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RE: Folio 57v & phebelabia...

I'm wondering if John might talk his son into
chatting us up a description and instruction sheet
for his science fair project?  Might be some
useful information there.


-----Original Message-----
From: Nick Pelling
Sent: Sunday, February 24, 2002 12:26 PM
To: voynich@xxxxxxxx
Subject: 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

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

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

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


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


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

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.