The castles

From: Dana Scott
Date: Sun, 31 Mar 2002 11:15:46 -0800

When I examine these nine "circles" in the VMS I start with the premise that everything depicted is meaningful and significant. The author of the VMS exerted a great deal of effort and imagination to illustrate the perceived world and universe. It may very well be that the castles, walls, roads, and towers drawn in these circles are in part extentions of the author's imagination and inner and outer universe. Think microcosm/macrocosm when viewing these diagrams. A square castle with a circle may reflect this concept. Think also in three dimensions. Try to imagine the "circles" drawn around a globe with the heavens above. All the primary forces of Nature may be depicted in these diagrams. Tiny little round circles like the letter 'o' drawn between the upper middle and central circles may be raindrops and/or dew. Opposite to this (lower middle circle to central circle) Vs may be light rays. Then there is the question of flow. Which way is the flow in relation to the central circle? This is hard to say but for now I will say that it is from the central circle outwards towards the four NEWS surrounding circles. Notice that there are no land bridges to the central circle. How many roads are there anyway? Aren't there some roads leading from/to the outer edges of the diagrams? Not all diagrams are really circles. They only appear to be because of the encyphered text written within the circular bands drawn around the delineated subject matter. Try to mentally remove the circles containing text and you may see a different set of pictures. Without knowing a great deal more about the VMS (who wrote it, when, where, why, etc.?), identifying and matching the man-made structures in the diagrams with real earth constructions is a very arduous task . The author of the VMS may very well have been familiar with Dante. The correlation of the castle in the VMS to Dante's Jerusalem is interesting.
posted by ぶらたん at 00:11| Comment(0) | その他


Numbercrunching "word" tuples

From: "Anders, Claus"
Date: Mon, 25 Mar 2002 15:22:59 +0100

2-Tuples (only the first of 2469 shown):

8 chol daiin
32 or aiin
27 shedy qokaiin
25 shey qokaiin
24 daiin daiin
23 chedy qokaiin
22 chol chol
21 qotey chedy
20 qokaiin chedy
20 ol shedy
20 ol chedy
20 daiin chey
19 shedy qokeedy
19 shedy qokedy
19 chedy qokeey
19 ar aiin
18 daiin chedy
17 qokaiin shedy
17 ar al
15 qokeedy qokeedy
15 qokal chedy
15 ol daiin

3-Tuples (only the first of 164 shown):

4 shey qokaiin chedy
4 ol shedy qokedy
4 chey qotey chedy
3 sheedy qokedy chedy
3 shedy qokedy qokeedy
3 shedy qokaiin shey
3 shedy qokaiin chedy
3 qotey chedy qokaiin
3 qokedy qokedy qokedy
3 ol shedy qokeey
3 daiin dy daiin
3 chol chol daiin
3 chedy qokeey qokeey
3 ar al saiin
2 ykeey okeey cheor
2 shy qokal chdy
2 shey qokar shedy
2 shey daiin chey
2 sheey qokol cheol
2 sheey or or
2 shedy qotey shedy
2 shedy qotaiin oteedy
2 shedy qokeedy qotedy
2 shedy qokeedy qokedy
2 shedy qokeedy dal
2 shedy qokedy shedy
2 shedy qokar shedy
2 shedy qokal shedy
2 shedy qokal chedy
2 shedy qokain dar
2 shedy qoeedy ol
2 shedy ol shedy
2 shedy chedy qotey

4-Tuples (all shown)

2 shedy qotey shedy qokaiin
2 ol shedy qokedy qokeedy

none (0) zero nothing ....

From: "Petr Kazil"
Date: Mon, 25 Mar 2002 18:20:57 +0100

Your list is very interesting. I
can't but wonder about coincidences like the following:

23 chedy qokaiin *
20 qokaiin chedy

24 daiin daiin **
22 chol chol
15 qokeedy qokeedy

19 shedy qokeedy ***
19 shedy qokedy
posted by ぶらたん at 22:58| Comment(0) | テキストの性質



> [Philp Neal:] I know that there was contact between Europe and
> South East Asia in the relevant period. But most of the
> languages of Chinese type already had their own scripts, and
> Tibetan, Burmese, Thai and Khmer had alphabets in the Indian
> tradition. I don't see why explorers or missionaries would
> devise a totally new script and use it to write secular
> material. If they wanted to communicate with Asians, they would
> have adopted an Asian script, and if they wanted to keep
> something secret they would not have used an Asian language.
> Supporters of the Chinese theory have to tell us who was
> supposed to read the manuscript.

From: Jorge Stolfi
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2002 23:34:43 -0300 (EST)

You have two questions here: (1) "why not use the native scripts", and (2) "why not use a script based on the Roman alphabet".

The answers obviously depend on who wrote the manuscript, and why. The author could be either an European, or a native. In this message I will explore the first alternative only.

An European author could be either a missionary or an educated explorer. In either case, the VMS is most easily explained as a record of native lore that was dictated to the author by a native, possibly from native books. Dictation was used because our author could neither read nor write the native script himself, and had no hope or intention of mastering it. (He may or may not have understood what he was writing.)

In the case of a missionary, we don't need to speculate on the "why"s: it suffices to note that there *were* indeed many instances of missionaries inventing new scripts for languages that already had their own scripts. While most of those new scripts used the Roman alphabet, with diacritics when needed, in some cases the inventor thought that it was cool to redesign the entire symbol set.

Missionary-invented scripts were meant to serve two purposes. First, to make the spoken language easier to learn by new missionaries; in particular, to allow the production of printed grammars, dictionaries, and practice texts. Second, to make Western written materials (especially catechisms and other religious literature) more accesible to the converted natives.

Native scripts were often perceived (rightly or wrongly) to be inadequate for such purposes, because they were all fairly complex and often required more effort to learn than the language itself. Note that that by 1500 most countries in East Asia (China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam) used scripts based on Chinese characters, which were difficult enough for Chinese, and nightmarish for the other languages.(**) Even the Hindu-based scripts (like those of Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Tibet) had developed very complicated and unsystematic spelling rules, because of the need to record tones and sounds not present in Hindu languages.

Another reason for inventing a new script would be plain cultural chauvinism. Even today Westerners tend to assume without proof that alphabetic scripts are "smarter" than syllabic or logographic ones; and a missionary usually assumes that he is there to teach his "superior culture" to the "ignorant natives", not the other way around.

Finally, there may have been a conscious or unconscious "marketing" reason. If the missionaries tried to use the native script, they would be seen as semi-literate and hence culturally inferior to the native scholars. If they instead promoted a "new, better" script, the positions would be reversed.

Cultural chauvinism didn't prevent the missionaries, however, from sending back to Rome copies and translations of native books, and illustrated reports on native culture. European libraries today still keep thousands of manuscripts, both native and missionary-written, that were sent from East Asia during the 1500's and early 1600's. In my view, that "documentary urge" would have been enough motivation for a missionary to write the VMS in the manner described above. (After all, we only need to explain how *one* missionary could have decided to do such thing.)

I see two problems with this "missionary" theory, though.

First problem: a respectable European missionary would hardly draw all those naked nymphs, even if he were merely copying the illustrations from a native book. To explain them, we need to assume either a rather peculiar personality working in rather unusual circumstances; or that the Beinecke book is second-generation copy, made by a lay scribe who, after doing Aries, decided that naked nymphs were easier to draw (and sell) than the dressed ones drawn by the missionary.

Second problem: as far as I know, the scripts developed at that time by missionaries in SE Asia --- who were all more or less in contact with each other --- generally followed the Roman-plus-diacritics model, probably because it was more "friendly" not only to Western novices but also to Western printers. The examples of missionaries inventing new alphabets/sillabaries are either much earlier than the 15th-16th century (Cyrillic, Armenian) or much later (Cree, Inukitut, Cherokee, Miao(*)). To get around this problem, we would have to assume that the Voynichese script is an early or "eccentric" attempt, which was soon abandoned for a Roman-based solution. Again, note that the VMS may be a copy of a much earlier original.

Apart from missionaries, there were many other European travelers who had both the skill and the occasion to produce something like the VMS. Marco Polo is only one out of hundreds of European explorers who visited SE Asia before 1600 and lived there long enough to learn the local language. Many of those were well-educated gentlemen, aware that there was a good market in Europe for "scientific" information from faraway lands, especially herbal and medical knowledge -- the VMS subjects.

Those travelers would have had no problems with naked ladies; on the other hand, their motivation to invent a new script would have been smaller. Still, I can imagine a doctor-explorer, or a trader in medicinal herbs, who managed to learn the spoken language but not the written one, producing the VMS in order to take home a record of the local medical knowledge, in a form that *he* could read later. This was, by the way, the theory of Georg Baresch, the first confirmed owner and student of the manuscript.

Such an author could have used a Roman-plus-diacritics script, but that may have been too inefficient for dictation. (Languages from SE Asia generally have more than 20 consonants and more than 5 vowels, plus multiple tones. The Roman-based Vietnamese script, for example, may use 3-4 diacritics on the same syllable, often 2 on the same letter. Althoug we still don't know the "stroke efficiency" of the Voynichese script, its design apparently was meant to optimize that factor. On the other hand, our doctor-traveler presumably had no plans to print the untranslated manuscript, nor to teach the script to other Europeans; so the two main advantages of a Roman-based script did not apply to him. That is to say, Voynichese would have been essentially a personal stenographic system.

The other major alternative -- a native author -- is best left for another message.

All the best,



(*) Dan Moonhawk Alford claims that the North American native scripts were not invented by the missionaries, but had long been used by the natives themselves. Even if that claim is true, the missionaries at least adopted those scripts in preference to Roman-based ones, and tried to turn them from an elite/secret script into an universal one. Thus the point stands: a western missionary author would not necessarily use a Roman-based script.

Furthermore, the Miao alphabet seems to be a genuine missionary invention.

(**) St. Francis Xavier once joked that Japanese script must have been designed by the Devil for the purpose of preventing the Christianization of the land. It reminds me of a joke by another, priest, centuries earlier: that the Basques were the only people without sin, because the Devil himself had not been able to learn their language

From: Jorge Stolfi
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2002 23:47:51 -0300 (EST)

> [Philip Neal:] The scenarios you give are clearly possible, and
> I do not dismiss the Chinese theory entirely, but I think it is
> much more probable that a group of Europeans enciphered secret
> knowledge about herbs, times of conception etc for their own
> private use.

For sure, the Human Rights declaration gives to every man the right to pick his own a prori probabilities; and then Bayes gives him the right to ignore an arbitrary amount of opposing evidence. Short of finding an "obviously correct" solution, I don't know how I could change people's "gut feelings", nor why I should try to.

Still, it is strange that people find the Crypto Theory more likely than the Chinese Theory. Scores of professional and amateur cryptographers have tried to crack the "code" for almost 90 years, and have made absolutely *zero* progress. Worse, the crpto camp cannot even explain away the many arguments that point to the VMS *not* being a code.

I can understand that people are reluctant to look at East Asia when there is nothing obviously Chinese in the pictures or texts (at least, not if you look at it in the wrong way... More on that later). But what should we make of the natural-looking Zipf plots, the statistics on figure labels, and the binomial word-length distribution? These features are strong arguments against any character-level, Vigenère-style code. If we exclude the Chinese Theory by axiom, the only other alternative that I can think of is a word-level, codebook-based system. Why hasn't *that* been discussed in the list?

There is also the matter of the peculiar word structure. I understand that my description of it is not as clear and succint as it could be, and people may be put off by the comparison to East Asian word (syllable) structure. But the word structure is there, and demands *some* explanation. A Roman-like number system could be another possibility; shouldn't that be looked into?

From: "GC"
Date: Wed, 27 Feb 2002 01:39:38 -0600

To me the first thing to consider is the source of the manuscript. Everything points to a western country as a source. The plants are not Chinese plants, and the astrological signs are not Chinese astrology, so it's highly doubtful that the author was hiding Chinese secrets of some sort. Barring alien abduction or out-of-body astral projection, I feel extremely comfortable in asserting that the author was a westerner. And with nothing to go on in the drawings or script to indicate that the author had knowledge of anything other than Latin and Greek, I'd have to venture that he was western educated as well.

The next question would be, what is the probable content and why would the author find it necessary to write something like this in a strange script? It obviously contains some information the author wanted to keep secret, either for personal or professional purposes.

Reason dictates that our search be limited to the western christian world, and this for numerous reasons. There were of course western languages even from the 15th and 16th century for which no example exists. One I can think of is one supposedly used by the traders who bordered England and Wales. One Welshman describes this as a ignorant mix of the two languages. There's no reason however to believe that this language required its own alphabet, since the Latin alphabet was a universal feature of christianity. We're down to two things then, artificial language or cipher.

In considering whether it is artificial language or cipher, the use of the script must be taken into account. Inventing your own language simply to encode an herbal is possible, but a bit farfetched. Then there's that nasty problem is teaching someone else to read your language so they can understand what you've written. Cipher on the other hand is described in a few minutes, or by a table, and much more economical on development time than the extensive language necessary to explain plant virtues and astrological calculations. If the system is simple enough, it may even be committed to memory fairly quickly, where it can be written almost as fluidly as natural language.

The choice of alphabets is also a fairly good indicator, as Nick has stated. Latin shorthand, mirrored Latin shorthand, and that very odd 4o. I found this symbol on some old astrological charts. I thought it meant Sun in Jupiter, or something like that, but I think Nick nailed it down. I don't exactly remember what Nick said it was, but it's clearly astrological. Whoever the author was, he had seen a few cipher alphabets, and made up a few things of his own. The alphabet itself points more to cipher than to artificial language. Cryptography was also very popular during this time, a time when it is said that every educated person had their own personal cipher. The vast majority of these fall into simple systems that were easily remembered, but the point is made that cipher was not a nearly as arcane a pursuit as artificial language, and they could be found in abundance around universities. This guy got his education in some western university, and probably got his cipher there as well.

Then there's that nasty little habit the author has of grouping things in three, four or five. It's almost like the system forces him to write in groups of three, and the characters many times seem jammed into these groups, even when there's ample space to write at length. It's the feel and the texture, something difficult to quantify, that gives me this notion that the author's system forced him to write in small groups. The handwriting doesn't flow like language, even much later when a copyist or scribe would have known enough of the script to be able to visualize a word at a time when writing. (Also my favorite reason for thinking this is an original and not a copy.)

I'm really not trying to convince the Language camp that this is cipher, rather convince the cipher camp that much more needs to be done on quantifying the script so real numbers can be extracted from it. If you've made up your mind that this is Language, then to you it is language. If you're on the border between the two and haven't made up your mind, I encourage you to go back and consider what we know before travelling to the far east in search of an answer. The Dhali Llama is just going to tell you it's a Tibetan mystery, so save yourself the airfare!

Meanwhile, we have much to work with at the moment. Several plant identifications and possible meanings for astrological drawings. Somewhere in here are a few choice matchups for probable words. Trying to match up 57v with an astronomical instrument may also prove a very worthy effort. We have several avenues to travel at the moment that have the promise of making real progress in the Voynich cipher.

I'm working on my chart of character usage, and even some disagreement on what a character is will not change the numbers much, so we're still within a 23 or 24 character alphabet which varies only slightly from page to page. Those variations could be caused by changes in the system, for instance choosing an alphabet that has a character in it for one page, and using a different one on another page that does not have the character. Pages need to be grouped together by what they do and do not include, which is the purpose of my chart. I'm also staying within the herbal section at present, since the other sections have obvious variances from this section. I don't believe the two sections were composed within the same time frame.

From: Jorge Stolfi
Date: Fri, 7 Jun 2002 10:48:32 -0300 (EST)

> 5. Some people seem to lean toward the idea that its language is
> a monosyllabic East-Asian language such as Chinese or
> Vietnamese; what are the arguments and counter-arguments?

I am the chief believer, it seems. The main arguments are: the internal structure of words; word statistics (word-length histogram, frequency of repeated words, number and mean length of the "recipes"); the lack of obvious gramatical structure; the complete absence of european symbols in the text (not glyphs that look like medieval letters, but conventional symbols --- numerical, zodiacal, alchemical, scribal --- which could have their conventional meaning); the fact that not even medieval doctors could recognize any of the plants; and the two big red glyphs on the cover.

The main weaknesses that I see are

(1) there seem to be too many different words (at least twice what would be normal for Chinese).
(2) there are no recognizable Chinese elements in the illustrations.
(3) there is still no really convincing scenario for who would have written the book, and why.

In order to defend the "Chinese theory" against these arguments, I would blame item (1) on spelling variation (common in medieval texts) and joined words. For item (2), I will point to medieval illustrations for Old Testament scenes, which usually show European faces, clothes, and buildings. As for item (3), there are in fact many *possible* scenarios; although none of them seems especially likely, well --- truth often turns out to be far more unlikely than any fantasy...
posted by ぶらたん at 18:51| Comment(0) | 書かれた言語



# From: Nick Pelling
# Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2002 16:48:12 +0000

Looking closely at the pictures in the balnaeological section, I noticed that many of them appear to be holding (pretty much) the same curious object:-

f79v top left nymph
second nymph down
f80r second nymph on top row
(what the bottom left nymph is holding is another matter entirely!!)
f80v top left nymph (long version?)
second nymph down


# From: "GC"
# Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2002 15:47:56 -0600

Do you mean the object that some say looks like a *flute*? One of the instruments of physicke associated with bathing is a bladder for inserting herbal washes and medicines into the "matrix". This tool was called a "syringe". I've been searching for a picture of this instrument, but all I've found to date is the description. There is a second type that looks something like a child's wooden top that was used for inserting suppositories into the "foundament" (you guessed it). Until I find a picture of the "syringe" bladder, I can't be certain, but it's a good probability.
posted by ぶらたん at 21:53| Comment(0) | その他