Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Fishbone Thistle

Fishbone thistle (Ptilostemon casabonae) may be the plant on fol. 29r of the Voynich manuscript.

Burdock (Arctium lappa) was proposed by Ethel Voynich/Theodore Petersen for this page, which is also good possibility, in my opinion.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Persimmon and Noah's Ark

The drawing on fol. 43r of the Voynich manuscript may be composed to represent Noah's ark as we see it in medieval pictures - boat with a house. The ebony tree is one of the main suspects for gopher wood - the material of Noah's ark. The VMs drawing may be meant for ebony tree forest judging by the blue tint of the stems/trunks. Some ebony trees have edible fruits used in traditional medicine - the date-plum (Persimmon, Diospyros lotus) for example. Whatever the plant on fol. 43r is - it may be connected somehow to the story of Noah's ark.

Here is an example of the Ark with Gothic windows from the British Library, MS Royal 14 B IX,  (visit here).

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Yellow Star-Thistle

Yellow star-thisle (Centaurea solstitialis) will be my placeholder for plant-id on fol. 42v of the Voynich manuscript.

The Voynich Manuscript: Jasmine

Jasmine (Jasminum angustifolium) may be the flower represented on fol. 28v. The long hairy calyx  may be the meaning of the green background of the flower. The women in South Asia decorate their hair with jasmine. I believe the root in the drawing represents hair.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Rue

Rue (Ruta Chalapensis) may be a possibility for plant id for fol. 90v of the Voynich manuscript.  German common names for Rue refer to the plant as Raute (rhombus) which may explain the edgy flower petals. Rue is repellant for cats (they hate the smell of it) which may explain the root.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Plant ID List

This will be permanent post with my interpretation of the plants drawing in the Voynich Manuscript. It is subjective speculation since the author's intentions are unknown. The list includes my ids and proposals made by other researchers. I worked mostly with the lists by Ethel Voynich/Theodore Petersen (visit here), Edith Sherwood,PhD (visit here), Steve D (visit here) and Dana Scott on the VMs list archives (visit here). The post will be updated as new proposals come in. Click on the image to enlarge. I added plant distribution maps for Europe from and where available.

Fol. 1v -  St. John's Wort (Hypericum)

Based on Ypericon in the British Library Sloane 4016 here and Androsaimom in the Morgan Library Dioscorides MS M.652 here  and here. The root may represent devil's foot.

Fol. 1v - Deadly Nightshade (Atropa Belladonna) - id by Ethel Voynich/Theodore Petersen

Fol. 2r - Spotted Knapweed (Centaurea) - id by Edith Sherwood

I used Centaurea maculosa in the image. The root may represent capital of ionic column - the plant was used according to the mythology to cure the foot of the Centaur Chiron.

Fol. 2v - Water Lily
Ethel Voynich pointed similarities with Floating Heart plants (Nymphoides). Rene Zandbergen noticed similarities with iconography of the water lily in the 14th-15th century herbals that often include European white water lily, Nymphaea alba (Nenuphar).

Fol. 3r - Joseph's Coat (Amaranthus tricolor) - id by Steve D

Fol. 4r - Flax (Linum usitatissimum) - id by Steve D

There is letter F on one of the branches and what could be 'rot' above the root

Fol. 4v - Clematis - id by Diane O'Donovan, Clematis integrifolia - id by Steve D

Diane O'Donovan suggested that the root may represent equipment for distillation. 

Fol. 5r -  Herb Paris - id by Ethel Voynich

Fol. 5v - Mallow (Malva sylvestris) - id by Edith Sherwood

Fol. 6r - Philodendron - id by Dana Scott

Fol. 6r -Wild Mignonette (Reseda lutea)

The roots of this plant were used to make yellow dye called Weld since ancient times, which may explain the yellow color of the root of the VMs drawing.

Fol. 6v - Castor oil plant (Ricinus communis) - id by Ethel Voynich/Theodore Petersen

Fol. 7r - Goat's Beard (Geropogon hybridus) - id by Steve D

Fol. 7v -Hairy Alpenrose (Rhododendron hirsutum)


Fol 8r - Cucumber (Cucumis sativus)

Fol. 8v - Red Campion (Silene dioica) - id by Theodore Petersen

Fol. 9r - Common Grape Vine (Vitis vinifera)

Fol. 9r - White mulberry (Morus alba)

White mulberry is the favorite food of the silkworm. The root reminds of fabric and the extensions of the leaves may symbolize the silkworms (Bombyx mori) feeding on them. Once the silk production was a state secret of China but by the 15th century the silk was made also in Italy and France.

Fol. 9v -Wild Pansy (Viola Tricolor) - id by Ethel Voynich/Theodore Petersen

Fol. 10r - Common Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

The mountain cornflower (Centaurea montana) has wider leaves than the common one - so it may have been 'the model' for the drawing. The Cornflower was used to treat conjunctivitis and as wash for tired eyes. I believe the root formations are pretty good anatomical representations of eyeballs.


Fol. 10v - Twinflower (Linnaea borealis) - id by Edith Sherwood

Fol. 11v - Turmeric (Curcuma longa) - id by Edith Sherwood

Fol. 13r - Banana (Musa) - id by Edith Sherwood

The plant is fit into overall  shape of Fleur-de-lis.The root may represent human heart.

Fol. 13v - Honeysuckle - id by Edith Sherwood

I used goat-leaved honeysuckle (Lonicera caprifolium) for the illustration based on caprifollium - British Library Egerton 747 (visit here) .

Fol. 14v - Wood Betony (Stachys) - id by Edith Sherwood

For illustration I used Stachys officinalis (id by Steve D)

Fol. 15r - Carline Thistle (Carlina Vulgaris)

According to the story in Giovanni Cadamosto 16th century herbal (British Library, Harley 3736 here) an angel advised Charlemagne to eat the thistle so his body can be purged of poison. The six leaves in the VMs drawing end with symbols that somewhat remind of the six 'towers' in the center of the Nine-rosette page.

Fol. 15v - Pinkroot (Arapabaca, Spigelia anthelmia) - Ruby Nova─Źna
One of the root strings seems pink


Fol. 16r - Hemp (Cannabis sativa) - id by Theodore Petersen

Fol. 16v - Eringium - Sea Holly - id by Ethel Voynich

I used Eryngium alpinum - Alpine Sea Holly - for the illustration because the cut of the flower and the leaves match better the VMs drawing, in my opinion.


Fol. 16v - Black Knapweed (Jacea Nigra)

Based on BNF Latin 9474 ( here ) - the picture of Jacea Nigra is labeled Flamette. The flame-name today belongs to totally different flower, but in late 15th-early 16th century France it was associated apparently with Jacea.

Fol. 17r - Wild Tarragon/Estragon (Artemisia dracunculus)

Tarragon has mild menstruation inducing properties and was taken in the old times in case of late period. This may explain the similarity between the details in the roots of the plant on the drawing and anatomy of the female reproductive organs.


Fol. 17v -Wild buckwheat (polygonum convolvulus) - id by Dana Scott
I think that the root represents camel going through eye of a needle - based on the story in the New Testament (I know it is a big stretch :) Wild buckwheat was poor man's food which in some languages is its common name.

Fol. 18r - Calendula officinalis - id by Ethel Voynich/ O'Neill/ Petersen

Fol. 18v - Edelweiss (Leontopodium, Lion's Paw)

Based on the 10th century Pseudo-Apuleius French manuscript in the National Library of Netherlands here . Edelweiss is also hard to recognize in the 13-14th century Italian manuscript (Egerton 747, British Library here ).

Fol. 19r - Jacob's Ladder (Polemonium caeruleum) - id by Edith Sherwood

Fol. 19v -  Cleavers (Galium aparine)

Fol. 20r - Bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus)

Fol. 21r - Common Knotgrass (Polygonum aviculare)

Fol. 21v - Stonecrop (Sedum dasyphyllum or Sedum spirium) - id by Ethel Voynich

Fol. 22r - Sedum (Sedum Maximum) - id by Ethel Voynich

Fol. 22v - Alpine Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla alpina)

The root formation maybe meant to represent flogging device similar to cat-o-nine-tails. Similar Roman whip was used for the scourging of Jesus. The plant is fit into overall shape of tulip.

Fol. 23r - Shrubby Cinquefoil (Dasiphora fruticosa)


Fol. 23v - Borage (Borago officinalis) - id by Edith Sherwood

Fol. 24r - Sea Campion (Silene maritima) - id by Steve D

Fol. 25r - Bdellium (Commiphora wightii)

Other  proposals for this VMs plant are Nettle (Ethel Voynich) and Coffea Arabica (Steve D.)

Fol. 26r - Saw-leaved speedwell (Veronica austriaca)

Fol 27r (1) - Bay leaf - Laurus nobilis

Fol 27r (2) - Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica) - id by Guy Mazars and Christophe Wiart

Fol 27r (2) - Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)

Fol. 27v -Traveler's Joy (Clematis Vitalba)

The root shape has some similarities to rope making tools. According to Johnson, Magnus, 2001, The Genus Clematis book the Traveler's Joy was used in Switzerland for rope making since the Stone Age. It is still reflected in the common names of the plant in Bavaria and Austria.


Fol. 28r -  Jack-in-the-pulpit (Arisaema triphyllum)

Fol. 28v -Jasmine (Jasminum angustifolium)

The long hairy calyx  may be the meaning of the green background of the flower. The women in South Asia decorate their hair with jasmine.

Fol. 29r - Fishbone thistle (Ptilostemon casabonae)

Burdock (Arctium lappa) was proposed by Ethel Voynich/Theodore Petersen for this page, which is also good possibility.

Fol. 29v - Roman coriander (Nigella sativa) - id by Edith Sherwood

According to Dioscorides the seeds mixed with vinegar are cure for crocodile and dog-bites. There is possibility that the root of the plant on the drawing represents crocodile skull - often present in medieval wunderkammer.

Fol. 30v - Nettle (Urtica membranacea) - id by Steve D

Fol. 31v - Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger)

Fol. 32r - Lantana camara (Spanish Flag) - id by Dana Scott

The root seems to show striped flag (I used the Royal Banner of Aragon as example of striped flag with Lantana camara colors).

Fol. 32v -The Ivy-leaved Bellflower (Wahlenbergia hederacea)

The root reminds of peacock.

Fol. 33r - Fringed Campion (Silene fimbrata)

The root contains drawing of two faces - hair (fringe?, hair-line) included. The word 'fringe' is 14th century French from Latin 'frimbria' - fibers,threads,fringe.

Fol. 33v - Pincushion Flower (Scabiosa) - id by Ethel Voynich/Theodore Petersen

The roots may represent pincushions.

Fol. 34r - Great Masterwort (Astrantia major/minor)

The plant was used to treat the bite of a rabid dog, which may explain the animal in the root.


Fol. 34v - Money plant (Lunaria annua) - id by Edith Sherwood

The fruits of the plant may represent coins. The root may represent the wolf and the dog from the Moon Tarot card.

Fol. 35r - Fishtail Palm (Caryota urens)

Based on the 'fishtail' root of the plant of the drawing, the jagged leaves and the overall shape of a cup (wine cup?). The fishtail palm is source for high quality jaggery (traditional uncentrifuged brown sugar). It is also used to produce palm wine and palm beer.

Fol. 35v - Oak /Ivy combination - id by Rene Zandbergen

Based on Manfredus de Monte Imperiali (BNF Latin 6823, visit here )
Edith Sherwood found another example of the oak/ivy combination from another 15th century N.Italian herbal (let me know if you know the manuscript and where it is)

Fol. 36r - Geranium - id by Ethel Voynich, Zdravetz (Geranium macrorrhizum) - id by Steve D

Fol. 36v - Alpine Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla Alpina)

Fol. 37r - Strawberry Blite (Chenopodium capitatum)


Fol. 38 r - Torch Ginger (Etlingera elatior)

The Torch Ginger is east Asian flower. There are dots inside each 'drop' which reminds of the Yin/Yang symbol.

Fol. 39r - Dogtooth violet (Erythronium dens-canis) - id by Steve D

Fol. 40v - Celosia Cristata (Cockscomb)

Fol. 41r - Dill (Anethum Graveolens)

Ethel Voynich saw Carduus thistle here, 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.

Fol. 41v - Arctic sweet coltsfoot (Petasites frigidus v. palmatus) - id by Steve D.

The detail above the root appears to be antlers of male European roe deer and the rest of the root may be representing deer's feet. So the common name at the time of the artist may have been not coltsfoot but something like 'bucksfoot'.

Fol. 42r - Lord-and-ladies (Arum Italicum) - id by Steve D,
                Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) - id by Ellie Velinska

Fol. 42v - Yellow star-thisle (Centaurea solstitialis)

Fol. 43r - Cypress or Ebony

MS Palatino 586, Florence Biblioteca Nazionale shows drawing of cypress shaped like Noah's Ark. Cypress and ebony are among suspected trees to be the 'gopher wood' from which the Noah's Ark was supposedly made of.

Fol. 43v - Wild Teasel (Dipsacus Fullonium)

The wild teasel has formation of sessile leaves in which water is trapped. In the old times it was used for eyewash.

Fol. 45v - Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) - id by Ethel Voynich

 The word 'germander (chamaedrys)' means 'ground oak' and the herb got its common name likely because of the shape of its leaves. The 'oak name' maybe the base of symbolism in the drawing that seems to be related to the House of Burgundy which experienced its Golden Age during the 15th century (Burgundy's influence spanned all the way from Portugal to the Netherlands).

Oak is among the symbols of Burgundy with the proper Cross of Burgundy being formed by two pruned oak branches.

The root on fol. 45v may represent pruned branch forming a necklace (maybe reference to the famous collar of the Order of the Golden Fleece). The top part of the flowers seems to form quicunx - another symbol of Burgundy.

Fol. 46 r - Fleabane (Pulicaria dysenterica)

Lori and Russ Hoffman suggested on the VMs list that the drawing on fol. 46r maybe inspired by the Biblical story of the 10 plagues of Egypt. The leaves on the plant appear as if they are blown by wind (the East wind brought the plague of locusts and the West wind blew them into the Red Sea) and the roots remind of insects legs.  In the old herbals fleabane appear  by the name 'policaria'. The third plague of Egypt was lice/gnats/fleas and fleabane was believed to repel those parasites.
The French common name for Pulicaria is Herbe Saint-Roch. In the 15th century Saint Roch was evoked in case of bubonic plague.

Fol. 46v - Costmary (Tanacetum balsamita)


Fol. 47v - Lungwort (Pulmonaria obscura) - id by Steve D
Pulmonaria was used to treat gingivitis which may explain the 'teeth' in the root. The root appear also on fol. 102r2 next to a frog. Tree frogs were used in dental care since Avicenna.

Fol. 50v - Round-headed Rampion (Phyteuma globulariifolium)

Fol. 52v - Turnsole (Heliotropium europaeum)

Based on Pseudo-Apuleius tradition.

Fol. 53r - Bugloss (Anchusa variegata)

Bugloss was considered effective treatment for tapeworm, which may explain the root. 

Fol. 53v - Willowherb (Epilobium alpestre)

Fol. 55r - Dark Columbine (Aquilegia atrata)

The Voynich manuscript 'Ghost Flower' can be observed if you zoom in the first bloom from left to right on fol. 55r. It looks like the artist started drawing one flower and ended up with a weird symbol in its place. So when looking for real plant to match the drawing on fol 55r one has to wonder, if the plant should look more like the final symbol or like the ghost symbol beneath it.

This type of flower symbols in the VMs may represent  the flower before full bloom. Based on the 'ghost flower' and the leaves my personal favorite plant ID for fol. 55r is the Dark Columbine (Aquilegia atrata) which for now will be my placeholder for this page.

Fol. 55v - Wild Leek - (Allium ursinum)

The plant is favorite of the wild boar and a wild pig may be hidden in the roots of the drawing on this page. Nick Pelling saw the root as elephant in 2003 and during discussion on the VMs list in 2013 the Elephant leek was suggested as id by few researchers independently.

Fol. 65r - Comarum Palustre (Marsh Cinquefoil)

Fol. 65 v - Venus' Comb (Scandix pecten-veneris)


Fol. 87v (1) - Common daisy (Bruisewort, Bellis perennis)

Fol. 87v (1) - Primrose (Primula Vulgaris) - id by Edith Sherwood


Fol. 87v (2) - Mastic shrub (Pistacia lentiscus)

Fol. 89v (3) Frankincense (Boswellia sacra)

The base of the plant in the drawing may be an object in the style of the VMs jars. It could be that the plant was potted or it could be incense burner (or anything else, of course). Frankincense was used to treat scorpion bites according to some old recipes.

Fol. 90v - Rue (Ruta Chalapensis)

German common names for Rue refer to the plant as Raute (rhombus) which may explain the edgy flower petals. Rue is repellant for cats (they hate the smell of it) which may explain the root.

Fol. 93r -The Dwarf Everlast (Helichrisum arenarium, Immortelle)

Fol. 93 r - Sunflower -Hugh O'Neill, 1921

Fol. 94r - Moonfern (Botrychium lunaria) - id by Dana Scott

Fol. 94v (3) - Narcissus tazetta - id by Steve D

Fol. 95r - European  Baneberry (Actaea spicata) - Actaea id by Ethel Voynich

Based on the yellow dot detail on the berry I assume the berries are black - just not colored.

Fol. 95v - Fumaria Officinalis

Fol. 96v  Good King Henry's Chenopodium - id by Dana Scott

Diane O'Donovan also chose Chenopodiom in her post here - the Strawberry Blite version of the plant.

Fol. 99v Indigo Milk Cap (Lactarius Indigo)

This edible mushroom exudes blue fluid. It is found in East North America, East Asia and in Europe in Southern France