Not quite a Theory, but a Start

Dear all,

The “submit your own theory” option of this blog has found resonance for a second time, this time with Tomi Malinen, shifting the centre of Voynichology slightly towards Finland.

Tomi writes:

Could it be possible that the VMS text lines were written bottom to top? For example if you look at the page 53r there seem to be occurences that the upper line yeld the characters on the line below. Best example of this on the page 53r is on the third line from the bottom and the fourth word. The gallow character is tilted up as if it’s yelds the gallow character below. If you think about writing the text from top to bottom on a blank page there should be no reason to yeld characters that haven’t been written yet. Also the text lines seem to bend more on the topmost lines compared to the bottom lines.

The page bottom in question can be found here, and this seems to be the culprit in question. Thanx for submitting your thoughts, Tomi.

In general, the assumption is that the VM was written in conventional western manner (top to bottom, left to right). Look at the last lines of the various pages (f53r among them); they are shorter than the rest, and they have a ragged right margin, while the left margin is flush. This is difficult to explain, unless you assume the text was written top to bottom.

On the other hand, your find does look like the gallows character was pushed upwards to make room for the gallow below. As a note of caution, the gallows always appear to stand a bit above the baseline, but this one is really strong… interesting find…

Anybody else with comments on it?



19 thoughts on “Not quite a Theory, but a Start

  1. A very interesting observation. As far as I’m aware, though the handwriting appears to show each individual letter was formed left to right. This doesn’t prevent writing in vertical lines, but I think you’d have to assume the fifteenth century version one that had been drawn/copied from a gridded original, wouldn’t you?

    • I think the idea is a different one, namely that the lines were indeed written left-to-right, but with the bottommost line first, and the top line of a page last.
      This would explain why some letters on lines (like the gallows Tomi pointed out) have to “make room” for those who are *below* them on the page. This isn’t readily explainable if we assume the top lines were written before the bottom ones.

  2. Check me on this: If “qu” was converted to “q” before encipherment then all letter pairs that follow EVA “ol”, “ar”, “or”, “al”, are vowels. If too many, that didn’t happen. If it didn’t there is no “u” substitute to always follow any one of the pairs (EVA-ch is too frequent elsewhere to be plaintext “u”). If you don’t find a plaintext “q”, “qu”, or “qu+vowel” this way, you could look for “q” as another CT series and find it by the company it keeps. If not, there would have to be another layer of cipher. You might remember “aror” is handwritten on f116v. Although “ar” and “or” are frequent, the word “aror” occurs few times in the entire text.

    Theoretically, using a normal alphabet, I don’t see how any substitutions other than one-to-many or code can create the constrained glyph adjacencies of the VMs. Something I considered: If there are very few different strokes (short alphabet) and a scribe has a choice of several substitute glyphs for each, he might attempt to design VMs words. That would also apply to an intermediate cipher, measurement, or sequence that yielded various arrangements of N,S,E,W or 0,1,2,3 or (better) 0,1. I don’t think it would work. All this leads me away from the idea that the text is a cipher.

      • “One of the best overall excuses, in general. ;-)”
        It works for me — for some reason.

        After many years of exposure to the Voynich Manuscript, I thought I should have a theory. It didn’t start a discussion and I demoted it to a spoof. I used to have a “Scenario of the Month”. None explained how the glyphs were sequenced.

        It is curious to me that the manuscript didn’t make a splash with the denizens of Gold Alley, the scientific heavyweights, and hangers-on at Rudolph’s court. And after it went to Kircher, as far as we know, it lay sunnyside-up, undisturbed and unremarked by its caretakers.

  3. I’m sure this is one of my irrelevant remarks, but I wonder what might happen if a European tried to copy a text they couldn’t read, the original being Devanagari or one written similarly. Wouldn’t they assume that the lines should be below the letters?

  4. Knox – the manuscript looks as if it was always intended to be carried about – a pocket-sized compendium. That could explain the weathered cover too perhaps. About Rudolf’s court. Has there been any corroborating evidence ever found to *any* of Mnishovsky’s assertions?

    • Scenario Number One assumes that previous books similar to the VMs were carried in pouches. It is possible one or more still exist, though I doubt it. Sometime after the market was saturated, several unfinished books were bound together to make the VMs. The first page is dirty because, after the sheets were sewn together without a cover, the book lay on a shelf. The plants of the VMs were purposefully intended to be both unrecognizable and believable when the VMs was created. That’s as close as I can get to the topic of this page. I’ll add the full scenario to my webpages under “comments” someday. I depend on other people for history and I have not seen any corroboration of Mnishovsky’s remarks. I think they probably are inconsequential but all information needs to be investigated.

  5. Knox, I look forward to seeing that page when you post it.

    You will also have to account for evidence of repeated – including some aborted – bindings, which have been known about since the National Geographic documentary. A photo is also reproduced in a post on ciphermysteries – Feb 8th., 2011 – which is where I first saw it. The documentary itself I’ve not seen.

    An idea that the imagery might be fake has its appeal to people exhausted by efforts to understand the text, but cannot survive in the long run, I should think. None of the (admittedly meagre) technical data supports it. Are you suggesting that it’s a fifteenth century fake or a later one?

  6. Elmar,
    A question about the section you chose as header. Did you choose it at random, and if not, what significance has it for you?

  7. I was granting permission, Elmar. I have no need to ask anything from you, until or unless I need permission to cite some item of your research. Hasn’t happened yet, but that’s no reason for either of us to turn blue. By the way, last July on my blog (the invitation-only one) I introduced to Voynich research a work known as the North French miscellany. (A poor wiki article has come out since – not worth reading, just btw). I thought you might like to tell your mates interested in folio 57v (Beinecke numbering) that one of the diagrams in the miscellany also has two centres, in addition to various codicological similarites to the Vms.

    Please don’t exert yourself to respond to me. I havent’ ticked the ‘notify’ box.

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