f72r2 Zodiac and Gemini page – Darren Worley & Marco Ponzi

at.This paper was written by Darren Worley and Marco Ponzi. Many thanks to them again for their interesting work.



This short paper follows-up on our earlier jointly-written post that described examples of the Sagittarius Crossbowman (cf. the example in the Voynich manuscript; f72v2). In this paper we review various 15th-century examples of the Zodiac sign of Gemini that are depicted as clothed, clutching or embracing male-and-female figures (cf. the Voynich manuscript, f72r2).

Below is a image showing VM f72r2 in full, together with the VM Gemini twins in detail.



We begin by reviewing the iconographic history of the Gemini sign –


Greek and Roman sources describe Gemini as a couple of Embracing males:


* Hyginus, Astronomica II,22:

“These stars many astronomers have called Castor and Pollux. They say that of all brothers they were the most affectionate, not striving in rivalry for the leadership, nor acting without previous consultation. As a reward for their services of friendship, Jupiter is thought to have put them in the sky as well-known stars. Neptune, with like intention, has rewarded them for he gave them horses to ride, and power to aid shipwrecked men.

Others have called them Hercules and Apollo; some, even Triptolemus, whom we mentioned before, and Iasion, beloved of Ceres – both carried to the stars”.

* Savage-Smith (“Islamicate globes”) writes:

“The twins were described in Greek literature as one having his arms around the other”

* Allen (“Star Names: Their Lore and Meaning”) quotes Manilius: “The Twins were placed in the sky by Jove, in reward for their brotherly love so strongly manifested while on earth, as in the verses of Manilius:

Tender Gemini in strict embrace

Stand clos’d and smiling in each other’s Face;”

In the Roman Phanes relief currently in Modena (2nd Century AD), one of the twins hold a lyre. So he is likely to be identified with Apollo and (on the basis of Hyginus) the other one could be Hercules.

Colum Hourihane (“Time in the Medieval World: Occupations of the Months and Signs of the Zodiac in the Index of Christian Art”) describes the different variants of the European iconography during the middle ages.

* Colum Hourihane: “Gemini is always represented by the twins, for the month of May (modern horoscopes align it to May 21 – June 20). The two figures can be shown full-length or as busts and are usually in a landscape. They can both be male or female or one of either sex. They can be fully clothed or nude. They can also appear in the guise of lovers and are sometimes shown touching each other on the breast or the face. They are particularly reminiscent of Adam and Eve when they are shown in a garden surrounded by foliage, and he may hold an apple in his hand towards her. In one example their modesty is covered by a large fig leaf (Morgan Library, M.264 fol 5r). Often related to the twins Castor and Pollux, it is clear that some examples are directly based on male twins. Some examples show them as not quite nude – as when they have a piece of transparent gauze over their middle (Morgan Library, M.262 fol 5r). They are frequently shown as two conjoined figures with one set of legs and one trunk but two heads (Morgan Library, M.700 fol 6r, M.64 fol 5v). In a number of other cases their middles are covered by a heraldic shield (Morgan Library M.283 fol 3v, M.440 fol 3r)”.


Angélique Ferrand https://cem.revues.org/13937#text (“Le zodiaque dans la décoration ecclésiale médiévale”) traces some elements of the evolution of these images (she is discussing <a href=https://cem.revues.org/docannexe/image/13937/img-11.jpg>a XII Century capital</a> in the Church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine Vézelay, our translation):

“On the right side of this capital , Gemini are incarnated by Adam and Eve. Traditionally represented by two naked male figures and the like, kissing or holding hands, Gemini sometimes take the appearance the original couple – [Footnote 76:] from the thirteenth century, Gemini is becomes the pretext for a scene of courteous love, as a positive replacement of the original couple. This is the case at <a href=https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Zodiaque_Amiens_03.jpg>Notre Dame in Amiens</a>, on the foundations of Saint-Firmin portal (circa 1220-1230), or even at <a href=https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Right_portal_of_the_western_facade_of_Notre-Dame_de_Strasbourg#/media/File:Zodiaque_05_Gemeaux.jpg>Notre Dame in Strasbourg</a>, on the foundations of the statues of the south portal of the western façade (1280). “


 “Les Gémeaux seraient quant à eux incarnés sur le côté droit de ce chapiteau par Adam et Ève. Traditionnellement figurés par deux figures masculines nues et similaires, s’embrassant ou se tenant par la main, les Gémeaux en viennent parfois à prendre l’apparence du couple originel. – Footnote 76:  À partir du XIIIe siècle, les Gémeaux sont de plus en plus le prétexte d’une scène d’amour courtois, comme une réactualisation positive du couple originel. C’est le cas à Notre-Dame d’Amiens, sur les soubassements du portail Saint-Firmin (vers 1220-1230), ou bien encore à Notre-Dame de Strasbourg, sur les soubassements des piédroits du portail sud de la façade occidentale (vers 1280)”.

The identification of Gemini with Adam and Eve is made explicit by Bede (De Temporum Ratione, 16):


Gemini, Adam and Eve, because in paradise they were made from a single body.

Gemini, Adam et Eva, quod uno corpore facti sunt in paradiso.

On the basis of what Ferrand writes, a hypothetical evolution could be:

* in Greek-Roman iconography, a couple of embracing males (male-male)

* transformed into Adam and Eve in the Christian context of Romanesque cathedrals (male-female, naked)

* in the 13th C, transformed into a scene of courtly love: the typology we see in the Voynich ms (male-female, dressed)

In Indian astrology, Gemini are called “Mithuna” (the Lovers). “Astrology and Religion in Indian Art” by Swami Sivapriyananda provides a 1790 AD example of the Indian iconography. It is not clear if images like this were also produced in earlier periods and in other countries (e.g. Persia).


In this Ottoman Turkish example (Walters ms W.659, 1717), the sign of Gemini is represented by two identical crowned figures embracing each other. The manuscript is a version of the XIII Century Persian work ‘Aja’ib al-makhluqat (Wonders of Creation) by Zakariya al-Qazwini.



In the next section we review other 15th-century examples we’ve found –


  • MS Ludwig XII 8 (1464) [found by Marco Ponzi]



This astrological manuscript is written in German and was created in Ulm, Southern Germany shortly after 1464.


There are many similarities of this image with the VM Gemini sign, for example, both figures are fully clothed, they are both clasping hands, both are standing in a similar posture and are depicted within a circle. However the figures have been cropped and the man appears on the right (not the left, as in the VM).


2) Österreichische Nationalbibliothek ; cod. 1842 Brevier (Horae canonicae in Polonia Scriptae) (1395-1405) [found by Marco Ponzi]



We have been unable to find detailed information about this manuscript. From the title, it apparently is a Book of Hours written in Latin and it was produced in Poland.

This image is also relevant because the same series presents a Crossbow Sagittarius. Until now, this is the only case in which the two typologies (Gemini as Lovers and Sagittarius as a Crossbowman) appear in a single source.


3) Getty Ms. 34, fol. 3 (1389 and 1404) [found by Marco Ponzi]



A Latin Book of Hours, written in Bologna between 1389 and 1404. This couple of fully dressed, embracing Gemini, testifies that this iconography was in used in Italy too.


4) Lund Astronomical Clock, Lund, Sweden (c1380 or 1424) [reported by Darren Worley]



Lund Astronomical Clock or Horologium mirabile Lundense, was made around 1424 probably by the clockmaker Nicolaus Lilienveld in Rostock.

There are some similarities of the Gemini figures found here with the VM Gemini: both figures are fully clothed and the man appears on the left, however, the posture of the Gemini figures is different, but I would put this down to the constraint of being painted around a clock dial.

The Rostock Astronomical Clock also contains clothed, clasping Gemini figures. It was built in 1472 by Hans Düringer, a clockmaker from Nuremberg.


5) Heidelberg Cod. Pal. Germ. 7 (15th-century) [found by Darren Worley]



This image is taken from Heidelberg Cod. Pal. germ. 7, (12v) a 15th-century manuscript from Bayern [Bavaria] (Southern Germany) that is written in German.


Heidelberg Cod. Pal. Germ. 7 is a “lot book” (Wahrsagebuch or Divination Book), a simple and popular form of divination whose only link with astrology is the frequent and arbitrary use of astrological terms and imagery.


There are some similarities with the VM, for example, the man appears on the left, both figures are fully clothed, but they are clasping too closely and do not appear within concentric circles.


6) Heidelberg MS Pal.Germ. 832 (Heidelberger Schicksalsbuch) (1491) [found by Darren Worley]



There’s no mistaking the sex of the twins in this example which appears on page f93v in the famous Heidelberg MS Pal.Germ. 832 (Heidelberger Schicksalsbuch). It was written in Regensburg, Bavaria in 1491.

This manuscript comprises of a collection of various calendar, geomancy and astrological texts.

The section containing this image (Fol.92v-98r) is described as “An Illustrated Treatise on the twelve zodiac signs” (Vgl. Hyginus deutsch, Erhard Ratdolt, Augsburg 1491; Vgl.Regiomontanus: Calendarium deutsch, Erhard Ratdolt, Augsburg 1489). On the previous page Taurus is depicted and Cancer follows.

Although the man appears on the left and the female twin, on the right, is wearing draped fabrics these are about the only similarities with the VM.


7) Pal. Lat. 1369 (1444) [found by Darren Worley]



We consider this be the best Gemini example found to date. It appears in Pal. Lat.1369 (f147) a manuscript of Southern German origin comprising of many other Latin texts and this one German text. The manuscript is dated to 1444 and is currently found in the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.


The similarities include:


  • Similar body shape of the male-twin figures (narrow or no hips!)
  • Men on the left and women on the right
  • Similar standing posture of both male and female figures
  • Similar smock(?) with pleats and scalloped-hem worn by the male twin-figures
  • Similar long-sleeves of the smocks(?) worn by the male twin-figures
  • Similar facial expression of the female-twin figures
  • Similar draped dress worn by the the female-twin figures
  • Similar billowy sleeves on the dresses worn by the female-twin figures
  • Both male and female figures have blushed cheeks
  • Both pairs of figures appear within two concentric circles containing text


Perhaps these two Gemini images have been copied from a common earlier source, or represent the work of the same (inexperienced) artist some years apart? The Pal. Lat.1369 figures appears have better proportioned arms and legs and more skillfully drawn feet.


Other images from this section of the manuscript can be found here.

The manuscript description on the Warburg Iconographic database is incomplete (it merely says it’s a Latin translation of al-Sufi), however, a better description of its contents can be found here.

Pal. Lat.1369 contains various translated Latin texts of Arab origin (e.g. texts by Albumasar an eighth-century astrologer-astronomer and Islamic philosopher, and another by the eighth-century Persian Jewish astrologer-astronomer from Basra, Messahala or Mashallah) as well as passages from the Sabian astronomer-astrologer Thabit ibn Qurra, the astronomer Ptolomy and medieval European authors (Richardus de Wallingford, Johannes de Gmunden) amongst others.

The section (f144v-147f), containing the Gemini image, is titled “Planetenbilder mit deutschen Texten” (Planet pictures with German verses) and contains human representations of the seven planets together with verses from an astrological poem. The verses appear to be describing the different virtues and attributes of the “children of the planets” born under each of the seven planet’s’ influence.

This would appear to be a common theme in German Renaissance popular culture. For example, there is a Renaissance “Painted House” (Sgraffitohaus) in Eggenburg, Austria that features similar astrological and planet related rhymes. It can be seen here.

An interesting article about the Children of the Planets was earlier posted on these pages (by Marco). It seems plausible that the VM Zodiac may be related to this popular German Renaissance “children of the planets” astrological motif.

Perhaps unexpectedly, the page depicting this Gemini twins (f147v) contains two depictions of Virgo, in this case, the duplication is systematic and can be explained in Astrological terms: for each planet, the two Domiciles are represented at the two sides of the planet. On the right, below one of the domiciles, the exaltation sign appears. Below the Exaltation, the Fall sign appears.

Eg: http://warburg.sas.ac.uk/vpc/VPC_search/pdf_frame.php?image=00005070


Domiciles: Sagittarius and Pisces

Exaltation: Cancer

Fall: Capricorn

Another copy of the same astrological verses appears in BSB München, Cgm 595, 36r-39r which is dated to 1436-37, suggesting that the poem pre-dates its appearance in Pal.Lat.1369 dated 1444.

A description of the contents of München, Cgm 595 can be read here and here.

Darren Worley & Marco Ponzi



  1. Hi Dr Bax , I send you my theory on the codex Voynich, seems to be the description in this image of annular eclipse of April 15, 1409. My theory was published in Mexico.

    • Darren Worley

      Hi – some interesting ideas presented here. The link reads like a newpaper article, have you documented your ideas in more detail? Could you provide a link?

      According to wikipedia, here there was an eclipse when you suggested. It appears to have been centred on the mid North Atlantic Ocean. Do you know where the eclipse moved across the Earth’s surface? Where on-land was it visible from? Do you know if there were any documented reports of this eclipse when it happened – if so I’d be interested to know.

  2. They’re not grazing, but I wanted to share a link to this Aries roundel on f26v of the book of Astromagia, Reg.lat.1283.pt.A. I know this book has already been pointed out by MarcoP and ReneZ, so the following stuff may not really be news.

    The text describing this roundel can be found on the previous page, 26r. It is an “image of Aries” to be made as an amulet. The double Aries image is to be made on lead, and the whole process is detailed down to the hours at which to make each part of the body of each ram.
    The text on the page where the double Aries roundel is located describes another amulet, or the way to make “images of Taurus” on iron, and again the image is that of two animals, with the second one described as “mayor”. There is no illustration of the Taurus amulet. These two signs are the only ones for which amulet descriptions are given in this section, and special attention is given to Mars in the next roundel.
    This raises the possibility that the Voynich double Aries and Taurus feature, although it could be explained by space and effort considerations as suggested by Darren Worley, could also possibly find roots in such amulets as those described in the book of Astromagia.

    • Sorry I meant to post this as a comment to the Zodiac as a pictorial cycle article!

    • MarcoP

      Thank you, VViews! The Aries amulet is very interesting indeed.

      I wanted to mention that the possible relevance of Alfonsine astrological works for the Voynich ms was originally proposed by Erwin Panofsky. See Rene’s site for more details:

      Prof. Dieter Blume … pointed to the probable relevance of the MSs of Alfonso el Sabio, as also Erwin Panofsky had already done.

      “In spring 1931 [Panofsky] came to New York and Miss Belle Greene of the Morgan Library showed him a photostat of one of the zodiac pages of the Roger Bacon cipher MS. He at once recognised it as bearing a close resemblance to one page in a MS made in Spain for Alfonso the Wise, and asked to see the other pages.”

      In her summary of Panofsky’s first impressions about the Voynich ms, Ethel Voynich wrote that he thought it was “entirely unlike any MS known to him” “except for one page partly taken from Alfonso’s MS”.

      BTW, you accidentally linked the Cancer page from the ms (f3v). I attach the f26v detail you discuss.

  3. Just thought I’d share that Pal.Lat 1369 has recently been properly digitized. Always nicer than the b&w Warburg scans 🙂


    It’s the one where Darren found the interesting Gemini figures. The following pages are worth a look as well, if only for some very peculiar depictions of the constellations and all-round androgyny like in the VM 🙂

    • Darren Worley

      Hi Koen – thank you for alerting others to this addition. Its interesting to see the original colouring of the illustrations.

    • Darren Worley

      The MS.Pal.Lat.1369 contents describes pages 148r-151v as “The 48 Constellations of Ptolemy”, however, I noticed that the order and sequence of the constellations depicted differs slightly from the order as they appear in the Almagest, namely 21 north of the zodiac, the 12 constellations of the zodiac, and 15 south of the zodiac.

      The names of some of the constellations are also quite unusual. I thought this worth mentioning, as we might reasonably expect the astronomical section of the VM to omit certain constellations or perhaps follow some of the unusual namings.

      I’ve used Fritz Saxl’s 1915 book (Verzeichnis astrologischer und mythologischer illustrierter Handschriften des lateinischen Mittelalters) to help compile this list. The exclamations I’ve retained from the book, presumably this indicates an unexpected spelling. Marco recently posted a link to an online PDF version of this book.

      5th) Artrophylax(!) [Arctophylax / Bootes]
      1st) Ursa minor
      2nd) Ursa maior
      3rd) Draco

      7th) Hercules
      6th) Corona septentrionalis
      8th) Wltur cadens [NOT LYRA AS EXPECTED]
      4th) Zophus (i. e. Cepheus)
      9th) Lyra [NOT CYGNUS AS EXPECTED]
      10th) Orissiopia (i. e. Cassiopeia).

      19 Andromeda
      11 Perseus
      13 Auriga
      14 Serpentarius
      16 Sagita uel thelus.

      15 Aquila
      17 Delphinus
      20 Triangulus
      21 Aries
      18 Equius (!) secundus sine (!) Pegasus
      22 Tharus (!)
      23 gemini.

      24 Cancer
      25 Leo
      26 virgo
      27 Libaa (!)

      28 Scorpio
      29 Sagitarus(!)
      30 Capricarus(!)
      31 Aquarius.

      32 pissces(!)
      35 Fluuius Ordanus (i. e. Eridanus)
      33 Pistrix lupus vel.agrius
      34 Orion
      36 Lepus
      37 Canis maior
      38 Canis minor.

      42 Centurius cum hostia (i.e. centaurus cum hasta)
      43 lupus sine (?) agnum (?)
      41 Corwus
      40 Crater uel vas
      39 ydrie serpentes
      45 Corona meridionalis
      44 Aaltare(!) ara
      47 Nauis Argo
      48 piscis meridionalis

      • MarcoP

        Hello Darren,
        I have seen that Saxl book had been linked by Rene a while ago in a comment here.
        Thank you for sharing these interesting constellation names! In my opinion, the best candidate set to match constellation names in the Voynich ms are the two star maps f68r1/r2, since the total number of named stars (53) is rather close to those of the Ptolemaic lists like the one you present. Of course, when trying to match Voynich labels with Latin names there are several problems. The most apparent is that (as discussed by Stephen here) the prefix EVA:ot- is exceedingly frequent. It occurs in 14 of the 53 labels. Nothing similar can be observed in Latin constellation names. For instance, in MS.Pal.Lat.1369, the most frequent couple of initial letters is ca-, that occurs only four times (“canis maior”, “canis minor”, “cancer”, “capricornus”). It is also noteworthy that Latin constellation names are typically longer and often (more than 10, in this case) are made of two words, while only one of the Voynich f68r1/2 star labels seems to be made of two words.
        I think that an analysis of constellation names in different sources and different languages could certainly be an interesting exercise.

  4. MarcoP

    A historiated initial “D” in Walters Ms. W.171 f12r contains dressed Gemini “lovers” and a curious Scorpio in the shape of a green amphibian.

  5. I’ve been looking through Aratus manuscripts a lot lately, since they are based on original Roman imagery, which I think some parts of the VM are as well. What do you guys think about this one? It’s from a 15thC Revised Aratus Latinus, “French or Italian”, BAV Reg lat 1324, fol. 23v. It’s a detail from a planisphere so I mirrored it for proper comparison.

    It’s the best match for the pose I’ve seen so far – almost as if they were drawn from similar exemplars 🙂

    • MarcoP

      Thank you, Koen! Great image!

      In case others are curious to seen the whole page, I attach an image I got from kristenlippincott.com.

    • Darren Worley

      Koen – thanks for reporting this great find. I notice it also has the cross-hatching that other researchers have commented upon.

      This image, together with the Gemini twins found in Pal. Lat. 1369, seem to be good exemplars for the VM Gemini. It would be useful to find out more about the origins of this manuscript. Were these two physical manuscripts ever held togther?

      Lastly, I find it curious that both images have been found in the Warburg collection.

    • MarcoP

      This is certainly not as relevant as the astrological parallel pointed out by Koen, but browsing through D’Imperio’s “An Elegant Enigma” I noticed this alchemical image with crossed-arms from Theatrum chemicum britannicum (1652).

    • Darren Worley

      I’ve found another example of the Gemini twins with interlocking, crossed arms.

      It appears in a 16th-century German astrological/astronomical manuscript, and it can be viewed here.

      Astrologisch-astronomische Sammelhandschrift (Cod. Guelf. 8.7 Aug. 4°; Heinemann-Nr. 2973) — Signaturdokument
      Handschriftentitel: Astrologisch-astronomische Sammelhandschrift.
      Entstehungszeit: 16. Jh.

      It’s noteworthy that unusual features found in the VM Gemini image can also be found in other contemporary manuscripts.

      Cod. Guelf. 8.7 Aug. 4° is an interesting manuscript – well worth a look through. The Virgo image, a few pages further on, also shares similarities with the VM : the posture of the woman, the dress being worn, the small flower with petals to the left of the dress, the way her right hand holds the stem/tail(?), to name just a few commonalities.

      • That’s a very beautiful manuscript, Darren. I agree that some of the images may have had a similar origin as that of the VM, though the illustrations in this 16thC manuscript appear to have been translated very skillfully.

        It is interesting that the various depictions of Gemini appear to tell the story of Adam and Eve becoming ashamed of their public nudity and being banished from Paradise. Is such a thing customary? I ass the sequence to this post.

        Interestingly, the first pose apparently is meant to communicate a state of harmony – might this be because it has its origin in marriage ceremonies?

        I also added the various images of the archer – some of their garments do resemble those of the VM archer’s, especially in the “rich” versions on the left and right. I wonder why the rich archers are shown with lion’s legs though, while the others aren’t.

      • Thanks Darren,

        that is a very nice manuscript indeed!
        It’s a pity that there is no indication from approximately when in the 16th Century the MS dates. Incidentally, I see this as an example how difficult it is to pinpoint this, even though the text is fully legible, and there is a calendar at the start which usually gives some good hints.
        The main source quoted by the library might explain this a bit more.

        What strikes me is that many illustrations have been made very much in the style of woodcuts. No idea if that says anything about the possible dating. There’s a lot of parallel hatching. As usual for German MSs, none of the buildings have swallow-tail crenellations.

        The clothes look quite different from those in the Voynich MS. From an unpublished analysis, these tend to change every few decades and can occasionally be used for a reasonably accurate dating.

        The crossed arms of the Gemini in the illustration you are showing are clearly intentional and it was achieved without completely unnatural arm lengths, contrary to the case of the Voynich MS. At the same time, the initial drawing of the dining king shows that the draughtsman was still struggling with perspective.

        Anyway, none of these points may be too relevant, just my observations.

        • Notula


          there is a clear indication from a paleographic point of view. The writing (different hands) is a so called Kanzlei-Bastarda with its typical features (i.e. elephant’s trunk etc.) and dates between the last quarter of the 15th and the first quarter of the 16th century.

          Heinemann’s rough estimation (16th) is certainly not based on a detailed paleographic analysis, but he may be right when dating it in the very early 16th.

          I would date it (including a view on codicology and imagery) no later than around 1510. It could easily be made earlier, lets say between 1480-1500.
          I will see if I can find a little time to have a closer look at it.

          • MarcoP

            Thank you, Notula.
            I would be interested in reading your paleography-based analysis of the Voynich manuscript. Is it available in English?

            • Notula


              My study on the Voynich manuscript will be published in a couple of weeks on my website. Main topics are paleography, codicology, imagery and the historical context of the codex. In German only.

              • MarcoP

                Thank you, Notula. I hope you will post a link here. I will see what I can understand of the German, with the help of google translate and hopefully other Voynich researchers.

            • Darren Worley

              I think the important finding we can learn from this image is there was a tradition of Gemini twins with crossed-and-interlinked arms in medieval representations. It appears to be an even rarer variation than the clothed Gemini examples we’ve seen already.

              Furthermore, Notula is spot-on with his assessment for the creation date of Cod. Guelf. 8.7 Aug. 4°. The online scanned manuscript catalog entry gives a date of 1500.

              The catalog can be accessed here. Scroll down to “11.4.47. Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, Cod. Guelf. 8.7. Aug. 4o” and the select Seite b466 & Seite b467.

              Curiously the entry also reports a bill of sale dated 22 Junij [16]51 from Argentina(!). I wonder if this is the country or a ship of that name? Or is there a town with this name in Europe? Whatever, its an unexpected piece of information.

              Also – here are some URLs for accessing the zodiac images directly.

              Cod. Guelf. 8.7 Aug. 4° Gemini
              Cod. Guelf. 8.7 Aug. 4° Virgo

              Lastly, Koens initial reporting of this Gemini variation was in this Planisphere image in a “Revised Aratus Latinus” manuscript page: Reg. Lat. 1324, fol. 23v.

              However, a look at the next page Reg. Lat. 1324, fol. 27r – shows another Gemini also with crossed-and-interlinked arms.

              What I found most interesting is given in a more detailed catalog entry here that says that this was only one of only two known Renaissance copies of the “Revised Aratus Latinus”. This made me wonder what earlier representations looked like?

              Helpfully – a large number of earlier Planisphere images have been described by Kristen Lippincott here.

              Interestingly, there are two images in an earlier 11th-century French manuscript that shows one of the Gemini figures with badly proportioned or over-sized arms, just like what is found in the VM.

              Perhaps the misproportioned arms, in the VM Gemini, is not a result of clumsy draughtsmanship but instead follows an older tradition?

              This 11th-century French manuscript contains a copy of Germanicus’ Latin translation of Aratus’ (see page 4 of the planisphere images). A full description is given on the NWL webpage.

              Aberystwyth, National Library of Wales
              MS 735 C, ff. 3v and 4r
              France (Limoges?), ea 11th Century

              It has been digitised here.

              I haven’t seen any earlier images with this distinctive feature, so perhaps the VM Gemini derives from this tradition?

              I think this gives some interesting further area of research – (i) the Welsh connection, (ii) links with Germanicus and Aratus, (iii) the influence that the contents of MS 735 had on medieval French literature (as explained in the NLW manuscript description.)

              • Thanks Darren, lots to think about.
                By the way, Argentina is the Latin name of Strassbourg.

              • Elsewhere, I already mentioned the new, impressive volume about medieval illustrations of constellations by Prof. Dieter Blume and collaborators, well over 1000 pp., more than 1000 B/W illustrations and many more in colour. Significant parts of it are accessible through Google books:

                Book preview

                This is volume II covering 1200-1500 and since the Wolfenbüttel MS is dated to 1500, it is fortunately described in it, in quite some detail. We learn among others that it forms part of a german ‘Scotus’ tradition, more specifically the Alsatian group. Other MSs that he lists as related to this one are:
                – Freiburg MS 458
                – Paris MS Allem.106
                – Nürnberger Fragment (MS 7082)

                I haven’t yet have time to search for these in detail, but for the second one found this description:

                There is another astronomical MS in Wolfenbüttel, namely Cod.Guelf.29.14 Aug.4o

                • Notula

                  Altough I’m not so much interested in the astronomical part of the VM (which I personally consider of less importance) I also had a look at some contemporary astronomical MSs.

                  Here is a link to the library of the Vienna University Observatory where a lot of important MSs are preserved and digitalized for download.

                • Darern Worley

                  Thanks Rene, your remarks concerning Michael Scot (1175 – c.?1232) and Strasbourg are both interesting. I think you’re correct to mention the swallowtail crenelations – I agree that this implies an Italian connection.

                  Strasbourg has cropped up an number of times recently, for example, a Zodiac cycle having a >60% match with the VM was reported by Marco to be found on Strasbourg cathedral, and I also recall one of the Regimen Sanitatis” (Regimen of Health) manuscripts containing a Sagittarius crossbow man (here) also originated from the Alsace.

                  I’ve also come across connections with Michael Scot when looking for nymphs-holding-star images. He is an interesting character – born in Scotland he later studied or worked in Paris, Oxford, Bologna, Palermo and Toledo. He apparently knew Latin, Greek, Arabic and Hebrew – and I would expect a knowledge of Scots Gaelic, French, English too.

                  I’ve subsequently been looking at manuscripts containing his works and I’ve come across a very interesting example.

                  Michael Scotus: Michaelis Scoti Astrologia cum figuris
                  München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek, Clm 10268
                  Its dated to XIV-century; ca. 1320 and it written in Latin(?).
                  It comprises of 2 parts written in different locations : Padova (ca. 1330-1340); Bologna (ca. 1320).

                  It contains several notable similarities with the VM (this list is not exhaustive):

                  1) a depiction of a castle with swallowtail crenelations here.
                  2) astronomical charts with opposing sun-moon here
                  3) passages of text preceded by star symbols here

                  There is also drawing of a personification of Mars as a crossbowman – this is the earliest depiction of a crossbowman in an astrological context that I think I’ve seen. here.

                  • MarcoP

                    Thank you, Darren!
                    I have looked some more into the fascinating “star castle”. Here are a tentative transcription and translation:

                    De notitia cenith capitum i vict.
                    Cenith capitum i ??? e[st] locus in celo recte sup[er] cap
                    [it]um cuiq[ue] rei ut ho[mn]is civitatis castelli dom[inus] et est ut
                    si sol [ess]et? veraciter s[uper] capitum ho[mn]is umbra ei[us]de[m] fieret recte
                    sub pedibus sui ut cenith sui ??? est ille locus in celo 
                    qui directe est s[uper] quamlibet civitatem. Et capitus ho[mn]is ubique
                    sit in quo suspenderet linea cu[m] ??? r[ec]te cade[n]t fr? i[m]pan
                    diunt in medio m[und]i. Et i^ cade[n]t recte fr cap ho[mn]is ad i[n]
                    stat arenee desce[n]de[n]tis ab alto cu[m] filio suctele q[u]o[d]
                    filat ut ascende[n]tis. Q[uod] totu[m] demo[n]strat ??? fig[ur]a.

                    Chapter about the Zenith.
                    Zenith …. is the place in the sky directly above the top
                    of anything, like the lord of the castle of a city. If the
                    Sun were exactly above your head, all its shadow would be directly
                    under your feet. Zenith is that place in the sky
                    which is directly above any city. The top of anything is where
                    you suspend a stick so that it can fall directly towards the
                    center of the earth. It will fall in the direction of the top, down
                    to the ground from the top, with a thin string which
                    extends as if ascending. All this is illustrated by the figure.

                    I think the vertical stick is labeled “lignum adpesium” (dangling stick)

                    The paragraph seems quite scientific in nature: suggesting a procedure to have a stick pointing to the zenith. The parallel with the opening sentence of the wikipedia page is amazing: “The zenith (UK /ˈzɛnɪθ/, US /ˈziːnɪθ/) is an imaginary point directly “above” a particular location, on the imaginary celestial sphere. ”.

                    If I understand correctly, the castle is mentioned in a metaphor of a less scientific tone: the universe is like a city; on the higher point of the city there is a castle (the sky); on the higher point of the castle there is the lord of the city (the zenith).

                    • MarcoP

                      Upon reflection, I think it’s better to interpret the abbreviated castelli dom’ as castelli domus.

                      “Zenith …. is the place in the sky directly above the top
                      of anything, like the rooftop of the castle of a city”

                      Being a geometrical analogy rather than a metaphor, this is more consistent with the rest of the text.
                      Also, the rooftop is clearly used in the diagram to illustrate the Zenith.

                      The interpretation of the castle as heaven in not affected.

                  • The first time I learned about Scot was when I ran into this image on the Warburg institute website, from the Paris MS.

                    It’s supposed to be a bull but doesn’t look much like one. It does look a lot like the VM bulls though: large, upright lyre shaped horns, long, upright neck.

                    A similar creature can be seen in Pierpont Morgan Library. Manuscript. M.384, again Scot:

                    About the Mars crossbowman it is also interesting to not that just like the VM crossbowman he has the air of an idle guard rather than a savage Sagittaruis. Additionally, his skirt consists of two layers, which is something Diane has noticed about the VM figure before.

                    So I’d say this Mars figure checks some boxes that are rarely (never?) checked by Sagittarius imagery. Very nice find.

                    I wonder if the pairing with Venus (with “flower”!) might have informed the VM Virgo as well to some extent?

  6. Darren Worley

    Here is another example of clothed-and-clutching Gemini figures, in a new medium – in this case a German church woodcarving.

    I believe this 14th-century example is the earliest reported so far – incidentally, the earliest example of the Sagittarius Crossbowman reported is also in a German church woodcarving.

    It originates from Southern Germany, Munich. The woodcarving of the other signs can be seen here.

    • Helmut Winkler

      It is from North West Germany, Westphalia, at least if you can believe the web site, it was sold in an auction in Munich

      • Darren Worley

        Helmut – thanks for the clarification.

        It would appear that the earliest examples of the clothed-and-clutching Gemini and Sagittarius crossbowman are found in 14th-century woodcarvings originating from N.W.Germany (Westphalia) and Northern Germany (Marburg) respectively.

        • MarcoP

          Hello Darren,
          in this page, we mentioned a paper by Angélique Ferrand in which she discusses an Amiens relief (1220-30) as an early example of Gemini as courteous lovers.
          Other examples (attached) are discussed in the zodiac comparison page. The earliest of those is from the S.Miniato church in Florence (1207).

        • Darren Worley

          Marco – you’re right. Thanks for the clarification and fact-checking.

          What I have been pondering is that the zodiac representation found in church woodcarvings, would have popular appeal, rather than appealing an (elite) literate minority.

          It got me thinking that maybe some of the imagery in the VM represents medieval popular interest and ideas.

          It got me thinking that it might be interesting to look at other “populist” sources. eg. depictions of carnivals and folklore themes. Perhaps the works of troubadours too.

  7. MarcoP

    Koen Gheuens observed on voynich.ninja that the male “gemini” has his arms crossed. This is a strange detail that I had not noticed before. Has anyone seen a medieval couple (not necessarily Gemini) with this kind of crossed holding hands?

    • Marco, I haven’t been able to find the exact pose, but there is the “single handshake”, closely mirroring the Roman marriage pose. The man would also slip a ring on the woman’s finger or hand her a document he was holding, resulting in the “double handshake” look.

      I nice example of what I think is going on can be seen in the attached image, from a late 15thC North Italian copy of Hyginus’ De Astronomia. http://webapps.fitzmuseum.cam.ac.uk/explorer/index.php?qu=Category:illuminated*&oid=82208

      In this image, the left Gemini (Geminus?) holds up his finger where in Roman imagery one would usually see the scroll he’s holding.

    • Darren Worley

      Hi Marco/Koen – that’s an interesting observation and question you’ve posed. I haven’t been able to find an exact match either and I’ve looked quite widely.

      The “single-handshake” (Dextrarum iunctio) is quite often found in images of medieval marriage and also in depictions of (the union of) Adam and Eve.

      Marco – you previously quoted Hourihane who mentioned the similarities between medieval depictions of Gemini with Adam-and-Eve, so no surprise there.

      I’ve attached the best example I’ve found below of male-and-female figures with interlinked arms, its Florentine and dated to 1470-80. It can be seen here.

      • MarcoP

        Thank you, Darren! That’s the closest I have seen!

  8. Ralph Reinhold

    I noticed that the couple in the upper right hand corner of f80r and the presumed Gemini twins are likely the same. I find it especially interesting that the word in front of that couple is likely the same as the word above Gemini. Above Gemini, it looks like the last letter was scribbled over as if to correct it. Basically, to me, they both look similar to ottav. The one above Gemini, with the scribble, could be ottao.

    I’m not sure that that it couldn’t be related to gender and plural endings in Romance languages such as amico, amica, and amici in Italian.

  9. D.N. O'Donovan

    With all the emphasis given the crossbowman image, there seems to be a huge gap in the examples. Don’t any occur earlier, or in other regions – what about France, Spain, England, Italy or Greece?

    Is the argument that Sagittarius-as-crossbowman occurs no-where but in central Europe during the fifteenth century, or that it doesn’t occur earlier or elsewhere in manuscripts? Is that true? I can’t quite tell either if the argument is about just where the present manuscript was manufactured, or about where all the matter it contains was first composed, or perhaps the argument is that the idea of Sagittarius-as-a-crossbowman is uniquely ‘central European’. All these seem to be tacit implications, but when I look at each one individually, the range of examples don’t really permit the conclusion. I’d like to see comment on whether similar types occur earlier, or more broadly, to make sense of the German images in their proper perspective.

    There might be more places where a crossbowman is described as ‘Sagit[t]ario’: but my research so far has only found two: Calais and Spain. The first reference occurs in the fourteenth century in Calais. The word has just meant an archer, but in the Rolls there, it is applied to crossbowmen who had been archers with ordinary bows before being hired. Also from the fourteenth century (early fourteenth) in France, we appear to have an image of a crossbow made in the same fairly unusual design as that borne by the Voynich figure on f.73v.

    The unusual aspect of the design consists of an additional lock-nut inserted into the top of the stock, about half-way down its length. That extra ‘lock nut’ perfectly explains the position of the Voynich archer’s hand, which stumped Jens Sensfelder. To set, and to release that extra lock, the nut had to be rolled up or pressed down. More, we have a couple of later physical examples of such a bow and they are of Spanish make. At present it looks as though the same may be pictured in at least one fourteenth century manuscript from France, though research into how widely it was known is continuing. But no examples as yet from German sources, and Jens himself said he knew of no bows of the Voynich type which were made of wood. The Spanish example had a wooden stock.

    Trying to provenance *content* is different from trying to identify where the manuscript was made, but in both cases, if you limit the range too much, you become less accurate rather than more. As has been pointed out, the sort of high fashion bowman in the later German copies of the ‘Children of the Planets’ imagery gets its precedent in Italian sources that are earlier. The same principle explains how the material in the Prague copy of the Picatrix probably arrived there. Where the manuscript was made is one thing; where its content came from is an entirely different question, and I think it’s important not to allow the two to be confused by assumptions and tacit arguments. These are general observations, not meant as particular criticisms of anyone.

  10. Darren Worley

    I found these two images, each appearing in different editions of the “Astrolabium Planum” by Johannes Angelus (1463-1512). They depict the decanal planet Mars, represented as male-and-female clutching figures.

    I was struck by the similar form and postures in comparison to the Gemini figures in the VM on f72r2. I think its possible that both the VM Gemini figures and these 2 planetary images have been copied from a common source.

    The left-hand one appears in a 1488 edition printed in Augsburg by Erhard Ratdolt, and the right-hand version a later edition printed in 1494 in Venice by Johannes Emericus de Spira (of Speyer), for Lucantonio Giunta.

    An incomplete version of the 1494 Venice edition is accessible here, the image can be found on f.63r.

    I’ve not been able to find an online version of the German edition. Both editions are in Latin.

    • Darren Worley

      The image of the couple clutching each others hands as Mars (the third decanal planet of Pisces) [from the 1488 edition of the “Astrolabium Planum”] has other similarities with the VM Sagittarius worth remarking.

      Firstly, there seems to be greater similarities between the VM Sagittatius image and 1488 male figure image than the later 1494 edition. The way their hands are grasping each other hands and arms are much more similar than in any other image I’ve seen.
      This suggests to me that the VM Sagittarius image might be based on an earlier version of this Decanal planet image.

      The man’s hair style (in the 1488 version) seems quite similar (although the VM figure is wearing a hat) – both having horizontal curls.

      The 1488 male figure also has straight-legs (like the VM), whereas the figures in the 1492 edition has bent legs.

      The VM female figure is also more like is that she doesn’t appear to be pregnant, whereas in the 1492 edition she appears to be.

      The 1488 engraving was likely made by “Berndarus Pictor” – his surname might be a Latinised version of Maler (German for painter). He was a business partner of the printer Erhard Ratdolt, and both came from Augsburg, Germany. Ratdolt first went to Venice in 1462, and returned in 1474 to start a printing workshop.

      I think its interesting that this image was created by German printers working in Venice, Northern Italy, and it might be significant that the primary source of the “Astrolabium Planum” can be traced back through Pietro d’Abano back to Abu Ma’shar.

      Pietro d’Abano (c.1257 – 1316) was born in Abano and lived in Padua, which is near Venice. This makes me wonder if the “Astrolabium Planum” image (that is similar to the VM) may have been based on earlier manuscripts (possibly by d’Abano) that were circulating in the area around Venice/Padua in the early-to-mid 15th century.

    • Darren Worley

      Further to my recent posting here, one reason I find Pietro d’Abano of particular interest is that I’ve been tracing back the possible influences on the “Astrolabium Planum” woodcuts that were first published in 1488 by Erhard Ratdolt in Augsburg, Germany. The “Astrolabium Planum” written by Johannes Angelus (1463-1512) was based on earlier works by Pietro d’Abano (c.1257 – 1316).

      These woodcuts depicting the decanal image of Mars as an embracing couple look very similar to the VM Gemini twins. (see here).

      Tracing this further back, I’ve been researching the works that influenced Pietro d’Abano – namely those of Abraham ibn Ezra (1089–1167).

      An illuminating description is found in “The Astrology Book: The Encyclopedia of Heavenly Influences” by James R. Lewis p393

      Quote: Ibn Ezra’s best-known book, “The Beginning of Wisdom” was translated from Hebrew into French in 1273 by Hagin le Juif (Hugin the Jew) [..] This served as a basis for three translations […] another by Peter de Abano in 1293 [..]. Many years ago Paulin Paris (1848) remarked “One can readily see that Hagin was obliged to dictate his translation to a copyist, because he himself did not know how to write them in French; for if it has been a question of merely having them transcribed clearly and elegantly we would probably called upon a better calligrapher than Obert de Montdidier”. This procedure of a Jew dictating a French translation to an amanuensis explains the curious fact that it was written in Roman characters, whereas all other contemporary texts, extant in Judeo-French, were in Hebrew characters. […] Nothing else is known about Hugin le Juif nor the scribe, but the name Montdidier is significant because it gives a clue to the Picard dialect of the scribe.

      This is the first reference I’ve found of Zarphatic or Judeo French being written in Roman (Latin) characters rather than Hebrew. Zarphatic is an extinct Jewish language, formerly spoken among the French Jews of northern France and in parts of west-central Germany, such as Mainz, Frankfurt am Main, and Aachen.

      Although there is evidence that Abano’s works were translated into Arabic and European vernaculars (Romany, Latvian, Yiddish, are therefore all reasonable candidates) however, Judeo-French seems an even better prospect, due to the chronology.

      Quote: There have been many language switches in Jewish history, among them, Judeo-Greek to Judeo-Latin, Judeo-Latin to Judeo-Italian and Judeo-French, Judeo-French to Yiddish. Judeo-French disappeared when Jews were expelled from France in 1394. French Jews fled to what is now Germany. Their language may have survived for a generation or more, but there is no record of it. [Ref: http://www.jochnowitz.net/Essays/yiddaily.html%5D

      In my mind, this chronology fits quite well with creation/compiling of Voynich manuscript (dated to 1404–1438), and perhaps gives a clue to the possible identity of Voynichese. If the VM author was French Jew exiled in Germany c.1396, they might have used Judeo-French as their preferred language for writing (in a non-Hebrew script), however, knowledge of this language was lost within a generation or two, as it evolved in Yiddish (Judeo-German).

      I think this narrative also fits well with the German influence that has been reported in the zodiac imagery, as might be expected if the VM author, a French-Jew, was exposed to German culture post-exile from France. It might also explain the latter Latin-German extraneous writings on f116v.

      That said, Abano (or a later astronomer/astrologer copyist) would have had a good reason to employ a little-known script or cipher, since he was twice brought to trial by the Inquisition; on the first occasion he was acquitted, and he died before the second trial was completed. Owning a book like the VM could have been dangerous, however employing Judeo-French, or employing a polyglot code mixing elements from the various languages that he knew, to disguise the underlying text and its meaning, would have served a similar purpose.

  11. Darren Worley

    Here is another early 15th-century example of male and female, clothed-and-clutching Gemini twins. I’m pleased to have found this, as it comes from a Czech collection, whereas most manuscript examples reported so far have come from German archives.

    However, its origin is Swabia (in South Western Germany) and it is written in German (Swabian dialect?)

    This example is found in a the “Olmützer Losbuch”, f11v., K 14905, Vlastivědné muzeum v Olomouci

    It can be seen in full here, and a more detailed description is available here.

    I think some of the other diagrams in this manuscript also share a similarity with the VM.

  12. Darren Worley

    In the introduction to this page that Marco and I co-wrote (see above), reference was made to the Renaissance “Painted House” (Sgraffitohaus) in Eggenburg, Austria.

    I found a book that includes B&W images of the zodiacal “children of the planets” astrological paintings that appear on this building. It can be accessed here

    The reason that I have mentioned this is to illustrate the fact that the “children of the planets” astrological motif appears to have been very common in the South German Region (Germany/Austria/Switzerland) in the Renaissance period.

    I believe that the VM zodiac pages maybe related to this concept.

    You can download the entire chapter on Eggenburg, or access the individual pages.

    The Creation of the world p.58 Fig . 60
    Saturn and Jupiter p.59 Fig . 61
    Mars p.60 Fig .63
    Sun and Venus p.61 Fig . 63
    Mercury and Luna p.62 Fig . 64
    Adam and Eve p.63 Fig . 65
    Cain and Abel ; Sacrifice of Isaac S. 64 Fig . 66
    Jacob’s dream of the sky ladder p.65 Fig . 67
    Putten dance ; Moses S. 66 Fig . 68
    Paintings on Painted House p.67 Fig . 69
    Paintings at the bay of the painted house p.67 Fig . 70
    The rich man and the poor Lazarus p.68 Fig . 71
    die Weltschöpfung S. 58 Abb. 60
    Saturnus und Juppiter S. 59 Abb. 61
    Mars S. 60 Abb. 63
    Sol und Venus S. 61 Abb. 63
    Merkur und Luna S. 62 Abb. 64
    Adam und Eva S. 63 Abb. 65
    Kain und Abel ; Opferung Isaaks S. 64 Abb. 66
    Jakobs Traum von der Himmelsleiter S. 65 Abb. 67
    Puttenreigen ; Moses S. 66 Abb. 68
    Sgraffito am Gemalten Haus S. 67 Abb. 69
    Sgraffito am Erker des Gemalten Hauses S. 67 Abb. 70
    der reiche Prasser und der arme Lazarus S. 68 Abb. 71

  13. Linda Snider
  14. Ellie Velinska

    Very nice examples! Thanks

    • Ellie Velinska

      I am not sure if you have this one already – just in case …

      • Darren Worley

        Thanks Ellie. Thats a new one! Pal. Germ 148 originates from Eichstätt in Bavaria, Germany and is dated to 1430-50. The Gemini twins are unusual too.

        Your post also lead me to find Pal. Germ 298 which also contains a Sagittarius crossbowman as well several other unusual features, that are found in the VM, like the Aries Ram eating! I’ll post that one to the other thread.

        Have you tried looking for any Sagittarius crossbowman examples from outside Germany? Its difficult to prove their absence, however, I’ve looked in many French, British, American (and many other) digitised manuscript collections, and I’ve yet to find a non-German/Polish example.

        • MarcoP

          Ellie, I agree with Darren: Cod. Pal. Germ. 148 is an excellent finding! In this page, we wrote that “[Österreichische Nationalbibliothek; cod. 1842 Brevier] is the only case in which the two typologies (Gemini as Lovers and Sagittarius as a Crossbowman) appear in a single source”. Now we have a new, beautiful example!

          What follows is not relevant, I am just curious 🙂 – I could not make sense of the attributes of these twins: a golden dish and a shepherd’s crook (?). Any ideas of their meaning? In the Aratea ms Basel AN IV 18 (AD 830 ca) f20r, one of the Gemini holds a curved staff (but the other holds a Lyre, as in the classical iconography exemplified by the Phanes relief).

          • Ellie Velinska

            Hi Marco, Darren, I haven’t seen the crossbow Sagittarius outside Germany. I’ll keep looking for it though 🙂

          • Darren Worley

            I found this unusual Gemini image – as well as showing the male-and-female twins clothed-and-clutching, this is the first manuscript example depicting them in a Zodiac-wheel. It is also quite early dating from 1425. The female figure appears to be holding something – perhaps this is related to the example found in Pal. Germ 148?

            This image appears in Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana, Pal. Lat. 291, f109, a South German manuscript containing “De rerum naturis” (“On the Natures of Things” or “On the Universe”) by Rabanus Maurus who was a 9th-century Frankish Benedictine monk from Mainz, Germany.

            It can be viewed here. Its quite unusual as its more of an illustrated encyclopedia than a divination or astrology/astronomy book where many similar images have previously been reported. It has a section on animals, another on plants (the Mandrake can be seen on f238r), languages, music. A description of its contents can be found here.

            • Stephen Bax

              Thanks Darren. What a wonderful discovery! Hours of amusement ahead….

              • Darren Worley

                Thanks Stephen, have fun! Please let me know if you find anything interesting.

                Having scanned through the manuscript, I can’t help but feel that a good strategy for attempting to identify the VM plants is to compare them with named examples found in other 15th-century herbal manuscripts (like the “De rerum naturis” encyclopedia) rather than trying to correctly “read” the odd way that plants were drawn in the 15th-century.

                This also sidesteps the problem that some old species either no longer exist, or look very different as a result of several intervening centuries of cultivation and selective breeding.

            • MarcoP

              Apparently, also Erwin Panofsky thought that the Voynich manuscript was an encyclopedic work. He said that “it is probably the surviving one of two volumes: the plant and star half of the work which doubtless included also beasts and stones”.

              Personally, I think it can just as well be a miscellanea of texts about different subjects.

            • MarcoP

              Hi Darren,
              the Rabanus Maurus ms you mentioned (Pal. Lat. 291) also contains a spotted feline that makes an interesting parallel with the Voynich Leo.

              • Wonderful find, Marco. There is no denying its relevance. The style is different but the composition and subject are very similar. This image confirms one of the predictions made in the Qasr mosaic thread over at Voynich.ninja: a link with the bestiary tradition.

                • Koen,
                  Yes, we’re inadvertently developing a history of the form, from centuries BC through the Byzantine period finally to appear in a couple of plainly Latin works a few decades after the Vms.

                  – someone should write a history of its evolution. 🙂

              • Very nice indeed!
                Remarkably similar, and a lot closer than the example in the (older) Danish royal library MS:
                folio 14r.
                Pal.Lat 291 is basically contemporary with the Voynich MS, but it is of course a MS with a completely different purpose, not to mention quality.

    • Darren Worley

      Thanks Peter – I’ve since found that Cod. Pal. germ. 298 f143v also contains this text. This manuscript dates from 1400-1450 and probably originates from Bavaria.

      You can see it here

  15. Another detailed description of the MS can be found in this reference:
    (in German).
    It is also described in Saxl’s “Verzeichniss” but by bad luck the Gemini image was
    not copied by him. This book is now available digitally online:

    Pal.Lat 1369 is among roughly half the collection that is not yet available digitally online:

    • The images of CGM 595 are also at the Warburg site. The layout is clearly
      the same as in Pal.Lat.1369.

      Gemini is here:
      These drawings are ‘worse’ or more crude…

    • Darren Worley

      Hi Rene – the Pal. Lat. 1369 manuscript came from the Bibliotheca Palatina of Heidelberg. It was the most important library of the German Renaissance, containing approximately 5,000 printed books and 3,524 manuscripts. Some of the books and manuscripts are now held by the University of Heidelberg, but the bulk of the original collection is now an integral part of the Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana at the Vatican.

      The collection was broken up in 1622 as a result of the sacking of the library during the Thirty Years War.

      The German manuscripts were eventually returned back to Germany and the Latin ones remained in the Vatican. The wikipedia link gives a good summary.

      However, I was speculating – what would have happened to a manuscript that was neither in German or Latin? (like the VM).

      I’m no expert on the history of the VM, but isn’t this around the time that is was first recorded? What do you think?

      It would be very interesting to know more about the provenance of Pal. Lat 1369 and also to see some colour images. (I wonder if the Warburg only has black-and-white images or if colour seperations were made?). It would provide stronger evidence that the Gemini images devive from a common source if they are coloured identically.

      • Hello Darren,

        while the Latin part of the Bibl.Palatina is still in the Vatican, the digitisation of them seems to be a collaborative activity, and the Heidelberg website is already showing many more of them than the Vatican web site (*).

        By 1622 the Voynich MS was already in Prague. It is the year Tepenec died. While there is no hard proof that the MS was owned by Rudolf II before that, it is quite plausible, and the source is credible. This also presents a ‘problem’ in the sense that if it was acquired by Rudolf, it could have come literally from anywhere. Whether any MS(s) of the Palatina collection would have been removed before 1611 I don’t know, but is possibly recorded.

        I am not so sure whether the colours applied to such illustrations would say very much. Even in cases where MSs were clearly copied from one another, or from a common source, the colours are not always matching.

        Note (*): on a slightly different topic, there’s a nice foldout page in another Pal.Lat MS (Pal.Lat 1356, f.113r):
        The various buildings to me suggest that perhaps only the upper right circle of the Voynich MS rosetta are intended to be a map (or lookalike).

        • Darren Worley

          Rene – thanks for the clarification on the VM history.

          The map is interesting – its the first fold-out section I’ve seen in a medieval book, besides the VM. If I find any others I’ll report it here. I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised to see that its been reported in a manuscript of German origin.

          The evidence linking the creation of the VM with “Germany” is becoming increasingly compelling. Besides the zodiac evidence that is being amassed, we have the words signifying the paint colours that you’ve reported, suggesting these words are written in a Germanic language.

          The natural assumption would be that a Germanic language would be used within Europe, but I know that the “German” Holy Roman Emperors held territories as far away as Jerusalem into the 13th-century. I think this is worth noting to avoid the error of automatically assuming that Germanic influence equates with a location within Europe/Germany (however unlikely this might be).

        • Darren Worley

          One other similarity between Pal. Lat. 1369 and the VM that I’ve noticed is the presence of insect holes.

          For example in the VM on fol. 1r insect holes can be seen in the upper-right corner.

          Similarly, in the Cod Pal.Lat. 1369 on fol. 58r and on fol. 151r (near the end) insect holes can also be seen.

          Judging from suggestions (here) that the VM was once bound in wooden boards, perhaps Pal. Lat. 1369 was also. It appears have been rebound since the current cover is not wood.

        • Darren Worley

          I thought it might be interesting to show what a wooden bound book looks like. Here is an example I photographed recently.

          The book dates from c1360. Presumably the VM would have looked similar prior to it being rebound.

          The presence of wood-worm in the wooden boards can be clearly seen.

      • Darren Worley

        I have found some useful information concerning manuscript Pal.Lat.1369. This is the manuscript with the Gemini sign that looks remarkably like the VM example.

        Quote: “Pal. Pat. 1369 was presented to Johann [Virdung] by a Leonhard Luyser in Boppard.

        This identifies two previous owners of the manuscript before it entered the Library of the Elector Palatine at Heidelberg (c.1550). Perhaps Leonhard Luyser is somehow linked to the copyist?

        Ref: “Johann Virdung of Hassfurt Again” by Lynn Thorndike. Pub: Isis, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Sep., 1936), pp. 363-371.
        The article is available from JSTOR (free download upon account registration).

        The article then goes on to describe other manuscripts known to have be owned or copied by Virdung. (Pal. Lat. 1375, Pal. Lat. 1391). Neither of these appear to have been digitised.

        Here is a link to his German wikipedia page, that gives more detail with some interesting images.

        Does anyone know anything more about Leonhard Luyser?

        • Darren Worley

          Here is an image from the book Practica (1491) also by Johann Virdung (c.1465-c.1535) showing Jupiter personified as a man.

          It can be downloaded in full here.

          The reason that I’m posting this image is that up to now, these “nebula” zodiac-wheels (or “nebula horoscopes”?) have only been reported from Armenian or Indian sources. (i.e. Compare with VM f68v3 – notice that in both the Earth in the centre of the diagram.)

          However, this demonstrates that this type of iconography was also found in 15th-century Germany and Poland.

          In fact, I’m sure I’ve seen other diagrams like this in other medieval manuscripts from this region.

          It seems the much of the iconography found in the VM can also be found in other German Renaissance manuscripts, books and carvings.

          Here is an except from the biography of Virdung [ref: Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers]

          Quote: Johann Virdung was one of the most influential astrologers around 1500. Virdung, about whose childhood and youth nothing is known, began his studies in 1481 in Leipzig, and continued them in Krakow, where he attended (inter alia) the lectures by Albertus de Bruzewo and Johannes von Glogau. He returned to Leipzig as “Johannes Johannis baccalaureus Cracovensis,” where he obtained his master’s degree in 1491. The following year Virdung moved to Heidelberg, where he gave lectures on medicine, mathematics, and astronomy at the university and entered the service of the Electoral Palatinate court. From 1521 until his death he ran the court dispensary; and around 1529/1530 he was conferred a medical doctorate.

          Lastly, thanks to Marco Ponzi for locating a high-quality image of this subject and sharing the URL.

        • Darren Worley

          Recently, Marco remarked that one of the unusual features of the VM Zodiac, without known parallels, are the male and female nymph figures holding (or associated with) stars.

          In the VM Zodiac, in nearly all cases the stars are held directly (f71r, f71v – f73v), but on pages f70v2 & f70v1 the stars are either tethered directly to the tubs containing the figures, or the figures are holding tethered stars.

          By far, the most common example is the former case where the stars are held directly in an outstretched hand.

          I thought it would be useful to find other examples where (female) figures are also depicted holding stars. This is a very distinctive and unusual iconographic feature, so finding other examples might prove instructive.

          Below is the first example I located. It appears in “Pronosticatio zu theutsch”, [Heidelberg], [nach 1488.04.01.] by Johannes Lichtenberger. here

          Johann or Johannes (von) Lichtenberger (d. 1503) was a noted German astrologer, and a contemporary of Virdung. I have found a publication credited to both authors suggesting they were closely associated.

          I’ve also found an identical example of this woodcut re-printed in 1492. This astrological-prophecy text seems to have been very popular as it was re-printed many times in subsequent decades.

          This is the 3rd unusual feature that appears in VM Zodiac that also appears in works associated with Virdung or his contemporaries.

          1) A female figure holding a star. [cf. VM the Zodiac figures holding stars]
          2) The “nebula zodiac” image here [cf. VM f68v3]
          3) The Sagittarius Crossbowman, from “Deutcz practica Baccalarii Johannis Cracoviensis von Hasfurt (GW M5072510)” by Virdung, 1491/92 here

          • Derek Vogt

            I’ve forgotten a lot of German, this image’s text isn’t modern standard German, and some of the symbols are not very legible, but I’ve just started wrestling with the text.

            I’m pretty sure that the last thing it says in the paragraph just above the drawing (and before the text that’s strangely offset to the right) is “eyn stern in der lynckten hant zeygende mit dem fynger spricht”, which would equate to modern standard German “ein Stern in der linken Hand zeigende mit dem Finger spricht”, which would be, word for word, “…a star in the left hand pointing with a finger speaks”. Verbs and clauses with verbs in them tend to go at the end of a sentence in German, so this would be a fragment of a sentence which says that someone is speaking, while gesturing with the fingertips, with a star in the speaker’s left hand. I have no clue why the left hand for a drawing that shows the right.

            This still doesn’t explain why the star would be there for the speaker to gesture at/with in the first place. I suppose it’s possible that this is just a caption describing the image (notice the indenting), rather than independent text on the subject that the drawing illustrates. The top and bottom paragraphs don’t contain the words “hand”, “finger” or “star” again. If the significance of the picture is that the person is speaking, then the star might represent the wisdom being dispensed, like a halo, rather than an actual star.

            The text that’s offset to the right above the picture is “Das __ capittel”, which I figure means “Das __ Kapitel”, meaning “The __ chapter”. I presume the reason I can’t read the middle word is that it represents a number in a format I’m not familiar with. Was this the first or last page of a chapter?

            The rest of the text is a jumble to me so far. Some individual words stand out as familiar, but they don’t come together to make sense overall. And I’m sure some of them must not be what they look like anyway, unless it’s saying something about a land-fish and a monkey-lily. “Young woman” appears a at least twice, soon apparently followed by “lily” both times, but “eagle” shows up even more, unless there’s another meaning for “adler/adeller”. “Eagle” actually might make sense for the text, even if absent from the picture, since there seems to be something in there about flying and a great wind…

            • Helmut Winkler

              … for a drawing that shows the right
              Happens again and again in early prints, woodcuts are mirror-inverted!
              “Das __ capittel/“Das .iiii. capittel, Roman numeral four, means next chapter and the indented text escribes the illustration (which I supose has been put in after the printing), look at the previous chapter’s beginning.
              At present I have not got the time to make a transscription/translation, but the text is about the conflict of the Empire (eagle) and France (lilies), and there is nothing about monkeys (it is alle, not affe)

          • MarcoP

            I have tried to reconstruct the connection sybil/star and here are some thoughts:

            * Obviously, both sibyls and Stars are related with divination
            * The Cumean sibyl was related with the advent of Christ (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sibyl#Cumaean_Sibyl)
            * The Tiburtine sibyl was related with the advent of Christ (seehttp://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/ILLUMIN.ASP?Size=mid&IllID=28139)
            * The advent of Christ was announced by a star

            The Tiburtine sibyl is often represented pointing to the sky (e.g. in the Speculum Humanae Salvationis):

            References to stars appear in the Sibylline Oracles. 

            E.g. book II:
            And then will God show mortals a great sign:
            For like a lustrous crown shall shine a star,
            Bright, all-resplendent, from the radiant heaven

            Book XII:
            But when a radiant star all like the sun
            Shall shine forth out of heaven in the mid days,
            Then shall the secret Word of the Most High
            Come clothed in flesh like mortals

            At least some of these texts should be earlier than the VMS, but I don’t know if there was any visual tradition.
            I have been unable to find earlier images in which the sibyl and a star are conflated in a single image, so my research has not been much successful. But possibly you might find something useful or interesting in these notes.

            This is my tentative translation of the Latin text as printed here

            A woman with a dress hanging to the ground, with a star in her left hand, pointing with her finger, speaking.
            Chapter seven.
            And the Cumaean Sibyl spoke with prophetic spirit in her divination. After this, i.e. after a short time, an Eagle will come from the German mountains, in the company of many Griffins. It will attack the origin of the anointed, sitting in the site of the shepherd, it will cause the flight from the fifth to the seventh anointment. It will attack the antifather and will devour him and will claim as its own the nest that was stolen. And it will keep it for fifty years. And there will be no peace in the Virgin Land. And people without head will rule during those years. Later it will adhere to the Great Eagle. We have a figure of Esther in the fifth chapter saying: two eunuchs of the King who were gatekeepers and resided at the gate of the palace and wanted to kill the King. This was not unnoticed to Mordecai. Oh Maximilian, these two eunuchs are unfaithful subjects, they use venom against your virtuous face in order to kill you and those faithful to you. During these times, try to preserve yourself until you reach the age of 34. You will see the exaltation of your name up to heaven and why you are given many troubles during these years by your relatives and subjects.

            Mordecai is mentioned in the biblical Book of Esther.
            The Eagles appear in the preceding illustrations.

        • Darren Worley

          Here is another image from a publication by the the 15th-century German astrologer Johannes Lichtenberger. Entitled “Prognosticatio” it was published in Straßburg in 1499.

          This is the first 15th-century image outside of the VM, to my knowledge, where both male and female figures holding stars are pictured in a zodiacal context.

          It can be found here.

          Note the female figure at the one o’clock position and the man at the 8 o’clock position.

          • MarcoP

            Thank you Darren!
            It’s great to see you posting again, I have missed your contributions!

            The Lichtenberger image is beautiful.
            I think it includes (moving towards the center):
            * the four winds in the corners
            * the four elements in circles close to the corners (these seem to me more comparable with Voynich 77r than many other illustrations, I think it was Ellie who linked that page with the elements)
            * on the left, the chariot of the Moon is rising
            * an assistant in the chariot is spreading dew from a jar
            * on the right, the Sun in his chariot, setting towards his palace
            * the woman in the palace might be a personification of Dusk?
            * the twelve signs of the zodiac in small circles

            Planetary gods holding stars, from the top clockwise:
            * The Sun (with arrow) or is he Cupid?
            * Venus with bow
            * The Moon? or is she Iris with the rainbow behind her?
            * Saturn
            * Mercury? with spear (is he conflated with Wotan here?)
            * Mars (armored knight)
            * Jupiter?

            * the twelve labors of the months in small circles
            * a large central circle representing the world

            An amazing cosmograph, thank you for sharing it!

          • Darren Worley

            I’ve found an image depicting human figures holding a tethered star, in a circular layout similar to that in the VM. I believe this the first example reported.

            In researching this image, I also located about eight other digitised manuscript examples, illustrating how this same diagram differs among the various sources.

            I found this image by searching for depictions of the “Seven Planets” following the cosmograph illustration found in the 1499 Straßburg edition of the “Prognosticatio” by Johannes Lichtenberger (described above).

            Subsequently, I discovered that this image originates from an alternate copy of a manuscript that Stephen Bax already reported on this website : 14th century Occitan Provencal manuscript.

            These manuscripts all contain copies of “Breviari d’Amor” by Matfre Ermengaud (died 1322) who was a Franciscan friar, legist, and troubadour from Béziers in the Languedoc in southern France..

            I attach below, a composite containing the 3 of the images (I chose these ones, as they are in colour). Example C shows the figures holding tethered stars.

            These circular diagrams illustrate the “seven planets”, each of which governs a day of the week, set around a wheel. Each planet is depicted as a human figure – although the sex of the planetary figures appears to differ amongst the images.

            By analogy, this perhaps suggests that the VM Zodiac is a zodiac calendar, with each figure representing each of the 30 days of the month/zodiac sign.

            Example A, is dated to the 14th-century and originates from the Languedoc in Southern France. It is written in French (Provencal). It shows the planets, as human figures, holding spherical objects.
            Example B, is also dated to the 14th-century and (is presumably) from Southern France. I’m unsure what language its in. It shows the planets, as human figures, holding spoked-wheel objects (stars?) or the moon, as depiction of its accompanying planet.
            Example C, is dated to the last-quarter of the 14th-century and originates from Eastern Spain (Catalonia, Gerona). It is written in Catalan. It shows the 5 of the planets, as human figures, holding tethered stars.

            Curiously, Exmaple C is written in Spanish (Catalan) and Hebrew, suggesting that its intended audience were familiar in both languages. Its purported origin is Gerona, which was one of the most important Kabbalistic schools in Europe. The Rabbi of Girona, Moshe ben Nahman Gerondi (better known as Nahmanides or Ramban) was appointed Great Rabbi of Catalonia. The presence of the Jewish community of Girona came to an end in 1492, when the Catholic Monarchs expelled all the Jews from Catalonia.

            Here are the manuscript sources:

            EXAMPLE A

            Titre : Matfre Ermengau , Breviari d’amor ; Matfre Ermengau , Lettre à sa soeur ; traduction du Salve regina ; traduction de la Légende du bois de la Croix
            Auteur : Matfre Ermengau. Auteur du texte
            Auteur : La Curne de Sainte-Palaye, Jean-Baptiste de (1697-1781). Auteur du texte
            Date d’édition : 1301-1400
            Type : manuscrit
            Langue : Provençal ancien
            Format : Languedoc. – Miniatures. – Parchemin
            Description : Contient : 1. Breviari d’amor , de Matfre Ermengau ; 2. La Pistola que trames frayres Masfres, menres, la festa de Nadals, a sa sor Na Suau ; 3. Salve Regina, en romans ; 4. Légende apocryphe du voyage de Seth au paradis terrestre ; 5. Canso , Matfre Ermengau
            Description : Notice mise à jour par Jean-Baptiste Camps et Maxence Hermant (mai 2011).
            Description : Philippe de Béthune ; Hippolyte de Béthune ; offert par celui-ci avec toute sa bibliothèque à la Bibliothèque du roi en 1663 ; ancien fonds royal.
            Description : Manuscrit C du Breviari d’amor . Ce manuscrit a une configuration proche de celle du ms. de Londres, Br. Mus., Royal 19. C. 1 (manuscrit L). En effet, même si la canso n’y paraît pas au même endroit, ils donnent tous deux, après la Lettre de Matfre à sa soeur , le Salver Regina en romans , et une traduction de la Légende du bois de la Croix . L’ordre des feuillets 245 et 246 est interverti. Ce manuscrit a été copié en partie par La Curne de Sainte-Palaye dans le BnF, Arsenal, ms. 3309.
            Source : Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Français 858
            Provenance : Bibliothèque nationale de France

            EXAMPLE B

            Titre du Manuscrit : Breviari d’amor
            Auteur : Matfre Ermengaud, actif au 13e siècle
            Légende : Concordance entre les planètes et les jours de la semaine ; pied-de-mouche
            Référence de l’image : Ms 1351, f. 38v
            date : [13..]

            EXAMPLE C

            Author : Matfré Ermengau of Béziers
            Title : Breviari d’Amor (Catalan prose version)
            Ref : Yates Thompson 31
            Origin : Spain, E. (Catalonia, Gerona?)
            Date : last quarter of the 14th century
            Language : Spanish (Catalan), with some Hebrew (ff. 131-134)
            Script : Gothic
            Artists : Attributed to the atelier of the Catalan Master of St Mark
            Form : Parchment codex
            Notes : The text is originally a Provencal poem composed between 1288 and 1292 by Matfré Ermengau of Béziers, and is an encyclopaedic compilation that explains how the world is an emanation of love.
            This manuscript is one of five known copies in Catalan.

          • Darren Worley

            Here is a slight better quality image of MS Yates Thompson 31, f70v – a diagram of the planets from the Breviari d’Amor (Catalan prose version) by Matfré Ermengau of Béziers, showing the tethered star a little clearer.

            Its dates from the last quarter of the 14th century.

            • MarcoP

              Thank you, Darren!
              I agree that this illustration is exceptional, since “tethered stars” are so uncommon!

              I think that some illustrations of the hierarchies of angels appearing in the Breviari manuscripts also make an interesting comparison for the arrangement of the “nymphs” around the zodiac medallions (e.g. BNF fr 857).

              • Darren Worley

                Thanks Marco – the tethered stars are very rare. The only other place I’ve seen them are in the VM on f70v2 and f70v1. They only appear on the initial zodiac pages : Pisces and the first Taurus. The initial VM zodiac pages are more decorative; its as if the copyist took more effort with the first pages and quickly tired omitting them later on, or perhaps they were copying accurately to begin with
                and gradually slipped into an easier or more familiar style of drawing stars-without-tethers?

                I agree that the Breviari manuscripts contain many similarities with the VM. In addition to the angel-hierarchies you’ve just mentioned and the lizard-like Scorpio I recently posted an image of (from MS BNF Français 1601; a Provencal version of the Breviari d’amor; dated 1301-1350) the depictions of meteors, from the same manuscript, are also very similar.

                I attach a composite image of an illustration from f12r and other similar illustrations from the VM. I suspect these are deciptions of meteors.

                Sightings of meteors, were seen as a omen or portent, and contemporary medieval reports associate them with a subsequent lack of rainfall and other natural phenomenon.

                I had a look to see if there was any historical reports of prognostications by meteors, and it turned up a reference to Gersonides, or Levi ben Gershon (1288–1344). He was born at Bagnols in Languedoc, France, the son of Gerson ben Solomon Catalan. This is the same region that the Breviari manuscripts originate from. He wrote a “Prognostication for the Conjunction Of 1345” which mentions the influence of meteors.

                As Marco remarked in an earlier correspondance, the earlier pages in MS Français 1601, depicts comets that are drawn without tails. This can be seen here

                This appears to be mirrored in the VM. In the VM f103r and f103v depicts tailess-stars. I suspect these images and text are describing comets.

                The latter pages f104r to f115v show lists of tailed-stars. I suspect these are descriptions or prognostications on the effect of meteors. There are many more (presumed) meteors than comets.

                Lastly, Marco helpfully provided a short translation of the text found in the BNF Français 1601; Breviari d’amor.

                The stars illustrate this chapter: here

                The title (in red) is at the end of f11v: here

                “De la estelas correns e dels focs que vezem en l’ayre alcunas vetz”
                About falling stars and the fires that we see in the air sometimes

          • Darren Worley

            Here is another image of a naked human figure holding a star, in the same way as found in the VM zodiac. What is incontestable in this image, its that here it is referring to a celestial star.

            This German manuscript (Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Allemand 106) dates from the 16th century and is entitled “Die Mansionibus” (possibly by Johannes Hartlieb) and describes the 27 lunar mansions. Each star represents the most significant star within each lunar mansion.

            Other lunar-mansion images from the same manuscript can be found (here) they too depict human-figures alongside celestial stars (Aldebaran, Alnatha [An Nathra in Leo] etc.)

            Although this manuscript dates from the 16th-century, it appears to be following an earlier tradition. An older manuscript (Wolfenbüttel, Herzog August Bibliothek, 29. 14. Aug. Q) dating from the
            15th-century also depicts similar compositions. This is described as deriving from “Liber Introductorius” (German adaptation) by Michael Scot.

            One other remark is that the lunar mansion depicting Leo, shows the unusual form of a lion-with-a-protruding tongue. This unusual zodiacal feature is also found in the VM.

            Lastly, can anyone locate other digitised images of these subjects (other the the examples found on the Warburg website?). For the Herzog August Bibliothek image, it’d be good to see all the the lunar mansion images.

        • Darren Worley

          Here is another image from the same book, described earlier, by the the 15th-century astrologer Johannes Lichtenberger. Entitled “Prognosticatio” it was published in Straßburg in 1499.

          It shows a prophetess, the Cumaean Sibyl – a priestess who presided over the Apollonian oracle at Cumae, a Greek colony located near Naples, Italy.

          The Cumaean Sibyl grasps a star in her outstretched hand, as do many of the VM Zodiacal figures.

          • Derek Vogt

            Does the text explain why a humanoid figure would be holding a star?

          • Darren Worley

            Here is another image that depicts females holding stars, from the “Prognosticatio” by the the 15th-century astrologer Johannes Lichtenberger from the Straßburg 1499 edition.

            It shows Ptolomeus, Aristotles, Sybilla, Brigida and Reynhardus Lolbardus (Ptolemy, Aristotle, Sybilla, Brigida and Reynard Lollard). Sybilla and Brigida are shown holding stars.

            Incidentally, Sybilla and Brigida do not hold stars in the equivalent diagram in a manuscript version of Lichtenberger’s Prognosticatio, Harley MS 5201, ff 84r-146r (British Library) nor in the
            1488 version printed by Heinrich Knoblochtzer in Heidelberg here.

            It’s interesting to note the regional differences in how the same scene is depicted (this this case the Straßburg version contains women-holding-stars).

            It is also worth noting the popularity of the Sybil’s in medieval thought and culture. The earliest earliest surviving remnant of any European book printed by movable type dated to about 1452–53 (predating the Gutenberg Bible, which was printed c.1454) is a fragment of a poem, the Sibyllenbuch (“Book of the Sibyls”). It seems likely that this fragment represents an earlier work by Gutenberg, from analysis of its ink.

            The large number of manuscript versions (Sibyllen Buch; Sibyllenweissagung) attests to the popularity of the Sibyls as a subject in the medieval period.

            • Stephen Bax

              Hi Darren, and thanks for these interesting images and thoughts. Do you want to put them together into a page? If so, I’d be happy to publish it in its own right.

              In particular, it would be interesting to see why they are holding stars, as Derek asked.

              • Darren Worley

                Stephen & Derek – I’d be glad to, but not for a while yet. I’d like to do a more systematic review of Lichtenberger’s publications and review the academic studies. I’ve seen there is at least one.

                I’m not certain why some figures are depicted holding stars. In relation to the Sybilla and Brigida image, in some editions the ladies are shown holding a star, and in others not. So I suspect that it is not related to the accompanying text, but perhaps someone with a better grasp of German and/or Latin can clarify? Perhaps its just down to the whim of the printer, or perhaps there is some regional variation in the composition of the illustration?

                It would also be good, if other images of this subject can be posted here.

          • Darren Worley

            Here is another 15th-century depiction of human-figures holding a star. In this case its Adam and Eve. Although its not particularly Voynich-like I include it, simply because it again demonstrates that depictions of people-holding-stars are indeed found in medieval Western art, albeit quite rarely.

            Illustration from “Beschlossen Gart des Rosenkranz Mariae” by Hans Baldung (called Hans Baldung Grien).
            German, Schwäbisch Gmünd (?) 1484/85–1545 Strasbourg (Strassburg)

            It can be seen here.

        • Darren Worley

          Below is an example of an unclothed (probably) female figure holding a star, in a similar manner to that in the VM Zodiac. It is the only nude-figure example that I’ve found so far. It appears on a late-15th century pack of Italian Renaissance playing cards.

          It is currently located in Szépművészeti Múzeum (Museum of Fine Arts), Budapest.

          I attach an example below – the full deck of cards in which it is found can be viewed here. Unfortunately the card is incomplete and only the upper section survives.

          The card/figure probably represents the Tarot star card. Thanks to Marco, who identified the source of this image.

          • Derek Vogt

            I don’t see any way to interpret that image as female.

          • Darren Worley

            Derek – I agree its not clearly a female depiction, which is why I stated its “probably” a female. I said this on the basis that this card looks like the Star Tarot Star card which often depicts female figures.

            My point in posting these images is to show that depictions of clothed and unclothed human figures holding stars does occur in Italian and German Renaissance-era artwork.

            This iconography is therefore not unique to the VM. The VM mostly shows female figures holding stars, in the Zodiac pages, but there are some male figures too.

        • Darren Worley

          Here is an example of a 15th-century Italian playing card depicting a female holding a star.

          The set of 78 Tarocchi playing-cards was originally commissioned by Filippo Maria Visconti, Duke of Milan (reigning 1412-1447) and by his successor, Francesco I Sforza. The cards are untitled, and often represent members of the Visconti and Sforza families in medieval period dress and settings.

          The original set was painted by Bonifazio Bembo (active 1447-1478). Further information and images are available here.

          Thanks to Marco, who identified the source of this image.

        • Darren Worley

          Here is an example of an early 16th-century Italian playing card depicting a male holding a star.

          The ace of cups card bears Isabella D’Este’s motto “nec spe nec metu”. Since she chose that motto in 1504, the deck is usually believed to be later.

          Further information and images are available here.

          • Darren Worley

            I’ve noticed that the time when the first Roma arrived in Germany, corresponds almost exactly with the creation of the VM.

            The recent posts about Gutenbergs’ Sibyllenbuch and the Renaissance playing cards depicting men-and-women holding stars – prompted me to look at the early history of printing, since playing cards were amongst the earliest printed items in Europe (although very few survive from this period).

            I found this comment from “The Invention of Printing” by Theodore De Vinne, possibly very relevant to the origin of the VMS (given some of the similarities that have been noted):

            QUOTE: The introduction of this oriental pastime [playing cards] in civilized Europe has been attributed to the Moors of Spain, to eastern Jews who traded on the shores of the Meditteranean, to Gypsy’s who made their appearance in Germany at the beginning of the fifteenth century.

            I wasn’t aware that the Roma first entered Central Europe and Germany at this point – but this article gives a detailed account of their arrival.

            QUOTE : … the first mention [of Sinti and Roma] in Germany was in the bishop’s seat of Hildesheim in 1407.

            QUOTE: Their early history shows a mixed reception. Although 1385 marks the first recorded transaction for a Romani slave in Wallachia [modern day Romania, and part of Hungary], they were issued safe conduct by Sigismund of the Holy Roman Empire in 1417. Romanies were ordered expelled from the Meissen region of Germany in 1416, Lucerne, Switzerland in 1471, Milan in 1493, France in 1504, Aragon in 1512, Sweden in 1525, England in 1530 (see Egyptians Act 1530), and Denmark in 1536. In 1510, any Romani found in Switzerland were ordered to be put to death, with similar rules established in England in 1554, Denmark in 1589, and Sweden in 1637, whereas Portugal began deportations of Romanies to its colonies in 1538.

            And this woodcut print shows the “Gypsies” who arrived in Bern, Switzerland in 1414 (miniature from the Spiezer Chronicles of the 15th century).

            In my opinion, this Roma migration scenario provides a credible historical example of a newly introduced population (possibly with their own language and script) moving into Central Europe at precisely the time when the VM is thought to date from. Their subsequent persecution might explain the sudden dissapearance of any language and script.

            This also ties in very well with Derek’s identification of similarities of Voynichese with Romani.

            • Notula

              Why should some educated and wealthy person in the first half of the 15th century spend a lot of money and time to write a book in Romani, the language of a small illiterate minority living on the fringe of society? Why inventing a writing system, an alphabet, and – most of all – for whom?

              In the Quattrocento there was surely no social contact between the educated elite and the poor Roma, no integration and certainly no kind of “ethnolinguistic” interest. So for what use would such a book have been? Just an expensive pastime for a single intellectual? No, this idea is really too far from medieval reality.

              • Darren Worley

                Notula – I don’t think there is any evidence that the medieval Roma were illiterate, or incapable of reading or writing. Your comments seems to be loaded with many prior assumptions and I think this is a mistake.

                The article that I referenced indicates the Roma must have had some skills of diplomacy, and access to the highest level of royalty and the royal court (hardly on the fringes of society.)

                QUOTE : “An undoubtedly genuine and repeatedly mentioned letter of safe conduct is the one issued by King Sigismund during the Council of Constance (1414 – 1418). In this document, the highest secular ruler of Christianity granted the Roma, who said about themselves that “their ancestors had broken with the faith in Little Egypt”, “escort and a free journey through his countries and cities”.

                The article also talks about a hierarchy within the Roma community, so perhaps like the rest of medieval society, perhaps those at the top of society could read-and-write. I don’t see any reason to assume they would be unable to, as they’d been living and travelling through literate cultures for many generations.

                QUOTE: Their leaders called themselves “dukes”, “counts” or “voivode”. They had jurisdiction over their retinue, wore better clothes than the rest of their group, and always travelled on horseback.

                Furthermore, they are described elsewhere as “baptized pagans” which suggests some affiliation with Christianity, although perhaps not with an established church. Since Christianity is a religion of scripture, again, its seem quite possible that someone within the community could have been literate.

                Lastly, the contents of the VM could quite plausibly be the work of a semi-nomadic tent-dwelling community, with interests in plants and herbs, astrology and fortune-telling. Or, perhaps someone in their community had an interest in their surrounding culture, and copied topics of interest from available sources?

              • Derek Vogt

                Must the Voynich Manuscript have been produced by elites?

                Also, the evidence for a Romany connection so far does not necessarily require a theory that the manuscript was made by & for Roma; it is equally compatible, or even more so, with a theory that the creators of the manuscript were not Roma, but close cousins of them, who had recently become separate from them. This would simplify the paths of phonetic changes that must have happened to arrive at the Voynich and Romany phonetic systems as they now appear. And among the cultural differences might have been that this group was quicker to settle and fit in better with the locals… which might also have contributed to the language’s apparent extinction since then.

                • Notula

                  @Darren Worley

                  Do you have any evidence for the Romani language to have been a written language in medieval times? As far as I know there is not the slightest evidence for that.

                  The Roma had of course their own rulers and some of them might even have been able to read and write, but in this case the languages of the countries
                  they had immigrated.

                  The famous Sigismund letter of safe conduct only mentions a certain voivode named Ladislaus and his entourage but not at all the Roma in general. This letter is far from being a proof for “access to the highest level of royalty”, but rather a proof for the political skills of Sigismund.

                  I’ve got the impression that Voynich research drifts more and more into romantic speculation instead of coming step by step closer to the real history. I have no prior assumptions, I just count on science and facts.

                  To answer your question about the elites: yes the production
                  of codices was a privilege of the well educated, the rich bourgeoisie and the monastries.

                • Notula

                  @ Derek Vogt

                  Sorry, Derek, for having mixed up my comment about the elites with my answer for Darren! I should go to bed a little earlier…

                • Darren Worley

                  Thanks Derek – do have you any opinion on who the close-cousins might be? The article that I linked to mentions many “cousins” of the Roma : the Dom, the Karaci, the Kurbati, the Parya, the Luti, the Nawar etc.

                  The Dom seem like good candidates – these people are thought to be either the result of an earlier migration from the Indian sub-continent, or represent those from the same migration, as the Roma, but who remained in Persia and Turkey.

                  Voynichese characters seems to have borrowed from Syriac, which suggests whoever wrote the script might have had some contact with Syria/Turkey.

                  Lastly, there’s an online Romani lexical database here.

                  And quite a comprehensive account of Romani grammar here

                  • Derek Vogt

                    Distinguishing among those to determine which is closest to Voynichese would require more knowledge than I have, or think I could ever learn. I believe that’s a task for a professional historical linguist whose sub-specialty is in that group, or a native speaker of at least one of them who has studied the others in some capacity, or both, and even that sort of person would probably require more knowledge of the inner workings of Voynichese than we have now, even if everything I’ve said about the language so far is correct. (In fact, his/her first task would be to apply that background knowledge to the Voynich Manuscript just to try to dig up more understanding of the text alone, before attempting to link it to any modern spoken language; that link would be something that emerges from the increased understanding of the text.)

                    That situation is analogous to several others in historical linguistics, in which scholars can not determine the nature of the relationships in some group. Even the ones you listed have some uncertainty there as you just described, and that’s with living native speakers of each of those languages around today for better linguists than me to listen to and ask questions of!

                    And on top of that, there is also the possibility that Voynichese is linguistically extinct, even though its speakers presumably have living biological descendants speaking other languages instead now. This actually seems more likely to me than that it’s a precursor to any modern language.

                    I’ll just stick with “something related to Romany” for now because Romany is the one language in that group you mention that I have the most access to information about.

                    BTW, two of the languages you named have sounds right in their names that Voynichese doesn’t seem to have a letter for: an “L” and a “d”. I think that makes them unlikely matches from the start; in fact, Voynichese seems to be so characterized by loss of phonemes that connecting it to almost any other modern language would seem to require a strange U-turn, first losing sounds and then getting them back.

                    The “d” in “Domari” is particularly interesting to me because both that and the “r” in “Romany” originated as the “ɖ” in their ancestral language’s word for “person”, “ɖom”. That’s a retroflex plosive, essentially a fusion of “d” and “r”, a plosive done with the tongue curled back into the “r” position and touching the middle of the roof of the mouth. In both cases, it ended up falling away to one side or the other, so “person” is now “rom” in one and “dom” in the other. Given the lack of any sign of a “d” in Voynichese (because the places where you’d expect to see it have the same letter as “t” or “j”, or even both), and a few other examples of lost “d”s in certain Romany words, it looks like Romany would be closer to Voynich than either is to Domari at least on this one particular phonetic issue (as well as geography). But it’s possible that if I knew of another single sound to focus on like that, then that one could give me a contradictory impression.

                    • Neticis

                      Derek, couldn’t then one of probable Voynich’s “r” be actually “d”, or (depending on how spelling was evolved) any of “r” could be also “d”?

                    • Derek Vogt

                      Neticis (there’s no “reply” link under the post I’m answering), it is possible for /r/ to evolve into /d/ or /d/ to evolve into /r/. For example, I once knew someone from South America who had grown up speaking Spanish but illiterate, then learned to speak and read & write English, so written Spanish ended up his second written language, and he couldn’t keep the letters “d” and “r” straight in Spanish because they represent the same sound. (For example, he would write “mira” as “mida”.)

                      However, that is an issue of pure phonetics, and reconstructing an unknown alphabet doesn’t really quite allow for pure phonetics, at least not at first until a lot more knowledge about the language is built up. What it allows for is correlations with other languages. For example, when I say that a Voynich letter is ^r^ or ^s^, what it really means is that where other languages have the sound /r/ or /s/, the apparently equivalent Voynich word has that letter I’m calling ^r^ or ^s^. If Voynich also experienced a sound shift converting spoken /r/ into /d/ and spoken /s/ into /z/, the correlation would still be the same; other languages’ /r/ or /s/ would simply correlate with Voynich /d/ or /z/ instead of exactly the same sound… like the /d/ in English “dance” and the /t/ in German “Tanz”. I do write the letter that I think best represents what the Voynich sound probably sounded like, but there would not yet be any way to tell if it was off. For example, even if every step in my logic is correct and every example I think I’ve found is valid, the letters I call ^f^ and ^v^ still could be bilabial fricatives instead of labiodental ones: /ɸ/ and /β/ instead of /f/ and /v/. There just aren’t symbols representing the concept “probably labiodental fricatives but possibly bilabial”, so we must work with the symbols that are available. Similarly, it’s possible that the Voynich letter I write sometimes as ^š^ and sometimes as ^s^ represented only one sound in spoken Voynichese, but I can’t tell which, so I use whichever one fits better with the apparent cognates in each case, because there’s no single symbol for “either alveolar or palatal fricative, probably voiceless but possibly voiced”.

                      So the real question is not whether the sound /d/ could exist where we seem to see a correlation with foreign languages’ /r/. The real question is why we can’t identify a letter that consistently correlates with foreign languages’ /d/ (and not with other sounds). Where other languages have /d/, Voynichese sometimes has ^t^ or ^ǧ^ or even ^tǧ^, plus I think a case or two of ^r^ and ^g^, all of which are named for the sounds they usually correlate with in foreign words. It’s possible that the Voynich language actually had a /d/ which generally correlated with some other sound in other languages (so my name for at least one letter is wrong), but there’s no way to tell which yet, and that’s a separate question from what Voynich sound correlated with other languages’ /d/.

                      As weird as it might sound for a language to not have the sound /d/, that inconsistency in how foreign words with it are handled is what a language without it would look like. For example, Arabic has no /p/, so examples of /p/ in foreign cognates don’t have just one Arabic counterpart; they’re split between /f/ and /b/.

  16. Helmut Winkler

    I suppose you mean Vat(icanus). lat. 1369, not Pal(atinus). lat. 1369 or what, your reference got mixed up somehow. Both ms. are in the BAV, but are in quite different fondi.
    I would read “die zwifach”, not “die zwilach”. I don’t know “zwilach”, “zwifach” is a well documented word, meaning two times or pair. It should be South German/Oberdeutsch, but that is difficult to say without seeing all of the ms.

  17. Darren Worley

    The text above the Gemini figures in Pal. Lat. 1369 (f147v) reads “die zwilach” rather than “die zwihling” or “die zwiling” (meaning “The Twins”) as found in later German examples.

    Can anyone identify the dialect that uses “die zwilach” to mean twins, or is this just an archaic usage of this term?

    • The image in Pal.Lat. 1369 is quite remarkable!
      One other commonality with the Voynich MS seems to be the rouge applied to the cheeks. (To be confirmed if that’s what it is).
      This is quite special for the Voynich MS, in particular the nymphs in the zodiac section.
      Maybe more later this week……

    • zwi means 2
      zwifach = twofold
      zwispalt = conflict
      zwilicht = half-light
      zwisitig = bilaterally

      but zwilach, never heard.
      @ Helmut, vielleicht 2x Lachen 🙂 🙂

    • Linda Snider

      Zwilach 1410, not sure if it’s relevant but could be.


    • Helmut Winkler

      “die form zwilach ist vornehmlich schwäbisch (Augsburg): Diefenbach nov. gloss. 190a (Augsburg 1468)” DWB (Grimmsches Wörterbuch) 32,1207

Leave Your Comment

Your email will not be published or shared. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>