# Don’s Fumbly Thing

(Make of that title what you will…)

Don of Tallahassee lately submitted an entrance in my “Present your own theory here!” category.

But since he alread sports his own website, I think I’d rather redirect interested parties to his pages than draining visitors from him by discussion his theory here. The discussion might as well be lead on Don’s site as on mine.

So, please check it out and tell Don what you think of his ideas. If I understand correctly, Don’s premise is that each VM word is actually a shorthand notice of an ingredient in a recipe, with the first several letters giving the amount required, the subsequent letters giving the part of the plant, then the (abbreviated) name of the plant itself, and the preparation and so on. A string of words then make a complete recipe for a potion or an ointment or such. This “recipe structure” seems to be related to the mysterious structure which is underlying the VM word “grammar”. Don thinks this structure is the consequence of the compressed and formulaic notation used.

Personally I think Don is barking up the wrong tree. His system already now is immensely complicated, and it seems to get more and more intricate. (Which is a bad sign in any deciphering attempt.) OTOH I have to admit that Don is basing his decipherment on very high standards and tries not only to arrivate at just any recipe, but recipes that would have made sense. In other words, he modifies his decipherment until the list of ingredients and preparations might result in actually useful products, and cross-references previous of his finds. While it seems to be a fairly trivial task to identify which part of the word denotes the amount, which is the plant part, which is the plant name etc., finding out which syllable value — as an example — precisely stands for Dandelion, and which is Clover, etc., is mostly guesswork. A daunting task.

My biggest problem with Don’s assumption is that, while they certainly are formulaic, the VM words are just not formulaic enough to warrant the “recipe idea”. For a start, we have word lengths between one and some 10 letters, short labels, long paragraphs of running text — all this is difficult to reconcile with standard recipes, which could just as well be written in the shape of tables.

But then, hey, I didn’t exactly make earth-shattering progress with my Stroke theory either, did I?

## 15 thoughts on “Don’s Fumbly Thing”

1. In answer, I offer the following:

1. Are my decodings not reasonable, logical, structured, understandable and meaningful?

2. Do you see anywhere that I have fudged my answers?

3. Are the codes, tables and method not used for every word decoded in my published examples.

4. Do I change any glyph or word orders in any way except to very occasionally combine two consecutive VMS words into one longer one or divide one long one into two smaller ones?

5. Are the abbreviations for the herbs shown in Table I very consistent in being derived from the common herbal name shown in the table? Most longer ones even sound like the herbal name when pronounced like a word but quickly.

6. Do you see me using Cardian grills, anagrams, Italian poetry or any similar obfuscation techniques to explain my theory or does it seem to be laid out for all to see, almost always unvarying in its application and showing the coded parts of each VMS word appearing in exactly the same order as shown by the tables and proposed method?

7. Do all of the code tables not mostly show a correspondence between code glyph sounds and the sounds of the salient words, usually first letters of the coded word in all but a few cases? Codes using last letter for glyph?sounds for numbers is the main exception.

8. Do any of the meanings of anything (even glyph sounds) change no matter where in the VMS they seem to be found, or does my proposed solution work for the entire VMS (excluding f16r)?

9. Of the five folios I have displayed answers for, do not all or almost all of the herbs on each page show a similar general use? I know there a still a few minor kinks or Not Understoods.

10. If all of the codes and abbreviations are for English words in my proposed method, would that proposition be substantiated any by the last 6 glyphs on the third to last line and the last two lines of f16r where they seem to read, “hshesh ahsh (the h needs a downstroke added) esh i(een)h inih rensreha preser(u/v) at ah ilh” which I read phonetically as “hsheesh ahsheeshieen in iron (ihren) Syria (sreha) preserve (preser(u/v)) at a hill (hilh). and meaning “Hashish, ahasishieen in strong Syrian fortress at a hill”. Does that sound like the Old Man of the Mountain story in English phonetic prose (VMS style) to you, or not? And all it needs is one missing down stroke. Look up ahashishieen or ahashishiyya or assassins,

11. If you look at my VMS-List posting for 11 March 2011, you will see I had figured out the first ten or a dozen or so glyph/sound correspondences. In the intervening two years, most of my time has been spent determining the abbreviation codes Herr Vogt finds so vexing. I spend between 8 and 14 hours a day and mostly with the VMS, Professor Stolfi’s Concordance and Mrs. Maud Grieves, A Modern Herbal, open and trying to figure those abbreviations out. It’s what I’ve been doing for two years. Hours spent working doesn’t necessarily mean productive hours. All I can offer to date is for the reader to scrutinize the abbreviations in Table I and decide for himself/herself if they don’t seem reasonable in their identification, consistent in the ways they are formed and reasonable for the herb? Look at the different squills or worts or berries/cherries or mints or mustards or rues or mallows or sorrels or tormentils – don’t they each have a similar base abbreviation? Look at all the herbs designated as Roman and show me one that they didn’t bring into England. Five or six are still referred to as Roman in their present day English common names.

12. Look at the blue slashes in the attempted decodings and decide if the ingredient lists, as divided, don’t show reasonable recipes. After I finish the updating of my decodings to reflect the Number code changes, I will be trying to send them off to see if they sound correct to someone who should be able to tell.

13. I read somewhere that the Anglo-Saxon pharmacopoeia consisted of somewhere near 500 plants. Is Mr. Vogt complaining about the present and expanding length of Table I at 300+ herbs or is he complaining the other tables seem too long or involved?

14. Now I think of myself as fairly intelligent but how much of a genius would I have to be to be able to get all of the above stuff to fit together and give consistently meaningful, logical, structured, understandable and reasonable PAGES of decodings, not just words, PAGES, unless I was right or nearly so? (And also not claiming to be the genius I would otherwise have to be.)

15. The methods, codes and abbreviations, as I have shown them are in accordance with Roger Bacon’s methods outlined in the Thirteenth Century.

Some members of the List must be good enough statisticians to come up with some kind of numbers. Is it a small coincidence or a tremendously large and interconnected group of them that my method, tables and codes work for page after page of glyphs just as shown in the Voynich Manuscript?

All of the feedback I have been getting is negative because:
a. it doesn’t seem right.
b. it’s not what is in other books and manuscripts.
c. it’s not what is expected.
d. It may not explain the images or illustrations.
e. It isn’t what others want it to be.
f. It is too complicated or difficult to understand (it isn’t – it is very simple to use and understand).
g. It should be in Latin.

I say poppycock and balderdash to them!

Of the three people turning down my ideas, method and codes, none have tried to actually decode one word from anywhere in the VMS as I have suggested to test the proposed solution’s validity. I would think a good rebuttal might include some sort actual headbone and pencil or computer work to show where, when, how, and/or why it is wrong or inconsistent in its application.

I’ll be waiting for any kind of statistical analysis on the probability I am right. Or attempted decodings that can’t be made head nor tails of with my proposed method, abbreviations and codes that prove my ideas to be bogus.

If you don’t like my proposed solution I’d be happy to read yours to see how it is an improvement over mine. Are there any others who think their decoding is better? Bring it on.

Lastly, please remember, I didn’t write the VMS and don’t know everything. I am just the fumbling decoder of the VMS who knows SOME things about the VMS and am showing them to you. And you can leave your comments here, if you want. I’ll drop back by and check to see if there are any from time to time.

Thank you from that little old fumbler of diddles, Don of Tallahassee.

“Nothing is like it seems, but everything is like it is.” -Yogi Berra

• Dear Herr Vogt,

I know this may seem penny-ante or nitpicky, but if you come to accept my ideas and respect my work, I would prefer my site always be referred to by its full Fumblydiddles name so others will be helped to remember the name and not be confused. You may call ME anything you want. Most people do.

Thank you. -Don of Tallahassee

• Dear Mr. of Tallahasse,
You have asked for a place to showcase your theory on my blog, and this is exactly what you got, like everyone else: A working link to your own site, and what I consider a fair assessment of your ideas. That’s the deal.

• Hi Don,
I’m a bit confused by the aggressive stance of your reply. You asked for my opinion and you knew beforehand that I don’t embrace your theory, so…
Anyway, the simple fact that you have *a* solution to the VM doesn’t mean that you’ve got the *correct* solution to the VM. For example, I could easily declare that the VM is really a library catalogue with something like the Dewey decimal classification listing plenty of books, and though this of course is patently absurd, I’m sure it would be easy to develop a coherent “decipherment”, and one that would be virtually impossible to falsify on a purely rational basis, to boot.
I really do appreciate the huge amount of work you have invested in the VM, but it’s one of life’s tragedies that huge effort doesn’t equal huge success. In the contrary, if after several years of refining your system you still arrive at “hshesh ahsh esh i(een)h inih rensreha preser(u/v) at ah ilh” as a plaintext solution (!), and haven’t found anything resembling the sound “o”, that sets off all my alarms that you’re barking up the wrong tree.
From the outset, you have ignored the most obvious fact, namely that the structure of the VM words is *not* the structure of words in any natural language, and that hence the VM is *not* a pure substitution cipher. Simply. Cannot. Be. (IIUC, you had recognized that and developed your “recipe” system in accordance, but now presume that at least parts of the VM are not abbreviated recipes, but prose? If that is correct, how do you tell which is which?) It’s a mistake made over and over again, unfortunately, by researchers in the VM, but this doesn’t make it any better, and adding crutches like “phonetic spelling” or “omitting certain sounds to throw off frequency analysis” is no solution.
I didn’t mean to offend. But don’t ask if you don’t want to hear the answer.

• P.S. — Is there an instance of the word “preserve” being used to mean “fortress”?

• Don Hoffmann

>________________________________ > From: Thoughts about the Voynich Manuscript >To: donoftallahassee@yahoo.com >Sent: Monday, June 3, 2013 11:46 AM >Subject: [New comment] Don’s Fumbly Thing > > WordPress.com >Elmar Vogt commented: “Hi Don, I’m a bit confused by the aggressive stance of your reply. You asked for my opinion and you knew beforehand that I don’t embrace your theory, so… Anyway, the simple fact that you have *a* solution to the VM doesn’t mean that you’ve got the *co” >

2. Some more thoughts (list continued from above):
16. The number of different herbs identified with reasonable abbreviations having the EVA = ckh glyph which is sounded as (dw) is a truly astounding number of such attributions (over 20 herbs identified now) considering there are only about 8 words starting with “(dw)” in the dictionary and not that many more which contain the pair of connected sounds/letters elsewhere in the word. Coupled with the number of abbreviations containing the EVA = cth
glyph which is sounded as “(nk)”, another unlikely sound/letter coupling found in an unexpectedly large number of abbreviations identified in Table I, the two account for about 15% of the abbreviations made so far. That’s a big coincidence for a pair of unlikely sounding glyphs.

17. The dearth of unidentified herb abbreviations over a six hundred year gap seems to indicate that not many of the old herbs and their names have been forgotten. Their uses also seem to be remembered, even if only in old books. These facts have enabled me to identify many of the herbs.

18. The number of herbs identified in my Table I list would not seem to be excessive for someone already familiar with apothecary herbs in the Fifteenth Century in England. The abbreviations in Table I would seem to have been easy for someone like that to learn to use without a reference book or table. The other codes do not seem to have excessive numbers of codes considering all the different information bits they might be required to record or hard to learn if the student was familiar with the apothecary system of the time.

19.To be able to show a complete ingredient line of an apothecary recipe in one or two glyph words in a secret code that hasn’t been cracked in a hundred years of applying increasingly
sophisticated methods five hundred years later is quite an accomplishment. It probably decrease the length of the VMS to one quarter or so of its regular written out length. If a person takes the time to learn the method, abbreviations and codes well enough to fill prescriptions/recipes straight from the VMS, it negates any decoding scraps lying around to give others hints to be able decode it, or prosecute on. I can pretty much read a page albeit slowly and with some recourse to looking up the lesser used codes I have forgotten.

20. Most of the basic needed knowledge to write the VMS in the way I propose was probably available in England by the early Fifteenth Century.

21. So far there seem to be no plants from the New World – none seem to be needed to account for missing numbers (even small numbers) of unidentified herbs. Few of the herb names seem to be Anglo-Saxon. Many of the names are used in Gerarde’s book almost two centuries later than the VMS C14 date.

Thank you. -Don of Tallahassee

3. Don,
I have no difficulty with the idea it might be English etc. What bothers me is that there must be more than one plant with the same initial, and if you look at Grieves’ Herbal you’ll also see a long string of local names for any widely-used plant. Presumably, these were local terms, and depending on where the chap was, his usage should be pretty consistent. If he lived in Cornwall he probably wouldn’t use a term local to Edinburgh.

But my really BIG problem with the all-European theses is that the book shows no sign of being made in European style – no lines, no box made for text, no marginal pricking. I could have found a way round this if the quires were later trimmed, but Rene says that many are not trimmed at all. Might sound a little thing, but it’s such an unlikely deviation from the norm.

Not to mention the very uncharacteristic elements in the imagery.

• Diane,

1. Why does the possibility of different local herb names gathered from around Britain bother you more than finding images from many different countries or eras similar to those in the VMS? I think whoever authored the VMS picked each name from a sometimes large number of local name choices for many of the herbs, maybe only a list of one for carrot. (Abbreviations starting with a hard “c” or “k” sound seem to have been assiduously avoided by the author, probably as one of the ways to help defeat someone counting glyph occurrences to figure out a frequency table. There seem to be no abbreviations starting with “o” for a like reason.- maybe also because I haven’t found an “o” sounding glyph yet.)

2. The VMS has its own style. It has its own alphabet, It sure isn’t Persian, Indian, Chinese, Egyptian or any other known style or an alphabet of any other known set of letters. The closest in overall style for the illustrations is European. The closest to alphabet/glyph style is Latin letters, again European. The VMS was obviously made to hide something – there would be no reason to make up such an intricate but simple to use system of writing if it wasn’t, You posit a large area of the known world at the time as the source area for your different ideas. What is so difficult about a group of names being gathered and winnowed from around England? Can you show me one document from anywhere in the world that shows a close comparison to the way the VMS looks? Or are you just relying on an image form here and a document from there and another bit from an illustration from a third place and so on? Show me a document the looks really similar to the VMS and has matching illustrations and I might agree. Without the similar document, you argument seems a bit specious.

3. Again I stress that without a thorough understanding of any image in the VMS, nothing much can be said about them. I don’t know if they are doodles or germane to whatever is being written about with the glyphs. I haven’t gotten that far yet. Can you prove or disprove anything about any image in the VMS that helps decode the book? Can you show any book or manuscript that contains several images exactly like anything in the VMS or even extremely similar – not a page of a book nor part of an image – several images? If not, then how do you positively know (some of?) the images aren’t doodles and/or that your faith and trust in them is warranted?

4. Have you tried to use my method, abbreviations and codes to decode even one word? Wouldn’t that seem to be a likely place to start to refute my proposed solution rather than rejecting it because it doesn’t fit your preconceived notions of what should be in the glyph lines. Can you only argue that the VMS must be like other books even though it clearly isn’t?

5. If the original author took such pains to disguise the writing, why do you believe the images in the VMS haven’t been likewise disguised? If, after a hundred years, people still have not yet come together and agreed about the meaning of any one VMS image, can you, or anyone, definitively say that the body of VMS images means this or that about anything?

6. I reiterate my list of the negative feedback reasons I have been getting:
a. it doesn’t seem right.
b. it’s not what is in other books and manuscripts.
c. it’s not what is expected.
d. It may not explain the images or illustrations.
e. It isn’t what others want it to be.
f. It is too complicated or difficult to understand (it isn’t – it is very simple to use and understand).
g. It should be in Latin.

Can you argue that my method does not seem to work for the decoding of the glyphs, is not reasonable, is not logical, is not understandable, is not consistent in its application, is not fairly simple to use once it is understood, is not almost exactly in line with the ideas of Roger Bacon, is not structured, can’t be used throughout the VMS (and/or hands A and B don’t turn out to be the same language, decoded exactly the same) and doesn’t give a meaningful answer? Or are you falling back on the above list of reasons that others give? I expected more from you (I’m not trying to be nasty or catty here.)

Pick apart my method, codes or abbreviations if you can. Show me where my proposed system fails. Don’t tell me it is because of some possibly disguised and still mysterious image(s) without more proof, please. Or because Great Britain is such a large place that local plant names are unlikely to be transmitted over such long distances by a group of like-minded and interested people such as apothecaries or healing monks or doctors or scholars, especially the scholars, thus making such a collection of local herb names some kind of improbability or impossibility. Even under Fifteenth Century conditions, such a gathering of information and transmission to a central location couldn’t have taken much more than a year or so if done under some sort of Catholic Church group’s authorization and auspices.. (Something along the lines of, “Brother James, Send me a list of the local common English names for all the medicinal herbs you use, what you use them for and their Latin names and any other names that have been or are being used by others in your area. I’d also like a list showing all of your potion and remedy recipes.” -Bishop X.)

The VMS glyphs may continue to be mysterious to many people, not so much to me. If you don’t think my proposed solution is possible, that’s okay. I think I possibly understand why you and everyone else seem so intransigent – too much time and energy invested to want to change your ideas to something new that works, too many preconceptions about what the VMS must say if it is to be decoded and completely too much reliance on your hopes and expectations of only the meaning of the glyph writing being well disguised, not the meaning and drawing of the images.

I know the system of tables and codes looks like it might give ambiguous answers. In reality, if you follow the steps given in the method, the answer is usually very understandable and not ambiguous. It is mainly because I do not yet understand everything about the system and the codes that my answers have holes or question marks as, or in, the answers. The missing and/or not understood parts of my decodings are a small portion of the total attempted..

I hope I only sound argumentative, not brusque, querulous nor condescending. I also hope my arguments are rational and convincing to others.

My main sourcebook is the Voynich Manuscript, not some other book, manuscript or document.

Thank you. -Don of Tallahassee

• Don of Tallahassee

Dear Elmar,

There’s just the one instance on f16r, so far. I haven’t read the rest of the VMS (I haven’t found any other prose sections, anyway) yet so I don’t know if there are or aren’t.

A quick check of the Stolfi Concordance shows 5 more instances of that glyph sequence word in the VMS but have not looked at them yet to see if they may indicate a fortress or not. I’ll check them when I finish f114v. It may alternately mean pellitory of Spain, tincture, 5 (minims) in other places in the VMS or maybe the regular meaning of to save, if there is more prose.

I kind of have the idea that f16r may have been at least partially concocted out of VMS “words” from elsewhere in the VMS pieced together in sentence form to enable the author to convey the info about the topic of Assassins without raising suspicions of any would-be solvers (only a conjecture, not yet a serious proposition). That idea might mean there is a good reason for what I take to be stilted or uncharacteristic language on f16r.

There seem to be no instances of the word “hshesh” in the VMS listed in the Concordance except on f16r, where there are two.

Thank you.

Don of Tallahassee

4. Don,
Thank you for the reply. Seriously. You are the first person to have engaged with any of the matter I’ve raised these past years,except when Elmar asked a question about one folio. It’s nice to know what someone thinks about it all.
In order –
1. Why does the possibility of different local herb names gathered from around Britain bother you?
Because when you consider the history of those times, it is not the way things were being done in England. Herbs were either grown in the monastery (etc.) garden, or were purchased at market or – most commonly of all – were left to the root-cutters who were often illiterate women whose knowledge of where plants grew and which were which remained pretty well their own secret. People were still complaining about this as late as the early eighteenth century. So the picture of some leisured person strolling about and being given local names for medicinal herbs sounds reasonable today but just doesn’t fit the scene in early 15thC England – and you have posited English as the language. If the picture you draw were grounded in our historical records – narrative or technical – it would be easier to envisage. Your letter from Bishop X would be perfect, :) especially if it had been found with the Vms.

That’s the issue I have. It’s not linguistic or about ciphers; on those I can’t comment.
Hmm – I can see this could turn into a very long response.
I’ll try to summarise the rest.
First, the Vms is not one consistently-designed book. It is a collection of what appear pretty clearly (to most people, not just me) rather different sections: different in style and content as expressed by the imagery, but united by a more-or-less constant script. (Currier A and B taken into account).

So each of those sections must have its content – I’m speaking about the imagery now – considered separately because the chances are pretty high that this is a compendium of extracts taken from a variety of sources to serve a given purpose. The type is known as a ‘florilegium’ or as a ‘commonplace book’ and a surprising number of extant medieval manuscripts are works like that. Not amateur-looking, but florilegia just the same.

Since a florilegium is normally united by the purpose for which it was put together, determining that purpose may help narrow the boundaries in which we look for text and/or cipher.
The critical issue which is so often forgotten is whether the matter itself was first composed when the manuscript was made.

So that means seeking the sources for both what is pictured and *how* it is depicted. Style really matters in art analysis – it’s one of the ways we know if a Madonna is Flemish or Italian. Subject matter has to be discerned too – a picture of a woman with a crown has to be described less generally than that. Also stylisation.. etc.

So the stylistics in the various sections (still talking imagery, not script) show that this is a compilation of surprisingly old material, Hellenistic mainly, and which I’d date in origin to a period for the earliest about the 3rC BC (this includes the imagery in the month roundels and most of f.86v), to at latest .. I’d say 3rdC AD (this the pharma section).

Then you have additions which do appear to be later – I’d say about the 12thC, which seems to be when the last revisions were made before our copy dated to the early 15thC.

Now it’s possible that these sources all remained as separate source-texts to that time, and that the 15thC copyist put the collection of extracts together, encoding/enciphering his text at the same time. I don’t agree that the text will have nothing to do with the imagery, but the imagery is a narrative in its own right, so the text should be complementary, I’d think. Not like a printed book, or a modern book. More like a DVD with subtitles. It wouldn’t label objects and give them names ‘chair, table, plant named X’ – you’re supposed to read that basic stuff from the pictures. More likely it would say, ‘Theophrastus says good for liver’ or ‘macerate 10mins olive oil’ or ‘buy 20 barrels in Alexandria – sell in Tunis’ – something like that.

When you look at the whole thing, it doesn’t roam all over the world. It maps the line across the spice route by sea (botanical and pharma sections), the route along the Red Sea (one of thebathy- folios), then it has a bit about chemistry. Mainly the elements – gold, weather, and that sort of thing. Plus a diagram for calculating the tides by the moon – a standard part of navigator’s lore. What it presents altogether is a kind of Pear’s cyclopaedia for a person and more likely a business or company engaged in the long distance trade in vegetable products. From the nature of what is shown, and what is NOT shown, I’d think the collection and script not originally created by a European Christian or a Muslim.
The alchemical side of it is interesting and so, I think, is a date around 1362. But that’s enough of Elmar’s blog-space from me.

Don’t worry – we may even meet in Aleppo.

5. Elmar,
If you would be so kind, I should like removed any comments of mine published here.

• Diane,
I’d rather not do that for the simple reason that selectively deleting your comments will make threads of discussion in which you posted very hard to understand.
Do you have a particular reason why you want the deletion of your contributions?

6. I owe Don an apology. The medico-herbal Dictionary which Bacon mentions shows that comparative terms had been collected and that Dictionary compiled in Italy was known – to some at least – in England by the thirteenth century.