the voynich manuscript decoded - part 2
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The Voynich Manuscript Decoded
The Voynich Manuscript Decoded? Part IIIoffer my interpretation of Folio 116v, theMichitonesepage, of the Voynich Manuscript. Using the modified Voynich alphabet outlined in my previous paper(i)and analyzing the subsequent Italian anagrams, I have deciphered the top paragraph of Folio 99r. This folio was chosen because it and theMichitonesepage appear to be discussing the same subject matter. This may be the first time, in about 500 years, that anyone has read any of the text of this mysterious manuscript. What I found was very surprising and unexpected. I also present my deciphering of a botanical page and an astrological page.
The final page of the Voynich Manuscript (V.M.), has been labeled theMichitonesepage(ii). This page consists of three lines written in aLatin script(Figure 1). Two important Voynich scholars, Newbold and Braumbaugh, have attempted to interpret these lines but neither offered a meaningful interpretation(iii). This may be due to the fact that they believed that the V.M. was written by RogerBacon, the 13th century English priest, scholar and scientist, who would have written in either Medieval English or Latin.
This note was not written by the author of the Voynich Manuscript. The loops of the letters L and B have an unusual, pointed, triangular shape, not found in the main body of the V.M. text, where all the letters have rounded loops. The note appears to be addressed to the author of the V.M. who was, I believe, Italian. I have not been able to decipher all the words, so my interpretation is based on the key words in the following paragraphs.
This is the word that has given the folio the nameMichitonese. If you examine the text carefully you will see that the squiggly line that constitutes part of the H inMichitoneseis in a lighter ink than that used for the rest of the text and may have been added later to represent a bracket(1). This bracket is repeated at the end of the sentence, in front of the letter O.
The letters in front of the first bracket may beanci,mici,mci, orvinci. There are no translations from Italian to English foranci,mici, ormci. Even if you assume that the bracket is part of an H,michitonhas no meaning. A darkened version of the wordvinciwas obtained by changing the brightness/contrast in Photoshop. The version on the right has a red outline around first letter of this word, a V. It appears that the author of this note ran short of ink while forming the V, refilled his pen and made a blob as he continued writing.Vincimay be the name of the person to whom this note was written and may also be the name of the person who wrote this manuscript. It is unclear what was written in front of the wordVincias the page has been torn and repaired by stitching the tear together.
These two words are exactly what they appear to be,oba ceve. The wordObais the title used by the Edo people, from the City of Benin in Nigeria, for their ruler or king. Jacob Egharevba, the authority on thehistoryof the Bini people, does not list aCeve(2)as an Oba of Benin City(iv). He first published his book, A Short History of Benin in 1934. Since the people of Benin had no written language, hislistof Obas, dating back to about the 14th century, is based on oral tradition and anecdote. The Portuguese discovered the City of Benin around 1482. They, followed by the Dutch, French, and finally, the English, all traded with the reigning Benin Oba, but not a single European document, until the 19th century, refers to an Oba by name. Therefore,Cevemay be the name of a forgotten Oba, an alternate name for a Oba or the name of an Oba from another tribe.
The last two letters of this word are very faint, but they appear to beca, as proposed by Newbolt in his first reading of this passage(v)and also confirmed by the enhanced darkened version of this word. The word is probablyAfrica, in keeping with the reference to Oba Ceve, an African ruler.
This word appears to bemina, the Portuguese word for mine, as in gold mine. The letter i and the last stroke of the m more or less coincide. In 1471, the Portuguese discovered an outlet for African alluvial gold at a place they called El Mina (The Mine), on the coast of Ghana. Arab traders, after crossing the Sahara desert, traded gold for salt with the local African inhabitants from Mali. These Africans also traded their gold at El Mina(3). The result of this important discovery was that by the beginning of the 16th century, El Mina was supplying roughly half of Europes gold(vi). El Mina is shown on many early Europeanmapsof West Africa, including one found among Leonardo da Vincis papers in the British Museum(vii).
Iwas puzzled by this word, so in desperation I looked upladabaon the internet and found that Ladaba okeis the name of a town on the Lagos lagoon in Nigeria, not very far from the City of Benin. A 1716 navigational chart by G. van Kenlen shows O Labada on the Bight of Benin, not far from Lagos(viii). The present day spelling of the place is the same as that in the Voynich Manuscript.O Labadamay also be present on the 1502Cantino Planisphere(4)as shown in Figure 2 and an enlarged segment, Figure 3.
The first two words on the third line may be translated phonetically asoro roccia, gold rock. Gold was discovered at El Mina.
Using a modern Italian dictionary and assuming that an X representsere, the translation may be something like that shown in Figure 4. It may not be strictly accurate, but it indicates the message the writer intended to convey, that he stayed withOba CeveatO Labadain Africa and that gold was discovered by chance west of there atMina. Since this message was written on the last page of the manuscript, we may assume, with reservation, that it was written after the V.M. wascompleteand sometime after 1471, the year the Portuguese discovered gold at El Mina in Ghana, West Africa. If you examine the page carefully you will see on the left margin of this page there appears to be a date, 1476(5)(Figure 1).
1. backRichter states that brackets were used to represent a colon. Richter, J.P., 1970, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, Vol I, Dover Publications, New York, p.2.
2. backCeve is a fairly common name in Nigeria.
3. backEl Mina is known today as Cape Coast, where the castle the Portuguese built in 1482 is still standing today.
4. backPart of the Cantino planisphere showing West Africa (1502), Biblioteca Estense, Modena, Italy. It is the earliest surviving map showing Portuguese discoveries in the east and west. It is named after Alberto Cantino, an agent for the Duke of Ferrara, who successfully smuggled it from Portugal to Italy in 1502. This map shows a drawing of the castle at El Mina and next to it what is probably the city of Benin.
5. backThis should be confirmed by examining the VM page and not a photocopy I used.
I. backSherwood, E., 2009, The Voynich Manustript decoded, The Internet.
II. backPalmer, S.B., 2004, Notes on f116vs Michtonese, The Internet.
III. backDImperio, M.E., The Voynich Manuscript: An Elegent Enigma, Aegeon Park Press, California, p.101.
IV. backEgharevba, J., 1968, A Short History of Benin, Ibadan University Press.
V. backDImperio, M.E., The Voynich Manuscript: An Elegent Enigma, Aegeon Park Press, California, p.101.
VI. backBlake, J.W., 1977, West Africa: Quest for God and Gold 1454-1578, Curzon Press, London, p.79-83.
VII. backVezzosi, A. and Pedretti, C., 2000, Leonardo E LEuropa, Relitalia, p.101.
VIII. backRyder, A.F.C., 1969, Benin and the Europeans 1485-1897, Longmans, London, front inset.
The next question is, why was thisletterwritten in the first place and what was its significance to the author of the V.M.? While studying the V.M. herbal pages, I observed that the last word on the page of Folio 99r, isO Labada, similar to Folio 116vsO Ladabaand I assume it referred to the same place.
In an earlier article, The Voynich Manuscript decoded?,(ix)I describe how I deciphered a few single words, representing herbs, using a modified version of the V.M.s EVA alphabet(6)and an Italian Anagram Dictionary that is available on the Internet. The decoding and translation of the first paragraph of Folio 99r (Figure 5) showed:
The decoded text had nothing to do with the herbal drawings. It appears that the author used the available blank space on this page and possibly other pages (yet to be determined) to write about his experiences in Africa.
Decoding the text was more complicated than I first anticipated. Some words were easily decoded but a few offered no meaningful solution, until I realized, as a result of reading Richters description of Leonardo da Vincis orthography(x), that the author of the V.M., like Leonardo, used a form of phonetic writing and that some words were a combination of two or three words.
A few additional letters were added to the modified version of the V.M.s EVA Alphabet: I made an assumption that the letter in the first word in this paragraph that looks like a large P represents a V.Examplesof the different Ps used in the V.M. are shown on the right. Do they all represent the same letter or do they represent different letters? The first P is the most common and is the one I consider to represent a V, the second P to represent an S, and the fourth P is actually a P.
There are many more letters in the V.M. than in the English or Italian alphabets, so either the V.M. alphabet is degenerate with respect to some letters, or some letters represent abbreviations, or both. It will require more careful work to understand all the idiosyncrasies of this cipher.
Ihave tried to make my deciphering of this paragraph as transparent as possible. Once I correlate a V.M. letter with a letter from the Roman alphabet, the correlation is never changed. Although I cannot guarantee that the deciphering of this paragraph is completelycorrect, I will point out that 29 out of the 39 words (73%) that constitute this paragraph, result from single anagrams. The remaining words are from anagrams resulting from the combination of 2 or 3 words and one word appears in triplicate, it is only counted once. Some of the anagrams are degenerate and it required choosing the best word to fit the text.
This paragraph chronicles the Portuguese goals with respect to West Africa(xi):
Find the source of the West African gold.
Convert the African people to Christianity.
Prince Henry the Navigator, who promoted the Portuguese exploration of the African coast, died in 1460. It is assumed that his death caused all exploration to halt at Sierra Leone. There is no documentation remaining relating to exploration during the next eleven years, except that in 1469, King Afonso V of Portugal granted the merchant, Ferno Gomes, a lease to trade with all Guinea south of Arguim, if he agreed to explore 100 leagues (about 500 kilometers) of coast each year for the next five years and pay 100 milreis per year for the privilege. A number of expeditions were carried out under this contract(xii). Portuguese sailors discovered the source of African gold at El Mina on the coast of Ghana in January 1471 and later the same year reached Cape St.Catherine below the equator (Figure 2). According to a contempory Spanish chronicler, Antonio de Palencia, Gomes paid the Portuguese king60,000 cruzados of gold, equivalent to the same number of ducats for the right of sending a fleet to Guinea and reaping the profits from such a trade(xiii). Considering that Gomes was probably required to provide and pay for the ships (some 20 in number) and their sailors, it would have been very risky to sign this contract unless he knew, from prior exploration of the West African coast, that gold was obtainable at El Mina. The Portuguese were very secretive with respect to their exploration. In 1755 Lisbon was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake followed by a tsunami and fires, resulting in the loss of manyhistorical documents.
The Portuguese were not the only nation interested in West Africa. Between 1453 and 1480Aldalusian seamen sent many ships to the West African coast, and that the government of Castile claimed exclusive possession of Guine(xiv). Spanishrecordslike those of the Portuguese are very limited. The French claim to have discovered West Africa even earlier than the Portuguese or Spanish.
If my deciphering of the first paragraph of Folio 99r is correct, it indicates that the author of the V.M. may have visited an African chief living in O Labada, West Africa, exactly when is unclear, but later than 1460 and probably later than 1471. I should point out that this time and place depends on whether my deciphering of the first two words of the paragraph,Oba Ceve, the Oba is,is correct. This translation depends on whether the fancyrepresents the letter V. If incorrect, it does not affect the deciphering of the remainder of the paragraph, only its interpretation.
6. backEuropean Voynich Alphabet
IX. backSherwood, E., 2009, The Voynich Manustript decoded, The Internet
X. backRichter, J.P., 1970, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, Vol I, Dover Publications, New York, p.2.
XI. backBlake, J.W., 1977, West Africa: Quest for God and Gold 1454-1578, Curzon Press, London, p.4-5.
XII. backBlake, J.W. 1942, Europeans in West Africa 1450-1560 vol. I, London , The Hakluyt Society, p.3-18
XIII. backBlake, J.W. 1942, Europeans in West Africa 1450-1560 vol. I, London , The Hakluyt Society, p 220.
XIV. backBlake, J.W. 1942, Europeans in West Africa 1450-1560 vol. I, London , The Hakluyt Society, p 185-199.
The one hundred and twenty six plant drawings in the V.M. were probably intended for use as an herbal. For example, Folio 38r represents a drawing of a leaf and pod of anopium poppy (meconia(7)) (Figure6).
The decipheredtext(Figure 7) discusses the extraction of the latex, containing the narcotic alkaloids (mecon opium), obtained by cutting the immature seed pods. Ancient surgeons in Europe and Asia used opium as a potent pain reliever. TheCatholic Church, from approximately 1300 to 1500 A.D, banned the use of opium in Europe. The text from this folioappearsto indicate that cultivation of opium poppies was prohibited, but, like today, this did not stop farmers from growing this plant.
7. backThe herb Meconia (white poppy) From the Anglo-Saxon Manuscript Herbarium of Apuleius Platonicus ca. A.D. 1000-1050
This is the controversial drawing that Robert Brumbaugh(xv)identified as a sunflower, a plant native to America that would date the V.M. to post 1492(8). I have not deciphered thetextfrom this folio, but have been able to determine from the anagram oforam, the identity of this plant,mora, the Italian for either a blackberry or a mulberry. Although both plants have the same Italian name, blackberries and mulberries belong to different species. Further investigation, mainly based on theshapeof the leaves, has led me to conclude that Folio 33v (Figure8) represents a cloudberry,Rubus chammorus, a plant that grows in the bogs of alpine Europe and America. Cloudberries have hand-like leaves on separate stems, white male and femaleflowers, red berries that become amber when ripe, generally propagate through rhizomes, and can develop extensive berry patches. It is impossible to determine whether the Leonardo drawing, that I have included with Figure 8, represents a cloudberry or a blackberry as the leaves are not shown. It is definitely not a mulberry as the caption in the book indicated since mulberries have male and female flowers resembling small catkins.
8. backRecent C14 dating of the parchment has shown that the manuscript probablydatesfrom 1421 +/- 17 years.
XV. backBrumbaugh, R., 1974 , Speculum, Botany and the Voynich Roger Bacon manuscript much more, Vol.49, No. 3, pp. 546-548.
In my first article,Leonardo da Vinci and the Voynich Manuscript
HYPERLINK "http://www.edithsherwood.com/voynich_decoded_part2/page5.php" \l "footnote_xvi" \o "Sherwood, E., 2002, Leonardo da Vinci and the Voynich Manuscript, The Internet" (xvi), I describe how the astrological drawing in Folio 70v (Figure9) may represent the date and time of the birth of Leonardo da Vinci, at approximately 10 pm on the 15th of April, 1452. Today the wordabril, below the ram, is the Spanish/Portuguese for April. In 1452, Leonardos grandfather used the abbreviation Abr. when he recorded the birth of his grandson(xvii)(Figure 10).
You would assume that this astrological drawing, with little ladies holding stars, represents a horoscope. What I deciphered was very different and had nothing to do with astrology of fortune telling. The outer and innermost circles oftextdiscussed the delivery of a baby (Figure 11) and the two middle circles, the conception of this baby. This latter text is rather lascivious and I have not included it in my article. I can understandwhy the author wrote in code, he might have been in severe trouble had his words been understood by others.
XVI. backSherwood, E., 2002, Leonardo da Vinci and the Voynich Manuscript, TheInternetXVII. backNicodemi, G., 1956, The birth of Leonardo, in Leonardo da Vinci, Reynal & Company, New York, p.6.
The deciphering of these three segments from the V.M. provide a compelling case for anagrams, my modified EVA alphabet, and the Italian language being adequate for deciphering much of the V.M. text.Additional workis still required to assign all the V.M. characters to letters of the alphabet or to abbreviations. As far as I am aware this is the first time anyone has offered a meaningful translation of any word or sentence from this manuscript. Although anagrams are notorious for their ambiguity, this should not be regarded as a deterrent. This notebook was probably intended for the eyes of only one individual, the author, who knew the text and could therefore easily select the correct anagram. According to OccamsRazor, the simplest solution to a problem is most likely to be correct, and anagrams are certainly simple and fast to use.
Ifeel very privileged, assuming my decoding of the VM is accepted, to be the first person in about 500 years to read a little of this fascinating manuscript. The botanical section appears to be a genuine herbal, another part of the manuscript may relate to the authors travels. Hopefully a scholar in medieval Italian willverifymy findings and decode this fascinating notebook.
I would like to thank my daughter Erica for the truly great Web site she has designed for my work. Her packaging of my articles has made a great difference to both their presentation and the ease with which they are viewed.
My articles would not read as well had I not had the editing help of my daughter in law, Janette. She helped me focus on what was important and to cut out the fluff.
I wish to thank my son Kevin for making these articles readily accessibleto Internetreaders.
Grateful thanks to my daughter Karen for keeping me healthy and able tocontinuemy research and writing on the Voynich Manuscript.
To my husband John, my thanks for putting up with me over the past 50 odd years, and also for correction of my grammar and spelling.
Finally I would like to thank Wikipedia. Most of the work I have presented would at best have been difficult if not impossible if I had not had access to their manyexcellentarticles.