the voynich manuscript as a mesoamerican herbal jules janick and arthur o. tucker department of...

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The Voynich Manuscript as a MesoAmerican HerbalJules Janick and Arthur O. Tucker

Department of Horticulture & Landscape Architecture, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Emeritus Professor and Co-Director Claude E. Phillips Herbarium, Delaware State University, Dover, Delaware, USA1

The ManuscriptMost famous and bizarre manuscript in the world Undecipherable alphabet and language2Herbal: 129 folios (130 Plants)

Eryngium heterophyllumPsacalium Ipomoea arborescensHelianthus annuus3Pharma: 18 folios, 173 plants

4Balneological: 21 folios

5Cosmological, Zodiac: 12 foliosPiscesLeo

6Cosmological (Magic Circles)SunMoon

7Recipes? Poems? (24 folios)


16071622. Signature of Jakub de Tepenec (d. 1622), Chemist for Rudolf II1639. Owned by George Baresch, alchemist, (letter to Jesuit Athanasius Kircher)1665. Jans Marek Marci, Rector of Prague University claims that Rudolf II purchased ms for 600 ducats1912. Wilfrid Voynich (18651930) purchases ms from Villa Mondragone, a Jesuit college1961. Sold to Hans Kraus1960. Acquired by Yale University.2011. Vellum carbon dated to early 15th century, but probably a palimpsest9Cryptographic analyses unsuccessful Linguistic analysis suggests real language not a hoaxLanguages suggested include Arabic, Chinese, classical Nahuatl, gibberish, Hebrew Italian, Medieval Latin, Old Dutch, Old English, Old Spanish, polyglot Sanskirt, PreWelsh or ScottishMany books, films, works of fiction, musical chamber workWorld wide web presence

10Evidence that Voynich is MesoAmericanAll plants are MesoAmerican; no Old World plants identifiedAll animals either indigenous or Spanish introductionsBoleite (mineral) identified, quality & quantity unique to MesoAmericaLanguage symbols similar to those of New Spain CodicesMexican cities identifiedAztec symbolism (ritual bathing, cosmology)11Folio 1v of Voynich Codex vs. folio 9r of the Codex Cruz-Badianus: Ipomoea arborescens vs. I. murucoides

12Folio 9v of the Voynich Codex: Viola bicolor, not V. tricolor

13Folio 23v of the Voynich Codex: Passiflora subgenus Decaloba (P. morifolia?)

14Folio 93r of the Voynich Codex: Helianthus annuus

#757b chimalacatl from the Florentine Codex of Fray Bernardino de Sahagn, 1545159015Decipherment of Ancient LanguagesBased on proper names coupled with surviving related languagesThomas Young (17731829) and Jean-Francois Champollian (17901832) decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics based on names of pharaohs coupled with study of Coptic (Rosetta Stone)Eugene Burnouf (1836) deciphers Sumerian cuneiform alphabet by names of kings and links to ancient PersianMichel Ventris (19221956) and John Chadwick (19201998) deciphers Linear B with identification of Crete cities with links to ancient GreekHeinrich Berlin (19151988) deciphered Mayan logograms with identification of cities and dynasties coupled with Mayan dialectsArthur Tucker (2013) deciphers Voynich alphabet based on plant pictures and names in Nahuatl16Folio 100r #8 of Voynich Codex: Opuntia sp., cf. O. ficus-indica

nshtlinochtli (Nahuatl)=fruit or plant of the prickly pear cactus

17Folio 100r #4 of Voynich Codex: Agave sp., cf. A. atrovirens (or A. tequilana)

mguoeymaguey (Spanish from mid-16th century Taino)

18Alphabet Decipherment

Nochtli, prickly pear cactus Maguey, agave

19Voynich Alphabet Decipherment


Texas horned lizardDermophisMexican tree frog21

Alligator garDesert big horn eweDesert big horn ramAndalusian Red cowRetinta bullMexican dwarf crayfishOcelotJaguarundi22

Alligator garDesert big horn sheepEarless lizardIguanaPacaCoatimundi?JellyfishArmadilloCrested caracara23MineralFolio 102r #20 of Voynich Codex: boleite (220 mm on side, KPb26Ag9Cu24Cl62(OH)48)

tlanatlan (Nahuatl)=in or under water (probably referring to the blue color) from Boleos Mine, Baja California Sur, Mxico




MapTecamachalcoTlaxcalaVera CruzHuejozingoPuebla de Los Angeles27Toribio of Benavente Motolina (14821568)

College of Santa Cruz

28Folio 86v Sphere #2=Huejotzingo

Popocatpetlsmoking mountain ridge29Folio 86v Sphere 2 of the Voynich Ms.: Monastery of San Miguel Megun ca. 1543, Huejotzingo [where willows grow], Puebla, Mxicohuoxetlocpihuoxeatl (Nahuatl)= willow +capi= Spanish for Latin American capital city


30Folio 86v Sphere #4=Tlaxcala

La Malinche

31Folio 86v Sphere #6=Tecamachalco/Tepeaca

Asuncion De Nuestra Senorawith illustrations of the Apocalypse of John on amatl paper by native ladino mestizo painter Juan Gerson, 1562

Pico de orizaba (citlaltepetl)

32Folio 86v Sphere #8=Vera Cruz/ Zempoala

light house/convento(water seller, putative nickname of Vera Cruz)tlmchononTemple of The Chimneys at Zempoala place of the 20 watersLaguna Catemaco

33Folio 86v Sphere A=Angelopolis

Puebla de Los Angeles, Celestial City of Jerusalemfounded by Motolinia 15306 qubba around central complex in Sphere A

Crusader map of Jerusalem(12th century)5 qubba inside, 7 outside34Balneological

35Ancient Netzahualcoyotl baths in Chapultepec Park, Mexico City

36Baths at Texcotzingo, ancient palace of Netzahualcoyotl near Texcoco

37Cosmology SymbolsFolio 68r-3Folio 85v-2Folio 68r-2Folio 69v-1

Florentine CodexFlorentine CodexFlorentine CodexBadianus Codex38ConclusionsThe Voynich Codex is predominantly a New Word HerbalDate is probably between 1530 and 1570; best guess ca. 1565Author/Artist was a trilingual ladino mestizo trained in the Colegio de Santa Cruz in Tlatelolco, a College established by Franciscan friars for sons of Aztec nobilityText probably an extinct dialect of NahuatlComplete translation will make this one of the most valuable historical New World manuscripts since it is by a native and not filtered by the Spanish39