Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Voynich Manuscript: Geocentric Model

Due to the unfortunate involvement of Prof. Newbold with the Voyncih manuscript, the first rosette on fol. 68v became known as being a representation of the Andromeda nebula (M31).

However, there is another possible interpretation for this image and it is much closer to home. The VMs rosette carries resemblance to a geocentric representation of the world from manuscript that at the beginning of the 15th century belonged to the library of Jean Duc de Berry - Nicole Oresme, Traité de la sphère, BNF Français 565 ( visit here ). Similar to the drawing in the Voynich manuscript the model has T-O chart in the center - representing the Earth - surrounded by stars on blue background in a space with air/clouds pattern on the edge.

Minus the T-O chart, but from the same time and place Christine de Pizan is depicted in front of the model of the universe, British Library, Harley 4431 ( visit here ).

Another example from the 2nd quarter of the 15th century France - BL Harley 334 - Gautier de Metz l'Image du Monde. We have the T-O chart and the stars - no ripples on this one


  1. Great find, Ellie, well done! :-)

  2. Ellie, you take my breath away! Fabulous find! Now, since you obviously have the 'know-how' for visiting museum holdings everywhere in 'cyber-space', are you ready for my Vms 'alphabet/phonetic' table? So you can translate the the charts? Here it is anyway:
    Figure 8 or what looks like an ampersand is phonetic sound of aes
    small 'c' is 'c'
    smaller 'c' which has a linking 'bar' attached is 'e'
    the pair of upright poles which are connected by a loop on each pole is 'ell'
    the sounds of dl or tl are represented by the two upright poles of which a loop appears only on the right-most pole (Example: your name could be written simply by the double-looped set of poles, followed by the tinier 'c' : ll e
    m and n look like a parenthesis which has either one half-slash or two half-slashes. Example: the word mnemonic. Also have fun writing the word 'minim'.
    P, in all of its various forms, depends on the context of the written material.
    Q is represented by a straight 'leg', as opposed the numeral 9 used for g or k.
    R looks like a backward-facing "S"
    S looks like a question-mark (straight-leg) but no dot. (actually is the Cyrillic capital 'C')
    X appears as a tiny numeral 9, but which loop tail extends down and below the line.
    Y is written in context such as phonetically sounding the word 'why' oo-i or the word 'oo-rld''
    This is the last time I'll be x pla ng the ooer-e st-r-a-ng "Voynich" alphabet. It all translates to phonetic Latin.
    I hope you are having as much fun as I am. Have you seen or heard from Diane O'Donovan lately? Her blog seems to have had no new discussion since January of this year. She's approximately my age, so .........?

  3. Dear Ellie, I'm posting, here on your blog, a gripe: Apparently the "World Series" of soccer begins today. Why are they still calling soccer 'football'?
    I'm tempted to suggest that they go way back in South American history, anyway, when a similar game had life and death issues for the competitors. Huge playing fields where the competitors bounced a hard, solid rubber, ball off of their heads through stone rings mounted on the high walls of the 'stadium'. Death for the losers.
    Do you sense an aura of gloom in this note? Just teasing!
    beady eyed oneder

  4. PS: I'm tempted to tease the guys (Nick, Rene....) when they meet, tomorrow, at their Nick's favorite pub. He has told us how to find 'his' table; the one that has a tattered copy of the 'Voynich' laid out on the table. I wonder how much manuscript discussion will occur if there happens to be a TV sports channel anywhere near their table. :-)

  5. Hi BD, we are watching the soccer with the boys. They are having fun. They can't wait for the team USA game.

  6. Dear Ellie,
    I find Oresme's diagram very interesting!
    I also think it relevant that there are other examples of “T and O globes” in which the three sections represent three of the four elements (air, earth and water).
    I linked other two examples in this comment on Stephen Bax's site:

    The first one is from a 1400 ca English manuscript of a work by John Gower (I think you mentioned this image before, but I cannot find your post right now).
    The second one is from a 1311 French manuscript (Bibliotheque de l'Arsenal, Ms-6329).

    As you noted, Oresme's diagram is noteworthy because it fits so well the Voynich manuscript illustration (linking it to the main-stream Western cosmological tradition of Aristotle and Ptolemy). In my opinion, another implication is that the labels in the Voynich diagram could correspond to the elements (and not to the continents, as in most T and O world maps).

    1. Marco, I think your analysis that this might refer to the four elements rather than to continents is well supported by the French text on the page Ellie identified. I can't read it all but in several places it explicitly refers to the four elements: 'iiii elements', e.g. column one, three lines from the bottom: 'sez iiii elements ensemble' (its/the earth's four elements together') and again on the penultimate line, right column.

    2. Hi Marco, thanks for the link to the French manuscript! I posted the Gower image in relation to the T-O chart in one of the signatures in the VMs
      I agree that the content of the illustrations seems to be very much in the mainstream 15th century - as related to cosmology,herbals, architecture and so on. I am following all suggestions regarding to the text, but I can't comment on them one way or the other - they are interesting, but when I study the text I also come up with few words here and there that make sense - unfortunately that does not help with the rest of the text - I think after the solution is discovered the text should be also as close to mainstream as the illustrations are. All the best in your research! Ellie

  7. Thanks Ellie - really interesting discovery, with remarkable similarities between the images.

    I also think that Marco's suggestion is convincing - that the Voynich T-O chart might represent air (top left), earth (top right) and water (bottom).

    Thanks again

  8. Following this line of thought, Marco has also made the interesting suggestion on my blog at:

    that the word in the top left segment might be read as 'Al-atash', an old Persian word for Fire, used in Zoroastrian contexts. See this page about the Zoroastrian 'Atish-gah' or fire houses:

    This is curious because of other Zoroastrian links which seem to be emerging, such as the proposed reading of the star name beside the Pleiades picture on f68r3 (EVA dcholdal) as a variant of Tishtya, the Zoroastrian name.

    That also fits with my larger analysis of other linguistic elements as having an Arabic/Persian substratum.

  9. Hi Stephen, I like your blog - especially your effort to make a list with links to medieval herbals.
    It is difficult to accept a translation of one word that is picked from the VMs. For example, my personal candidate for fire/light is the VMs word written next to the fire drawing on fol. 77r
    In EVA it is 'otol' - in my 'translation' it is eter (ether,aether?) - I don't believe it is the translation - it is just my mind playing Scrabble :) Having said that, I read all suggested translations that I come across and keep them in mind - there maybe a grain of truth in them. All the best! Ellie

    1. Yes, I agree that we need a lot of evidence before we can be convinced about any Voynich word! But the T-O plan you found in BNF Français 565 looks remarkably similar to the Voynich one, even down to the crinkly edges, and Marco's suggestion sounds so plausible, that it seems quite a strong possibility that the word in the top left segment might signify 'fire', with words for earth and water in the other parts. But still we need more evidence, I agree.

      Thanks for your kind comments. I feel that if we all work together we have a small hope of progress :-)

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  11. Arabic influence apparent in the Vms: Spanish (purebred Arabians) horses, though I don't see any illustrations of horses in the Vms. The Alhambra. Hispanic missionaries to South America. Father Sahagun's tremendous manuscript written on South American fig-tree bark. Charles V, and his many Hapsburg relatives throughout Europe, funding various explorations.
    So, three mushrooms now accounted for; whoopee! As long as we don't throw a toadstool into our cookpots, we should still be able to correspond?

  12. Arabic influence apparent in the Vms: Spanish (purebred Arabians) horses, though I don't see any illustrations of horses in the Vms. The Alhambra. Hispanic missionaries to South America. Father Sahagun's tremendous manuscript written on South American fig-tree bark. Charles V, and his many Hapsburg relatives throughout Europe, funding various explorations.
    So, three mushrooms now accounted for; whoopee! As long as we don't throw a toadstool into our cookpots, we should still be able to correspond?

  13. My apologies for the double post (again)! I think I've figured out why. I'll try this post as an example.

  14. I'm pleased to see the recent discussions of B-408's contents, insofar as there being no 'code' -- and valid (?) translations beginning to appear. Have you had the opportunity to view the Quaquechcollom document (written on pieced together fabric)? It basically discusses the peace agreement between the Hapsburg army (Cortez?)and Guatemalan (?) native defenders.

  15. Ellie, You may like to know that you have an 'elder brother' as it were in linking Oresme and copies of Aristotle's De Caelo to the Voynich manuscript!

    see youvisto blogspot (July 11th., 2013) Cheers. Glad to see you're still on the job.

  16. I found the article - I don't see the Voynich manuscript mentioned. Where is the link between Oresme to the VMs?

  17. The importance of your discovery is still to be fully recognized. It is an anchor to VMs investigation. So please pardon a little correction. Where you wrote the description "surrounded by stars on blue background in a space with air/clouds pattern on the edge.", this should in some way refer to the use of a nebuly line.

    A nebuly line is defined by heraldry under lines of division. Early use is found in the insignia of de Maillé. But Oresme' use of the line is clearly not heraldic. It is used to represent a sort of cosmic boundary - indefinite and cloudy - which is inherent in the etymology.

    The use of a nebuly line as a cosmic boundary also found in a number of illustrations that show the manifestation of classical deities into the earthly domain: Venus, as the queen of hearts; Apollo shooting Corinus, Temperance setting the clock, Minerva distributing arms, Bacchus and his followers. These are all from Christine de Pizan's group, the Book of the Queen: Harley 4431. Here the essential bulbous quality of the nebuly line has been elaborated and elongated more that Oresme did.

    On the other hand, another example of a de Pizan work, The Book of Knighthood: Bodmer 49, has similar representations of Venus and Minerva and a corresponding representations of Temperance, but has no representations of nebuly lines and makes do with wavy lines instead.

    Now that the nature of the nebuly line is established, look through VMs Quire 13 and there are clearly half a dozen pages where plain old nebuly lines are used in the illustrations. The lines are not used in the strictly in the sense of material separation as in Oresme, but more in the feeling of divine manifestation, given the female figures, as in the illustrations of de Pizan.

    Both Oresme and de Pizan had ties to the French court. And somehow there is also a string that ties to the VMs.

  18. Excuse me for being late to this party but life (mostly work) intrude. It's taken me a year and a half to notice this post but it's an interesting one and I just wanted to mention...

    Those "crinkly lines" around the edges are medieval iconography for "heaven" or "the heavens" in both the religious context and the general all-the-stuff-up-there-in-the-sky context.

    They were extensively used in chronicles, atlases, and instructive texts as shorthand for angels and the angelic realm, deified royalty, God, heaven, the heavens, etc. You can usually tell which one is meant by other nearby objects.

    Since many people at the time couldn't read, and illustrations were used to instruct the nonliterate (or barely literate), this figure-eight-seashell symbology was widespread.