It’s not in our stars, but in ourselves …

… that we are underlings. (Shakespeare: J. Caesar, I.2 or such)

At the end of the VM, there is the “Recipe Section”, a text-only chapter of the book. The virtually only illustrations in this section are a number of stars along the left margin of the book, which seem to align with the text paragraphs: One star per paragraph.

Now, some of these stars are hollow, some have a dot inside, and some are solidly drawn. (Note that their appearance is similar to the stars held by the nymphs in their trashcans.) In 2006, I had the idea that the design and sequence of these stars may have some significance, for example, that they might be a kind of morse code, really telling us “Ha ha, fooled you!”, or something.

Here’s the result, for your dispersion and elucidation.

The following table gives the sequences of stars found in the recipe section, denoted by the following symbols —

  • “-” indicates a hollow star,
  • “o” indicates a star with a dot in the center
  • “X” indicates a “massive” star (completely filled)

One line in the table per manuscript page. The numbers in brackets following the folio number indicate the total number of stars on this page.

X--X-X--X--X-X--X-- # f 103r (20)
o-o-o-o-o-o-o- # f 103v (15)
X-XX-X-X-o-o- # f 104r (14)
o-o-o-o-o-o-o # f 104v (14)
1o-o-o-o-o # f 105r (11)(10)
o-o-o-o-o- # f 105v (11)
o-2o-o-o-o-o-o-o # f 106r (17)(16)
-o-o-o-o-o-o-o # f 106v (15)
o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o # f 107r (16)
o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o # f 107v (16)
--X--oX--X-X---X # f 108r (17)
o-o-o-o--o-o-o-o # f 108v (17)
# f 109r missing
# f 109v missing
# f 110r missing
# f 110v missing
o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o # f 111r (18)
o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o # f 111v (20)
o-o-o-o-o-o- # f 112r (13)
o-o-o-o-o-o-o # f 112v (14)
-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o # f 113r (17)
o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o # f 113v (16)
o-o-o-o-o-o-o # f 114r (14)
-o-o-o-o-o-o # f 114v (13)
o-o-oo-o-o-o- # f 115r (14)
o-o-o-o-o-o-o # f 115v (14)
-o-o-o-o-o # f 116r (11)


1 — f 105r: Not sure if the first star is supposed to be part of the sequence,

2 — f 106r: It’s a quite tiny star which doesn’t come with its own paragraph and appears to be attached to the subsequent star, so it’s questionable whether this item should be counted on its own account.

Both questionable stars are of the “o”-type (center dot).

The numbers in brackets at the end of the lines gives the number of stars on the page.

What you see is that for the most part hollow and dotted stars simply alternate. The only pages significantly deviating from this pattern are f103r, f104r and f108r.*) They are at the beginning of the recipe section, so the most obvious explanation would be that the writer/painter started off somewhat artistically ambitious, but after a number of pages got bored and decided to simply take turns between hollow and dotted stars.

All in all we have 23 pages in the recipe section, with 4 more apparently missing. The total number of stars is 347 (counting the two odd ones in). If we assume that the missing pages would also have had about 15 stars per page, like the rest of the section, the total would have been around 400. That’d be interesting in as far as this would just not be the number of days in a year, and defeat the popular idea that the recipe section is actually an almanac of sorts.

*) This could be a hint to the presumed re-binding of the manuscript between the time of its composition and the pagination, namely that originally f108 was supposed to immediately follow f104. I will have to look into his, how well it fits with other finds.


4 thoughts on “It’s not in our stars, but in ourselves …

  1. I agree that those stars may have some significance, and yours is an interesting examination.

    I was using them when making up my grilles: I found myself using them as markers for the placement of the grille on the page. I mean, perhaps they are placement markers, or starting points, for some technique using a selection device of some kind like a mask or grille, which would need to be accurately aligned. If the stars land in the same places (relative to each other) from page to page, this use would be a possibility. I didn’t get that far, although I confess it probably should be done first… when I get back to my grilles, I’ll try that. Rich.

  2. Hello Elmar.

    Just found your blog and was reading your comments on the star sequences when I thought of the star patterns on Folio 68 R1&R2. They also appear to partake of the “hollow – white dot – black dot” system.
    Not sure of how they (the dots) may integrate into your sequences above. Perhaps each page represents a constellation with the sequence of stars “black – black – white – etc.” being the pattern one follows when connecting the dots (stars) to draw the named constellation.

    103V — 7 dots connect to form the Pleiades

    104V — 7 dots connect to form Orion

    105V — 5 stars connect to form Cassiopeia

    Lets see now . . . 23 pages in the “recipe section” with 4 missing makes 27 pages.

    Wait a minute! 27 pages = 27 constellations. . . 12 zodiac + 15 Ptolemaic constellations in the Southern hemisphere = 27

    Woo-Hoo its a new theory!!!


    Anyways — good luck with the blog. I’ll be checking back regularly.


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