The Voynich Manuscript: New Key to the Cipher

In Part 1 of my observation of the Voynich manuscript I transformed the ‘zodiac’ section of the old book into map of Europe from the beginning of the 15th century.

However, new Voynich theory would be incomplete without proposal for dealing with the text. My guess is that the illustrations contain instructions that navigate the reader through the symbols. To demonstrate the idea, I will use the ‘botanic’ section of the book.

The Voynich flowers are hard to link to real plants. On the positive side, they are rich in patterns that could hold the key to the cypher on each page. If the book is really encrypted, universal code that goes from the first to the last page may not exist. Instead, the Voynich may contain couple of hundred separate riddles.

Flower with the least complicated structure would be perfect place to start. My choice was Folio 15v. It is boring, simple, single stem, lack of color patterns and lack of too many details. It also reminded me of a four leaf shamrock which may bring good luck.

The four roots pointing down took me to line number 4 of the text (counting from the top line down). Four leaves that are also pointing down took me to line number 8 of the text. The dot pattern in the bud was my cipher key: 2, 3, 2, 2, 3, twelve 2s, 1, 2, 2, 2, 2.

So I started counting the letters using the EVA (the European Voynich alphabet) to verify where each symbol starts and where it ends. The picture below represents the lines 8 and 9 on Folio 15v and the darker letters represent my count according to the dot pattern on the illustration.

For transcription I used the EVA with two swaps:

-          the symbol  assigned to lowercase Latin t, should read, in my opinion, as Greek/Cyrillic П=Latin p;

-          the symbol assigned to the Capital Latin T should read, in my opinion, as Cyrillic H=Latin N.

I believe these two are fair swaps (orthography-wise).

The result of the transcription, divided into words of Slavic origin, was: ‘pocolin pc odin pelen ococ’ which translates in English as ‘ambassador ps one stuffed suckling pig’.

All of the above assumptions come out of thin air, but the result makes a good story. Imagine the scribe in the beginning of the 15th century thinking:

“OK! I’ve completed Rome, Austria, Hungary, England, France, State of the Teutonic Order, Poland, Moscow, and the Mongols… What is next? Pskov. What did they bring? Stuffed pig. This is not worth sharpening my quail. I’ll keep it simple. That fleur-de-lis on page 13 took too much ink…”

The good news is that the piglet from Folio15v was big enough to be stuffed. Take a look at the tiny creatures that were being slaughtered during international medieval feast hosted by Jean Duc de Berry in the famous manuscript Très Riches Heures. The book was scribed at the time when the Voynich velum was produced. The Duke sponsored scientists (astrologists and alchemists), artists, and writers (including the feminist legend Christine de Pizan). The Duke had taste for ruby jewels, fancy cups and vases. He also collected exotic animals (among them ostriches).

The weird thing about the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry is that it is supposed to be a calendar, but only eight of the months got their days numbered, their moon phases calculated and their alphabet scrambled. It is sort of like the Voynich manuscript – some things just seem strange.

When people look into chaos they try to organize it into something meaningful using the knowledge they have. More often than not the results tend to support their beliefs and justify their actions.

In Part 1 I assigned the patty-cake playing couple to Norway for no apparent reason.  So I caught myself searching for Norway in the Voynich manuscript and I found fjords. The Olaus Magnus map is century older than the velum of Voynich, but I am pretty sure Scandia was already discovered in 1400.

Understanding the symbolism in medieval manuscript is difficult. To illustrate the point, let’s take a look at one famous contemporary rosette:

the compass on the NATO logo. The official website of the organization displays the following explanation of the origin of the symbol:

The exact origins of the NATO emblem are unclear, although it is known that the basic design was conceived by a member of the International Staff.

It is only 60 years old and we already don’t know who came up with it. The 600 years old pages of the Voynich manuscript may carry their secrets forever.

33 Responses to “The Voynich Manuscript: New Key to the Cipher”

  • I agree with your point that there may be, or probably is actually, much symbolism in the Voynich that we can’t understand, and the modern example you give is a good allegory to that problem.

    I would worry that your method… while it could work… is too “hit and miss”… too intuitive… to even hope you may happen on something meaningful. Sure, you might… But finding the possible combination of counts of plant roots, and resulting stings of numbers, even if these were used by the author: the probability against happening on the right string, in the right way, is daunting.

    So as a concept I can see it being possibly relevant, but finding a more effective way of narrowing down the most probably examples might be good, and save you a lifetime of random experimentation!

  • Thank you, Rich!

    I agree with you and my intentions are not to send people on wild goose chase. It is just a way to encode.

    If your Latin is good, you may take another look at rosette that you personally research: the ‘fruit picking ladies in the garden’ on Folio 85v.

    It is an easy pattern – follow the blue color in the Earth/water/air decoration. You get – every forth letter in the outer circle and you get string of Latin words (decad, reris, erreas,desos,deepos etc) – My Latin is much worst than my Slavonic, so I picked the flower.

    Those who speak Latin, or ancient Mongolian or medieval German may find their own flower or rosette.

    The book is there for everybody to find something.

    The EVA is too “hit and miss”… too intuitive… Yet, many Voynich researchers use it.

  • Diane, Thank you for the smile. Glad you had fun!

  • Aren’t you? Having fun, I mean.

  • Absolutely! It is a great puzzle. Very exciting. I enjoy reading your blog with the imagery and the new botanical one.

    I am working on the next article where I will quote you about something, but I need time. It is summer vacation for the kids.

    I am bamboozling myself one of the rosettes on the 9 medallion page. There is illusion that the text has a meaning – which the main reason so many folks are spending time with the book.

  • bdid1dr:

    Ellie, Diane,

    Has Rich invited either of you to take a “flyover” of his three-dimensional “contour map” of the Rosettes? Talk about FUN!

  • Yes, the 3d map is very inspirational!

  • bdid1dr:

    ‘ello Ellie!

    When you have a free moment, feel free to visit “Round n’ Round topic on Nick’s pages. I’m still trying to find out more about the gold seal/insignia that appears on the “Cristallo” jug (Murano glass) in the NatGeo documentary of Nick’s visit, last year, in Venice and Milan. I’m now planning to do a little research into the very troubled “Black Plague” years. Ships and ports of call, and the Crusades. Even if it was a couple of hundred years later that Kircher did his tour of Sicily and Malta, he and his sponsor, “Friedrich of Landgraf of Hesse-Darmstadt”, apparently had a great time!


  • Sure, the documentary was very interesting. I am reading Nick’s blog. I wish I knew more about those years. We don’t want to experience the disease again.

  • bdid1dr:

    Oh well, Elitza,

    It appears that Nick has shut down (maybe just temporarily on his desktop?)some of the topics . No more “Round n Round” topic? He responded, this morning, to one of my posts, but now that Topic has disappeared.

  • bdid1dr:

    Oops, I got called away from my computer, by my cat, which was trying to tell me that not only was her drinking fountain going dry but my gardens (patio, herbs under our black oak, tomatoes, eggplant, and bell peppers on our second landing before entering our front porch, and the petunias, geraniums, and coral bells on the front porch) were all getting thirsty too. In the meantime, I forgot to log out for the duration. At least I didn’t hit the send button! I can just see your face now trying to figure out “What the h…?”

    So, besides “beady-eyed wonder”, I often wonder if some people view me as “babble-on” b….

    I sincerely hope that most of my babbling (posts) appear relevant to whatever discussion is occuring at any time. Ennyway, check out my message on Round n Round re Beneventan use of various alphabet combinations to form “speedier” transcriptions (faster writing)but still legible to the “educated” reader.

    Have a good weekend!


  • bdid1dr:

    To elaborate on my earlier comments re some of the mystery letters, which disregard the EVA and Currier/D’Imperio nonsense:

    I’ve already explained the “sickle-shape” (or crescent) which has a straight handle: it is the sibilant before a “leading” vowel and is the Cyrillic “C” facing backwards.

    The other very similar character that has a recurved “tail” is the letter “R”

    The character that looks like the side view of your raised and slightly curved hand is the letter “N”. If that same character has another small bar attached, it is the letter “M”

    The character that looks like a figure eight or an ampersand is the letter “B”, but also the plicatives “p” and “v”. Characters that appear to be o and e next to each other make the sound “w” as in oest…….

    The character that looks like a backward-facing “P” represents the “kw” . I haven’t been able to find clarification for the character that looks like the numeral 9.

    Though I seem to be making very definite identifications, there’s always room for doubt. But refer to the Oscan/Volsci/Vellitrae pages and further info on Omniglot. If only I had been eligible to take Latin in high school…..
    Just think; I might have had the full translation done by now!


  • bdid1dr:

    Oh my! I just now remembered what I wanted to point out to you re one of the botanical drawings. I’ll do a little cross-referring here because I’ll be referring to several folios. First, the latin/arabic name for a vegetable sponge: loofa or lufa (a cucurbit). You may be able to find a drawing of a plant with large palmate leaves and a cucumber-like gourd. The “gourd” is edible at all stages of growth. Even today, its other use is popular in spas everywhere.

    Next, find the folio of the women entering the “roman bath”. On the left-side entrance to the bath, appears a woman who is stepping through the doorway’s foot bath, waving a strange object to the views of the other women, who appear to be going through a sequence of scrubbing, soaking, drying, and (with the help of a male attendant) getting clothed.

    This particular bathing scene has several accompanying paragraphs; perhaps with the visual clues, you’ll be able to translate the written words?

    Believe it or not: After I finished writing my earlier post to you, I took a short nap — a very short nap. Because I remembered reading one or two words that could have spelled either squa– or spo– .

    Take it from there, kiddo! I really would like to see you succeed in your translation and reading of that delightful manuscript.

  • I am preparing and interesting alphabet made out of pope Alexander V handwriting. Just wait and see…

  • bdid1dr:


    Here is my very rough translation of the two lines of script that you show at the beginning of this page of your discussion:

    Reading and writing from the right margin:

    pam tsoac ollwk ni ko ro cc So ec ll q

    My very rough translation, first read from right margin to left margin:

    map coast (abbreviation symbol above would indicate “al”) kwello ni ko Rocca

    Sociello {end of first line of my version} So, if you read that same sentence from left to right, a rough draft sentence would be:

    Sociell Rocca ko ni kwello kostal map. (Ellie, there is still existing a small “commune” called Rocca di Papa.)

    Second pictorial example:

    But this time I am just going to give you my rough transcription/translation:

    ocello kwo sells ceokw ecobkw nalt


    This is not necessarily my “best shot” at transcribing/translating. Someday, I’ll tell you all about my working in the foreign mail parcel “nixies” department of the US Post Office in San Francisco, California.

    ocello kwo sells okw ceokw ec kw nalt

  • bdid1dr:

    Dang it, erase that last repetitive line.
    Time to eat brunch!

  • bdid1dr:

    Before sitting down to eat brunch, I pulled a couple of my “herbal” books from my kitchen shelves. I don’t cook “by the book”, just use them to translate archaic language/lettering used by some of the earliest writers of herbal manuscripts.

    A Rizzoli publication: HERBARIUM – naatural remedies from a meieval manuscript

    Texts by Adalberto Pazzini and Emma Pirani

    Original captions by Ububchasym de Baldach
    (Publisher’s note:
    This book shows de Baldach’s lettering style/captioning at the top of each plate. as taken from the Casanatense manuscript and from notes found in other late medieval herbaria.)

    Note: Just because I didn’t shout the importance of the manuscript writer’s captioning doesn’t mean that I am not terribly excited. I’ll be going back over my rough translations to see if Ububchasym’s writings can shed a light on our research some umpteen centuries after his decease.

    I am now going to have my afternoon tea (spelled coffee). bdid1dr


    I then went online with an excellent reference site that posted quite a few of the plates AND Baldach’s commentary/medicinal uses for each plant as well as giving a prescription for dosages/and times of dosing.

    Aboca Museum “Erbe E Slaute Ne Secoli”

    I can’t create a link very well on this page because of its length.

  • bdid1dr:

    Dang, I type faster than my server can print the letters. Some corrections:

    natural remedies from a medieval….

    Aboca Museum “Erbe E Salute Ne Secoli”

  • bdid1dr:

    Illustration from Baldach manuscript: (Which leaves look very much like those you show at the top of this page. I can’t download the photo. I don’t remember if the Aboca Museum displayed this particular item.)

    Label in Baldach’s own handwriting: Cucumeres et citruli

    English translation of Baldach’s commentary/dietary/medicinal uses:

    “Marrows and Cucumbers (cucumeres et citruli)”

    Cold and moist in the third degree, the best are the fat and fully grown ones.

    They reduce burning fevers and encourage the urinary flow, but they sometimes cause aches and pains in the stomach and intestines.

    These effects are not felt if they are eaten with oil and honey.”

    (end of this item’s translation — bd)

    Time for brunch!

  • bdid1dr:

    My comment to this particular illustration and Baldach’s commentary:

    Earlier I referred you to loofa/lufa vegetable sponges — and the similarities of cucumbers and loofa “squash”. Well, all I can do is refer you to my findings as I have mentioned here, and maybe on one of your other blogs.

    I’m hoping Diane may be following this. (?)

  • About your translation – check also the Rocca Borromeo castle – very ‘nine rossetish’

  • bdid1dr:

    I certainly will be following with Rocca Borromeo Castle!

    In the meantime, here is my rough translation of the script next to the green leafy plant (with one of its melon/squash/cucumbers being evulsed of its contents strings of seeds) in Folio 15v

    Posos oskwash cucom belcum opecosbsh

    Secos oso sam cellcash ellam bas

    cellcos bam quotlas otlcos otlam

    bom ceotlg c c (with abbreviation note above)

    quolceo b

    oelcos ceos quellcos celc g r

    Note: I transcribed the first six lines of script and then paused because it looked to me as though another, not so careful, scribe wrote the next six lines.

    It is still intelligible to me, but there is some careless scribing when it comes to the different forms of the large backward-facing “S” shapes.

    So, the rest of the story is in your hands again! I shall now visit Rocca Borromeo castle.

    Hah, coffee break…..

    Hasta la manana!

  • bdid1dr:

    BTW: Rocca Borromeo castle/fortress — is, today, a doll museum. There are, apparently elegant murals still existing, but limited on-line views of them. Some discussion re familiar names of various cardinals and popes.The castle apparently features a huge wine press.

    That is quite a huge lake, with the castle perched on a tiny island — looks like they had a 360 degree “lookout”.

  • bdid1dr:

    Oh yes, one more note (re the character that looks like a numeral 9: that may be the guttural sounds of g and k (and, maybe, the “ending” or “linking” sounds.


  • bdid1dr:

    By the way, Ellie:

    I DID visit your tarot card-back photo-comparison page. For a couple of the posts I was “anonymous”. My motive were to keep hack-attacks to a minimum and still be recognizable – and maybe encourage some of our long-time correspondents to check ‘em out (the backs of that particular tarot set).

    Enjoy the rest of summer in your “neck of the woods”. One brother of my husband lives not too far from there (Asheville). School starts for your boys soon?


  • bdid1dr:


    In Boenicke 408 ms, folio 86r — appear a couple of images that have had very finely scripted “dialogue” on all four sides of the page.

    Mushrooms – Specifically of the Amanita family. One may be the “good” (edible) mushroom we call the “shaggy mane”. The other plant stem, has a miniature man clinging to it. (He appears to be afraid and confused.)

    A website that discusses the uses of hallucinatory plants (used to dope women before sending them into slavery/prostitution):

    Once I was able to enlarge the Boenicke folio 86r, I recognized a lecturer’s notes by which he could rotate the entire folio so as to read his notes as they applied to each of the two botanical objects being portrayed.

  • bdid1dr:

    My other source of info re “agaricales” is my Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Mushrooms. Perhaps you have at hand a guide to European mushrooms, by which you can compare notes with the writing/language for European mushrooms.

    If I remember correctly,Pope Alexander V died suddenly in the night. The thing is that the American mushroom guidebook for Coprinus Atramentarius issues a precaution that no alcohol should be consumed for one or two DAYS after eating this “meaty, edible” mushroom. Kinda makes you wonder who kept track of the menus and dietary regimen for Petros…hmmmh?

    So, besides the American “Shaggy Mane” mushroom, we have the American “Alcohol Inky”. Perhaps you can find a guide to European mushrooms and compare?

  • I used to live in Asheville for 5 years – beautiful place. School starts tomorrow – God bless the teachers! I appreciate their work and patience!
    I know little about botanic. Mushrooms and plants are ‘all Greek’ to me, so I trust you judgement on those.

  • bdid1dr:

    ‘allo Ellie!

    Last night/early this morning, I finished my transcription/translation of the water LILY page of the Vms. I emphasize that all the goofy, mixed-up terminology for the plant (over centuries), still could not detract from the excellent painting and it’s commentary. It is NOT a lotus.

    It appears to me that the illustrator/commentator went to great lengths to reiterate that the plant being discussed was a white water lily. Fun!

    Now back to my mushroom folio 86v3 of the Vms: I still have the centermost dialogue to copy out, transcribe, and translate. Yep, the mushroom that may have put Pedro into his final sleep was very much a look-alike for the more “edible” other member of the phyllae.

    Hope you’re hangin-out in a safer part of the state — as far as the storm/tornados have been passing by?

  • bdid1dr:

    Oh yes, a correction to my earlier discussion re the “figure-8″ or “ampersand”: the figure 8 (on the lily page, anyway) represents the sibilant S.

    It is appearing more and more to me that the whole Vms was probably a physician’s notes.


  • bdid1dr:

    In re: Voynichiana language may very well be Sabir — “lingua Franca” of the medieval trade routes, whether by sea or land. Fascinating! I’ve recently been exploring the Circassian trade routes with their business of supplying women for various harems and seraglios.

    I’ll drop by now and then.


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