VMs: New / old theory

Remember the article about the VMS in the Dutch teenage-science magazine
"Kijk"? (May 2002)
They've posted a letter from a reader who has his own theory. I don't think
it's a valid theory, but it's funny anyway. Rough translation follows:

Subject: VMs: New / old theory
•From: "Petr Kazil"

My compliments for the article on the VMS. I was busy with it for some time,
but if you look at the pages differently you see symbols that look like our
current alphabet. They have a characteristic thick beginning followed by a
thin curve and then a thick ending. Like if you're doing calligraphy! The
letter combinaton e-s-o-g is found remarkably often in the text sometimes
preceded or followed by a decorative symbol. When we had typing lessons in
our school we had to practice by repeating the same character sequences over
and over again. Could this be a writing exercise-book, used by several
different persons? And freely decorated by the some teenagers with
over-active hormones? Or will I now get the 2002 Nobel prize for Nonsense? -
Gerard Vrakking, Raalte
posted by ぶらたん at 16:00| Comment(0) | 制作者

Paradigms Regained

Subject: VMs: Re: Paradigms Regained
•From: Rene Zandbergen

Gabriel and Dennis wrote:

D:> Which brings us back to the theme I like to harp
D:> on. Could the Voynichese 'words' be syllables of
D:> a European language like French, Italian,
D:> German, Croatian, etc.?

G:> To my taste, there are too many different words,
G:> unless some of the words represent more than one
G:> syllable.

If the VMs words are syllables from a polysyllabic
language like the ones suggested by Dennis, then
we are faced with two problems. I tend to agree
with Gabriel that we should see fewer different
words in the MS.
Monosyllabic languages have invented tones
just to avoid the 'shortage' of words that would
otherwise arise.
The second problem is: the labels in the MS are
like all other words in the MS and it wouldn't
make much sense that these are only syllables,
i.e. parts of words, not whole words.

So if the VMs words are syllables, they should
belong to a mono-syllabic language.

Also that is not without problems. There are quite
a number of VMs words which seem really too long to
be mono-syllabic, but then again, mono-syllabic
languages can (and do) have loan words which are
posted by ぶらたん at 15:56| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語

Code dictionaries...?

From: Nick Pelling
•Date: Wed, 09 Oct 2002 13:04:19 +0100

From my research, I believe that the VMS was written in Northern Italy (influenced by both Milanese and Florentine cultures) around 1460, and *without* the aid of complex cryptography.

Given this, here's my current hypothesis about the structure of its code/cipher. I predict:
(1) It's essentially a "dressed up" Florentine number code
(2) The numbers are expressed in Roman numerals
(3) Those numerals are hidden using a mixture of steganography and stenography
(4) Gallows characters are based loosely on the idea of the Cistercian number cipher
(5) Non-dictionary words are typically anagrammed
(6) words express simple quantities
(7) Any extra letters required are simply thrown into the mix, perhaps in a verbose way

It may well be that the dictionary itself is simply encoded (perhaps in some anagrammatic or every-other-letter form) in the final section at the back. This would seem to be the simplest explanation.

Plainly, number codes can't be decoded using cipher cryptology: nor can they be decoded if you can't even read the numbers. :-) I believe that this is the reason why this hasn't been cracked.

However: while the idea of a "dressed up" number code has often been proposed on-list, are there any Italian number code dictionaries from about 1400-1500 still in existence that we could compare it against?

I'd be interested to see if they share any structural elements... for example, common words having low index values (for quick writing, similar to Morse code), etc. Or if there was a perceived upper limit to the size of those dictionaries - 50 words? 100 words? 200 words?
posted by ぶらたん at 15:46| Comment(0) | 暗号


Michiton oladabas

From: Jorge Stolfi
Date: Sun, 15 Sep 2002 14:27:00 -0300 (EST)

Indeed I doubt it myself... For one thing, there are those drawings on
the upper left corner, with "standard VMS" style and subject.

Also the Voynichese glyphs in look just like those
in the main text, written with same hand and same confidence.
On the other hand the Roman letters look rather clumsy.

Rene, I believe it was you who reported that the ink of f116v looks
similar to that of the main body. This detail may be significant
because there are hints that the VMS ink is not the standard
iron-gall formula.

It is also hard to imagine why the two words , and only
those, were left "undecoded" among the rest. If the decipherer was
trying out an incomplete correspondence table, we should see a more
uniform mixture of Roman and Voynichese letters, shouldn't we?

Finally, the large "M" at the end of line 2 looks similar to the "M"s
in the zodiacal diagrams ("May" and "March"), and there is a general
resemblance between other letters too. So it seems quite possible that
they were done by the same person. Now the spellings of the month
names are quite peculiar, and almost surely they were added before the
VMS got to Rome.

Thus I would rather believe that both the month names and f116v were
written by the same person, who could read and write Voynichese
fluently, but had very limited command of Roman script and of the
(apparently European) language in which he had to write those notes.
posted by ぶらたん at 17:18| Comment(0) | 暗号


Number encoding as central to the code...?

From: "GC"
•Date: Fri, 12 Jul 2002 23:49:21 -0500

Nick wrote:
> ATM, one of the things I'm trying to determine is: what
> would the simplest
> possible solution to the Voynich look like? (As Occam's
> Razor would point
> to that being the most likely.)
> Currently, my best candidate is: a number code (where
> the numbers are
> steganographically hidden) plus a stripped-down
> supporting alphabet. That's
> where I'm working my way up from. :-)
> Justification: if (like me) you suspect that both EVA
> and EVA
> code for Roman "III", why on earth would such a tiny
> core cipherbet include
> *two* different ways of coding numbers... unless one
> was for a number code
> and the other for actual numbers?
> Comments?

Nick, I would like to make comment on the two different ways of
encoding, without drawing any conclusions as to the underlying
meaning ;-)

A very abbreviated version of my theory of glyph construction is
posted, and as I re-transcribe the manuscript I'm building the
detailed version with imaged examples of my theory. Since my
theory involves groups of four glyphs, this (fortunately or
unfortunately, depending on your pet theory) falls right in with
the theory of numeric construction. A roman numeral 4 could be
written with IV or IIII, depending on your taste and the time
period, but every time you hit a multiple of 5, another numeral is
used besides 'I'.

(In this and future posts, I'll be using the convention of 'x' for
any other designated transcription than EVA, and Gabriel's
notation for EVA.) In the VMS, it is my opinion that the majority
of the character sets are built around two strokes, the 'c' stroke
and the EVA stroke. In the 'c' set, we have c, cc, ccc, and
cccc. In the set we have , , , and . One
other convention is in force, and that is the "tail" at the end of
words. The is in my estimation an 'm' with a tail at the
end of a word, as I would write it in English, and in the middle
of a word I would not add a tail to this glyph. This makes the
equivalent to an in the middle of a word. This glyph
as four distinct "tails".

The 'c', 'cc', 'ccc', and 'cccc' glyphs also have tails at ends of
words many times, and I have identified three tails in my current
transcription. I'm positive that by the time I reach 25% of the
manuscript, I'll encounter a page that relies heavily on a fourth
tail for this glyph as well. Meanwhile, the glyph has four
distinct forms, and interestingly enough, the few times this
glyph-set stands as a lone character, it most often has a "tail"
in the form of the end turned into an 'o' or a '9'. The same
applies to the "gallows/" combinations.

It occurs to me that these four units can form the basis of
several types of symbolic numbering systems, since their true
meaning is reliant on the less conspicuous "multiple of 5"
character. There is even the possibility that the two forms of
"notation" refer to numbers taken from two different pages of a
book, homophonic substitution incorporating more than one document
or page. The possibilities in this arena are endless.

We two are storing our pizza money in different jars, obviously,
but I do see the attraction of your approach. I'm putting my
pepperoni money in the "position sensitive homophonic
substitution" jar, but we're obviously seeing the same patterns
from different angles and calculating the same numbers. KUDO's!
posted by ぶらたん at 13:04| Comment(0) | 暗号

VMS numbering systems hypotheses

Subject: VMs: Re: VMS numbering systems hypotheses...
•From: "Philip Neal"

The table of numerals from 1 to 100 is a plausible suggestion. The
ordering across the table is intuitive: the downwards ordering less
so (the arguments for identifying one row as 20, another as 80 are
not tremendously strong). Why should 30 and 40 be the very rare
combinations pe- and fe- while 50 is the very common She- ?

The table explains many of the frequent combinations which make
the Voynich words so repetitious, but not all of them. The transcription
of 78r simply ignores 'ol' and 'dy' and this is not satisfactory.

I am not attracted by the idea of dain, daiin etc as ounces - these
words are extremely common and I defy you to produce a text in which
'ounce' or 'oz' has a similar frequency, however broad the meaning of
the word used to be.

You suggest that 'qo' might mark out numerals used in a code book, and
this would explain why the combination is so rare in the star labels
and the marginalia. Presumably, then, the other numerals are supposed
to be used like letters in a homophonic substitution or similar scheme.
These are the lines I am working on myself. I have found that there is
no shortage of ways of converting Voynich text into numerals, but that
any given scheme turns out to be impossible to convert into a plausible
language (you always find yourself with seven consecutive consonants or
a common word like 'and' repeated three times). It is at this stage of
testing a hypothesis that the lack of long repeated sequences and the
internal structure of the line become important problems.

All in all, this strikes me as good work. It is not the solution but it
is the kind of thing I would expect a solution to look like, and it may
be an important halfway stage. I will certainly give some further study
to it.
posted by ぶらたん at 10:38| Comment(0) | 暗号

VMS numbering systems hypotheses

From: Dana Scott
•Date: Sun, 09 Jun 2002 08:11:44 -0700

How would the 898989 sequence in the middle/right of line six in f14v and the
89890898 sequence in the seventh line be interpreted? I see a possible match to
the triplicates seen in the botanical drawing. And what are all those dots in
the first gallow? May match to the drawing as well?

posted by ぶらたん at 10:32| Comment(0) | 年代

Re: Red stars, yellow stars

From: Luis Vélez
Date: Fri, 10 May 2002 09:26:31 -0400

I remembered Nick saying in a private email exchange:
> I'd really love a proper pigment/vellum/pollen/binding analysis to be done
> on the VMS - I think it's incredible that none has been done to date. The
> one document with the least hard evidence! At the very least, the sparkly
> (flecked) blue pigment would have its own story to tell, I'm sure. :-)

So I turned to Professor DeLaney from Truman (as her work 'From the
Apothecary's Shelf to the Painter's Palette: Pigments in Renaissance
Florence'), and this is what she said about the blue pigment on f67r:

> As I'm sure you can understand, I'm hesitant to say anything definitive
> without seeing the pigment and page in the original. I also should add
> that I'm not a mss. specialist. Having said that, to my eye it could well
> be a pigment made from the mineral azurite, which would have been mined in
> Germany, as well as other places, during the early modern period. However,
> without seeing the page in the original, I cannot say for certain.
> You might look at the excellent series put out by the National Gallery and
> Yale University Press, entitled "Artists' Pigments: a handbook of their
> history and characteristics." It's now in 3 volumes, and I believe volume
> 1 has an extensive entry on azurite. It should list some characteristics
> you might use when looking at the page itself, as well as countries of
> origin, etc. Azurite certainly would have been widely available during the
> early modern period (however, that also means that finding the origin of
> the pigment would not necessarily help you to determine where it was
> produIt is very hard, and has to be smashed and then ground patiently with
mortar and pestle until it slowly and dustily turns to powder. ced).

Then, azurite it is?

I checked "The identification of blue pigments in early Sienese
paintings by color infrared photography" by Cathleen Honiger...
and some additional material - in the end, this is what I gathered, in a

*Recipes for making artificial blue pigments are found in literature dating
from the 3rd century AD that managed to survive five hundred years of Dark
Ages to reemerge between the VIII-IX centuries in two Latin manuscripts
containing recipes for the preparation of blue pigments from both copper and

* Azurite was an important pigment in Europe from the 15th to 17th
centuries, but then vanished when Hungary, the primary source of the natural
pigment, was conquered by the Turks.

About the other candidates for blue pigments:

*The oldest synthetic pigment is known as Egyptian blue frit and was
produced by firing in a kiln a mixture of one part lime (calcium oxide) with
one part copper oxide and four parts quartz (silica). The resulting hue was
widely used in Egyptian wall paintings.

* The highest valued color pigment of the Middle Ages was ultramarine, an
intense blue pigment made from lapis lazuli collected in Southern
Afghanistan. Being the most expensive, it was always typically chosen for
portraits of the Virgin Mary, which explains the custom of showing her
always clad in blue. Ultramarine and Azurite can be hard to distinguish
without microscopy, based only on a prior knowledge of how each color should

* The iron blues are the first of the artificial pigments with a known
history and an established date of first preparation. The color was made by
the Berlin colormaker Diesbach in or around 1704. Moreover, the material is
so complex in composition and method of manufacture that there is
practically no possibility that it was synthesized independently in other
times or places. Although alchemists found the majority of colors in
minerals like malachite (green), azurite (blue), orpiment (yellow) and
realgar (orange), they extracted others from plants and even insects. One of
the Middle Ages' most distinctive pigments, kermes ? from which the word
carmine derives ? was extracted from a wingless insect, kermes vermilio,
that lives on scarlet oaks around the Mediterranean.

There was also Cerulean Blue, cobalt blue and Indigo, but these would seem
unlikely candidates at first glance.
posted by ぶらたん at 10:24| Comment(0) | 制作場所


writing systems and cultural identities were mixed in Central Europe

Petr Kazil wrote:
Among the many hypotheses this one might be testable. But this would require a big detour through secondary literature. There might exist some books on vanished European (sub-)cultures. Two were discussed extensively - the Cathars and the Bogomils. Another example is the Coptic language. However I can't think of an isolated cultural center that would produce such a mature artifact - Spanish Islamists, Greek Byzantine Monks? The problem becomes even worse if you follow the hypohesis that the VMs is not an "elite" artifact but a "popular" artifact - then it must have been a large subculture. Still I would be very interested if
someone produced a list of vanished European subcultures and their dates.

From: "Rafal T. Prinke"
Date: Sat, 18 May 2002 10:20:36 +0200

But note that on the whole it does not seem to be an original creation - rather a compilation (perhaps with some modifications) of general knowledge. I have just read an article (in Polish) about a newly discovered 17th c. manuscript of an alchemical treatise which was written partly in Latin, partly in Polish, and partly in Armeno-Kiptchak language using the Armenian alphabet. The author was a Pole of Armenian descent living in Lvov, which had a sizable Armenian community. It has no resemblance to the VMS - but shows how languages, writing systems and cultural identities were mixed in Central Europe.
posted by ぶらたん at 00:14| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語


Baresch news report

From: "Rafal T. Prinke"
Date: Mon, 15 Apr 2002 23:42:56 +0200

I have just come back from Warsaw where - having some time - I went to a library which I had known had what is the best monograph on Marci, namely:

Servit, Z.: Jan Marek Marci z Kronlandu, zapomenuty zakladatel fyziologie a mediciny, Bratislava 1989

I had little time - and the book has no index - but paging through it I have spotted some interesting information, which I am immediately passing on to the Group:

1. On p. 49 there is a very interesting mention of our (and Marci's) elusive friend: "For many years Marek's close friend was Jiri Bares (Georgius Barschius), experienced chemist (rerum chemicarum peritissimus), from whom Jan Marek often obtained valuable information in this field. Bares after his death gave to Marci the collection of his notes and observations, as well as his chemical library. Marek wrote about it in his _Philosophia vetus restituta_ (p. 280)."

The book in question is:

[Pan ek Pantôn] seu philosophia vetus restituta. Prague, Typis Academici, 1662

Perhaps there is a copy in the British Library or other available to someone - it is just a matter of checking page 280 (alternatively, a copy can be bought on-line at US$ 4,800)?

It seems to indicate that Baresch had already died by 1662. And that he was indeed a real person...

2. On p. 52 there is something about VMS - but it appears that Servit knew only what was in Newbold (whom he quotes) and does not link Bares to VMS. He also says that Marci's valuable library was inherited by his son Jan Ludwik but it is not known what happened to it later. "It is only known that a year before his death he sent to Athanasius Kircher one of the most valuable manuscripts from this collection, the so called _Cabalistic manuscript of Roger Bacon_. As it appears from the letter by G. A. Kinner to Athanasius Kircher of 5 January 1667 (Carteggio Kircher, Roma, VIII, fol. 150), it was probably in 1666." [and then a few lines based on Newbold, including a suggestion that Marci may have obtained it via his brother-in-law Dionisius Misseroni]

I can't remember if we have the above letter by Kinner?

3. On p. 57 Servit says that at the end of his life Marci has problems with sight and memory (as he says in one of his letters - "corruptis oculis et infirmata memoria"). "Still in 1665 or at the beginning of 1666 he sends the Roger Bacon manuscript to Kircher with a cover letter which does not exhibit any intelectual deficiencies. Comparing it to other of his letters, it even seems that he wrote it in his own hand (but it could only be proved with proper graphological analysis). At the end of 1666 he made his last will but could not sign it because of weak sight." [it was signed only by 3 witnesses - 2 professors of the medical faculty and one lawyer]
posted by ぶらたん at 19:20| Comment(0) | その他