The last page f116v revisited

I would like to revisit the last page of the Voynich manuscript, namely f116v. Here below I reproduce the proposed analysis offered by Johannes Albus at the Voynich 100 conference in Italy in May 2012. One reason for reproducing it here is that it seems to me relatively unknown. I have tried to find out more about Albus and his research, but with no success.

This is the link to the relevant Voynich page.

Albus’ transcription and gloss is as follows:

(Transcription with abbreviations and omissions in square brackets)

L1 poxleber umen[do] putriter.
L2 + an[te] chiton olei dabas + multas + t[un]c + t[an]ta[a](?) cer[a]e + portas + M[ixtura] +
L3 fix[a] + man[nipulis] IX + mor[sulis] IX + vix + alt[e]ra + matura +
L4 … … (two ciphered words) pals [ein]en pbrey so nim[m] gei[s]smi[l]ch O

Translation (Johannes Albus)

Billy goat´s liver for wet rot
At the membrane you gave oil, then you bring a lot of the much(?) wax, in a
fixed mixture: 9 hands full, 9 morsels (from) the only just double mature
… … (two ciphered [Voynichese] words), squash it into a paste, then take goat´s milk.

The fact that the text contains two words in ‘Voynichese’ is significant, since it means that it was not simply a later addendum by an unrelated scribe, but is linked at least tangentially to the rest of the VM.

So what do you make of it? I was impressed by the analysis, which fits the picture of a goat in the margin. It is also interesting that the first three lines are in Latin (according to the analysis) while the fourth – after the Voynich words – is in German, which is more convincing than if the German and Latin were mixed together in each line. I’m not a German speaker so I can’t say how convincing that last part is.

Any constructive views or ideas? I say ‘constructive’ to avoid mere attacking and derogatory comments which – sadly – are so typical of Voynich discussions!! Any thoughts?


  1. yamoo

    An observation: if I’m not mistaken (I can’t find the post I’m thinking of), the first of the two Voynichese words there, ‘oror’/’arar’, has been speculated to mean “juniper”, hasn’t it?

  2. D.N. O'Donovan

    I recall the issue of the ‘+’ being discussed almost a decade ago, when I pointed out – as I was probably not the first to do – that it is routinely found in manuscripts where the reader is meant to bless themselves or bless another person or object. It can be seen in medieval copies of the Mass service, and of the Bible. Certainly it could be used apotropaically and even (as mentioned above) occurs for that reason in works of magic – a majority depending heavily on subverting and adopting mainstream religious practice. But for medieval European mss, the vast majority of occurrences are in written works is in mainstream Christian works.

    Constant re-discovery of these wheels is one of the great drags on this study, and due not least to a failure on the part of some amateurs to realise that acknowledgement of precedents is not even chiefly about pinning ‘credit medals’ on anyone, but preventing errors of attribution, assisting later-come scholars to have an efficient line to earlier work, and allowing everyone to waste as little of their time as possible sorting out the mess which results when precedents are obscured, fudged or got wrong.

    Similarly, the ‘goat’s milk’ thing has been around for more than fifty years. I am given to understand that ‘Albus’ was a personal acquaintance invited by one of the organisers but otherwise unknown to Voynich researchers. He is merely repeating material already known to Irwin Panofsky and mentioned by him in his terse responses to Friedman’s questionnaire.

    Among the alternative interpretations of that marginalia, on which endless ink and speculation has been spent, I would recommend the work of Anton Allipov, and of Nick Pelling, the latter having discussed it and made a generally-ignored discovery before publication of his book in 2006.


  3. after having spent many hours looking at and thinking about f116r, I’ll share my 2c (even if some of you may not like them a lot).
    first of all, I am very, very sceptic about “gas mich” meaning goats milk. because, “geiss” being written and pronounced as “gas”, only ever happened and happens in a very, very small area in the Pfalz, one could even say in a few villages only. It would be sensational to narrow down the origin of the scribe so much, but it seems very unlikely.
    because “mich” as “milch” on the other hand, only ever happened and happens in a small county in salzburg. very far apart, too far, in time & place.
    here is what I think: that recipe is another trick played in the VMS that leads you down different roads and alleys, and simply consumes a lot of time. In my eyes, the first line does not belong together with the other lines. the folio should have featured the colophon, but it has been trimmed at the top (I’m not the only one saying this), so the first line(s) of the colophon are missing. I have not seen examples where one would write so close to the border that the quill might jump off.
    the lines and the marginal drawing that make it look like a typical spell / charm / recipe have been added later by someone knowing his ways, to distract from the fact of trimming. there are a few hints in that direction, the size of the writing and the slanting of the other lines, a few differences in the character forms and a tiny bit darker ink on the top (which you can see when carefully working with the multispectral image remnants).
    my reading of the first two words: “pax labor”, which is of course not typical latin, but could be used by a scribe of german origin (the work is done). but draw a picture of a billy goat next to it and everyone will be forced to read pox leber.

    • Helmut Winkler

      1) gas (with long a) for geiss (goat) is widespread throughout southern Germany.
      2) in the word mich was obviously omitted a letter
      3) the pox leber reading is one of the few things in B. 408 which I would bet my pocket money on.

      • Peter

        Since I have the same opinion at pox leber,
        (pox, pok, Bok, Bock) it is always the male goat.

        At (gas mich o) it already looks something different.
        Gais was written and Gäs was spoken.
        Since I have already a problem, if on page 66r really Gel.
        Why does he write suddenly, and why do not the letters look the same?
        I also do not believe it is on 66r (y den mus Gel). But (y den mus des).
        And the complete sentence is called (und den mus des) = (and then that must).
        It does not matter if it is gel or not.
        The important thing for me is the (y), and this peculiarity exists in the Tyrol and it pretends (and). This tells me something about the origin of the book.

      • @Helmut Winkler
        1) No. Really, NO, not at all. Southern Germany does not mean south bavarian dialects. P(f)älzisch does not belong to it. The P(f)alz is somewhere else (SW), also in linguistic terms. There is NO written and NO pronounced “gaas” in ANY of the bavarian dialects, prove me wrong.
        2) Omitted letter is not obvious. Weak argument. I know the only dialect that omits it. It is in Pongau (SBG). And ten the “i” is closer to an “üi”.
        3) I don’t have a lot of (2c), but let’s bet.

        • @Peter
          Tirol is something different, yes, and much more so Vorarlberg (there is someone writing about this, but it seems not ready enough). But: male goat and female goat produce, not really differentiated.. red alert.

          • Peter

            1. In my opinion Vorarlberg is too far north. It is located in the Habsburgrian area (crown), but there are no shawl tails.
            2. The written peculiarities (dialect) also point to Bavarian. But it can also be the Tyrol around 1400 under Bavarian administration was.
            3. Also the herbal hints tell me it must lie in the southern area of the Alps. Insofar as no major climate change is involved. (Around 1400 it was colder than today).

            It is not a hint, but it is the whole picture where I look.

            There is a difference whether female or male, I have never seen a bock where give milk. ( Hoax ) 🙂

  4. Peter

    If one sees (g) in (Gaismilch) no (g) but a (z), then the whole sentence also makes sense.
    If I look at all g, then exactly with this something is not because all are equal. I see a bad (ez).
    umen / amen / imen / vmen / nimen…..
    We still write in part today.
    valtsch obren, so nimzäs mich o….-sisch aifach wiä schwiitzertütsch

  5. Helmut Winkler

    116v has been discussed ad nauseam, see Voynich ninja and the mailing list and one of the few things I am quite sure about is that the Albus readings and translations are mostly wrong

    • Peter

      Then I joined at once. To understand what is written, German is a basic prerequisite. Better even if one is familiar with the dialects and their spelling. And now the same 500 years ago.

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks Helmut, I know it has been discussed a lot, but my aim here is to get specific discussion of Albus’ interpretation. I feel is it not a good idea simply to dismiss it out of hand as some seem to do.

      For example, taking a point which Marco makes on this page, if “so nim” (meaning “then take”) is frequent in recipes in German, that implies that Albus’s intrepretation of that line has some value and that the language of that line MIGHT in fact be German.

      I don’t know if you are a German or Latin reader/speaker, but do you have any specific observations on any part of the text?

      • Helmut Winkler

        I am a German and Latin reader/speaker and the Albus readings are like the piece in the TLS, what is correct is not new.. The pox leber reading for example is certainly correct and the so nim geismich reading and part of it is certainly German and some is Latin, but much of it is just a question of interpretation. I would read the first line as pox leber, primum putrifer and I have not much doubt from a palaeographicl point of view that that is correct. What it means is another question, I would interpret it as pox leber, primum putrefacit, meaning billy goat liver, it is the first [part of the body] to putrefy and connect it with the drawing in the margin. The rest looks very much like a charm you find again and again in mss., I dont think it is important and I doubt everyting is readable. What I think is interesting is that part of it looks like the marginalia and that it is mixed up with some Voynichese.

        • Stephen Bax

          Thanks – very helpful. For me this is the most important piece of the ‘marginalia’ because it contains fluently written Voynich script, and if it is indeed German and Latin then that obviously has key implications for sourcing the manuscript. That sets it above much of the other marginalia which could be much later scrawlings by people who had no link with the original manuscript at all. Thanks again.

          • I also think that it is of interest that the drawings are in the margin.
            This strongly suggests that they were made after the short text was written.
            (Note that some drawings in the biological section also appear in the margin, but it seems to me that they were drawn before the text was written – opinions welcome).

            If the drawings on f116v were made after the text was written, and if they are from the same drawing hand as the rest of the MS, it either suggests a close collaboration between two people till the very end, or, that the entire MS, incl. text and drawings, is from one person.

            Especially if these marginalia are of no great importance (which I also consider likely), it would be strange for the author of these words to ask the guy doing the drawings to add these marginal drawings…..

            Nothing definitive, I think, but some rather strong indications.

            • Peter

              Difficult to say whether it was drawn before or after. Through the repair site, it was visibly under pressure. Behind the crack would be a large part of the sheet already covered by the drawing, which is already apparent on the back.

              • Peter

                If I look at the whole course of the book, I would now be able to transfer the chances of livestock to humans by means of the two drawings of animals. What was soon the case, since both lived in the same rooms. Above all, skin diseases were widespread, but also well cured.
                I think he would have gone on, but why did he stop so suddenly? Because the book had no more pages? Is there a second possibility?

  6. From my experience transcribing 15th century English cooking manuscripts, I read the text as follows:

    + anchiton oladabad + [um?]lt[?]d + te + tw + teve + hsortad + [?] +
    six + ana[q?]irx + mo[??]rx + vix + abia + ma + mat
    [voynich words] paldch pbrez so mm gas mich o

    Admittedly, there’s a lot of variation in paleography and English cookbooks aren’t necessarily a good overlap with the VM.

    I don’t see much in the way of suspension marks in the text or any of the other common ways of indicating an abbreviation, so I would be leery of expanding any perceived abbreviations into words.

    The letter “i” was commonly left undotted, which makes me question the “i” in “nimen” and “geissmilch.

    S and L weren’t the letters usually left out. M and N were more commonly dropped, with a line over the preceding letter to show the omission.

    The occurrence of cross characters between words (very much not the letter “T” assumed in “matura” but a cross added where it was inadvertently omitted – the other t’s in the text don’t look anything like a +) remind me of the magic inscriptions of the time, which were often written in this manner and were filled with pseudo-Latin and nonsense words. The first two words, “anchiton oladabad” fit this pretty well, though I haven’t encountered them before in magical texts. Then again, I’ve only dabbled in such inscriptions so I just might have missed it so far.

    • Stephen Bax

      Thanks Daniel. Your analysis is interesting.

      Can I ask about a specific part:

      In line 2 you read the second word as “oladabad” and the second last word as “hsortad”

      The last sign in each word is the 8 sign which might then have been borrowed by the Voynich, which is why I focus on it.

      Albus reads that as an ‘s’, which allows him to read the words as second person singular. In English recipes is it very clearly a ‘d’?

      • Peter

        On the basis of the four texts the (8) is a (d).
        I do not see any “hsortad”, rather “por + ad”, “portad” similar to “pox” in Leber I think it is a contamination in the parchment.

      • The page in the VM shows significant wear and some of the lines are very faded, which of course makes reading it more challenging. Also, there is plenty of room for interpretation.

        That being said, I’ve put together the following for comparison using one of the copies of Forme of Cury (FoC) [MS 5016, 15th c.] as a basis.

        It would be very strange to borrow one symbol from the VM when all the other letters in the word use the Latin alphabet. Note how the “8” at the end of “oladabad” and “hsortad” match the d in “and so” from FoC very well. Conversely they don’t match the s in “safrou[n] & “salt”.

        So, yes, in terms of an English (or French) cookbook from that time period, it looks more like a “d” … at least to me.

        While the start of what I have as “hsortad” could possibly be seen as a “p” like those of “paldch pbrez”, the spacing of the bow seems a little wide and the extra vertical line looks like the ascender of an “h”, similar to the one in “flessh” from FoC. If others see it as “portad” I won’t argue too much.

        Normally I would go from context and repetition help make up for the vagaries and faded letters, but there isn’t much of this text to work with.

        • Stephen Bax

          Thanks Daniel. You say that “It would be very strange to borrow one symbol from the VM when all the other letters in the word use the Latin alphabet.”

          Sorry for the confusion. What I was wondering is whether this ‘8’ sign was borrowed from the other language into the Voynich script and not vice versa, in which case if we can find its sound value it could help us with decoding. That is why I was interested that you think it represents a /d/ sound.

  7. MarcoP

    Hello Stephen,
    this marginal text is fascinating and the fact that it is so difficult to read makes it even more so!
    I will repeat here something that was discussed on the forum.

    Ms BSB Clm 671 is described in “Fifteenth-Century Medicine and Magic at the University of Heidelberg” by Elizabeth I. Wade-Sirabian:

    “[In 1421] a fifteen-year old student, Conrad Buitzruss, enrolled at the University, and during his five years in Heidelberg, Buitzruss, or “Bynczruzs” as his surname is spelled in the university’s record, kept a notebook, a fascinating collection of texts that juxtapose a number of diverse subjects, and is now housed as Clm 671 in the Bavarian State Library in Munich. This notebook contains an extraordinary array of entries on medicine and magic that document supernatural beliefs and practices regarding the prevention and healing of diseases. 
    Included in the manuscript’s 182 folios are astronomical and astrological texts, notes on time-keeping, and most interestingly, a collection of instructions about how to fulfill domestic tasks, such as producing ink, catching fish, conserving wine, and preparing food. 
    Buitzruss included formulas of ritual magic in his compilation, referring both to Christian charms (which combine folk superstition and religious piety), and necromantic rituals. 

    Buitzruss’s notebook also indicates his interest in collecting information on women’s reproductive functions: he brings together, for example, methods for confirming virginity, gauging fertility, and for discovering the sex of an unborn child.”

    Some of the interesting details we could find include:

    1. the frequent use of “so nim” (meaning “then take”) in recipes;
    2. gaismilch, likely meaning “goat milk” in one of the recipes;
    3. words separated by crosses: these typically are pseudo-Latin Christian charms;
    4. paragraphs mixing Latin and German; in the example, a line of German text is followed by some Latin with multiple crosses (“rax pax fax”, compare with 116v L3).

    A detail of Albus’ analysis I am now uncertain about is the mix of German and Latin in the first line. The first word (that he reads “poxleber”) seems German, but I am not sure the other words are Latin.

    Also, a few weeks ago, Rene posted to the forum an UV image (previously published by Nick Pelling) that highlights a mix of Latin and Voynichese characters also in the top margin of f17r.

    • Darren Worley

      Hi Marco – I’m pleased that you’ve commented on the fact that the words in this text are separated by “+” signs.

      There has been a lot of discussion on the possible reading of the individual words, but not so much on contemporary parallels, so its good that you’ve drawn attention to this.

      As you reported, medieval charm, incantation and prayer texts were also written using “+” signs to seperate the words.

      I think this is important and it suggests that this marginalia text also serves this purpose.

      Since this marginalia contains two Voynichese words, it seems likely that other part of the VMS (the parts written in Voynichese) might also serve a similar function.

      • MarcoP

        Hi Darren,
        I think I first read about crosses in charms in this 2013 blog post by Ellie Velinska. Incantations and prayers to be used when picking plants occur in several medieval herbals. Some versions of the Pseudo-Apuleius prominently present prayers to Mother Earth (precatio terrae matris) and to All Plants (precatio omnium herbarum). It is certainly not far-fetched to imagine that something similar might appear in the VMS.

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