About month names

I don’t quite agree with what I’ve read about month names in the VM (e.g. the Occitan ideas, and several readings), so here is my take.

Here they are from the VM (click to enlarge):


What I’m reading is:

mars  –  aberil – aberil – may – may – jong – iollet – augst – septe(m)b(r) – octe(m)bre – nove(m)bre – decebre


In particular, I’m quite certain about jong, where the final ‘g’ looks just like that of augst, it clearly isn’t yony like I’ve seen mentionned, because the curvature of the ‘y’ in may is completely different.

Now jong definitely points to a french-speaking hand for what is nowadays ‘juin’ (month of june).  Indeed, the variant joing (with an extra ‘i’) was very common in the northen parts of France and also Belgium and french-speaking England, anywhere between 1200 and 1500:

here is an example of a 1256 document, an anglo-normand poem by Rauf de Lenham, where the months appear as:  feverer – marz – averil – mai – joing –  joingnet -augst – septembre – octobre – novembre – decembre. (So here we also have averil, a variant of aberil, and litterally augst).

– here is an example from 1338 from the Flandres part of Belgium, where the months are:  mars – avril – may – joing – jullé – aoust – septembre – octobre…(Note that jullé is a typical northern variant of juillet, and so too is the variant jullet).

One can also find the variant jung for juin:

here is an example from 1404, by english king Henry IV and written in french, where the months are: marz – … – jung – jullet -augst – septembre – .. – novembre

As for the actual variant jong, it can be seen on a definitely french astrolabe dating from around 1305: london museum record here, and much larger picture elsewhere with jong on the outside circle.


Similarly, all other month names that I can read are known variants of french names. The only one I haven’t found as such yet is iollet (or is it jollet: not much room to write there for the scribe), but known variants of juillet are:  juil, jullé, julle, jule, jullet, joingnet, julie…  So this is in the realm of possibilities.

It is to be noted that scribes used their own variant even when copying a text, here is an example from around 1300 of two copies of an earlier text, where one copy has   mars- avril – mai – juing – juil – aoust – septembre – octembre ,  while the other has  marz – averil – may – juin –  julie – aust – septembre – octobre.


So to conclude: I’m confident the VM month names are normal variants from the french language, and that they probably were written by someone living north of Paris but not necessarily in then France.

Of course we do not know when this was added, perhaps just a few month after the main text, or perhaps many decades later, so the VM could have travelled quite a lot in between.  But a northen region is certainly consistant with the lizard-looking scorpion, and the crayfish-looking cancer.



4 Responses to About month names

  1. Dana Scott recently referred members of the Vms list to a very interesting image from a French manuscript which, in turn, had many points in common with a small group of Regensberg/Salzburg ms – and the Vms. The others point to a style in the contemporary shared culture of the French-Anglo-Norman regions. But why someone in the fifteenth century would use an older script to interpret the Vms script is another of the puzzles..

    • Thomas Sauvaget says:

      Thanks, I haven’t suscribed to that list but that’s interesting. By any chance do these manuscripts have precise reference numbers? I’d be grateful, and would have a look at them.

  2. I’ve just seen your response. Thomas, I’m sorry to say that I generally use the library – my own or the universities’ – rather than online sources. I’ll see if I can hunt back through the mail and find Dana’s note, and give you the link if so.

    You know, its curious. So many people will consider he most minute points of similarity and style when the line is a line of writing, but the same people will often dismiss as arbitrary, comparisons of line and style in image-making. It seems so odd to me – but then I’ve spent as much as six months at a time finding where the imagery from one folio or another belongs in context, and this is my area, so no wonder I take it seriously.

    Still, it does strike me as so curious that half the manuscript (more, in terms of area covered with ink and pigment) is treated so flippantly, while the writing is gone over with a magnifying glass. Another oddity of our own culture.

  3. Pingback: The Lake Constance Voynich hypothesis… | Cipher Mysteries

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