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Hi Bernd (and everyone else),
I think it's very telling that Vigenere included *so many* alphabets (100
or so?), yet *not one* of them shows any kind of similarity in either
approach or mindset to the VMS' alphabet.
Just about the largest visual overlap that occurs between any of them and
the VMS is one character (and that's normally "8").
The only structural overlap I could see was in the Alphabeth Northmanique...
.....which only has 10 separate symbols, and uses impossible (or very
unlikely) pairs of them to represent the other letters. Its ciphertext
would have a low-entropy text-stream - but otherwise has no similarities to
the VMS. But this is just a trick that had probably been known for
All the same, it seems obvious to me that in 15th Century Italy (and even
within the individual city-states there), many (most?) individual
professions (with or without Guilds) would have used their own substitution
alphabets for their communications. Vigenere worked in the Vatican, &
wasn't a social anthropologist: so it shouldn't really be surprising that
his list of alphabets was derived from the (largely international and
classical?) documents available to him there, not from "the street".
The shorthand astrological alphabet that I believe the VMS to have been
constructed on top of would probably have been one such private
substitution alphabet, possibly used by a Guild (or group, or school) of
astrologers, alchemists, or herbalists, possibly in a single Italian town.
To my eyes, it's a mature, comfortable, practical, socially-oriented
script, that the writers were able to write at a reasonable speed, and to
visually validate as they went (even encoded!)
Who's to say a short document (say, a chit, or an order, or a list) using a
similar astrological shorthand alphabet won't be discovered tomorrow in
(say) a trunk in Padua's Town Hall? At least, now, we'd know what to look
Whatever Vigenere says, "90%+ of the VMS is padding" theories don't work
for me: I'm certain all the answers are right in front of us on the page,
if only we look to see them. :-)
Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....
PS: has any Voynicher ploughed through Paul Oskar Kristeller's "Iter
Italicum : a finding list of uncatalogued or incompletely catalogued