While thinking about the sequences of ‘i’ letters in the Voynich manuscript, I came across this interesting account of minims in Latin script from a Harvard website:
Medieval scribes used minims to form letters. A single minim looks like this:
Several minims can make up a single letter, or even a group of letters. In particular, minims are usually used for the following letters:
One minim: “i”, “j”
Two minims: “n”, “u”, “v”
Three minims: “m”, “w”
It is frequently difficult to know what letter or letters a group of minims represents unless you can determine the entire word from context. Look at the word below, and see if you can figure out what it is. Mouse over the image to learn the correct answer.
The leading “a” helps determine what the string of minims in the middle of the word must be. Now, try a harder one (hint: this word is Latin):
Although it looks at first glance like this word is composed entirely of minims, the two center characters are “ll.” As you can see, scribes did not follow our practice of putting uniform spaces between characters, so sometimes minims from separate characters run together, or minims forming the same character will be separate.
In the Voynich manuscript we see many examples of these minims, and in my Feb 2014 paper I suggested that they might be borrowed from Latin and have a similar use and meaning. The account above reminds us that a sequence of two minims might represent ‘n’ or ‘u’ and three might represent ‘w’ or ‘m’.
When reading the Voynich manuscript, in other words, we need to be aware of possible multiple meanings for the same signs , and we need to accept that this was not unique in mediaeval practice.
I am starting to wonder whether the sequence I translated in my paper as KNTAIRN for Centaury, might not in fact be KNTAURN, the U being made up of a single minim plus a second minim with an upward curve signifying the R. That would have implications for other analyses later in the discussion, but it would in fact be a more satisfactory reading of this word, fitting with the Greek ‘aur’ of Centaur.
But time will tell.