Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Wild Strawberry, Threeleaved Goldthread

The red three-leaved plant, second on fol42r of the Voynich Manuscript is puzzling. The first plant on the page seems to be Arum. Steve D here proposed Arum Italicum and I like his ID - European bog plant - wetlands plants seem well represented in the VMs - from the water lily, twin flower,sundew, bog rosemary, herb Paris, marsh cinquefoil... There is a three-leaved plant shaped like the one in the VMs that often appear in the neighborhood of the Arum in the wetlands - the Three-leaf Goldthread (Coptis trifolia). However, there's no much redness to it -  could be wrong about this.

Steve D's proposal has the right shape and color, but the wrong continent (I am kidding) - North American Frangrant Sumac (Rhus aromatica).

Another option based on shape and color for the red three-leaved plant on the VMs 42r may be the wild strawberry.


  1. Well, Ellie,
    Several months ago, while I was cruising the Boenicke 408 (at the speed of light, so to speak), I tentatively identified those two plants as being raddichio and cilantro (which the colorist had switched: cilantro is green, and raddichio's color (and flavor) resemble the hot red root (radish) which we like to add to our salads, here in California. We use cilantro in our "pico de gallo", in which we dip our tortilla chips.

    This morning I downloaded Vms 56r. I'm tentatively ID'ing the plant as Dianthus. My translation of the first line of script reads:

    Sweet-smelling --fragrant--crowded together--thick --"ceos-geus"
    I'm still digging for that last crypto-latin word. On the wall above my computer monitor, I have a beautiful print-out (the URL didn't completely print) of a 16th-century manuscript which has beautiful wide borders on top, bottom, and right margins, illustrating three flowers - and one moth and one dragonfly which both seem to be savoring the top-most "pink".
    I've focused on this particular folio because it is the second botanical folio which defeated Brigadier Tiltman's team of codiologists. There may be more posted "here and there" from the "Brig's files", but I am encouraging you and Nick to follow up, here on your pages Ellie, because it appears that no one else wants to be convinced that the VMs is readable/translatable.

    On another front (and I hope won't be a burden to you):
    Apparently no one wants to disturb Rene with my translation of the folio 86 r 3 -- which is NOT cosmological but rather discusses the origins of the legendary lovers who were changed into "kingfishers":
    Alcyone (the woman) eventually became "matron/goddess/protectoress" of seafarers.

    I know I am babbling. Please bear with me for this next reference, which I hope you can find at your local public library:

    "Treasures of the World-The Renaissance Princes" The last pages 166-169, the cut rock-crystal object, is all about the myth of Alcyone & Ceyx. It was commissioned by Francesco de Medici (who liked to design and participate in the work of the fabulous creations).

    When I showed my husband this latest discovery, he immediately went online with Amazon dot com and ordered the book for me. Until my copy arrives, I will be renewing my library checkout.

    Good evening!

  2. Hi BD,

    Interesting. I like the Drosera ID for 56r, but I can imagine it being Dianthus - with its bluish sharp leaves.
    I like myths and legends - can you summarize the love story and how do get it from f86r? I don't understand what is your exact approach.

    Thanks and all the best! Ellie

  3. Folio 86r is/was one of the most baffling and challenging to solve. Because codiological experts were called in to solve a mystery "code", and eventually gave up on it and classified it as being "cosmological".

    The moment I was able to get a large enough photograph of the entire page, which is unique for having script on all four margins, I immediately identified the drawings in the four corners as being depictions of mushrooms: specifically coprinicae, specifically the "Shaggy Mane", which was/is choice eating. However, another look-alike mushroom in the same "Inky" subcategory, could cause liver damage, severe hallucinations, and death.
    That is the discussion which appears on the margins. Reference is also made to the mythic lovers Alcyone and Ceyx, who were eventually turned into kingfishers (birds who make their nest on/near water/the sea). Even today, sailors remember the Goddess Alcyone whenever there is a storm at sea. The legend has it that if the sailors prayed to Alcyone, she would calm the winds and settle the waters.

    Not all of the legend is being told on that one document. I still believe that particular folio was used by a lecturer, standing at a podium. He would lecture on one "paragraph" and then rotate the manuscript to continue his discussion -- completely around the central "sea". Because Latin, for the most part, has a silent "h", many people do not make the connection between the modern word "hallucin" and its legendary derivation of Alcyone.

    Anyway, the lecturer was trying to tell people to be very careful when eating this mushroom because it could be easily mis-identifed with a very similar "Alcohol Inky". The Alcohol Inky was deadly/liver destroying, if a person had drunk alcoholic beverages (even wine) 5 to 7 days either before or after eating the mushroom. Liver destruction and severe hallucinations. No, I did not fully translate all four paragraphs nor the center discussion.

    However, a couple of weeks after I first posted my partial translation, I did remark in an aside to you "maybe this is why your "orphan" Pope "died in his sleep" not long after being made Pope.

    Ennyway, it is the mushroom folio which pretty much opened the way for me to translate some 15 folios.