Friday, April 12, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Dill

There are several good proposals about the plant ID on f41r of the Voynich Manuscript (Beinecke 408). Ethel Voynich saw Carduus thistle in it, Edith Sherwood chose Wild Marjoram and Steve D. came up with Common Agrimony. So it looks like this one is really tough for folks to agree on.

I will pile on with new proposal - Dill (Anethum Graveolens) - based on illustration in 14th century Arabic Book of Simple Drugs from Dioscorides, the British Museum here . Dill has the ability to fight flatulence - it is the medieval gas pill. This may explain the 'gassy' top cluster of the plant.


  1. Ellie, my dear!

    Of course it is dill (why didn't I think of that)! I'm not going to volunteer to pickle any of your home-grown cucumbers (cucurbits) or any of your tiny zucchini squash. However, small zucchini make excellent dill pickles. Yum!


    1. An-n-n-d, if you do get around to taking a look at folio 55v (you know what Mss I'm talking about), I can give you a line by line translation of the written dialogue. But if you want the really short version, just take a look at the very last word on the very last line of discussion on that folio: which translates to : oll-a-teus -- LOTUS


  2. Hi BD,
    I am cooking beans today. Will need some dill pickles to go with it :)

  3. Meanwhile, back at the ranch:

    I took another look at the specimen. Might be fennel or anise, rather than dill. I'll take a closer look at f41r and the writing. I'll get back to you in a day or so. Your very opinionated friend -- who likes to back up her "bets"!


  4. I took a quick look at the writing on folio 41r:

    I'm inclined more to "fennel" because a quick look at the folio's prefatory remarks MAY translate to the latin "Foeniculum vulgare". An excellent gardening book is "Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs". Editors of this softbound edition were Claire Kowalchik & William H. Hylton. An excellent choice for herbal gardening advice, history, and usage -- worth every penny of the $18.

    My husband has propagated some 200-plus seedling herbs and vegetables on all surfaces of my kitchen window shelving (4' by 8'), front porch ( 30' long), and 35 stairs which step between three landings. We are perched on the steep mountainside at the 3,000 foot elevation. The Master Gardeners will be having their annual sale on May 5, praise be (and weather permitting)!

    If you've found me to be more babble-some than ever, it is because I am weaning myself away from Nick's pages. Too much cross-traffic, so to say, discreetly. Be sure to give me a gentle hint if I'm boringly monopolizing your blog!

  5. The more I look at the manuscript drawing, the more I see what may be a very early portrayal of the "cardoon" and/or the "artichoke". Look at the very tip of the plant, which appears to have had several of the outermost petals removed to show the "heart" of the plant. Ethel Voynich may have been right, with her notation for "carduus".

    If so, this one particular drawing would be worth a fortune (any era, right up to present day)! I'll do my best to download a copy from Boenicke 408 large enough that I can read the script.

    I'll get back to you tomorrow, after I've done a rough translation...whoo!

  6. I've been unable to download a photo enlargement of the Vms folio large enough for me to be able to transcribe. As it was, I almost missed the the artichoke flower at the top (faded quite a bit, but it was for me the most helpful "clue". I shall be returning to "Boenicke" to see if I can get a decent print-out of the discussions. I'll be b-a-a-a-ck!

  7. Earlier today, I wrote a brief note to you in re folio 41r and also 41v. 41v seems to be discussing the Chinese artichoke, which bulbous roots are eaten as if they were tubers. So, I hope this note gets thru to you. If & when I can download large enough photos (enough that I can read the script) I'll be able to do a translation -- if you want me to.

    I'll hold off on any further translation until I get an OK from you. Later!