Friday, September 27, 2013

The Voynich Manuscript: Decoration Pattern

Cheryl Lynn Helm discovered decoration pattern in 15th century French manuscript, BnF Français 1745 ( visit here ) that matches one found all over the Voynich manuscript.

Quick search gave me couple more examples. The first one is from BnF Français 5361 dated 15th-16th century ( visit here ).

The second is from Aix-en-Provence library MS 0015, late 13th, early 14th century ( visit here ) where we see the pattern decorating the corners of the picture 'frame'.

Cheryl Lynn Helm found example from c1240, Oxford, The British Library Add MS 49999 ( visit here ).

1486-1506 Book of Hours of Joanna I of Castile, the British Library, Add MS 18852 ( visit here )

1284-1316 The Alphonso Psalter, British Library, Add MS 24686 ( visit here )

Cheryl found two more. The British Library Royal 20 A II, c 1307-c 1327 ( visit here ).

Wiki image of Einhard the Scribe ( we need the manuscript id for this one ).

c 1395-1400 , N. Netherlands, the British Library, Kings MS 5 (  visit here )

1332-1350 the British Library, Royal MS 16 G VI ( visit here )

1420, Netherlands, Bodleian MS Douce D 19

1410, Reims Bibl. Mun. MS 0829

1416, Paris, Reims, Bibl. Mun. MS 0093

1328, Reims, Bibl. Mun. MS 0807

Steve D added the example from Christine de Pizan, City of the Ladies manuscript.

Cheryl Lynn Helm found example from Spain (Aragon) - Paul Getty Museum, MS Ludwig XIV 6 from around 1290-1310 visit here.

and from Northern France, Codex St Peter Perg 92, Badische Landesbibliothek, from around 1321

Finally, I found one from Germany - Den Haag has it is Western Germany with question mark(?) , 13th century, The Hague, KB, 135 L 20 ( visit here ).

Jan Yperman, Cyrurgie manuscript,15th century

If anybody stumbles on more examples from Germany and Central Europe or anywhere else, please give us ideas!

It would be interesting to get opinion from experts about the history of this decoration pattern.


  1. Hi, Ellie.
    In the picture ( 1486- 1506 Book of Hours of Jol......) are numbers. A letters.

    IF.167E767 ( IF.167E161).

  2. Hi Josef, have you seen this decoration pattern in Czech manuscripts? I would like to add examples if you know any. Thanks!

  3. Ellie,
    This is a sing of a cross. ( Pectoralis). Insignia of Kings. Character expresses Christian.

  4. Ellie - two things.
    This subject of graphic patterns was hugely popular from the 1880s to the 1920s or so. There are hundreds of article on the history and ethnology of patterns in academic and lay publications. You may find something in the Internet Archive.
    Tricky part is working out when a 'pattern' is meaningful and when its just filler decoration, or used-to-be meaningful blurring into 'just the way we do things'.

    Speaking of which we seem to be running in parallel - I've just put up a post reprising my work on various bits including the arabesque variant which some people know by the old art-history books' 'wolkenbanden'. Not so much used these days in English, but why not?

    Oh - my post links to you, too, for the City of God pic.
    voynichretroDotwordpress Dotcom


  5. Ellie, could some of the mss you portray be referring to Byzantine/Orthodox origins of that form of cross? The last "icon" may be referring to the Lord's punctured hands. You wouldn't be intruding if you visit an Orthodox church when the sanctuary is open. The quiet is quite meditative and peaceful, even if a festival is in full dancing mode outside. BTW, we have a small monastery on the other side of our mountain. Their garden master makes his own paints and creates icons for many of the Orthodox churches around the SF Bay area.

  6. Somewhere (maybe 'everywhere'?) wherever one sees the 'squared-off' figure "X", it may simply be referring to the Crusaders, whether they were soldiers of the "White Cross" or the "Rosy Cross". Several millenia later, we still see that emblem used today by the Red Cross agency in the US. I'm trying to remember if it was (or still is) used by the Swiss: Thirty years war? Hundred years war?)

  7. Then again, could you pull up some samples of the Maltese Cross? There may be a resemblance there. If I remember rightly, one group of Crusaders used Malta for their headquarters for a while. (?) In amongst Philip Neal's archive of Kircheriana, there is a small piece of paper which had a sketch of a cross, a thistle, and I think a fleur de lys. So, France and Scotland were symbolized. Have fun browsing, anyway!

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  9. Three years later...

    A heraldic representation of a quatrefoil.

    R. Sale