Tag Archives: Voynich

Voynich Script – The Leaning Letter
and Why I Never Use the Eva Font       9 Jan 2016

Delving into the Details

I am constantly asking myself what can I learn about a person who lived almost 600 years ago when all that remains are enigmatic pictures and about 200 pages of inscrutable text—text that has resisted the efforts of thousands (perhaps tens of thousands) of eager amateur and professional code-breakers.

It probably took a long time to create the VMS—hundreds of drawings, a couple of hundred pages of text. Writing and drawing with a quill takes considerable effort—something a generation of keyboarders might not fully appreciate.

SharpenQuillDijkThere were no ballpoint pens in the 15th century. Ink was hand-mixed from iron particles, vinegar, and oak galls, and getting the right consistency was important. To create the pen, someone had to pluck the feathers of a goose (preferably one that’s been given last rites—live geese will bite your knees off).

Even if you braved muddy streets crawling with rats and bought the ink and quills premade from a local craftsman, you had to trim your quill with a knife every few pages as the end of the nib wore away. If the angle or width of the nib changed, the text would be inconsistent. If you didn’t scrape enough ink off the nib right after dipping, the ink would drip or blob on the page. If you waited too long to redip, the ink would run out, the text would be too light and a few letters would have to be overdrawn without smearing.

Unlike a fountain pen, which provides a smooth flow of ink, the medieval scribe had to control the flow of ink using rhythmic movements of hand and wrist—a process similar to coaxing good sound out of a musical instrument.

Given the labor involved, writing nonsense-text would take almost as long as writing meaningful text.

What Penmanship Says about the Penman

15th c Lombardy calligraphy

15th c Lombardy calligraphy

Looking at the physical balance of the VM letters and lines, one would have to call it handwriting rather than calligraphy. The VM scribe was not an expert penman. As I mentioned in a previous post, the angle of the pen is not optimal for enhancing the aesthetic qualities of the pen strokes and the VM letter forms are not consistent enough to qualify for professional penmanship in an age when jaw-droppingly beautiful illuminated manuscripts were crafted by expert scribes.

Similarly, the “second script” on the last page of the VM (which may be in a different hand) lacks the artful shapes and consistency of high-quality penmanship.

VMTextSampleEven if it’s not up to calligraphic standards, the handwriting in the VM is careful, measured, and clear. In this respect, and in the fairly broad spacing, the VM script is more like 13th century Carolingian than Gothic cursive. That’s not to say it resembles Carolingian style (other than the broad spacing), but it is more readable than many medieval documents of the 15th century that were penned by amateur scribes—a detail that may say something about the personality of the author.

Discerning the Devil in the Details

This article doesn’t focus in depth on the writing style of the VM—I’ll do that in a separate post (there’s plenty to say about the spacing, size of the letters and how they are written). Instead I’d like to get to something more crucial—a clue that reveals that the VM author had a working knowledge of Latin scribal conventions that suggests classical training.

The Structure of the Text

MatrixIconThere have been a number of computational attacks on the Voynich—attempts to discern its structure through computer analysis. Some of these are quite interesting (and probably worthwhile), others are  based on faulty premises, but at least they yielded some funky graphs.

I’m in favor of computational attacks—they further our understanding of computer analysis, even if nothing else. I’m also in favor of computational attacks on the VM, even though many are based on the assumption that there’s a one-to-one correlation between VM glyphs and actual letters/sounds which, in my opinion, is a very shaky assumption.

One important detail about the VM text that I mentioned in my July 2013 zodiac post, and which I’d like to elaborate further, is the use of Latin abbreviations. The entire text incorporates writing conventions that were common in the 15th century, including the abbreviations in the zodiac labels written by another hand next to each animal.

Latin Conventions

Latin scribal abbreviations are shapes that stand in for letters. Some are used within words, some at the beginnings and ends of words. I’m not going to give a full tutorial on Latin sigla, since many of the conventions are outside the scope of the VM, but I’ll mention ones that are directly relevant.

SiglaConThe “9” abbreviation. The shape that resembles the number nine is used at the beginnings and ends of words. At the beginning, it typically stands for con– or com-. At the end, it is usually –cum or –cun but can also mean –us or –os or occasionally -is (particularly if it is superscripted). The 9 as a suffix is common to many manuscripts. The 9 is used as a prefix as well, but less often.

In the Voynich manuscript, the 9 is contextually similar to Latin and Germanic texts—it shows up frequently at the ends of “words” and occasionally at the beginning. If one hunts through the VM, one can find exceptions where it appears midtext, but that can happen in Latin, as well, and usually stands for -er or r.

CTailc/e with a tail. A shape that looks like a c or e with a tail has meaning similar to the suffix 9 (con, cum) except that the shape usually stands alone rather than being attached at the beginning or end. In the VM, it’s sometimes difficult to tell from the spacing whether a character is intended to be read by itself or is associated with nearby glyphs. In the VM example to the right, the spacing is similar to the 14th century Latin document above it, but the distinction between this character and others is not always so clear.

It perplexes me when I see “decodings” from Voynich researchers who rigidly assume a one-to-one relationship between character glyphs and their underlying meaning (assuming there is an underlying meaning). Even if you put aside the possibility of 1) ligatures, 2) medieval abbreviations, and 3) null characters, you still should not assume one VM glyph equals one letter. It could be one, two, three, or more. If it were a one-to-one substitution code (also known as a Caesar code), the mystery would surely have been solved centuries ago.

Other Numbers

Latin4oThe number 9 is not the only number used in Latin manuscripts. The numbers 2 and 4 have significance as well (as does the number 3, but it’s not found in the VM and won’t be discussed in this post).

The 4 on the left is paired with a superscripted o in a 14th century Latin manuscript. Voynich fans might recognize the similarity to the Voynich 4o. The context is a little different, however. In Latin documents, 4o usually stands alone, while in the VM, it’s typically at the beginnings of glyph groups—it doesn’t follow Latin positioning conventions as closely as the number 9.

In Latin, the 2 is contextually similar to suffix 9—usually at the end of the word, often superscripted, and typically means -ur. A character that resembles a 7 is also commonly used to denote et or e (and is the basis of the abbreviation etc. which started life as a ligature between the 7 shape and a c). Less often it stands for –us or –que. The 7 shape does not appear to be represented in the VMS.

The Curling Tails

UmTailThe tails of some of the VM characters swoop up and over the letter, and do so in a consistent way. In the 15th century this wasn’t a mere embellishment, the tail carried meaning. In Latin and Germanic text, the curved tail usually represented m or sometimes n. If it’s midtext, it appears as a line above the letters. At the end, it’s easier to swoop back the tail rather than lifting the pen.

UmTailLatinGermIn Latin documents, the swooped-up tails often follow the letter u to create –um. In Germanic texts, they often follow ai to form ain (an old form of ein). Many of the German scribes also wrote in Latin and retained some of these conventions when writing in their native tongue, as illustrated in the two examples on the right.

The Caps

In September 2014, Stephen Bax asked me the meaning of the curved caps that appear over some of the VM glyphs. I’m sure many people are wondering the same thing.

VMCapsI didn’t answer right away, because the question can’t be answered in a few sentences. It depends on context. In fact, a blog post can only scratch the surface of VM conventions.

In Latin, the cap has a variety of shapes. Sometimes a different shape has a different meaning and sometimes different shapes have the same meaning (but vary stylistically based on individual hands).

ClosedCapLatinIn most cases a closed cap (an “o” shape) represents something different from an open cap. This is also true of German script, in which the open cap usually symbolizes –er- (or sometimes an old-style umlaut) and the closed cap the sound “oo” (and is  placed over a u the same way as an umlaut in modern text). I’m not going to go into details on the cap in this post, because it needs a full post of its own and I want to concentrate on another shape that may be more important.

The “J” Character

IsRisCisVMOne of the less common characters in the VM alphabet is the J-like character found at the ends of words. In Latin, this is easily recognized as the suffix –cis, –ris, or –tis and sometimes is used as –is when attached to a different beginning stroke. Note how the connection between the beginning stroke is sometimes blunt and sometimes rounded (the Eva font acknowledges this difference but neglects the third variation). That’s how it’s done in Latin, as well. I’ve seen some pretty odd proposals for what the VM J-shape represents but the shape (if not its meaning) is standard medieval Latin script.

All three suffixes can be found throughout the VMS and it’s possible that the one-loop gallows character may be an example, as well. Picture it as a ligature comprising a letter and the abbreviation –is. I’m not proposing this as a theory, just encouraging people to remain open to possibilities. In Latin, the shape of an abbreviation may change depending on its position in a word.

Putting aside the gallows character for now, the VM J character is almost always at the end of glyph-groups, but there are exceptions (you can find some on Folio 58r). Occasionally, two can be found combined, but even this is not particularly exceptional, since it’s possible that valid syllable combinations analogous to –ristis exist in whatever language underlies the VMS.

The Funny “r” Character

LeaningR1This brings us to one of the shapes that might be overlooked due to its resemblance to contemporary alphabets. Since there are several VM glyphs that look familiar to western European characters, like the a and the o, it might be easy to perceive this as an embellished r. In fact the Eva font maps it as a lower-case “r”. I’ve also seen people refer to it as a question mark, but that loop is definitely a tail, not the primary stroke of the letter.

There’s a Latin abbreviation similar to this that represents -ter. It’s a combination of a “t” (which often looks like a “c” in old manuscripts) with a curled tail, representing er. It looks like the VM “r”, but the stem is usually upright. Which brings us to an important detail I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else…

Have you ever asked yourself why this funny character that somewhat resembles an “r” leans backward when all the other “stem” characters (with the possible exception of a character that resembles an “i”) are straight up and down? Maybe not. Just as you may not have considered a possible relationship between the suffix-J character and the loop on the gallows character.

Context is everything when interpreting a 600-year-old document.

I’ll explain why I think the lean in the “r” is important and why it helps confirm the idea that the VM scribe was familiar with classical Latin conventions. I’m proposing that it may be based on another Latin abbreviation that is usually found by itself, between words, although sometimes in other positions.

Latin2CharRotThe letter that resembles a 2 in Latin manuscripts usually stands by itself, between words, but it can also be found in the end position (usually as a superscript).

Now use your imagination and picture this character rotated 60 degrees clockwise. Then you get a character that not only resembles the “r” with a tail but which appears in the VM by itself, between words, and sometimes at the ends of words. Even when it appears to be part of another word, the space between it and that word is sometimes greater than the distance between individual letters, which makes you wonder if it’s intended to stand alone or form part of the nearby group. In other words, the context of the VM “r” is similar to the way the “2” is used in Latin even if the shape, in this example, is not in the same orientation.

rTail14thYou don’t always have to rotate the character to recognize it. Here’s the same abbreviation in a different Latin document (14th c) in more angular handwriting. If you imagine the tail more smoothly curved, it resembles the VM glyph’s orientation without rotating it. One can also find examples where the tail (the backward swoosh) is more curved.

In the subscripted suffix position, the “2” or “r” (which sometimes looks like a leaning S) may represent –ur or –er. When it’s written as a suffix in-line with previous characters, it usually represents –re or –ri or sometimes –er, but this form would normally have an upright stem. In Latin, it’s less common to see it midword, but when it is, it can mean almost anything (and sometimes represents as many as five letters).

Darn Those Details

Italy12thcAbbrLearning medieval abbreviations is not as easy as looking at a chart. Some symbols are fairly consistent (mainly the suffixes) but many can only be interpreted in relation to the letters around them, which means you have to know the underlying language to understand whether the symbol stands for one character or many and to determine which ones they are.

The example above-right (from a 12th century Italian manuscript) is a relatively small snippet and yet is packed with Latin abbreviations, including pro-, der-, -us, -os, n, m, -er, -uo, -s-, con-, prae- and others.

Just when you think you’re getting the hang of it, another snafu comes along and you discover a symbol you thought you understood has other functions, as well. Like the J character that stands for -cis, -ris, or -tis… it sometimes doesn’t stand for characters in the preceding word at all. Sometimes it’s a paragraph-end marker.

Sang610c1455Knowing the language is especially important for interpreting 15th-century manuscripts like the one on the right from the mid-1400s because writing was taught to a larger segment of the population and was no longer the exclusive domain of those chosen for their literacy and handwriting skills. Later documents are often not as tidy as 12th and 13th century hands, and superscripted symbols were not always written directly over the position where the letters are missing.

Implications for the Voynich Manuscript

I’m confident that the VM scribe knew Latin conventions beyond simply copying the shapes. Many of them are contextually applied in the same way one would see them in medieval Latin and German manuscripts. Whether there’s any Latin in the VMS is a completely different subject. I have my own ideas about whether the VM author used Latin conventions to represent single letters, groups of letters, or… as a smoke-screen to hide the underlying contents of the manuscript by crafting the text to look like Latin.

J.K. Petersen

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

Voynich Location – Sagittarius with Legs and Crossbow                      16 Dec. 2015

Voynich Manuscript Origins – Does Sagittarius Hold Clues?

In a previous post, from July 2013, I summarized zodiac symbols that are illustrated in the Voynich Manuscript (Beinecke 408) and included examples of symbols from other manuscripts.

Since then I’ve collected many more examples, far too many to include in one post, so I’ll constrain this one to Sagittarius, the archer, because, as I mentioned previously, it is somewhat unusual for Sagittarius to be represented with legs and a crossbow when the actual constellation is typically a centaur with a long bow.

SagitCodSang250Examples of Sagittarius as a centaur are far more frequent, such as this one (left) from Codex Sang. 250. And, with the exception of a rare example from Israel in the 6th century, most of those with legs occur between 1395 and the late 1400s, the same approximate time as the creation of the VM manuscript.

If we further narrow the examples to those with both legs and crossbows, then only a handful remain. To make it easier to understand the importance of these examples, I created a chart which shows the extents of the Roman Empire in the late 1300s overlaid with Sagittarius symbols. This made it easier to visualize the approximate origins and dates of creation of the ones drawn with legs

I felt it was important to include the political boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire because it provides context. I was not specifically looking for zodiac symbols in this region, I sought out every Sagittarius with legs that I could find, but discovered after collecting them that they had commonalities not only in attire, but in geography. It’s probable that others may surface that have never been digitized and uploaded to the Web but until that happens, one has to work with what is available.

MapSagLegsRevisedThe above chart illustrates Sagittarius with legs from a variety of documents. The one in the upper right was pasted into a manuscript and may not originate at the same time or place, but was probably created sometime before 1468.

The image in the lower left of the chart is technically not a zodiac symbol, although the volume from which it originates has astrological references. I included it because it resembles some of the zodiac drawings and might provide a clue as to why crossbows appear in zodiacs. The painting is from the Netherlands and shows a crossbow tournament. It occurred to me that the popularity of the crossbow for warfare and for competition may have inspired drawings of Sagittarius for a brief period of about three decades.

SagittariusP457I didn’t include this image of the archer squatting because it’s from a fragment that has been assembled with a longer document, but it is assumed to be from Germany, with an estimated date of about 1457 or earlier. By the mid-1400s, most of the Sagittarius symbols had reverted to longbows and, by the 1500s, the legged version of Sagittarius had almost disappeared (other than obvious copies from older texts). Most of the examples that include crossbows are from the early to mid-1400s.

Note that the examples I’ve located so far tend to be from the same general region. Most are within the Holy Roman Empire, near to what is now the border between Germany and Switzerland. An early one appears to originate in Czech. The legged symbols from Israel and Italy are longbows.

The zodiac symbols in the VM do not appear to be copied from one specific source. If they are, that source has not yet turned up on the Web or may no longer exist. At least for now, it appears that the VM illustrator was inspired by a number of sources. Clearly Beinecke 408 is not a work of pure fantasy—many parallels to European culture are evident.

Location Clues

LastPageWhat is most significant about the Sagittarius crossbowmen is that they originate from a fairly specific time period (clustering around the 1420s to about 1475) and a fairly specific area of central Europe, the same region that matches the handwriting found in the marginal notes and on the last page of the VM (I refer to this handwriting as second script because there’s no definite evidence yet that the VM author (first script) and the author of the Germanic/Latin text on the last page are the same person—there are significant differences in the handwriting).

We also don’t know for certain whether the person who created the drawings is the same as the person who added the text. It probably is, but it should not be assumed that only one person authored the manuscript. In fact, it appears that the paint may have been added by someone other than the person who drew the lines, given that the lines are fairly careful and the painting rather sloppy, so we have to keep open to the possibility that the artist and author may be different people, as well.

NantesSagittariusVMSagittariusThe clustering of legged crossbow symbols isn’t sufficient evidence to assume Beinecke 408 was created in S.W. Germany or Switzerland (there are some perplexing oddities in the manuscript that are not typical of this region), but It’s certainly possible. The style of the plant illustrations and the handwriting on the last page are similar to others originating in the same general area (including northern Italy). The manuscript’s provenance, which includes Czech and Italy, and the organization of the content (and materials used to create it), also suggest a central European/Holy Roman Empire origin, so it may be that the person (or persons) who authored the Voynich Manuscript was born there or migrated to the area.

If you have seen any examples of Sagittarius with legs and a crossbow in documents from the 15th century or earlier that are not scanned and uploaded to the Web, I would be interested in hearing about them.

 

J.K. Petersen

Postscript: I should mention that I didn’t include examples of Sagittarius with goat legs (of which I found several examples, one from about four centuries before the VM), because it struck me that the Pan-like representation of Sagittarius was as distinct from Sagittarius with human legs as it was from Sagittarius as a centaur, individual enough that it deserves a separate article.

2016 Jan 11 Postscript: It was brought to my attention that David Jackson has located a further example of Sagittarius with what appears to be a crossbow, described in his article here.

© Copyright 2015 J.K. Petersen, All Rights Reserved

Der Neusohler Cato Charm – New Clues             8 Nov. 2015

The Charm of the Voynich, cont’d

In a previous post, I commented on the charm-like text written on the final page of the Voynich manuscript and since that time had a surprise… In October 2015, I discovered a page in a mid-15th century codex that resembles and expands on the information written on a fragment at the beginning of Der Neusohler Cato that I discussed in relation to the VM text.

MoravskaCodeBreakdown    In the Cato, the fragment on the left illustrates an abracadabra-style word (abgracula) broken down until it resembles a symbol that I imagine could be included on an amulet or hilt of a sword or dagger. I don’t know if that was its function, it could be an incantation for “reducing” the severity of an illness, like a prayer (with the crosses perhaps signifying the signing of the cross while speaking the incantation) or something else. This was only a hunch, when I first saw it, since the Cato fragment contained few clues to its function.

Since then, I discovered another version of the same charmlike text, contained within a shape that resembles a shield, with writing in the shield margins.

Comparisons between the Cato Fragment and the Fugger Text

There are some differences. The ink is much darker in the Cato fragment and the handwriting more spidery and awkward. The writing style is a fairly common one for the 15th century in this region, so while it is similar,  it’s probably not in the same hand, especially considering the different rendering of the letter r and the way it joins to the following letter.

As for the content, the Cato fragment begins with abgracula and the Fugger codex with magnum nomen dominum (“In the name of the Father”) followed by abraculauß on the second line. Also, the Cato fragment breaks down to an amulet-style symbol while the Fugger text retains the letter shapes to the end. Despite differences, the resemblance is clear, with the crosses and progression of sounds broken down in the same general way.

AbraculaCharmc1p391

The text around the margins of the shield appear to be a mixture of old Germanic and Latin and unfortunately, some of it is smeared. On the right, it appears to say, “The writing pertains to p???tate…” (“The writing is for p???tate…”). Could the unclear word be “prostate” (as in a prostrate person, someone lying down due to illness or impending death? Or does it perhaps say praetare, plaetare or photare or something along those lines (maybe someone who knows Latin can make it out). I’m wondering if it’s a variation of praeterea. I refer to the text before the “photare/photate” as Germanic because it’s not strictly German, but is readable as northern old German. On the opposite side of the shield is text about praying Our Father (pater noster).

It doesn’t seem like a traditional last rights incantation which is why I wonder if it’s perhaps a sick-bed incantation/prayer.

Connections to the Voynich Manuscript

How this ties into the Voynich manuscript is that the last page struck me as having an incantation-like quality (long before I knew anything about medieval charms) and the above example lends some weight to that possibility. Also note that the VM charm appears to be a mixture of Latin-like sounds and Germanic words and the handwriting in this abraculauß text is from the same writing tradition as the last page and some of the marginal notes in Beinecke 408—a handwriting style* that is primarily concentrated in northeast Switzerland and southwest Germany at about the same time as Sagittarius with legs and a crossbow was popular, but which also found its way (with a handful of modifications) to a monastery in mideast England, probably through one or more traveling monks.

There was a commercial workshop in central Europe in the 1400s producing religious texts and chronicles for those who could afford them and the head of the studio was also a writing tutor, so it’s not surprising that there are quite a few manuscripts from this area with very similar handwriting.

*(When commercial block prints and the printing press came along, this specific style of writing died out and medieval scribes had to find a new line of work.)

 

J.K. Petersen

 

© Copyright 2015 J.K. Petersen, All Rights Reserved

Voynich Large Plants – Folio 9v

VoyF9vDescription

There is significant controversy (and consternation) over the identities of most of the Voynich plants. The illustrator was reasonably good on details, but short on artistic skills. That’s not to say the drawings are bad—they are better than many of the herbal-style drawings of the time—but they don’t yield their secrets easily, even after centuries of study.

One plant that has escaped most of the controversy is the flower on Folio 9v. I haven’t searched the Web extensively for plant IDs for this page, but the few that I’ve seen all state that this is probably Viola tricolor. I readily agree that it looks like a viola and V. tricolor, a common wildflower, should certainly be considered, but I don’t think we can assume it’s V. tricolor without considering other possibilities.

Alternative IDs

VarvensisWhiteThere is a field pansy called Viola arvensis that matches Plant 9v quite well. It is broadly distributed in Europe and North America and has leaves similar to Plant 9v. Many violas have rounded or heart-shaped leaves that don’t match the VM drawing at all, but V. arvensis has a mix of lanceolate and spidery palmate leaves very much like Plant 9v. V. arvensis is often white and yellow or light blue and yellow, but some variations lean toward violet-blue with yellow. Like Plant 9v, V. arvensis branches lightly and has leaves alternating up the stem at some distance—an important detail since many violas have basal whorls and tend not to branch.

Despite its promising characteristics, Plant 9v probably isn’t V. arvensis. In real life it tends to be a bit squatter than this botanical drawing, which is stretched out to show details, and it is more often white than blue. But the key difference is the shape of the flowers. The shape and proportion of the petals varies from one species of viola to the next and V. arvensis flowers have a double pair at the top and a broader tongue-shaped petal at the bottom. Plant 9v, in contrast, has three at the top, rather than four.

The Corsican violet (V. corsica) and Viola dubyana both have many characteristics in common with V. arvensis and their colors range from violet-blue to a light purple. Due to the color, both these species match 9v a little more closely than V. arvensis but, once again, the shape of the flowers is wrong.

Odd Anomalies

But wait a moment.. there’s a mystery in the making. Viola tricolor doesn’t match either, even through the leaf shapes, the spacing of the leaves, the roots, and the color are a good match. As with the previous flowers, there are two pairs of petals above and a broader one below. Even an extensive search of other viola species fails to turn up an example that matches all the characteristics of the VM plant—the leaf shapes, growth habit and flower shape/colors.

Sorting out the anomaly. Could it be that the flowers on Plant 9v were drawn upside-down? If they are reversed, they would be a good match for any of the above species. This little detail, which I haven’t seen mentioned anywhere else on the Web, surprised me until I thought about it for a few moments. I’d love to believe there is some mystery message in the orientation of the flowers but…

F9vViolaLettersBefore offering an explanation for this anatomical curiosity, it’s worth noting that there is text hidden behind the blue ink in one of the blossoms. I did some Photoshop adjustments to see if the obscured text could be seen more readily and I think I can make out the letter p on the two lower petals (at least) and what appears to be “por” on the upper one. I’ve noticed annotations on other plants, the letter “g” on a leaf that was painted green and the letters “r o t” (German for red) on the unpainted stem of plant 4r. If this says “por” then it may mean purple (or violet) as por is an abbreviation for purple in several languages.

ViolaTricolorMany varieties of Viola tricolor, and the Corsican viola, are distinctly purple and the fact that the VM plant is painted blue (the trace of purple in the above example is a Photoshop artifact from trying to make the text more clear) might be due to the painter’s limited palette. Since 15th century pigments were mixed from a variety of natural materials, it took some skill to blend them. Even if the color combination was correct (e.g., red and blue to make purple), the chemical balance might not work and the result could be a muddy mess. The person blending the colors also had to have a sense of which colors to mix.

So, it’s possible that the annotation means purple, but purple pigment was not available (or too much work to create), or that por stands for something else.

A Mystery or a Practical Explanation

VoyF9vReversBut getting back to the strange upside-down flowers… soon after I discovered the Voynich manuscript, I noticed some of the more identifiable plants may have been painted from herbarium samples. They have a flattened aspect that is not characteristic of plants drawn from life. This is particularly noticeable in the leaves. If Plant 9v had been gathered and flattened and the viola flowers flipped up to prevent the hooked part of the stem from breaking when pressed in the natural direction, that might account for the odd reversal. The person who painted them may not have cared if the upper or lower part of the flower was painted yellow or may not have noticed the petal reversal in the underlying drawing. As has been mentioned a few times, the person who painted the plants is not necessarily the same as the person who drew them.

So, there may not be any mystery hidden in the reverse orientation, but it’s a tantalizing clue to the creation of the manuscript if the VM plants (or some of them) are drawn from gathered specimens. It means someone took the time to press them and to do so in a way that reveals the fronts of some flowers and the backs of others, a good practice when creating botanical drawings so that the shape and size of the sepals can also be seen.

 

Posted by J.K. Petersen

 

 

 

 

The Large Voynich Plant Pictures

After many hours of looking at the Voynich plants, I believe that they are real plants and more accurate than many herbal illustrations of the early 15th century.

Some aspects are symbolic and some details are mythical (like the dog pulling out the mandrake), but even the symbolic elements follow a rational pattern (more on the plant symbolism later).

This section will explore each plant in detail with comments and examples. It will take time to upload the considerable amount of information on my hard drive and in my head, as there are more than 100 plants and my notes need to be put in a form that is comprehensible not just to me but to Web readers, as well.