene’s site too.

    I’ve worked with mediaeval Arabic script pretty much every day for the past twenty-odd years, hence I’m pretty confident on that point at least (although that in itself doesn’t mean I’m necessarily right, of course).

    To answer your other question, yes – there is plenty of hidden writing in the VMs. Most is written in Latin script, but there is a bit of Voynichese in there too. Have a look for Reuben Ogburn’s site on the Wayback Machine if you’re interested, although his list is far from complete.

    Diane has claimed to see what she considers some kind of Semitic micro-writing and has discussed this at her blog and elsewhere. My personal view is that this is unintentional and just ‘chatter’ – a consequence of how the paint has been applied and dried – but do by all means read what she thinks and form your own conclusions.

  173. D.N. O'Donovan on April 3, 2016 at 9:26 pm said:

    I’ve mentioned what I see as allusions to Mongol practice and Giotto etc.
    If you’re interested, one of posts is “Chronological strata, Avignon 1300s” – others on the topic are linked there, with some references which might not be in the wiki article.

    It is kind of SirHubert to mention that line of micrography. The specialist doesn’t wish to be named – for obvious reasons – but would be considered one of the world’s top three in studies of Semitic and Aramaic scripts (palaeography and epigraphy). That person gave their opinion that that the letters were writing, and a semitic script, and read them off, while at the same time saying that the scribe was ‘drawing’ rather than writing them, and that the paint was too thick to be quite sure of finer distinctions such as whether e.g. vav or zayin were intended by one letter. Unless they form the cipher key, though, I don’t suppose it is of any great moment.

  174. SirHubert on April 3, 2016 at 11:02 pm said:

    Diane: did this specialist actually manage to read anything specific, or suggest which particular Semitic script he/she thought was involved?

  175. Thomas F.Spande on April 4, 2016 at 5:00 pm said:

    Sir Hubert, To deal with your point concerning the writing on the stem of f4v, I was aware of that argument, whoever first proposed it. It has one huge advantage and that is it does provide an explanation for those three glyphs that neither of the provisional interpretations of mine nor Nick’s does My main problem is that red plant stems are very unusual in the VM herbal section. In my slightly incomplete collection of home-printed VM herbal folios, I find only three (f13v, 35r and 38v) that have reddish plant stems and, in these, only traces remain. I assume that the “rot” would have been tinted over and then join the ranks of “hidden writing”? We know red is often used for leaves and blossom centers and have evidently been freshened up by retinting’; why not f4v? I like red personally as it fits into yin/yang ideology, red representing the female (yin) principle. I have relied on Nick’s fine enlargement (“Curse”, p 98) and found that little dot on “o” to be hard to explain without an amateur’s dive into Arabic. Then things sort of fell into place. Everything except an explanation for their occurrence. I certainly have no expertise in medieval Arabic or Arabic in general (in its many flavors). On this I defer to Sir Hubert. My queries to Sir Hubert before I go with his interpretation is 1) why German?; 2) why bottom to top? and 3) what’s with the “dot”? Is this a tip to orient the colorist? Finally that is a very strange lower case “t”. Curious in Maryland, Cheers, Tom

  176. Thomas F.Spande on April 4, 2016 at 7:57 pm said:

    Sir Hubert, Regarding the left-hand rootlet of f7r. I can make out the “o” with no problem but, even with a hand lens I can detect only some fuzziness where the “r” and “t” might be. I take your word for it though that it too spells out the German “rot” for red but this, to me, raises a problem. Why are the roots now, at least, clearly brown? The pigment analysis of McCrone Assoc., Inc. indicates the red-brown pigment (they refer to it on f47r as red-ochre) used in the VM was based on the oxide (hematite) and sulfide of iron mainly. Why refer to this pigment as red when it is only “reddish”? Then every root we might now call brown and that has faded to a lighter brown, started life as more like red? I have a problem with that. Cheers, Tom

  177. Marethyu Death on April 4, 2016 at 8:32 pm said:

    Something interesting:
    Many people have tried the Voynich, but none have solved it. Could it be, perhaps, sort of glossolalia? Although admittedly that doesn’t make sense for even the glossolalia can be deciphered. One thing I wanted to know, however, was whether anyone had identified the components and region of the ink used, for ink was likely, during those times, unique, but corresponding to the country it was created in. Also, because you mentioned that more than one person was likely to have written in it, it is very likely that a sort of society could have written it, because the cipher is singular throughout the entire manuscript, but the ink may-or may not-be different, showing different people with different pens, ink, or quills.

  178. SirHubert on April 5, 2016 at 3:14 pm said:

    Hi Tom,

    I’m afraid that I’m not able to give full answers to your thoroughly sensible questions, but I hope this might help:

    i) Why German? I presume the answer is because the instructions were designed for someone who either spoke German or understood it. That might be because the native tongue either of the person giving or receiving the instruction (or both) was German, or because German was the main vernacular language in that area (not necessarily the same thing). Or it might be that German abbreviations were routinely used for these things just as Italian abbreviations are used in sheet music (so a child learning the violin learns that ‘f’ means ‘loud’ without necessarily understanding it’s an abbreviation for ‘forte’). I honestly don’t know. But it *doesn’t* necessarily mean that the language, if any, of the VMs is German.

    ii) Why bottom to top? No idea 🙂

    iii) The dot, I think, is not connected to the rest of the writing, as far as I can tell. It’s just a dot.

    iv) The letter ‘t’ is a standard fifteenth-century form as far as I know.

    Two further points, if you can bear it.

    v) The reading ‘rot’ receives further confirmation from the existence of another colour indicator, ‘pur’, found in f32r (among others) and apparently an abbreviation for ‘purpur’.

    vi) The whole question of when the VMs was coloured, in how many phases and by whom, is one I don’t pretend to understand. But I think there are good arguments for at least two phases, of which at least one took place *after* the folios had become disordered. Independently of that, I also think that there are *at least three* different types of colour indication used in the VMs. What is not at all clear to me is which (if any) of these colour indicators were added by people who actually understood what the illustrations were meant to represent, or whether some of them are later attempts to beautify an otherwise plain manuscript. That, I think, is why some of the colour indicators were not in fact followed. But it’s very confusing and I may be wide of the mark.

    Finally, I simply don’t know whether ‘rot’ was a generic term for any red/red brown colour, or whether there was one term at this period for cinnabar-red and another for ochre. Beyond my knowledge, I’m afraid 🙂

    I’m sorry not to have anything more definitive, but hope this is food for thought at least!

  179. Thomas F.Spande on April 5, 2016 at 7:04 pm said:

    Sir Hubert, Thanks for the prompt response to some sort of elementary questions. I agree that the herbal section of the VM has been colored over and over and with different mediums: inks, watercolor, a gouache, and likely even crayon. I have a major problem in that the pigment analysis by McCrone Assoc.., Inc. was done on samples of later paint and may not always have represented the original coloration. I think on close examination, one can spot original coloration on nearly every folio. If you can spot “rot” in f7r, then, for you, I don’t need to dwell on this at all!

    I have not found any reference to cinnabar being in the pigment samples analyzed by McCrone but that doesn’t mean it could not have been originally used. There are smaller amounts of a lead containing mineral used on that red-ochre sample of f42r taken for analysis, but I have no idea what these minor components, minerals containing lead, would have looked like on parchment. Maybe reddish? There was another pigment sample (f26r) taken that was lead oxide and iron oxide, where the later alone is called by them red-ochre. As I recall, the oxide (Fe2O3) referred to as hematite is more of a rust color without much red in it. The red in this case could be a mixture of lead oxides, known as “red lead”; a mixture with Pb3O4 likely predominating. I think that since all of the pigments in the VM are minerals, that fading of the original pigments would be minor. At least the McCrone analysis did not pick up any more modern azo or phthalocyanine dyes that are definitely not light fast.

    Well I think most will agree that the plants depicted in the herbal are often strange departures from reality; some are fairly accurate, like mulberry and turmeric, but many are distorted by clues embedded for their medicinal use.

    Cheers, Tom

  180. D.N. O'Donovan on April 6, 2016 at 1:21 am said:


  181. SirHubert on April 6, 2016 at 8:44 am said:

    Diane: that’s nice.

  182. SirHubert on April 6, 2016 at 3:05 pm said:

    Diane: ah, I see! You’d lost me for a minute 🙂

  183. Could it be that the plants are the symbols of what cipher to use?

  184. Thomas F.Spande on April 8, 2016 at 5:33 pm said:

    Sir Hubert, I have stared at f32r with some effort and all the magnification available to me, but fail to see any hidden writing at all and certainly nothing resembling a “pur”. Incidentally what would “purpur” signify? Can you provide directions for spotting that writing?

    That herb which has rootlets colored green which seems to me an unlikely natural occurrence, has them all facing to the right suggesting a “yang” (male) use for the plant or at least this part. , I presume on your charity that you will permit me to inject yin/yang philosophy into our exchange! I think the VM herbal section embodies it and furthermore suggests that the blue petals on the flowers are also for male use.

    The leaves in two cases are fused together, an embedded clue that I think indicates the leaves are used for wound healing. This essentially, warts and all, is how I approach the oddities and weirdnesses of the VM herbal section. I will add a
    proviso and that is it is not clear after hundreds of years of debate (yoga vs. traditional Chinese medicine) whether yang is to the right or left and yin, the reverse. I think the VM herbalists, since the blue in the flowers marks a yang use (no debate there), intends those green right-facing rootlets also to be of yang (male) use. Cheers, Tom

  185. SirHubert on April 8, 2016 at 5:38 pm said:

    Diane: just to point out that the Latin readings of the letters on this folio are ‘pur’ or ‘por’, not ‘rot’. Which explains why the applied colour is blueish rather than red. If memory serves this confusion goes back some years, possibly to a typo on Ogburn’s site, which I can’t check from here.

    It would be helpful, if you’re in a position to do this, if you could upload exactly what yo sent to your specialist. I’m slightly confused as to whether they were looking at the pur/por or the edge of the heavy painting in the left of the top petal, which was my recollection from your previous posts on this topic.

    Diane has posted a fairly lengthy discussion at her own website (I’d not originally noticed this), which I mention for those interested rather than rehashing it here.

  186. Thomas F.Spande on April 8, 2016 at 7:06 pm said:

    Diane, I apologize for being so tardy in responding to your offer to share your scholarship on Mongol influences in Western Art, I will just reiterate that this topic is interesting, but for the moment, peripheral to my main line of effort-trying to figure out a bit of what is going on in the VM. Until the code is cracked, I think we have to follow your focus of concentrating on the visual aspects of the VM; what can we glean from the way things appear–the styles of things, what content was considered important by the VM scribes. You are not alone here but have undoubtedly logged more hours in this area than anyone else. Incidentally I found a post (Nov 2007) on a blog site of Andrew West (Marco Polo and the Universal Script) that has some full colored images of the borders of clothing worn by the three Wise Men, Mary and a Roman soldier at the tomb, as displayed in the Giotto frescoes of the Arena chapel in Padua. Giotto worked on this after the return of Marco Polo and some have speculated that Polo’s manuscript might have included some of the Phags-pa (square Tibetan) script but I have yet to find it. The Dover ed I have has some foreign scripts in Messr Polo’s hand but not Phags-pa. Illustrations are provided but appeared in editions in the mid 19C. Giotto also had forty coworkers in the fresco work so one or more of these might have been aware of Phags-pa or learned of it by word of mouth, addenda to the original ms, (now lost) or other travelers. So far, for me, a dead end on tying Marco Polo to the Mongol influence on Western medieval art. If you know anything on the source, I hope you will share this in this blog site of Nick’s. Cheers, Tom

  187. SirHubert on April 8, 2016 at 7:14 pm said:

    Tom: there are two on that page in fact. The easiest to find is in the lower right flower, just above the stalks with the topmost leaves. P and U are written vertically with R to the right of the P.

    You really need something like Jason Davies’s Voynich Voyager, set on highest magnification, to see these things properly. If you’re looking at an inkjet printout or something, you’ll struggle.

  188. Diane on April 9, 2016 at 3:31 am said:

    Sir Hubert,
    Thanks for the information about the ‘pur’ rather than ‘rot’. I thought the ‘pur’ a fairly recent revision of the original reading, but see I’ll have to check that.

    In one of my own posts I also mentioned the Arena chapel, but I was working from other sources, and in my post I mentioned the seminal essay on the subject of Phags-pa in Latin works of the time. The article is:
    Hidemichi Tanaka, ‘The Mongolian script in Giotto’s paintings at the Scrovegni Chapel at Padova’, Akten des XXV. Internationalen Kongresses fur Kunstgeschichte Pt.6 (1986) pp.167-74.

    The post in which I mentioned these things, was part of a longer discussion about my reasons for attributing one strand (and chronological stratum) to the ‘Mongol century’. That post is dated Feb.6th., 2015 (voynichimagery).

    Personally, I see no reason to believe Marco Polo had any personal involvement. There were, as I’ve explained for my readers, literally hundreds of people who passed between the eastern and western sphere during the ‘Mongol century’ – not to mention those who had known and travelled those routes, or a considerable length of them, from before the days of Alexander.

    For me, MS Beinecke 408 is an interesting problem in provenancing: that is, provenancing the content up until c.1427 when I think our present manuscript was manufactured (to use the most neutral term I can) and probably in the Veneto.

    Usually, we can assign a manuscript to its proper period and culture, and describe the content of any imagery, within about a week. Regardless of any written matter. That the Vms remains problematic is due, not least, to the unusual nature and dynamic of public discourse about it, but I daresay that could change, one day.

  189. Thomas F.Spande on April 9, 2016 at 5:40 pm said:

    Sir Hubert, I had f32r printed with an HP laser printer but spotting “pur” proved for my eyes and magnifiers, “mission impossible”. I will take your word that this coloring instruction is in there somewhere. Thanks for the coaching but I’m afraid I’ll have to admit defeat. I think, however, that this hidden writing amounts to a punctillio of sorts and maybe illustrates that a lot of the hidden writing in the VM are just coloration instructions? It does raise one question and that is how the color “purple” was achieved. I assume that “pur” means purple? Also, why it seems now to be a dark blue. McCrone analyzed only two samples, referred to as “blue” and found both to be azurite with minor amounts of cuprite (an oxide of copper). One of the VM samples studied, a flower like f32r, are the blooms of f26r, and here to my eye, the color does resemble purple. Maybe the gum used in coloration plays some role in the final color now observed.

    Instructions on coloration does imply that the colorist was not working closely with the herb delineator and that the drawing and even original coloration were done as separate steps by different workers. The later re-coloration often seems totally haphazard and in many cases, little attempt is made to “keep within lines”.

    Well, again thanks for following up on this query of mine. Cheers, Tom

  190. Thomas F.Spande on April 9, 2016 at 6:12 pm said:

    Diane, Thanks for the information on Marco Polo, Phags pa and Giotto, etc. I think, along with you, that Marco Polo is a “red herring”. I do think that his voyages might have influenced portions of the VM and maybe topics selected by those scribes, like that “Novembre” roundel. But I think the occurrence of Phags pa and Hangul glyphs come to the circles of f57v from a source other than Polo. One Phags pa glyph (the inverted “v” with an overbar) appears at several places in the herbal text, but used by one scribe only.

    As to the passes issued by Kublai Khan, the examples shown in the Dover ed. of his voyages came from a discovery in Siberia of all places. So your point of these being used by many, other than Polo is well taken. I will just return to reading about the voyages for pleasure as his prison companion-prominent author has even after n+1 translations, created a compelling read. Cheers, Tom

    ps. There is so much footnoting and commentary in the Dover ed of Polo’s voyages, it amounts to a crash course in Medieval travel history. The Yule-Cordier edition that Dover has republished is about 75% footnotes. I have never before seen a work invested with such totally relevant commentary. Cheers, Tom

  191. Thomas F.Spande on April 9, 2016 at 8:47 pm said:

    Dear Nick, Sir Hubert, et al., Having invested a bit of time with the idea that the writing on the stem of the herb on f4r is arabic and could be involved in formulating a date, (being three digits). I make out the rearranged letters ( see my post of April 2) as “hmd” (reading from the bottom). Assigning the usual numbers to these that were used by Arabs to indicate some numbers, we have h=800; m=40; d=5 or 845. Adding to this the date of the first hajj (629
    AD (totally un-PC not to use C.E. but blame Trump for that!), we come up with the date 1474 A.D.; not far from one of the permutations (1475) of Nick’s of the really tiny numbers at the center of the herb on f28v (“Curse” p173). Now I brace myself for a riposte from Sir Hubert who argued for those glyphs spelling the German word “rot” on f4r. He may well be correct but I have two problems still with that: the little dot by “o” is dismissed; the lower case German “t” is weird. Cheers, Tom

  192. Diane on April 10, 2016 at 1:49 pm said:

    If you look at Wallis’ Budge’s translation of Mar (or Bar) Sawma’s journey narrative, the paiza (spellings differ) was also illustrated there. Not all those we know came from Siberia, I believe.

    and Tom

    ” I have never before seen a work invested with such totally relevant commentary”

    really? 😀

  193. SirHubert on April 10, 2016 at 6:35 pm said:

    Hi Tom,

    I don’t really have much to add, I’m afraid.

    The Hijra took place in 622m, not 629m. I believe you’re right that Arabic letters have associated numbers, although I myself have never come across a date written in this way. Is this more to do with numerology and gematria? By the 800s Hijri, the numerals we now associate with Arabic script were certainly in use for dates.

    Otherwise, I can only repeat myself: please have a look at Reuben Ogburn’s site, and you really will need to look at an enlarged, on-screen image to find these things comfortably.

    I can see how you might think there is a resemblance to Arabic, but can only – with all respect to the most courteous of posters here – beg to differ. I don’t have a problem with the letter shape of the ‘t’, and if the dot is close to the ‘o’ (which, incidentally, is wrongly written for an isolated Arabic ‘m’, there is no way to associate the two meaningfully.

    But your comments on how the colour has been applied, and your questioning of the relationship between draughtsman and colourist are, in my opinion, absolutely spot on.

  194. Thomas F.Spande on April 10, 2016 at 6:54 pm said:

    Diane, Yep! Tom

  195. Thomas F.Spande on April 11, 2016 at 4:08 am said:

    Sir Hubert, There is more wrong with my calculation based on the perceived Arabic glyphs seen in f4r than getting the start of the Arabic calendar (the Hajira) wrong. You are correct it is 622 CE; islamic calendar conversion tables for the resulting date of 845+622=1467 does not fit at all but should be 871 not 845, a discrepancy of some 26 yrs., a not inconsiderable error. Back to the drawing boards or maybe this whole operation is just fatally flawed and is just illusory. You are right in that the dotted “o” did not fit for a medial form, but rather an initial form. I noted that but plowed ahead thinking maybe the scribe was in error. Either original or rearranged we have the same problem with that glyph. The other two glyphs after rearrangement did fit. So Arabic is out and I guess we will have to accept “rot”. Thanks for letting me down easy! Cheers, Tom

  196. I suspect the site of Reuben Ogburn may have been a page at GC’s voynichcentral, now lost. This is the one place I remember where an overview of many of these previously barely noticed “letters in plants” was presented, very shortly after the appearance of the first set of digital scans at the Beinecke. I don’t remember the name of the poster threre.
    If anyone knows for certain it would be appreciated.

  197. SirHubert on April 11, 2016 at 7:18 am said:

    Hi Rene,

    I’ve got a PDF of Ogburn’s pages, taken from the Wayback Machine a couple of years ago, if that’s of any help? It’s not the last word on the subject but is useful until anyone produces anything better.

    Possibly something for the cipher foundation page, even?

    I think the list of these things produced or hosted by Glen Claston was something else, although I’ve not seen it and am only going by something Brian Cham mentioned here.

  198. Rene and SirHubert: as I recall, there used to be at least three collections of letters-in-Voynich-plants on the web (Sander Manche had one). I have an archive of all the voynichcentral.com files at home, and I’ll try to reconstitute a best-of-breed set as a Cipher Foundation page over the next few days, it’s something I’ve been meaning to do for a while. 🙂

    There are also at least a couple of pages here covering this stuff:
    And a false alarm: http://ciphermysteries.com/2008/05/18/hidden-writing-on-f1v

  199. bdid1dr on April 11, 2016 at 4:42 pm said:

    Oh dear me ! Talk about a well-worn path — to nowhere. You can find any item in B-408 being illustrated and discussed (in two languages) in Fray Sahagun’s Florentine Codex. Especially the botanical items and their qualities and uses. I once again refer you to Book eleven, in particular.

  200. Thomas F.Spande on April 12, 2016 at 2:52 am said:

    bd, I fail to see that we ( i.e.. all Voynichers except yourself), on any kind of well-worn path. It looks to me like a maze of paths, some occasionally intersecting, some not at all. But not on the same path at all. Don’t cry for us, Argentina! Cheers, Tom

  201. Thomas F.Spande on April 12, 2016 at 3:11 am said:

    Dear Nick, et al. One last shot at the glyphs on f4r. If I stick with 843 as a Hijiri date and simply plug it into one of the many tables or calendar converters, we obtain a Gregorian date of 1439-1440 AD. One of my many mistakes was not recognizing that the Islamic calendar is lunar and shorter (354-355 days) than a Christian year (then actually Julian although converted to Gregorian). These add up. The 843 date included the Hijrah of 622 AH (Anno Hijiri). The “o” with a dot is still wrong for a medial position BUT if a dot be also added to the other side, all is well. I could be wrong but why leave a tinting instruction (“rot”) sticking out like a sore thumb when the rest of that herb, including red areas is tinted? I plan to give this topic a rest for the moment but it does supply a purpose for those three letters. Cheers, Tom

  202. SirHubert on April 12, 2016 at 9:02 am said:


    I’m sorry if you think we’re wasting our time.

    But if we end up being able to prove that the manuscript includes colour indicators added by a German speaker in the fifteenth century, that would be a major step forward.

    It would, for example, mean that a sixteenth century figure – such as Sahagun – could not have written the Voynich Manuscript.

  203. Diane on April 12, 2016 at 9:21 am said:

    Forgive my genuine ignorance, but if one wanted to disprove the Nahuatl translation, wouldn’t it be simpler to test the translation rather than relying on theoretical disproof based on an interpretation of these letters? After all, do we know that Fray Sahagun knew no German, or that no German Jesuits were involved in the copying or production of his manuscripts? I’ve made it plain enough that while I see very well the conguencies of layout and so forth, and some stylistic similarities even in some of the botanical imagery in both, that overall I’d ascribe those similarities to the influence of the Europeans not the native peoples. Still, I would love to see someone who is able to do it write us an evaluation. I know that Beady isn’t the only person in the world who is convinced of a new world origin for the manuscript, and that this idea has been around for many years. Witness the otherwise inexplicable use of a rare south American gum in the rests which McCrone ran. Is there anyone able and willing to take the time to read and evaluate Beady’s claimed translation?

  204. Koen Gheuens on April 12, 2016 at 10:28 am said:

    Dear Nick

    I have been writing on my blog for a while about how I think the f89 foldout (both sides) contains numerous references to Greco-Roman myth. While writing up my most recent post, an overview of a number of stories referenced in the plants, I was surprised to find out that all of them appeared to have been taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. I thought you might be interested, and would be very happy to know your opinion on this matter.

    Here is a link to my post. Don’t mind the title – it’s mostly sensationalism. I’m not crazy 🙂


  205. SirHubert on April 12, 2016 at 11:49 am said:

    Diane: studying of these letters might be informative in all sorts of ways. I only mentioned Sahagun in an attempt to persuade BD that they might not be as pointless as she thinks 🙂

  206. Thomas F.Spande on April 19, 2016 at 5:37 pm said:

    Diane, In your post of April 12, you indicate a rare South American gum showed up in the VM botanicals. Can you provide more information on that? Thanks in advance, Cheers, Tom

  207. Thomas F.Spande on May 4, 2016 at 4:36 pm said:

    Nick, et al., Two more glyphs from that curious assortment on f57v of the VM might be found in the later Etruscan alphabet. I refer to the inverted “V” (“m” in Latin) and “8” (=f). Well that “8” poses a problem in that I think it is most often Armenian for the Latinized “e” as it often appears with a “9” where “89” may be equivalent to the Latin “et” or English “and”. So we might have two translations of the “8” glyph? Maybe both (or neither?) is valid. Etruscan is interesting in that the alphabet is understood but not the words that those letters make up so it cannot be considered “cracked”. It is related to a lot of Italic languages such as “Raetic” used in the Eastern part of the Alps and Euboean Greek used on the isle of Lemnos. Cheers, Tom

  208. Diane on May 5, 2016 at 10:57 am said:

    Tom, sorry I missed your previous question.

    My point was that McCrone used a very peculiar control – mopa mopa gum. There is no obvious reason for choosing that over the sort of gums, vegetable and otherwise, which were use to fix pigments before 1450. It would have been much more illuminating (pardon the pun) had some of the eastern gums been tested against those normally used in say, Persia and Italy. (not all used gum arabic).

    The only reason I could think that anyone would choose such a peculiar test was if there was a fairly solid clique intent on arguing a ‘New world’ storyline, as distinct from the German, or the Italian proposals. And, I thought, they’d have to be a clique with clout. Not the only reason for my thinking so, but it was a fairly staggeringly inappropriate choice, given the probable date for the MS. I would even be willing to wager that McCrone itself didn’t make the choice – they were too experienced and sensible to be theory-driven in their scientific methods. Unless the customer insisted… or so it seems to me from my experience in labs.

  209. Diane: tests can also be chosen to eliminate possibilities and suggestions, not just to confirm them.

  210. Diane on May 5, 2016 at 1:42 pm said:

    If you want to eliminate possibilities in experiments, you test possibilities.

    It was plainly historically more likely that the manuscript had been made in Europe or Asia or Africa than in South America, because these were all linked by communication lines of one sort or another before 1440.

    Leaping to south America for a bit of Aztec binding medium .. well, I’d call it a total waste of the time and money, but it wasn’t mine being wasted, so should I worry? 🙂

  211. Diane: can anyone write a sentence about mopa mopa without sounding faintly whimsical? As anyone under the age of 12 would doubtless put it, as words go it’s a bit cra-cra. 😉

  212. Thomas F.Spande on May 5, 2016 at 5:11 pm said:

    Diane, Nick et al., I have only the summary/conclusions of McCrone on the gums used in coloration and inks and it appears to me that they used gum arabic as a control (Fig. 1D in the addendum) BUT they do admit that the IR spectrum indicates by absorptions in the 1100-1000 cm-1 region, that the gum used in the specimens of the VM they chose to examine is not pure gum arabic (or maybe not gum arabic at all [my comment]?). The absorptions in the 1100-1000 region likely are C-O stretching frequencies and are going to be in many common gum additives, such as sugars or glycerin. Is the mopa mopa gum Diane refers to mentioned in the McCrone CD-ROM? Gum arabic from the acacia tree would have been a very common article of commerce throughout Europe, the Middle East and even the Far East. It does seem though that the composition of this gum, if not gum arabic at all or gum arabic plus an additive, would be worth investigating further. Some simple techniques such as those of mass spectrometry (MS) could and should have been explored. It would require way less material than an infrared spectrum. In fact, since IR spectroscopy is a non-destructive technique, maybe one or more of the tested gums still exists and a routine method such as chemical ionization MS could be tried?

    It may well be that in the “out of the ordinary” that some vital clues will be found as to the place of origin of the VM or even the time that the vellum was written upon and colored. Cheers, Tom

  213. Thomas F.Spande on May 5, 2016 at 7:22 pm said:

    Diane, I think mopa-mopa gum is a huge red herring in the context of coloration used in the VM.
    1. Incidentally, It was Inca not Aztec
    2. It is found in a jungle shrub found in the island of Aruba but mainly in the extreme south of Colombia, close to the coast, near a town,, San Juan de Pasto. Some shrubs have also been found in northern Ecuador.
    3. Its preparation is hugely tedious, involving even chewing the resin obtained after many steps from macerated leaves and fruits of the shrub,, then colored and most often applied as a varnish like lacquer to wood.

    I find no mention of it being used to color vellum. If McCrone picked this as a reference gum for the VM. they must have been smoking something. Just my opinion. Cheers, Tom

    ps. Most gums in the New World were things like Chicle or Sweet Gum and were mainly for chewing, not art work. A search for art gums might still be profitable. No luck here at the moment.

    Gum arabic can simply be scraped off the branches of an acacia tree with minimal work-up before use as an art medium.

  214. Thomas F.Spande on May 8, 2016 at 7:43 pm said:

    Diane, Nick and anyone else interested, like you BD, We know that the Aztecs used color and must have used some vehicle for their pigments! It would have greatly predated the mid 1500s when the Nahuatl (an Aztec sub group) culture became known to the Europeans.

    My main source on Aztec art coloration seems to fixate on black but does indicate the vehicle for coloration was latex, from trees of the species Castilla elastica, not technically a gum at all, but an isoprene polymer that sets up to a rubbery substance. It was mixed with soot or lignite coal to provide black which was common in their art work. I found that latex was mixed with some bark colors or copper sulfate (not clear whether Cu+ or Cu++) providing the browns and greens found in their art work. Red was provided by the cochineal beetle.

    Aztecs used a soot-based ink but it unclear what the vehicle was. Some seed oil likely but I cannot imagine that latex would work for any lengthy writing; the ink would set up while you frantically wrote. No mention of any iron based inks.

    Gums that seem ruled out are the following Old World gums: Gum Tragacanth (main source Iran) and its use in pastels; guar gum (India, Pakistan, Australia, Africa and West Texas). The latter will raise eyebrows as it did mine. It turns out to be used by all the oil service companies involved in Fracking. No use that I could find as a vehicle for art pigments but another huge use is as a thickening agent for foods. Others that can be ruled out are: xanthan gum (food additive), locust bean (also known as carob bean) gum, that is a chocolate-flavored food additive found in the Mediterranean area, particularly Spain and Italy. No art use reported for either.

    The Aztecs used the root of orchids also for a gum that was used in the coloration of feathers and shields but evidently only for articles of clothing and mainly as an adhesive. A gum was also used by Aztecs based on beeswax and a pine resin and again used mainly in the role of a glue.

    That’s it for the moment. No obvious hits for an artist’s gum that would have been a reasonable reference for the gum(s) of the VM. Cheers, Tom

  215. bdid1dr on May 9, 2016 at 6:41 pm said:

    OK, folks, I will try to be brief: red pigment = cinnabar
    An excellent discussion “Colors of the New World” The writer/lecturer had her very small book printed in the late 1990’s -2000’s. Since my recently adopted cat has managed to sweep the contents of my six shelving units into knee-deep piles — I have a way to go (cleanup) before I can rejoin the discussions I’ll catch up with y’all in a little while, or day or so.

  216. Thomas F.Spande on May 10, 2016 at 2:46 am said:

    BD, Cinnibar is found world wide and of ancient use in both hemispheres,. McCrone does not indicate that it appears at all in the VM coloration although it can be justly argued that their sampling was mainly (only?) of non-original pigments. It could have been used in the original coloration. I think Sir Hubert has also mentioned it. It would have been a natural pigment to use, either by itself or mixed with brown pigments. No brush licking is recommended! Does the mysterious writer/lecturer answer to the moniker “BD”? Cheers, Tom

    ps. I look forward to your return to the discussion once you bell that cat!

  217. Jim Shilliday on May 15, 2016 at 3:50 am said:

    Hi Nick,

    I was surprised to see the sentence “Consider the Voynich Manuscript” in a popular physics book.

    Physicist and science popularizer Sean Carroll, in his new book “The Big Picture,” (recommended!) uses the VM (and includes a sample of Voynichese) to explain some ideas about the ways we use the word “information.” He asks the reader to compare the information content if the VM is random scribbling in an invented alphabet, or if it is an unsolved cipher. After leading the reader to guess that the latter case would contain more information, he wonders whether the situation would change if the VM were launched into space forever just as the Earth is destroyed by an asteroid impact. Spoiler alert: “information” in the usual sense of the word involves correlations between one thing (the VM) and another (a reader’s mind), so asking the question would no longer be useful, even if information in the physics sense is conserved.

    The reference is on page 288.


  218. Jim: in many ways, the asteroid has already hit, insofar as so much time has passed between the context in which the Voynich was written and our present-day context that we are already the (putative) aliens trying to read the VMs. 🙁

  219. Diane on May 15, 2016 at 2:04 pm said:

    Hi JIm,
    I was about to say much the same. If the information is embedded in the object, there’s no necessity that we become the people who put the information into that form; we just have to learn to think as they did, and see if we can’t retrieve their language too. Like aliens, indeed.

  220. Thomas F.Spande on May 15, 2016 at 7:09 pm said:

    Dear all, I am going to adopt a contrarian position. I think the message and meaning of the VM herbal lies East of Suez and that mid and far Easterners can grasp the intended use of most of the herbs through obvious, embedded graphics. No alien status required! All that is needed is a passing knowledge of yin/yang philosophy at an elementary level. The plant blossoms are either blue (sky=yang=male use) or brown/red/orange (earth=yin=female use) and when red and blue appear together, the herb is used by both sexes.Incidentally the color blue is comparatively rare in botany but common in the VM. Where leaves are joined (not careless drawing), the herb is used for wound healing; where branch stems penetrate the main stem of the plant, the herb is used for penetrating wounds such as might occur on receiving an arrow in warfare. When every berry faces the viewer, the plant is used for eye ailments. These are a superficial overview but I think the herbal could be useful EVEN IF NOT A WORD OF THE TEXT CAN BE DECIPHERED. So the take home for students of physics is work on gedanken experiments, a la Albert. There is meaning in the graphics which is easier to grasp than the Heisenberg equation. Let’s send that Physics text into orbit!

  221. Diane on May 16, 2016 at 4:36 am said:

    Dear Thomas,
    I agree with you that:
    *the message and meaning of the VM [botanical images] lies East of Suez.
    * that… [it is possible to] grasp the intended use of most of the [botanicals] through … embedded graphics [which I term mnemonic devices].,

    * that … the color blue is comparatively rare in botany but common in the VM.

    * that .. the botanical drawings [I can’t agree that they are exclusively medicinal plants] could be useful even if not a word of the text can be deciphered.

    * that.. there is meaning in the graphics which is [potentially] easier to grasp than the Heisenberg equation.

    The difficulty – and thus the desirability of having the written part of the text understood – is that while one person asserts the imagery culturally Chinese; another insists that it is culturally German. Another (me) holds that the exemplars were (Sephardi) Jewish but the present quires were copied and bound early in the fifteenth century in northern Italy; Nick has said that it is an original and authorial creation by a Renaissance Italian..

    Touwaide has said the binding is characteristic of Italian work – so in this Nick and I agree.

    Since the demise of the old mailing list we’ve seen the strange phenomenon whereby, instead of beginning study by considering the opinions of earlier well-qualified persons, and then investigating the primary evidence and commenting on points one disputes, each new Voynichero begins anew by throwing away all the past century’s efforts (sometimes with reason) and developing a brand-new theory.. or falling into line with some theory being urged at a given moment, and then working less on understanding the manuscript than on working to make it serve the favoured theory.

    I think we must hope that the written part of the text will be understood – one day. Perhaps it will turn out to be a Chinese medical work. But at all events the text should help reduce the infestation of theory-bug.

  222. Thomas F. Spande on May 23, 2016 at 10:09 pm said:

    Diane, I agree that we are largely reading from the same page, at least in the case of the VM herbal (plants) section, where the stress is on the imagery. If I indicated that ALL the plants depicted had a medicinal use, I may have overstated the plant uses, although plants we would not consider having a medicinal use, do appear in the Chinese Materia Medica as being curative of a number of ailments. One example is the common mulberry (Morus alba L.) that appears in MM on pp 436-428 where leaves and root bark are used. It also appears in the VM.

    I feel certain that embedded in the VM plant section is a lot of yin/yang philosophy and have commented on that before. The clearest example is found on f38r, where that fern-like plant has five yangs complete even with the little black dot. This is a plant for male use (the little blossoms at the base still have a faded bluish coloration). I think there was a sixth yang but the herbalist adjusted the dose to indicate a fern leaf was sufficient for only five, not six, potions for some male use, like an aphrodisiac (?). Amazing how concerned the Armenians were with procreation. Anyway, that sixth yang was scrubbed out by the scrupulous plant artist creating a rip of the vellum. When this happened in the timeline of the VM’s history would be interesting to know.

    Other yin/yang symbology is found in the directionality of roots and leaves with some debate still existing about whether R or L was yin. For example, the roots of f32r all point to the right and with the blue flowers, I opted for yang use.

    Where several plant stems join, as in f17v. f22r,, f22v, and f40r, I think the plant use was for helping fractures heal.

    A real reach might be positing that the roots of f14r (28 knobs, alternating brown and uncolored; (now at least)) represent “worry beads”. I have tried to put myself into the mind of the plant delineator but may have just wandered into the weeds. Incidentally medieval representations of St. Jerome show “worry beads” in the foreground.

    Diane, you made a valiant effort to extricate BD from the tight corner she has painted herself into. I think BD is embarked on a lesser-worn path to a dead end, in trying to sell a New World origin for the VM. The problem considering f93r, a fair representation of a sun flower, is that the blossom has no petals. All for the moment, Cheers, Tom

    ps. One easy conclusion that can be distilled from the mnemonic clues in the VM herbal is that the ultimate reader/ user was not any kind of trained herbalist but knew how to interpret the clues.

  223. D.N. O'Donovan on May 24, 2016 at 8:05 am said:

    I wish it were a standard convention in Voynich studies to indicate which system of foliation we are using: whether the current Beinecke foliation, the older Yale foliation, the mailing list foliation or some other.

    But I hope what follows is about the same “folio 38r” that you mention.

    Those ‘comma’ marks appear in other imagery, some plainly uninfluenced by Chinese philosophy or medicine. One which I know comes from a horrid mish-mash of half-understood Syrian traditions, as reproduced in a Latin manuscript around the time of the Crusades, though not ‘Crusader art’ as such. There the plant is meant for a dracaena or balsam or something – the image is too confused to be sure. But it has nothing to do with Chinese medicine or philosophy. In the same way, when I considered that folio, I referred to a comment made in Pliny’s natural history, and which seems to have been some sort of proverb among buyers and sellers (making it a natural subject for a mnemonic) – viz, that ” Bactrian bdellium is dry and shining, and has numerous white spots, in shape like ‘claws’ (or ‘finger-nails’). Historia Naturalis, 12.19.

    Other details suggest the plant one which provided a sap or resin that was sweet-scented and in some way considered like myrrh or true balsam: the resemblance of the two lower shoots to two nails set at an angle is another reference to long-standing habits and ideas associated with such plants in the east.

    Though the plant-picture looks to me far more like some sort of palm than any member of the Commiphoraceae, but I do think whatever it is was associated with a sweet smelling sap or resin equated with myrrh, and was also in some way considered a ‘balsam’.

    I settled for an identification as Bdellium by reason of those white ‘claws’ but consider the mystery of f.38r abandoned rather than fully answered.

    What I really enjoy about your work on the manuscript, Thomas, is that you talk about what you think of this folio or that, and that one has a clear idea of exactly what details from the informed your opinion. It means that one can still discuss those details in a sensible way, and keep the conversation going, rather than having it all derailed, detoured or stopped dead by a theory-wall.


  224. Thomas F. Spande on May 24, 2016 at 11:54 pm said:

    Diane, I use the foliation used for Beinecke 408; the recto number is written in the upper right hand of the folio. So f38r depicting a fern-like plant, is that folio you studied.

    That fern on f38r is overlaid with five yang symbols; they are NOT COMMAS. Note the little black dot on each. Would a comma from any culture have such an addition? Cheers, Tom

  225. There really aren’t any different foliation schemes, at least not since the Beinecke library corrected the obvious mistakes on their web site.

    The official Beinecke foliation exactly follows the old foliation written in ink on the MS. The pencilled a, b and c on some pages play no role in that.

    The library does not propose any method for identifying individual parts of foldout folios, and to my best knowledge they will not do that in future either.
    For this particular “problem” (for example: how to identify one of the three drawings on f68r), a scheme exists since 1995, which is the same as the Beinecke foliation, but extends it for these cases. This method was already used by Anne Nill before 1960.

  226. D.N. O'Donovan on May 25, 2016 at 11:05 am said:


    I don’t think it is helpful to divide the foliation for e.g. folio 86v. That foliation is sensible and doesn’t give a misleading impression that the map is drawn on separate bifolia, as would normally be implied by “folio 85v and 86r”.

    I understand when you say that the Beinecke foliation’s “obvious errors” have been corrected, that you do not mean they have returned to the first Yale foliation, but am not sure exactly what you do mean.

    How does the Beinecke library’s “corrected” foliation relate to that which you and others got into the habit of using on the first mailing list, before Yale or the Beinecke posted their scans?

    Does your evident approval mean the library has agreed to conform to that foliation which was never quite orthodox.

    Obviously every shift and change to a manuscript’s foliation makes things more confusing for scholars, attempting to correlate earlier and later work, much of it published without illustration.

    May I ask when, exactly, the Beinecke corrected what you see as “obvious errors”? The question matters, obviously, since one may have to return and change the content of several, perhaps dozens of posts to blogs and/or web-pages.

    I must say, though, that it is terribly nice of Yale University and the Beinecke library, to be so responsive to amateurs as they have shown themselves to be. I really couldn’t imagine the British Library, or that at Leiden etc., altering a manuscript’s foliation to suit the habits developed by a mailing list, no matter how well qualified – in their own various professions – the mailing list members were. Positively charming of them.

  227. The incorrect foliation is still visible at the Bibliotecapleyades site:


    (I doubt very much that this is in any way associated with Yale Univ.).

    The fact that recto and verso of some of the folios don’t have the same size, is one of the clear signs that something went wrong. See e.g. 69r and 69v or 70r and 70v. But there’s more.

    The rosettes illustration is on a single bifolio, but spread over two folios, namely 85 and 86. These numbers are on the other side of the sheet.
    Maybe it’s a bit awkward, but there are manuscripts with bigger inconveniences than this.
    Two weeks ago I was browsing one where the foliation (in pencil) had been changed. Old numbers struck out and new numbers added, again in pencil. There are printed papers that now refer to the wrong folio nr.

  228. D.N. O'Donovan on May 25, 2016 at 4:55 pm said:

    A folio is normally one sheet.

    Some folios may be larger than others, but they remain a single folio.

    To that extent, it is unusual (in the normal way that manuscripts are foliated) to have the former folio 86 now described as if it were more than one folio, with a single recto and single verso.

    The original Yale foliation for the map and its back (the map being the former folio 86v) was pretty sensible and allowed a short and equally sensible description, I would say.

    To call it the ‘rosette’ folio seems a little perverse given that (as you yourself pointed out) a number of people sensed that it might be a map, even before my very detailed analysis, and that since that was done, quite a few people have attempted to follow me and/or argue it a different sort of map.

    Before it had been read, ‘rosette folio’ was a description used for want of any better, but it is surely misleading or just some way to avoid acknowledging the work done to insist upon it still.

    I agree that the older Yale foliation is superseded by the Beinecke foliation – awkward as that is, but then you still have the foliation which was devised by the first mailing list, and even Jason Davies, which seems to me to differ again.

    It is a great pity that there was never one official foliation, by the holding library, which was maintained and to which everyone conformed. I guess we can put it down to the self-confidence of Voynicheros that some even expected to persuade the holding library to change their foliation to suit the amateurs, rather than the reverse. 😀

  229. nickpelling on May 25, 2016 at 6:01 pm said:

    Diane: I have to say that I don’t even begin to understand your point. The foliation was not added by a modern conservator but by an individual four or more centuries ago: and even though in the case of the nine rosette page that individual got it wrong (numbering a single folded-over sheet twice, etc), everyone has happily used that numbering ever since.

  230. Goose on May 25, 2016 at 7:32 pm said:

    Her point?
    Same as always Nick: baiting people with infuriatingly futile, self-aggrandizing, passive-aggressive arguments, in the hope of causing reactions she can complain about later, and thereby satisfying her desperate, inextinguishable craving for attention.

  231. D.N. O'Donovan on May 26, 2016 at 10:14 am said:


    I’d be glad if you could direct me to any place where you have attempted an analysis of some matter connected to the topic which heads this page of Nick’s. I understand that you hope to become one of his pals, but the way you go about it is the way toadies go about earning pats from a school-yard bully, and that hardly does justice to Nick’s intelligence, good character or manners.
    Driving people out of Santacoloma’s mailing list led to its demise. Decent minded people leave because it is so unpleasant to witness, and the object of such useless and senseless noise also leaves, sooner or later.

    Perhaps you can think of more constructive ways to build a friendship. I’d surely try if I were you.

  232. D.N. O'Donovan on May 26, 2016 at 10:25 am said:

    Nick, there are discrepancies in the different foliations. I follow the Beinecke foliation now, as I used to follow the Yale one.

    Last I looked, though that was about two years or more ago, voynich.nu foliation differed. The Yale bibliotecapleyades.net/ site differs again. Jason Davies’ site, last I used it, set folio 86v (Yale)/ 85v and 86r (Beinecke) at the end and called it by a descriptive term without any folio number.

    I don’t think the point is obscure, or trivial, or unreasonable. We need to agree to use the holding library’s system, or at least to reference it, if new and future readers are not to find the whole of past Voynich writing a nuisance to work with.

    Oh, and speaking of nuisances..

  233. nickpelling on May 26, 2016 at 10:52 am said:

    Diane: I suspect you’re confusing moderation with approval. Just because I allow comments through (yours, Goose’s or whoever’s), it doesn’t mean that I approve of their contents, claims, attitudes or sentiments.

    Oh, and the less said about that particular mailing list, the better.

  234. D.N. O'Donovan on May 26, 2016 at 11:24 am said:


    If one keeps an untrained pup off the leash, knowing (as your visitors also know) that it savages visitors thinking it earns a pat or two, I should think that it would take a little more than silent disapproval to regain control of decisions about who may, and who may not approach.

    About that sad second list – bloke-y team-spirit killed it, not stupidity.

  235. Goose on May 26, 2016 at 11:26 am said:

    You want to see some of my research? OK then, here you go:
    I found this scintillating statement you made on this very site a few years ago, in which you admit to the very behavior I’m calling you out for.

    “Diane O’Donovan on August 31, 2013 at 7:21 pm said:

    I was so bored while y’all were on holiday that I began baiting certain nameless persons.
    It’s my version of growing old disgracefully, equivalent to older males wanting a red sports car or leathers and a Harley-Davidson caravan.”

    Analysis? Not necessary.
    See you later, baiter.

  236. nickpelling on May 26, 2016 at 1:48 pm said:

    Diane: the “pup”-thing may be your idea of a hilariously funny that’s-how-to-slap-people-down extended metaphor, but it’s certainly not mine.

    Actually, it’s a bit tiresome, now I come to think of it.

  237. Thomas F. Spande on May 26, 2016 at 4:05 pm said:

    Diane, Nick, Goose, Rene, et al., I feel as though I stepped into a cowflop with my short post of 5-24. Or maybe I stepped on someone’s “blue suede shoes”. Starting a food fight on the issue of foliation was the last thing on my mind!

    I think Rene has the last word on this! For me, it seems definitive. Let’s get back to the task at hand. maybe just maybe. uncovering some clues useful for a VM decrypt. I think the VM botanicals abound with yin-yang symbology and suggest the following additional examples:

    f46r, The plant on this folio shows yang like ( or “comma-shaped”) leaves, all to the right which suggests yang BUT the blossom color is not blue as would be expected but rather tan for yin. Nick’s idea in “Curse” was that these leaves represent disguised “sails” but it maybe that things are even simpler.

    f39v: The leaf inserts in the eight leaves are yang like, The upper left leaf has a hidden “8” and the striations sort of look like gripping hands. Blossoms are blue with some original blue being detected.

    f42r: The roots’rootlets are to the left indicating a yin use. Obligingly for a plant with no blossoms, the artist has a little plant with red leaves along side confirming that a yin use is depicted.

    f56r: All those comma-shaped blue leaves are to the right with blue blossoms indicating a yang (male use) of the plant.

    Incidentally, The Illustrated Chinese Materia Medica embodies yin/yang ideas and traditional Chinese medicine used yin-yang ideas as a primary guide.

    I fear that if VM foliation can generate hard feelings that introducing yin/yang ideas into the VM will lead to hand-to-hand combat! I stand ready with many more examples! Back to vowel frequency analysis and “Hangul”.

    Where is all this going? I think a simple answer is that the Far East has to be considered as influencing the content of, at least, the VM botanical section. Cheers, Tom

  238. Koen Gheuens on May 27, 2016 at 8:08 am said:


    Your website is one of a handful of places where people are drawn towards to talk about the Voynich. That means you have great power. If tomorrow you post that you have found evidence that the manuscript was made in, say, Russia, the whole community will read your words.

    This also means that you have some responsibility over “your” part of the community. You are the moderator here. It is you who decides whether we will insult each other like children, or debate each other’s ideas like adults.

    As a relative newcomer to the scene, I was surprised to see to what extent you allow abusive behavior to thrive in your comments section. Not so long ago I saw you complain about exactly such behavior on another forum, which gave me the impression that you were a champion of decent, to the point discussion.

    We are all here for the same reason: we want to know. To know what the Voynich manuscript is, and what it isn’t. It is the internet however, so things get out of hand easily. Then we look at site managers like you to intervene at times. Ever since Anton and David adopted a stricter stance on ad hominem remarks, conversation is remarkably civil and I haven’t been insulted a single time 🙂

    Sometimes that entails being nice to people you don’t like, but hey… it’s all in the name of science.

    Anyway, to get back to the point myself. Yesterday I discovered something striking about the nymphs in some of the “bathing” folios. They correspond to classical constellations, and the overlap of these nymphs with surfaces or flows of water shows where the constellations cross horizontal circles on the celestial sphere (Tropics, Poles, Equator).

    Essentially, these folios use story elements from Greek myth to teach about the constellations in a quick and dirty, but effective way. I have a background in linguistics myself, and I’m only just entering the subject of star stuff. Any advice or input from those more experienced in this matter is greatly appreciated.

    My first post, exploring this hypothesis, can be read here, and a next one with more constellations is soon to follow:


  239. nickpelling on May 27, 2016 at 12:15 pm said:

    Koen Gheuens: my website is not want what you think it is, and a decade of posting on it amply demonstrates to me that it has not even remotely the power over people you think it does.

    The website: posting about cipher-related things here is just what I do to scratch my own research itch – whenever I stumble upon a new unsolved historical cipher mystery or an interesting angle on a previously well-known cipher mystery, I get excited and want to share what I’ve found with others. That’s the basic idea: nothing more, nothing less. I have a second website (the Cipher Foundation) where I post all the primary evidence I can on historical ciphers, but even though Google’s algorithms like it, it gets less then 5% of the traffic that Cipher Mysteries does: being factual is just too boring for the Internet.

    The website’s reception: in the vast majority of cases, the people who are attracted to Cipher Mysteries are abusive, fighty, angry-headed people with ill-formed theories and/or preconceived (and often historically nonsensical) ideas about what constitutes evidence or relevance, together with sophisticated-sounding rhetorical chips on their shoulders they want to take out on me, usually for daring to having an opinion (e.g. that there is no evidence of “microwriting” in the Rubaiyat page whatsoever, and/or that the Voynich Manuscript is a product of the mid-15th century, etc) that contradicts some basic assumption they’ve made about historical cipher X.

    Unfortunately, that means that I have a basic choice: (a) whether I want to be like a six-year-old with a policeman fixation (i.e. and just delete nearly all the comments as they come in), or (b) whether I prefer to let people post what they like (short of being disgustingly abusive), and let them make fools of themselves in their own words. That is to say, as a kind of digital libertarian sympathizer, I’d rather expose than censor.

    What has happened recently, though, is this: that, to further their own personal online agendas, a number of people have told outright lies about this moderation policy (e.g. that by taking this stance, I am “encouraging trolls”, or even causing individuals to be “stalked”, both of which are shameful, deceptive, libelous rubbish). Other people have then blithely repeated these false accusations in their posts, extending the reach of the original lies.

    Oh, and the reason that “Anton and David adopted a stricter stance on ad hominem remarks” is that I was openly attacked on Voynich Ninja by people who really ought to know better, and I made it clear to the moderators it wasn’t OK. Nice.

    So – in summary – Cipher Mysteries has brought little but abuse and criticism to my door, so your comment criticising me for my moderation policy is (to my eyes) no more than yet another twig to throw on the same long-raging fire. And yet I have moderated and published it, like I moderate and publish everyone else’s criticisms of me. What non-fun I have being brutally consistent at my own expense.

    You see my running Cipher Mysteries as a thing that somehow gains me power: but if there is any upside to it whatsoever, it’s something I’m not currently aware of. All it actually does is make me a ridiculously easy target for people to take cheap shots at.

  240. Koen Gheuens on May 27, 2016 at 1:42 pm said:


    I’m really sorry, I didn’t know.. Like I said, I’m new and I don’t know these things. You seemed like a person with some esteem to me, so I had no idea you had ondergone similar ugly experiences as the ones Diane describes.

    Since I haven’t participated or witnessed any of the Voynich scene before late 2015, I look at this with the eyes of an outsider, and all I can think is: such a shame!

    Diane is done great work that has proven useful for me to build upon, but it is ignored by most because of all the stuff going on on the side.

    You have written “the book” on the VM, and now it appears that similarly, you have to devote way too much of your energy to dealing with trolls, talking semantics, debating the same tired points over and over…

    Some other people will only listen if what you say could have been possible in 15thC Germany. And so on.

    How can we make any progress like this? How can any consensus be reached? With all the camps, all the trolls, all the “you guys I found the solution it’s totally a witchcraft book” people? All the burdens of decades of ugly internet communication constantly lurking around the corner?

    Well, I really don’t know the solution, though letting the wound fester seems like a bad idea 🙂

    You are one of the most mentioned Voynich researchers, and yet with all the nonsense that is slowing us down, I don’t even know your views about it, how they have evolved and what your latest discoveries are/were. All I know is that you’ve written a lot about paint and nymph sideboob…

  241. nickpelling on May 27, 2016 at 2:35 pm said:

    Koen Gheuens: after I published “the Curse of the Voynich” in 2006, I received deep and sustained abuse online for my (apparently disconcerting) suggestion that we might be able to use mainstream Art History, codicology, and palaeography techniques to place and date the manuscript’s origins to Northern Italy in the mid-15th century. Why, now that we have radiocarbon dating and more in-depth technical analyses that have strengthened this to the point that it has become what is arguably the mainstream position, that sustained online abuse continues is no less a mystery to me than the Voynich Manuscript’s encrypted contents. Perhaps people enjoy being dismissive and unpleasant too much to stop their ‘sport’ at my expense, who can tell?

    Also: please don’t presume what does or doesn’t take up my energy. At any given moment, I’m actively researching around ten unbroken historical ciphers, of which the Voynich Manuscript is merely one (albeit a particularly fine one): I don’t publish as much on Cipher Mysteries as I used to simply because I don’t have enough spare time to do that and to do real research as well. Oddly enough, the stuff that takes up too much of my energy is dealing with bait-like comments such as yours, where commenters leave tangled mixtures of light praise and outright criticism (“talking semantics” and “debating the same tired points over and over”, etc).

    Several years back, I came to the conclusion that the last people to solve the Voynich Manuscript’s mysteries would be Voynich researchers themselves: and why I should bother having a conversation with someone about it when they haven’t even got the basic decency to read “Curse” first before criticizing the observations and hypothesis I put forward in it, I just don’t know.

  242. Thomas F. Spande on May 27, 2016 at 3:26 pm said:

    Dear all, I, for one, totally approve of and admire Nick’s policy of “letting every flower bloom” even though some may turn out to be thistles or worse!

    Two more examples follow of yin-yang elements depicted in the VM botanicals:

    f31r: (tight scribe). Five leaves are on the left and 5 tan blossoms to the right indicating a plant for yin (female use). Note that one leaf stem on the right is made to penetrate the main stem and emerge on the left. This suggests the roots/leaves are for treating penetrating wounds. The deep brown root and rootlets started leftward but loop to the right leading to some confusion here as to yin/yang meaning. One possibility is that the roots are for both male and female use but leaves only for female use?

    f31v: (tight scribe). Seven green leaves to the right and one brown leaf to the right and two blossoms with blue centers to the left. The sprig of berries is blue. A yang use is indicated and the leaf color indicates either fresh or dried leaves will work for some ailment. The roots bearing only traces of coloration are not used.

    I have a few more yin-yang examples but will unload those on the readership anon. I suspect many think, as I do “If it is not port it is starboard!” when dealing with the dichotomy of yin’/yang. I am surprised frankly that it is so much ingrained in the far East, even to the point that it appears at the center of the S. Korean flag. There red (equivalent to a lighter color) overlies blue (the darker yin color). If I can summarize yin/yang philosophy: It is sort of like Newton’s First Law of Motion, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. So for Y/Y, up/down form a pair, as do hot/cold; day/night; fire/water. It emerged from Taoism before the common era. Chinese adherents will even site a house on one side of a river as opposed to the other bank. My view is that it is goofy way to look at plants for healing properties but traditional Chinese medicine does exactly that. Cheers, Tom

  243. D.N. O'Donovan on May 27, 2016 at 11:45 pm said:

    I had decided to stop posting the results of my own research online until I read your comments above, which as they say “speaks my mind”.

    Though I had noticed – and publicly protested – the off-line ‘memes’ which are no more than efforts at propaganda, and which suggested the standard, pointless, and unsupported slurs conveyed by amateur psycho-babble, I hadn’t realised that you had also known of them: I mean the assertions that your work makes ‘trivial’ points (which I interpret as points which are precise, and unanswerable), that your work on codicology is ‘unnecessarily complicated’ (which I interpret to mean that the meme-er found them too hard to comprehend), that you ‘had an agenda’ (which I interpret to mean that you, like the meme-er, have a theory which you are prepared to defend).. and so on and so on.

    I seem to be propaganda-immune, and cannot hear any assertion about the manuscript or about another researcher without asking “from what evidence was that idea gained?”

    Where you say:
    “…after I published .. I received deep and sustained abuse online for my (apparently disconcerting) suggestion that we might be able to use mainstream Art History, codicology, and palaeography techniques to place and date the manuscript’s origins.”

    you speak to the situation exactly as I’ve experienced it, too. You will know how often I have recommended your book, and urged others to consider the same things.

    I absolutely agree – these days – that the manuscript which we have was made in Northern Italy (I’d say more exactly north-eastern Italy, in the region between Padua and Udine) in the mid-15th century (I’d say about 1428 or so).

    Like you, I never argued for any date of manufacture later than the early fifteenth century, and you, Patrick Lockerby, SirHubert, Edith Sherwood and I were among the handful whose opinions on this point were supported by the radiocarbon dating.

    Where you and I differ, is chiefly in our description of the content: you hold it to be the original composition of a Latin Christian author; my opinion is that it represents copies from exemplars which I’d date to between the last quarter of the 12thC to the mid-fourteenth (I’m working to refine those dates at present), and that those exemplars were not original ‘authorial creations’ either in their content, though the script or form given the written part of the text could first have been devised then.

    I agree that we need professionals from various fields to address the issues raised by this manusript. The difficulty is that when a person with such expertise ventures to comment in public, their opinion is so little respected by Voynicheros that not only the experts themselves are deterred from contributing further time and effort as a rule, but that so are their colleagues and other potentially helpful persons.

    The fantasy ‘Diane’ which has been created by the “meme-mill” in Voynich studies bears no relation to real one. Unfortunately, it is the real one who is known to the various codicologists, palaeographers, epigraphers (these because Baresch spoke of copying inscriptions from monuments) and specialists in Jewish scripts and texts (to assess Panofsky’s first opinion and explain the reasons for it).

    In each case, these persons have first taken the time and effort to find out what is being thought and said about this manuscript, and have thus read the sort of thing that has been published in your blog and its comments about Stephen Bax, and about me, as well as others.

    As a result, not even the colleague who directed me to the Padre Island crossbows, and thus solved one long-standing problem, would allow his name to be published. Voynich studies has become known as a toxic field and I’m as sorry to see it has poisoned your pleasure in the subject, as to see that your own comments above follow Goose’s ad hominems with what some might consider positive support.

    Had SirHubert or Philip Neal, or Jim Reeds made the point that we should all adopt the normal custom of using the holding library’s pagination, some discussion might have followed, but its aim would surely not have been to ‘put down’ the person making that point, but to discuss it.

    I do not think this is a case where ‘appeal to authority’ can reference an amateur – although I do not deny that in his own field of computer systems analysis Rene is a fully qualified expert.

    Our standards here should be those of the majority in the wider world, and I cannot think of any other instance – ever – where the holding library’s pagination is not used as the standard one.

    I can appreciate how you felt, Nick, when your sensible and perfectly normal emphasis on codicology and palaeography were treated as ‘trivial’, ‘peripheral’, ‘unnecessary’ or ‘too complicated’. I cannot agree with your Averlino hypothesis, but that’s largely because in my own field – iconographic analysis and research – I am a professional and generally treated, and paid, as an expert.

    You are mistaken about the imagery’s having originated in the mind of a fifteenth century European Christian. About the written part of the text, you could still be right, I suppose, but a number of persons have informed me privately that the ‘hand’ looks to them like the fifteenth century copy of an earlier exemplar.

    Worth some consideration, I think. As your work also does.

  244. nickpelling on May 28, 2016 at 7:30 am said:

    Diane: I’m sorry to have to say it, but your comment is yet another example of the kind of “tangled [mixture] of light praise and outright criticism” that keeps wasting so much of my energy.

    All the while you continue to project straw man arguments onto other people’s mouths (“you hold it to be the original composition of a Latin Christian author”) which you then triumphantly claim to demolish (“You are mistaken about the imagery’s having originated in the mind of a fifteenth century European Christian”), your style of writing will continue to get in the way of your own arguments.

    And as for that whole “faint praise” trope you gleefully employ so much these days, I really don’t know where to begin by way of a response, except to point out that it demeans you 10x more than it offends the recipient. 🙁

  245. D.N. O'Donovan on May 28, 2016 at 2:28 pm said:

    You keep attributing forms of humour to me which are entirely projected. I do not find metaphors or parables hysterically funny; that I constantly refer others to your work on the manuscript does not mean that I agree with every aspect of your theory. This is not ‘damning with faint praise’ but accurately giving my opinion, backed up by research etc. “Gleeful” seems to me to describe mischief, when in fact my chief reaction to anything Voynich related these days is better described as depression.

    If you want the evidence, background and comparative imagery which leads me to conclude that the imagery in Beinecke 408 could not have originated with any fifteenth-century Latin, then I can only refer you to the past eight years’ work. I once calculated what that time is worth, and now I just wonder why I bothered. I imagine – and it may be pure imagination – that somewhere out there, now or later – may be someone who may find it as helpful as I hoped it might be.

    Somewhere along the line, the most important element in all human interactions seems to have been lost – the assumption of good will.

    I’m dragging my way through the remainder of the current series of posts, while also working on the book due to be completed by the end of this year. Perhaps I’ll make the 10-yr mark, perhaps not. *shrug*

  246. nickpelling on May 28, 2016 at 2:39 pm said:

    Diane: yeah, ok, whatever.

  247. Thomas F. Spande on May 28, 2016 at 6:25 pm said:

    Diane, We have all benefited from your scholarship but often I find you go for overkill and unload on the readership way more than is necessary to prove a point. You bring in issues that are not immediately relevant or even pertinent and verge on logorrheism at times and other times in your frequent disputes with Nick, you give rudeness a bad name!

    Nevertheless I look forward to reading that magnum opus you are embarked upon. If you are being paid by the word, it will rival the Oxford English dictionary in length!

    Cheers, Tom

  248. Thomas F. Spande on May 29, 2016 at 5:21 am said:

    Dear all, A punctillo on the matter of yin- and yang-based elements found in the VM botanicals. Seven have been discussed on the posts above. Both the tighter writing scribe and the looser writing scribe are involved. The tighter writing scribe (also darker, higher iron content in the iron-gall ink used) is responsible for f31r; f31v; f39v; f46r and f56r plant depictions. The looser writing scribe (low iron ink) can claim f38r and f42r. This finding rules out that one scribe was keen on yin/yang symbology; the other was not. It will be noted as I am undoubtedly not the first to comment on this, is that the looser writing scribe nearly always uses a low iron content iron gall ink. This is confirmed by six analyses by McCrone of the iron gall inks used in the VM for drawings, text and one quire number.

    Incidentally, I forgot a folio reference for the the mullberry plant. A pretty good depiction is seen on f25r, showing berries near the leaf/stem joint.

    A more thorough analysis of the loose and tight scribe’s work on the VM botanicals will follow soon. What complicates things is that sometimes the tight scribe will use a low iron ink, like dipping his quill into the ink pot of his fellow scribe and also. in a mix of tight folios, will come a single looser one.

    In my opinion, all Voynichers who aren’t just self-promoters, (lumbering the membership with some totally preposterous, evidence-deficient, origin for the VM) and are willing to impartially mine the VM data for hints as to time, place and reason for the VM creation and furthermore are willing to go out on a limb with hypotheses. that any progress will be made. Let a spirit of colleageality return to these pages! Cheers, Tom

  249. Thomas F. Spande on May 29, 2016 at 9:40 pm said:

    Dear all, I have done a survey by inspection as to whether a folio is prepared by the tighter writing scribe generally using a higher iron-containing ink or the looser writer, most often using a lower iron ink resulting in a lighter text. Exceptions occur and the tighter scribe will occasionally use the lighter-hued ink.

    Folios by the TIGHTER writing scribe: 1) f9r-f34v (except f10v & 25r)= 48
    2) f39r-f46v (except f42r (see below) =15
    3) f43r-f46v = 8
    4) f48r/48v = 2
    5) f59r-f66r = 18 ( f65r has just a legend but is counted).
    TOTAL: 91

    Folios prepared by the LOOSER writing scribe:
    1) f1r-f8v = 16
    2) f10v, f25r = 2
    3) f35r- f38v =8
    4) f47r/47v = 2
    5) f49r/f49v = 2
    TOTAL = 30

    Folio f42v has the upper part done by the tighter scribe; the lower part is done by the looser writer. I have not counted this folio in either tally of the VM botanical folios. The pairs by the looser scribe occur within a sequence by the tighter writer.

    Some have argued for only a single writer or more than two. I have yet to find a tell-tale glyph where the two scribes that I regard as proved, by line and syllable spacing, differ significantly enough for me to hold my hand over a candle to defend some idea like the looser tighter scribe favoring more scribal flourishes (see for example the leading glyph, a gallows, of f42v).

    The question arises: Why two scribes for the VM botanicals when one only does a third of the work of the other? The idea occurred to me that maybe the looser writer is also the artist? McCrone’s ink analysis however indicates one drawing (f26r) is done with high-iron ink. More examples would be useful to settle this point, particularly as some plant stems seem by inspection to have been done by the looser scribe with his lighter ink. I conclude that the tighter writing scribe would occasionally use a low iron ink but the looser writer, having less work to do, manages to keep to the low iron formulation of iron gall ink.

    I plan to submit another post soon on embedded clues in the botanicals that indicate 1) the preparation of whatever medicament is made from leaves; omitting roots for the moment and 2) the implied use of the medicament.

    More anon,

    Cheers, Tom

  250. Thomas F. Spande on May 30, 2016 at 4:26 pm said:

    Dear all, A curiosity hit my eye while researching VM plant depictions
    for clues on use, when my eye lit on some annotations I had made years ago and forgotten. In re-spotting these I was reminded of a quote Nick used as a chapter header in “Curse”, p24 that had arrived in the interim. The quote reads “It is in the margins that poems are found”; maybe a bit reminiscent of a remark in “Either-Or” of S. Kierkegaard, “One can often profit from one’s typos” or words to that effect.

    Anyway, Look at the thicket of sprigs of the plant on f21r for hidden numbers!
    Unless the readership has already played “Where’s Waldo”, I think one “2”, several “3’s” and maybe a “4” and “9” can be spotted among those berry clusters between leaves. Going counter-clockwise around the plant, a “2” is found at 6:30; a “4” with the open part facing left at 6:25, “3”s at 6:20, 3:20, 12:00, 8:20; a “7” at 3:15; a “9” (upside down) alongside the recumbent “3” at 8:20 (both numbers thoughtfully left un-tinted). This whole operation might be slightly delusional on my part but I might justify more scrutiny by someone with sharper eyes such as Sir Hubert, Some of the “3”s may be “m”s? What it means at the moment is unknown. Cheers, Tom

  251. Thomas F. Spande on May 30, 2016 at 10:32 pm said:

    Dear all, While searching my ragged old printed copies of my VM botanicals, I find notes to myself that I did not act upon during the shutdown of my lab. One is the depiction on f25v with what appears to be a little turtle but may well be a small dragon? I was led to look up “dragon’s blood” in my trusty Illustrated Chinese Materia Medica and I think I found it on p. 248. The plant is Resina draconis where the red resin of the plant is used for liver and blood problems. The view of VM 25v is that of the clumps of the lanceolate leaves when viewed from above.

    Another old plant ID that also relied on MM (p148) is that of VM f20v where an ID of that plant that seemingly has some ten sunglass-wearing heads above stems having arrow-like (lanceolate) leaves. I think it is Flos Buddeiae where an extract of dried flowers is used to battle corneal cloudiness. The extract is used also for painful, red eyes due to a partial obstruction.

    It will be noted that the Armenian herbal written by Amirdovlat Amasiastsi was oculist to the court of Mahmet II in istanbul and wrote widely on herbal treatments of eye problems. His herbal, translated from Russian and commented upon by Stella Verdanyan, Carvan Press, Delmar, NY , 1999. pp 145 (not a major US press) was not illustrated. AA’s first ms was copied in 1482; an autograph was supposed to have been produced in 1460. Cheers, Tom

    ps. What a weird little “dragon” showed up on that lower right hand corner of f25v . I assumed as I think many Voynichers did, that because it looked like a turtle, that a turtle it was. It is what it is, but in what part of the world could an artist be so devoid of imagination? Cheers, Tom

  252. Thomas F. Spande on May 31, 2016 at 5:10 pm said:

    Dear all,

    A partial list follows, for illustrative purposes, of indications in the VM botanicals of what time of the growing season of the plant, leaves can be used: I think the herbalist(s) indicate a green leaf can be used directly from the plant, whereas a brown leaf can (or should?) be used dried and is tinted brown. I lean to an optional use as dried since both green and brown are often seen on the same plant stem. I think the leaves colored red are an indication that the plant is found in a temperate region where frost occurs.
    Following are some examples: f1v; f 3r, (red/white and green); f4v (red/ green), f13r, 20r (red/ green); f34v, f36r, f36v, and f53r. The uncolored (white) leaves are perplexing at the moment. Perhaps they are an herbal code for a leaf that has fallen from the plant?

    At any rate, the herbalist may be dealing with collected samples in those apothecary’s jars, that I believe are color-coded to represent plants from land (red, roots), green (plant parts above ground) or blue (plants found in bogs). If not at hand, then the search for the herb to “find and grind” is undertaken.

    VM botanicals used in treating various eye ailments:

    Cataracts: I think the plants showing blossoms that “shun the light” or blossoms displaying “Joe Cool” smoked glasses, might be an embedded clue (or “mnemonic” to use a word first applied by Diane) : f20v; f 22r; f 26r/f26v; f30r, f27v ( evidently, the roots are used ) f42r/f42v; f46v, f49v., and f53r. Incidentally smoked-glasses were ancient in China; and were often used by judges to conceal their identity. They were invented in Italy in the 1400s.

    Embedded clues for a bone-mending function of the herb: f22r/f22v; f40v, f46r , Either several shoots from a rhizome are depicted as joining or two adjacent plants are shown sharing a common branch. In one instance (f11v) leaves and leaf stems are shown joining and this may indicate the plant is used for tendon repairing (early “Tommy John” surgery!).

    I plan one more post on some even more speculative embedded clues and the use of roots and then will get back to vowel-frequency analysis. Cheers, Tom

  253. Thomas F. Spande on June 1, 2016 at 5:05 am said:

    Dear all, While many of the VM plant drawings are pretty faithful representations of the real thing like the mullberry bush (f25r); others are totally fanciful. Two exemplars of the latter are f45r, and f51r, where the former has brown and green mouse-shaped leaves hanging by their tails with the stems having blue inflorescences and the latter has 4 depictions of “stag” beetles. These beetles appear to have a ridge down the back and of the 1200 species, are most like those of Odontolabis femoralis (family Lucanidae with 4 sub families). These beetles were known to the early Romans. The plant may offer relief for a bite on a bare foot, although such bites are rare. The beetles range in size from 2-4.7 inches. The plant with hanging mice generated a Google hit on a book chapter by Pamela Berger on medieval plague iconography in several illustrated medieval bibles where one, the Morgan Bible (1244-1254), indicates that plague like symptoms afflicting the Philistines in the Old Testament were brought on by mice. I don’t think it really matters whether it is true or not, just that some believed it and maybe it found its way into the VM botanicals. More on this anon. Portions of the book can be read online as a teaser.

    As Sir Hubert indicated years ago, in an exchange with me, the flea and rat as vectors for plague were discovered much after the date of the VM compilation. A French investigator, Paul-Louis Simond (1898) is given credit for this discovery. It has been noted that rats die rapidly of the plague but mice and voles should be better carriers for the plague as they can become infected without dying. Incidentally in Mongolia, the main plague vectors are marmots and plague is still endemic. I will do some more digging on mice and plague as it may not be ruled out in all historical accounts.

    I live in hope that some oddity, if followed up, can shed new light on some dusty corner wherein lies a useful clue or clues aiding in the decrypt of the VM. If we could just get a firm ID on some depicted and unusual life form shown somewhere in the VM, (that Nick or Diane have not already followed up), we might just get a new little Eureka to bat around. Dream on!

    Cheers, Tom

  254. Thomas F. Spande on June 13, 2016 at 11:13 pm said:

    Dear all, Just to keep my eyes on the yin/yang view of the world as I perceive it in the VM. Folio 55r has it all! The right stem has droopy hand-like leaves all to the right; the center stem has those hands to both right and left whereas the left-most stem has the hand-like leaves to the left. At the top of each stem is a yin-shaped red bud with a bloom with blue and white petals alternating. So the plant leaves and roots are, I’m guessing, designed to perk up the hands which I think don’t show fingers but rather 8 or so, probably arthritic, knuckles. The blue flowers (yang) and red buds (yin) are for both sexes and this is furthermore indicated by the directionality of the arthritic hands. More coming anon, fear not! Cheers, Tom

  255. Thomas F. Spande on June 14, 2016 at 3:04 am said:

    Dear all, Examine for a moment, the homeliest of all the botanicals of the VM.
    I refer to f41r. It appears at first, second and third glance to be really poorly tinted and that is going some as many of the drawings of this part of the VM are colored by unskilled hands. I think the brownish roots, looking like women’s hair is a give away and in this case we do not have any hint of yin/yang symbology. The reason for the streaky tinting is clear when you spot the little nose-like structures on the leaves and the spots on the leaves. The roots are for elimination of freckles on a woman’s face, particularly the nose. This is why the leaves are not fully colored, so as not to interfere with the tell tale dots (i.e. freckles). The structure at the top is difficult to explain as it appears to be some sort of supporting structure, like maybe an umbrella? The Armenians incidentally were fixated on preventing or removing freckles and the great herbal of Amirdovlat Amasiasti deals with this annoying problem for Armenians. Cheers, Tom

  256. Diane on June 14, 2016 at 9:45 am said:

    Thomas, on the other hand, the way the root descends looks like .. not sure it’s a good idea to write the word here – might attract spam ads.

    So you could just as well argue that the plant produced material used as depilatory.

    What id do you propose here? That’s the test, isn’t it?

    PS – nice to see again how the mnemonic theme has recently taken off like a rocket. 🙂

  257. Thomas F. Spande on June 14, 2016 at 7:59 pm said:

    Diane, I had not considered that possibility. It could be worth considering. I would admit neither freckle-avoidance nor removal of unwanted hair seems like a pressing need for herbal attention but I think you have stressed we have to approach the VM from a non-contemporary viewpoint, i.e. adopt the perspective of another time, another place.

    I still like those little “nose-like” protuberances (I have used them on some other plants for perfumery) for the site where freckles would be most annoying. Also what appears to be an “umbrella” with five spines, strangely blurred, but not by bleed-through. Early umbrellas (invented BC by the Chinese, of course!) did have spines showing.

    While on the topic of pesky spots, likely freckles not pox, consider f3r. The plant has alternating green, red and white “yin” shaped leaves with spots shown on the edges of the white leaves. Again I think these are left uncolored to show off the spots. The red leaves indicate a yin (female) use and both leaves and roots are used.

    Many roots have spots (not cross-hatching) and I think might be to alleviate “poxes” of various kinds. More on alleged “freckle” minimizers, anon. Cheers, Tom

  258. Thomas F. Spande on June 15, 2016 at 12:25 am said:

    Dear all, A bit of female biology dealing with the origin of us all. I refer to f6r.
    Th roots are elegantly entwined but only lightly tinted so not used but hinting at a plant for female use. The three leaves are deeply lobed. The 15-16 lobes are sort of yin-shaped. One has been plucked indicating the leaves are the useful part of the plant. I think the number of lobes is equal to the typical hours of labor in delivering a baby and the 4 green huge and bulgy buds represent a baby in the birth canal. The little sun emerging near the end of the bud reflects the joy of a baby on the way. The red ring is some blood associated with the birth process. It has to be stressed that the Armenians were really down to earth with their herbals, not for cooking generally but for life’s important medical assists. This is made clear in the herbal of Amirdovlat Amasiasti as translated from Russian and commented upon by Stella Verdanyan. All for the moment, Tom

  259. xplor on June 15, 2016 at 8:18 pm said:

    Publish or perish We only know the names of those whose works survived. It is possible the Voynich is a transliteration of many texts in many languages that was not to be shared.
    Why would anyone give it to the polyglot Athanasius Kircher ?

  260. Diane on June 16, 2016 at 1:48 am said:

    It was sent to Kircher twice:
    first in ‘facsimile’ copy by Baresch because, it being…
    “a piece of writing in unknown characters, I thought it would not be out of place to send the puzzle to [Kircher]”.
    and secondly, I think, because having treated it with contempt at first, he came to want it. This seems to me the only explanation for the apologetic tone in Marci’s letter of gift – made some thirty years later, where he says.

    “ever since I first owned it I have destined it for you ..persuaded as I am that it can be read by none if not by you.”

    – so that seems to be why. Kircher claimed to know just about every classical and ancient script, including hieroglyphics.. whether he did or not. 🙂

  261. Diane on June 16, 2016 at 2:55 am said:

    Thomas –
    I have difficulty imagining anyone in medieval Europe mystifying a medical or pharmaceutical text. The usual texts are pretty well known. By the mid-fourteenth century, at least in France, the physician handed the patient a receipt [recipe] to give the pharmacist, and the pharmacist (a) had to know the relevant plants and (b) have them stock – very likely labelled in plain Latin. So it’s difficult to imagine secret medicine, especially if written on vellum in fifteenth century Europe. The chain of communication which turned plants into pills or lotions etc. was necessarily fairly transparent, wasn’t it?

    Theriac was an exception, it is true, but even then the textual sources are not many.

    One might imagine gynaecology a forbidden science, but not sure how that squares with the historical record. Mid-wives did most deliveries, and I’ve not heard any felt the need to write, let alone encode a text to do their work.

    So – here’s another angle for the meantime: what if the leaves are shown red and green, and (?)strap-like on folio 3r because the plant(s) referenced had leaves that really were red and green, and strap-like.

    Way back when – 2010/2011 – when I offered an identification for this group as “second-rank” Dracaena – which were available in the same regions that the best (Dracaena cinnabari) might be bought – I included though remained puzzled by those dots you mention.

    In these drawings, dots appear on plants known to have yielded oil of economic value, but I puzzled by their being here – possibly an allusion to D. fragrans, though I found no evidence of trade in D.fragrans or its oil – unlike the others of that type.

    just btw – I took (and take) the model here from Dracaena marginata, which though called the ‘Madagascan dracaena’ grows more widely. It is best known today (and to G/gle) as a potted plant.

  262. Diane on June 16, 2016 at 3:25 am said:

    Thomas – the plant known to horticulture as D. marginata is to botanists D.reflexa var augustifolia.

  263. Thomas F. Spande on June 16, 2016 at 4:29 pm said:

    xplor, I think the steps all attempts to understand or decrypt the VM text will proceed through 1) transliteration and by this is meant assigning a letter to a glyph/symbol, then 2) making “words” from these deciphered letters and finally translation into a language that the researcher is familiar with. As an example: I was familiar with the Armenian herbal written by Amirdovlat Amasiasti ca 1460. I never intended Voynichers to think that the VM was actually written by A.A. but that their might be an Armenian influence in compiling the botanical part of the VM. I familiarized myself with the Armenian language in cursive style in the massive book on Armenian paleography of Michael Stone, et al., which gives hand-written Armenian glyphs (a-z) roughly every 10 yrs over hundreds of years. Subtle and not so subtle changes occur during these intervals. Armenians claim their language is unchanged since being created by a blessed Armenian bishop Mashtots, ,ca 320 AD for writing holy scripture but this clearly is NOT the case at all for the cursive styles. An interesting aside is that Biblical scholars when not relying on Greek or Hebrew often jump for Armenian.

    Anyway In my early attempts to decrypt the VM, I focused first on the “8” and “9”, often as “89”, suspecting that it might be a conjunction like “and”. It is known that many older languages did not use the indo-arabic numerals directly but used letters from their alphabets for numbers. If the first 10 glyphs of Armenian are put in alphabetical order, then the glyph for “8” is noted and TRANSLITERATED, into Latin (i.e. Romanized), one obtains an “e” and “9” becomes by the same steps, a “t”. so “89” is “et” that is the Latin conjunction for the English word “and”. So the common VM “word”. “8am” becomes “eam” which is Latin for “that” (feminine singular). Now complications arise in that a study of the gallows glyphs reveals that they cannot be constant, immutable consonants but their identity changes in a manner that neither Nick nor I have yet figured out. The proof for this is that the choice and frequencies of the four glyphs changes between folios by both the looser and tighter writing scribes. One might guess that “o” is a vowel but if one studies vowel frequency, it is present at a much higher occurrence than is possible in any known western language. For example, Russian, Czech and Greek have “o” as a vowel exceeding the others, but not by much. In English, old English, Latin and Italian, the vowel “e” is the most prevalent. I think “o” is from the Korean language (Hangul) and is a complex consonant “ng”.

    Other Armenian glyphs that I think occur in the VM are: the tipped “2” (2′) for “ch” [Armenian is written L->R and phonentic, i, e, no diacriticals), the “4” (both open and closed forms), the ampersand-like glyph (but differing in having a rocker at the base and not closed up) if “f” &’) ; I see it in “gallows-8a&’) which might be “leaf”. I think “8a2′” might be “each”, (note the latter two going directly into English not via Latin).

    I think that the VM is both “poly-glyph” and “poly-glot”, which makes it difficult to decrypt. Your guess as to Voynichese being a polyglot language is sound, I think. I still have hopes that the VM can eventually be understood. Cheers, Tom

    ps. Diane, thanks for the helpful input. I will respond anon.

  264. xplor on June 16, 2016 at 9:01 pm said:

     Armenia used to be much larger and one of the oldest centres of civilization. I am looking more at the city states of Italy . Who was there and who passed thru . Amirdovlat Amasiatsi may have influenced the voynich. I don’t think Jesuit s like Athanasius Kircher had anything to do with it.
    When two Jesuits meet, the devil is always there to make a threesome. – Old French Proverb

  265. Thomas F. Spande on June 17, 2016 at 4:08 pm said:

    xplor, Armenians, being astute in business, often were in the company of Venetians. For example, they shared a major outpost in the Crimea, where the black plague is supposed to have originated. They were present in the Benevento area of Italy. Nick, BD and others looked into Beneventon as an influence in the VM script but as I recall, there was no clear cut evidence for this. In my reading around on Armenians, they do seem to wind up in the wrong place over and over. Now it is Aleppo, Syria. Their attempt to ally themselves with Russia and carve off part of Turkey met with total disaster. Still they played a major role in the Ottoman empire, with the greatest mosques having been designed by Armenians like Sinan and their early medical knowledge relying on Armenian practices. My view is that the VM text has Armenian influences but otherwise they had no hand in it. I have not found, for example, that Armenians were believers in Yin/Yang ideology and suspect the herbal imagery comes from elsewhere, likely further East than Armenia. Also, I find it hard to believe that Armenians could have been involved in creating the VM, without imparting to it a lot of religious iconography.

    Thanks for the Jesuit humor.

    What follows is hear say but I recall a conversation about an Armenian boys choir that got stranded somehow in Palestine before Israel was split off. The Lion of Judah, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, heard the boys sing, and of their plight and adopted them on the spot. He took them back with him to Ethiopia where they became the official musicians of the court and went on to compose the Ethiopian national anthem.

    I don’t think that modesty is a trait common to many Armenians and their claims are sometimes preposterous. Like ALL species of plant and animals known on earth can be found in the foothills of Mt. Ararat, still in Armenia, where Noah’s ark grounded. And the claims that many major scientific discoveries, like the sun being at the center of our solar system, were the discoveries of Armenians. Their postage showed the three wise-men being Armenians. Astronomy with and without telescopes was a passion (they did have a great observatory) and the Nativity accounts in the New Testament indicates that the wise men did “come out of the East”,

    One trait of the Armenians that seems true, is that is they never did things by half measures. When they adopted Christianity, about a century before Rome did, they translated the Bible from scratch in their own recently created language, both New and Old Testaments and a lot of non-canonical works as well (like the book of Enoch in 4 parts). They enthusiastically joined many of the crusades that went through Cilicia, (western Turkey, part of their old empire) after hosting and resupplying them. They joined the crusades but stayed on in the environs of Jerusalem, having their own cemetery and part of the church of the sepulcre on the Holy Mount. After leaving behind many petrographs enroute, they went on to found a monastery on Mt Sinai which has one of the great collections of early Armenian manuscripts, but alas most are unreadable since the velum has become fused by the climate. Some used a proto-Armenian language called Odessian. A few have had their pages pried apart by conservators but it would be a huge hill to climb to get through them all. Incidentally, one has to be amazed that the same fate. i.e. folio-fusing, did not befall the VM.

    Cheers, Tom

  266. xplor on June 18, 2016 at 2:39 pm said:

    Deja vu all over again, Nick worked the Armenian angle about five years ago. Still nothing new to report. It would be great to tie the Voynich to someone like Mkhitar Heratsi ,who understood  Persian, Greek, and Arabic.

  267. Thomas F. Spande on June 19, 2016 at 8:03 pm said:

    xplor, The Armenian connection is not Deja vu for me. I have not wavered from my view that Armenian glyphs appear in the VM and “89” which occurs often in the VM text is derived from the numbers used by Armenians and, when Romanized or Latinized is “et” in Latin. That is the cornerstone of my contribution to a decrypt of the VM. It also provides a key vowel “e”, Turns out that often “89” is immediately followed by another “89”. The expression “et et” and not the equivalent of “etc” as is used in some Latin-derived languages (like Hungarian) but was used for emphasis in original Latin as in “both (hand and foot) et et” [hand and foot was put in by me as an example. I was out of active Voyniching for two years because of a lab shut down but I have never wavered from my belief that Amenian paleography is involved in the VM text. I do not think that the VM is written in Armenian and have never espoused that idea. It is mainly Latin I think but some other languages like Hangul and even English might appear. Nick was kind enough to consider it and even enter Amirdovlat Amasiasti in the Wikipedia to see what additions might show up. The fact that A.A. had a long sojourn in the sultan’s court in Constantinople overlapped with Nick’s narrative for the timeline for an Italian creator of the VM, undoubtedly made A.A. of interest to him also. BTW Amasiasti refers to Amasia, the birthplace of A.A., in north central modern Turkey. Amasia is the city where Julius Caesar uttered his immortal “I came, I saw, I conquered” after suppressing a minor Persian prince.

    Heratsi is the father of Armenian herbal medicine. For a good summary see “Stella Vardanyan” and Armenian medicine on Google. That survey includes several herb depictions from hundreds of years later than the likely composition date of the VM and these are drawn in a space saving horizontal lay out. These include no “cues” (Diane’s nomenclature. I prefer this expression of hers to her use of mnemonism which implies memory). Cheers, Tom

  268. Diane on June 20, 2016 at 3:08 am said:

    While remaining neutral on whether the text includes Armenian, I thought I should note the possibility that I raised in relation to the ‘castle’ on folio 86v (Beinecke foliation 85v and 86r) that it represents Laiazzo/Ayas which, of course, was the port of Cilician Armenia. From Armenia, as also noted in those posts, had come two teachers of Armenian to the Avignon papal court, at a time when those sent as papal ambassadors regularly went to Armenia beforehand and had done since the time of Montecorvino – as I’m sure you know.

    Altogether, the possibility seems reasonable that something of Heratsi’s work – one would suppose his “Consolation of Fevers” in particular – did reach the west and given the close connection between the invitation and the intention to send missionaries eastward, it would not be inconceivable that something of it might be included in a Franciscan or similar handbook. The difficulty is evidence. We have plenty for interest in Ibn Botlan’s work, probably gained from the school of Jundishapur, but is there any evidence for Heratsi’s text having been known to the Latins, other than a possibility that it is preserved in the VMS?

    ps ‘cues’ is the casual term which I rarely use, because it makes them sound like a “guess me” whereas I think those elements were designed as memory-jogs for the material *already* known to the user/s and so more correctly described as ‘mnemonic elements’

  269. Diane on June 20, 2016 at 3:13 am said:

    ps – have you come across any comparative study between the Syriac book of medicines and the two Armenian texts? I’d be interested to see the extent to which the Nestorian corpus might have been taken up by the Orthodox churches.

  270. Diane on June 20, 2016 at 3:26 am said:

    pps (sorry, Nick)

    Thomas – about the ‘space-saving horizontal layout’. This may strike readers as something like the layout of the Voynich ‘root and leaf’ section – i.e. where the plants are in horizontal registers, with text similarly aligned.

    In the illustration on Stella Vardanyan’s post “The Medical Heritage of Medieval Armenia. Its Theoretical and Practical Value in the Light of Modern Science”, 13 January 2012, we see a page with horizontal text in the wider column on the left, while the right margin, wide enough to make a ‘column’ is filled with plants that have been set at right angles to the text. It’s a novel and interesting way to solve the text-and-plant-picture problem, but that page (at least) doesn’t resemble the Voynich fold-out. The images we see there show their heavy reliance on Persian-Greek models, another factor which suggests some reliance, even if only for pictures, on the Nestorian medical traditions and/or those deriving from Jundishapur.

    This isn’t at all a bad thing from my point of view. It suggests that some twelfth century Cilician mss might have shown similar stylistic habits as those in common between the VMS botanical section and works made in the twelfth century for others – the Mashad Dioscorides as one example.

  271. Diane on June 20, 2016 at 4:17 am said:

    Thomas, I wonder if you’ve heard of an early medical lexicon from Armenia – I’ve just come across a brief mention of it, curious about the way some images in the Armenian works are like a couple in the Juliana Anicia codex. This item links to the ‘Cyranides’ which (if it is the ‘Kyranides’ quoted by the medieval lapidaries) would be very interesting, wouldn’t it?

    Within a century or so of the Juliana Anicia’s being made (this while Byzantium still ruled in Egypt) was written ..

    … the Barke Gatianosi , a Greek- Armenian lexicon to the medicinal
    vocabulary of Galen…

    [with footnote..] This rather brief lexicon, probably of the sixth or seventh century, when Armenian culture was focusing intensely on things Greek, was devised as a desk manual for Armenian physicians who would have some access to the writings of Galen (or Dioscorides). The vocabulary dealt with is largely botanical, terms used in Galenic medical prescriptions; there are, however, twenty-six Greek bird names which are mysteriously listed, with Armenian gloss. Most all of these bird names can be found in the Cyranides , and that might be their source since only a few appear in Galen or Dioscorides. The dictionary survives only from late medieval copies that are included as pages within larger eclectic medical manuscripts. The condition of all existing copies imply that these handbooks were actively used by Armenian physicians, and are considerably worn.”
    John A. C. Greppin, ‘Gk. ρ̒άμφιος, Arm. pʿarpʿar’, Historische Sprachforschung / Historical Linguistics, 111. Bd., 2. H. (1998), pp. 242-246. (p.243)

    and if I may presume further on Nick’s space..

    The same article gives an unexpurgated ‘Pelican’ story and one sees immediately why the Latins shortened it in their bestiaries, wanting to describe the bird as metaphor for the sacrifice of Christ:

    ” “The bird is most loving of the children. When it begets the chicks,
    and they increase a little in size, they beat the parent birds on their
    face. They, however, not being able to support the young, slap their
    young and kill them. Later they eat their entrails and mourn the chicks
    which they have murdered. On the same day the mother has pity on
    her young: she pecks around her breast and regurgitates, shedding her
    blood upon the dead bodies of her children; she restores them to life,
    and they are roused in a natural way. After three days they come

    yes, well..

  272. Thomas F. Spande on June 20, 2016 at 8:04 pm said:

    Diane, To cut to the chase! When you use a “memory assist” i.e. a mnemonic device, what exactly are you “remembering”? To me this implies, in the context of the VM botanicals, that you know of similar depictions of plants/herbs?

    To reiterate: My interest in Armenian herbals came by accident in reading the slim volume of Vardanyan on Armirdovlat Amasiasti. I obtained a copy on loan through the National Institutes of Health, where I worked as an organic chemist. I had to read it rapidly and made notes and in doing so, glanced occasionally at folios of the VM, which my daughter had indicated I might be interested in. At that time I was focused on possible herbs and alleged curative properties that might be amenable to investigation by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry or gas chromatography-mass spectrometry as I was in a natural products laboratory. The lab has since been closed and the program terminated in favor of molecular biology.

    Anyway, Verdanyan’s account of the work of A.A. {“Useless for Ignorants” and several other works) with some unusual concerns like “freckles”, “elephantiasis”, stones (bladder and kidney), the eyes, animal bites, war wounds and dental care, led me to examine the VM botanicals more closely for clues as to the use of the depicted plants. I think I did uncover some embedded clues as to their medicinal properties but these were often totally weird, obscure and as cryptic as the text. I saw in the text, unusual glyphs that I guessed were certainly not Latin, even not dealt with by Nick’s work on Tironian notation, So I emptied my wallet on a copy of the great work, in scope and weight(!), on Armenian paleography by Michael Stone, et al., I saw there many old friends from the VM text and have already expatiated on those. I deduced that Armenian fit the bill for some aspects of the VM text including being written L->R, being phonetic, and using letters for numbers, as many ancient languages did, like Hebrew that you are familiar with. It was an easy matter to figure out the “89” represented “et” in Latin and then some other Latin pronouns starting with “e” fell such as “that” (eam), them (eas) and “et et” fell into place.

    I have examined some Arabic herbals, the illustrated Armenian herbals of a much later date as discussed by Vardanyan, but I have NEVER found anything as mystical, disguised and plainly weird as most of the botanicals of the VM. Some are pretty faithful facsimiles (like the mullberry) of the real thing but most are not. Some, as I discussed in my post of June 1, are fanciful to an extreme.

    The clear use of yin/yang symbology in the VM botanicals is not an Armenian practice that I am aware of. To me it is another layer of the VM onion. I think the observed R or L directionality seen in many plant toots, leaves and blossoms, the limited palate for blossoms (either blue/purple or red/brown/beige) and those “comma” like inserts on that fern-like plant on f38r, (that you have discussed with an interpretation differing from mine), are clear cut descriptors for yin (female) or yang (male) use. I do not think blue or purple blossoms are any kind of warning by the plant delineators but indicate a male use is intended. A. A. often specified the use of certain herbs for one sex or the other. Many got into essentials of reproduction but let’s not go there at the moment.

    Clearly you have invested time and energy into Armenian herbals and herbalists and you deserve a tip of the hat for this but I think one can go only so far with Armenian herbals that were not even illustrated at the time of A.A.’s first ms in 1460. My thinking is that Armenian medicine influenced the VM botanicals but that non-Armenians compiled the VM. I think the whole VM amounts to a “common place” book, sort of a scrap book of memorabilia.

    Cheers, Tom

  273. Thomas F. Spande on June 20, 2016 at 9:18 pm said:

    Diane, On re-reading your posts pertaining to the expression “mnemomic “, I see now that you refer to the memory assist for USERS of the VM plants/herbs and not necessary to yourself. Still it does imply that somewhere one or more herbals or horticultural works exist that have elements in common with those of the VM. I am still interested in what one or more of these might be? Also I am interested in what you might consider the “cues” to be that are being remembered? Cheers, Tom

  274. Diane on June 21, 2016 at 12:27 am said:

    we have very different understanding of the botanical folios, I think.
    I can’t agree that the internal evidence supports the usual hypothesis about their subject being medicine – with all due respect to the opinion of Georg Baresch. The range of their plants is far wider than that. I have certainly found nothing particularly outre about the images themselves – their seeming ‘weirdness’ is (imo) a result of attempting to match them inappropriately to the medical-Dioscoridan herbals. The ‘weirdness’ is the indication that the imagery has been misinterpreted. That is – if one began by presuming that Fienman diagrams must represent an electrician’s handbook, or alternatively diagrams of local traffic flow, then the Fienman diagrams would seem extremely weird for street maps and wiring diagrams and one might then suggest that the electrician was mad, or that the local traffic manager needed a break. Not that there wouldn’t also be points in common.

    The botanical imagery in the Voynich manuscript (bar a couple such as f.9v, and even that tries) is rational, systematic and consistent – but it is not made from any idea that it is supposed to make a ‘portrait’. It is as different as, say, a photograph of a old Greek vase, and an archaeologist’s diagram of that pot. Parts are ‘realistic’ and parts are not; the information which is incorporated into the drawing is more informative for the professionals who use such things than a photograph would be. In the same way, a person who wants to learn what a Greek pot ‘looks like’ wants the photograph, at the very least.

    Also, about the ‘9’.. you know a glyph of that form might represent the Latin ending “..us”?

  275. Diane on June 21, 2016 at 12:41 am said:

    that is, of course, Feynman diagrams… I think I’ll chuck the ‘voice to keyboard’ idea. 🙁

  276. Diane on June 21, 2016 at 2:48 am said:

    You ask,
    “When you use a “memory assist” i.e. a mnemonic device, what exactly are you “remembering”? To me this implies, in the context of the VM botanicals, that you know of similar depictions of plants/herbs? ”

    In a sense all pre-modern imagery assumes that the viewer ‘reads’ it from a base of memorised learning. You don’t get a Raphael Madonna with an arrow and label saying “this is Mary, see the Gospel of Luke for more information”. The language of communication in imagery is exactly parallel to that in written text: it has to be learned, either at one’s mother’s knee (that’s a metaphor not a sexist assumption), or by formal training.

    A person who speaks the same ‘visual language’ as the picture’s maker will recognise the little cues in the picture which tell him or her the difference between the picture of Mary as Queen of Heaven, and any other picture of a queen. But the more technical sort of picture or diagram may use a different or more specialist vocabulary and visual ‘language’ in which details are particularly designed to carry much more, and more dense information. Our system of numerals, for example, is one which has to be learned, and is then employed to various levels of technical information or even arcane communication. What I’ve tried to explain is that (a) the language being spoken by the Voynich botanical imagery isn’t that of Latin Christian Europeans and (b) it has to be taken seriously, seriously studied and learned. A funny story keeps coming to mind from an old Punch cartoon. One colonial chap says to another “Smithers, they tell me that you speak French like a native”, to which Smithers replies, “Oh no, sir, the natives speak Swahili.”

  277. Thomas F. Spande on June 22, 2016 at 6:57 pm said:

    Diane, Your analogies are well made but they are not, in my opinion, mnenomics in the usual sense of a “memory assist”. Something that even a well-educated reader requires to recall something that might appear imprecise without such a device as might be required in a data-heavy discipline such as organic chemistry. One of the many “mnemonics” that one learns in elementary studies is “oh my such good apple pie” for the trivial names of the dicarboxylic acids: oxalic, malonic, succinic, glutaric, etc… I think your use of the term falls under “reasoning or recalling by analogy” and requires essentially educated and informed guesswork.

    I think your expression “cues” is more to the point. I think the VM herbals are a “one off”, as in my searches of herbals I have never encountered such odd depictions of plants. My guess is that some are faithful representations of the real thing while others are so fanciful that no herbal is likely to be useful as a reference. I do not expect even in my well worn Chinese Materia Medica to find a plant with mouse-like leaves hanging by their tails or beetle-shaped leaves. These are mnemomics for a herbalist who has then to search his memory for an herb for maybe avoiding plague or beetle bites. Perhaps here the text must be consulted? A faithful depiction such as the mulberry may not have a medicinal use as I find only the seeds are used in traditional chinese medicine and this is not implied by any kind of clue that I can spot in the VM for f25r.

    I seem to be out on a limb in my insistence that the VM botanicals involve yin/yang ideology in the directionality of roots, leaves and blossoms, in the shapes of leaves and in the coloring of blossoms as either blue or red/brown. I think these provide cues, to use your expression, as to whether the herb is designed for male (yang, blue sky) or female (yin, earth color) use. This draws one into traditional Chinese medicine as depicted in the Chinese Materia Medica (CMM) which is based upon yin/yang philosophy going back to Taoism BCE. The use of animal parts is totally foreign to western medicine but does occur frequently in the CMM. That seems not to have a place in the VM so far as I can tell.

    I hope I have never gone on record as writing that the VM botanicals are ALL for medicinal use! I think some might be for perfumery, warding off pests or uses that are still obscure. Some I think are actually shrubs as indicated by
    a brown cylinder rising above the root system. One (f87v) is likely for dental care with 30 molar-like teeth floating above the plant. Dioscorides paid a visit to the Greek island Chios to observe the mastic plant, which this might represent. Incidentally he did live in ancient Cilicia, after retiring from the Roman army at the time of Nero.

    Well, enough on these topics. Cheers, Tom

  278. Diane on June 22, 2016 at 11:32 pm said:

    You say, “reasoning or recalling by analogy” requires essentially educated and informed guesswork”.

    I’d say of the original users (pre-15thC) that they were “educated and informed” and that’s why they didn’t need guesswork.

    But you would prefer to end the topic, so that’s that.

  279. Thomas F. Spande on June 24, 2016 at 12:59 am said:

    Diane, The subject of mnemomism was the basis of our discussion, not any kind of “look–say”.

    I think mnemomism could still be involved in identification of a plant/herb in the VM botanicals. Here is one way, but not a unique way, in which it might work.

    1) At lease one or preferably more horticultural works or herbals existed before or at the time the VM was composed or copied and these were as “otherworldly” and strange as the VM botanicals.
    2) A visual cue is recognized, for example, periodic cubic distortions in a root.
    3) To initiates in herbal lore, this was a mnemonic for a root or leaf extract that aided in the passage of stones (kidney or bladder). Here is a visual cue serving as a mnemonic or memory assist. Textual mnemonics could convey the same information, but we are limited at the moment to imagery.

    So in short a visual clue could be a mnemomic if this root characteristic were shared among one or more horticultural works. It would remind the viewer of one possible medicinal use of the plant being examined.

    IF you can provide an example of another herbal as weird as the botanical part of the VM, then I would heartily agree that the term “mnemomism” is appropriate and we should compare the herbals to the benefit of all Voynichers. It could fill a huge void in VM research.

    As it is with “educated and informed” herbalists proposing the plant ID and use by inspection, I think we may enter the area of “necessary but not sufficient” and more wrangling. Like the old Boy Scout adage “leaflets three; let them be!” to avoid poison ivy. Wild raspberries also have three leaves.,

    I had no wish to suppress your, frequently, good suggestions, just that I think I may have spotted a limitation to your use of the word “mnemonic”. I hope I have not driven a wedge into Aussie-Yankee relations! Cheers, Tom

  280. Brandon Gaddy on July 11, 2016 at 8:30 pm said:

    Do you guys recall the metioning of the VM in The 39 Clues series?

  281. Thomas F. Spande on August 8, 2016 at 9:39 pm said:

    Brandon, I’m sorry that I have no idea of the “39 clues” series you refer to and cannot help you with an answer.

    To the membership: I am proposing a venue for the VM. It starts with the Genoese soldier Giovanni Giuistiniani who, with his family, controlled the Greek island of Chios (called by the Genoese “Scio”) from 1347-1566. Chios was the ONLY island that Genoa controlled unlike the Venetians who controlled many as well as sites on the Greek mainland. Chios was the source of the very profitable crop of “mastic” and a way station for the Genoese spice trade from the “spice garden of India”, the Malabar coast in south-west India. Here is where a mix of foreigners associated to profit from the lucrative trade in cinnamon, cloves, cassia, cardamon, mace, malabathron. turmeric, nutmeg but most predominantly, pepper. The main pepper species (there are over 1K in the Piperacea genus) were Piper longum L. and Fructus Piperus nigrum Trade in these spices proved hugely profitable for Venice and Genoa until Constantinople fell in 1453 and the Arabs took over control of the trade.

    Genoa was a supporter of the Holy Roman Emperor and the famous gates to the city (Porta Soprana, built 1155) have swallow-tailed castellations.

    On the malabar coast of India are two centers of the spice trade, Maziris and Calicut. Here were Armenians and Jews in residence as well as Venetians and Genoese.

    I have written earlier on the many cisterns of Chios and their use for bathing. The locals had extensive plumbing arrangements to connect the cisterns and many had shade provided.

    I realize I may have stepped on Diane’s toes in adopting her focus on travel routes into the middle and far east. Just happens that we end up at the same
    point from different points of departure.

    I will provide spice IDs anon for a few of the botanicals of the VM. I think, in all candidness, that some illustrations are not very accurate and I will argue that many of the delineations are done on the basis of second hand descriptions. Most of the Indian spices were not raised on the Malabar coast but the end products (seeds mainly) were there for sale. Cheers, Tom

  282. Diane on August 9, 2016 at 1:19 am said:

    Dear Tom,
    It is hardly ‘stepping on toes’ to adopt the results of others’ research, especially when you acknowledge the precedent.

    If you decide to stick with this latest idea, I will happily add your name as a footnote to the usual list of those who concluded the botanical section refers to plants not native to the Mediterranean: Georg Baresch, then me (in 2009), Mazars and Wiart (2010, I think) .. and now you.

    I think it was also 2009, or perhaps early 2010 when I began describing the routes, languages, trade goods, travellers and historical context to the trade across the “Great Sea” to as far as southern China. (If you’d like some references to cite about that, just let me know).

    I’ve also analysed the map for general use – so that should help your case, because I’ve shown how the routes co-incide with those attributed to the Radhanites first, and later how they accord with the Franciscans’. Not sure of exactly the date (but certainly 2010) when I began publishing about the Genoese presence in the Persian gulf, emphasised their connection to the Nestorian embassy and so forth.

    No – all in all, I think it shouldn’t be hard to produce the evidence on which my own opinions were based, and which you are more than welcome to use now to support the same argument.

    Welcome aboard. 🙂

    I’m delighted also to think that my having already broken the ice and survived the flames (Rich Santacoloma once spoke of the “the Asian swamp” in relation to my work, you should have a fairly easy cruise.

  283. Diane on August 9, 2016 at 1:25 am said:

    PS Tom
    I seem also to have led the way in explaining the link between St. Thomas, Malabar, Chios and Ortona. In fact, as no doubt you have divined, it will be part of my current series of posts enquiring about the ‘healing Thomas’ figures.

    But I ride an amblere, and have been drawing the map of my path now for eight years. Of course anyone who’s a bit quick will have seen where it was leading – so good luck and I hope we may be able to see how well our sources and evidence adduced will co-incide.

  284. Diane on August 9, 2016 at 9:50 am said:

    Sorry – but have you started to read any scholarly works yet?

    I think you may need to check some of your ideas about the history of the eastern trade (you will find a fair list of sources in my published work), and in particular I think you need to re-think this paragraph, which seems to suggest that the eastern trade had been a free-for-all before the fall of Constantinople. That notion isn’t one I’ve ever seen before, especially not in relation to the maritime trade – about which many studies have been written over the past twenty years.

    The paragraph I mean is this one:
    “Here is where a mix of foreigners associated to profit from the lucrative trade in cinnamon, cloves, cassia, cardamon, mace, malabathron. turmeric, nutmeg but most predominantly, pepper. The main pepper species (there are over 1K in the Piperacea genus) were Piper longum L. and Fructus Piperus nigrum Trade in these spices proved hugely profitable for Venice and Genoa until Constantinople fell in 1453 and the Arabs took over control of the trade.”

    I have often recommended the various merchants’ handbooks (Zibaldone) and so forth, together with the historical sources which show the limits on travel at different times, for different reasons, along the various routes.

    If you have gained some impression that westerners could hop over to southern India at their pleasure before the fall of Constantinople, I’m afraid nothing that I’ve written, and nothing that I’ve read would support you.

  285. Thomas F. Spande on August 9, 2016 at 4:56 pm said:

    Diane, I have no interest in retracing your steps and research on trade routes in the medieval and renaissance periods but only to focus on one route and that is the route through the Red Sea to India that was used by Genoa. This linked the Giuistiniani-controlled Greek island of Chios with Genoese operations in the spice trade centered on the Malabar coast of India. Trade in pepper was instrumental in making Genoa extremely wealthy.

    Incidentally, Marco Polo on his return to Venice after his 26 yr travels arms a ship to fight the Genoese but comes out on the losing side and is imprisoned by the Genoese and parked in Pisa.

    My interest was only in the role of Genoa in the spice trade but only as a way of interpreting some elements of the VM, such as some of the plant IDs, the map of Chiostown and the bathing scenes. There are, I think, in the VM botanicals, drawings for several of the Malabar spices, I concede the general field of spice routes, the burial site and church of St. Thomas to you. My interest was more limited.

    It was more than three years ago I stumbled onto Chios as maybe involved as one of the venues for the VM. I was led to this focus largely by remarks from BD, who was interested in mastic. From this I was led to the Giustiniani control of Chios until the Ottomans grabbed it after the death of the son of Giovanni defending Constantinople.

    Where are the Armenians in all this? I find no evidence that Armenians were ever a major population on Chios but they were prominent on the nearby mainland and on the Malabar coast. I think though, that many Armenian glyphs are found in the VM text and most particularly “89” as a stand in for “et”. I have written repeatedly on my deciphering of this based on the use of the Armenian numbering system. It leads to the use of “8” as a cipher for “e” and “9” for “t”. It seems likely that there are redundancies in the VM glyphs for the vowels.

    I can produce a few references on Genoa and the spice trade but these are available to anyone searching online. I have not used any excerpts so did not cite sources. The Red Sea route I mention appears in many sources and I thought was so generally accepted that it required no citation.

    Cheers, Tom

  286. Tom
    Are you quite sure that you mean the ‘Red Sea’ here?

    I do not recall having read any mention of Genoese travelling that route to fetch pepper during the period of interest.

    Perhaps you mean the Persian Gulf? Classical sources meant a wider area of sea when they spoke of the ‘Red Sea’ but in the way we use the term now I have not seen any reference to Genoese ships using that route.

    On the other hand, as I explained a while ago, we have evidence of Genoese in the Persian Gulf before 1440. If you like I can hunt out again the article I published back then, which speaks of western presence in the Indian ocean by the 13thC.

    There is a great deal available about the maritime routes and trade between the 1stC AD and 1438, and one which I found particularly enlightening for all sorts of reasons was Takahito Mikasa (ed.), Cultural and Economic Relations between East and West: Sea Route (1988).

    We do know that the Genoese were inclined to register their vessel as leaving port for the Black Sea when they were actually headed to north Africa .. chronic problem for historians but it made economic sense. And of course there may be some record of a Genoese ship travelling via the Red Sea to fetch pepper during the period of interest, but I should like to see some evidence. Most records suggest that the trade was carried from warehouses ( = Lat: thesauri) from Alexandria, or Tabriz, or obtained directly from other ports: the Zibaldone da Canal, for example refers often to Tunis.

    So I’m puzzled, I admit by the idea of Genoese sailing through the Red Sea to India and returning with a load of pepper and spices earlier than 1438.

  287. Tom,
    Just btw – it is a good idea to cite the sources of your information whether or not you include a direct quotation. It is so easy to mis-read a source, or to use a secondary source which has mis-read the primary sources, that it is really helpful to know where information has come from, and not just where a quote was garnered. Readers need to be able to check the original source for the information, as – in Voynich studies – for first enunciation of a given idea or argument. It is this right of the reader which is so often disregarded in Voynich studies from the erroneous idea that “credit” is like a medal, to be reserved for mates and other ‘approved persons’. 🙂

  288. Thomas F. Spande on August 11, 2016 at 9:03 pm said:

    To the membership, I propose that f17v is a fair representation of the chief spice that interested Genoa, Piper niger. Despite the fact that Wiki indicates in their text that the heart shaped leaves are ALTERNATE, their photographs and others I have seen, indicate the leaves are OPPOSITE as indicated in f17v.

    The seed-producing “dropes” are sometimes seen in pics as coming off the end of the viney plant and sometimes in groups although it has to be admitted that v17v has them in huge abundance.

    Interesting from a codicology viewpoint is the fact that a transfer of two of the drupes in seen on f18r. I use Nick’s terminology although this one was not mentioned in “Curse”. Oddly enough only two if the topmost drupes transfer and twice for that matter. This poses a question as to why just those two and suggests they were done last or only those retouched? The vine nature of this plant is indicated by the vine extension from the end of the plant.

    Pepper was grown mainly in southern India and particularly in the Malabar coast.

    Diane< I will supply evidence and documentation that Genoa used the Red Sea route to voyage to the Malabar coast. They did not go overland to use the Persian gulf route favored by Arab traders operating out of Baghdad. More on this anon, as well as possible IDs of some other spices of interest to Italian sea powers, mainly Venice and Genoa. Cheers, Tom

  289. Tom,
    Thanks for the offer of that reference.

  290. Tom,
    A very neat summary of Genoa’s history as maritime and trading power is online.

  291. Thomas F. Spande on August 22, 2016 at 10:35 pm said:

    Diane, I have read a bit more on Genoa and the Red Sea route to the Malabar coast. Looks like I have to eat some crow!

    I had seen several spice trade maps showing a route covering western Italy through the Red Sea to the Malabar coast of India. What I missed totally was the trade ORIGINATED in India and ended in Pisa and Genoa, in other words I had the direction reversed. So traders started from the Malabar coast, proceeded up the Red Sea (from Bab-el-Mandeb) then went overland to the Nile (from trading centers on the Red Sea like Berenike), Once on the Nile, the traders resume maritime travel down the Nile to Alexandria, then off to ports on the Western side of Italy as well as Venice and Constantinople. A good source is “Encyclopedia Metropolitano, ed. E. Smedley, Hugh J. Rose, and Henry J. Rose; pp 81-82, included in a fine essay on Commerce.

    I have focused on Genoa and find they also controlled Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily as well as holdings in the Levant (like Chios). Trade via the Red Sea with western Italy reached a high point in the 12th-13thC.

    Ruinous maritime battles occurred between Genoa and Venice (battle of Curzoia, Genoa wins) [incidentally Marco Polo is taken prisoner]; “war” of Choggia, 1378-1381 led finally to the utter vanquishing of Genoa. Earlier Genoa had defeated Pisa in the battle of Meloria, 1284.

    To the membership: I have tentatively identified two more species of pepper in the VM botanicals. I think f37r is Piper retrofractum and f96v is Piper longum. I will supply more documentation for these in another post. Oddly enough, if P. retrofractum is depicted in f37v,, it likely originated in Java. Cheers, Tom

  292. Thomas F. Spande on August 23, 2016 at 9:25 pm said:

    Dear all, On scanning the VM botanicals, there are three plants shown with berry-bearing stems called “drupes” indicated. These are f17v, f37r, and f96v.
    I think these are representatives of the huge Piperaceae family and incidentally the three most widely used, economically important species of the family. As posted on 8-11 (BTW, “drope” used in that post is a typo for the correct “drupe”), I have proposed f17v as a fair representation of Piper nigrum or P. niger, the most valuable, commonly-used of the peppers. It has heart-shaped opposite leaves, although a few are sort of alternately arranged. Depending upon how the mature peppercorns are treated, one obtains either black or white pepper. The viney nature of the plant is indicated by the plant extension on the left side of the folio.

    The plant shown on f37r, I think, represents the pepper plant, Piper retrofractrum. The leaves are more ovoid and opposite (mostly!) as shown in Wiki illustrations. The herb delineators are not always scrupulous in sticking with the leaf orientations. Nature does not mix alternate and opposite leaf orientations in my limited experience. It is one or the other but not both.

    The last pepper plant in the VM is that on f96v, Piper longum with alternate heart-shaped leaves. It is shown as a plant with an extensive branching as found in nature. The family Piperaceae is huge with five genera and hundreds of species. Interestingly, I think the three most important, from an economic and health, standpoint are shown in the VM botanicals.

    An operating hypothesis is that the venue where the VM was copied was the Kerala area of the Malabar coast with cities like Calicut or Muziris where Genoese, Venetians, Armenians, Jews, Arabs and Indians all worked in a competitive mercantile environment. I lean to Genoese compositors who were also familiar with mastic production and the wide-spread bathing in cisterns on the Genoese-controlled island of Chios (Scio).

    I think it is probable that the VM botanicals contain depictions of some of the other SE Asian spices and will continue work on identifying these. Cheers, Tom

  293. Tom,
    No-one is a universal expert, and with a cross-disciplinary study like this, errors are unavoidable. I think it’s a greater shame when people who might help by correcting an error prefer to sit and snigger about it.

    One of my aunts had a saying to the effect that a person who might help correct a misunderstanding but doesn’t is like a physician who won’t set a broken leg.

    I’ve just found that the official story that Becket’s bones are in Gravina may be mistaken, and that the local belief that Frederick II built the Cathedral is just a local legend! So now I have cause to blush, too.

  294. PS – Tom,
    About your theory concerning Java, Muziris and the Malabar coast – perhaps I can save you some research time. Just use the ‘search’ function on my blog for the key words and quite a bit should come up. Cheers.

  295. Tom – I forgot to mention that we seem to have agreement on some of these ids.
    Short version is at

    to which I added a note about fol. 17r, that it “is distinguished from pepper vines by its tendrils. Otherwise its sorrel-like leaves would make it very like P.cubeba (Java pepper).

  296. Koen Gheuens on August 24, 2016 at 7:20 am said:


    I thought f35v was pepper grown on a tree but you disagreed, and now (as so often) it appears you thought the same in 2013. Did you change your mind about it, then?

    I also agree that there is a very high chance that some of these plants depict “Piper” species. There just must be pepper, right?

  297. Koen,
    The pepper from which we get our white and black pepper is a vine, but not like a grape-vine which uses tendrils; it has suckers like an ivy.

    In one sense it “grows on trees” – by clinging to them – but pepper (P. nigra) berries don’t grow on tree, but on a vine. Then there’s the third factor – whether in cultivation, on the Malabar coast – where, btw, they were for some time the exclusive right of the Community of Thomas, together with the steel-yard, – the vines were trained upon stakes or upon trees. There seems no way to be sure. I hunted through all the evidence available to me: I don’t read Tamil, or Sanskrit etc. and nothing was said on the point.

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear about the sense in which I meant it doesn’t “grow on trees”.

  298. Thomas F. Spande on August 24, 2016 at 4:43 pm said:

    Diane, I will look into P. cubeba. Thanks for the tip.

    What I think is important is that we and others begin to have some agreement on a few of the VM botanicals as representing species of Piperaceae. I have refrained from using the research of others (at least non-intentionally) preferring an “ab initio” approach, It is not from any attempt at disparagement of existing research but in “building a third leg of a stool”. If several arrive at the same conclusion, then it strengthens that conclusion.

    Maybe the VM botanicals are an attempt to describe the propagation and cultivation of some of the herbs? This might explain the encryption of the text to evade prying Arab eyes, attempting to prevent westerners from growing their own supplies of these valuable commodities? Just a guess. Cheers, Tom

  299. Tom, From what I can see in the documents, westerners had no interest in growing P.nigra, though I guess some of the early efforts to re-create an Eden (as it were) might have tried.

    Since the trade was usually run as a combine of traders who agreed to co-operate, and most of the ships were Indian or Yemeni Arab when they weren’t Chinese, there’d be about as much point in trying to hide the information from Islamic people as in trying to hide a description of a gothic cathedral from Europeans. You know, it was right there, anytime.

    Also, the historians who’ve studied the original documents (legal agreements, letters home and all that sort of thing) constantly remark on the harmony and equitable nature of those agreements – between Muslims, Jews, Hindu and even some Latins. Well done, all.

  300. Thomas F. Spande on September 1, 2016 at 9:50 pm said:

    Diane, Point well taken! Romanesque did coexist for a century with Gothic, but that does not change the argument.

    Maybe even more pertinent is another fact. I think that Westerners probably knew also that the Piperaceae family thrived ONLY in the tropics. A few of the Piper genus could however be cultivated in the subtropics. I have considered the subtropical island of Chios as a destination for introduction of some of the piper genera as the temps are within the same range +/- 1-2 C degree (range (33-34C; Calicut, India, Mar-May) and 31-32C; Maziris, India, July-Sept) vs Chios (31-32C; July-Aug) but the Malibar coast has monsoon rains, not found on Chios. Incidentally, P. katsura, was successfully introduced into subtropical Japan.

    Still no evidence that Piper species were considered for the subtropical West. According to the Kew gardens publications, Piper genera have not been successfully propagated in the temperate zones unless grown under glass.

    P. cubeba has lanceolate 5-6″ leaves and resembles P. retrofractrum (f37r) so I’ll have to dig more to confirm that proposed ID.

    Silk making was introduced into Chios during the middle ages. BD has commented on this. Cheers, Tom

  301. D.N. O'Donovan on September 2, 2016 at 9:01 am said:

    I’ve always been intrigued by the report by one of Charlemagne’s biographers – sorry, don’t have the text to hand – that on being obliged by the city guard to return the silk garments he’d worn in Constantinople, Charlemagne then imported and settled somewhere on the south-eastern coast of France, an entire group – family or community – of silk-weavers whom he brought from Syria. Since he also kept in touch with the Christian communities of the holy land, Egypt and north Africa, we can’t be sure of where each of the silks originated that are found e.g. in the tombs of early saints or of kings, but silk was known in the west and apparently woven in he west, so early. Agnes Geijer’s book on the history of textiles was written in the 1980s but is still a standard reference.


  302. Thomas F. Spande on September 4, 2016 at 9:13 pm said:

    Diane, Thanks for this additional indication that the original monopoly on silk held by the Chinese was gradually eroding. I recall reading years ago in the historical fiction of James Clavell (cf. “Shogun” ) that medieval Japan was prevented by the Chinese emperor from trading in silk with China despite the Japanese desperation for silk garments in dealing with the heat and humidity of a typical Japanese summer. The Chinese would sell, however, to the Portuguese who in turn sold to the Japanese. This made Portugal missionary traders immensely wealthy and their shipments home of gold made their ships attractive to Spanish attack.

    BTW, a minor masterpiece by Clavell was his novella, “King Rat” which never got the attention it deserved.

    I have done a bit of digging on Marco Polo’s account of passing the Malabar coast of India on his return to Venice and will relate that in my next post.

    Cheers, Tom

  303. Thomas F. Spande on September 5, 2016 at 3:36 am said:

    Marco Polo’s cellmate-scribe writes (chapter 25) about the Melibar {Malibar] coast on his return from 26 years of business recon. For a traveler who does not set foot in India he gives a surprisingly detailed account of the peoples and the spice crops being shipped from the cities of that coast. He lists pepper, ginger,cinnamon and something called “turbit”. The annotators are of the opinion that the cinnamon mentioned is actually cassia and the turbit is cubeb. The cubeb elicites much discussion as the annotator is familiar with it coming from Java but admits the Dutch claim to be shipping it out of the Malibar coast.
    Furthermore spikenard is an article of commerce from the Malibar coast even though it originates in the Himalayas. Incidentally, for students of the Bible, it appears in the Old and New Testaments. In Mark 14:3-5 and John 12:3,5 it is used by a follower of Jesus to annoint either his head or feet, respectively. Strange to stumble on a significant textual difference (King James version) in this regard.

    Then Polo gets into Chinese traders visiting the Malabar coast and some evidently having settled there for generations. Maps included in the huge two volumes of the voyages of Marco Polo indicate that he makes no port calls there but seems to know from some unidentified source, a good deal about the trade there and the peoples. Could it be that he is a bit deceptive here, knows it well, and is saving this rich coast for his own trading purposes? Incidentally he does not kiss off the locals as “Idolaters” as is usually his introductory phrase in discussing the peoples of a new region or kingdom, so he may know that many are Christians. Much discussion in this section on confusion that results from Polo’s references to Maabar and Melibar, with the former being pegged by most commentators as the Eastern coast of India.

    I have tentatively identified spikenard (Nardostachyrs jatamansi DC (family Valerianaceae) in the VM as the plant represented by f8v. The leaves are indicated as being opposite as seems the case in most illustrations I have seen. The ground up roots (should really be black not brown as shown in the VM) produce an oil used primarily as perfume, a sleep aid or sedative. One drawback to using Bax’s repro of the VM is that the roots of many botanicals are cut off when often they are the part of interest. Otherwise his illustrations are handy for quick reference and he should be thanked for making these available. Cheers, Tom

  304. Thomas,
    The line from the Himalayas, through the Indus, to southern India is a very old trade route. The Hindu Ayurveda, like the southern Siddha medicine traditions both relied on plants which grew in the Himalayas and in fact the patron of Siddha medicine (a deification of the star Canopus) was said to have brought Siddha to southern India ‘from the north’.

    Also, there were just a few ports from which the bulk trade went to the Mediterranean. They differ according to period, but effectively the east horn of Africa, Soqotra, the Malabar coast, Barygaza and Java-Sumatra. Some ships went as far as the Moluccas, and the archaeological evidence shows that in one way and another the trade in cloves (which plant I include in f.1v with Ravansara from Madagascar) had been travelled to as far as Syria by no later than the 2nd millennium BC. The Indus route was also that of the lapis lazuli trade which passed to Mesopotamia by the third or fourth millennium BC, and by about the second as far as Egypt.

    So altogether you don’t have to puzzle about how Himalayan plants or others might be traded through Malabar.. depending on the period and traders.

  305. Thomas F. Spande on September 5, 2016 at 3:15 pm said:

    Diane, Thanks for fleshing out some of the details in European trade with the Malibar coast.

    I have noted some years ago that the McCrone pigment assays did not pick up lapis lazuli in the blues used in the VM. The coloration of the VM was done on the cheap.

    Do I understand you correctly that you have proposed f1v of the VM as the plant from which cloves are obtained? Cheers, Tom

  306. Thomas F. Spande on September 15, 2016 at 9:10 pm said:

    Dear all, Reprising a guess that the VM botanicals might be information needed to transplant certain lucrative spices to areas where the Arabs could not intervene and non-Arabs could continue to continue to prosper from the spice trade. Recall that with the fall of Constantinople to the Arabs in 1453, they interposed their own traders athwart the trade routes of Venice and Genoa to the Malabar coast of India.

    I offer a few examples as follows to the successful replanting of certain key spices to areas not under Arab control: Clove plantations were established on the island of Pemba part of Zanzibar and Zanzibar itself by both the Portuguese and the English. Nutmeg (and the related Mace) from Rhun, one of the Molaccan Banda islands of Indonesia was transplanted to Ceylon and Singapore in the early 16thC. Sailors downwind from Pemba/Zanzibar claimed the delightful aromas of cloves could be detected miles out at sea.

    The fight between the Dutch and English over the nutmeg groves of Rhun led after the treaty of Breda (1667) to the swap of the Dutch-controlled Manhattan island of the New world and allowed the Dutch full control of Rhun (sometimes called Run). So New Amsterdam became New York. What the Dutch got from the natives for trinkets, they swapped for nutmegs! What the Dutch got was the most valuable spice of the time, where a few could buy a grand estate and were considered a cure for plague. Stevedores unloading ships were forced to wear clothing with no pockets!

    Nutmegs were an article of commerce for India, but coming in, not being exported. The first description of the use of nutmegs appeared in a book by Tome Pires, a Portuguese apothecary in 1512-1515.

    Will write more anon on what I think is a VM depiction of the cloves tree.

    All for the moment. Incidentally, nutmegs were even transplanted to the British controlled island of Grenada in the New World. Often when cloves or nutmeg were transplanted, the original soil accompanied the seedlings.

    Cheers, Tom

  307. Thomas F. Spande on September 17, 2016 at 1:10 am said:

    Dear all, I wish to retract my tentative ID (f8v) for spikenard, that I had put forward in the last paragraph of my post on Sept 5. The VM botanical f8v much more closely fits Cloves (Syzygium aromatica; or three Eugenia species) It should be recalled that the buds, originally, are blue but change to red when mature and harvested. These are plucked and sun dried to form hard brown spikes. They are not brown while on the plant.

    The plant thrives in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Madagascar.The tree can reach 12m in height and has opposite leaves. Oil of cloves has been used since antiquity to deaden a tooth ache. Outside of seasoning, it can still has dental uses. Cheers, Tom

    ps. It is possible that since spikenard is found in the Himalayas that no depiction occurs in the VM botanicals.

  308. Thomas F. Spande on September 18, 2016 at 9:57 pm said:

    Dear all, Another day, another tentative spice plant ID. Today’s is cadamom (Elletaria cardamomum). There are three species known. The main source is Kerala, India. It is now the third most valuable spice in the world (behind vanilla and saffron). I propose that f14r is a close representation of that plant, described as having two ranks of sharply pointed lanceolate leaves pointing upward. There are still problems with the VM depiction, mainly in not showing the leaves coming off a main stem in an alternate arrangement. I think this might not hold true of a seedling that I think is shown by f14r. Also the blossom associated with the plant is not the aster-like bloom of that plant depiction in the VM but is more like a white snap-dragon with a central red streak.

    The seed pod changes from green to yellow when ready for harvest. Used in cuisine throughout the middle east, particularly in teas and in bakery goods throughout the world.

    BD would cheer that Guatemala is, since the WW1 period, the world’s major producer of cardamom, thanks to a German coffee planter. Right latitude and soil and then good to go.

    Nick can comment on that hole in the vellum on f14r. None on f14v or anywhere else I could detect. Using Nick’s categorization of holes, as man- made or natural, f14r would appear to be intentional. Where is the match? Gone with the wind maybe. Cheers, Tom

  309. Hello Thomas ! As long as you are talking about various spices, you might like to consider the difference between bulbs and corms: For instance, the very valuable tulip BULBS and the much more valuable saffron CORM. The corm is easily differentiated by its flattened shape.
    The saffron flower is easily identified by its most valuable pistils and stamens: Those little red items are the source of the saffron spice. And YES, the saffron flower corms can be divided and re-planted to produce more flowers.

  310. Thomas F. Spande on September 19, 2016 at 8:36 pm said:

    BD, The off hand remark I made regarding cardamom should have been qualified by commenting that this financial ranking was pretty much the current one; not that of the 15thC. In that period, I think the most valuable spice would have been nutmeg. One shipload was worth way more than the value of the ship. A good read is “Run” indicating that the spice was so valuable that the Dutch would let a good ship go to the bottom from woodworms while awaiting the optimum time to pick nutmegs. I have yet to identify it in the VM. Maybe too far off track in the 15thC to show up in what I think the focus of the VM botanicals is: the Malabar coast of India.

    Slavers were said to haul the most valuable cargoes but I think ships carrying spices likely could beat them out.

    I may be led to the crocus plant in the future and will bear in mind your comments on saffron. I have not spotted it yet and I doubt if I will spot any tulip bulbs which came, I think, mainly from what is now Turkey.

    I am puzzling still about that odd hole on f14r. No hole that large anywhere in the VM botanicals that I could find. I am guessing that f14r was completed but for some reason nothing was drawn and colored on the verso side.. That was just left blank and the next folio was numbered with the usual recto side actually numbered as 14v. A close inspection of the vellum might indicate whether the exterior (having hair follicles) or interior part (next to flesh) was used for this? Maybe the scribes kept the original layout and the usual recto side just numbered 14v. The original scribes might have left f14v out and would have labelled the next folio as 15r/15v? A punctillio for sure but still a minor puzzlement.

    Another spice plant ID I think is coriander (Coriandrum sativa; family Apiaceae). I think it is shown in the VM as f36r, It is common in Western Asia, widely used in India for curries and a condiment in general. The plant has many oddly lobed leaves that are opposite one another. What strikes me as odd about this plant is that the leaves change in shape from bottom to top of the plant (20 inches or so in height). The herb is also called Cilantro .

    It is also found in Southern Europe where Pliny comments on its additional use in perfumery. I am guessing that the yellowish leaves shown in f36r might indicate that with much of the color being lost during the extraction process.

    More anon. I am focusing now on cinnamon. Cheers, Tom

    ps for BD: Coriander (Cilantro) was so popular in England that the emigrants to North America brought it over ca 1670. Now, It is all over the New World and a special species is found in Mexico. The ability to appreciate the aroma is genetically linked; some finding it appealing, others appalling. Some are even allergic to it.


  311. Thomas F. Spande on September 23, 2016 at 10:15 pm said:

    Dear all, A tentative plant ID for VM f94r is Chinese cinnamon (Cinnamomum cassia; family Lauracaeae) from SW provinces of China which was an article of commerce and also imported into India. It has opposite leaves and seed pods that resemble those of f94r (see Chinese Materia Medica pp 182-3). It is one of the most important herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). The leaves are shown coming out of a stump where the typically two year growth has been trimmed back and the fresh shoots used for the inner bark that is used for TCM, cuisine, perfumes, etc. Neither the roots nor the leaves of f94r are accurately depicted in comparison with photos of the plant,

    There are at least 350 species of the Cinnamomum genus; the most common being C. vera (true cinnamon), C. aromaticum, and C. zeylanicum, all found on the Malabar coast of India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Burma. Some C. species have alternate leaves and some oddly seem to have both opposite and alternate on the same stem! as seen in drawings and photos. But all leaves are lanceolate, many with a characteristic point on each leaf as a drip point to shed moisture. Some species have purplish black ovate seed pods. C. cassia is not considered true cinnamon.

    At this time, I do not mean to indicate that the plant shown on f94r is found naturally growing on the Malabar coast; It may be either imported into India or depicted by an herbalist operating to the East of India.

    This ID is one of the most tentative I have proposed. I hope to gather additional corroboration for this ID. Cheers, Tom

  312. Thomas F. Spande on September 27, 2016 at 9:49 pm said:

    Dear all, A couple of additional comments on my tentative ID of the VM plant shown on f14r. Turns out there are two plants that are called cardamon or cardomum. Very strangely they are not two species of the same genus but two plants from two different genera of the family Zingibaraeae. One genus is Elettaria cardamomum, that has two species, a green type and a black type. The second is Amomium subulatum. Both are native to India, the former from the Malabar coast; the latter from Nepal. I think the depiction in the VM f14r is the black (less valuable) species of E, cardamomum. The binomial name evidently does not include the green and black sub species.

    Now what is very weird about the depiction of this plant are the roots that tend to resemble the Greek form of worry beads. These are exised from the depiction of the whole VM put online by Bax. I think they might reflect one of the many medicinal uses of the plant in addition to cuisine. The plant seeds are useful for mood-elevation and function as an antidepressant.

    Marco Polo’s Voyage (chapter 24) and footnotes refer to this as one of the spices from the Malabar coast. He also refers to cumin and ginger that I think I have also spotted in the depicted VM botanicals. More of these in another post. Cheers, Tom

  313. Thomas F. Spande on October 3, 2016 at 5:33 am said:

    Dear all, Some quick VM botanical IDs follow: Cumin (Cuminum cyminum; family Apiaceae), I think, is f41r; shown with opposite inflorescence clusters that are only lightly tinted so as not to obscure their finely divided structure; Ginger (Zingiber officinale), f39r. For the latter, the root rhizome is used that is shown totally stylized. The alternate long leaves are alternate. Both of these spice plants originated in the Indian subcontinent. One spice plant that may be more problematic is that shown in the VM botanicals as f26v that I think is the Tamarind tree (Tamarindus indica; aka “Indian date”; family Leguminasae) that has clusters of opposite compound leaves that themselves have an opposite arrangement of their small leaves. This herb has only one genus. I think the cut off stems indicate where the sausage-sized fruits have been harvested. The flowers are not realistic however. The real problem with this ID is that the plant originated in Africa and Madagascar but was known (date uncertain) in southern India to Arab traders and the tree resembled to their eyes the date palm so they coined the name Tamil (palm) Hindi (India) for that plant. Whether it could have been known on the Malabar coast to the VM scribes is not proved.

    I have found very useful a book “The Art of Indian Curry Cooking” by Rani that is available on Google as an e-book for $3.03 USD. Using this book I have put together a list and have some more tentative IDs for Southern Indian spices and will relay these anon. Interestingly, Richard II had a book prepared in 1390 on “The Forms of Cury”, considered by most cooks to have been too heavy on saffron.

    One last ID is f1v, that I think could be Malabar leaf, or the regional Bay leaf Cinnamomum famala, family Lauracaeae; also known as Malabathrum). The dried ovoid leaves are used after 3d (hence the two colors) and was used in cuisine with the leaves also for healing snake bite, insect stings, cuts and infections. Hence the “bear paws” showing sharp claws. The leaves should have three lengthwise veins but this is not obvious.

    It is tempting to consider that the VM botanicals show plants used for spices and that some common European potherbs may be absent. Cheers, Tom

  314. bdid1dr on October 3, 2016 at 4:04 pm said:

    @ThomS: You might like to compare the saffron corm and its flowers (at least the stamens and pistils). The dialogue which accompanies the illustration is somewhat obscure, but one is still able to differentiate the corms (flattened) from various bulbs.

  315. bdid1dr on October 3, 2016 at 4:14 pm said:

    ps: There is some obfuscation in that folio — can you blame them? Consider the value of the ‘spice’ which was used not only as food enhancement but was used in huge amounts as a yellow dye. Another use for the yellow powder was for the mineral “gold” which appeared in many works of art, and even the ‘gold’ edging on the pages of religious books.

  316. bdid1dr on October 3, 2016 at 4:28 pm said:

    ps: Egg white was used to enhance the appearance of the yellow powder into ‘gold”.

  317. Viktor on October 3, 2016 at 5:37 pm said:

    Hi friends. Don’t you think that this picture is drawn by the author of the manuscript? https://yadi.sk/i/jVv5v6ycw9iEF Very similar ink and handwriting.

  318. Thomas F. Spande on October 4, 2016 at 4:49 pm said:

    Viktor, The script is in Arabic. There might be some tiny bits of arabic here and there in the VM. Recall that arabic is read from right to left, not the case with the VM text. The image you provide is carefully colored and much more sophisticated than any in the VM. Lovely nonetheless! Cheers, Tom

  319. Thomas F. Spande on October 4, 2016 at 6:22 pm said:

    BD, At least one species of the crocus plant is grown on the Malabar coast of India, an area that I am currently focusing on in terms of the spice trade and I whose spices, I think, are shown in many of the botanicals of the VM. C. sativa has a huge 6-petaled flower with red stamens and unbranched very slender chives-like stems. The deep blue flower is nearly at ground level.

    I have not found a really good facsimile of this plant among the botanicals of the VM. I think that f49r, while not being a very good representation of the saffron-producing crocus plant does have some elements in common with depictions of C. sativa including the somewhat slender leaf stems and a six- petaled blue single flower BUT the root is all wrong. It should be a bulb but is more like a tap root.

    Can you or any other reader of this post, provide a more accurate interpretation of any of the crocus species from among the botanicals of the VM? I plan to search a few of the other species and their methods of propagation.

    I find the plant interesting in providing textile coloration as is used in the robes of Asian monks although turmeric is now more common and cheaper to use.

    Your mention of saffron being used as sort of gold leaf was a new use to me. Was it egg white or the yolk used in the gold coloration you cite? If it were egg yolk, it would be a more or less expected application for the medium of egg tempera. Cheers, Tom

    ps. I committed a typo in the alleged derivation of the spice tamarind in my post of Oct 3. It is considered to have derived from the arabic for palm which was “tamir” not “tamil” as I had it.

  320. bdid1dr on October 4, 2016 at 10:28 pm said:

    Egg white and saffron powder. If a manuscript artist was low (or out of) metallic gold leaf, he could resort to to powdered sex organs of the beautiful ‘saffron’ crocus. I’ve recently been re-filing my file cabinets. Take a look at what I seem to recall as folio 55v: If you see the “bulb” of that specimen somewhat flattened so it looks like a shoe or boot, you are viewing the saffron crocus. There has been quite a bit of confusion (over centuries, and countries) as to when bulbs are planted, and when saffron corms are planted. It is the little sex organs of the beautiful flower which is dried and powdered.

  321. bdid1dr on October 4, 2016 at 10:34 pm said:

    ps: the powdered saffron (bright yellow) has been used for centuries (mixed with egg white) as a substitute for “gold” — in many works of medieval artists — and right up to current years.

  322. bdid1dr on October 4, 2016 at 11:47 pm said:

    @ThomS : Boenicke Manuscript 408 (so-called “Voynich”) folio 35r :

    What looks like a ‘wine goblet in shape” — with a stem arising from the center; which centered stem has stamens and pistils (in full colors of blue and red). Take a look at the shape of the “bulbs”. They are NOT bulbs; but rather CORMS.
    Once you get a good look (and can ignore the ‘bleed-through’ plant) and can enlarge the photo enough that you can read the “Voynich writing”, you might find yourself right on track, and can validate my finding of the “Saffron Crocus and corms.


  323. Thomas F. Spande on October 5, 2016 at 12:33 am said:

    Dear all, I think I have found another pretty good but still tentative VM botanical ID. I think f65v is Ferula asafoetida, (family Apiaceae). It was virtually unknown in Europe until the 16C. The odor of the stem sap smells like a fetid dung heap yet is called “the food of the gods”; “the god of your choice, evidently “. Yet it is a critical ingredient in nearly all Indian curries and adds a meat flavor (sort of like modern use of MSG) to the vegetarian diets common in India. It has many medicinal and practical uses (like drawing moths, catfish, wolves or anything else attracted by an animal that has died). The uses would fill a book. including killing trees, but I will just comment that f65v is a fairly good depiction of the plant, showing 4 stems that have been severed for cookery. It adds a leek-like flavor and aroma to curries and other Indian food. In general serving as a flavor enhancer.

    Incidentally, the aroma of the fresh resin is so potent that the resin has to be stored in air-tight containers lest it contaminate one’s other spices with off aromas. The resin is also used for pickling.

    The plants grow to 5 ft in height and have clusters of greenish flowers that are sometimes yellowish. The roots are fairly accurately depicted.

    The plant uses are so varied that I will post other comments on this strange plant in the future. I think the main take home message on this plant is that it was virtually unknown in Europe UNTIL WELL AFTER the end of the Roman empire, that many date to the fall of Constantinople in 1453,

  324. Viktor on October 5, 2016 at 1:43 am said:

    Anybody know whose is the picture?

  325. Thomas F. Spande on October 6, 2016 at 5:01 am said:

    Viktor, My guess is that it is from a children’s counting book where the erect man is the Arabic numeral for 1 in our system (which is actually Indo-Arabic). The man in that loop, that resembles the zero (that Indians introduced ca. 600AD) is the arabic number for 5. I think the written arabic is the name of the number in arabic, maybe the equivalent of “fifteen”? The Arabic zero is a dot. Interestingly the Italian mathematician (from Pisa) Fibonacci is credited with introducing the concept of zero to the west about the same time as the VM vellum is prepared. Roman numerals did not use it thus our weird numbering of clock faces and centuries. Cheers, Tom

    My guess is that this originated several hundred years after the date of the VM vellum (early 15C).

    Cheers, Tom

  326. bdid1dr on October 6, 2016 at 10:44 pm said:

    Again at ThomS: Look for folio 35r in Boenicke ms 408:
    What appears to be a huge wine goblet is the flower. Those little red thingies and yellow thingies are the sex organs of the CROCUS –specifically referred to as the “SAFFRON CROCUS”. The accompanying text is pretty clear in identifying that specimen. What really identifies the specimen on VM/Boenicke Mss 408, folio 35r are the CORMS (NOT bulbs) which appear at the base of that illustration. You may now find the discussion to be more easily read. I’m still pondering about the text (not very forthcoming — probably because we couldn’t get around the ‘tetchy’ nature of ‘sex’ or ‘fertility’ or ‘fertilizer’.

  327. Thomas F. Spande on October 6, 2016 at 10:54 pm said:

    “Open Sesame” Well, maybe, maybe not! The world’s oldest oil-seed plant, Sesamum indica; family Pedaliaceaea) cultivated for 3K yrs, might be found in the Malabar coast, and might be found in the VM botanicals although I have not found a really accurate depiction of the plant as pictured in online photos. There are 20 species, many wild and some naturalized from Africa or the middle East.

    The plant is a bush with single stems 1-2 feet high with opposite lanceolate leaves, wrinkled and deep green in color. The leaves have bulb-like pods
    of seeds located at the leaf junctions. While f18r has many differences from these characteristics, it is my best guess for sesame although it lacks the pods and the flowers are not fox-glove-like blooms at all. The plant while reported as growing in the Kerala province of India (that includes the Malabar coast) prefers the arid soils found in northern India. This area and NE China are the major sources of the plant (syn. C. orientale). The plant has a long tap root with many rootlets making it drought-tolerant. At the moment, I am inclined to the view that the plant IS NOT shown among the VM botanicals, like spikenard that I discussed earlier. It may not be common enough in southern India to have deserved the attention of the VM scribes. The main current uses are seeds for bakery goods like hamburger buns and the oil (benne oil) for soap making.

    Cheers, Tom

  328. Thomas F. Spande on October 7, 2016 at 4:37 am said:

    Dear all, Two punctillios: One is that two of the four cut stems of the VM botanical f65v are bent at angles that I think indicates they are loaded with resin, not hollow.

    The other point is that the cashew tree, now found in India and a key component of some curries, was introduced into India from Brazil in the new world and would not have been found anywhere in the old world at the time the VM botanical images were drawn and first colored. So it is not expected to be among the plants and on inspection, I have not found anything close. The trees are up to 14m in height and seems to have both alternate and opposite ovoid leaves.

    BD, I will give a closer look to the VM botanical (f35r) you have identified as the saffron crocus (Crocus sativum). For consenting adults, I think most can handle your decript of some of the racier accounts of the plant’s reproduction! I am speaking for myself on this however!

    Cheers, Tom

  329. D.N. O'Donovan on October 7, 2016 at 12:21 pm said:

    Thomas, apart from some reservation about the flower – which doesn’t much resemble that of Asafoetida ( when open, though before the flowers open, they’re not unlike), I think your id for folio 65v is very reasonable and with that reservation, I’ll cite it as your id.


  330. D.N. O'Donovan on October 7, 2016 at 12:37 pm said:

    Thomas, I wonder at your saying that it was unknown to Europe until after the fall of Byzantium, since the same wiki article you’ve cited for its various uses also says:

    “Though it is generally forgotten now in Europe… It emerged into Europe from a conquering expedition of Alexander the Great, who, after returning from a trip to northeastern Persia, thought they had found a plant almost identical to the famed silphium of Cyrene in North Africa—though less tasty. Dioscorides, in the first century, wrote, “the Cyrenaic kind, even if one just tastes it, at once arouses a humour throughout the body and has a very healthy aroma, so that it is not noticed on the breath, or only a little; but the Median [Iranian] is weaker in power and has a nastier smell.”

    Nevertheless, it could be substituted for silphium in cooking, which was fortunate, because a few decades after Dioscorides’s time, the true silphium of Cyrene became extinct, and asafoetida became more popular amongst physicians, as well as cooks.

    for which last statement, the wiki-author cites Andrew Dalby, Dangerous Tastes: The Story of Spices. (2000).

    He then goes on to say that:

    “Asafoetida is also mentioned numerous times in Jewish literature, such as the Mishnah… Maimonides also writes in the Mishneh Torah ‘In the rainy season, one should eat warm food with much spice, but a limited amount of mustard and asafoetida.’..”

    “Asafoetida was described by a number of Arab and Islamic scientists and pharmacists. Avicenna discussed the effects of asafoetida on digestion. Ibn al-Baitar and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi described some positive medicinal effects on the respiratory system.”

    ~ so it was known as near as Egypt, and perhaps (since Maimonides came from Spain) in Iberia.

    It is only within Latin Europe, from “after the Roman Empire fell, until the 16th century” that asafoetida was rare.

    I must check to see whether it gains a mention in the Great Antidotary. 🙂

  331. bdid1dr on October 7, 2016 at 3:16 pm said:

    @ Diane and ThomS:

    Y’all might look at previous posts I have made to Nick’s presentations of the arugula and radicchio — both of which appear on the same folio of B-408. There is another folio which discusses cilantro. I have recently boxed-up the contents of my file cabinets (until I can get another set of file cabinets). Except for the folio which discusses the life span and feeding of the beautiful BUTTERFLY which while still a caterpillar, creates a ‘silk ‘ thread cocoon around herself. If her cocoon ends up in near-boiling water, she never emerges as a butterfly.

    ps: This butterfly larvae eat only the leaves of the morus alba tree. The bark of the morus alba tree is used for ‘paper’. The fruit of the morus alba tree is illustrated, by itself, as ‘looking like’ a pineapple………

  332. Thomas F. Spande on October 8, 2016 at 5:11 pm said:

    Diane, Thanks for pasting in the pertinent part of asafoetida (aka assa-foetida) from Wiki for use in our discussion.

    Firstly: I agree that the small yellow petals of the plant as shown in the botanical section of the VM as f65v were either never there or were obscured by the carelessly applied green coloration. If the yellow petals were there, it is possible that they have just faded from view with the passage of 500 years.

    Secondly and mainly: Your point that the existence of asafoetida could have likely have been known in Europe well before the 16th C depends on Alexander the Great’s reports back home (probably present day Macedonia where Greek was used) and its being known to Maimonides and the Jewish community either in Iberia, N. Africa or the middle East. The former would have been possessed of the knowledge BC of asafoetida, the latter ca. 200 yrs before the creation of the VM vellum. I was aware of Jewish and arab knowledge of the plant but was focused on what was likely known to Latin Europe about the plant, mainly in supporting a non-European origin of the plant and its depiction among the VM botanicals

    I may have overstated the situation with knowledge of this plant in Europe by focusing on Latin Europe and ignoring areas under Moorish control like Spain and the Jewish populations there (until their expulsion after the battle of Grenada in 1492), Macedonia or in the Middle East. The areas under Islamic control were also neglected from consideration with my current concentration on the spice trade of the Malabar coast which was a melting pot of Christians, Moslems, Jews (the ancient settlement at Cochim), Hindus and Chinese among others.

    I could have overemphasized the Malabar coast of India as the source of knowledge of asafoetida, its VM depiction (as f65v) and the use of this plant in nearly all curries. Necessary may in this case, not have been sufficient so far as locating the source of the depiction in the VM.

    I was mainly interested in localizing this plant and its knowledge to a non-European venue; I could have overstated this case. Early cook books might be worth consulting, like the one commissioned by Richard II on “Curys”. Amazing how VM research seems to expand to every topic known to man.

    for BD, Marco Polo was impressed by the use of paper money in Kubla Khan’s empire made from the bark of the mulberry (Morus alba). You evidently came from another direction at the making of paper from the same tree bark?

    Cheers, Tom

  333. bdid1dr on October 9, 2016 at 1:24 am said:

    @ThomS : You betcha!
    Fray Sahagun was following ‘the rules’ for making paper money as well as manuscript paper (instead of animal skins). He also maintained the mulberry orchard’s tree leaves as fodder for the hungry caterpillars/silk worms before they wound their cocoons. I still have a bet ‘on the table’, so to speak: My bet depends on my guess that Fray Sahagun got a fairly good education while visiting or attending the University at Salamanca.
    I do hope that Professor Leon-Portilla is intending to visit Nick’s “Voynich” (Boenicke Library/Yale’sdiscussions which parallel greatly with the Florentine Codex/Manuscript.

  334. bdid1dr on October 9, 2016 at 1:51 am said:

    A little bit more about the Morus Alba tree bark and the parasitic ‘strangler fig’ vine/tree bark. Sahagun’s assistants illustrate the use of both when manufacturing “lower quality” paper. I can’t remember, now, if that discussion and illustrations appear in the “Voynich” mss or Fray Sahagun’s Florentine Manuscript. Quite interesting — as far as the quality of the ‘paper’ depended on the status of the person commissioning or purchasing the material/paper.

  335. Thomas F. Spande on October 9, 2016 at 4:21 am said:

    Dear all, An interesting link, I discovered, during a Google search on “Malabar coast”, was Malabarsuperspices.com which mainly sells Indian spices but also has a useful glossary but even better, a thumbnail sketch of spice trade history. Among the history sources was a book by F. H. Prescott. “Once to Sinai” McMillan, 1958, that turns out to be a bargain on Abebooks (used hard cover with dust jacket at roughly $3 USD). Among the assertions that got my attention is that Marco Polo’s book (1271) (I do love generalizations!) was the following: “His accounts led to the downfall of Venice, the destruction of the Arab empire and the opening of trade between Europe and the Orient”. “Pen being mightier than the sword” dept. More anon.

    I will convey shortly: A possible ID of Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum), a native of India and a member of the mint family. My mom. long under the sod, once pointed out to me that all mints have square stems.

    Also I think I have a possible ID from the VM of fenugreek (Trigonelia foenumgraecum (pea family, Fabacea)), one of the major spices of India. Both the seeds and leaves are used (with tamarind) in fish curries and in mango chutneys.

    Cheers, Tom

  336. Thomas F. Spande on October 9, 2016 at 5:59 pm said:

    Dear all, I think that VM botanical illustration f87r (left plant) is a fair representation of Fenugreek, known in the Middle and Far East since antiquity. It should have opposite ovoid leaves, wider toward the tips and yellow flowers that turn into long seed pods. While the leaves are pretty faithfully delineated with smooth edges, the flower color is not yellowish as it should be.

    The roots should be a slender taproot with many side rootlets that allow it to survive in the more arid soils of central and northern India.These are not accurately depicted in the left plant on f87v, that are not thin at all. If it were found in Kerala (Malabar coast area) it would have to be transported there from the northern, drier areas. The state of Rajasthan near the Pakistan border produces 80% of the Fenugreek grown in India. My plant ID is very tentative and Fenugreek may NOT be among the VM botanicals at all. Because of its widespread use in curries, I lean toward finding the closest facsimile but this might be wishful thinking. Cheers, Tom

  337. Thomas F. Spande on October 9, 2016 at 7:03 pm said:

    Dear all, A tentative ID for Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum; family Lamiaceae) is the VM plant f7v. It has opposite ovoid jagged-edged leaves and small white flowers. I have at present, no explanation for the differently colored leaves nor the black dot on each leaf. The plant is native to India.

    As a followup to my discussion above on Fenugreek (left illustration on folio 87r) it appears to me that the preceding folio 87r has a mature depiction of the same plant. It has the same-shaped leaves and what is more importantly, exactly the same layout of the three-fold root.

    Cheers, Tom

  338. bdid1dr on October 9, 2016 at 11:43 pm said:

    Again, people — I can only refer you to the Florentine Manuscript; written by Fray Sahagun and his assistant artists and writers of two languages: Espanol and Nahuatl. Again, I can refer you to many professionals who have written many books, page by page as they appear in the Florentine Codex AND the so-called “Voynich Manuscript. NOT ONE WORD which is being ‘decoded” by the EVA (Electronic Voynich Alphabet) will ever be acknowledged as being relevant.

    bd (who is tired of the guesswork via the EVA). My apology, Nick. I’m signing off for good. Good luck with the EVA translations. You might get ahead of the ‘game’ by researching just about anything written by Professor Leon Portilla.

    Good bye, all !
    Diane and Nick know me by my full name. A reminder, Diane, be discreet.

  339. bdid1dr on October 9, 2016 at 11:53 pm said:

    Discreet: adjective — caut-us-am — prud-ens-entis

    Ciao !

  340. Thomas F. Spande on October 10, 2016 at 8:42 pm said:

    BD, Don’t quit on us! We need more contrarians. Could you provide the folio number(s) for Nick’s IDs on arugula, radicchio and cilantro. Thanks in advance. Cheers, Tom

  341. bdid1dr on October 10, 2016 at 11:57 pm said:

    I’ve thrown out the files. Radicchio ‘looks like’ a large red and white cabbage leaf. Cilantro ‘looks like’ a ‘clover leaf’ with jagged edges. Arugula/Arrugula — I can’t find my files — I cleaned out my file cabinets recently. I just did a search for the leafy vegetable ‘arugula’ ‘arrugala’….nothing for 4 dictionaries, two encyclopedia sets….sorry!
    Gotta eat. Y’all are on your own now………

  342. bdid1dr on October 11, 2016 at 1:17 am said:


    Eruca sativa — aka: Arugula sativa, brassica eruca roquette, colewort, roquette

    Coriandrum sativum, cilantro, Chinese Parsley

    Radicchio — Italian chicory (per Pliny the Elder)

    All of the above are excerpted from Wikipedia

    I can’t find the contents of my file cabinet — since I relocated the contents to another room in our house ! Time to eat!
    Ciao ! (or ‘chow’ when it comes time to eat…..)

  343. Thomas F. Spande on October 11, 2016 at 4:47 pm said:

    BD, Thanks for the effort and the plant synonyms. Bon appatito! Cheers, Tom

  344. bdid1dr on October 11, 2016 at 5:24 pm said:

    If you should come across ANY mention (in the “Voynich” Manuscript) of Malinche or Malintzin and her life as a captive/translator of Hernan Cortes (and mother of Cortez’s children) please let us know. There is some mention in the Florentine Codex.

  345. Thomas F. Spande on October 26, 2016 at 9:26 pm said:

    Dear all, “Where are the Chili Peppers?” Chilis were a New World export but showed up in the Portuguese province of Goa on the SW coast of India ca, 30 yrs after the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus. Putting that date as ca. 1525, the VM botanicals might show the characteristic depiction of Chilis if the VM were drafted before or on that date.

    India is now the major exporters of chili peppers and it is domestically a critical ingredient of nearly all curries. see “Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerers” by Lizzy Collingham. Seventy-five percent of all of India’s chilis are exported from the Southern province of Andhra Pradesh. Turns out that the Indian dish of Vindaloo is an approximation of a Portuguese dish. The binomial name will be one of the many genera of Capsicum, the most common species being Capsicum annumum.

    The other side of the Chili coin, is that IF the VM is based on New World plants, that Chilis would be a major plant shown. It is NOT, to the best of my perusing the VM botanicals. Chilis were known for thousands of years in the New World, throughout N. and Latin America and particularly (BD, this is for you!) in the Aztec world. Cheers, Tom

    ps. After de Gama and other Portuguese traders, Chilis quickly spread thought Southern Asia

  346. Thomas F. Spande on October 27, 2016 at 4:57 pm said:

    Dear all, A profound “oops”!

    If it seems likely that the VM text was laid down soon after the vellum was prepared and the date range for that has been established by carbon-14 dating, as early in the 15thC.

    I meant in my post above on the absence of any illustration in the VM botanicals of any of the many species of Chili pepper plants indicates that the botanicals were likely drawn BEFORE 1525 (I mistakenly wrote above “after”) which is the earliest Chilis would have been known to the Old World. IF they did show there, (and I doubt that any depiction in the VM reflects that) it would imply that some. at least, of the VM botanicals were drawn AFTER 1525, roughly 100 yrs after the VM vellum was made. So I think Chilis which are critical in most of the Middle and Far East cuisines, but particularly in southern India (where they are a key component in most curries) are a non-player in the VM botanicals.

    I think I have an ID from the VM for “Indian mustard” (Brassica juncea, family Brassicaceae), called also brown mustard. That will be relayed anon.

    How can we assign consonants to the gallows if the variance is so great as seen on folio 24r? Going from the simplest to the more complex, we have NO examples of the single stemmed, single-looped gallows, only THREE of the single stemmed double-looped gallows, TWENTY-ONE examples of the single looped double stemmed gallows and TWENTY occurrences of the double-looped double-stemmed gallows.

    I cannot get my head around the idea that they represent English or Latin consonants, t, k, p, f. or any consonants at all.

    The idea of their being punctuation also seems unlikely regarding their distribution in this folio or others. For example one gallows might be a start symbol, another the end of a sentence, another a comma and another as a colon. Some merely set off a single glyph. My daughter comments that old ms that used pilcrows will separate an “amen” with pilcrows, but a single glyph like “9” seems a reach too far.

    Could the gallows simply be nulls? Cheers, Tom

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