About the mark on f57v

I would like to discuss the mark on f57v.

Fact: there’s indeed the following peculiar mark at the bottom right corner:


Interpretation:  there are several things to discuss about it, namely:

– who made it? Six possible answers stand out: the original author ;  or the same hand as the quire numbers — Nick Pelling thought this in 2002 ; or the same hand as the month names ; or the same hand as the arabic numerals ; or the same hand as the f116v marginalia ;  or none of the previous ones.

– what is its meaning? Many things could be possible,but the only idea I’ve seen mentionned is by René Zandbergen that it is a arabic numeral for 17.


Here, I would like to propose another interpretation altogether: it appears to me to be the letter G as was done in german-language scripts around 1440-1470.   And I think that it is an abbreviation for the german word ‘Gebet’ (prayer, worship).

That would make sense: the four people a the center of the circles seem indeed into some form of worship, and the sequence of symbols on the second circle repeats itself four times, like a mantra/prayer.

To illustrate my idea, here is a part from this page of a little text in latin at the end of a manuscript (whose main text is in german), and where the G of the word ‘glorie’  is very close to the VM mark:

This german manuscript has been written in Bavaria around 1450-1490.  I must stress that I’ve seen many other examples of G made like this in german texts of that era and that region (some even closer visually speaking, spiky and with similar strokes, but I forgot where), and sometimes with a precise dating at the end of the text (say ‘anno 1452’), so it’s not a one-off and it has a precise german-language mid-15th century setting.

If this interpretation of  ‘G as a shorthand for Gebet’ is correct, then it definitely brings us to a german-speaking part of Europe (Germany, Austria, Switzerland)  and points to someone who understood the purpose of the circles as a prayer (but not necessarily knew what to make of them).





14 Responses to About the mark on f57v

  1. Looks to me like a close match. Looks as if someone who learned to write according to the German school has written a ‘g’ alright. What it’s short for, or if he was thinking in German at the time, is (sadly) a different question. Especially at that time. A person educated in German style might end up in Rome, France, Egypt or even further- especially if he were in, or joined, one of the preaching orders.

    • Thomas Sauvaget says:

      You’re right that the german-speaking person could in principle have lived somewhere else, even for a short amount of time.

      • He could have been born somewhere else, educated somewhere else and/or have written the manuscript somewhere else. I still agree with you that the ‘5’-looking figure appears to be a German style ‘g’. Well spotted.

  2. nickpelling says:

    Fast forward to 2009, when I proposed that this mark preceded the quire hands: basically, that it says “ij”, meaning the start of “book ii”.

    See: http://www.ciphermysteries.com/2009/02/28/voynich-quire-8-what-happened

    • Thomas Sauvaget says:

      Oh, I had missed that. Interesting idea, at least I certainly agree that the order f65-f66-f57-f58 looks more consistent.

      Let me see then: if ‘ij’ it is, then ‘iij’ should appear at the beginning of the third book, right? Now, very unfortunately, it appears that this page is missing: indeed I’d think the second book to end with the zodiac, and the third book to be the balneological section around f74.

      But it can be seen clearly that two pages are missing there, the first one probably being january/february to end the zodiac, and then second one would have been the beginning of the third book. So that’s where the ‘iij’ mark would have been if that idea is correct.

      While at it, it is curious that the arabic numeral go from 73 to 75 when two folios are missing: that would indicate they have been made after the folio were cut out. In fact the numeral 75 seems to have several layers of ink (showing some form of hesitation maybe).

      So to continue on the idea, I would expect a ‘iv’ or ‘iiij’ at the beginning of the fourth book. Now that would be after the balneological section surely. One possibility would be f85 then, but too bad it seems a page was cut out there too. Another possibility would be f87 where the plants start again, but too bad, the page is missing there also! (While the arabic numeral seem to happily ignore this, so were definitely added after the cuts — I’m sure it’s known already, but since I thought the cut where meant to have happened after Dee and Rudolph, there’s a contradiction there: perhaps the numerals are not Rudolph-era then, but possibly later jesuit additions.)

      A fifth book would be the final text-and-stars section beginning at f103. At least there’s no cut there, so assuming no page is missing I would expect a ‘v’ or ‘iiiij’ on that page, but there’s none. Only the ’20’ quire mark, and the ‘F’ at the top left corner (F like Fifth? or like Fünftel? It wouldn’t work in latin, nor italian, nor french, nor czech). So either the ‘ij’ idea is incorrect, or a page (or more) is missing there too, or somehow the author switched from latin to the german or english ‘F’.

      • nickpelling says:


        I suspect it’ll turn out to be a lot more subtle than that. 🙂 There’s no guarantee there was ever more than a single “ij” mark, even if suspicious-looking pages are absent. It could also be that “ij” was added by an owner between the author and the quire numberer.

        Also, I’m pretty sure that we’re only missing a single folio (Capricorn and Aquarius, a single page each) between folio 73 and folio 75. This is entirely consistent with Baresch’s description (as I recall) of removing a few pages to send to Kircher.

        Cheers, ….Nick….

      • Thomas Sauvaget says:


        Codicology of the VM is certainly difficult 🙂 But still, what about the visual evidence of two missing pages both on the picture of f73 and on the picture of f75 ? While at other place where one page has been cut out, well, there’s just one stub not two…

      • nickpelling says:

        You’d have to ask Rene for a comprehensive answer on this, but when I went through this myself several years ago, the answer was that the short stubs were early 20th century, almost certainly added in by WMV’s binder to keep the quires in place nicely.

      • Thomas Sauvaget says:


        Right, actually on his site one finds: “The stub of f74 is still visible but has been sewn in such that it would seem as if there had been two folios. ”

        I’ll take this on good faith then (but would still happily check the binding one day).

  3. I’d go with ‘…gesehen’ or so. You don’t get a nihil obstat conferred by a lowly clerk.

  4. If the four characters represented four continents, then there might be reason for vetting it – and hence my suggestion of ‘…gesehen.

    It was ok in Europe to have four directions, four elements, four evangelists, winds and so on, but the idea of four continents was looked on as suspect – by medieval Europeans of the 13th-15thC. Hence the intelligent world maps of Idrisi (12thC) and the Jewish-made Atlas Catala (1375) on one hand and the nonsensical re-introduction of ‘T-O’ style depictions on the other – not least driven by Regiomontanus.

    There’s also the issue that parochial nationalism – the assumption that there was such a thing as a ‘german’ or an ‘italian’ – arrives relatively late in the history of Europe. Writing a german hand says nothing about a person’s first, or even preferred language.

    But of course if Nick and Rene have agreed that this sign is a reference to number, I guess that’s how most people will regard it. I still think that the observation is good

  5. I may have to alter my opinion after reading the lastest post from one of my (other) favourite bloggers:

  6. JB says:

    I just wanted to congratulate you on this most interesting blog – an excellent read!

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