Thursday, February 6, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: Glyphs

The glyphs on the first page of the Voynich manuscript a subject of lively discussion these day on the VMs-list. So I thought it is time to summarize my view of them. I will speculate that the three glyphs mean (from top to bottom) - recipes, astrology, astrological medicine.

The glyph on the top is similar to the French capital letter R in its variation that includes an element shaped like number 2. This variation of letter R was used in medical manuscripts as abbreviation for the word 'recipe', based on A. Cappelli dictionary.

Based on that, my opinion about the first glyph is that it represents the herbal section of the VMs, which could be viewed by the author as "Recipes" section.

The second glyph was found by D'Imperio in Elegant Enigma to represent Regulus or Month. P. Han found the symbol on 13th century astrolabe ( see here ). Richard SantaColoma has a nice article with examples of this 'bird' glyph being used as paragraph marker in Post-Columbian Spanish manuscripts. (links to more examples can be found in the comment section).

The reason I go with D'Imperio's astronomy instead of paragraph markers is because the latter means the symbol should be marking most paragraphs, which is not the case with this VMs. In fact, the last paragraph on the first VMs page starts with a symbol that is suspected to be a paragraph marker all over the VMs.

So I believe the 'bird' glyph represents the calendar/astronomy/astrology section of the Voynich Manuscript, which comes after the main herbal section symbolized with the "recipe' glyph.

The third glyph differs from the second one by having additional doodle on top. The wavy thing, could represent a snake - symbol of medicine (the stuff of Asclepius). That way the whole symbol may represent astrological medicine as a 'title' for the anatomy/biology/bathing section of the Voynich manuscript, which follows the calendar/astronomy/astrology section.

So the glyphs, I am speculating here,  highlight the manuscript content - the three major parts - Recipes, Astrology, Astrological Medicine. The last VMs part with possible recipes did not get a special glyph from the author - possibly just a paragraph marker :)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: Fish

I received a comment from fellow VMs researcher who is disappointed by the negative reactions toward Tucker/Talbert Aztec solution of the Voynich manuscript. So, I am trying to explain my reaction. The authors are scientists and experts and we expect them to know better. This is why it is hard not to voice concerns about their work. Shiny example of fishy logic is the following proposal:

"...The fish illustrated on fol. 70r are most definitely the alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula). This fish is very distinctive with its pointed snout, length/width ratio, prominent interlocking scales (ganoid
scales), and the “primitive” shape and distribution of the rear fins. The alligator gar is found only in North America... Curiously, there is an addition of what seems to be “Mars” (French, March?) in a darker, different ink and handwriting at this illustration..."

Most definitely? There are no other 'snouty' fish anywhere in the world? There is no way that the Limbourg brothers modeled their 1411-1416 Pisces after alligator gar and the 15th century French fish snouts are no smaller than the ones in the VMs. Maybe the Limbourg  the brothers were inspired by some pike or barbel on the menu - the fish seems to be posing from a platter :)

So let's see how 1. Aligator gar, 2. VMs fish and 3. Limbourg brothers Pisces compare with each other using Tucker/Talbert criteria.

Snout: check, check, check
Length/width ratio: check, check, check
Prominent interlocking scales: check, check, check
“Primitive” shape and distribution of the rear fins: check check, check

Let's add some criteria of our own.
Tail: check, check, nope
Fin on the back of the head: nope, check, check

Still no winner.
Pair of two fish: check (I've seen a photo), check, check
Ropes coming out the mouth: check (I've seen a photo), check, check

Then we have to consider circumstantial evidence.

Relation to France: nope, check (names of the months are written in French hand, but maybe not by the author), check (French manuscript)
Relation to Aztec: check (they have Aztec name for the gar), check (some similarities found with post-Columbian Spanish herbal manuscripts, but not related to this particular image), nope

I will weigh in the VMs blonde people, architecture (it points to Italy and western/central Europe); the similarities with other 14th/15th century European herbals; the fact that the Limbourg brothers drew their fish during the time period when the  the VMs vellum was produced. So, it seems to me that it is a bit more likely that the VMs artist had seen Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry than the Alligator gar. The artist also may have seen both or neither - the VMs fish may coincidentally remind us of the alligator gar or the de Berry manuscript.

In the blog-sphere we can speculate all we want, but we expect the scientists to at least pretend they made some effort to disprove their hypothesis before publishing it as 'most definite' (in this case explaining why similar European fish species should not be considered as probable).