Tag Archives: Voynich Manuscript marginalia

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