About f70v to f73v

Fact 1: the Zodiac section of the VM has 12 different folios. It has signs from pisces (annotated ‘mars’) to sagittarius (annotated ‘decembre’), so that’s 10 signs/months out of 12, but both April and May appear twice (male and female versions of the animal? or for some other reason?).

Fact 2: the first sign represented, pisces/mars, is on the verso of the last folio of the main astronomical section.  Interpretation: so the omission of both january and february is intentional.  And also the order is definitely astronomical then zodiac. The transition between the two might be explained in the paragraph on f70r2.

Fact 3: the gemini sign is represented by a man and a woman, instead of two boys.   Interpretation: since such a depiction is typical of eastern countries according to this respectable source, in particular it was the case in Egypt, one may conclude that there is an eastern influence at play in the VM. In fact it appears the idea of depicting Gemini as a man and woman also arose in Europe, as early as 1280 in some parts of Belgium, and also in some parts of France around 1350 and onwards, so that it had become quite common in the XVth century in some places, but not everywhere.

Fact 4: yet the clothes worn by the people drawn appear to be European in nature.  Interpretation: might the VM be the work of an eastern scholar/scribe having settled in Europe ? it might provide a geographical clue as to where people used such a depiction.

Fact 5: the cancer sign (annotated “jollet”) has two crabs rather than one.  Interpretation: it is much harder to find zodiacs in manuscripts having two crabs, so far I’ve found none in european texts, while there’s an eastern tradition for two crabs, for instance seethe Kitab Al-Bulhan (Book of Wonders, late XIVth century, Iraq). So maybe the eastern influence is there after all.

The fact that f74, the probable beginning of the balneological section, is missing certainly is very unfortunate, as it would maybe have added more light on the switch from one theme to the next.  With much luck it still exists somewhere in a private archive…


10 Responses to About f70v to f73v

  1. nickpelling says:

    The Voynich Cancer page’s two crabs are intriguing and underdiscussed, though I would point out that the two star-studded crabs in the Kitab Al-Bulhan plainly refer to the constellations.

    All the same, unless someone manages to dig up a rich seam of European double-crab images, I’d agree that this indeed suggests an eastern influence (however marginal) on the Voynich Manuscript. 🙂

    • Thomas Sauvaget says:

      Yes, they are constellations in the Kitab Al-Bulhan, and I think the early zodiacs reflected that by having two crabs.

      Really, all european zodiacs I’ve stumbled upon so far only have one crab, so it would be interesting to know when that took over, and whether XVth century europeans knew or not that other customs existed in the elsewhere.

  2. Pingback: More on the two crabs in f72r3 « Some Voynich ideas

  3. Reed Johnson says:

    By the way, speaking of the Kitab Al-Bulhan, I’m curious to know what you think of the curious divinatory writing on the pictures of the ‘demonic’ section of the Kitab Al-Bulhan–say, folio 31b–that seems to somewhat resemble Voynich gallows characters. Have you looked at these? Are these ‘gallows’ just some odd variant of Arabic numerals, or something else?

    • Thomas Sauvaget says:

      Interesting observation. From what I can see in my copy of Ifrah’s books on the evolution of numerals, the lines you refer to indeed seem to consist only of numeral (written right to left of course), and the gallow-like in particular might just be 29 or maybe 69. (But unfortunately I can’t read that langage, so I could be wrong.)

  4. Reed Johnson says:

    Fascinating. I was considering something like this myself. To whit: if you’re creating an alphanumeric cipher of some sort, then you’d probably need to use just this sort of ligatured characters to represent anything past the first ten characters/digits, otherwise you wouldn’t know how to parse individual characters (a simple example: if I wrote ’11’ in a ‘word’, I’d need to distinguish whether that stood for ‘aa’ or ‘k’.) Following this reasoning, perhaps the numerous gallows variants, as well as other clearly ligatured characters (qo, sh, ch, ii…etc. in EVA) represent some double-digit values in an alphanumeric cipher. Certainly a large number of other Voynich characters resemble early hindu-arabic forms, so perhaps the rest are somewhat inventive ligatures?

  5. Reed Johnson says:

    Just to clarify my imprecise terminology: by ‘alphanumeric cipher’ I meant converting plaintext letters to numbers, using some mathematical operation on them individually or in groups, and then recording the result as ciphertext. Obviously, the mathematical operation is essential, otherwise there’s no functional difference between this and a simple substitution cipher. I wonder if there’s a operation that would reduce digraph entropy of the number string while shortening the words, or at least not making them longer (some sort of proto difference compression? No idea). Anyway, it might be interesting to look at the text as number strings in base 24, or 34, or whatever, and then see if one can recreate the statistical properties of the text through some sort of mathematical operation(s). Just a thought!

  6. Reed Johnson says:

    Speaking of medieval numbers, I thought I’d post my own latest thoughts on ‘michiton’, if you don’t mind taking a look!


  7. The style is, I think, derived from a classical image of Asclepius and Hygieia, of which there were many variants, especially on coins. The general assumption that it represents Gemini I think is unproven, though if it ever is proven, it won’t be much of a surprise.

  8. btw – Philip Neal’s pages are no longer available at the link provided.

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