Tag Archives: VMS f116v

Final Page, But Probably Not the Finale

Like an ancient whale surfacing for air, discussions of the marginalia on folio 166v re-emerge from time-to-time. The subject this time was a possible French/Catalan interpretation, something Nick Pelling has apparently written about in the past and commented on in his Cipher Mysteries blogs.

I haven’t seen Pelling’s earlier writings about this folio, but I’m fairly certain the marginalia at the top of f17r is the same hand as the final page. Also, the f17r marginalia includes a word that looks to me like mallier (an ending often found in French), so I’m perfectly willing to consider a French interpretation, especially since porta?/portas/portad on the last page is a construction common to Romance languages.

If we evaluate the top line as French/Provençal, there are a number of possibilities. But first, I should mentioned that I thought for a long time that the last letter in this line was “r”. Now I am not so sure. The more I look at it, the more it resembles some kind of i-like blip followed by a worm-hole. If that’s a wormhole, then it’s probably not an “r”. I wish it were, so this line might be interpreted as a piece of verse. Then one might get something like this:

por le ber [o]u mon votr[e] fer   or   por le ber [o]u mon votr[e] fe

Yes, I know, this isn’t good French or Provençal, it’s as much of a potpourri as any German interpretation, but it shows that the top line is not necessarily germanic in the same sense as “so nim[m] gaf/gas mich” on the last line.

The words in the middle are by no means clear. It could be “um en” or “urien” or “uri on” or “[o]u mon” any number of odd interpretations. The second letter looks like an r that was turned into an m and the third letter is nothing I recognize except perhaps ç (which would not normally be followed by “n”).

The last word isn’t much better. The first letter looks like v, or p with the stem partly erased. The next letter is bizarre, neither “u” nor “o” but a somewhat Voynichese-backwards-leaning “u”. The next letter is unclear, but perhaps a p or a badly formed “r”. The f has part of the top erased, the “e” is clear and then the last letter is ambiguous, somewhat like “r” and yet not.

What could it mean? In Provençal, “le ber” refers to a noble and eventually became a surname, and “fe” is faith. If it’s “fer” then it’s something that is done. If one then looks at the second line through the same lens, we might end up with something like this:

au chi/qui ton o la dabas + imil tos + te/re +  c?e + cere/céré + portas + m

In some Provençal dialects, “qui” (who) was written as “chi”. Unfortunately, even though there are some Romance-language words here and “au qui ton” isn’t completely weird, the sum total of the line doesn’t make any grammatical sense.

If it were Spanish, one might be able to wrestle something out of “oladabas” if one assumes the first “d” is an “s” with a pen skip. Then it could be interpreted as “o las [h]abas” (or the beans).

So, it still comes out as a gobbledy-gook of French, Spanish, Latin, Voynichese, and German, with no cohesive meaning.

The only place I can think of where they might have spoken like this would be the borderlands between Switzerland (French and German), Provençal (Spanish/French/Italian), and Italy, where blended versions of French, German, and Romance languages were spoken and were mixed with Latin in scholarly circles. Either that or the writer used a set of tables in a variety of languages, with words selected and combined according to some system that’s not easy to discern.

Two or More Hands on the Last Page?

It’s important to note that the ink on the top line is slightly browner than the three lines lower, and if you look at the way the letter ell is drawn on the top line, with an added straight bar across the top loop, rather than a connected, angled bar as on the second line, there’s no guarantee these were written by the same person. Note also the smaller, more angular “e” on the top line, compared to the larger, rounder ones on the other lines. It’s the same style of handwriting, one that was extremely common (Gothic), but was it the same person?

It’s really hard to tell, especially when the marginalia on f17r illustrates both styles of ell (angled tops and straight tops):

A straight, disconnected loop on the top line is rare enough in Gothic hands that I hoped it might provide clues to the cultural identity of the scribe. For years I’ve searched for straight Gothic-style loops, and only found four that were were similar enough that I thought them worthy of note. One is in a manuscript of unknown European origin, one is thought to be from Germany, the third is attributed to Nuremberg, the fourth is possibly Venetian.

There are two that are not quite as distinctly similar, one from Clairvaux, France, and one from Germany. Perhaps one day I’ll hit a bingo and find a perfect match. In the meantime, I’m not any wiser as to the meaning of the text, but it’s always interesting to look at it from another point of view.

J.K. Petersen

Copyright © 2018 Jan, J.K. Petersen

The Last Page But Not the Last Word

Folio 116v Revisited

In 2013, I posted a couple of times about Folio 116v, which is sometimes referred to as the last page of the Voynich Manuscript. I also suggested, as I worked through my journey of personal discovery, that it might be a healing charm. I knew nothing about healing charms before trying to puzzle out the VMS, but I was following a hunch that it might be associated with magic when I saw the strange word oladabas. I later discovered, in 2013 and again in 2015, that abracula was a charm word (a very old and and venerated one) used to cure fevers, and posted some examples of 15th century charms, which follow a format surprisingly similar to the VMS text.

Considering how little is written (and drawn) on Folio 116v compared to most other pages, it’s surprising it has generated so many questions. One of the persistent challenges is the interpretation of the characters, some of which are faded and some of which are unconventional. I can read Gothic Cursive better now than I could in 2013, but that doesn’t help when a word is a blobby mess like the one in the middle of the first row of the main body of text (marked with an arrow):

Vm116CeveBig

Deconstructing the Blob

I didn’t pay any attention to what others proposed as the reading for this word because I was so focused on other aspects of the page that I never followed it up, but the subject was raised on the Voynich forum today and I thought it was time to post my impression of what the letters might represent.

In 2013, I thought the word-group in question might be a messy rendition of toe because “o” and “e” are sometimes combined in old manuscripts as œ. After looking at it for a while longer, I realized the explanation might be something completely different.

Vm116Ceve2Let’s say, for example, that this was originally written as a bench character (EVA-ch). The bench char isn’t only a Voynichese char. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s also a common Latin ligature that can represent a wide variety of combinations of “t” “c” “e” and “r” characters, since they are similar to one another in Gothic cursive. In fact, in some manuscripts, it’s hard to distinguish “c” from “e” or “t” from “c” without context.

So, if it’s a bench character, maybe it’s a bench char with a cap or maybe the “cap” is part of the corrected shape or something not used anywhere else. I’m not sure. The cap is smaller and lower than usual, so it might be part of the corrected shape, but we don’t know if the script on the last page is written by the Voynich scribe or someone else who is somewhat able to mimic VMS text but doesn’t do it exactly the same. In the example above, I’ve lightened the shapes that appear to have been added after the initial shape was drawn. I left in the “cap” or “elbow”, but it’s probably best to picture it in your head both with and without the cap-shape since its connection with the other shapes is unclear.

All right. So let’s say for the moment that the scribe drew a bench character. What happened then? Why did he turn it into an unreadable mess? Perhaps the scribe was trying to correct an error. Maybe it’s Voynichese and he didn’t want to give things away. Maybe it’s a common Latin ligature and he decided it looked too much like Voynichese and could be misinterpreted later. Maybe it’s simply a mistake.

Vm116Ceve3Here’s what I think the scribe may have tried to do to correct it… I’ve added colors to the letters so they’re easier to see because I think the answer may lie right in front of us.

In this illustration, the “c” or “t” is purple, the added “e” or “c” is green, and the added “v” or “r” is bluish. Note how the bench char is still in the background, making it hard to clearly see the letters in front even when they’re highlighted with color? So… if it’s a mistake, adding the letters didn’t fix the problem.

What was he trying to write? Was it tev/ter/tar or tcv or ccv or cev or cer—all of which might have been written with the first two letters as a ligature in Latin? I think maybe it’s “cer” or “cev” (ligature ce plus v) and he never finished correcting it because it wasn’t working, so instead of taking the time to scrape away a mistake—he wrote it again correctly as the next word, spaced out better and not blobby, to create “ceve” or “cere”.

Vm116Ceve4

Plausible?

I don’t know. It’s just an idea, I can think of other interpretations, as well, but I think it’s worth mentioning in case it sparks some fresh thoughts about how to read it.

J.K. Petersen

© Copyright 2016 J.K. Petersen, All Rights Reserved