A pangolin on f80v?

I reproduce here a comment from Jose Serrano about what he suggests is a pangolin on f80v because I feel that it is worth highlighting.


Others have commented on this illustration before (see e.g. Nick Pelling’s discussion with comments here, and this one from H. Rich SantaColoma.)

However, Jose seems to offer insights which I have not seen before, so below is his post, for your comments.

There are records of the use of the pangolin for medicine. See an article here which talks about its use in Africa, and also says that:

Some group of people in East India utilised the scales for rheumatism and labour pain. The Chinese used the scales for preparations to neutralise witchcraft and evil spirits and to cure sores…..

(Source: Traditional-medical knowledge and perception of pangolins (manis sps) among the awori people, Southwestern Nigeria  Durojaye A Soewu and Temilolu A Adekanola,  J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2011; 7: 25. )
 Here is Jose’s original comment:


Please review PDF attached here:https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B31-3BFULytDdEd5R21PdnBWUzA/view?usp=sharing

These are just some ideas and guesses derived from the manuscript itself and from viewing the text as a collection of sigils, which I compared by using Getting’s Dictionary of the Occult, Hermetic and Alchemical Sigils. You can download the dictionary here for your reference:
All interpretations and guesses are by no means conclusive. These are just ideas or different angles of observation based on sigils, logic and observation.










  1. Maryam

    Peter I am agree about you theory because I found couple other pages with the same meaning in a human body.

    • Hi Maryam
      For me it’s definitely a brain, from which living beings whatsoever.
      I think he is an animal brain (cat, dog rat ….) has looked at, and it adapted to a human head. Since operations at this time the brain were under death penalty.
      Furthermore, see the following sketch as human, internal organs. All this makes me suspect a brain.
      The theory of evolution was a joke 🙂

  2. VV

    Hi everyone,
    well, since we’re throwing around suggestions here, I guess I’ll add mine.
    Could this perhaps be a representation of an armored dog, wearing some kind of mail?
    Armor was made for horses and dogs in the medieval period, and armored dogs were used by the Spanish during the conquest of the Americas.
    When I researched this a few years ago I remember reading somewhere that such war dogs were referred to as dragons, at least in parts of Eastern Europe (Poland, Hungary?) and their masters as dragoneers. Sorry but I can’t remember where I read that… maybe someone here knows more?
    In that case the armored dog could be depicted taking a nap on some type of cushion. 🙂
    It might fit with the other dogs deatured a few pages later on 79v.
    Obviously, armored dogs don’t fit with the overall medicinal/balneo theme that seems to be presented here… But I think, if we’re considering armadillos… why not armored dogs?

  3. Helmut Winkler

    To me, it looks like an ordinary sheep with horns lying down. There are similar pictures in bestiaries and scenes of the Nativity. The coat of these animals mostly looks wavy like scales. And the woman over the animal looks like holding a spindle full of wool and a whorl at the tip.

    • @Helmut
      When I look at the pages from me f76r to f80v, there is a certain sequence. I can hardly imagine that suddenly a sheep and a spindle with wool fits into me. Logically considered.
      The woman on f76r holds something similar in his hand (bundles of dried herbs), I’d bet on himself a medical instrument. Description after it could fit got it but never seen myself.

    • Darren Worley

      Helmut – I think you are absolutely correct to identify the “pangolin-creature” as a sheep…I’ve found an example of a sheep standing on a a “wavy lined” object (as in the VM). I believe this object represents a cloud, or some kind of transistion between the spirit and the physical world.

      I found this image in a Southern German manuscript that was previously found to contain a Sagittarius crossbowman (arbalist).

      The manuscript, (first identified by Marco), is called (Md 2) Tübinger Hausbuch: Iatromathematisches Kalenderbuch ; die Kunst der Astronomie und Geomantie, Württemberg, [15. Jh.]

      Its been dated variously from 1404, or 1430-1480 i.e. contemporary with the creation of the VM.


      I attach an image which can be found on f57v, unfortunately it appears close to the spine of the book, but it can clearly be identified as a sheep (the horns can be seen).

      I encourage readers of this post to download a copy of the manuscript, its really is a very interesting and beautiful book.

      Helmut – the manuscript is in German, are you able to read the text that accompanies this image? What does it say?

      • Darren Worley

        The sheep drawing in the Tübinger Hausbuch manuscript on f57v (or f59?) occurs in in a chapter devoted to the zodiac sign Aries.

        It seems to me highly likely that the Voynichese word for “Aries” would appear in close proximity to the sheep/ram diagram found that is found on VM f80v.

      • Darren Worley

        Here is a better illustration of the two images. Marco kindly digitally unfurled the (Md 2) Tübinger Hausbuch Aries Ram image that appeared near the spine of the book.

        If the Aries Ram really is being depicted, why does it appear over the nymph figure on VM f80v? Could this have any astrological interpretation or explanation?

      • Darren Worley

        Attached below is an image showing another “celestial” Aries ram. Its take from the title page of “Practica ad annum 1511” by Johann Virdung. It appears to be a book of predictions for that year.

        I think this has similarities with both the VM example found on f80v, and another found in Tübinger Hausbuch Md. 2.

        In both case we see the wavy cloud-bands and the reclining ram. This seems to be an astrological motif found in books and manuscripts from South Germany.

        The full document can be found here.

        The book was written by Johann Virdung (1463-1538), a celebrated astrologer, who has already been associated with one example of a Sagittarius crossbowman, and once owned Cod. Pal. Lat. 1369 – the manuscript containing Gemini figures that looks like the VM example.

        • MarcoP

          Thank you, Darren! This engraving is also relevant because it features the Sun and the Moon as equinox markers on the zodiac wheel. Here the Moon corresponds to the Spring Equinox (Aries) and the Sun to the Autumn equinox (Libra). So their positions are switched with respect to the more common tradition discussed here.

          PS: I now notice that this is a diagram representing a specific eclipse (the shadow of the Earth obscuring the Moon), so it does not compare with other more “symbolic” diagrams in which the Sun and the Moon mark the equinoxes.

          • Darren Worley

            Thanks for the clarification, Marco. I just perceived it as a illustration for the title page rather than having any intended meaning. What attracted my attention was the combination of the Aries Ram and the cloud-band patterns.

            Below is another diagram also from a book by Virdung. (Its the same image I recently posted as an example of a Sagittarius Crossbowman). Its title is “Deutcz practica Baccalarii Johannis Cracoviensis von Hasfurt (GW M5072510)” dated to 1491/92.

            I think this one is describing the “typical” association, since the Aries Ram (Spring Equinox) has a “Sun” face, in the same way as the Aries Ram is shown with a sun in the Tübinger Hausbuch manuscript.

            This makes me wonder if the illustration in the VM is describing some association between Aries and the Moon (Luna), since Aries is depicted as a Ram and the Moon as a female figure (Luna) when represented in human-form. What do you think?

            Alternatively, perhaps Aries (Spring) is imparting something to the female figure? Fertility, perhaps?

            • MarcoP

              Hello Darren, I don’t think I have much to add to this interesting hypothesis. As you wrote, the interpretation of this page (and of the Balneological section in general) appears to be even more difficult than the rest of the manuscript. The naked woman below the Ram / Dragon / Pangolin holds a ring: it could be helpful to find out if this attribute is in any way connected with the Moon. Searching for parallels of this rather uncommon symbol could provide some possible hints (this illustration has both the ring and the flower wreath, but it seems to be mere decoration, or at least its meaning is opaque to me; marriage is an obvious association, but the nudity of the “nymph” does not conform with this interpretation).
              If this section of the Voynich manuscript is an astrological allegory, the scarcity of male figures is anomalous from the point of view of the Western tradition: the manuscript could illustrate a different astrological tradition.

  4. I think that some attention has to be paid to what is plainly an upright spine – perhaps a spiny ‘ear’. Pangolins don’t have them.

    Nor does it appear to me like an armadillo, but like a type of lizard which exists – among other places – around the shores of the maritime spice route, in association with material famously used by the local fauna as a bed. I published images of these in 2010-2011 on the research blog. However, if anyone would care to see it all again, I’m happy to do a re-post.

    Just leave a note on my blog.

  5. @ Marco
    These are beautiful images of extraction. I think because we are planting our part of the processing, I can not imagine the best of intentions which makes an armadillo here.
    Would it stand alone on one side, one could still discuss it.

    I think it is for me a brain. Unfortunately I could not find much except by Davinci on the Internet. But himself ever seen anything like that.
    Maybe you’ll find something along those lines.

  6. Theorie of evelution

  7. MarcoP

    Some illustrations from Wellcome Library WMS 4 MS.446 (f17v, 27v, 43v). Anonymous “Ymage de vie” (occasionally attributed to Ramon Lull) plus miscellaneous alchemical receipts (late XV Century).

    • MarcoP

      For visual convenience.

  8. D.N. O'Donovan

    Just a sober note, which people are perfectly free to ignore if they are enjoying the free-association sort of investigation.

    Lynn Thorndike, one of the greatest students of western alchemical and other related manuscripts spoke of more than 30,000 such manuscripts in the British Library alone, and gave his very firm opinion that the manuscript did not belong to that tradition.

    More recently, when consulted by members of the first mailing list, Adam McLean said, just as firmly, that the imagery was not related to the western alchemical tradition. Admittedly, Adam may have revised his opinion since the early 2000’s, but when people who have so much expertise and hands-on experience of the medieval documents offer an opinion in the negative, then surely theirs should be given a certain weight and credit.

    But do carry on…

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks – always useful to sober up! What do you make of Thorndike’s suggestion that “the manuscript did not belong to that tradition”? Do you think he simply meant that it was not in any way alchemical? Or was Thorndike getting at something else?

      I note that Nick Pelling has some interesting discussion of Thorndike – e.g. here and elsewhere on his site.

      If we link this back to the pangolin debate, I suppose that the artist(s) could have included an image of a creature whose life juices are being extracted, even if the manuscript as a whole is not fundamentally in an alchemical tradition. I’m not pushing that point, just pondering…

      For the record, my own view of the manuscript is perhaps the most boring, down-to-earth of any. I don’t consider it alchemical, nor diabolical, and not in any way a mysterious cipher designed to conceal knowledge. I consider it most probably to be an attempt at an encyclopedia or ‘summa’ aiming to encompass contemporary knowledge of plants, astrology/astronomy and related areas, exactly as the Occitan manuscript which I discuss here does. It is probably intended for a specific linguistic community, for which the script was specially devised. It just happens to be in a script we cannot yet decipher, but is probably in a language which is known.

      Apologies to all conspiracy theorists who would prefer the answer to be more dramatic!

    • Linda Snider

      I both agree and disagree with the idea that the manuscript is non-European in origin.

      When I quickly looked into the plants, I found that the species I have so far agreed with or self-identified are generally either species originating in eastern Asia, or found everywhere.

      Also, it occurs to me that the tour I have outlined insofar as the “biological” section, although it doesn’t cover that far east, could be one that people in eastern Asia could use as a guide to travelling western locations, as they would likely be well aware of their own localities without such a guide. This could explain why it does not appear to cover the far East. Could be some sort of a reverse Marco Polo report. However, it seems like it might have gone back and forth a bit, perhaps a rewriting of such by someone who travelled farther west and/or who may have enjoyed a western education and thus included western elements they had come across. To me these all seem to be related to historical geography.

      There are some such traditions in the manuscript which appear to me to be of European origin, such as the use of T-O maps and what looks to me to be Beatus-style mountains. The text first drew me because it seemed similar to Church handwriting of northern European locations, and there are inclusions of other items that to me also appear to be similar to inclusions in other European documents, whether or not they originated there (such as the representation of the leopard/cheetah/lion).

      I think the manuscript follows neither the European tradition nor the alchemical tradition because it doesn’t follow any tradition; it’s its own thing. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not of European origin, though, nor does it mean that it is. Perhaps it’s a multi-national compendium. I don’t tend to discount any thoughts regarding the manuscript, you never know when a random thought could start the landslide that leads to uncovering the meaning in the manuscript.

      Insofar as the pangolin, if that’s what it is, and whether or not it was used to depict geographical, alchemical, or other information, it’s not a European animal, so for it to have been written about in a European manuscript to me means there was already some non-European influence at hand in that manuscript. What other non-local information might there have been? Is it relevant to this manuscript?

      Because it’s an animal found in Africa and south Asia, it would seem to me to be more likely for an African or Asian resident with first hand experience with the animals to use them in diagrams as representative of something than for a European to use it because they saw it in a European document, alchemical or otherwise (plus, I don’t see the European representations of the pangolin that I’ve seen to be very accurate, and copying them would not likely result in a recognizable pangolin).

      So, I continue to fence-sit, at least until the next revelation, and as such I welcome all thoughts on the matter.

  9. The manifold possible interpretations of a single drawing should give us pause. What kind of a foundation does a supposed pangolin/armadillo/dragon/griffin/Swiss Confederation make? It is not as though the drawing even has a label which might permit testing possible words.

    The manuscript is filled with drawings more clear, and labelled, yet even the meaning of those elude us.

    • Darren Worley

      I agree – this diagram is not a good candidate for gaining a better understanding of the VM. Understanding the VM is fiendishly difficult, so an optimal strategy would be to go for the “low hanging fruit” – in the context of the VM diagrams these would be those that have similarities to known diagrams (eg. the T-O maps) or diagrams that have labels (eg. the male genitals on f77v that have a label, possibly a word meaning “to gush out”). I still think there’s plenty more to be said on these topics.

      Thats said, I think this creature needs to be viewed in the context of the other figures on the page, and the adjacent pages, rather than in isolation. There seems to be medical or bodily organ theme to this section of the VM. It would be interesting to see if any of the proposed creatures (e.g. pangolins or its scales?) were used in the treatment of women’s medical problems – this would make sense if the purpose of this section is somehow related to women’s fertility/obstetrics (which has been proposed elsewhere).

      If its the creatures’ scales that are important – then it doesn’t really matter if its a pangolin or a dragon…I could easily imagine pangolin scales being known as dragon scales. A medieval apothecary probably would have been unaware of true origin of semi-mythical medical ingredients.

  10. Anton Alipov

    Isn’t this a griffin?

    • Anton Alipov

      Or a basilisk, maybe?

      • Julie

        The little Griffin is on 25v this is the armadillo I think, doesent look anything like the Griffin even a dead one.

        • Anton Alipov

          I agree that griffin is not the best match. Basilisk seems to be a better fit. I read the previous comments and note that MarcoP and Stephen also thought in that way. Basilisk is known to have been linked with the female essence by such authors as Paracelsus, which suggests that this was a widespread notion in middle ages. See e.g. “Promethean Ambitions: Alchemy and the Quest to Perfect Nature” by Newman, p. 202 onwards.

          25v is a perfect griffin neither. It looks like half-donkey.

  11. R. Sale

    Setting the animal identification issue aside, the claim is that a process of filtration is depicted and that the filter is represented by a black, meandering line. The line is a pattern found in the heraldic lines of division and known as a nebuly line. It has a certain bulbous quality in comparison to a wavy line. Very similar examples of nebuly lines are found in other illustrations in VMs Quire 13. These can’t all be representations of the same filtration process, can they?

    There are several sources of nebuly lines coming out of Paris, before and after 1400 CE: the Oresme illustration comparable to VMs f68v3, the Angers Tapestry, and the work of Christine de Pizan, in Harley 4431. But better than these is an illustration, potentially from Rouen and dated to 1412 CE, Walters Art Museum, W.300.

    Now there’s a cloud band you can stand on. And the VMs illustrations seem to employ the same motif for the same purpose, as I see it.

    • Stephen Bax

      R. Sale: You beat me to it – I was going to suggest, on reflection, that if we look at other pictures on the same page, such as the woman above the animal:


      and the woman on the top right:


      they look as if they are floating on some sort of cloud with rain issuing from beneath, which might undermine the filtration idea. I had noted the use of this same wavy line for clouds when inspired by a post by Ellie Velinska a while back:


      in which she shows an image from the Christine de Pizan Harley manuscript you cite. In other related manuscripts that wavy line is used clearly for clouds.

      If this interpretation is true it doesn’t help us to identify the animal, and instead raises another conundrum. Why should an animal, maybe dead, be positioned on a cloud with rain?

      • D.N. O'Donovan

        The “wavy line” discussion is a re-tread of one that has been around for … I don’t know, forty, fifty, sixty(?) years. It is a way of portraying the line between the domain of human beings that that of the divine. It’s almost yawn-stuff. Look up cloud-band pattern, or wolkenband (the term used in art history in the late-19th to mid-20thC) in any dictionary of art terms. It should be there.

        I believe – though I may be mistaken – that Richard Santacoloma deserves credit for first suggesting that this creature is an armadillo and someone else [name please, anyone?] for the pangolin suggestion. whether right or wrong.

        The habit of failing to credit original work by others is one peculiarity in Voynich studies which has serious effects: it is the reason why Voynich studies is less like the marathon race of normal scholarship than it is like an eternal Groundhog day.

        Can we move on?

        • Stephen Bax

          I think the clouds and essences might have obscured your view a bit here 🙂

          My introduction to this post did give credit to others for earlier discussions. However, my aim in reposting Jose’s comment was that he was not only discussing the animal, but making an interesting suggestion – new to me – about what it was doing there.

          To my mind it is very valuable to revisit earlier issues in exactly this way, so new people can join in and comment (which is surely what drives the research onwards). Isn’t this page fun, if nothing else? I myself have learned a lot.

          As for the clouds, again I feel you didn’t take full account of what I was saying. I’m pleased that others have also interpreted those wavy lines as possibly indicating clouds, but my key question was beyond that: what are they doing on that page beneath that animal?

          Finally, regarding ‘crediting others’ work’, of course everyone should do their best to research and then credit what others have said. But we also need to be realistic and relaxed: it is impossible to know what everyone has ever mused about the Voynich. Some insights will of course be repeated with no criminal intent.

          (By the way, it is definitely NOT a habit peculiar to Voynich studies. An eminent scholar in another field recently published ideas I gave in a presentation a few years ago, virtually word for word, without crediting me in any way. Not nice, but there is no use me complaining about it.)

          My philosophy on this – let’s allow full debate to flow, without being too squeamish if people are not experts or ‘insiders’. If established Voynich scholars see something which has been covered before, it is great if they join in and contribute, as you and Rich have done, as that helps the next generation of Voynich students to get up to speed.

      • MarcoP

        Hello Stephen, the cloud line cannot be interpreted as a filtration “device”, still I mostly agree with Jose, interpreting the illustration as the depiction of a chemical process (not necessarily filtering). In my opinion, the cloud line here corresponds to some kind of abstraction: it says that what we see should not be interpreted literally. The women are not women, but maybe essences, Or, quoting Taiz and Taiz (2011), “the nude females may serve as metaphors for the vital force, or vegetative souls, of the plant” or the pangolin? 🙂 The cloud could also have an additional meaning, e.g. “volatility”. If this is the case, the upper volatile element condensates to liquid going down through the process.

        Here is a cloud line used to highlight a “metaphor” (from the book I already mentioned: Leonhard Thurneisser’s “Quinta Essentia”, 1574). The man represents the way the four elements/humors combine in the body of man: the subject is an abstract concept, not an actual man. Here the cloud line surrounds a man representing sulfuric acid.
        Note that the human figures hold symbolic objects (attributes) that should help understand their meaning (as, likely, the rings and other objects held by the Voynich nymphs).

        In this other example (Glasgow University Library, MS Ferguson 6, XVII Century), the cloud line tells us that the three children inside it are not children. The labels below and near the cloud suggest that the three represent (al)chemical elements and/or components of the human being (spirit, soul and body).

        A similar image from manuscript Harley 2407 (XV century).

        Of course, the relevance of alchemy to the Voynich manuscript has been suggested many times, including Baresch’s 1637 letter and D’Imperio’s 1978 essay.

        Coming back to the Voynich page, the top left nymph in f80v holds an object that, in my opinion, is comparable with a stylized poppy-pod, with the row of black dots representing seeds or drops of latex (see attached image). One of the paragraph-starting words in f80v (EVA:polshol) matches the first word in f90r1 (EVA:poleeol), which some think could represent opium poppy (see also the overall occurrences of EVA:pol*ol and EVA:olol*pash*ash, ashash). In some Eastern languages opium is named something like “hashhash” (Turkish) and “kaskas, khashkhash” (Hindi), as pointed out by Derek about 06v.

        The Quinta Essentia engraving I previously linked features a jar of Laudanum (tincture of opium) in the foreground. The name Laudanum was invented by the XVI Century Swiss-German alchemist and physician Paracelsus (of whose works Thurneysser was a student).

        So page f90r could be an alchemical allegory representing the preparation of a medical compound based on opium and pangolin skin, or Dragon’s blood, or something else symbolically represented by a dragon or a basilisk. It might also be about Theriac, which in some recipes included both opium and viper meat. Philip Ball writes that Laudanum sounds like the Paracelsians’ own version of the fabulous theriac.

        Theriac has been connected to the Voynich manuscript by people including Kennedy and Rob Churchill (2006), Anita and Maurice Israel (Feb 18 2013), Thomas Spandle, Diane and others commenting on Nick’s blog (Dec 2013) and Diane again, 2015 (links here).

        In conclusion, I don’t know if poppies, pangolins, basilisks or dragons are represented on f80v, but I think it very likely that what is discussed here is some kind of chemical process. One of the interesting points would be to find relevant words. “Pangolin” in various languages is of course a candidate. But if the beast is an allegorical dragon or basilisk, likely the text will mention the intended element, not the symbolic animal.

  12. Little skill is required to draw an armadillo that leaves no doubt of what is intended. There was an ephemeral webpage of twenty or so armadillo drawings by children that were unmistakably identifiable as armadillos. Considering the poor quality of drawings in the Vms (on purpose or not) and that the artist may have drawn the animal from 3rd hand information or that he might have drawn it from his imagination, any identification is speculative. The animal in the drawing is one-third neck, whereas armadillos have no visible neck. The drawing has a bushy tail. Armadillos do not. Armadillos have prominent claws. The drawing does not. We are left with an arched back, pointed nose and pointed snout, and fill-in curves that might represent wool or scales or nothing in particular. You may have read elsewhere that someone said an armadillo could have floated to Europe. That is not true. It was reported that two American aborigines washed up on an island off the mainland. Then it was remarked that armadillos do not float well. Some things look like other things as you can see on some alternative “history” sites. I think there is nothing in the VMs drawings that connects it to anything in America beyond fantasy. The one in question does somewhat resemble a drawing of the golden fleece. We don’t know and we cannot know what the artist had in mind. It’s a blind alley. Anyway, here is a depiction of another animal, suggested by others (the idea scoffed) just for the record.


    • D.N. O'Donovan

      “armadillos do not float well” – oh, thank you Knox! Best moment of my day so far.

  13. Linda Snider

    The pangolin idea is interesting, but to me it looks less likely than the armadillo which I also did not see in the diagram, I saw more of a sheep or its fleece, and I believe its stance is to reflect the physical attributes of Switzerland. The way I saw it, I figured some connections could be to Jason and the Argonauts as they were evidently travelling in that area, or it could be to denote the mountainous regions of Switzerland, which provides the water that drains into the Italian lakes to the south, (one of the blue marks looks like one of the Italian lakes, upside down Y) or perhaps there is a connection with the Order of the Golden Fleece (and thus also with the eastern areas of the Black Sea where the Argonauts evidently procured the fleece) which was founded around the time of the manuscript’s carbon dating. The reasoning behind this was also that the nymph standing below, the “funnel” she stands on, and the lake it drains into, can also be seen as representing geographic points of interest.

    • Stephen Bax

      How does that fit with the rest of the page as a whole?

      • Linda Snider

        Hi Stephen, Thanks for asking. I believe this page is about how fresh water moves from the Swiss Alps toward Italy to the south and Germany to the north. Clockwise from top left: Lake Molveno pointing at Lake Levico/Lake Caldonazzo, pointing to Lake Constance (diagram version) on one side, and Lakes Ledro (two nymphs), Idro, and Iseo all in a row on the other (real versions). Iseo is backwards, if you mirror the diagram you can see the likeness with the lake. Note also she is mid page at the bottom as well, as she is in the area depicted. If you mirror the line from that point, it brings you to Lakes Como, Laguna, & Maggiore (three nymphs). Next nymph represents the Bogna River and the various springs found in the area (that is what I believe the “barrels” represent here and elsewhere in the quire, water that runs underground and back up again). This river flows back into Lake Maggiore, which is also represented as the part of the lake that is located in Switzerland above her (under the funnel re the next nymph). The funnel and the nymph itself can be seen in the mountainous ridges/rivers coming up from this point. The ring is a ring of trees nestled in the rocks. The ridge with the ring points at the source of the Rhine river which marks the route to Lake Constance. The Rhine river is also depicted in conjunction with the Lake Constance nymph, the waterfall that comes down from it in the diagram, which doubles as depicting some of the mountain runoff near Lake Ledro. The sheep figure then represents the rest of Switzerland, and denotes the fact that all the lakes on this page obtain their fresh water from the Swiss Alps (and originally from the sky, denoted by the heavenly wavy lines). The heavenly lines also seem to me to depict that a myth is related to the area, and that is why I think there may be a connection with Jason and the Argonauts, or some other journey myth perhaps. It seems interesting that the Council of Constance was held 1414 to 1418, contemporary with the manuscript, perhaps this was to help people get there or a description after the fact. Lake Garda is outside the boundaries shown on this page but also gets water from the Alps as explained on the previous page. Molveno is also shown on the previous page.

        Let me know what you think.




        Not all of the detail is included re the nymphs, just the bodies of water they represent. Working on further detail in next paper.

        • Linda Snider

          I note that the pangolin does look “gold-ish”, perhaps it was used as a basis for creating a golden fleece of sorts, I do see the similarity of the scales, if not the rest of the animal. Perhaps it also speaks to armour. I’m still of the mind that there is room for multiple interpretation in the Voynich, it still seems to me it reveals itself in layers. However I don’t see how the pangolin essence idea would relate to the rest of the page. What would the woman with the ring be doing and why would the essence continue down past her into other things? What’s going on over on the other side of the page if it is a pangolin essence ritual? Does it speak of a water treatment system? If the area below the funnel is not Lake Maggiore, then what is it? I guess I’m looking for feedback as to whether my explanation is considered to hold water (so to speak) and if not, why, so that there can be discussion. BTW I don’t see anything wrong with discussing things that have been said before, you never know when someone has not had occasion to think about it, or even hear about it, and/or it may spark new thoughts on the matter. I certainly do not recall in-depth discussion on the topic of the identifications I’ve noted, so any comments are appreciated.

          • Linda Snider

            Further thoughts:

            1. Pangolin scale shapes resemble some 14th century mountains on maps quite closely. Perhaps this was a bit of an inside joke? I noticed a similar situation in one of the other pages that I identified as showing lakes in Africa the way many Ptolemy maps do, and in the use of Beatus-style mountains in most of the VMS. I think it’s to point out that things aren’t exactly drawn to scale or shape on many maps of the past, but that in the end you can correlate old maps with newer ones by knowing what the various abstract items were supposed to show. In fact I think the Rosette page in particular shows a history of cartography, whereas quire 13 shows a history of hydrography, as I see various water level references in it.



            2. There may be a larger geographical area denoted, and/or both the Switzerland connection and the entire Alps are shown by the same diagram, or at least insofar as they affect Italy, with regard to the sheep shape. I had the same thing happen on the previous page, what I thought was going to be about Lake Garda developed into the greater surrounding area and then into the entire Alps as well, again describing flood zones and flow directions.

            The larger version has Avignon at the tip of the tail and Lake Garda in between the chin and the foreleg. There is a semicircle in the tail of the diagram that can be seen as a geographical feature to the east of Avignon (no snow there though) which works well with the rear right foot being located near Nice. It still looks sheepish to me especially with the glaciers and snow in place.


            This photo without the snow shows something that more resembles a pangolin, and includes all the Alps, perhaps we are supposed to infer this version from the fact that the head is curled beyond normal. (I find there are usually at least three versions when there is more than one interpretation, but all will be related, showing larger and larger areas and explaining in more detail how these areas are affected, at least that is how it worked with Lake Garda, and in some other instances as well). Here the head of the pangolin is stretched out, not curled:



            3. I’m thinking that the VMS is a book about recovering after a disaster such as a flood, describing how it has happened before, and will likely happen again, preparing us in the way of food, medicine and other uses of plants, many of which seem to grow almost anywhere, in various areas all over the world. I am surprised how many I seem to recognize from my backyard even though I’m in North America. In some cases they are similar species, in most cases they have been brought over either on purpose due to their usefulness, or by accident due to their ubiquity. In either case it’s good information to know if all the food producers should all of a sudden disappear, and it all seems very timely to our current global warming situation.



  14. MarcoP

    Thank you for the new page, Stephen!

    The pangolin hypothesis is very interesting, in particular considering the Hindu elements that are being considered in the analysis of the language.

    I want to point out a parallel between the f80v illustration and a couple of alchemical allegories (Ripley Scroll, copied from a XV Century original, and Quinta Essentia by Leonhard Thurneysser 1574). In these examples, the animal is a dragon.

    • Stephen Bax

      Fascinating pictures! To my ignorant eye they certainly seem to support Jose’s idea that the image represents an animal being used for essence extraction.

  15. Hi Stephen: Thanks for the mention. I don’t feel Pangolin is a good match, because they have a very thick tail, which is almost an extension of the body for a bit. And the pangolin’s legs are much thicker, too. Also, on the Voynich illustration, there seems to be an ear tucked back, much like an armadillo’s ear looks on curling. Pangolins do not have such ears at all.

    Some have pointed out the lack of “bands” on the Voynich illustration, but not all Armadillos have prominent bands… and in any case, that level of detail is below the obvious problems of the pangolin’s legs, tail and (lack of) ears. Here is a collection of armadillos, and early illustrations of them, which I put together:

    All the best to you… Rich.

    • Stephen Bax

      Rich, wow that was quick… I have only just clicked the ‘publish button’!

      Thanks for the detailed discussion, and the link to your page with wonderful illustrations – I hadn’t seen it before.

      I like the idea you cite that “the f80v animal looks too much like an armadillo to be one”! In other words, the VM has usually tried much much harder to confuse us.

      • Stephen Bax

        On this blog is a detail, with illustrations, from a Latin manuscript dated 1605 and another dated 1658, which discuss the pangolin. The 1658 manuscript is translated as saying:

        “The head and the snout is not swinish, as it is in the Armadillo [Armadilho], but narrower and pointier in the manner of a mole, more suited to overturning soil.”

        Or how about a basilisk?


      • Hi Stephen:

        “I like the idea you cite that “the f80v animal looks too much like an armadillo to be one”! In other words, the VM has usually tried much much harder to confuse us.”

        This argument is not one I agree with, but which is often used to counter uncomfortable comparisons by critics of those comparisons. That is, sometimes I will hear two counter-arguments at the same time, (sometimes, even, from the same person), “It looks nothing like what you say it does, but if it does, then it is not that, because the artist would not have made it that good”.

        The case of the f80v animal was one instance of this… I have had people tell me both that it can’t be an armadillo because it looks nothing like one; and conversely, others tell me it can’t be an armadillo because it looks just like one!

        I can cite a dozen similar examples, at least, in which I have encountered this situation.

    • JLS

      If the Voynich manuscript had perfectly detailed pictures of all animals and plants we would’ve figured out what is what already. It is indeed a fascinating mystery. These are stylized natural creatures, and the only animal that matches the drawing in this world, visually and with regard to mysticism, is the pangolin. The armadillo could’ve arrived by the 1600s, but doubt it would’ve been as popular as the pangolin – which scales were used in suits for battle, etc. Also, the armadillo carries the leprosy disease… and people in the old world would have not had enough time to experiment with the armadillo’s ‘therapeutic properties’… About the pangolin….The “ear tucked back” isn’t an ear, but the scales pointing out as the head of the pangolin is bent downwards. After dead animal’s body has stiffened, pushing the head downwards could have created that seeming crest which may be confused with ‘ears’ – armadillos ears are rounded and its scales are not nearly as pronounced as with the pangolin. There are 8 species of pangolins we know of on our beautiful planet. The drawing could’ve very well been from one of these 8 species – picture below. Also, Armadillos have straight claws, where in the picture we see the artist drew the claws as rounded, and pangolins have rounded claws.

      • Stephen Bax

        More on pangolins:

        A fascinating and authoritative account of creatures new to Europe in the 16th century can be found here. It is titled “Sources and Background to Discoveries of New Animals in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries” by W. George, W. (History of Science, Vol. 18, p. 79-1O4) and on pages 97-8 has a wonderful discussion of the pangolin – note the dates:

        At the end of the sixteenth century, Jan Huygen Linschoten described a pangolin in his ltinerario [1596]. The Dutchman had spent several years in Goa, and knew the animals of the region. Linschoten’s pangolin was alive:

        “It was in bignes as great as a middle-sized Dogge with a snout like a hoggc, small eies, no eares, but two holes where his eares should be ..The whole body, head taile and legs covered with scales of a thumb breadth, harder than iron or Steele,..”

        According to de L’Ecluse, a Leyden apothecary had a pangolin skin in 1604, and there is a drawing of the skin in Exotikorum. Pangolins had already been drawn on maps. The first was on the Descelliers [sic] 1546 world map…. Whether the Lamia of classical literature and of Gesncr’s Historia animalium [1551] should be considered as a scaly anteater, or pangolin, is impossible to decide. Gcsner’s illustration could have been constructed from a pangolin skin but as he makes no reference to a specimen it seems unlikely.

        This suggests that the pangolin came to ‘European attention’ in the 16th century.

        However, the possibility remains that it was known to the authors of the Voynich manuscript from further east? if in fact this is a pangolin at all…

        By the way, that same source (W. George) (here) has a wonderful discussion of animals and plants from the Americas, including the armadillo.

        • Darren Worley

          The Roman writer, Claudius Aelianus, AKA Aelian (c. 175 – c. 235 CE) wrote about the scaly anteater (or pangolin), so these creatures were known about in Europe well before the Middle Ages.

          There is an Indian myth concerning “gold-digging ants” that is thought to be describing the pangolin (or possibly the marmot). The Greek writer, Herodotus (c. 484–425 BCE), also seems to know of this myth and repeats a story about “desert ants”.

          Quote: A translation from the Sanskrit has also been discovered in the peculiar story of the gold-digging ants. The gold collected in Tibet or East Turkestan was commonly known as “pipilika” signifying “ant-gold”.
          This name was probably due to the shape of the gold-dust brought to light not by ants, but by marmots or pangolins while they were excavating their holes.

          Ref: Marvels of the East by Rudolf Wittkower. Journal of the Warburg Institute. 1942.

          A fuller explanation and a more modern reference is : Animals in the Ancient World from A to Z By Kenneth F. Kitchell Jr. p97 on Indian Ants. here

          Perhaps the “essence” being shown extracted from the pangolin might be gold, rather than a medicinal extract?

      • Hi JLS:

        “The armadillo could’ve arrived by the 1600s, but doubt it would’ve been as popular as the pangolin…”.

        Well I don’t know on a sliding scale of popularity, but many New World animals and plants were of great fascination to Europeans, including the armadillo. The armadillo was not only written about, and illustrated by 1530 at least, but ended up as a display in Kunstkammers of the wealthy and curious. The same with the clothing, language, tools and descriptions of Native Americans.


        I feel the f80v animal, as armadillo, fits perfectly into this context: Of course you realize the (disputed) O’Neill identifications of the American sunflower, and pepper, from long ago? The sunflower also captured Europe’s attention, and also ended up in Kunstkammers, and gardens throughout the continent. The first known painting of one only appears in the early 17th century Stalbempt painting of a Kunstkammer, in the Prado (although believed added by Bruegals to the painting).

        Much of the content of the Voynich mimics very well (in my opinion, in my hypothesis) what a book of knowledge would have looked like, written in the Court of Rudolf II, by a member of that Court: New World animals and plants; grafted green plants of unknown origin; optical devices; utopian geography and architecture; unique experimental “sciences” and medicines, such as anatomy, tinctured baths, and more. And of course the name of Rudolf’s head of botanical gardens, and personal physician, appears on f1r.

        But I don’t believe this is really old, but made about 1908/1910, to look as though it was old. Of course I don’t want to completely pirate Mr. Bax’s thread with my own ideas, but this animal figures centrally to them, so I have further elaborated.

        Besides, you and I would still share a “dog house” in the Voynich field, because as Stephen also rightly points out, even your pangolin did not really come to the attention of Europeans until the 16th century… which means it is still far “too new” for the majority of Voynicharios.

        All the best, Rich.

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