Where was the Voynich manuscript produced?

The question posed in my title is one of the most frustrating of all those relating to the Voynich manuscript (VM), and one of the most disputed. Since the VM was rediscovered in 1912 in Italy, many commentators have started from the assumption that it was probably made in Italy. However, others have ventured rather further, suggesting China, Mexico and even outer space!

In the light of all of this speculation, it might simply be best to shelve the question completely, and avoid any discussion of it until we have more solid evidence. In principle, that would be the best option.

However, at the same time, if we had some idea of the provenance of the manuscript, it might help us to understand aspects such as the star names, which could then help us to unlock the script. For this reason it is worth at least  reflecting in a general way on the manuscript’s provenance, if only to delimit the geographical possibilities to some extent and to help us with other areas of analysis.

To my mind, there is enough evidence to suggest an answer to the question which is not so narrow as Italy nor so broad as to encompass China, Mexico or Mars. Let us look at some of this evidence.

1. The illustrations

It is obvious that most of the people represented in the VM illustrations are white Caucasian types (and not oriental, nor Mexican nor Martian). Analysis of the clothing, the famous crossbow in the Sagittarius disk on f73v, and of other elements, has suggested to some a clearly “European” origin. Analysis of the famous castle in the so-called Rosettes page, with its “swallow-tailed crenellations” has been linked with Genoese building styles. (See a fascinating discussion here by Diane O’Donovan). So surely the provenance of the VM must be Europe, specifically Italy?

Like much else about this blessed manuscript, however, this kind of thinking is far too simplistic. Many elements in the manuscript do not seem to be Italian. You can see from Diane’s discussion referenced above that Genoese influence stretched far beyond the shores of Italy.

I was interviewed by a Russian TV station intrigued by the possibility that the manuscript ‘must be Russian’, and that the Rosettes pages represents a secret map of the Kremlin (which was built apparently with the help of Genoese builders), and the Russian provenance is ‘obvious’ in the (very un-Italian)  onion-domed buildings in the centre circle. So we cannot assume an Italian provenance automatically.

To my mind, a particularly illuminating discussion in this area is that offered by Marco Ponzi, on these pages, concerning f85r2, which you can read here. 85r2        85r2_detail

Marco argues convincingly that this page “represents the four seasons and shares the same orientation that we are considering for 69r: Spring at the top, with Summer, Autumn and Winter following counter-clock wise.”

In the light of his argument, in which he points out interesting details in the images and relates them systematically to other images of the four seasons in mediaeval European manuscripts, it seems likely that his interpretation is correct, and a valuable addition to our understanding of the VM. This in turn links the manuscript securely to broad European traditions (as do other elements as well) in a way which must be taken into account in any argument about the manuscript’s provenance.

Taken together, this and other evidence would seem to indicate a strong European influence at the very least, though – as we will note below – not necessarily an Italian one specifically.

2. Other elements

Other elements seem to support a broad European influence, but not an Italian one. We have the apparent German wording in the manuscript, e.g. on f66r, sometimes read as ‘der Mussdel’, plus some French-looking words (possibly later additions) labelling some of the central Zodiac figures (e.g. here is October). This might of course imply a non-Italian provenance, or simply that the manuscript was later read by non-Italian scholars, and/or travelled around Europe.

3. Script and language

In the area which most interests me concerning the VM, namely the script and language, we see a number of features which suggest some influence from Aramaic script. This has been argued most fully by Derek Vogt on these pages (see the discussion here) and Darren Worley has explored possible Mandaean connections (also with reference to the script as deriving from Aramaic – see his discussion here).

Aramaic itself derives ultimately from Phoenician, the same script which was then adapted by the Greeks, and is still used as the script for many Western languages (including English) in a  form derived in turn from the Romans. So whether or not the VM script derives directly from, say, Syriac, we can say with some confidence that in terms of appearance the VM script seems to have a broadly European/ Near Eastern provenance rather than, say a Chinese or Indian source.

With regard to the underlying language as encoded in this script, my own research (e.g. here) has suggested that some of the vowels might be either missing, or included with consonants, in the manner of ‘abjad‘ scripts such as Arabic, typical of western Asia.  An example is my reading of the plant name on page f2r as something like ‘K N T / ə/ IR N/ for ‘Centaurun’ or ‘centaury’, in which the first vowel is included or missing, as it would be if the same word were written in Arabic and other abjad scripts. This feature, along with the fact that a number of the proper names I have identified (e.g. ‘Kaur’ for hellebore) seem in my analysis to have Middle Eastern or even Indian influences, suggests to me the possibility that the underlying language, as encoded in this script, might not be a European artefact so much as something deriving from further east.  I also noted a number of other reasons for talking about the language’s ‘Arabic-Persian substratum’.

This does not mean that the language itself is related to Arabic or Persian – after all Spanish (an Indo-European Romance language)  has an Arabic substratum in terms of words borrowed from Arabic; Urdu has a Persian substratum in several of its features. Nonetheless, I suggested that it could be a useful clue for decipherment to consider this possible base.

Is this a contradiction? We have suggested that the illustrations and numerous cultural elements seem to point generally to Europe, so how could the language point to an Arabic-Persian element?

In thinking about these areas, we need to bear in mind the very extensive intermixing of Arabic/Persian and European influences over many centuries, in part owing to actual invasions (the Arabs into Spain and large parts of eastern Europe, even Malta and Sicily), but also cultural transmission. Indeed it is widely accepted that much ancient knowledge only exists in modern Europe thanks to its transmission to the Arab world often via Syriac, and later retransmission back to Europe (see this discussion of Greek philosophy for example). This means that is entirely plausible that the VM could have influences from ‘both sides’.

The Voynich manuscript has always looked part-familiar and part-foreign, and maybe this is the explanation. In fact it might be that the reason why Western analysts have so far failed to make much headway in deciphering it is that they have been too fixated on the European elements – for example many of them insisting that the underlying language ‘must be Latin’  – and thereby failing to see possibilities a little further afield.

4. So?

It is this kind of reasoning which leads me to suspect that the manuscript was probably created in Europe or in areas to the east, into Asia, heavily influenced by European culture. This could include Turkey (which was still under Greek influence even beyond the taking of Byzantium in 1453, and in my view a good candidate because of its melting pot of Western and Eastern influences), Armenia and other parts of the Caucuses (see my discussion of the superb Armenian scholar Amirdovlat Amasiatsi), even into present day Iraq and Iran (which had communities hugely influenced by Greek and Christian factors). Areas as far east as India and China had their Christian communities (such as this one), although in my view such a distance does not sit easily with the extensive European influence in the manuscript.

It is only unfortunate that this region does not have a single easy descriptor. I have toyed with Eurasian, Caucasian, European/Near Eastern and others, but none of them seems to encompass the precise region which I feel is most probably the provenance of the manuscript. Suffice it to say that I consider, on the evidence available, that the Voynich manuscript was most probably created between the Atlantic ocean in the west, and the eastern border of Iran, in a place suffused with strong European cultural traditions.

Is that it, you ask? This might seem still rather large and general, but I do feel it is important  not to be too prescriptive on the basis of the evidence we have.

Plus at least this allows us to exclude any theory which tells us that it was ‘definitely’ created in east Asia, the Americas, or in outer space!



  1. Darren Worley

    Another example of the swallow-tail crenellations are found on the Monastery of Saint John the Theologian which is found on the small island of Patmos, in the Aegean Sea. Patmos is most famous for being the location of both the vision of and the writing of the Book of Revelation, by Saint John in approx.80 CE.

    This is also much further south-east, than the Italian examples often reported.

    I thought this was particularly interesting, as one theory put forward (primarily by Juergen Wastl, I believe) is that the centre-section of the Rosette’s map represents Jerusalem. here

    It seems plausible that two of the main features found in the Rosette’s map, might therefore represent important Christian pilgrimage locations. These sites (Jerusalem and Patmos) each being important sites in the New Testament.

  2. orun

    another italian link 🙂 i think some characters same with voynich
    Translation of Öljeitu’s message by Buscarello de Ghizolfi (was a European who settled in Persia in the 13th century while it was part of the Mongol Ilkhanate. He was a Mongol ambassador to Europe.
    hes member of the powerful Ghisolfi family in Genoa.
    here is link

  3. Once we saw each other, the architecture, we will notice that most of the buildings have a sloping roof. Let’s assume that the author of the VM has kept to its surroundings.
    Now you have to know roofs of this kind were not cheap in the Middle Ages. Roof and lots of bricks. Now there is even a rule, the more snow the steeper the roof (Snow load).
    Above all the towers in the city walls have these types of roofs. That would be an expensive nonsense for southern cities. If you look at those towers in the south they have no roof usually.
    Therefore, I am assuming that is the northern origin. I look now still on the plant, confirmed me the picture. Now even the dovetails and parts of the costumes can be, for me to only one conclusion. The even without the crown of the Habsburgs.

  4. @Helmut Winkler
    I think your ( pm en ) is ( vmen ) and is short ( von einem ) swiss slang.

    Bei ( valsen vbren ) its ( falls es verbrennt oder anbrennt )

    • Helmut Winkler

      Without going into palaeographical details, I think one can distinguish the p from the v and I think you are mixing up modern Swiss German and medieval dialects.

      • It’s just so that v looks to me not look like a p, if I compare it with the v of valsen and vbren.

        at (mich o) o als (auch), which is o the Bayern and Austrian, as well as some cantons in Switzerland also ( da mag i o ), das mag ich auch. I also like it too.
        Seen as a pure thought and not scientific.

        • This is what i read on f17r,.

  5. I would like to visualise my suggestion that some annotations in the Voynich MS are colour annotations in (or based on) German. This is by comparison to an alchemical herbal MS that was produced in the Veneto, and is listed as Italian and German. It is MS 362 of the Biblioteca Bertoliana in Vicenza (Italy). While the Voynich MS has very few, this MS has such annotations on many pages. Unfortunately, the images I have of this MS are not very good, but please find below the comparison.

    [SB adds – For newcomers, see Rene’s page here where he says:

    Single Latin characters and the word ‘rot’ written inside herbal drawings have been observed after the high-resolution colour images of the Voynich MS were made available by the Beinecke library. These were clearly written by the original scribe of the MS. A comparison with another 15th Century herbal: MS 362 of the ‘Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana’ in Vicenza (one of the so-called alchemical herbals), makes it plausbile that the mother tongue of the Voynich MS scribe was German.]

    • Stephen Bax

      Rene – what word do you see in f29r, under the blue? Also, why do you say on your page “These were clearly written by the original scribe of the MS”?

      Has anyone knowledgeable in German handwriting of the period analysed the script of these interesting annotations?

      • Hello Stephen, I’m really not at all confident about the characters on f29 under the blue, apart from the o in the middle. I am also not certain about quite a number of characters on f116v, but this should be left to someone with a paleographic background. On f4r, the ‘rot’ seems quite clear, and this is also the one where I feel confident that it was added by the original draughtsman or scribe, as it is integrated in the drawing, shows no signs of being added later, and also would not make sense to have been added by a later owner. It’s of course complicated by the fact that we don’t know when the colours were added (i.e. how long after the drawings and the text).

        The most probable text to have been added later are the month names in the zodiac. Other entries are ‘in the margin’ such as f17r, f116v (top line only) and possibly f66r, but all of these could well be contemporary. The drawings on f116v are equally ‘in the margin’ but appear so close in style that I also see a good chance that they are contemporary. I am still impressed by the presentation of Johannes Albus on this, suggesting that all of f116v belongs together, even though I am not sure that all of his reading is correct.

        In the end, there is a remarkably small number of things that one can really be absolutely sure of, but for me ‘confidence’ can take up the complete range of values between ‘certain’ and ‘uncertain’. In my line of work, this confidence is usually nicely expressed in numbers, and there are rules on how to combine them 🙂

        • Stephen Bax

          Personally, I find the reading of ‘rot’ as red plausible. Such a pity, though, that the artist did not actually colour it in red!

          Can anyone else suggest an old German word for a colour which could explain the text on Voynich f29r which appears to be coloured blue?

          Also, the curious symbol on Voynich page f1v on the green leaf does look rather like the symbols on the Vicenza illustration also linked with the green colouring – so which old German word for green could this symbol represent?

          Intriguing. I’m starting to be more convinced of some Germanic arguments. I too was impressed by Johannes Albus’ argument (presented at Mondragone in 2012) that the last page is a mix of old German and Latin. (By the way, where is Johannes now? )

          • Helmut Winkler

            1) The reading of ‘rot’ – red on f. 4r is not only plausible, it is what is written there.
            2) An obvious word for f. 29r would be por[phyr] for blaurot, a bluish red or reddish blue.
            3) ‘ the curious symbol on Voynich page f1v’ is a g in Fraktur, which is very much like the other non-Voynichese scripts and most likely German and the obvious word is grün.
            4) In my opinion JA has misread most of f.116v
            And before you start worrying: I have somewhere a piece of paper lying around which says I have a degre in Medieval Latin and Medieval History. Does not mean much in my opinion, but there it is.

            • 4) as JA, you think the first worth on this page ?
              I read ( von leben von einem nutzen ) wobei ( vmen ) Kurzform von ( von einem ) ist.

            • MarcoP

              In Latin herbals, “viola purpurea” (purple viola) is a kind of viola. In Italian (e.g.Mattioli) this translates to “Viola Porporea”.

              Helmut, it is possible that Johannes Albus misread f116v. Still he proposed a meaningful and coherent reading: a noteworthy achievement, I agree with Stephen and Rene. Can you propose a better alternative?

              • Helmut Winkler

                I think ‘porphyr’ is more or less the same in all European languages.
                A ‘meaningful and coherent reading’ does not mean it is a correct reading, and see my answer to Stephen.

                • MarcoP

                  I agree, Helmut: “porphyr” and “purple” are clearly related. It would be interesting to see if similar words occur in German herbals of the time, in particular in relation with the color of flowers. It seems very likely that this is the case.

            • Stephen Bax

              Thanks Helmut. I was planning a page on f116v. Do you have any reading of it? Do you see any German in it?

              • Helmut Winkler

                There was a discussion about two years ago. I’ll go and look for my notes and give them to you, but I need a few days. And there IS some German, e.g. the famous pox leber

                • Anton Alipov

                  I think the color codes have been discussed many times in the past, one of the latest discussions took place somewhat in the beginning of this year in Nick Pelling’s blog, and I think Helmut also participated.

                  The “29r” that is discussed above is actually not 29r, but rather 9v.

                  “Por” may stand for “porphyr” indeed, but then we have the “p v” below which I read as “purper-var” (purpur-farbig), then it is not clear why give the colour code twice in the same flower; apparently one of the two inscriptions does *not* stand for colour.

                  For f116v, one may wish to have a read of my older posts dealing with “lab”, “pox leber”, “valden” and the main text block of f116v:


                  As always, if one wishes to stay current, Google (or similar search engine) is his/her best friend 😉

              • Helmut Winkler

                Hi Stephen,

                here is the reading of 116v and some remarks.

                Reading of the first line of f. 116v.

                It is plaintext, mixed German and Latin, I think it is a note made after an anatomy and I think the drawing on top of the goat could be the opened up body of an animal.

                (1) pox leber pm en putrefct

                pox leber p[rimu]m en[teron] putref[a]c[i]t

                goats liver. it is the first of the internal organs to start putrefaction.

                Reading of line 2 to 4

                (2) + anchiton oladabas + multos + te + t(ca) cere + portas + M +
                (3) s ix + mar ix + mo(e) ix + v ix + abca + ma + ria +

                (4) [two Voynich words] valsen vbren so nim geis mi[l]ch o[der]

                () means I am not sure of my reading
                [] Additions I have made

                I think it likely that line 4 has, like the poxleber line, nothing to do with line 2 and 3.

                At least the pox leber and the so nim geis milch are German

                I think the two michiton lines are a spell and not a prayer
                chiton could be a misreading of the scribe for Chiron, the healing god of ancient mythology, who is well known at the time and pops up in herbal ilustrations

                There are dots or strokes on some of the i’s

                There seems to be an abbreviation sign over the ca of the tca, could be a mistake of the scribe

                The reading of tca could be tta as well, I would have thought the tca is a unit of weight and I would think of libra, if the first letter wasn’t clearly a t, libre cere – pounds of wax is a common phrase

                The c in the abca has an i stroke, the letter nevertheless looks like a c

                I venture the opinion that abca could be an abbr. for abcdarius, Ps. 119,1,

                I think the abbreviations s, mar, moe, v are standing for prayers or incantations, v could be versiculus and the Roman numeral could stand for ix for nine times. I think it possible, that the i in the four abbr. could be genitive -i’s and the numeral an x or ten instead of a ix or nine.

                The anchiton oladabas could be a title, something like Chirons recipe for … but that is speculation

                I think portas comes from portare, to carry, not portae, doors and the te … M passage could mean something like ‘you carry many (a certain weight of) wax to Mary’, in this case the te could be a tu, but that is speculation as well.

                If I am right, the michiton text is a kind of instruction sheet, title – do this – then do that

                There are several (four or five) dots or strokes over the o, which could have a meaning

                I think line 4 is a recourse to something in the ms
                The v’s in valsen vbren are a bit different from the v in vix, but I am quite sure they are no p’s

                My personal opinion is that we would not go amiss if we see 116v in connection with 66r. The musdel as widows dowry or something has been rightly criticized out of philological reasons (by Philipp Neal I think), I think ‘mus’ is the equivalent of English ‘porridge’, German ‘Brei’, the word was used for something made out of herbs or vegetables as well as grains, the person lying there has a swelling which certainly needs an em[plastrum] (is the single letter a p?) made out of ‘mus’ and there is a pot [ti]gel (?). That is partly speculation, but I am sure the single p, the loop of the l in the word above the pot and the s in mus look very much like the script on 116v. Especially the s is distinctive.

                • Helmut Winkler

                  I forgot to mention the three letters above the sheep or goat. They seem to be a long s, a round s and something that could be a v or r. Most people mix up the l (which looks quite different with a big loop) with the long s of the text and read lab or something. Most likely a pen test – probatio pennae.

                  • Anton Alipov

                    “Lab” it is. I don’t know how one can confuse this one-hundred-percent “l” with an “s” like in “so” or “six”.

                    • Helmut Winkler

                      The script on 116v is a Gothic script in the sense of a Blackletter, the best way to describe it would be a Gotische Kursive or Notula going into the direction of a Bastarda. One of its distinguishing features is that all it’s ‘long’ letters, b, h etc. have extended loops, the exception is the long s (and f), which has a long descender. I don’t know how one can confuse this long s with an l.
                      Just to mention it, my personal opinion is that the script is German and around 1450.

                • f66r Is it possible that’s when (mus), a perverted double S ?


                  • Helmut Winkler

                    No, it is the typical round s used at the end of words, a Gothic sz or ß is quite different, look at your own examples.

                    • Anton Alipov

                      Helmut, re 116v:
                      The long “s” in “so” or in “six” does not have a loop and extends below the baseline. The first letter in “Lab” does have an ascending loop and does not extend below the baseline. Could you please explain why you consider it to be “s” and not “l”?

                    • Helmut Winkler

                      Anton, re 116v
                      There are no ascending loops but loops on the ascenders. About the long s, that is what I said: no loop, the s can go below the baseline, but this is not always the case.
                      What the l looks like you can see in oladabas, it is nothing like the first letter in the three letter word. This letter looks like the long s at the beginning of line 3. There is no ascending loop in the first letter, there is a stroke which looks like an abbreviation stroke but could make a f out of the s, they look very similar. I prefer the s because the second letter looks like round s and I think he has written a long and a round s side by side, maybe as an exersize. But what really clinches the case against lab is the third letter which is no b at all, you can see a b in oladabas as well. It could be a v (or even a r), but it really looks like a Greek miniscule Ny. Just to mention it, there is a letter on 66r which looks very much like a Greek miniscule Gamma.

                    • Anton Alipov

                      Helmut, re re 116v:

                      Sorry to reply not in the right thread but it seems we reached the maximum level of comments there, so there’s no reply button there anymore.

                      I prepared a hi-res image of this place of the folio (weblink provided below). To the left please find the original inscription for ease of comparison, to the right please find the contour traced – solid blue where I consider it certain and dotted blue (supposed by me) where it has faded out. Red lines show the directions of two diagonal folds which slightly distort our perception.

                      Long “s” may stay above the baseline indeed, but it does not do that in any other place of 116v (if you look carefully you will note that the parts going below the baseline just faded out). “b” in “lab” does not look like “b” in oladabas, indeed, but it well lools like “b” in “leber”.


                    • Helmut Winkler

                      Anton, re 116v
                      As long as Stephen does not mind and you get my answers …
                      I see what you mean but I don’t think there was ever any ink where you put the upper right loop in the l/s, crease or no crease. And I don’t see any difference between the two b’s. I am afraid magnifying the ms. brings us the Jesus on Toast problem, where the software is producing some of the things you see. And suppose the scribe wrote on the parchment while the crease was in position and not flattened out … and so on.
                      What I wanted to say is that I do not see the ‘lab’, no one forces you to accept my opinion. I think the importance of f. 1r and f. 116v is higly overestimated anyway and many of our difficulties arise from the ms. not having had a cover before the Jesuits put one on it and I think this discussion of these side issues like marginalia is not useless, but a bit scholastic and it does not bring as anywhere near a solution of the real problem.

                    • Anton Alipov


                      The primary significance of marginalia (and discussion thereof) is that they give us a certain cultural context, thus narrowing the overall scope.

                      The most valuable in this respect is the last line of 116v where two Voynichese words are used along with words in Latin alphabet. We cannot ignore the very existence of marginalia left by him who was aware of the Voynichese script, and thus they must fit into any proposed “theory of the VMS” brought forward by researchers.

          • MarcoP

            About colour annotations:

            British Library Royal 6 E II England 1150 ca. The illustration includes a large initial “P” annotated with a small marginal “v” for “viridis” (Latin green).

            An online paper about the Use of colour in Romanesque manuscript illumination (by Andreas Petzold, Open University). The page links a slide presentation with other similar examples (single letter instructions corresponding to the initial of the Latin colour name).

            The Max Planck Institute for the History of Science has a great search form indexing a number of medieval color recipes.

            “rot” obviously returns results in German (e.g. Paris rot).
            Searching for “porp” returns a possibly relevant result in French (“porprinne”, purpurin).

            I was surprised not find any source including both “rot” and “porp/porf”.
            Apparently, the word “porphyre” is used with reference to the marble cutting board used for color making. As originally proposed by Rene, the three letters in the f9v petal possibly are the same as those in the root of f4r. “rot” certainly makes sense and conforms to the example of Vicenza Ms 362. If this is the case, the annotation has not been respected, since the petal is blue.

            From Nick’s and Rene’s comments here, I guess that multispectral scans could reveal the presence of colour annotations also when they were actually covered by the painter? Maybe, if we had more examples of these annotations, it would be easier to make sense of them.

    • MarcoP

      I think that what Rene refers here as f29r is f9v on http://www.jasondavies.com (false colors detail attached). The comparison with Bertoliana MS 362 is very interesting. On the Bertoliana site they say the manuscript was likely written in Veneto, but the German annotations seem to contradict this.

      • Thanks Marco, that’s right of course, in both cases. A mistake originating from the 2012 presentation and copied…..

  6. In the presence of all these considerations about the illustrations, I would like to take a step back to see whether it tells us anything more in general about the artist.

    Some of the zodiac illustrations are essentially ‘standard’. I would say: Pisces, Taurus, Gemini, Virgo, Libra.
    It seems impossible that anyone having to draw a set of zodiac emblems witout ever having seen an example would be able to come up with this. This more or less tacit assumption is a critical one in my opinion.

    Some are ‘a bit odd’, namely:
    Aries: this look like a goat, not a ram.
    Cancer: a perfectly standard lobster / crayfish, but there are two.
    Leo: unusually, it has no manes, so looks more like a lioness.

    Some are ‘quite unusual’:
    Scorpio: looks nothing at all like a real scorpion
    Sagittarius: a human with a crossbow

    Thus, we are faced with an artist who knew what a zodiac cycle should look like, but had no idea how to draw Scorpio.
    Already in 2008, in the preparation of the 2009 Austrian documentary, a historian from Vienna suggested that the artist may not have been from ‘South of the Alps’ because otherwise he should have known what a scorpion should look like. This is not, and was not meant as, hard evidence of course.

    Did the artist have only one example to work with? Or several, but none of them had a ‘proper Scorpio’. Or did he see many, but could not decide which Scorpio was right (because he never saw a live scorpion)? We have already seen plenty of examples now, with equally bad or even worse scorpions, particularly the ones with sagittarius as a human with a crossbow.

    Did he mistake Capricorn for Aries?
    Taurus and Gemini are standard, but the style may say something. The bull is quite ‘lean’, and Gemini has been discussed.
    Sagittarius has been dicussed most, and all examples of a human with a crossbow are in MSs from (modern) Southern Germany, 1400-1500.

    The whole discussion could help to narrow down which ‘examples’ the artist is likely to have seen.
    The same holds for the herbal illustrations, which so far seems to tell a different story (tendency for N.Italy rather than Germany), but of course nothing is conclusive yet.

    • Derek Vogt

      Defining the word “scorpion” and its foreign cognates the way we do now, and applying that particular meaning to the constellation, is a recent convention. Most of the old references to the constellation here talk about the animal’s great size and strength, calling it a “monster” or “beast”, telling stories about it scaring off Apollo’s horses and being hunted by archers and slaying Orion, whom it was bigger than; a couple of Greek names for it have “mega” built in. They don’t mention claws or a stinger. Some descriptions of it talk about not any version of an arthropod but a dragon (a giant snake, before dragons grew legs).

      Forms of the word “scorpion” have been used for the constellation for a long time, but not originally while figuring the constellation as an arthropod. In some cases it was a type of serpent (the “scorpion serpent”), but the root word could have originally meant “gecko”, “something that cuts”, or even “butterfly”, and it was still used for a variety of animals long enough to even include North American lizards & amphibians.

      When people did think of the constellation as representing an arthropod, they would call it by names built around a phonetic “krab” component, from Arabic عقرب “ʕqrb” → “`Aqrab”, which meant “scorpion” but obviously got mixed up with crabs by various people along the way, because languages tend to either have just one word for all clawed arthropods or let words drift back & forth in meaning between the two types.

      With that interpretation/name alone, people would have had little to use for distinction between this constellation and that other crab constellation. So a drawing that looks too much like an ordinary generic “beast” instead of what we think of as a scorpion would mean not that the creator didn’t know about what we now call scorpions, but that that wasn’t the animal (s)he had in mind; the image borrowed from the same constellation’s “monster/beast” tradition, either just because that’s how they’d always known that constellation, or deliberately to make it more monstrous/beastly than (thus more distinct from) an ordinary scrabion.

    • Helmut Winkler

      I think to call the draughtsman or illustrator of the VMs an artist is a bad misapprehension. I think we should call the drawings scientific illustrations, not some kind of art. The man was a scientist, most likely a medical doctor or student who drew his subjects as he saw fit, you can compare him with a modern anatomy or biology student who has to draw the objects he has dissected. I have never seen anything comparable from the early 15th c. or earlier, all examples are later. That is what makes the ms. unique. To compare its drawings to the paintings of an artist who made the illustrations of a Book of Hours is misleading.
      But you are right of course that someone drawing a zodiac cycle must have known what a zodiac cycle looks like. But I would say that was common knowledge. Nevertheless, one or two remarks. A medieval lion nearly always looks like a lioness, the double cancer really is odd, scorpio always has either a great likeness to the real thing or no likeness at all, in many cases ist is difficult to distinguish sheep from goats. And last but not least: It is a really bad mistake to see the Alpes in the Late Middle Ages as a dividing line, the Alpes kept the regions north and south of them together, one feature of the ms. from the south and one from the north is nothing, especially as these features are in parts of the ms. which have not much in common.

      • Hello Helmut,

        we don’t know how many people were involved in putting together the MS. I just used artist as a conventional term for the person who made the drawings.
        Personally, I do think the whole MS is likely to be the work of a single person, but I don’t really know of course. Artist (or ‘draughtsman’, fine with me) is more intended as a role than a person.

        A few things you write come as a surprise. Having seen lots of zodiac cycles in MSs online, I can’t even remember a single case where Leo wasn’t a fiery lion (male). However, counter-examples would be most welcome from my point of view.
        Also, MSs produced in what’s now Germany and what’s now Italy, as far as I have been able to see, show some distinct differences. For example, while there are a couple of herbal MSs produced in Germany in the early 15th C (Hartlieb, “Auslasser”), in N.Italy they are plentiful. Now the Voynich MS is ‘different’, so this does not automatically mean that, since it’s largely a herbal it has to be N.Italian. I see this as a very promising area for analysis. Similar to the zodiac illustrations, we can be certain that the draughtsman had seen one or more illustrated herbal MSs.

        To Derek: that the constellation Scorpius / zodiac sign Scorpio represents a scorpion isn’t *that* modern. It is certainly several millennia old. Note that the constellation Libra originally represented the claws of the scorpion, and the separation of the two was concluded in Roman times….

        • Stephen Bax

          Rene, you in turn surprise me 🙂

          Don’t you accept the age-old idea that the script alone is written by several different hands?

          • Hello Stephen,

            a good question. There have been diametrically opposite statements about this. My opnion is just my opinion…

            What I don’t subscribe to is Currier’s statement that there are two hands (1 and 2) and two languages (A and B), where there is a complete correspondence of A with 1 and B with 2.

            The only ‘different’ hand, from my amateur point of view, is in the Herbal-B pages. The language transition is more gradual, and happens in the Hand-1 pages.

            In the end, it requires the analysis by a proper expert, because I don’t even know what is relevant. Size? Slant angle? These are the most obvious differences, but I am not convinced that these necessarily indicate a different person…

          • Stefania

            The Entire MS is written on a single hand-style! You may have to watch it again .. https://www.jasondavies.com/voynich/#f49r/0.574/0.469/2.75

        • Helmut Winkler


          1) About the Lion story, it’s a bit of a misunderstamding. I was talking about what lions look like, not what the illustrator was trying to show, the abilities of some ‘artists’ were notoriously bad (cp. http://archiv.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/artdok/3059/1/Eser_Loewenbilder_Loewenmaehren_2009.pdf especially the seal illustrations in the end). But I really think some of the discussions are too much restricted to what would be printed books 50 years later, especially as the VMs is obviously a private notebook not intended for others like a Bible or a Book af Hours.
          2) I was trying to point out that in the 15th c. the Alpes were connecting the territories around them , not separating them, that explains e.g. the different languages and that a book from N.Italy pops up in Prague 150 years later.
          3) The Märchen about the several hands – I think six in the end – invented by Currier really should have been abandoned a long time ago, it is the old sad story of copying things one doesn’t understand in scholarship. And statistics of transcriptions which are likely not correct don’t mean much.

          • Thanks for the clarification, Helmut.

            As regards the statistics, some are of course affected by transcription and interpretation errors, but some are overwhelmingly clear, also because the sample size is quite large.
            One of the most striking features is related to the occurrence of two very common (high-frequency) characters namely the one that looks like a small ‘c’ (Eva-e) and the one that looks like an 8 (Eva-d).
            The combination c8 basically never occurs in about half the pages of the MS (Currier’s A language), and has a high frequency in about the other half. Oddly enough, it gradually starts to appear in the course of the Zodiac section.
            What it means is not clear, but it certainly has to mean something, regardless whether the text is meaningful or not. It certainly doesn’t have to mean that there’s a different language. It could just be a different ‘convention’ of the author. Or many other things.
            Any proposed solution that fails to explain or address this is almost certainly incorrect….

            • Hello Rene, I believe that at least part of the difference of EVA ed between Currier A and B pages is the existence of deletion of medial EVA y. Many words (or word roots) may prototypically end in EVA y which is either transformed or deleted when put into a middle position by a suffix.

              The suffix EVA dy is much more common in Currier B than A. When added to a word ending EVA ey it should form EVA edy rather than EVA eydy. Over 80% of occurrences of EVA ed are part of EVA edy.

              Naturally, this does not account for the whole pattern, but may give some reason for it. I include a link below to my article on the deletion of EVA y.


            • Helmut Winkler


              of course my approach is different from yours (no offence meant), but I think I begin to understand what you mean. The ms. is a Buchbindersynthese, where the bookbinder may well have been the author. I don’t see a surprise in a change in statistics in the middle of the book, I think you would have a change in statistics if you bound a book about biology and one about astronomy in German in a volume, the topics in the ms.are obviously different. You can say we don’t know, but we can make some educated guesses. I don’t see any difficulties with the c’s and the d’s as well when you take the ms. as what I see it, a highly abbreviated medieval ms., not a ciphre in the sense of the cryptographers. And I don’t pretend to understand the statistics but I found it very interesting that some seem to think that the text has the properties of an abjad, eine Konsonantenschrift. What else is an abbreviated Medieval text?

              • Several interesting points…

                Helmut, indeed, if the text is an abbreviated rendering of a plain text, then a ‘change’ could be due to several things. If it is a change in subject matter, we have the ‘problem’ that the texts with the largest statistical differences are both found on pages with herbal drawings. So, if it’s a change in subject matter, then the text has nothing to do with the drawings….
                That isn’t impossible, but raises some questions about the purpose of the MS.

                To Emma May Smith: I haven’t had a chance to read your article yet (but I will). This is precisely the type of thing I would be digging into, if I had time.

                To Diane: I really don’t remember where you wrote about Aries looking like goats. Instead, I remember you stated they were some non-European type of sheep. The point about the animals looking like goats was made many years earlier on the Voynich mailing list. I remember it well, because it was part of an argument that the Voynich MS zodiac isn’t really a zodiac. I can’t accept that argument, but the observation about Aries was completely sensible.

                All this claiming of precedence is pointless in my opinion, because it is impossible to claim to be the first to make this or that observation.
                Countless people keep coming up with the same ideas.
                I think most people would be quite surprised to see how much Anne Nill, Ethel Voynich and Theodore Petersen in their correspondence and notes anticipated discussions that are now repeated in modern mailing lists and blogs.

                • The attached picture may illustrate both the two hands (where I am not convinced that the visible differences really point to a different person) and the two languages. The top is Language A + Hand 1 and the bottom Language B + Hand 2. In the blue boxes are words with the Eva-ed sequence. Here, they are all followed by Eva-y, which clearly is also statistically highly significant.

                  This is just the most conspicuous difference. There are other character combinations that occur primarily in certain areas, such as ‘eo’ in the pharma section (A language).

                  • Stephen Bax

                    Thanks Rene. On a side issue – the one thing I am absolutely CERTAIN about as a linguist, concerning Voynich scholarship, is that Currier was 100% wrong in casually using the term ‘languages’ to denote the differences he saw. This amateur error has unfortunately plagued Voynich scholarship since then.

                    There is not ONE SHRED of evidence that the differences he saw related to different ‘languages’ . They might at maximum indicate slightly different dialects, but are far more likely just to be normal mediaeval scribal differences in spelling, as is found in just about every mediaeval text written in non-classical or non-standardised languages (e.g. English at that time).

                    So can I beg that we try not to talk about Language A and Language B? Could we try Variety A and Variety B, or Script A and Script B?

                    (Not blaming you Rene!)

                    • Hello Stephen,

                      I fully agree with you, of course, and even Currier was at pains to point out that he did not really mean languages. I further believe that the dichotomy is not even valid, and there is a continuous change from one into the other.
                      Currier may have been aware, but he had devised a rule by which each page should be classified as either one or the other, even in cases where the choice was marginal.

                      The term is likely to persist, just like John Dee’s role in the history of the Voynich MS…..

          • Julie

            Rene, Eva ed = go, Eva edy = going and within a word Eva otedy = pole (not N or S poles). I have no idea why there is an increase in the usage of these letters at the moment, as I progress it will become apparent. It could be he has just changed the word from one language to the other or Eva e ends a word and Eva d begins a word, there are lots of what look like single words but are actually two or more. The translation is based on my allocation of Eva letters which differs from the original, and yes I’m an amateur.
            So can I just ask if I have a working translation language from Eva a, is it possible if I rearrange letters again could I come up with another language that also gives good working translations? What are the chances of that?

      • Julie

        Can you just stop and consider for a minute that the zodiacs are not zodiacs and the stars are not stars. All the text contained in these circles are a continuation of the story being told. There are no sections as you call them, although it looks that way. The ladies in the circles are speaking, as you go round the ring each lady says something, the text in the narrow rings is the author speaking. They are characters as are the plants and trees. The human bowman for example is Archer and he hunts with South. In order to understand what the VM is about you have to start at the beginning. I do not know yet where the VM is taking place, the language is European but I do not think the author is in Europe. I hope this helps you to progress with the text side of the manuscript.

    • Rene,
      I forgot to say thank-you for absorbing, and adopting, my explanation that the ‘sheep’ were a pair of goats. It’s nice to feel that one’s work has contributed in some way.

      I see you also take my point, argued and illustrated at some length, that the “leo” is not a lion. I do not think it a lioness, but rather more like the old Dionysian “panther” (a cheetah or some such creature originally).

      When I said that the Voynich archer was without parallel in Latin manuscript art – to the best of my knowledge – I meant just that. Not that Sagittarius as some sort of archer, or some sort of crossbow-holder was unparalleled, but one presented as the Voynich archer is – in that stance, with a bow of that type and a barbed arrow, in such a hat and “flounced” skirt.

      Given the great profusion of zodiac series in all forms of medieval Latin imagery, the extraordinary thing is that the series should appear so unlike the regular series, knowledge of which would have been ingrained in a fifteenth century book-illustrator.
      A moment’s reflection will explain what we know to be the fact: that persons illustrating a fifteenth-century manuscript were far LESS likely to imitate other manuscripts being produced in their own time than they were to imitate imagery from older sources: sculpture, mosaics, or locally available manuscripts. Clearly, a monk working in a Hungarian monastery was less likely to see a manuscript being made in distant Italy than he was to see the zodiac carved on his own cathedral, even though it may have been made centuries earlier.

      This is one reason why we distinguish between the various aims of art history: if the aim is to trace the passage of a specific, known manuscript text from one end of Europe to another, then it is reasonable to focus only on manuscripts.

      If the aim is to map the evolution of manuscript art within a specific region, say Paris, then it is reasonable only to consider works produced in Paris within the requisite period.

      However, if the aim is to determine (or argue) a history and origin of imagery accompanying an unknown text whose provenance is the issue, then one has to demonstrate that one’s example is not only “like” some others, but it is MORE like imagery from one specific place and time than from any other place, time or style – regardless of medium.

      The Voynich archer is unlike any example I’ve seen in central European manuscript art. The stance most closely resembles the type which appears first in Paris – not in manuscript art, yet, but in stained glass. The costume, however, is not French, nor German. It is eastern Greek – that is, from the Byzantine sphere, but seen rather on imagery from pottery recovered from Corinth and the Morea…

      The ‘Dionysian’ feline is also from the Greek, and specifically the eastern Greek world.

      So again the form of the beardless goats which serve in the VMS for ‘aries’. I illustrated those with examples recovered from Antioch.

      And again, I do wish someone espousing the central European theory would present a parallel for the figure used for “Virgo” – it is another unparalleled in western art as far as I know. Not without a close match in the eastern side of the Mediterranean, and among the Greek-speakers. But you will know this already.

    • Darren Worley

      Rene – In my experience, finding a maneless lion in a Zodiac is not unusual.

      One of the most memorable examples is found in Kitab al-Bulhān (Book of Wonderment) dating from 1390. The maneless lion can be seen on p32 (of 367). This manuscript is believed to have been written/copied in Baghdad.

      What I find particularly unusual is the Voynich-type writing that can be found on pages 72-76, 78, 79 (see example below).

      A good example is found on p73 where this unusual text appears alongside a Star-Of-David type symbol. In the medieval period this symbol appeared in Arabic texts used by Kabbalists where it was known as the Seal of Solomon.

      The manuscript description (on the Oxford Digital Library) suggests that the Kitab al-Bulhān manuscript contains Latin inscriptions written in a code using Greek letters. Its unclear if this is referring to the same annotations.

      Here is a link to the manuscript: http://www2.odl.ox.ac.uk/gsdl/cgi-bin/library?e=d-000-00—0orient02–00-0-0-0prompt-10—4——0-1l–1-en-50—20-about—00001-001-1-1isoZz-8859Zz-1-0&a=d&c=orient02&cl=CL2.2.1&d=orient002-aab

      Or it can be downloaded here: https://archive.org/download/KitabAlBulhan/Kitab%20al-Bulhan.pdf

      • Hello Darren,

        interesting example!
        I only considered the lioness ‘a bit odd’. It seems unusual for a zodiac cycle, in particular in comparison with (roughly) contemporary MS illustrations.
        In the end, we should be looking for a synthesis, that has an acceptable explanation for all features. Problem is, we can’t be sure which ones are important, and which ones are just a personal taste (invention) of the illustrator….

      • Darren Worley

        Rene further to your comments on September 13, 2015 – 6:34 pm – here is a link to an example of (placid, female?) Leo as a maneless lion.


        Walters manuscript W.659 depicting Cancer (al-saratan) and Leo (al-asad).
        Origin: Turkey / Ottoman
        The original text dates from 13th-century and this is from a 18th-century copy.

        Zakariya ibn Muhammad Qazwini (ca. 1203-1283) (Author)
        Muhammad ibn Muhammad Shakir Ruzmah-‘i Nathani (Scribe)

        • Derek Vogt

          By the Middle Ages, lions were very rare except south of the Sahara Desert, so the easiest routes by which to capture them for owners in Eurasia would have been up the Nile River from the Mediterranean Sea and along the coasts of the Indian Ocean. The first place you’d reach land south of the Sahara Desert by either of those routes would be Kenya or neighboring Somalia. In part of that area called “Tsavo”, lions do not have manes. Sometimes the fur where a mane would be is thicker or darker, but only slightly, or not at all. (The 1996 movie “The Ghost And The Darkness” was set in Tsavo but got this wrong by using non-Tsavo lions with manes.)

          I can’t say Tsavo lions or another subspecies with the same trait were necessarily the primary model for lions to most Eurasians at the time, but it is at least plausible that familiarity with a mix of these and “normal” ones made a mane less likely to seem necessary to them than it does to most of us now.

      • MarcoP

        A detail from the manuscript mentioned by Darren, Kitab al-Bulhan MS. Bodl. Or. 133, XIV Century, that remembered me of Voynich f67v2. Given the context, I guess the Arabic image represents a constellation.

        Orun’s comment points out an interesting script appearing in the same ms (f31b).

        • Marco – and others.

          A number of people have bought that manuscript to the attention of Voynich researchers, pointing out the Voynich-like script. I gave details of those original discoverer/s in my own post.

          I am writing this comment, not just to save more time being wasted on re-inventing yet another established source and detail, but to let you know that certain zealots object to any mention of it – I was obliged to remove the post itself from voynich.retro and replace it with something which showed those over-attentive persons that we are not about political or religious issues, but manuscript studies. Since the manuscript’s relevance has been long ago established, I do advise no further reference be made to it. That’s the advice I was given, and I pass it on in a spirit of good will.

    • The Scales are highly unusual.

      If anyone should find another example of a Latin image (not just MS imagery – there’s no point to that) in which the trays are pictured hanging from a bar threaded through a hollow crossbar, as we see in the Vms, I do hope you will post a note. I’ve hunted pretty thoroughly and am yet to find a single one in any medium, in any part of medieval or Renaissance Europe.

      I did find the type – but elsewhere.

      The Vms might be the only example of it ever to appear in a Latin medieval work!

      • Helmut Winkler

        You are misinterpreting the image. Scales whose “trays are … hanging from a bar threaded through a hollow crossbar” would not work, neither inside nor outside Europe and that is why you have found no example. I think the VMs scales are scales constructed to have its three axes exactly in one level to increase its accuracy, very modern for the early 15th c., these scales came in use then, only the 3D abilities of our draughtsman are not very good.

    • MarcoP

      Here is a lizard-like Scorpio from Southern Italy (Otranto, 12th Century). The same mosaic cycle features Northern elements (e.g. the figure of King Arthur), so this image of Scorpio could be imported as well. By the way, the circular frame is apparently inscribed in some kind of writing. I guess it’s a variant of the Latin alphabet, but it looks very strange to me.

      • Darren Worley

        Hi Marco – this is a very curious image. Do you have any other images from this zodiac cycle? What kind of building did this mosiac come from?

        You suggested that the alphabet might be related to Latin, but I think that some the characters look similar to Hebrew. What do you think?

        • MarcoP

          Hello Darren,
          the mosaics are from the Otranto Cathedral:

          Here you should get the other images. They are from http://www.lessingimages.com.

          You are right: the circular inscription does not seem a Latin alphabet, thank you for pointing out the inaccuracy of my remark! I don’t know if it can be Hebrew. I am not even sure it is writing.

          • Darren Worley

            Hi Marco – on reflection the Otorano cathedral script being related to Latin (or Greek) makes more sense…why would Hebrew script be found in a Christian church?

            I recall occasionally seeing Hebrew script in churches: on statues of Moses holding tablets containing the commandments, for example, but never much more than a few letters or words.

            However, in this region of Southern Italy the Griko dialect, a dialect of Greek, was spoken so maybe that’s the origin of this unusual script?

            • MarcoP

              Hello Darren, it seems that these strange inscriptions are pseudo-Kufic.

              In particurlar, see The Influence of Islamic Art in Italy, by Maria Vittoria Fontana:
              Floor-mosaics are an integral part of buildings. … in the Church of S. Maria del Patire in Rossano Calabro (1101-5), and in Apulia in the cathedrals of Taranto (1160), Otranto (1165) and Brindisi (mid 12th Century), we may find horizontal or circular bands with pseudo-Kufic (the foliated type in Rossano and Taranto, much more “cursive” in Otranto)…

              Here there are images of other examples from Apulia.

              • Ellie Velinska

                Here is example of pseudo script from the Visconti Hours manuscript – some ‘Voynichese symbols’ in it 🙂

  7. Drew Russell

    Something potentially interesting.
    On the f68r1 star page, the stars closest to the sun figure are mostly from the region of the constellation Taurus and nearby constellations, whilst those nearest the moon figure are from Libra, Serpens, and Virgo. Perhaps, then the page represents the sky at a specific time of year, when the sun is in Taurus and the moon is in Libra or suchlike. Due to my lack of knowledge in astronomy or related fields, I can only say that this is potentially some time in spring.
    I haven’t started analyzing f68r2 for a similar pattern yet, but the occurrence thereof does seem likely.

  8. Fake or not?
    Who knows more about this document?


    • That’s very clearly a fake picture.

      • I think so, too. Not only that there are characters in VM, but in a 1 to 1 translation. No! There must also be some kind of treasure map yes. Overkill for my taste. But always something to find.

        • Stephen Bax

          Still, I love the carefully made ‘worm hole’ 🙂

  9. Darren Worley

    I’ve posted this link (here) as it provides a good illustration of a couple of ideas that I’ve previously posted here – its relates to small isolated Jewish communities found in the Mediterranean region. I thought this was worth mentioning just to provide a real example that such communities did, or do still just about, exist.

    I believe that the community described is precisely the kind of isolated group that could have created the VM.

    The passage, I thought was pertinent is :

    According to Gabriel Hagai, professor of Hebrew Codicology at the Ecole Pratique des Haute Etudes in Paris, [Chiara] Vigo is “the last remnant” of a combination of Jewish and Phoenician religious practices that was once far more widespread in the Mediterranean.

    Some of the points that have been previously highlighted –

    1) It’s been suggested before that Voynichese contains several symbols similar to those found in the Phoenician alphabet
    2) In Sardinia examples have been found of Hebrew being written left-to-right. Voynichese is written left-to-right, and Derek has tentatively identified isolated Hebrew words.

    It was also interesting to learn that this ladies’ family was so isolated from orthodox Jewish belief that they didn’t seem to have realized that they were observing Jewish custom.

    My current opinion is that the VM is mostly likely a medieval Jewish (Ashkenazi) German copy/compilation of even older Jewish manuscripts. Whoever created or copied the VM might have originally come from, or had contact with archaic Jewish communities – perhaps amongst the Greek-speakers of Southern Italy (like the Kalonymos family) or from Sardinia, Byzantium or North Africa who subsequently migrated into Germany during the medieval period.

  10. Last year, a group at the University of York was given some samples obtained from several folios of the MS by the Beinecke library. These were used to determine the species of the animal based on protein identification. This requires only very minute samples. Apart from some 10 or so folios, also the cover was sampled. The vast majority of MS parchment is from cow (calf), sheep or goat. The idea was, that if the animal turned out to be goat, it would be a very strong indication of an Italian origin.
    The cover gave a negative result. The experts said that this is not unusual due to the frequent handling. All folios were positively identified as cow.
    The cover was later identified by a professional parchment maker as goat.
    This result did not produce any strong pointer in any direction as calf was used basically everywhere in Europe.
    A lot more can be said about the history of the MS, based among others on the cover, but this has no real bearing on the place of origin. If Stephen agrees, I could post this as well.

    • Helmut Winkler

      In many cases , you can decide where the parchment was made by the way it was treated in production, Italian parchment looks different from German. But this does not help you much, because there was an extensive trade in parchment in the late Middle Ages, a lot of it was exported from Southern Germany to Northern Italy for example. And there seem to have been differences in production for different animals. Nevertheless, someone should take a look. And it would be interesting to know which folios were positively identified.

      • The parchment and the binding have been looked at in detail and I understand that this is still on-going. The details are not mine to distribute, and I hope they will be published in some form soon.
        The result of the protein testing was specifically allowed to be presented in the Folger library on 11 November 2014, so that’s why I could give the summary here as well.

        See also here on the protein testing:

      • Helmut,
        This information about parchment trade is very interesting. May I have some references for it? My own reading suggested that the trade was chiefly associated with the maritime powers, Genoa in particular. The networks which existed in the late 1300s appear to have been almost exclusively Jewish (to judge from the massive amount of parchment procured to copy the books and archives in Avignon before the return of the papacy to Rome). We are fortunate to have records even of the parchminer’s names, and of the copyists.

        I have failed to account for a trade out of Germany and would be glad to repair the omission. Sources written in German are fine.

        • Helmut Winkler

          As far as I can see parchment and later paper were traded all over Europe along the usual trading routes as well as some writing materials. You can’t transport freshly butchered skins, it’s a bit smelly even for medieval noses, you have to process them and sell the finished product where there is a demand. I don’t think there is a monograph about the subject, at least I have never seen one, it is mentioned in the books about parchment production (e.g. the Reed book) and trade histories

        • Darren Worley

          Regarding the Jewish role in the parchment trade, its worth noting that this was also a trade in which women could participate.

          I’ve previously written about the Kalonymos family, it appears that at least one female decendant of this aristocratic family was employed in processing parchment.

          Ref : Encyclopaedia of Jewish Communities: Germany volume 3, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1992

          Quote: Most noteworthy of his generation was, perhaps, Rabbi Elazar ben Yehudah (circa 1160-1238), a descendant of the aristocratic Kalonymos family of Mainz, […] As a young man, Rabbi Elazar officiated as Rabbi of Erfurt and afterwards settled in Worms, opened a Yeshiva in his house where the teachers and scholars lived together with the family. His wife Dolcza, who supported the family by processing parchment for holy books, and some of his children, were murdered by the Crusaders (see below). Rabbi Elazar was the teacher of Rabbi Avraham ben Ezriel, the author of ‘The Spice Bed’, who later moved to Bohemia.

          I was speculating, that if the VM is indeed an Ashkenazi manuscript, why is it not written in Hebrew?

          Apparently, women were not taught Hebrew at this time, since this would have been taught exclusively to men and boys. However, since women were active in conducting business presumably this must have required a certain level of literacy.

          This made me wonder, could the VM be written in a Jewish “women’s script”?

          Curiously, a quick search on Google reveals there really was a Yiddish script for women! It is known as “vaybertaytsh” (from “women’s taytsh,” or “women’s Middle High German”)

          Here is a quote from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiddish_language

          Quote: Women in the Ashkenazi community were traditionally not literate in Hebrew, but did read and write Yiddish. A body of literature therefore developed for which women were a primary audience. This included secular works, such as the Bovo-Bukh, and religious writing specifically for women, such as the Tseno Ureno and the Tkhines. One of the best-known early woman authors was Glückel of Hameln, whose memoirs are still in print.

          The segmentation of the Yiddish readership, between women who read mame-loshn (mother-tongue) but not loshn-koydesh, (Aramaic/Hebrew) and men who read both, was significant enough that distinctive typefaces were used for each. The name commonly given to the semicursive form used exclusively for Yiddish was […] vaybertaytsh = “women’s taytsh,” […]

          This section referred to printed material dating from the 1550’s, but presumably the practice of writing using “women’s script” pre-dates printing.

          • Darren,
            As always, a fascinating post. I don’t expect you’ve seen the post where I reported the content of a paper written by the Papal Librarian, discussing the production and methods for preservation of manuscripts in the papal library. He describes the situation in the late fourteenth century, and that’s where I had my information about the network of chiefly Jewish parchminers at that time. What we need, I think, are old contracts – those from the Avignon work remain to us – because these will name the people, specify the type of parchment, whether or not provided as finished quires etc. Some European cities have ‘ancient’ archives, as do some religious fraternities.

            To me, the hand looks much closer to the style of 13thC Sephardi texts (I’ve written about that too, with comparative examples), but I’m not a palaeographer. The person we really need to decide the issue is Beit Arie (I wish!). But I do agree that the Mahzor (what’s the plural) is more like the style of the MS – I’ve just finished a post comparing motifs in some early micrographic manuscripts with those in the VMS. Most exciting was that our earliest – from Karaite Egypt – also contains a bicorporate creature having different bodies – not mirror-image as European Latin custom. That is also seen in MS Beincke 408, and again in a Mahzor produced later in Germany.

            That post is locked; recently I’ve had a couple of enthusiastic visitors who’ve downloaded every post from the blog, so I’m asking people to write to me by email if they want access. You’re welcome, of course.

      • I agree that it would be interesting to know which folios were tested, but I also don’t have this information. The result just refers to batch numbers, not folios.

    • Rene, I’m not sure if you know of Stinson’s project, which was still in the early stages in 2007, and I confess I haven’t followed it recently.

      His aim was to try and trace the trade-routes by which parchment and vellum etc. travelled through the medieval world, by conducting DNA tests. If the sheep-skin proved to be merino, for example, then the skin was probably from Spain and so forth. Of course the trade in skins might be quite a different one from trade in prepared membranes, let alone quires cut to size. The dimensions of MS Beinecke 408 are very interesting in this connection. The dimensions given by the Beinecke agree with some earlier works on paper (mainly recovered from the Cairo Geniza) but also found in works on vellum from the Veneto in the early decades of the fifteenth century.

      I daresay you’ve seen where I treated this, but it may be new to others.

      If I had my ‘druthers, I’d have asked McCrone to mention any sign of gesso in the manuscript. This, of course because gesso’s colour is a fair indicator of provenance for the inscriptions and imagery (if not the membrane itself). The normal classes are: pink gesso – Italy; brown Gesso – Germany; plain white gesso – Paris. Of course we find exceptions here. Manuscripts known to have been produced in fifteenth century France, usually from non-Latin works, use pink gesso. But for works of the ordinary Latin mainstream, the rule of thumb is fairly reliable.

      Things get a bit complicated otherwise. Jewish manuscripts from France may use pink gesso, and others from Spain or Portugal use whatever they like.

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks Rene, I would be pleased to post it.

      I think this deserves a post all of its own, so if you want to email it to me I will put it on a new page with acknowledgement to you.

      • Stephen Bax

        Rene has now kindly sent me this and it is posted in a separate post here.

    • I am almost certain that the trade between Northern and Southern Europe was heavily restricted by the plague epidemic of 1347 to 1353. Somal 2nd epidemic just prevailed to 1400th
      This would limit the type and manufacture of parchment but on the regions.

  11. Johannes Klein

    Dear All,
    I very much like the approach of comparing the VM zodiac pages to precursors. Up to now, however, I have always a suspicion of subjectivity in the interpretation of the results. I would like to ask you all if you think it would be of help if we start a quantitative analysis of these illustrations? What I have in mind as first step is a matrix of characters that are present in the VM illustrations and its precursors to later employ quantitative statistical methods in the interpretation. The more binary characters the better I would say.
    Maybe, e.g., Pisces: connection mouth to mouth 1/0; upper one looking left 1/0; lower one 1/0; Gemini: both male 1/0; both female 1/0; one male one female 1/0; bothe dressed 1/0; facing each other 1/0; Sagitarius: as centaur 1/0; as human archer 1/0; with crossbow 1/0; Cancer: as cancer 1/0; as lobster 1/0; Aries: with fish tail 1/0; Taurus: horns straight 1/0; horns recurved 1/0; Leo: tail between legs 1/0; with mane 1/0; one hind leg raised 1/0. These are some quick examples I could come up with.
    As a good starting point, the Warburg Iconographic database is similarly structured into subcategories and could be easily transponded into a first guide matrix by someone with a little time in his hands :-), and it claims to be completed for its Astrological, Astronomical and Magical Manuscripts.
    Would appreciate your comments on the subject and a possible implementation in terms of possible website as collective effort.

    • Great idea Johannes. Might I also suggest including the date of the image within these parameters? Anything before 1438 is fine; anything 1440-1450 a bit dubious. Anything post 1470 discounted… or something like that.

      I wouldn’t discount anything pre-1438, given the intense interest of the renaissance in antiquity and the exotic.

    • Stephen Bax

      Hi Johannes – sorry for the delay in replying to this idea. Personally I do think it would be a great idea to attempt a more systematic approach such as the one you propose. I will email you to see how we could take it forward.

  12. Symbole ?

    pleace kick out of bad positions. I had same Problems to upload…thanks

  13. Mörser ?

  14. the Fish is from a page uot a book

    • Darren Worley

      Here is the description :

      Erschaffung der Welt
      Dieses Bild: 003296
      Kunstwerk: Federzeichnung ; Illustrationszyklus Theologie ; Initiale C ; Heiligenkreuz
      Dokumentation: 1175 ; 1200 ; Heiligenkreuz ; Österreich ; Niederösterreich ; Stiftsbibliothek ; cod. 24 ; fol. 92r
      Anmerkungen: Heiligenkreuz ; Augustinus. De Civitate Dei ; Ökt,Bd. 19,S. 255ff

      (in English)

      Creation of the World
      This image : 003 296
      Artwork: Pen and ink drawing ; Illustration cycle theology ; Initial C ; Holy Cross
      Documentation : 1175 ; 1200 ; Holy Cross ; Austria ; Lower Austria ; Abbey Library ; cod. 24 ; fol. 92r
      Notes: Holy Cross ; Augustine . De Civitate Dei ; ÖKT , Vol . 19 , S . 255ff

      I found it by searching for “Adam” on http://tethys.imareal.sbg.ac.at/realonline/

    • A new fish and other spez. from italien

      • This has a really interesting scorpion!

        • That’s right, with a little imagination, it looks like a pangolin. 😉

      • This is MS Rosenwald 4 in the Library of Congress. For some MSs of this collection see here:
        Note that nrs. 6 and 7 were sold by Kraus to Rosenwald, and belonged to Voynich at the time of his death. One of the two Voynich acquired from the Jesuits or the Vatican together with the Voynich MS.

        Back to the illustration, on this page:
        it is listed as South German, 1410, but on the MS cover is written:
        Die Kunst C’iromantia von Doktor Hartlieb Herzoglich baierischer Leibarzt. 1448.
        (in a much later hand).

        • MarcoP

          Thank you Peter and Rene. It seemed strange to see a Scorpio like that from “South of the Alps”. South Germany is certainly more typical.

  15. Symbol or ABC

  16. painting stayl

  17. Paintig style

    • Peter,
      Nice example of the standard type for the dog-nosed “tunny” (generic term). I’ve added it to my collection of such figures – with due credit to you as finder. Thanks.

      As far as stylistics is concerned, you might like this example – again 15thC – but this time from Armenia.

      • Sorry, I forgot to mention that the pair of “tunnys” have been drawn in this way as version of the well-known ‘dog-and-dragon’ pair.

        The ‘dog-nosed’ (and -eared) fish in the Vms is paired with one having a crest – that’s the “dragon” sign.

        For one of the myriad of examples we have extant, even just from Latin European works, here as ornament within tables made by GUILLAUME BROUSCON, a Breton cartographer.

        The ‘dog’ (often with uplifted nose), and the ‘dragon’ with its crest turn up in so many places, and in so many forms and media that it’s hard to choose from the examples.

        One I like has the dragon now winged. It’s part of the Otranto mosaic ‘labours’ series.

        Like the prevalence of hatching, or use of the cloud-band pattern, this motif’s turning up in yet another Latin manuscript shows how readily Latin manuscript artists would adopt imagery gained from their sources, from other media, and from each other.

        The really interesting questions, for me, are (a) why apply the ‘dog-and-dragon’ theme to the fishes if they had originally been meant for Pisces; (b) why was the artist so confused about how the two fishes should be joined – to each other and to their star-flowers?

    • Sorry to add another note, but perhaps I should have mentioned that the fish depicted in Peter’s manuscript is not meant as an astronomical figure. The inscription “fiat lux” shows that it is part of a depiction of the creation of the world, according to the Biblical account, so that picture is meant to represent the whole variety of fish in the real world. And the one with upturned nose is the sturgeon, which once had a much wider range than it does now.

      New world, and old world have sturgeons with this characteristic nose – so just as a nice photo and example:

      The Atlantic sturgeon is now an endangered species.

      • Stephen Bax

        This is new to me. The fish in the drawing which Peter showed looks amazingly similar to the Voynich ones. What do you think we should deduce from that? Diane, where is your set of similar fish pictures? I’d love to see them if possible?

        • Stephen,
          could you be a little more specific?

          Do you mean pictures of Pisces which are comparable to the Vms’ ( Peter’s was not an image of Pisces)

          Or pictures of “armoured” fish (again, Peter’s fish did not have a body of that type)

          Or perhaps other pictures of the ‘upturned nose’ – any pictures of sturgeon will do, and can be easily found on the internet.

          Or, on the other hand, if you mean images of the creation, in which the varieties of Mediterranean fish are pictured, including the sturgeon, I expect I could find quite a number, going back to Roman times and mosaics, and even Greek vase paintings which include the sea.

          However, the last is a task which would absorb a fair bit of time, so if I know exactly which points of similarity interest you, it would help.

          There’s another, of course – and that is imagery with a similar intention and reference (not just to the constellation) – that would be a different set again.



        • Stephen,
          I’d like to mention three critical points about the Vms image which we take as Pisces.
          (i) the fish are both given bodies covered in what is presented as lamellar armour. This is a departure from the norm, and one which appears in western manuscript art from about the tenth century.

          (ii) the pairing applied to the two in ms Beinecke 408 is the ‘dog-and-dragon’ or ‘dog and phoenix’ pairing. These are denoted by one having a crest, and the other often, if not always, an upturned nose.
          It is a a pre-Christian motif, once very common and found on coins and other media. It survived to be carried through into western Latin art, and an important, if debased version – less self-evident than that in MS Beinecke 408) occurs in a Spanish Christian codex, the Girona Beatus, dated c. 975 (Girona, Arxiu de la Catedral, Ms. 7). They appear as marginal figures on the map – here with the ‘dog’ made a sea-monster and the ‘dragon’ a chicken-fish 🙂

          Another interesting MS for our purpose is another copy of the Beatus text, now in the B.L. as Add. Ms. 11695. It was produced in the Monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos in 1109. This is of interest because it displays a similarly intense interest in patterning, and use of similar graphic techniques as are found in some quires of MS Beinecke 408, and which are not at all characteristic of Latin works from further north. This is why the presence of those techniques has often led to the idea that MS Beinecke 408 could only have been made much later – because researchers eyes were fixed on Italy and Germany, where those habits did not appear until many centuries later.
          I’m sorry to say that Peter’s fish is hardly like that in the Voynich ms; it is not a figure for pisces; it is not one of a pair; its body is very differently drawn. The seeming similarity is actually a common similarity to the actual form of a sturgeon’s “nose”.

          • Stephen Bax

            My response is that of an artistic ignoramus, but personally I have never seen a depiction of any fish which is closer to the VM pisces fishes than the one Peter has shown. The four fins, the head separated from the body, the tail, the nose and mouth, all look remarkably similar to my untutored eye. My original question was meant to ask you for similar fish depictions? For example of the sturgeon?

            Also, I can’t personally see anything dragonish about either Voynich fish. Is the dragon resemblance supposed to come from the upturned top fin alone?

            Did you ever do any postings about these fish specifically? If so, I’d love to see them, if they are still available?

            • No, it was never written specifically about such details slightly.
              Seeking easy specially in pictures, frescoes and furniture for hidden clues. Sometimes the background has satisfied more than the actual image.

              • Details there i search

            • Stephen,
              I put up a post on the open blog on October 27, 2012.

              It is part of a series, so the second part of that post has a lot of cross-referencing, tying together the implications in connection with other elements in other folios.

              I think the chief difficulty here is the very natural human tendency to notice the familiar, while sliding past what they do not know because it ‘makes no sense’. It’s in our genes to do that – the same mechanism which lets us pick out a friend in a sea of unknown faces. But that’s why one has to be trained to pay equal attention to all aspects of an image. Otherwise, any painting of a woman and child becomes a ‘Madonna’, and any oil-painting equal to any other.

              One way to check perception of the ‘familiar’ is to cover it. If you cover that fish’s nose, then its differences become more obvious. The body’s proportions are different; the way the body is drawn is entirely different: realistic in the ‘creation’ image, but covered in armour in the Voynich folio. If, say, you were better acquainted with Armenian art, you might instead latch onto the armoured body and proportions, and see the Voynich figure as “obviously Armenian”; or if more familiar with tenth-century thought – which equates the lamellar with the codex and the ‘word”s protection – then you might see it as obviously tenth-century French.
              But what it comes down to is meaning and intention: so –
              * the fish in the ‘creation’ picture is not drawn ‘armoured’.
              * it is drawn with a realistic sort of body.
              * the proportions are not those of the Voynich figure
              * the fish in the ‘creation’ image is not paired, nor is there any intended relationship between itself and the others – again quite unlike the fish in the Voynich image. Its being carefully formed to evoke a well-known “pairing” is an important point.
              So while I agree that the ‘nose’ looks like one on one of the armoured pair in MS Beinecke 408, I conclude overall, that this is a common likeness to the sturgeon’s distinctive nose, not any indication that both images came from a similar time, place, context or draughtsman.

            • Stephen,
              I put up a post in October 2012

              It is part of an ongoing treatment, so the second part of the post is largely about cross-referencing details in other parts of the manuscript.
              I think the issue is a perfectly natural; as human beings we tend to slide over what is not familiar and see only what seems comfortable and familiar. It is natural; it’s what enables us to pick out a friend’s face in a crowd of thousands – while failing to register the form of any other.

              In this case, the one point of similarity is the upturned nose. Cover that and the differences are immediately apparent.

              The body is not drawn ‘armoured’; the fish is not one of a pair, with its complement crested.
              Our Pisces is given ears – ears formed like a dog’s. That’s intentional and meaningful, and a *substantial distinction*.

              The sturgeon in the creation image is not made as an imaginary but a literal form.

              Someone better acquainted with Armenian imagery than with Latin imagery would probably pass over that upturned nose which strikes us as so important, and instead recognise the ‘armour’ which seemed more familiar – so arguing the Pisces in the VMS plainly and unmistakeably Armenian.

              Against that, someone better acquainted with tenth-century European imagery would see it (nose or not) as plainly from the tradition that equates “the word” with spiritual armor – and so link it to early manuscripts from mainland Europe, including the type from Fleury, though on other counts the similarities are few. That equation is a substantial and substantive similarity, because it reveals a similar cast of mind.

              I’m afraid the ‘creation’ image is just a picture of the various types of fish and includes the sturgeon, whose distinctive nose is the one detail that a Voynich researcher will see as similar – the body proportions are different, if you notice.

              If we didn’t pay as much attention, or more attention, to the unlike, we might argue every oil portrait of woman and child was a renaissance madonna. But to analyse imagery does take effort. It’s so tempting to say “ah-hah” just what I wanted to see! (Especially in cases where the whole aim of image-hunting is to find something to support a theory on which the heart is already fixed).

            • Stephen,
              ‘My collection’ would exhaust you, but I’ve posted a few images, all from the B.L. collection, but including French, English, German, Hebrew/Aramaic and (I think) Italian.

              Plus a couple of extras. Other libraries will no doubt turn up just as many, across the whole of Europe and beyond.



    • Stephen Bax

      Peter, where exactly did these pictures come from?

      • one of theme is a farmer tool. here a other Picture.

  18. For provenancing a material object, the best method is to provenance it as an object: that means finding out where vellum of this type was made – its finish puts it pretty well outside the German sphere, for example.

    Stitches used for the initial stage of binding can be helpful, too, if they are original – not just whether or not kettle-stitch was used in preference to any other, but even distances between stations.

    Thirdly, the size of the manuscript’s folios can tell us a great deal if they haven’t been trimmed, as I’m assured by Rene Zandbergen that the folios of MS Beinecke 408 never were. However, the last time I looked at Rene’s website, the dimensions he gave were not those given by the Beinecke. I’ve taken the latter as authoritative, but have never had an opportunity to measure them myself.

    If they are correct, the dimensions for a manuscript produced in the range 1405-1438 are unusual enough to locate production of the folios as such – with a very high degree of probability – in the 1430s, and in the Veneto.

    That doesn’t prove they were inscribed there at that time; there was a market for vellum, and it was an item of trade, especially in the maritime trade, but we find very few other surviving manuscripts with the same unusual dimensions in that time-period.

    The handwriting for the main text doesn’t look remotely like a German hand, although we find a similar hand to that inscribing the quire-numbers around Constance. I don’t know if it mightn’t be found elsewhere – I think those hunting only considered manuscripts from that region, because it was one in which they had particular interest. Lack of comparative range is a common fault in Voynich studies: it is important if a person is arguing something “most like” something else that one can see its presence at point A is demonstrably balanced by an absence of presence anywhere else!

    This also applies to claiming that a type of crown drawn on a figure is a Hungarian crown etc. It may be the form taken by a Hungarian crown still extant, but one has to prove that crowns of the same form existed *only* in Hungary – rather more difficult to prove, but necessary.

    And of course, being able to draw a crown of one type or another doesn’t prove the person themselves lived there, or that the manuscript was made there – any more than a person in Norway drawing the picture of a pineapple proves that pineapples grew there. (hypothetical example, of course).

  19. @Marco
    at Friedrich III I had to laugh when I saw him, even the crooked nose and the hair are agree.

  20. 2. Other elements
    Tu the 3 german worts, korect is ( den muss des )
    It mins ” then must this ”
    I now this, becorse ist my slang.

  21. Alle Hinweise zeigen auf die Alpen !

    • MarcoP

      Hello Peter, thank you for posting these parallels. This crown is very interesting. I see that most of the people discussing it mention the Holy Roman Empire in general, not the Alps in particular. The cross at the top is a telling detail.

    • Peter

      If there is a crown, then maybe in this kind

      • Peter

        or this one

  22. Darren Worley

    Marco’s recent posts on the “Sagittarius with Crossbow” and Gemini figures in the Zodiacal section and their similarity with other examples found in other manuscripts of a Southern German/Swiss origin, strongly suggests a South German/Swiss link in the origin of the VM.

    How can this South German/Swiss influence and Near Eastern influence reported in the VM be reconciled?

    I think that its possible to reconcile these disparate influences within known historical examples and migrations.

    I’ve outlined some of my ideas here. I favour the 6th as the most probable.

    1) Medieval Swiss/German travellers in the Near East – possibly on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem? My earlier post (here) describes the travel diary of just such a traveller (Konrad Grunenbeg), so the historical record does seem to support this possibility. Some images from this manuscript (Ritter Grünembergs Pilgerfahrt ins Heilige Land 1486) contains some similarities to the VM, however, this doesn’t really explain why such an unusual script would have been employed in the VM. The link with Jerusalem is interesting because much has been written about the Armenian influence in the VM. Perhaps such a traveller might have have some contact with the Armenian quarter in Jerusalem?

    2) A slight modification to (1) – a Swiss or German traveller to the Near East (perhaps a religious mystic or member of a German secret society?). This would perhaps better explain why an unusual script was used. There are examples of such individuals undertaking this type of journey in the medieval period. I’ll expand on this in a seperate post.

    3) Radhanites. Jewish merchants from Southern France/Germany following the overland and maritime trade routes.

    4) German Christian missionaries active in Asia. Evidence of this activity is provided by the Codex Cumanicus, a medieval Latin-German a linguistic manual of the Middle Ages, designed to help Catholic missionaries communicate with the Cumans, a nomadic Turkic people. This illustrates that German-speaking missionaries were active in Central Asia in the medieval period.

    5) Central Asians living in medieval Europe. One example from the historical record is that of the Tatar slave that Marco Polo bought back to Europe. This pre-dates the VM by 100 years, but presumably there would have been other Central Asians living in the Northern Italian region at this time.

    6) My favoured explanation, which seems to best explain the various influences found in the VM – namely that the VM is a product of a long-established Jewish community who migrated from Arabic and Greek-speaking Southern Italy, to Northern Italy and then into Southern Germany in the medieval period.

    I think this would reconcile the Jewish and Greek imagery with the German elements that have been reported.

    Again, the historical record describes such a community – the influential Kalonymos family.

    Below is a quote from “Yiddish Civilisation” by Paul Kriwaczek

    A branch of this family, recognisable from their names as descendants of Greek speakers, had long been resident in Tuscany under the rule of the Lombards. Starting from Lucca, the old trading city, […] their progress represents the history of Western European Jewry in miniature including the new found links to the source of tradition in Mesopotamia and the move north into Germany.

    In the words of Elezar ben Judea ben Kalymos of Worms.

    Abu Aaron … came from Babylonia because of a misadventure, and was forced to wander from place to place, until he came to the country of Lombardy, to a city named Lucca, where he found Master Moses…and transmitted to him all his secrets. Master Moses, son of Kalonymos […] was the first to leave Lombardy, and he and his sons … together with other important persons. King Charles bought them with him from the country of Lombardy, and settled them in Mainz, where they multiplied and flourished greatly …

    The VM script could be formed from a mix of Latin (the Lombardian influence), Greek (from living in Southern Italy), Aramaic (the Jewish language used in Babylonian) and Hebrew (the language of Jewish scripture) characters and the language a proto-Yiddish (Judeo-Greek/Lombardian/German creole, possibly with Arabic borrowings).

    The reference to “secret knowledge” is intriguing – clearly these individuals possessed information that might wish to be concealed. This probably concerned magic or esoteric knowledge, as Abu Aaron was apparently expelled from Babylonia (Iraq) for misusing magic skills. The Kalonymos community also seem to have been well connected having close connection with regional nobility.

    Eleazar of Worms (Eleazar ben Judah ben Kalonymus), or a close follower, seems to be a plausible candidate for the compiler of the VM. He was know as the “perfumer”, was also an astronomer and an important Jewish mystic, perhaps he was drawing upon the traditions and writings of his Jewish Greek/Latin ancestors?

    • MarcoP

      Hello Darren,
      here are two other examples of dressed, male and female Gemini. In my opinion, they are not nearly as close to the Voynich Gemini as the 1464 Ulm manuscript previously posted here.

      (1) Male and female Gemini holding hands from the Amiens catherdral) (1230 ca).

      (2) MS Vat.lat.6435, written in the years 1337 – 1352 by Opicinus de Canistris. Gemini are represented as a dressed embracing male and female couple. The astrological allegory connects three Zodiac signs to the three continents known at the time: Aquarius / Africa, Gemini / Asia, Virgo / Europa.
      Here Gemini are apparently conflated with the subject of Christ and Mary embracing, rather frequent in medieval art (for instance the Assumption of the Virgin by Cimabue). The heart of the couple is labeled “amor” (love) an anagram of “Roma”, written on their legs. The woman is labeled “majorica insula” (the island of Majorca). I cannot read the label at the right of the man.

      PS: thank you for mentioning Konrad Grünenberg’s travel diary: it’s a great manuscript!

      • Darren Worley

        Thanks Marco – it seems that the dressed male and female Gemini images are found over a wider geographical area, than the Sagittarius with crossbow, which seems to be more precisely located.

        Have you considered the balance/scales on f72v1? These seems quite unusual. Do these have any cultural or iconographic significance?

        Thanks for the link to MS Vat.lat.6435 – really fascinating. The author Opicinus de Canistris has a quite unique style.

        • MarcoP

          Thank you Darren, I’ll be away for a few weeks. When I am back, I will look at images of Libra as you suggest.

        • those interested in Opicinus might also like a post I published
          June 28, 2015
          ‘Avignon, Maps, Diagrams, big men and mind-sets’ where I raised the work of Opicinus – not the first time it has been mentioned in Voynich studies, either.

        • MarcoP

          Hello Darren, following your suggestion, I have looked at Libra images. I have browsed through the Warburg and Getty image collections. The main variable seems to me the presence or absence of a human figure holding the scales. The Voynich image obviously belongs to the variant in which no human figure is present. When comparing with other images of that kind, the Voynich illustration seems to me rather similar to them. Did you notice any other macroscopic distinctive feature?

          • Darren Worley

            Thanks Marco – I’ve assembled a few images too. I’ll upload them soon.

            However, you mentioned that the zodiac sign Cancer depicted as two crabs (as in VM f72r3) is rare. Have you found any other examples?
            I’ve been looking – but found none so far.

            This feature would appear to be more unusual and distinctive than the scales.

            • MarcoP

              Hello Darren, the only example I am aware of is the the weird Pierpont Morgan Library ms M.700. I think it is discussed in a 1963 paper “Two Unusual Calendar Cycles of the Fourteenth Century” (by Olga Koseleff Gordon) which currently I cannot find online.
              In that case two crabs are illustrated. I am not aware of any other “two lobsters” Cancer.

              color images

            • Helmut Winkler

              Seems to be singular. I have never seen a zodiac with a double cancer and there should not be one. Has to do with the mythology of the signs, Hera is setting one crab into Heaven for helping her, but there are two fishes, Aphrodite and her son Eros fleeing from Typhon and of course two twins, Castor and Pollux.

            • I am trying to remember where…. but I have seen a MS with two lobsters for cancer, years ago. The two crabs in Morgan MS 700 are interesting. Aries is also shown as a pair. Not sure if sheep or goats.

        • In Sweden, Finland, Latvia and Estonia, Midsummer’s Eve is the greatest festival of the year, comparable only with Walpurgis Night, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve. In Western Norway, a custom of arranging mock weddings, both between adults and between children, is still kept alive. The wedding was meant to symbolize the blossoming of new life. Such weddings are known to have taken place in the 1800s, but the custom is believed to be older.

  23. MarcoP

    The Warburg Institute Inconographic Database classifies Gemini images according to a few traits, including “nude / dressed” and “male and female”. Apparently, all the “male and female” images in their database are “nude”, and all “dressed” Gemini are both males. On the other hand, Voynich Gemini are dressed male and female. In my opinion, MS Ludwig XII is a good parallel: it is a German Manuscript written in Ulm shortly after 1464. Is anybody aware of other images of Gemini that compare well with the Voynich illustration?

    • MarcoP

      Just to add that the complete number of the manuscript is Ludwig XII 8. It currently makes part of the Getty Museum collection.

    • Julie

      Hi guys
      I was wondering if anyone can tell me what the term “harvest bull” would be referring to at the time VM was written? Would it be some kind of celebration involving a bull or dressing in costumes or something along those lines. Also where would the most likely places to have this celebration? Or could it be a papal bull? Would love to hear your comments.

    • Darren Worley

      Marco – thats a nice image you’ve found. I notice that the Warburg seems to be indexing mainly (only?) manuscripts. It might worth considering zodiacal images that appear elsewhere (eg. coins, clocks, stained glass windows, scientific instruments, jewellery etc.)

      The 16th-century zodiac clock at Chartres has semi-clothed figures in a similar posture, with clasping hands, as a representation of the Gemini twins. I can’t tell if they’re male and female though.

      The 13th-century stained-glass window of Lusanne Cathedral, Switzerland, also has clothed figures facing each other, as a representation of Gemini. I supect they might be both males, as a female might have her hair covered.

      These images are not as good as the example you provided, but “widening the search area” might find some other similar images from which a pattern may be discerned.

      • MarcoP

        Hello Darren, I agree that further and wider research could provide other examples of similar representations of Gemini. In my opinion, the two beautiful images you proposed both represent male Gemini (here a different image of the Chartres clock).

        The analysis of the Zodiac signs seems to suggest a Swiss / Southern German origin. The most convincing detail is the Sagittarius crossbow discussed by Rene Zandbergen (on the right I added a XV Century Sagittarius from Tübingen ms Md 2). The images of Gemini apparently confirm this analysis. If the represented people were indeed meant to be blond, this would also be consistent with Southern Germany (the Sagittarii and Gemini we are discussing are all blond as well). All this can help understand were the manuscript was written but, as Stephen discussed in this page, the language and contents likely have a very different origin.

        • MarcoP

          Another Sagittarius with crossbow: Concordia Seminary Library “Medizinisch-astrologisches Hausbuch” . Nürnberg, 1429

          • MarcoP

            A map of the production locations of the crossbow Sagittarii I am aware of.

            Published by Rene Zandbergen:
            A: München MS CGM 7269, Konstanz, start of the 15th C.
            B: Cod.Sang 827, Sankt Gallen (Lake Constance region · 1425/28)

            Linked above:
            C: Tübingen ms Md 2 (Württemberg, XV Century)
            D: Concordia Seminary Library “Medizinisch-astrologisches Hausbuch” Nürnberg, 1429

            • Darren Worley

              Marco – I’m pleased to report that I’ve found another crossbow Sagittarii – again it originates from Southern Germany and it’s contemporary with the creation of the VM.

              I attach a copy of the zodiac image below – its from a manuscript held in Austrian National Library.


              Astrologische Sammelhandschrift (Cod. 5327 Han)
              Verschiedene [Verfasser] ;Fugger-Bibliothek [Vorbesitzer]
              Schwaben ;Um 1420/30; 3. Viertel 15. Jhdt. ;1400-1499

              Astrological Manuscript collection (Cod. 5327 Han)
              Various Authors ; Fugger library [ previous owner ]
              Swabia ; To 1420/30 ; 3rd quarter 15th century . ; 1400-1499

              The image is taken from p387; right at the end of the volume.

              The full manuscript details can be seen here.


              I think some of the other zodiacal signs found here also bear a resemblance to the VM signs. I’ll follow up with another post discussing these similarities.

              • Stephen Bax

                Nice image – thanks a lot. As you say, the Pisces image is not dissimilar either, to my untutored eye.

                If someone is able to produce a neat summary of where we stand so far on the Sagittarius crossbow, including what Rene and others have suggested, plus all the other ideas we have come up with here, I’d be happy to publish it as a separate page.

                I myself would do it, but my limited brain has not yet been able to assimilate all the details!

              • MarcoP

                Darren observed that the Astrologische Sammelhandschrift (Cod. 5327 Han) zodiac wheel appears to have been pasted in the manuscript and that it looks like an engraving. I also agree that it seems to be printed, but according to the google translate of this web page it is a pen and ink drawing “colored” (?). It’s a long page, search “Tierkreis” or “5327”.
                From the accuracy of the drawing (including the 360 degrees individually marked) I would say it is more likely to be a copper engraving. But I am no expert, so I don’t know. Here is a similar 1550ca engraved zodiac wheel (no crossbow):

                Anyway, I think the image was most likely pasted when the manuscript was written (since written text follows the pasted image on the same page). So the image should also date to the second half of the XV century. At the end of the manuscript (p.392, f188v) the date 1469 is inscribed. It is very interesting to see the Crossbow Sagittarius moving from the circle-framed, single-sign arrangement to a full zodiac wheel!

                Darren’s new finding led me to imareal.oeaw.ac. There I saw these images from Österreichische Nationalbibliothek ; cod. 1842 Brevier (Horae canonicae in Polonia Scriptae):
                Apparently, this early manuscript (1395?) features both the crossbow Sagittarius (f6r) and the male-female dressed embracing Gemini (f3r). It seems that it was written in Southern Poland (Wrocław) or in Prague. I could not find a complete digital scan.

                • Darren Worley

                  Marco – thanks for the credits. I think you’ve made an important discovery; the zodiac found in Cod. 1842 Brevier (Horae canonicae in Polonia Scriptae), appears to also depict two of the most distinctive features found in the VM zodiac.

                  The links with Poland (Wrocław aka Breslau) are particularly interesting – I understand this city would have been part of the Kingdom of Bohemia (Czech Kingdom) around c1395.

                  The capital of Bohemia was Prague (the other location named), and according to wikipedia the languages used by the Bohemian Royal Court at this time were Czech, Latin and German. I’d be interested to know what vernacular languages would also have used at this time and place. (Knaanic perhaps?)

                  So, maybe the VM could have been created in the same area in which it was first recorded several hundred years later?

              • Isn’t the third quarter of the fifteenth century 1475-1500?

                In which case, what does it say of relevance, since this image was apparently made not less than two generations after the latest documented date of the Voynich parchment?
                Or doesn’t that matter?

                Does it matter that the figure has nothing in common with the Voynich figure’s appearance? Not clothing, nor stance, or posture, nor even the design of the crossbow. That in the German manuscript has a square stirrup; that carried by the Voynich archer has a circular one.

                I daresay in the usual way, excitement over supposed evidence of German authorship will swamp the less exciting fact that this German figure is about as like the Voynich archer as a picture of Queen Victoria of England resembles that of an Italian renaissance image of Mary Queen of Heaven: i.e. in nothing but the figure’s sex and one token object seen with them.

                As with most of the German examples, this one too is hatless..

                • Darren Worley

                  Diane – do you have any evidence to support your suggestions? You defend your position well but there seems to be a lack of evidence to support it.

                  Could you post just one counter-example of a Sagittarius crossbowman from a non-German source? I look forward to your response.

                  By-the-way, 2° Cod. ms. 578, from Ludwig-Maximilians University Library contains a Sagittarius crossbowman wearing a hat.

            • Darren Worley

              I found another manuscript containing a Sagittarius crossbowman. Its held at the Ludwig-Maximilians University Library in Munich and its reference is 2° Cod. ms. 578. It dates from 1475 and its full description is:

              (1475): Deutscher Kalender – Regimen sanitatis – Ortolf-Bearbeitung. (3r) Deutscher Kalender . (32r) Hohenburgisches Regimen sanitatis. (56r) Bearbeitung von Ortolfs von Baierland Arzneibuch.

              Its place of origin is listed as Southern Germany (Bavarian dialect).

              It can be accessed here : https://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/14932/

              …and can be downloaded in full here: http://epub.ub.uni-muenchen.de/14932/1/2Cod.ms.578.pdf

              And an even more detailed description can be found here
              (its in German, can anyone provide an English translation?)

              The depiction of the Sagittarius crossbowman can be found on p151 of the pdf – I attach a scan below.

              There are many things of interest about this manuscript, most notably:

              1) It contains two depictions of Sagittarius, one as a crossbowman (arbalist; f76r; p151) and one as an archer (p53). I hope that a better reading of the manuscript description might explain why different pages display them differently?

              2) It contains a depiction of plant grafting (f2v). What seems relevant about this, is the numerous depiction of plants in the VM that also appear to be grafted (eg. f16r, f19v, f36r, f39r etc.etc). I also noticed that this image seems to have been pasted into the manuscript.

              3) I understand it also contains a list of tree and plant names. I think it would be useful to cross reference these with some of those identified in the VM. I hope to provide a full list list of these shortly.

              Hopefully a better understanding of the contents of this manuscript, might shed-some-light onto the contents of the VM. Perhaps they served a similar purpose?

            • Darren Worley

              Here is another Sagittarius crossbowman, this time from a manuscript held at the University of Heidelburg.

              Its reference is Cod. Pal. Germ 291, “Iatromathematisches Hausbuch” (Handbook of Astrological Medicine); Gebete und Betrachtungen.


              It originates from Bayern [Bavaria], Southern Germany and dates from 1475 to 1496.

              There are two zodiac series shown in this manuscript, (I’ve attached the first below), this shows a Sagittarius crossbowman, the second zodiac sequence depicts Sagittarius as an archer.

              The first zodiac series is interesting in that it shows the distinctive cloud-band pattern (on Aries, Taurus and Cancer), which also appears in a celestial context in VM f68v3.

              • Darren Worley

                Does anyone know why the Aries, Taurus and Cancer zodiac signs are shown within the wavy cloud-band pattern (Wolkenband) and none of the others? Why are these symbols are shown differently?

          • This is the only image that I’ve seen from any manuscript made in Germany where the figure with the crossbow is certainly meant to represent the constellation, as distinct from any ordinary military person, or hunter, or ‘Sagittarian character’ who is a living breathing person and not a constellation. The other examples which are constantly referred to, from Rene Zandbergen’s website, don’t actually represent the constellation itself, so I think you can claim a ‘first sighting’ Marco.
            Well done.

            It doesn’t relate very nearly to ours; and the bow isn’t the maritime bow with the lock-plate on the side. The figure isn’t dressed in a similar way etc. – but it’s still a feather in your cap to have found the first example in a text produced in Germany.

            • To be more precise, what we are seeing in the two MSs listed at my site, and the second one listed by Marco, are not the constellation Sagittarius, but the Zodiac sign Sagittarius.
              In all these MSs there is a list of the 12 zodiac signs (or at least the remaining part of such a list), and it is one among them.
              Each Zodiac sign is of course represented by one of the constellations located at the ecliptic, and occupies an arc of 30 degrees of the ecliptic.
              Similarly, the Sagittarius in the Voynich MS is one of the (10 remaining) Zodiac signs, and so the comparison is completely valid.
              In many MSs, the zodiac signs are correlated with the months. In that case, the first one shown in the cycle will be Aquarius.
              München MS CGM 7269 is one example of that.

              The Tübingen MS is different. Here, the cross-bow archer that is shown in at least one place is not representing the zodiac sign or the constellation, but an archer. In fact, the representation of Sagittarius in that MS is what looks like a lion standing on its hind legs with a normal bow.
              IIRC, this MS also has illustrations of many if not all constellations.

              • … actually, some hairy creature but not a lion.

              • MarcoP

                Hello Rene, sorry for the late reply. Your wrote: “The Tübingen MS is different. Here, the cross-bow archer that is shown in at least one place is not representing the zodiac sign or the constellation, but an archer.”

                As you noticed, Tübingen Md 2 presents several crossbow-less illustrations of Sagittarius. The image I am referring to is f321r. The two sides of f321 represent the seven planets. Each planet occupies a castle whose towers are the Zodiac signs corresponding to the domiciles of that planet (see Ruling planet, ancient in this table). The only anomaly (iconography apart) is that there is a total of 13 towers, because Libra appears twice: the Moon usually only has Cancer as her domicile, while here she also has the duplicated Libra.
                At the top left of f321r, Saturn is represented with Aquarius and Capricorn. At the top right, Jupiter with Pisces and Sagittarius (the crossbowman loading his weapon).
                For comparison, I attach similar, but less bizarre, illustrations from one of the manuscripts that appear on your site (Konstanz Planeten-Buch – BSB Cgm 7269).

        • D.N. O'Donovan

          I think this string of images demonstrates very well why the Voynich archer is not likely to be German.

          What the three other images show clearly is that German Christian cross-bow users of this time generally went hatless, did not wear full skirts to below their knees (or thereabouts), at least not when using crossbows, and did not wear Spanish-style beards.

        • I’m afraid that the crossbow-users which are compared with the Vms image are not always valid comparisons – some are not astronomical figures; some depict a person having ‘sagittarian’ character, but are not images of the constellation as such, and none that I’ve seen cited are part of a zodiac or a plainly astronomical text. In other words, they show people with crossbows, but not Sagittarius with a crossbow.

          The Voynich manuscript’s image appears to be entirely without European parallel, though perhaps other examples will turn up. I haven’t seen every zodiac in every medium produced in Europe. 🙂

          As so often, the range of comparisons offered to support an existing hypothesis is, in this case, far too narrow.

          None of the German images is of Sagittarius as such; and none of them wears anything like the Voynich archer’s double-layered, flouncy-looking knee-length skirt, or a hat with a back-turned brim.

          The knee-length skirt, formed just so, is found in the 12thC and in Corinth. It appears to be a type of garment worn by regional Greeks, not the formal Byzantine army.
          A similar hat, with back-turned brim, is seen often on southern and oriental Jewish figures, but more tellingly perhaps on the figure of a mariner or imperial representative on a grain ship travelling between Egypt and Constantinople in the third century… at least that’s the context of Fra Angelico’s painting. Though his historical knowledge may be flawed, there seems no reason to doubt that the hat, too, was a sign of the eastern Mediterranean, rather than mainland Europe.

          It can be very tempting only to look within the limits or places suggested by an existing theory, and so forget that such items might have been everywhere, or at least not only where the researcher looked for them.

          Crossbows were used very widely, and most of the crossbowmen were working for Genoa or Venice – both maritime powers and both with presence in the Byzantine lands and seas.

          Given that the physical object itself suggests a region around Venice, so the larger picture would again point to northern Italy over Germany.

          However, I’m only speaking of geographic regions, not national borders, which hardly existed in the modern sense.

      • Darren Worley

        Marco – what do you think of this Gemini example, again from medieval Southern Germany?
        They appear to be male and female clothed figures, but it’s hard to be certain.

        Manuscript title: Calendarium (Prayer calendar), Latin Bible selections: Liber Psalmorum, Cantica with prayers; Hymns, etc.

        Origin: Southern Germany

        Period: 13th/14th century

        Image source: Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cod. Bodmer 30, p. 4r – Calendarium (Prayer calendar), Latin Bible selections: Liber Psalmorum, Cantica with prayers; Hymns, etc. (http://www.e-codices.unifr.ch/en/cb/0030/4r)

        • Darren Worley

          The Gemini figures of the Rostock Astronomical clock also appears to be clothed male and female figures, although again, it’s difficult to be certain.

          This 15th century clock also has a South German connection – it’s maker was from Nuremberg.

          • Stephen Bax

            I found this wonderful page with more astronomical clocks, including Rostock.

            • MarcoP

              Hello Darren and Stephen, thank you for the great images! Those astronomical clocks clearly illustrate the importance of the stars for late medieval people. I often find it hard to say if a couple of Gemini are both males or male and female.
              On the other hand, the crossbow detail is objectively and easily recognizable, without requiring a stylistic analysis that unavoidably is subjective.
              Of course, the fact that its appearance seems so consistent in time and place makes it relevant for the subject of this page. It would certainly be interesting to see crossbow Sagittarii from other regions and/or dating to earlier times!

              Of the four XV century examples that I know of, the one from Cod Sang 827 posted by  Rene Zandbergen seems to me the closer, both in the “sketchy” style of the drawing and in the style of the dress (but these are subjective points of view on which it is easy to disagree).

              The other example from Rene’s page (Planeten-Buch – BSB Cgm 7269, Konstanz) is also great, since the illustration comes from a page listing the 30 days of a calendar month (“der drit herbst monat”, the third autumn month: November).

              • D.N. O'Donovan

                If you ever do find an image of a crossbow-using Sagittarius (rather than a ‘sagittarian’) I’d love to know. So far – IF the Voynich image is supposed to represent the constellation – it is one of a kind.. IF the manuscript was made in Europe at all.

                • MarcoP

                  Diane, I attach a page from one of the manuscript published by Rene Zandbergen: MS Cod Sang 827. The five illustrations represent:

                  * A sitting woman labeled “Virgo”
                  * A pair of scales labeled “Libra”
                  * A weird animal with two legs and a long tail labeled “Scorpio”
                  * A man with a crossbow labeled “Sagittarius”
                  * A horned quadruped labeled “Capricornus”

                  As you can see in the metadata linked at the right here, the St. Gallen Stiftsbibliothek has identified the series of which these five make part as illustrations of “the twelve signs of the zodiac”: this makes perfect sense to me.

                  Apparently, you see them as a “virginal” woman, “librean” scales, a “scorpionian” beast, a “sagittarian” man and a “capricornian” goat. I don’t think I can help you.

                  • MarcoP

                    Strasbourg Ms.2.120 / Fol. 205 v contains a section very similar to the Zodiac section of Cod Sang 827 (presenting one of the crossbow Sagittarii published by Rene Zandbergen) . The Strasbourg site provides the transcription of the introduction that also appears at the top of Cod Sang 827 p.17 (just before Aries):

                    “Ad habendum [autem] bonum sive malum tempus pro minucione, notande sunt
                    proprietates duodecim signorum et membra corporis humani que illa duodecim signa respiciunt.”

                    My translation:
                    In order to decide which time is good and which is bad for bloodletting, one must note
                    the properties of the twelve signs and the parts of the human body presided over by those twelve signs.

                    The reference is to melothesia, the theory according to which each of the twelve signs of the Zodiac presides over different parts of the human body. According to this theory, Sagittarius presides over the thighs.

                    My transcription and translation of the paragraph illustrated by the crossbow Sagittarius (Cod Sang 827 p.18):

                    “Sagittarius est signum nonum calidum et siccum igneum
                    bonum femora et crura respiciens et luna in eo
                    extans valet flebotomia balnea ingredi est saluber
                    gaudet de rasiactione [resecatione] capillorum et unguinum percustione [percutione] sed na
                    ribus [natibus] et coxis negat fieri madicamentum ullum”.

                    Sagittarius is the ninth sign. It is hot and dry, fiery.
                    It favorably presides over the thighs and the legs. When the Moon is
                    in it, bloodletting is helpful and it is healthy to take baths.
                    It rejoices of hair cutting and nail trimming but
                    it denies the application of any remedy to the buttocks and the hips.

                    So there is no need for speculation: the crossbow man represents Sagittarius as the ninth sign of the Zodiac.

                    I think this supports the opinion of the researchers (e.g. Mary D’Imperio p.16, Rene Zandbergen, Ewa Sniezynska-Stolot) who also interpret the Voynich Zodiac sequence as representing the Zodiac signs. The fact that each symbol is accompanied by 30 stars is suggestive of the 30 degrees that compose each Zodiac sign, or of the 30 days in a month (and months are obviously associated with Zodiac signs, see for instance the calendar in BSB Cgm 7269).

                    Interpreting the sequence as representing constellations would raise additional problems: in that case, most of the 48 Ptolemaic constellations would be missing (not only the signs of Capricorn and Aquarius). Moreover, the recurring 30 stars would remain unexplained: different constellations have different numbers of stars and occupy different numbers of degrees; because of the precession of the equinoxes, constellations have no fixed relation with months in particular and time of the year in general.

                  • I think what you are arguing, indirectly, is that all these emblems represent the months, so that all must represent constellations – and for that reason that the cross-bow bearing figure is meant as a form for the constellation, not a reference to the winter hunting, or to the astrological ‘sagittarian’ personality.

                    The manuscript you mention has a text of French Latin origin, most of it from the work of John Sacrobosco, who lived and worked in France.

                    If one compared this manuscript (Cod. Sang.827) with other copies of Sacrobosco’s texts, it might be discovered that the images here are not German, either, but had been gained from the exemplar used by the German scribe. So the images couldn’t be considered in any nationalistic sense “German” – nor French – since we know how fluidly works and people moved between the various regions of Latin Europe.

                    In any case, the archer there – like the form for the scales, the goat and the ‘virgo’ – are totally unlike those in the Voynich manuscript.

                    Do you know of any purely astronomical texts – or even a zodiac wheel – in which Sagittarius is given a crossbow? That’s not a rhetorical question: I haven’t seen every instance in every medium in every region of medieval Europe, and may well have not seen examples that exist.

                  • Thanks, Marco, for your many contributions, which I have only just begun to see.
                    Thanks also, for paying attention to my web site. I will be happy to hear about any problems or doubtful passages when you encounter such.
                    To all, in general: much of the discussion about how cross-bow men looked in different cultures, from various contributors here, seem to miss the main point: the fact that the zodiac emblem of sagittarius is shown as a human with a cross-bow. This is quite rare, and one of the great hints about the possible origin of the MS. So far, I believe all examples are from the area of Lake Constance. However, other examples may still be found.

                    By the way, I don’t claim to have found any of these MS illustrations myself. It is great that so many people are browsing all the tens of thousands of ME manuscripts that are available digitally online these days, and report interesting parallels.
                    I don’t expect any great ‘discoveries’ from this, but rather trends, both positive and negative.
                    For the zodiac, the trend still seems to be: Germanic, alpine, perhaps what is now Switzerland.

                    But let’s see what comes. I found the example of the fortifications of Rhodes both convincing and thought-provoking.

                    • Dear Rene,
                      I have recently published a whole series of posts about the Sagittarius figure, some of which I know you’ve read – but then I daresay you read so much, and have no time to read an entire series.

                      I also made this point, just a few days ago, that people’s parallels gave a false impression (I did mention yours/Marcos series) because they did not consider how unusual it is to have a cross-bow carrying Sagittarius. I analysed the central figure in detail, offered a reason for his hand’s being in that position and concluded – very clearly – that the image was not of a German figure at all.

                      Perhaps when you have time, you might care to read the posts.

                    • Rene,
                      I believe that you have been involved in Voynich studies for some time.

                      As you doubtless know, I recently announced that in my opinion the crossbowbearing Sagittarius was unparalleled in western art – not just manuscript art, of course.

                      I had considered this a “first” insight of my own, and I am happy to see that whether deliberately or by serendipity you are now following my lead on that point.

                      However, it is part and parcel of the same research which led to that conclusion, that the figure is not meant, and does not resemble any German or central European figure. I am at a loss as to how the ‘Lake constance’ theory ever arose. The manuscript does not appear to offer it much support and a great deal of evidence to the contrary – the Sagittarius being just one of the many instances I’ve treated in the past several years.

                    • Just to clarify a point that I did not think could be misunderstood…

                      I obviously disagree that a human, crossbow-bearing sagittarius is unparalleled in Western art. Back in 2004, when together with Rafal Prinke, we wrote this short paper: Zandbergen, R. and R. Prinke: The Voynich MS in Prague, from Rudolf II to Johannes Marcus Marci. In: Acta Universitatis Carolinae, Mathematica et Physica, Vol. 46, Supplementum, 2005, pp. 141-152 we still described it as “with no known precedence in astrological iconography”.

                      The two clear examples, shown here and at my web site, were found years after that (2009 and 2015, respectively, IIRC).

                      In general, I am extremely skeptical about putting too much belief in small details of the Voynich MS illustrations. Several examples:
                      The scorpio doesn’t look *at all* like a scorpion. Had one not known that it was supposed to be one, because of its appeareance in the zodiac, one would have been guessing endlessly what kind of a lizard it was, based on the shape of the tail, mouth, or legs…. much like the on-going discussion about the Pangolin (interesting as it is though).
                      More importantly, the herbal illustrations have been used to ‘prove’ that the MS is European, New World, Mexican or Asian. This set of contradictory statements by itself conclusively demonstrates that the drawings are unsuitable for such type of identification.
                      Of course, most of these identifications are done by people without the necessary background, and the one professional herbalist I spoke with last year, who has been looking at the MS in some detail, specifically wants to distantiate himself from any herb identifications just based on the drawings.

                      However, I don’t want to be too negative about that. As long as one calls all identifications ‘tentative’, as they are. Some are more credible than others. Possibly, they might show a trend: a large overlap with one or the other herbal MS, or a particular region. Equally, what is being attempted here, to find a match between illustrations and text, will start to become credible once there is a sufficiently large set of examples with some level of consistency.
                      Keep it up 🙂

                      What I really wanted to express in my earlier message is my appreciation for the interesting parallels that are being shown here. No professional historians or medievalists are likely to search through all these MSs for likely matches with the Voynich MS. This is still a fun job for amateurs like myself.


                    • MarcoP

                      Thank you for your kind words, Rene!

                    • Darren Worley

                      Rene – thanks for mentioning the Fortifications of Rhodes. Were you aware that the artist, Konrad Grünenberg (before 1442 – 1494), who sketched the distinctive Rhodes fortifications (see below), was from Constance (the German town bordering Switzerland)? Maybe just a co-incidence?


                      It’s also worth mentioning that the fish illustration, which has recently been the discussed, originated from Southern Austria (the Heiligenkreuz Abbey). Again, not a huge distance from the German region under consideration.

                      I’ve frequently written about my ideas that the VM contains a discernible Jewish influence. I was interested to read about the unusual medieval Christian/Jewish manuscript tradition from Lake Constance.

                      Its documeted in detail here: Jews Among Christians – Hebrew Book Illumination From Lake Constance by S. Shalev-Eyni (2010)

                      I haven’t read the book, but I was interested to read about the unexpected mixing of Christian and Jewish iconography found in manuscripts from this area.

                      Referenced here

                      Quote: Jews among Christians explores a corpus of illuminated Hebrew manuscripts of the Lake Constance region produced in the first decades of the fourteenth century. The author Sarit Shalev-Eyni, Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, provides a detailed and insightful study of the content, design, and iconography of the illustrations and decorations of a group of Ashkenahzi codices, thereby uncovering a surprising interface between Jews and Christians in the urban workshops of the time. Here, Christian artists would include midrashic components required by their Jewish instructor while drawing on the iconographic traditions of their Christian education, and artists of both religions were able to represent their own theological attitudes as well as profane tendencies and parody – in short, the various aspects of late medieval culture.

                      I hadn’t expected medieval Christian illustrators to include Jewish iconography – which I think might explain the mix of Christian iconography (eg. the seasons on f85r2), with some Jewish elements in the VM. For example, I believe the “bathing section” is an illustrated interpretation and interpolation of the Jewish concept of Adam Kadmon and iatromathematics or medical astrology.

                      The script and language might plausibly be a proto-Yiddish (since Southern Germany was the location of the “lost” Yiddish nation). As I have previously described in my post about the Kalonymos family, a proto-Yiddish spoken in this region might contain elements of Arabic, Greek, Lombardian (Italian/Latin), Hebrew, Aramaic and German.

            • D.N. O'Donovan

              the closest models for the series, except perhaps the archer, occur on coins, not in manuscripts.

              I thought it interesting that a vaguely Voynich like script was transcribed for Kircher among sketches of images on old coins. His correspondent was writing from Lyons.

              Those coins don’t show the same figures as in the Vms, but interest in old coins was high in the early 15thC as models for artists and as items to be re-set and worn as jewellery, or to incorporate into plates etc.

              • First of all, rene,
                There is no proof whatever that the series relates to astrology.
                Secondly, I have as little training in running computer programs to calculate trajectories as you have in iconographic analysis or the history of art.

                Each of us has as much right as the other to create a ‘theory’, I suppose, but it would not seem right to me – knowing that you have been formally trained in calculating trajectories – to look over your shoulder and announce your conclusions as mine, nor, on the other hand to actively dissuade people from paying attention to the results of your own well-qualified hard work.

                I should appreciate a similar courtesy, when it comes to iconographic analysis. You are often very badly mistaken when you suggest that to consider details is irrelevant. Details determine provenance. The same is true when you suggest that anything other than comparing Latin manuscripts is “irrelevant”. Since we have no proof that the CONTENT of the manuscript originated in Latin Europe, it is – and has long been – a very basic error in Voynich studies that comparisons often beg the questions that are supposedly answered. I have had to address a number of very basic mistakes which resulted from this – erroneous ideas about the “cloud band” pattern as peculiarly German, or of hatching as a technique peculiar to the renaissance etc.etc. etc. And more recently the erroneous belief that the standing archer figure was typically German.
                Limiting one’s study only to manuscript art has its place; Voynich studies is not that place.

                • Helmut Winkler


                  talking about qualifications: A trained historian (like me) can tell you with one look that your sturgeon on your blog you despair of with your iconographic approach is from Rome about 1580 and very likely from the old Roman pescheria, I suppose it ended up in a museum. With the right approach, I needed about 2 minute internet search and not even a visit to the library. And it is a good example that your iconographic approach is worth sod all without reading and interpreting the text (and some of what you have on your blog is obvious nonsense and just shows you did not do your homework).

                  Helmut Winkler

                  • Stephen Bax

                    Helmut, I’m sure that Diane is big enough to defend herself, but I myself feel it is not a good idea to attack her work so personally, especially when her insights and discoveries are so stimulating and wide-ranging.

                    Can’t we just agree to have different approaches and perspectives, and accept that all of them can potentially contribute?

                    • Helmut Winkler

                      I am fed up with D.s claims and pretensions, especially that every idea around, even the most obvious things, has been stolen from her blog and that she is the only one able to judge some things or everything and that all her so called findings are indisputable. There are many ideas around and not one of them is proven. I think the only thing about the ms. we can be sure of is that it is first half of thr 15th c. European. I have taken a long and careful look and many of D.s statements on her blog are not very well informed, to say the least. I find most of her insights misleading.
                      Since it is your blog, you can say anything goes, but this is not my way
                      Best wishes

                  • Helmut, I’m always delighted to receive constructive comments on my work.

                    Unfortunately, I can find none in your comment.

                    Stephen, I’m honoured. Thank you.

          • Darren Worley

            Here is a close-up image the Rostock Astronomical clock. I’ve struggled to find a good image of the main clock dial, so this is from lower (calendar?) dial – it shows Gemini as clothed male and female figures.

            It’s much more evident here, that the figures are male and female.

            Rostock is on the northern coast of Germany close to the Baltic Sea. In the medieval period it was a powerful seaport town and was the location of one of the first European universities.

            This is one of the few depictions of Gemini as clothed male and female figures that I’ve seen, outside of the manuscript form.

            The Gemini figures in the VM, are also clothed male and female figures, although the posture is different.

        • Darren Worley

          Here is another depiction of Gemini – this time from the Lund Astronomical clock in Lund Cathedral, Sweden. It was made around 1425, probably by the clockmaker Nicolaus Lilienveld in Rostock.

          This is the first depiction I’ve seen of Gemini as clothed male and female figures clutching each other (as in the VM f72r2), outside of the manuscript form. Its date is also contemporary with the creation of the VM.

          The posture of the Gemini figures is slightly different, but I would put this down to the constraint of being painted around a clock dial.

          The Lund astronomical clock is unusual in that the figure for Libra, holding a balance/scales appears to be wearing a Jewish pointed hat.

          There is little documentary evidence of Jews living in Sweden during the medieval period, and their presence probably began with arrivals from the Hanseatic League.

          There seems to some significance of scales/balance in Jewish depictions of the zodiac – I’ll post a few examples soon. I think its also worth looking for images of signs-of-the-zodiac within synagogues (where they sometimes appear), to see if any similarities can be found.

          • D.N.O'Donovan

            Hi Darren,
            I have collected a number of such images, which occur more frequently the further back you go, and generally in other media. This has been a chronic problem in Voynich studies – the rather inexplicable idea that imagery in a manuscript made in fifteenth century Latin Europe (as we still imagine the case) would contain nothing not gained from other Latin manuscripts. How such an idea occurred to anyone as likely to be true, or a valid approach to this research, I confess I simply cannot imagine! If you can’t wait until I return to town in a couple of weeks, an easy way to find some would be to go to the wildwinds site and look for Hygieia (usually seen with Asclepius), or look up classical Roman imagery of “betrothal”. That’s where you’ll find the prototypes which are adopted and adapted here to serve.

            In fact, the prototypes for all the signs used are found in the same sources, especially the Hellenistic and early Roman coins for cities along the line of the ‘grain route’ between the Black Sea and Egypt. For example, the ‘two fishes’ motif is often found, and as symbol for Constantinople (though not only there). .. The symbols endured because they were associated with particular places and used as their sign for century after century, through political and religious changes.
            I traced even the biretta’d and winged wand-bearer.. but that’s identified in one or more of my blogposts as early as 2010.

            IMO – least time is wasted by searching for the most anomalous elements in the iconography. No “all-Latin-medieval-European-author” theory can explain them, whereas it’s easy to quibble about figures such as the Gemini, when nearly-similar forms occur so often .
            Good luck, anyway.

            • Darren Worley

              Diane – I’ve tried to be careful only to consider only zodiacal signs that are contemporary with the 15th-century origin of the VM. I don’t think its really necessary to consider examples that are earlier or later than this.

              I think Marco has been wise to study the distinctive Gemini and Sagittarius symbols to establish a pattern. In contrast, the Pisces symbols are less distinctive and don’t seem to be easily identifiable to a specific geographic region.

              The apparent South German influence is quite persuasive. The more recent example that I found of male-and-female clothed Gemini figures from Lund Cathedral, Sweden also has a German association. I think that any theory about the origins of the VM needs to take this German influence into account.

              Although its not the only plausible account, I think an Ashkenazi (Jewish-German/Yiddish) origin of the VM to be quite possible, I think this would possibly explain some of the Eastern influence that has been suggested, and I’ve outlined reasons why some Ashkenazi might not have used Hebrew script, as might be expected.

              However, I don’t think its going to be easy to progress on this, as there are only 15 pre-16th century Yiddish manuscripts in existence to aid comparison, but hopefully this line of investigation might lead somewhere useful.

              • Darren,
                I’m afraid that the method you prefer begs the most basic questions and effectively says “if all the imagery in the manuscript were solely from fifteenth century European (inc.European Jewish) origins, then which area of fifteenth-century Europe would be responsible?”

                What you find is that people who look for similar examples in German-speaking regions tend to find them, but they do not tend to produce a spectrum of comparative examples to decide the issue.

                If one found an acanthus-design in a fifteenth-century manuscript, and were determined that the manuscript should be asserted an expression of English culture, then looked at nothing but English manuscripts, I’m sure the circular argument could be maintained with lots of fifteenth-century English examples of acanthus decoration.

                However, if the person is genuine, they will survey *all* the regions – even if only those in Europe – and then if they’re honest they will also admit that the acanthus is not a motif which began and ended with manuscripts made in the fifteenth century.

                Which means than an associated text *might* express the culture of 15thC England, or 15thC France, or Germany or Italy… but one would also have to allow that the text might be as old as the acanthus motif itself..

                When people produce these 15thC German examples, I always think “German by comparison with what?”

                It constantly appears less as a conclusion reached by thorough research and elimination of other examples, than as an effort to ‘prove’ a conclusion on which the researcher was determined from the start.
                The ‘crossbowman’ example is just one instance. Compared with examples across the board, the ‘German crossbowman’ argument is .. well..

                • Stephen Bax

                  Diane, as I’m an ignoramus in this area, can you tell me if we have identified any other examples of Sagittarius crossbowmen on foot from other parts of the world?

                  • Clearly, it would be invalid to search only in MSs produced in Germany, but I do not believe for a second that this is what people are doing. If there are any examples from elsewhere, I am sure that they will turn up, and I am looking forward to them.

                  • Stephen,
                    A belated response to your question of September 4th.

                    Yes I have. I’ve traced the history of the ‘standing archer’ type from its origin in northern Israel, through its earliest appearance in the Franco-Norman sphere. There it suddenly appears with the introduction of the ‘opus Francigenum’ – whose later description as ‘Gothic’ was intended as a slur, and coined by the devotees of classical style. From there it passes fairly soon into central Europe along with that architectural style’s arrival. Interestingly, the oldest example I know from German speaking regions was in a Jewish building.

                    About a century and a half later, it starts to appear in manuscript art and became very popular there.

                    It’s all written up in posts re-considering some of the most entrenched ideas in this study. See posts published in July this year at voynichimagery.wordpress.com. The French image from Braine Abbey is illustrated in the post of July 9th.


                    (Since then, Marco has found one excellent example mentioned here, and this must now also be taken into account).

                    • Stephen Bax

                      Please don’t think me cheeky, Diane, but it would help us all if you could include clear links to the exact posts which you cite on your blog. Then people could quickly find them and ensure you get the credit!

          • MarcoP

            Thank you, Darren! The Lund and Rostock clocks are very interesting. I find the embracing Lund Gemini particularly impressive.

            • Darren Worley

              I’ve found another good example of the clothed male and female Gemini twins in an embrace (as in VM f72r2).

              I attach an image below – it’s taken from Cod. Pal. germ. 7, (12v) – a 15th century manuscript from Bayern [Bavaria] (Southern Germany).


              It’s taken from a Wahrsagebuch (Divination Book, or, Lot book) – I did a keyword search on this term, and it turned up other relevant images.

              Interestingly the label accompanying the image reads “Zwihling” – close to Zwilling, the Modern German word for twins. Again, I think this is a good search term to discover other similar images of the Gemini twins.

              This seem to lend further evidence linking the VM imagery to Southern Germany.

              • MarcoP

                Thank you for the great Gemini image, Darren! As you wrote, Heidelberg Cod. Pal. Germ. 7 is a “lot book”, a simple and popular form of divination whose only link with astrology is the frequent and arbitrary use of astrological terms and imagery.

                If I understand correctly, in this manuscript f1r lists the possible questions: you select one and the table points you to one of the “prophets” illustrated in f2r-f4v.
                Each prophet takes you to one of the 32 answer pages f6v-f22r.
                The planet table f5v,6r specifies which of the 32 lines in the select answer page is to be read. Maybe a German speaker could integrate or correct my very unreliable interpretation.

                The 32 answer pages are labeled and illustrated with subjects of various kinds, including about half of the zodiac signs. The beautiful Gemini illustration you spotted is one of them.

        • Ellie Velinska

          The lady on the page is holding “banana peals” like this one in the VMs

    • Yes.

  24. Dear Professor Bax,

    I think there seem to be Picardy dialect Old French month names written in the Voynich Manuscript.

    They seem to read:

    f70v2 – mars

    f70v1 – abril ?

    f71r – abril ?

    f71v – may

    f72r1 – jong/joing/yong/yoing ?

    f72r2 – jollet ? (very hard to read)

    f72v1 – octebre (with a line over the first e)

    f72v3 – augst

    f72v2 – septeb- (?) (very hard to read) (with a line over the middle of the word and maybe one after the r)

    f73r – novebre/noveb(r)us(?) (very difficult to read) (with a line over the first e)

    f73v – decebre ? (very difficult to read) (with a line over the middle e)

    The following are the closest examples of matches 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):

    Mars – many examples in different Books of Hours produced in France – workshop of Rohan Master (Paris) 1415-1420; workshop of Baucicaut Master (Paris) 1483-1515; 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.

    Abril (?)(not sure of this one) – many early Catalan or Spanish examples – still used today – am I misreading this one? No early French or Picardy examples uncovered yet – the closest(?) is auril/avril – (common during the Fifteenth Century).

    May – many French examples – workshop of Rohan Master (Paris) 1415-1420; 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.

    Jong/Joing/Yong/Yoing (?) – (Jong) – shown on a ring of the Geared Astrolabe in the Science Museum, London, probably made in Picardy around 1300; (alternately, Juing was a common French form in the Fifteenth Century.)

    Jollet (??)(very hard to read) – (Jullet) – shown on a ring of the Geared Astrolabe in the Science Museum, London, probably made in Picardy around 1300 – no actual use of Jollet spelling found yet.

    Augst – Book of Hours in Kelvin Smith Library, Case Western Reserve University (unknown author (Flanders & Amiens (?)) 1450-1460) – this is the only reference of Augst as a month name from the period that I’ve found, so far.

    Septeb- – (w/line over 2nd e and dash (?) at the end) – (Septemb’) – w/apostrophe at end – Case Book of Hours, Kelvin Smith Library Case Western Reserve University, unknown author (Flanders & Amiens) 1450-1460; (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: (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.

    Octebre (w/line over 1st e) – (Octembre) – 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; (Octembre) – shown on a ring of the Geared Astrolabe in the Science Museum, London, probably made in Picardy around 1300.

    Nouebre/Noueb(r)us(?)(not clearly written) w/line over 1st e – (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) – shown on a ring of the Geared Astrolabe in the Science Museum, London, probably made in Picardy around 1300.

    Decembre (not clearly written)(??) – (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; Book of Hours of Carlos V, unknown author (Paris) 1483-1515; 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.

    *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:


    They, for the most part, seem to have been in use in Western Europe before 1500. And are shown in images on the Internet and to show a connection of the Voynich Manuiscript with the area close to Picardy at some point in its past..

    What do you think?

    Thank you.

    Don of Tallahassee

  25. Darren Worley

    In an earlier post (Month names in the Voynich zodiac pages; November 7, 2014 – 9:47 pm ), I listed a wide variety of extinct or rare Jewish languages. Below I’ve listed some that were used in Europe.

    Yiddish : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yiddish_language
    Judaeo-Slavic / Judaeo-Czech (Knaanic) : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knaanic_language
    Judaeo-Latin (La‘az) : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judeo-Latin
    Judaeo-Provençal (Shuadit – Hebrew-influenced Occitan) : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuadit_language
    Judaeo-French (Zarphatic) : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zarphatic_language
    Judaeo-Italian : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaeo-Romance_languages

    I suspect that there is a Jewish influence in the iconography of the VM, so it seems plausible that a Jewish element might be found in the VM script too.

    Given the European elements found in VM, it seems worth considering that the Voynichese maybe related to one of these Jewish-European languages.

    The Jews in Europe and the Mediterranean region, have suffered repeated persecutions over the past two-and-a-half millennia, they have been systematically moved from their lands, killed or had their property, books and scrolls destroyed. This terrible situation seems to present many opportunities for an isolated Jewish community to develop a unique script that is later completely forgotten.

    However, one obvious problem is that two major Jewish languages of Hebrew and Aramaic are written right-to-left, whereas the direction of text in the VM is left-to-right. (Greek is another that is not written r-to-l.)

    I was therefore interested to find 2 examples where Jews have started writing Hebrew (or a variation of) in a left-to-right direction or, writing the local language, written l-to-r, using Hebrew characters. In both these case, this seems to have occured, where the dominant language in that particular region is written left-to-right.

    Example 1: In Sardinia – Hebrew written left-to-right (4th-5th century) [ref: The Non-Jewish Origins of the Sephardic Jews by Paul Wexler]
    Quote: The Latin writing system even resulted in the writing of correctly formed Hebrew letters from left-to-right rather than the reverse.

    In this case, Jews were living in Sardinia, from 19 CE until their expulsion in 1492.

    Example2: In Germany in 19th century. German written using Hebrew characters.
    [Ref : Yiddish Civilization by Paul Kriwaczek]
    Quote: [refering to a phrasebook] “but the language is not so much Yiddish as German written in Hebrew characters.”

    Can anyone suggest other similar examples? (perhaps Hebrew-Spanish or Hebrew-Greek)

    This provides evidence that under certain circumstances a script typcially written right-to-left, can reverse its direction. I think this might be a factor in the orientation of Voynichese.

  26. orun

    these picture parts are from kitab al bulhan is an astonomy manuscript

  27. Prof. Bax,
    I would like to suggest a book kept, possibly, by a father and son, or generations of.
    Also, a study of the stars, seasons, location of moon, earth and sun. Also, the 27 positions of the moon in relation to earth and sun in overlap drawn. Rotation of the earth is noted. As to the humps in questionable Italian origin. I think those may be related to the equinoxes and the seasons. Perhaps, warm, very warm or cold, very cold,
    Perhaps substituting the words wet or dry.
    As for the structure drawn with the female dancers inside the walls with the tubular
    pictures. Females were considered life (issue of blood and pregnancy). Dancing was to a beat. It seems to me that is a understanding of the human heart. The beat, represented by dancers and flow in, by the tubes. I think it shows difference of upper and lower chambers and the difference of sizes as well as strength of beats as drawn. This may be probable. Perhaps give it a little thought. As for origin, trace the colored inks. The Voynich is very simple, so perhaps looked at simply and compared with the
    astronomy positions of that time. Just a thought. The universe has expanded and stars
    have died and more made.
    Thank you for reading this and your time.

    Taylor Morgan

  28. Darren Worley

    I recently re-read Stephen’s introduction – I think its a balanced view, mentioning the Arabic/Persian substrata, European influence, possible Genoese and Mandaean connections etc. found in the VM. (I would perhaps add a possible Greek and Judeo-Christian influence too.)

    One passage struck me as interesting concerned the swallow-tail crenellations on the Rosettes page. I haven’t really taken much notice of this before. (So I might be repeating whats been reported elsewhere before, but hopefully this is a new insight.)

    These seem to be very similar to the Fortifications of Rhodes. There are numerous examples of swallowtail crenellations across the city walls and gates.

    There is also a strong similaritity with the Palace of the Grand Master of the Knights of Rhodes. I’ve attached a few images.

    That alone probably isn’t so significant, as I’m sure that this Gothic architectural feature is found across Europe.

    However, looking at the geography and history of Rhodes, I was able to mentally tick-off many of the features reported by Stephen and reported elsewhere on this website.

    Rhodes at times been under the control of Persians and Greeks, later coming under Byzantine influence. Its been governed by the Genoese and later by the Knights Hospitaller. These knights seems to have been made up from various nations of medieval mainland Europe (Crown of Aragon, Auvergne, Castile, England, France, Germany, Italy and Provence). I also understand that in the medieval period the island contain populations of Syrian and Cypriot migrants and Spanish-Arabic Jews escaping from persecution in Spain. Rhodes was also a very early centre of Jewish-Christianity, St. Paul having visited the island in the 1st-century.

    Ref: The Migrations of Syrians and Cypriots to Hospitaller Rhodes in the 14th-15th centry, by Nicholas Coureas.

    I’m just speculating, but this strange mix of influences, in an isolated island community, might explain what we find in the VM.

    A couple of other connections, possibly irrelevant, seem noteworthy. The first concerns St.John the Baptist, who is closely associated with the Knights Hospitaller. Similarly, St. John is closely associated with the Mandaeans – who were once known as St. John Christians.

    There’s also the herbal nature of the VM that seems to fit with the some aspects of the KH (they ran lodgings/hospitals for the benefit of Christian pilgrims) and the chronology seems tempting as the island was reoccupied by the Ottomans in the 16th-century driving away or killing many inhabitants.

    • Darren Worley

      Here’s a link to a rather nice medieval map of Rhodes from 1487. Its by the German artist Konrad Grünenberg.


      The maps shows towers with similar swallow-tail crenellations.

      The medieval German writing also looks a bit like the extraneous writing found in the VM (eg. f116v)

    • Linda Snider

      My take on that castle is that it is meant to signify Genoa in one perspective, but that it is not any certain location because from other perspectives it implies different meanings. It may be that this indicates the scribe as being so influenced by local crenellations that all castles are thought to be so, but I think the ambiguity is more deliberate that that.

      There was a point where I was convinced that the photos you attached were indeed implied, mostly due to the walls drawn on either side of the castle. But at this point that would not fit with the identifications I have applied to the rosettes. Still working on it though, perhaps there is another layer which when identified will pull it back in, since your outline of influences do appear to be relevant.



    • Darren Worley

      Here’s another depiction of the distinctive swallow-tail crenellations, this time from a 13/14th-century German Hebrew manuscript.

      I’m uncertain exactly which manuscript it originates from, but the comment accompanying this illustrations says : Beginning of Deuteronomy in gold with exotic animals. Germany, 1299. Bodleian Lib., Oxford


      Can anyone identify in which manuscript this appears and more precisely where in Germany it was written? Does anyone know what this building represents? Perhaps it represents a building mentioned in Deuteronomy?. Or maybe a fortified synagogue (there were such buildings) or something else?

      • Hello Darren,

        that illlustration has a great similarity with the famous Sarajevo Haggadah, number 4 on this page:


        W.r.t. the illustrator of the Rhodos fortifications, his dates are of course very late for the Voynich MS, and the probability is vanishingly small.


        • MS Kennicott 3:


          your image is from fol. 178r.


          • Darren Worley

            Rene – thanks for the prompt updates.

            I agree that the Sarajevo Haggadah image is also very much like the Bodleian MS Kennicott 3 image that I uploaded. The Sarajevo Haggada page you linked, also contains the distinctive swallow-tail crenellations!

            The Sarajevo Haggadah apparently follows the Sephardic tradition, whereas the Bodleian MS Kennicott 3 follows the Ashkenazi tradition. The Bodleian MS Kennicott 3 (dated 1299) pre-dates the Sarajevo Haggadah (dated c1350). I wonder if this means the Spanish manuscript was copying an earlier German or Ashkenazi manuscript tradition?

            I notice that the page in question is the opening page of the manuscript (although it appears at the “end” – since its read from back to front). This leads to to think that this opening image is probably a representation of the Jewish Temple.

            Here’s what the Bodleian says about MS Kennicott 3. (http://bav.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/ms-kennicott-3)

            Quote : MS. Kennicott 3 is a wonderful and rare example of a dated and lavishly illustrated Ashkenazi Pentateuch with the Five Scrolls and the Additional Readings from the Prophets. Although its place or places of origin are still not clear, ranging from Northern France to Krinau in Northeast Switzerland, what is clear is the quality and imaginative power of the illuminations, as well as the coherent arrangement of the various components of the text on the page. The manuscript offers ample opportunities for further research.

            Quote : Humash (Pentateuch) with Onkelos (Aramaic translation), the Five Scrolls (Song of Songs, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Lamentations, and Esther) and Haftarot (selections from the books of Prophets). With both Masorahs and vocalized (except for the last two Haftarot on Ta‘anit). [Written in Ashkenaz in 1299. Ashkenazic square script. 2 coll., small fol., vellum, ff. 297, illuminations]

            Its a pity that its origin is not more precislely known – but a South German origin is possible. (Anyone know the significance of Krinau?)

            I had a look through the pages and in addition to f178r there are other images containing the s.t. crellelations on f1v and f100v.

            I thought I’d google on termsn like *ashkenazi temple iconography” and “jewish temple iconography” – and it quickly turned up further images containing the distinctive swallowtail crenellations!

            I attach another example below – this is from the Sarajevo Haggadah.

            I really believe that this is a strong clue that whoever wrote the Voynich Rosettes page (and the VM itself) was very familiar with medieval Jewish iconography. I would suggest, that they were either Jewish, or perhaps a Christian working closely with Jews. As mentioned earlier, an example from Southern Germany would be in-and-around Lake Constance where these two communities worked closely together [ref:Jews among Christians : Hebrew book illumination from Lake Constance by Sarit Shalev Eyni]

            It would be good to see if anyone can locate other similarities between the Voynich and medieval Jewish manuscripts.

            • Darren Worley

              And here is another. I don’t know the origin of this one; or if its medieval or modern.

              • Chronik over Krinau

                Ist 80 Km of my home. But at 1350 whas only one house ther writen. Earl of Toggenburg, over Kloster St.Gallen.

                • 1363 sold vor 14000 fl. to Abt Ulrich VIII of Koster St. Gallen.

                  • Stephen Bax

                    Sorry, Peter, can you please explain what you mean by this?

                    • Darren ask samethings apout Krinau. (Anyone know the significance of Krinau?)

                    • I already do not understand why France north to north-eastern Switzerland Krinau.
                      Krinau was a place with about 3 houses. And sold to the monastery of St. Gallen.
                      more was not there.
                      Perhaps I have misunderstood something. Translated with Google

              • Darren Worley

                I discovered that the image, containing the swallowtail crenelations, that I posted on August 11, 2015 – 10:17 PM, is also from the Sarajevo Haggadah.

                The Sarajevo Haggadah was produced in Spain c.1350, which is closer to the creation of the VM, than the MS Kennicott 3 from 1290.

                The similarities between these two Haggadah are intriguing, suggesting some transference of imagery from 13th-century France/Germany/Switzerland area (the origin of MS Kennicot, is not known more precisely) to Spain several generation later.

                If I understand Diane’s recent comments – she is suggesting that the VM Sagittarius iconography is more similar to that found in Spain at time. I don’t really have a problem with this – it seems quite possible that manuscript of a German origin were re-copied/re-compiled later in Spain.

                I’m intrigued by a Spanish/Catalan connection, as the medieval Catalan calligraphy I reported here looks very Voynich-like, so I do wonder how this fits into the bigger picture.

                Stephen – my comments about Krinau, where about the origins of the MS Kennicott 3 which is reported to be anywhere from Northern France [which is a very broad area] to Krinau in Northeast Switzerland [which is very precise]. It just seems odd.

                • Hi Darren,
                  I think the essential point is that the manuscript is Ashkenazi Jewish. It’s not so much a question of transferring a manuscript across ‘national’ borders as through a reticular network of Jewish communities.

                  This was brought home to me when considering the introduction of micrographic texts. They arrived from the eastern Mediterranean into Europe about the thirteenth century, and appear simultaneously (or nearly so) in Sephardic communities in Spain, and in France, and in the northern, Ashkenazi communities. In fact the idea of ‘national’ possession of culture for the fifteenth century is a little premature. The shared languages of the literate (Hebrew/Aramaic and Latin) made everything more fluid than today. At the same time, a Jew living in territories of a given king might have regular contact with a Jewish scholar in Egypt or Spain, but almost none with the Latin noble who lived 500 meters away. The same is true for most classes of the time: the local woolmerchant might be better acquainted with other traders – Muslim, Jew or Christian than with members of other classes even those sharing his own religious ideas.

            • Darren,
              It looks as if serendipity is at work. I’ve just finished two of three posts on the subject of such parallels.
              The posts are now password protected. If you (or anyone else) would like access, the email address is in the right-hand column of my blog.


      • Ellie Velinska

        Typical city from the Nuremberg chronicles – some butterfly merlons on the new walls, some old-fashioned merlons on the old walls, some round towers, some square towers…

        • Darren Worley

          Quite convincing Ellie – do you know what city this is? Is it Nuremburg?

          • Helmut Winkler

            It is Lyon in France

            • Its Lion the same Lyon ?

              • No 🙂
                Lion comes from Latin: Leo
                Lyon comes from Latin: Lugdunum
                In fact, Leiden (in Holland) also comes from Lugdunum.

          • Ellie Velinska

            Hi Darren – this woodcut is used for more than one city in the Nuremberg chronicles – this is why I call it ‘typical city’ woodcut (as opposed to cities that have unique picture dedicated to them in the chronicles). The same woodcut was used for Aquileya (Aquilea, Italy).

  29. The manuscript’s sections may have been brought together no earlier than the latest binding; it is pretty obvious that what we have is collated from a number of earlier books.
    Apart from their present binding, what unites the parts is the script, and that has so far proven uninformative.

    The parchment has not been properly discussed, since it would ill-suit some theories to have it formally described as English, Yemeni, Spanish etc., and would offend others if found to be Byzantine, French or German.

    Even the dating for some few folios is unreliable since the involvement of non-scientific personnel in the process resulted in a non-standard method .. all samples came from the top folios, so that the lower twelve quires could come from outside the given range of 1404-1338 – potentially.

    An independent expert’s comments on the parchment(s) used would be most helpful.

    I think that a late fourteenth century date is reasonable for a final recension of each section, though when the parts came together as they are now, I wouldn’t hazard a guess.

    As to where that last stage was completed; I think some region of the former Franco- and Anglo-Norman network. Nick Pelling opts for northern Italy, and I agree that there’s much to support that argument.

  30. Julie

    Hello everyone
    I have been looking at VM since October, it is absolutely fascinating. Has anyone managed to decipher any of it yet? I have been thinking that the illustrations draw your eye away from the text, and wonder if this is deliberately done by the author(s). Is this a possibility or my overactive imagination? So the illustrations act as a decoy from the content of the text. Just a thought

  31. Stephen,
    Fortunately, someone else has summarised my conclusions about the Voynich ms when describing one quite different. Allow me to quote Elinor Lieber’s summary of the history of ‘The Book of Asaf’:

    “one is thus forced to the conclusion that while the contents of our work are essentially Greek, as far as its structure is concerned the compiler looked to the Indian encyclopaedias. Since our work differs in so many ways from other encyclopedias based on Greek concepts, it is not surprising that there have been many conflicting ideas regarding its authorship, provenance and dating. … Some of the Greek material may have originated in Alexandria or in the Syrian or Persian centres of Greek learning, where the ancient Egyptian, Syrian, [and] Persian … influences were acquired, before the texts, individually or as a collection, found their way to Europe”.

    Leiber and I are both more specific in the details, and the Book of Asaf is not the Voynich manuscript, but the history of origin, removal, return and translation do run closely in parallel, in my opinion.

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks. I had never heard of the fascinating Book of Asaf/Asaph before. I found this interesting description of the existing manuscripts, with many interesting resonances:

      “The contents of these manuscripts vary; but, in general, they contain treatises on the Persian months, physiology, embryology, the four periods of man’s life, the four winds, diseases of various organs, hygiene, medicinal plants, medical calendar, the practise of medicine, as well as an antidotarium, urinology, aphorisms, and the Hippocratic oath.

      The introduction is in the form of the later Midrash, and ascribes the origin of medicine to Shem, the son of Noah, who received it from the angels. The only authorities cited are “the books of the wise men of India,” and a “book of the ancients,” from which the present work was translated.”


      • orun

        :)) they used voynich in 7th son movie

    • Darren Worley

      I found a digital Hebrew manuscript copy of the Sefer Refuot (Book of Asaph) here:


      But does anyone know if there is an illustrated version, or an English translation?


  32. Elizabeth

    Hello it says Juniper is first plant….I believe it looks like ricinus communis.


    water and winter ??

    • orun rubaci

      this is a book of making talisman (Kenzü’l-İhtisas Ve Dürreti’l-Gavas Fi Ma’rifeti’l-Havvas). that is “havas” method/enlightenment, there are similar complex letters or symbols with voynich

      • Stephen Bax

        Yes, I have seen some of these interesting notebooks before, listing various exotic scripts. Where does this example come from? How old is it?

        • orun rubaci

          author: Ali bin Muhammed bin Aydemir İzzeddin el-Cildeki
          language: Arabic
          year: 1342
          arabic celandar year : 743

          web: http://havvaskutuphanesiarsivi.blogspot.com.tr/2009/09/kenzu-ve-durreti-fi-ma.html

          • Stephen Bax

            Thanks. It’s a beautiful example. I have seen a similar one in the Bodleian library in Oxford with some signs identical to two of the so-called ‘gallows’ symbols in the Voynich manuscript, though I think the resemblance is just a coincidence.

  34. stephane

    Hello everyone! i’d like to mention an hypothesis that might be interesting,and which is the result of a link between two other ones.First of all, i came across what is called magical alphabets, which were used and sometimes still are used in witchcraft treaties and books. the theban alphabet,in particular, have several signs that seem to have a proximity with the voynich ones, especially,for some,when you reverse them. I also stumble upon an hypothesis made on the net consisting in the fact that the castle depicted in VM might be the Runkelstein, or roncolo in italian, castle,which is located in italian tyrol and belonged, at the time vm was made, to Franz Vintler.I then searched on google if, at this period, was existing a connection between this castle and any scholar or man of science. I learned that Franz Vintler had a nephew, who died in 1419, and whose name was Hans Vintler. He was, amongst other activities, a poet and is remembered for his didactic poem named” the flowers of virtue”.What’s interesting is that he was also very interested in alchemy and witchcraft, as it is confirmed by the fact that he is quite often referred to in alchemy and witchcraft works that appear on google. The possibility that vm has been written in some sort of magical alphabet by H.Vintler might then make some sense, but it lacks of course sufficient evidence.

    • stephane

      The problem with this hypothesis lies in the fact that H.Vintler,as it appears in “flowers of virtues”, though interested in witchcraft, wasn’t an enthusiast in these matters and had on the opposite a critical view of superstitions and magical practices. Nevertheless, these consideration doesn’t exclude the possibility that Vintler may have used his knowledge of the witchcraft matter by using a peculiar alphabet in order to write a book that didn’t promote magic,but whose substantial content may have been too original to be displayed without precaution.

  35. Diane

    The date returned by some tested folios appears to put Mexico lower on the list than China, but somewhat higher than Mars, where as yet no evidence of parchment production has been found.

    On the other hand, there is evidence of contact between the Mediterranean and China from the early centuries AD, and indisputable evidence that by the thirteenth century these included Latins.

    • Stephen Bax

      🙂 yes indeed. I myself don’t see much Chinese influence in the manuscript at all. However I am intrigued by those groups of Nestorians and others, e.g. these, east of Syria, who represented a fascinating intermingling of languages, beliefs and cultures.

  36. Xtian Shank

    Dear Stephen,
    the first thing that came to my mind about where it was produced was:


    Google for the kurdish language and how they developed a scripture, you will find very interesting things. I hope this is the right clue.
    With great respect to your work

  37. T.R.

    Stephen, There’s a page with full text, then a word, and a few vertical letters in the left margin. Later, about half way through the manuscript there was a page of all text with single letters on the left margin. Are either of those pages helpful with the decipherment? Those two pages stood out to me as perhaps being potentially helpful.

      • Stephen Bax

        Thanks, they have been suggested as possible clues, but no-one is quite sure how! Do you have any suggestions?

        • T.R.

          Well, I would transcribe the letters/sounds you already have and see if anything makes sense.

          • T.R.

            Those words must be pertinent to each paragraph they are next to.

            • Stephen Bax

              Sadly, we need more than that to make sense. Some have argued that they are some sort of ‘keys’ to the ‘cipher’ in which the book is written, but no-one has yet managed to explain them.

  38. MarcoP

    As a parallel to the Voynich manuscript, it is interesting to also consider the Hebrew manuscripts produced in Italy during the Renaissance (e.g. BAV Ross 498 and 555):
    https:[email protected]/3417679377
    The contents are Hebrew, rooted in a near-Eastern culture and written in a Semitic language, but the style is typically European. It seems that also the Voynich manuscript presents an Eastern content and language in a Western form.

    To address the distinction pointed out by Diane, my comment is about the manuscript-as-object, i.e. the actual XV Century copy we have of what could well be a much more ancient text.

    I find Johannes Albus’s translation of f116v particularly important as a confirmation of the hypothesis that the Voynich manuscript was created in a German speaking area.

    The onion dome was used in a wide area. According to Wikipedia: It is the predominant form for church domes in Russia and Bavaria, Germany, but can also be found regularly across Austria, northeastern Italy, Eastern Europe, Mughal India, the Middle East and Central Asia.

    I could find examples of swallowtail merlons in Switzerland (at least in the area closer to Italy, e.g. Bellinzona and Mustair), in Bavaria (Memmingen), in Austria (Schloss Bidenegg, Tirol) and in Sud Tirol (German speaking but currently part of Italy).

    The intersection of these three elements (German language, onion domes and swallowtail crenellations) suggests to me that the manuscript was most likely written and illustrated in the Southern part of the German speaking area: Bavaria, German Switzerland or Austria. If this photograph is reliable, the list should include Prague, the first documented location of the manuscript.

    • Stephen Bax

      Look also at this list of curious Hebrew manuscripts, showing a host of interactions with European languages:


      • MarcoP

        Thank you Stephen! What a great collection of scientific manuscripts! They are certainly closer to the Voynich ms than the two Vatican Library gilded works I have linked.

      • Darren Worley

        Some intriguing VM-like images from a lengthy 15th-century German-Hebrew manuscript can be found here:

        Sammlung von Stücken und Notizen, teils jüdisch-deutsch, auch ins Hebräische übergehend – BSB Cod.hebr. 235, [S.l.] deutsch, um 1500 (?) [BSB-Hss Cod.hebr. 235]



        The text here reminds me of the VM marginalia


        • Stephen Bax

          The second one is particularly interesting as it gives the letters a, b, c and so on anticlockwise, not clockwise. This seems to fit the pattern of the Voynich Pleiades page, and Taurus, as Marco Ponzi has argued.

          • Darren Worley

            I was more struck by the similarity between the “extraneous” VM-writing found on f116v and that shown in the 3rd example.

            They seem to be very closely related; almost indistinguishable from each other.

            A good summary of the the VM marginalia is provided here : http://www.voynich.nu/writing.html#extr

            • Stephen Bax

              Yes, I agree. The resemblance is striking. I’ve asked a German-speaking friend to comment!

          • Marnix Hoekstra

            The third text mentions Haly Abenragel and says something about transcribing Latin baptism names into something else. My unfounded speculation (not knowing the context): letters into numbers → numerology

          • Darren Worley

            Marnix – I haven’t checked the text in detail but perhaps its referring to this individual:


            Seems like a good fit, based on what looks like numerology-geomancy charts and tables.

          • Darren Worley

            The anti-clockwise writing is likely an indication that the VM has been copied from an original text written that was right-to-left and even though the text has been re-written left-to-right the charts retain their original anti-clockwise orientation.

            A scribe writing right-to-left would naturally complete a chart anti-clockwise. This is observed in Arabic and Hebrew manuscripts and it consistent with VM being derived from a Hebrew, Arabic (or Mandaic) origin.

            I guess the switch in text direction could either be a result of the original text being translated to a European language (Latin/Romance?) or that it has been recopied by a scribe more familiar with writing left-to-right. However, it may have always been the intention to obfuscate the underlying text by writing it in a left-to-right direction (as the Essene are known to have done).

            The recent posts suggesting a French/German (and Jewish) influence in VM may be relevant to understanding its transmission to Europe.

            There does seem to be historical examples of the transmission of Jewish texts from the Near East to Germany and France in the 11-13th centuries. [Although at this time “Germany” was part of the Holy Roman Empire and France (the South in particular) was variously under the control of the Catalans, Arabs, Burgundians, the Holy Roman Empire as well as the French during this period].

            For example the “Sefer Raza Rabba” (“The Book of the Great Secret”), a work of Jewish Merkabah mysticism.

            Quote : Raza Rabba differs in character from Midrashim written in France and in Narbonne and apparently derived from an Eastern or Babylonian source which reached Germany and groups of Hasidim [around the 10-13th century].

            It then goes into say how portions of this text were included in texts by Moses ha-Darshan, an 11th century Hebrew scholar writing in Zarphatic, the Judaeo-French language.

            The info. above was taken from : http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0017_0_16507.html

            Another similar mystical text is the Bahir, or “Sefer HaBahir” (“Book of the Brightness”) an anonymous mystical work, attributed to a 1st-century rabbinic sage. Again this seems to have been transmitted from the Near East to France around the same time. What I find particularly intriguing is the links between Jewish Mysticism and Gnosticism. I have previous suggested that the VM displays a strong Gnostic influence.

            Quote : Many scholars of Kabbalah hold that the Bahir adds gnostic elements to the older work [Sefer Raza Rabba]. The question of how much gnosticism has influenced Kabbalah is one of the major themes of modern-day research on Kabbalah.


            Here are some excerpts from wikipedia:

            Quote : Scholar Ronit Meroz argues that elements in the Bahir date back to 10th century Babylonia, as witnessed by the acceptance of the Babylonian system of vowel points, which later fell into disuse, while other elements were written in 12th century Provence.

            Bahir, Early History:

            c100 – Kabbalists believe that oral tradition of “The Bahir” goes back to the 1st century CE. It is possible that some secret manuscripts existed before publication in the 12th century.
            c.1174 – The Bahir was published by the Provence school of Kabbalists and was circulated to a limited audience in manuscript form.
            1331 – Earliest commentary on The Bahir is written by Rabbi Meir ben Shalom Abi-Sahula [possibly in Spain (Aragon) or France?]

            I haven’t discounted the possibility that the underlying origin of parts of the VM are Mandaean, as the Gnostic influence found in Jewish mystical texts may well have some from Mandaean sources. However, the transmission of underlying text found within the VM to Europe via a Jewish route seems plausible. It may well be that case that the medieval Jewish scholars may have struggled as much with interpreting the VM as we currently do, and perhaps it was copied from an even older manuscripts without knowing what it meant?

            There are strong links between Gnosticism, Mandaeism and Mystical Judaism, and this seems to be a topic of academic research as the 1995 book by Nathaniel Deutsch suggests “The Gnostic Imagination: Gnosticism, Mandaeism, and Merkabah Mysticism”

            The Jews have had a very long tradition of preserving their most ancient texts as they contain the “word of god”. According to Jewish law, discarded Holy Scriptures which contain the name of God must be deposited in a safe place, where they are protected from desecration and subject to natural processes of decay.

            This is attested in their careful preservation and storage of the Dead Sea Scrolls from the 1st-century and the existence of various genizas (a repository for worn scrolls and books)


            So the opportunity for a medieval Jewish scribe to access and possibly recopy much older texts appears to be present.

            Examples of medieval German Hebrew scholars recopying even older ancient texts are described here “Palaces of Time: Jewish Calendar and Culture in Early Modern Europe Hardcover” by Elisheva Carlebach (p74-75).


            Finally, I can perceive parallels between the VM and the concepts found in Merkebah mysticism mostly notably the importance of angels (as there also is in Gnosticism and Mandaeism)


            • Stephen Bax

              Thanks, very interesting! In my experience, elements from Arabic tradition could be borrowed extensively into the West, with some parts translated but other elements retained (e.g. The anti-clockwise orientation might be retained even in a western text).

              Thanks also for the book on the Jewish calendar … really interesting.

            • A late thank-you for this informative post.

        • MarcoP

          Thank you, Darren. The manuscript looks very interesting. The two circular diagrams present the 16 symbols of geomancy.
          At the bottom of p.149, the triangular diagram (a “geomantic shield”) illustrates the complete process of generation of a geomantic response:

          I think that the fascinating XIII century geomantic device now at the British Museum has been mentioned before here on Stephen’s site:

          I agree that the German script resembles that seen in the Voynich marginalia.

    • Marco, I can’t tell you how nice it is to read your comment, since it is the first to agree with my own findings, the reasons for which I’ve been setting out over the past six years or so, section by section.

      The comment I mean is:
      “It seems that also the Voynich manuscript presents an Eastern content and language in a Western form”

      We may have differences about what we mean by ‘eastern content’ or ‘western form’, and I would certainly not for a moment suppose a person French by inheritance and Jewish by culture would produce other than European art – as your own examples so well demonstrate.
      There were of course Jewish communities in the middle and far east: in Egypt, Persia, Afghanistan, India, southern China, the Yemen and southeast Asia and it would be reasonable to suppose that those communities too would use regional customs in art.

      Our question is rather how much of the Voynich manuscript originated with one specific community or another, how the material first reached the west, and who it was who made the manuscript that we have now – it has a number of indications that by the time of the very last chronological stratum (c.1438-40) the matter was now in the hands of western Christians.

      • Stephen Bax

        Diane, I think a lot of people (myself included) are convinced by many of your findings over the years.

        Personally I would like to see a summary of your latest thinking on the Voynich, with illustrations! Is there such a summary on your pages already, or are you planning one?

    • Marco,
      The inscription on f.116v is generally accepted to be a late piece of marginalia. It cannot be adduced in proof of where or when the manuscript was made, let alone as proof for provenance of the matter contained.

      All it tells us is that at some stage a person had access to the manuscript who did – or who may have – written on it in German. I say “may have” because other efforts to understand that marginalia have resulted in different languages being identified and different translations made.

      I am far from convinced that the forms at the centre of f.86v are “onion domes’ – as so often in Voynich studies, interpretation of the imagery begins by expecting it will support a given thesis. In any case, as you say, even if they were meant for ‘onion domes’ these occur very widely.

      And so, of course, did swallowtail merlons in the period from the 12th-16th centuries. It is an accident of history that most of those buildings which had swallowtail merlons are gone, and those still existing are in mainland Europe. The ‘castle’ cannot be meant for a building in mainland Europe. The map is plainly marked with the signs for the four directions, and the ‘castle’ is on the side of sunrise…

  39. Thanks for the compliment, Professor Bax, but I cannot be credited with the view that the Voynich manuscript’s “provenance” is European.

    This because a manuscript does not necessarily have a homogenous provenance in the way that a modern published work might do – though even then not necessarily.

    In fact the comments offered on that blog-post you mention are part of my analysis of folio 86v, and concern one stratum of imagery within it – the strand which I consider latest in date and part of a re-working and addition to much older material.

    My analysis and discussion of that folio continued over some time, and analysis of the manuscript’s imagery overall certainly did not argue for an origin in western Christian culture at all, and certainly not in the fifteenth century AD.

    This is not to dispute that the manuscript-as-object has parchment whose first quires include folios dating to the early fifteenth century.

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks Diane – I didn’t mean to imply that you personally are responsible for “the view that the Voynich manuscript’s “provenance” is European”, so sorry if it came across like that. In fact I was trying to say the opposite – that your research over many years suggests that we need to look further afield also.

      In fact I am entirely in sympathy with your general perspective, which as I see it, is to look further east than Europe (e.g. here). Is that a fair summary?

      BTW, I just noted this interesting comment you made, which seems to reinforce what I was saying in this post about Aramaic:

      “On the subject of the Voynich script, I can only say that I am relieved to be addressing the imagery, which is comparatively accessible – all I can contribute on the issue of the written text is an observation: namely, that it appears to me most like one of those derived from Aramaic script. That is, one of the various scripts that are acknowledged derivatives from that used for the official language used throughout the former eastern Roman empire while under Persian rule. Among these recognised derivatives are the scripts used for Sabaic minuscule (Arabia), Tibetan and Ubyk/Abkhaz (Georgia) – which gives an idea of the range over which they occur. (Source here)

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