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Re: Folio 57v & phebelabia...

Hi everyone,

*Great* point by GC about moon-dials - the 270 degree + 90 degree text looks like a superb fit.

In my own attempts to understand f57v, I also did a lot of research into volvelles, and moon-dials were structurally the closest fit - but I didn't have a secondary reason to back it up, so didn't post.

However, I'm far from certain that this is actually a moon-dial per se. The list of characters may correspond to a set of letters, but a numbering system? If it's a sequential numbering system, it wouldn't be Hebrew/Greek/etc, Latin, Arabic... so what is it?

For instance, it's certainly possible that this is some kind of code-wheel *appropriating* the moon-dial use-structure, paralleling Alberti's code-wheel - Alberti may not have been the only person who had this idea at the time, or perhaps it was produced knowing roughly how Alberti's worked.

An example of what I'm suggesting would be if the first few characters on each page indicated a phase of the moon to set this dial to. We're already comfortable with the idea (from the low number of copying corrections) that the Voynich is a copy of a document - so surely we should be comfortable with the idea that this page might be a copy of a volvelle?

I'm not saying it's not a moon-dial, I'm just saying we need to understand moon-dials much more before we can make a more solid link between them and f57v.

BTW: here's how to make a moon-dial out of paper plates:-


Note that the moon-phase (underneath) layer of the paper-plate volvelle has four pictures, corresponding to the four phases of the moon - this would be a good (structural) match with the four pictures at the heart of f57v.

But the #1 clue might lie in those same four faces - two are turned towards us & two are turned away. Perhaps this directly indicates some kind of rotational cycle?

Giovanni de Dondi's 14th Century Astrarium had a moon-dial:-


And here's an absolutely gorgeous-looking ivory moon-dial (from the 19th century, alas):-


Also: note that the correct term for this kind of instrument would appear to be a "phebilabe" or "phebelabium", following the examples given by Professor David King on this page:-


This is the same David King who wrote the book "Ciphers, Monks and Astrolabes - A Forgotten Number Notation of the Middle Ages", referred to on-list not long ago. This number system turned out to have no obvious similarities with the VMS - but it was well worth chasing all the same. :-)

I've emailed Professor King to ask if he can direct me to any studies or papers on phebilabes - I'll let you know what happens.

Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....

BTW, my #2 candidate for f57v would be a "Sphere of Life & Death" - at David Juste's recent lecture in Cambridge on Early Medieval Medical Astrology, he showed a number of acetates of these, showing their general form and (semi-random) evolution through the Middle Ages.

What these spheres are: given a certain numerological input (normally based on your name and the date of disease onset), they forecast a prognosis. Interestingly, the associations between alphabets and numbers that each system required to calculate these is a thing that David has studied extensively - in his upcoming book, he describes the evolution (largely by scribal copying as a form of mutation) that happened to these over a large period of time.