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Re: VMs: VMS by Leonardo article

Dear Edith, [cc'ed to Voynich list]

Thanks very much for posting your article to the Web! :-)

BTW: here's a link to a decent scan of f70v1 from microfilm:-

At 13:18 28/12/02 +0100, Rafal T. Prinke wrote:
I don't remember if this Web article by Edith Sherwood Ph. D.
has been mentioned here - it pops up on Google as a "sponsored


Some thoughts and comments, hope you don't mind:

Your case appears to be:-
(1) that the barrels in the (first five) zodiac volvelles are "birthing tubs"
- which is quite reasonable, though hard to prove
(2) that (1) is supported by the presence of a baby's head under one nymph's arm
- this looks optimistic, as it's just past the limit of the picture's resolution
- the same nymph's arm would need to be missing... I don't buy this, sorry.
(3) that 15 nymphs in the "Abril" volvelle implies that it is a 15th April birth horoscope
- surely more likely to be 15 degrees of Aries?
- Also: 12 volvelles to hide just one date seems a bit over the top?
(4) that the nymph with the "baby" is just before midnight on a clock-face
- C15 Italian hours normally counted forward from sunset
- Dondi's clock went anticlockwise from noon, on a 24-hour dial
- I'm not convinced, this too looks like a projection
(5) that the same nymph has "1452" steganographically hidden in her tub
- like (2), this is just beyond the limit of the scan being used
(6) that "abril" backwards looks like Leonardo da Vinci's "Lionardo" signature
- well... up to a point, yes. But a palaeographer would need to verify this.
- also: the month names don't look contemporaneous to the VMS' ink
(7) that (1)-(6) point to 22:30hrs, 15th April 1452, Leonardo da Vinci's date of birth.
- A reasonable inference, but sorry, (2)-(6) seem too weak . :-(

I'm quite comfortable with the idea that the barrels could well be birthing tubs: given that one interpretation of the VMS' zodiac section is an *agricultural calendar*, then the tubs' appearance in that part of the year would be perfectly consistent with spring calves/foals/lambs etc.

It should also be pointed out that the "baby-carrying" nymph is definitely marked out as being special, by dint of the candy-striped connection to her star, which I believe is unique. However, there are numerous nymphs with one-off attributes (crowns, tiaras, some are even men!), so this should be handled carefully.

Also note that in the past, I have argued on-list that the VMS' cipherbet could have been designed by Leonardo (with the exception of the "4o" character, which I think would have been added by the same cryptographer who used it in 1450 in Tristano Sforza's cipher, and perhaps even earlier), because of da Vinci's self-punning love of "vinchi" and their similarity to the gallows characters.

Leonardo is still a possibility: if you decouple <creating the content> from <designing its code> and from <using that code>, then the code-designer could well have been Leonardo - he was certainly a "gun for hire", living in the right place (Milan) at roughly the right time (and there are gaps in his timeline which need filling). Being commissioned to create an interesting cipher/code would probably have been Leonardo's kind of thing at one point or another.

However, asserting Leonardo's authorship of the "abril" month-names would need to be supported by the month names he's known to have used in his notebooks, which I don't recall being similar to the VMS month-names (though please correct me if I'm wrong!)

But the rest of your observations look too weak, especially as they're based on the Beinecke scans, which - for making this level of inference - are simply not of a high enough resolution. If some of them can be supported by analysing a better quality scan (or examining the VMS directly at Yale), then go for it! :-)

Best wishes, .....Nick Pelling.....

PS: I'm interested in what the design on the barrel/tub for the nymph at 12 o'clock on the inner ring (on the same page) could be. This looks like it could be fairly idiosyncratic - a better scan might help here as well... :-)

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