About digits in f49r

Fact 1: On f49r there are the numbers 1 to 5 in the left margin.

Fact 2: these numbers are drawn with an ink color very close tothat used for the main text, and appear to have been partially rewritten with a darker ink (see in particular 3 and 4), just like the main text.    Also, the original faint ink is not at all like the page numbering on f50r which is darker.

Interpretation: assuming the same hand wrote the text and those five numbers, then it very much points to an italian origin around the early XVth century, with the birth of the “humanistic handwritting style”.

Fact 3: indeed, the digit 4 first appeared written this way in that particular italian period, everywhere else in europe it was still written as a more round and slanted loop.   The number 5 too is a good marker, it also looked different elsewhere or before (it looked a bit like our 4), except for some rare isolated instances in the XIIth century. This information comes from the undisputed 1600 pages long book (2 volumes) on the history of digits by George Ifrah from 1994.

Here is a typical example I’ve just taken from a Swiss manuscript in latin dating from c1450 to show the older european style :

Side note: that Swiss page is in fact an Astrological table which contains the names of the signs in latin –Aries, Taurus, Gemini…– together with the alphabet scrambled in various orders. One can see in particular that there was for that scribe no letters j, u, w, so a 23-symbols alphabet, even if the letters j and u are used a lot elsewhere in the text (in particular for month names: Janu, Junius…)  That’s something to bear in mind for those looking for a cypher (I’m not one of those).

Of course an italian origin of the VM would be consistant with the swallow-tail merlons depictions, and could explain some eastern influence (the presence of eastern merchants and travellers would be easier in cities around italian ports rather than deep in german territory).



2 Responses to About digits in f49r

  1. nickpelling says:

    In my opinion, there’s no good reason to believe that the number column in f49v was original. The “5” shape in particular is usual for post-1500 hands, whereas most of the quire numbers is written in a solidly mid-15th century hand, very much along the lines of the St Gallen ms you link to. From all that, it seems palaeographically safe to conclude that
    * Voynichese came first
    * then the (pre-1500) quire numbers
    * then the (post-1500) number column.

    • Thomas Sauvaget says:

      You’re probably right about the five, more slanted than those I could find pre-1500 in the end, so yes the order you mention is likely.

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