VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT GRAMMAR
The Voynich Manuscript is regarded as one of the most mysterious books in the world because none of the proposed theories, in regards to its written language, has yet been accepted. I am offering a new theory, based upon my recognition of the Voynich Manuscript (VM) language and additionally an extensive research to support my claim that the Voynich manuscript is written in the Slovenian language as it was spoken in the 15th century of present day Slovenia and in the larger Slovenian-speaking diaspora.
The map of the Republic of Slovenia
My research also led me to believe that the author of the VM was Nicholas Kempf from Strasbourg, a Carthusian, who spent over thirty years as a Prior in the Charterhouses Jurklošter and Pleterje (in present day Slovenia), either alone or by his fellow Carthusians, tutored by him.
To understand the language of the Voynich Manuscript, its relationship to European history and Rudolf II, who was a one-time owner of the Voynich Manuscript, some historical account of the Slovenian language and Slovenian people is necessary in order to enable the reader to follow my journey while discovering the mystery behind this famous book.
The Slovenian language was first mentioned in the middle of the 15th century when four Carthusian Charterhouses had formed their fraternity. Previously, the Slovenian language was known under several names as well as Slovenian speaking people: Sclaveni, Caranthanians, Carinthians, Wends.
The Slovenians existed in the territory of present day Slovenia when the Lombards migrated from Pannonia to Northern Italy. In 631, they established the first Slavic state in Central Europe, known as Samo’s Empire. After Samo’s death, a much smaller principality called Carantania existed in the territory of present-day southern Austria and north-eastern Slovenia until 889, when it fell under Franks and became known as the March of Carinthia.
To regain some independence, Slovenians became part of Great Moravia which rose to prominence when the missionaries from Tessaloniki established a Slavic religious and cultural centre in Mikulčice. St. Methodius was consecrated the first Slavic bishop whose jurisdiction included Great Moravia and Pannonia. Their language and culture have been referred to, in retrospect, as the Old Church Slavonic (OCS). Greek Orthodox rite and Slavic language was practiced in liturgy and in secular life. The OCS script is known as Glagolica.
After Methodius’ death, his Slavic pupils were expelled by Bavarian bishops and a large part of Great Moravia was conquered by Arnulf of Carinthia, while the eastern part was invaded by the Hungarians.
Some expelled Slavic missionaries found refuge in Macedonia, which, at that time, was ruled by the Bulgarian Empire. At about the same time, when the Orthodox religion separated from the Roman Church, the Bogomil religion, regarded heretical by both Eastern and Western Christian Churches, appeared in Bulgaria and spread over Europe. In Northern Italy, the Bogomils were known as Patareni, and in France as Cathars.
In the subsequent centuries, Crusaders were sent to liberate the Holy Land from the Arabs, and the Germans organized Crusades to convert pagan Slavs and take their land. A special brand of the Bogomil religion, separated from the Roman Church, survived and existed for 400 years as a state religion of Bosnia. It indirectly led to the Protestantism in Europe.
In the battle to dominate Europe, various feudal families rose to power by gaining the favour of the Roman Popes, or by marrying into the royal families. Arnulf of Carinthia, the illegitimate son of the Carolingian King, became the Duke of Bavaria and Carinthia. After conquering the Slavs in Pannonia, he became the King of East Francia, and eventually the disputed King of Italy and Holy Roman Emperor. Arnulf was succeeded by pro-German Berengar of Friuli and after him, the Saxon Ottonian Dynasty came to power bringing three Roman Emperors. They enlarged the German lands by subduing Slavs in the Wendish Crusades. At the time of the Ottonian Dynasty, Sclavinia (the name applied to Great Caranthania in the 10th century), it was regarded equal to Germania, Roma and Galia, as illustrated in the 14th century Ottonian Bible.
The Germanic kings assumed power over several Slavic principalities, however, they were unable to suppress the Slavic language, even though the Bavarian nobility had imposed German as a secular language. The national language of Carinthia was Slovenian and up to the middle of the 15th century, the installation, of Carinthian dukes was conducted in the Slovenian language. Slavic language was also retained by the Bohemians in spite of intense Germanization.
The Bohemian Premysl Dynasty succeeded to establish the Kingdom of Bohemia in 1198. Premysl Ottokar II married Margaret of Babenberg and became the Duke of Austria and thereby acquired Upper Austria, Lower Austria, and part of Styria. He conquered the rest of Styria, most of Carinthia, and parts of Carniola, thus ruling the area from Austria to the Adriatic Sea.
King Rudolf I of Habsburg began to compete with Ottokar for political power. All of Ottokar’s German possessions were lost in 1276, and in 1278, he was abandoned by part of the Czech nobility and died in the Battle on the Marchfeld against Rudolf.
Charles IV strengthened the power and prestige of the Bohemian Kingdom and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1355. He founded the university in Prague and raised the Czech language to be at par with other European languages. In his Empirical Proclamation, he ordered the Counts Palatine to teach their sons the Slavic language.
Slovenian was spoken in the Duchy of Carinthia and the Dukes of Carinthia, up to the middle of the 15th century, were required to speak Slovenian (Carinthian). According to the medieval Swaben Spiegel, the Installation of the Carinthian Dukes was conducted in a colourful ritual in the Slovenian language.
After the death of Charles the Great in 1378, the Bohemian crown went to his son, Wenceslas IV who was also elected as King of the Romans in 1376, but was deposed in 1400, having never being crowned Emperor. His half-brother, Sigismund, was eventually crowned Emperor in 1433 and ruled until 1437, as the last male member of the House of Luxembourg. Sigismund was also the King of Hungary and Croatia.
In Austria, the Habsburg Dynasty rose to great power with Rudolf IV who wanted to imitate his father-in-law, Charles IV of Bohemia. He proclaimed himself the Archduke of Austria and elevated the March of Carniola into Duchy. The present day Slovenian lands were thus divided between the Slavic Bohemian Kingdom and the Austrian Habsburg Kingdom, with some parts annexed to Hungary and Italy.
In the beginning of the 15th century, the Slovenian dynasty (with roots going back to St. Hemma of Gurk, Arnulf of Carinthia, and the Ottonian Dynasty) known as Counts of Celje (Cilli) rose to prominence in Europe on account of their inheritance and intermarriages with the most influential European royal families. Barbara of Celje, who was married to Sigismund of Luxembourg, became the first Empress of Slovenian descent when her husband became the Holy Roman Emperor.
According to historical accounts, the Counts of Celje were well on their way to form a great Slavic empire, however it did not materialize due to the Turkish invasion and the assassination of the last male descendent of this dynasty. By marrying the daughter of Sigismund and Barbara, the Habsburgs’ gained the possession, according to a previously penned contract of the mutual inheritance, as well as the title of Holy Roman Emperor which remained in this dynasty up to the end of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1917.
Although the German language was the official secular language of the rulers and German nobility, Slavic language remained the language of the general population of ancient Slavic lands. In western Europe, the Old Church Slavonic had diversified into various dialects and eventually into separate languages. In the 16th century, when the first Slovenian books were printed, the Carinthian, Slovenian, Carniolan dialects, as well as the dialects spoken in present day Karst, Primorska, Istria, are mentioned as variations of one language which was also understood in Croatia and Dalmatia.
My Voynich Manuscript Journey
In 2016, I was researching my maiden name, Mikolič, online and by chance, discovered the Voynich Manuscript.
The Voynich Manuscript, named for its one-time Slavic owner, Wilfried Voynich, immediately captured my interest. Voynich actually had nothing to do with the authorship of the manuscript but rather with its discovery and preservation. When I discovered the VM, the researchers were still wondering if the manuscript was written in a natural language, in code, or whether it was a hoax.
To avoid being overwhelmed by the wealth of material available on the internet about the VM, I limited my research initially, on the Zandbergen‘s and Dr. Bax’ internet sites that offered the most reliable factual information.
Just for the fun of it, I transliterated some of the short words from the VM into Latin letters using the European Voynich Alphabet (EVA), devised by Zandbergen and Landini, without even being aware that the Latin letters of the EVA were not meant to be the actual Latin equivalents, but rather, the designations for computer analysis and reference.
When reading this blog, please note that EVA stands for the European Voynich Alphabet, and VM for the Voynich Manuscript. Instead of defining grammatical forms for each individual word, I am offering an English translation in a grammatical form to enable the readers to get the essence of the language. In my translations, I also use the same word sequence as it is in the VM as well as in the Slovenian translation, for the reader to follow the translation of individual words, even if it does not sound correct in English. To avoid the overuse of quotation marks, I have decided to use capital letters for the transliteration of the individual VM glyph whenever possible, although there are no capital letters in the VM. For understanding contemporary Slovenian sounds the English readers can refer to the table below.
Recognition of Slovenian Words in the EVA Transcription
The first word I recognized was the word DAL which in Slovenian means a form of the verb ‘to give’ (dal, 1. pers., sing., masc., past or future, for example: sem dal − ‘(I) gave’ or bom dal − ‘(I will) give’. The fact that it was frequently used in the VM, supported my translation, however, the same word is also used in Croatian and in Armenian languages.
The same could be said for the word DALY (dali − (they) gave, (they) will give, in Slovenian and Croatian.
I noticed the great frequency of the VM glyph EVA ‘y’, which does not exist in the Slovenian alphabet, but in the first Slovenian books of the 16th century, it was often used. Later, it was replaced with ‘j’ or ‘i’.
As I expanded my search for the VM words related to DAL/to give, I noticed not only Slovenian words, but the grammar as well.
I used the Basic EVA to transcribe some short VM words comprised from the above Voynich glyphs and translated them into Slovenian and English:
This was more than a coincidence and served as a confirmation that some EVA transliterations for the VM glyphs could be actually used for the translation of the VM. I picked the simple letters first, the ones that can be easily and without a doubt, transliterated into the Slovenian alphabet.
In Dolenjska dialect, the word OLJE is pronounced olə.
One particular VM word caught my attention: the word for people. The contemporary Slovenian word for PEOPLE is LJUDJE, which evolved from the medieval word LUDI. This form of LUDI is still used in Štajerska dialect, while in Dolenjska dialect the word LDJE is used. The Dolenjska dialect also has unusual declinations of this word: LDJE, LDI, LDEM, LDI, PR LDEH, Z LDMI.
With my understanding, the words “ldy” and “dar ldy” (gift of people) identify the Slovenian Dolenjska dialect because most other Slavic languages and Slovenian dialects would use “ludi”. I recognized the Dolenjska dialect of the Slovenian language, as it was still spoken during my childhood among the peasant people in the valley below the Gorjanci Mountains.
The settlement of the Slavic Orthodox refugees, on the south side of Gorjanci Mountains, served as a religious and linguistic buffer for the centuries to come, so that unlike the language of Bela Krajina, the language in the Brusnice and Šentjernej valley was much less affected by Croatian language.
The Dolenjska dialect referenced was spoken by the inhabitants of the Lower Carniola and has been called Slovenian (Slouenski) language.
Using the Basic EVA, I searched for the other letters in the VM with the understanding that I would have to make some adjustments to the EVA alphabet.
The frequency of EVA letter Q did not suit the Slovenian language, not even during the Middle Ages when Q still occasionally appeared in certain words. Changing the EVA Q to P generated many more Slovenian words and also indicated the aspect of Slovenian grammar: the pre-fix PO, used to finish action, and also one of the frequently used Slovenian propositions, meaning “on”, “at”, “after”, “by”.
The propositions were usually written together, joined with the following word, without a space or any other mark.
The words with PO- (prefix) were recognizable in the VM because the part of the word, after the preposition, could stand alone or another preposition could be placed in front of it, thereby changing the meaning of the word slightly.
Note: In the imperative mood for the 2. pers. sing. the ending is ‘i’, but phonetically, particularly in dialectic speech, the ‘i’ is usually dropped, however, it was used in the OCS, so both forms were still in use during the 15th century.
PO as preposition
Unlike prefixes, prepositions are separated from the main word, however in the middle ages, this was not always the case.
PO is also part of the word. It can stand at the beginning of the word, or after another preposition.
What seemed clear to me, however, seems to be puzzling for most VM researchers since the word DAM is frequently repeated in the VM. I searched for articles to see if any of the experts came to similar conclusions and found Dr. Bax’s article about minims in the VM. As a renowned world linguist, specializing in Arabic languages, he suggested that the minims (the slanted lines) are of Arabic origin and were used in Gothic writing in the Middle Ages. Dr. Bax explained that in different combinations, they could represent fourteen different letters.
The minims were used in the oldest writing symbols from the 6th to 5th millennium BC on the artifacts of the Vinca culture.
Eventually the minims were used in Paleo-Hebrew, Venetic, Phoenician, Etruscan, Armenian, Western Greek, North-Italic scripts, and in Latin cursive script to this day.
Reading three minims as the letter M made a lot of sense to me, however, I could not always read this glyph in the VM as M.
As per Dr. Bax, I concluded that I could read the VM four minims glyph as IM, IIW, NIV, but it was not always easy to decipher which was which because, in the Slovenian language, AM is a suffix for present tense 1. per. sing. verbal form and IIV or IW (W representing the sound U) could be read as IU or JIU (V at the end of the word is pronounced as U), that is the suffix for an adjective (singular, male gender) or for a verbal form for the singular, male gender verbs, future or past tense in combination with a helping verb, such as in English »will, shall” or »was”.
Many VM words are in grammatical forms that cannot be found in any Slovenian dictionary. Some words are easily recognized, and others requiring a better understanding of the medieval Slovenian language and grammar.
Not all of the words containing minims are so simple to read, because /M itself could be read as M, IN, IW, IIV. VM glyph with four minims could be read as IM, NW, JIW.
Combined letter IL
Identifying M meant finding another meaning for EVA − m. The glyph looks like a combination of the minim /‘i’/ and /‘l’/, except that ‘l’ has a tail, which could indicate the Slavic sound ‘ilj’.
In Slovenian, -IL represents the suffix for the past or future, singular, masc. verbal form, used with the helping verb form bom, boš, bo − (for the future tense) and sem, si, je (for past tense) − which are the equivalents of English »will”, »shall” and »was”.
There is one particular text in the VM, on the page 3R, that contains twenty-seven such glyphs, which are otherwise relatively rare in the VM. The text starts with the VM word which I read as T BUOS, which is a dialectical phonetic for TU BOŠ − Here (you) will …
The suffix IL also stands in dialectical pronunciation of certain nouns of neutral gender, such as DARIL (gift), KADIL (incense), SVARIL (warning). These three words are quite frequent in the VM, either as nouns or as verbs, and this could explain why in some words, the -IL appears in the second-last syllable due to the different grammatical form of the noun.
Although this VM glyph has been assigned in EVA as the Latin B, it is not transcribed as B in the EVA transliteration. There are many B words, but they are hard to recognize, because they were often paired with H, and the byglyph looks like EVA SH.
My random search throughout the VM identified some indisputable Slovenian words containing the B letter for the B sound.
Personal pronouns in the Slovenian language are often implied by the grammatical form. For easier understanding, I put them in parenthesis.
B in the above words cannot be confused with /EVA’s sh, Slovenian Č/Š, but the same cannot be said for the word below:
Due to the handwriting and faded ink, and without clear distinction of the Č and Š sounds, I transliterated the VM glyph below as Č. In medieval Slovenian writing, the Latin letter S often doubled for S, Z and Š.
This VM glyph was also very problematic for the researchers as some read it as double CC, and some as EE. The most problematic words containing this glyph were those with the double u. Since the glyph looks like a Latin cursive U, I designated it as such. The words themselves (many of them are still in use) and the combination of words confirm my intuition.
Letters Z, C, H
EVA has also this ligature separated as /C and /H, yet in EVA transliteration of the VM text, there is not a single word containing a single letter C or H. Initially, I only took those VM glyphs for CH, where C can be clearly recognized by the broken circle, but even this was unreliable due to the faded ink. I noticed that the letter H never stands alone, and it is always connected to C, and that in a few words, the letter C is not followed by H, such as in the word /KHAIL or KCAIL:
This sign in the VM is also somewhat problematic, because it is not consistently written clearly. Even this clearly written glyph could be read as BH or as Š (EVA – SH). Moreover, I noticed that it does not always correspond with the Slovenian sound Š (sh), but rather with Č (ch).
Slovenian conjunctions ČE (if), ŠE (yet), ŽE (already) are most often spelled in the VM as a single letter (which is characteristic for the Dolenjska dialect).
CH can also be a part of the word.
Z vs. Ž
In medieval Slovenian writing, S is often read as S, Z, Š or Ž.
The Kingdom of Bohemia (present day Czech Republic) was the only kingdom, at the beginning of the 15th century, to use the adopted Latin alphabet for the Slavic language. The alphabet had two signs for Č and also a special sign for Ž and Š.
It was developed by Jan Hus and published in his Latin book De Orthographia Bohemica (published between 1406 and 1412) while he still enjoyed his position as the Rector of the Charles University in Prague. It is possible that the author of the VM was trying to imitate the Czech alphabet.
If the author of the VM was, in fact, Nicholas Kempf, he would be aware of the Czech alphabet, because the Prior at Jurklošter before Kempf was a Czech Carthusian.
In most Slovenian words, Z is easily distinguished from Ž by one who knows the language, but there were still many words where Z could not be understood properly.
Voynich Unique Tall Glyphs
The abundance of words that display the same pattern as the words starting with K and T, particularly in respect to prepositions PO and O, convinced me these glyphs stand for SV, CV or ZV.
It means that
could stand for SV, which would include Slovenian words related to “light”, “holiness” and “the world”, besides many others. Many Slovenian words also start with CV, such as CVET (blossom, flowers), and with ZV − ZVEZDA (a star).
The word ‘dol’ was frequently used with certain verbs for emphasis and could not be directly translated. It represents the same grammatical form as ‘lie down’, except that there is no downwards movement.
Some critics might be sceptical of certain words that do not conform to direct letter-by-letter translation into Slovenian. I tried to illustrate how some words had evolved as the Slovenian linguists tried to standardize Slovenian writing. Often, the Latin or German endings were changed to Slavic, such as SODAR to SODNIK, SVEČAR to SVETNIK. Another possible reason for this is that the author of the VM was writing down the words from the spoken language and could have heard the sounds incorrectly, or the sounds were changed later. Therefore, I considered how the word sounds and how a foreigner might develop new grammatical forms of certain words based upon the known words.
It is possible that the VM author was inspired to create the strike-through glyphs as the Slovenian equivalent for the German ST and extend its use to other bygliphs. In the 16th century, Adam Bohorič, the first Slovenian linguist, used the mark to connect ‘s’ and ‘t’, but that was not adopted in Slovenian language.
This could explain the VM rationale behind the strike-through letters, connecting CT, CK or CSVH which sound like ST, SK and SVČ respectively. It has been suggested that the strike-through Voynich glyphs represent capital letters. In Slovenian, capital letters do not stand in the middle of the word, therefore, the strike-through glyphs do not indicate capitalized letters but rather proper pronunciation. In the VM, the strike-through most often appears in the combination of letters CTU, CTO, CTY, CKO, CKY.
This glyph below, and the others like this, look like the letter T was inserted into “ch”:
so does the glyph SV:
After careful study, I concluded that the pronunciation does not follow the same pattern. While the latter is pronounced as SVČ, the first one could not be pronounced as STČ, largely due to the impossibility to make that sound understandable.
Reading the strike-through letters as ‘st’, ‘sk’ and ‘svč’ enabled my search for many more Slovenian words, although there still seems to be some questions of proper transliteration due to the unclear letters ‘o’ or ‘c’. If the first letter is C or O, the strike-through indicates that the three glyphs are pronounced as one syllable.
The pronunciation applies whether the letters represent one word or two, as when pronounced, they sound like one word.
Based upon my understanding of the Slovenian language, (and other languages, such as Croatian, Serbian, German and English) and guided by my intuition, I developed a transliteral alphabet that worked for most of the words within the entire VM.
My next step was to validate this alphabet by finding the documents that would prove that similar letters and writing style existed in present day Slovenia during in the 15th century.
Medieval Slovenian language
To understand the VM, it was not only necessary to get acquainted with the medieval Slovenian vocabulary, but also with medieval life, culture, religious practices, peasant beliefs and traditions.
Although I found many more words in the VM that I could easily transcribe and translate into Slovenian, the translation of the VM is not that simple. I realized that the poems in the floral section are similar to coded messages since flowers are often used as symbols and this “coded message” could be assumed from the strange shapes of the blossoms, leaves and roots.
Beyond the difficulty with the transliteration, the medieval words reflect a culture that is no longer familiar to us, like ČARANJE (making magical spells), or KADITI (to smoke, to make smoke), which was the word for “blessing” as well as for “smoking meat”.
It was not my intention to hurriedly announce (yet) another VM theory that would be quickly scrutinized and rejected as so many other theories. I am inviting Voynich researchers to look at this mysterious manuscript from an entirely new and multidisciplinary perspective. We know that computer analysis has been unable to produce any meaningful clues as to the language of the VM. My blog will explain the reason why the Voynich Manuscript EVA transliteration does not generate positive results.
The Distinction Between Slovenian and Croatian Language
I was able to understand many of the Voynich words with ease. Some became incorporated into the Kajkavian Croatian language, but there were many more words that are uniquely Slovenian, such as LDY (LDI) for LUDI, LJUDI), which can only be found in the Dolenjska dialect, as well as ČČ (če čè) for ČE HOČE. Further research was required into medieval Slovenian and Croatian literature to clarify the distinction between Slovenian and Kajkavian Croatian language. It is commonly accepted that Croatians were using Glagolica for their language, however the VM glyphs do not resemble Glagolica, nor Croatian Glagolica that Kircher referred to as Hieronimi script.
As mentioned previously, I was quite familiar with the Dolenjska dialect, particularly the dialect from the valley below the Gorjanci Mountain, where I was born, and where the old dialect was still spoken by the peasantry. I also became re-acquainted with the Dolenjska dialect, when I received the Narečni slovar Brusniške doline (The Dictionary of the Brusnice Valley), written several years ago by Darja Šinkovec and Milena Jaklič. Inspired by the dictionary, I searched for additional old words to help the authors with a future updated edition.
To understand the similarities and differences between the Slovenian and Croatian languages, it is important to understand the historical development of both languages. This is a topic for another article I intend to post later.
COMPARISON OF THE VOYNICH GLYPHS WITH OTHER TEXTS WRITTEN IN LATIN LETTERS
After adjusting the EVA script, by confirming some of the EVA glyphs and guessing the unknown Voynich glyphs, I searched for a confirmation of my transliteration alphabet by comparing the Voynich glyphs with the Latin letters in documents written during the same timespan that the VM was written (according to carbon dating) and the region where I believed the Voynich manuscript was created.
Through the internet, I found quite a few documents in Latin and German from the region of Novo Mesto. The documents reflected varying degrees of changes: switching from small printed letters to cursive capital letters and non-capital letters; introduction of punctuation, such as the period; implementation of distinguishing marks for minims; changes from Italian to German writing convention.
My search for comparative Latin letters yielded interesting results and I concentrated on the documents from the region of Lower Carniola (present day Dolenjska) and Lower Styria (the medieval domain of the Counts of Celje).
The oldest manuscript written in Slovenian in the 10th century AD was found in Freising, Bavaria. The Latin alphabet was used, with small and capital letters, without the letter Y. There is no sign of minims; the letters n, m, and u are clearly written to be distinguished from each other. Except for letter (s), used also as Š and Ž, all letters are similar to the Latin alphabet and letters used in present day Slovenia. G is frequently used and clearly written as the contemporary letter G (g).
The spelling of Slovenian words was more confusing:
is used for Č, so is
Z is also at times pronounced as S or Č.
Also, the vocabulary is closer to present day Slovenian than to the Voynich Manuscript, understandably, since the Freising Manuscript contains the form of a confession which has been used in Catholic worship for centuries and in an almost unchanged form. The Voynich Manuscript contains secular writing, later regarded as heretical, and various Old Church Slavonic religious terms that also disappeared or were given negative connotations. One such word is ČAR which is frequently used in the Voynich manuscript, mostly in a positive sense, as a healing word (prayer, incantation) or as a healing remedy (healing plants). Slovenian Protestant writers already regarded “čarovnik” (magician, miracle-maker) as “zupernik” (somebody opposing), and the word “mystery” ascribed to religious sacraments.
A document in German from 1376, stored at Dolenjski Muzej Novo Mesto
The document is grammatically superior to the VM: the use of small and capital letters, the use of periods to divide the text, the new shape of Z, K, and H and D are used, as well as the letter Y.
The Letter of Patriarch Lodouicus of Aquileia, 1418
Present day Slovenian regions south of the Drava River belonged to the Church Authority of the Patriarchate of Aquileia. In the 9th century, they belonged to the Slavonic bishopric of St. Methodius.
This document reflects the Latin used by the Patriarchate of Aquileia when the region was the battle ground between the Venetians and Bavarians. While the writing is in Latin, the letters contain a considerable amount of German influence due to the political situation. The letter ‘d’ looks similar to the VM ‘b’, as the shape of the letter ‘d’ eventually evolved when the upper loop was dropped. The highlighted letters could reasonably be related: ‘b’, ‘p’, and ‘s’ as mirror images, ‘c’ as a sound for ‘k’ (no other ‘k’ was used), and R looks like the right section of the capital letter R.
Document from Novo Mesto, 1439
This document in German illustrates the departure from clear printing to neat, but difficult to read, cursive writing, particularly due to the use of minims. The document also uses Arabic numerals, and the embellished first letter, that also exists in the VM.
The first letter is embellished with waves. The wave is similar to the lines above the letter V on the 3rd page of the VM.
The numbers are Arabic.
The use of minims is significant, and the marks were placed in several places to make the text more easily understood.
The line below, taken from the same document, indicates the printed Latin writing that stands out from the rest of the document written in cursive writing.
1452 CODEX from Novo Mesto
The text is written together, except for three periods (in the entire text) that seem to serve as words separators. The letter ‘i’ already has a dot although it is used inconsistently. D still has two loops. G and Y seem similar.
The Sample of Writing of Friderick from Celje (1477)
The minims are challenging to read, as they are in the VM, although the letter “i” has a dot, but “n, m and n” are difficult to differentiate.
Stiški Rokopis – Stična Codex, 1440
The handwriting and grammar of Stična Codex are similar to the Voynich script as it is written without punctuation, in cursive writing and without using capital letters. The document was created in the Cistercian Monastery in Stična, the Dolenjska region of Slovenia. The oldest part was written by a Czech monk, a refugee from the Hussite War, about 1420, and the second part by his student in about 1440.
A copy of the Stična Codex, its transliteration and translation into present-day Slovenian, as well as a reading in the language as it sounded in the 15th century, is available on line.
The letters U, I and Y are marked with dots and judging by those samples, it is clear that minims were in use during the 15th century, and less so before and after.
From my prospective, the previous sample, and the document of Frederick of Celje written in 1477, used the most minims.
The following words illustrate how inconsistent and confusing the spelling in this document was.
The letter Z is pronounced as S, however, it can as well be pronounced as Š or Ž. In the following word, S is pronounced two different ways.
I am supposing that the Z in this case was first pronounced as C and eventually the sound evolved into Č.
If this Z was written as z, as is the case in the VM, it would look much similar to the EVA ch or to Latin cz.
The last letter looks like a Voynich or Latin M, however, as in the Voynich Manuscript, it could be NV. In this case, it is NV. The Latin letter V was used for U in medieval Latin writing. In this particular word, V is also the first letter.
The Stična Codex also reflects the use of double letters. In the 16th century, double letters were occasionally still in use, but eventually went out of practice. It seems that the pronunciation did not undergo changes (moral, phonetically morau) and the author indicated with a double letter the L pronunciation.
This reflects the dialectical “ej” pronunciation, which is also used in the VM.
The letter Y is written exactly the same, but pronounced differently in these two words.
This is how the long form of the conjunction ‘in’ (and) was spelled. In the VM, the short form ‘y’ is used.
According to the Slovenian Etymology Dictionary/Slovenski etimološki slovar, the conjunction “in” evolved from Old Slovenian INO (used in the 14th century) and INU (used in the 16th century). The word developed from the Proto-Slavic “i” (in – and) and the article “no”. “I” was used for the English “and” in the 10th century when Slovenians spoke the OCS language. Croatian, Serbian, and Russian languages retained the short form “i”. In the Slovenian language, only in Bela Krajina the “i” was used for “in” (and).
Stična Codex Alphabet
Letters similar to the ones in the VM: 3
are similar to the Voynich glyphs, except that they are facing in the opposite direction:
– unlike the Latin letters k and t, these two letters could be written with a single stroke, which might be the reason why the author created them.
– these two glyphs stand for the sounds for SV, CV or ZV. The author of the VM used them interchangeably. Also, these two letter combinations were problematic, particularly for Slovenians who had to switch from Hungarian and Italian writing convention to German due to political changes at the time.
The letters replaced in the VM:
(this form of z was used in cursive Slovenian writing up to the middle of the 20th century).
The letter Y might in some Voynich words stand for G, but this requires further careful analysis. I feel that some BUY words in the VM stand for dial. BUG (BOG – God).
From reviewing the comparative documents, it is evident that cursive writing was being used for both, official and personal letters, while printed letters were being used for books and manuscripts. The letters written in cursive are reflecting the personal touch of the author, however cursive writing is often hard to read. The Voynich Manuscript represents an in-between style that facilitates the requirement of connecting letters in cursive writing. The VM letter ‘b’ connected to ‘c’ made the combination look like EVA “sh”.
I compared the letters from several other documents found in the National Archive of Ljubljana, from the mid-14th to the mid-15th century, and observed that, although the handwriting differs, the general uses of the letters reflect two different writing styles – Latin and German. I was unable to find a Hungarian, or a Croatian writing sample in Latin letters from that period.
The VM glyph
was still used in most of the documents, but, in some, the upper loop was dropped. In some German documents, where the Y had been used for ‘i’ and ‘j’ and a similar letter for ‘g’, the use of distinguishing marks are noticeable. Also, the minim letter ‘i’ is still used interchangeably with or without a dot.
The combination of letters ‘ch’ is used for the Slovenian sound ‘č’. In the German documents, separate letters were used for the sounds K and H.
To summarize, up to thirteen Voynich glyphs are the same or very close to the Latin letters found in the comparative documents. Three of the glyphs look like mirror images.
From the comparative documents, it is also evident that the changes to the shapes of letters and writing style were taking place in Latin and German writing which resulted in an inconsistency also characteristic of the VM.
Due to the numerous changes in the borders, Slovenians needed their own writing convention.
Linguistic Clues from the Voynich Mistakes
I discovered some mistakes in the VM which illustrate that the author comes from a German linguistic background.
Although the Voynich Manuscript use of this glyph is very consistent, there are a few mistakes where more familiar shapes are used.
Voynich Manuscript – mistakes for letter Y
In the VM, the letter Y has a unique shape, more like the number 9 than the letter ‘y’ used in comparative documents of that time. In the five VM words below, the letter Y look like the Y found in the German documents.
From the comparative scripts, it is evident that the distinctions between ‘i’ as a minim and ‘i’ with a dot were not firmly established. Also, the letter Y, in some scripts, was more like a letter “v” with a tail below the baseline or like minim i with the attached y.
In the word April, “i” has a dot, and the letter B stands for P, which was often the case in early Slovenian writing due to the similarity of sounds.
I noticed one single WM word where the author connected ‘p’ to ‘e’, in such a way, that ‘e’ looks like a bow, or like the shape of an ‘e’ in some other comparative scripts.
The use of letter ‘j’
In the VM, the EVA “y” glyph is consistently used for ‘i’ or ‘j’ at the beginning or at the end of the word, while in the middle of the word the ‘i’ without a dot is used for ‘i’ or ‘j’.
The letter “j” started as an embellishment for the letter “i” which was extended below the line. At first, it was used in the Roman numerals, as the last “i”.
It is possible that ‘j’ in the VM word was a mistake, however, it is a proof that the letter ‘j’ was used, in the present-day shape, for the sound ‘j’ almost one hundred years before Trissino invented it. The fact that the letter ‘j’ was widely used in Slovenian writing since 1550, when the first Slovenian books were written, also indicates that the letter ‘j’ may have been used in some other writing prior to that (perhaps by the same author or his followers); in the writing that could have been lost or purposely destroyed.
The short text on the last page of the VM is suggestive of some Voynich letters being replaced with Latin. The few words below are the subject of intense research. It has been suggested that they were added later by a different author and if this was the case, he used some of the original VM glyphs, that did not appear in any other preserved document. If the VM were written by only one author, this could have been added by Nicholas Kempf, at a very old age, to mark an important event in his life-time, namely, the discovery of America.
Most of the words are illegible due to the faded ink, and poor handwriting, which again suggests that the author of this note was probably very old. The first two words in the copy below are written exactly like in the VM, however, the second two words already use the Latin shape of “p”, “b” and “r”.
Even after extensive analysis, I was unable to distinguish these two Voynich glyphs, mainly because the author used them interchangeably.
The sounds SV, CV and ZV were causing great confusion for the Protestant Slovenian writers of the 16th century. These are some examples how the root words related to CVET (blossom) were spelled, at times even by the same author:
czvejticſom, zcvejtjem, cvéjtiče, scvèst, ſzczveté.
I was unable to find a document that contained these two unique Voynich glyphs, although, with some imagination, I could explain the letters K and T being taller. Other VM researchers were also unable to find a comparative document. According to Zandbergen, the tall letters were uncommon in the 15th century European scripts and he was only able to find one example from northern Italy.
I was excited when I found another comparative script with tall letters in the founding document of the Seitz Charterhouse (Žiče Carthusia, Slovenia) from the 12th century. The monastery was founded by Ottokar II, the Margrave of Styria, the grandfather of Ottokar IV, the last of the Czech royal dynasty of the Ottokars. He inherited parts of Lower Styria, between the Drava and Sava Rivers (in present day Slovenia) from the Marburg (present day Maribor, Slovenia) line of the Counts of Sponheim.
The poor quality scan was impossible to read unfortunately, however, with luck, I found a similar section of writing in an unidentified picture on the internet.
Although I was unable to read it, I was able to recognize some words as Slavic toponyms, like Pellice. Some tall letters seem similar to the letters in the document from the 13th century. There are several tall letters that look like ligatures. They appear mostly as the second last letter in the word.
The last word looks like COMENDANDTSVU (komandanstvu – the headquarters or the ruling military office). The ligature at the end seems to combine letters D, T and SV. The word is the dative case of COMANDANTST(V)O. This would be a Slovenian word for the command post of the German Teutonic order.
The last word here seems to be MANSS, to which –svi suffix is added to make it into a dative case. The Word LATOWE is typical Slavic, so the dative case would be appropriate.
The VM glyph found on p. 57
looks a little bit like the mirror image of the above glyph:
Similar ripple is also seen as an embellishment in the title of the picture of Emperor Otto with Pope Gregory (Bruno of Carinthia) from the 15th century copy of the Ottonian Bible.
Why would the author of the VM leave a directional clue to Emperor Otto and the Carinthians? What was happening in the 15th century that triggered interest to events in 12th century Europe? To answer these questions, I carefully researched the historical, political, religious, cultural and linguistic background of Slovenians and their national awareness. According to some sources, Bruno of Carinthia (Pope Gregory) was of Slovenian Carinthian background, related to St. Hemma of Gurk and through her to the Moravian Prince Svetapluk. The 15th century Slovenian Dynasty Counts of Celje were related to St. Hemma of Gurk.
In the same Ottonian Bible, another picture related to Slovenia could be found. The picture is of four personified countries: Roma, Galia, Germania, and Sclavinia. Sclavinia is portrayed as equal to the other three.
St. Hemma’s husband started as a Margrave of the March of Sann (Savinja) and they had large properties in the present-day Slovenia. She was, in fact, born in Pilstain (Slovenia). In the 15th century, St. Hemma’s distant relatives, the Counts of Celje, had been one of the most powerful dynasties in Europe.
A monk, endowed with curiosity, could have been able to connect the historical and geographical dots and left us with the message of the importance of Slovenian language and history, particularly a Carthusian monk who spent years in the Charterhouse at Gaming, founded by the Ottokars.
Pronouns, Conjunctions, Prepositions
When I first began to study the VM, I concentrated primarily on the simple short words and noticed that many of them looked like Slovenian conjunctions, prepositions and pronouns.
In the Slovenian language, personal pronouns are mostly implied with a grammatical form, except when the pronoun is stressed. This means that instead of JAZ SEM (I am) only the word AM is used.
As I became better acquainted with the VM writing style, I found it easier to recognize when the letter S stands for the verb SI ((you) are) or for the preposition S, or when the letter Y stands for I (and) or for J(E) (is).
I did not rely on my instinct or knowledge of a dialect alone. I searched in 16th century books and dictionaries to compare the words in the VM that I designated as pronouns, conjunctions and prepositions with the ones that were in use at the time the VM was written.
It was easier to recognize prepositions and conjunctions, but pronouns have 3 genders, 3 numbers and 6 cases and often, the spelling of the vowel is different in different dialects.
In spite of all those obstacles, I was able to identify many pronouns, prepositions and conjunctions by way of comparison with the Slovenian writing and by analysis of the words in their context.
What do all those Y-letters standing by themselves in the VM text mean? Among other things, the Y is one of the most frequently used conjunctions IN (and).
The old Slovenian word for “and” was INU, however in southern Slovenia and Croatia, the short form ‘i’ was used. It is still used in Croatia, and in the dialect of Bela Krajina, Slovenia (at the Croatian border).
Most recognizable prepositions, pronouns and conjunctions are those starting with the letter K. Since prepositions and conjunctions do not change with grammatical forms, they are easier to recognized and can be found in the dictionaries and in the Slovenian Etymological Dictionary. The slight variation in the spelling of some words can be attributed to phonetic writing and dialectical speech, on which the VM is based. For easier understanding, I am enclosing the copy of the description from the Slovenian Etymological Dictionary (in light blue). The date stated in those entries does not reflect the time when the word became in use in Slovenian, but rather when it was first written (not counting the Voynich Manuscript, of course).
/K – preposition K (to, towards) in the VM is most often attached to the next word. Many of the VM K-words contain this preposition.
also stands for kə̀ (now KI – which and KO – when) which were pronounced with a half-sound ə̀
The Protestant writers wrote the words as KE or KO. In the Dolenjska dialect, KI was pronounced as K, and KO as KU. In the VM, both K and KU can be found.
ke adverb. vacillare, sem ter ke
ke adv. → kje – where
kāj1 čẹ̄sa pronoun. lat.‛quid’ (15. stol.). also kȁ (Prekmurje)
The word ka is the pronoun “what” in Slovenian, Croatian, and Kajkavian languages. When the Illyrian/Slavic language split into Croatian, Slovenian and Serbian languages, they each adopted a different word for the English “what”: Slovenians KAJ, Croatians ČO and Serbian ŠTO.
kām prisl. lat.‛quo’, star. kamo (10. stol.), kȃmor, nẹ̄kam, mȁrsikȁm, rẹ́dkokȁm; OCS kamo, Croat and Servian kamo, Czech kam. The same is stcslovan. kamo, hrv., srb. kȁmo, strus. kamo, češ. Kam; from IE root *ku̯ah2
kȁr1 čẹ̑sar zaim. lat.‛quod’ (16. stol.), vez. kar
kọ̄lik -a zaim. lat.‛quantus’, kọ̄liko (16. stol.), kọ̑likor, kọ̑likaj, kọ̑likanj, kọ̄likič, kọ̑ličkaj, kọ̄likšen, količína, kolikọ̑st; nedoločno nekọ̄lik itd.
kọ̑li člen. (15. stol.), kȁdar( )kọ̑li lat.‛quandocunque’, kȁkor( )kọ̑li lat.‛quoquomodo’, kȁdar( )kọ̑li lat.‛quidquid’, kdọ̑r( )kọ̑li lat.‛quisquis’ itd.
KHOKHER from Starogorski Codex – KOKER (KAKOR – as is)
kāk -a zaim. lat.‛qualis’, kakọ̄ (10. stol.), kȁkor (14. stol.), kȃkršen, kakọ́v (16. stol.), nedoločno nekȁk, nekakọ̄, Pslovan. *kȃkъ
KE in the Dolenjska dialect, stood for the adverb TJE (tja – there). It is often combined with KAJ (what).
tjȁ prisl. lat.‛illuc’, tjȁkaj (16. stol.); nar. tjȅ, kȅ
In Dolenjska dialect, the word KADAR (when) was pronounced as KDR, until the linguists, of the 16th century, insisted vowels should be inserted, some inserted E, another inserted A, which led to the different spelling of the same word: KEDAR, KADAR.
kȁdar vez. lat.‛cum, quocumque, quando’ (15. stol.). kọ̑li člen. (15. stol.),
In the Dolenjska dialect, the word is pronounced as “kdej” or “gdej”, or even “kedaj”.
kdāj prisl. lat.‛quando’ (16. stol.), nar. tudi kdā; nẹ̑kdaj, mȁrsikdȁj. The same is stcslovan. kъda, hrv. kajk. gda, sorodno stsrb. kьdi, češ. kdy ‛kdaj’. Pslovan. *kъda̋, *kъdy̍ ‛kdaj’
This pronoun was spelled in the 16th century as KAI or KA.
In the Dolenjska dialect, two forms of pronunciations are preserved. That is clearly illustrated in the expression KAJ KEJ DELAŠ? although grammatically correct would be KAJ DELAŠ? (What are you doing?)
kāj1 čẹ̄sa zaim. lat.‛quid’ (15. stol.), nedoločno nẹ̄kaj, nar. tudi kȁ (Prekmurje). V prisl. kȁj se ohranja kratki naglas
ki1 pronoun, and conjunction. lat.‛qui (quae, quod)’ (15. cent.)
In the Starogorski Codex, the word is spelled KHER and points to the Dolenjska dialect where, to this day, the word KATERI is pronounced as KIR (ex.: po kir stran – po kateri strani – on which side); kir ma dnar (kateri ima denar – who had money). This differs from the Croatian »koji” (who, which).
The word KER (because) is also sometimes spelled as KIR.
If the middle letter is read as H, it generates the Slovenian word KHO, and in this case, the H is not pronounced.
Enako je star. hrv., srb. ko ‛ko, če’. Ker v cslovan. temu funkcionalno ustreza ako, navadno domnevajo, da je ko po skrajšavi nastalo iz ako (Ko II, 348).
kọ̄d1 prisl. lat.‛qua via, quo loco’ (16. stol.), kọ̑der. Enako ali sorodno je stcslovan. (otъ) kǫdě ‛od kod’, hrv., srb. kȕd, kùdā ‛kam’, rus. kudá ‛kam’, nar. kudy ‛kod, kam’, češ. kudy ‛kod, koder’
tọ̄d prisl. lat.‛hac’ (16. stol.), odtọ̄d, star. od todi (14. stol)
kāk -a zaim. lat.‛qualis’, kakọ̄ (10. stol.), kȁkor (14. stol.), kȃkršen, kakọ́v (16. stol.), nedoločno nekȁk, nekakọ̄. Enako je stcslovan. kakъ, hrv., srb. kàkī, navadno kàkav, prisl. kȁko, rus. kakój, stčeš. kaký ‛kakšen’
kām prisl. lat.‛quo’, star. kamo (10. stol.), kȃmor, nẹ̄kam, mȁrsikȁm, rẹ́dkokȁm.
kāj1 čẹ̄sa zaim. lat.‛quid’ (15. stol.), nedoločno nẹ̄kaj, nar. tudi kȁ (Prekmurje). V prisl. kȁj se ohranja kratki naglas; pog. sloven. ka, kə ‛ki, kateri, ko, kamor
kjẹ̄ prisl. lat.‛ubi’, star. kej, gdi, ki (16. stol.), nedoločno nekjẹ̄
In various Slovenian dialects, KO was pronounced as KO, KU or KUO.
kjẹ̄ prisl. lat.‛ubi’, star. kej, gdi, ki (16. stol.), nedoločno nekjẹ̄.
ki1 zaim. in vez. lat.‛qui (quae, quod)’ (15. stol.) stcslovan. kyj, kaja, koje ‛kateri
a1 vez. ‛vendar, pa’ = lat.‛sed, verum’ (10. stol.); Enako je stcslovan. a ‛vendar, in’, hrv., srb. a, rus. a ‛a, pa, vendar’, češ. a ‛in’. Pslovan. *a ‛in, ali’ se je razvilo iz ide. *ō̃t
ȁli vez. lat.‛aut, vel, sive, seu’, člen. ‛a’ in prisl. lat.‛valde’ (16. stol.)
če vez. lat.‛si’ (16. stol.), v sklopih čedálje (16. stol.) četȗdi. Ker je v 10. stol. v Brižinskih spomenikih zapisano ecce [ečȅ], je treba izhajati iz *ečȅ ali *et’ȅ. Iz drugih slovan. jezikov se da rekonstruirati *at’ȅ, npr. stcslovan. ašte ‛če’, hrv. kajk. če, strus. ače
šȅ člen. lat.‛adhuc, etiam, insuper’ (16. stol.), nar. v Prekmurju èšče, kar je prvotnejše, prim. v 10. stol. v Brižinskih spomenikih este ‛še’; šelȅ.
da1 vez. lat.‛ut, quo, si’ (10. stol.), dȁ, člen. lat.‛ita, verum
Note: ČE is a unique Slovenian expression, and even more so in combination with DA.
da1 vez. lat.‛ut, quo, si’ (10. stol.), dȁ člen. lat.‛ita, verum’, star. ‛zatorej’ (10. stol.), kot sestavni del členkov, prvotnih sklopov tipa sevẹ̑da, kājpada, vez. dasirávno idr.
do predl. z rod. lat.‛ad, usque ad’ (10. stol.), tudi kot predpona (10. stol.), npr. doréči, dorásti.
tọ̑ prisl. lat.‛summe, valde’ (16. stol.)
ter vez. lat.‛et’ (10. stol.)
tȁm prisl. lat.‛illic, ibi’ (16. stol.), tȁmle, tȁmkaj, tȁmkajšnji, támošnji. Sorodno ali enako je stcslovan. tamo ‛tam, tja’, hrv., srb. tȁmo, rus. tám, češ. tam ‛tam, tja’.
The pronoun TA is OVI in Croatian. Due to the fact that Slovenians lived next to Croatian (or at some point in history they were the same people), Dolenjska and Prekmurje dialect retained the pronoun OVI (OUI). Trubar united the two and created the word TAKOUE – take (takšne – such).
tȃ1 tȃ zaim. lat.‛hic’ (10. stol.), tȃle.
The combination TALE literally means this only, the emphasized “this”.
tȕ prisl. lat.‛hic, hoc loco’ (16. stol.), tȗkaj (16. stol.), tȗkajšnji
vȅs vsȁ zaim. lat.‛omnis, totus’ (10. stol.), povsȅm. Enako je stcslovan. vьsь ‛ves, cel’, hrv., srb. sȁv, nar. vȁs, rus. vésь, stčeš. in star. češ. veš, sorodno še češ. všechen ‛ves’.
dól1 prisl. lat.‛deorsum, desuper’, star. dȍl; dóli, dólu lat.‛infra’ (14. stol.), navzdȍl (16. stol.), nizdȍl; dọ̑l lat.‛vallis’, dọ̑lnji, dolẹ̄nji.
tọ̄d prisl. lat.‛hac’ (16. stol.), odtọ̄d, star. od todi (14. stol.)
tȋ tébe zaim. lat.‛tu’ (10. stol.). Enako je stcslovan. ty, rod. tebe, hrv., srb. tȋ, rod. tèbe, rus. tý, rod. tebjá, češ. ty, rod. tebe.
tọ̑ prisl. lat.‛summe, valde’ (16. stol.). Prvotno imenovalnik ednine srednjega spola zaimka tȃ.
In Slovenian Protestant writing OTO often stands for “to” (this).
Phonetically DAU, sing. past. tense, masc. The diphthong “au” is written together. In dialectical speech, TU meant this (neutral gender), as well as here, short for TUKAJ.
tȗdi člen. lat.‛etiam’ (15. stol.), v sklopih akotȗdi, četȗdi, dasitȗdi
The diphthong UO is characteristic for Dol. dialect; DAV is another spelling for DAL (in Prekm. dialect, it is pronounced as DAF).
v predl. s tož. in mest. lat.‛in’ (10. stol.), v- predpona, včasih pred soglasniki tudi u-, npr. v uvésti namesto star. vvésti
lȅ1 člen. ‛samo’ = lat.‛tantum, solum, modo’ (16. stol.). Enako je cslovan. lě ‛komaj, lȅ2 člen
le člen., ki poudarja kazalne zaimke in nekatere prislove (16. stol.), npr. tȃle, le-ta, sȅmle, le-sȅm, zdȁjle
tedȁj prisl. lat.‛tunc, illo tempore’, star. od todi ‛od tedaj, odtlej’ (14. stol.)
li člen. (16. stol.), npr. Veš li? lat.‛Scisne?’, v sklopih jȅli, kāli, pisano tudi kā-li ipd. Enako je cslovan. li ‛ali, li’, hrv., srb. li, rus. li, češ. -li v vprašanjih tipa bude-li? ‛ali bo?’. Pslovan. vprašalni členek *li ‛ali, li’ etimološko ni zadovoljivo pojasnjen.
Note: The article le, as in the examples above indicate, are unique Slovenian expressions that persist to this day, although often, the use of LE is not necessary. The expressions LE PRIDI or PRIDI (come!) are basically the same.
The combination of letters PO has been duly noted by many VM researchers, mainly because in 90 percent of the VM P-words, the letter P is followed by O. In his post, J. K. Petersen has identified the VM
as PO, and made extensive analysis related to this combination, however, he was unable to recognize the language (I will explain this in greater detail in one of my future posts).
po predl. s tož. in mest. lat.‛post, in, per’ (10. stol.), npr. po gobe, po cesti; tudi prvi del sestavljenih glagolov, npr. popráviti in sekundarno pri samostalnikih, pridevnikih in prislovih, npr. pocẹ̑stnica, popravílo, pohlẹ́ven, poprẹ̑j
in vez. lat.‛et’, star. ino (14. stol.), inu (16. stol.), nar. tudi no
Pslovan. *ino je sklop iz pslovan. *i ‛in’ (danes redko sloven. i ‛in’ /10. stol./, hrv., srb. i, rus. i ‛in’ itd.) in poudarjalne členice *no. Pslovan. *i je lahko nastalo iz ide. *ei, mest. kazalnega zaimka *e- (ES VIII, 167 s.). Če je domneva pravilna, je pslovan. *i prvotno pomenilo *‛pri tem’.
As pointed out, many pronouns, conjunctions, prepositions, and adverbs are spelled the same way in the VM as in the Slovenian writing of the 16th century. Some are spelled somewhat differently, due to the dialect the author is using.
The usage of the pronouns, conjunctions and adverbs perfectly corresponds to the rules of Slovenian grammar, the general use and the particular dialect is further proof that the language is Slovenian. At the time the VM was written, the language was known as “Slouenski”, however it was not much different than Carinthian, Carniolan, Istrian, Sciavo (Italian word for Slovenian).
Letters “i”, “y”, “j” and “g”
Letter ‘j’ did not exist in Latin. The consonantal ‘i’ was thus written as ‘i’. In the Gothic scripts, the second ‘i’ would be extended below the baseline for the easier reading of the minims.
According to Wikipedia, the letter ‘j’ was the last letter added to the alphabet where it stands right after the letter ‘i’.
A distinctive use of the letter ‘j’ emerged in Middle German. According to the information I found on the internet, Gian Giorgio Trissino was the first to use ‘j’ for a separate sound in 1524. Originally, ‘i’ and ‘j’ were used interchangeably for the sounds ‘i’ and ‘j’.
In the English language, ‘j’ is the fourth least frequently used letter (with only Z, Q and X being more frequent).
Most Germanic languages, as well as Slavic languages, use letter ‘j’ for the sound ‘j’. In the Voynich Manuscript, the letter Y is used interchangeably for ‘i’ or ‘j’ sound, except in one single word,
where it stands alone and represents the sound ‘j’. Perhaps this was a mistake, however it is a proof that the letter ‘j’ was used in the present-day shape for the sound ‘j’ almost one hundred years before Trissino invented it. The fact that the letter ‘j’ was widely used in Slovenian writing since 1550, when the first Slovenian books were written, also indicates that the letter ‘j’ may have been used in some earlier writing that was lost or destroyed.
In the VM, the letter ‘y’ has unique shape, more like the number 9 than the letter ‘y’ used at the time. However, from a few mistakes in the VM words:
it can be assumed that the author was aware of the different shapes of the letter y in Germanic scripts. From the comparative scripts, it is evident that the distinctions between ‘i’ as a minim and ‘i’ with a dot were not firmly established.
In the above word, there is a dot over the letter ‘i’, however this word only makes sense in Slovenian if we read it as gaiw (gojil – cultivate). This is suggestive of the fact that some Y letters in the VM could be read as G.
The language of the VM is syllabic, based upon phonetic orthography. In quickly spoken Slovenian language, some sounds were often lost, making some words in the VM look like they are written in Abjad, and some with a missing first consonant (this is still the case if one wants to write in a dialect).
The occurrence of missing first consonants is still noticeable in the present day Dolenjska dialect, which in the 16th century became the foundation for the Slovenian language. The 16th century linguist, Adam Bohorič insisted that the “half-sound” should always be replaced with a vowel.
The feature of the Dolenjska dialect is pitch accent, extensive diphthongization (ei, ie, ou) and partial “Akanye”. The pitch-accent pertains to one syllable in a word that is more prominent than the others, and this syllable is indicated by a particular pitch, rather than by stress.
Akanye or Akanje is a phonological phenomenon in Slavic languages in which the vowels “o” or “e” are pronounced more like “a”.
Standard Slovenian language, used at the present time, was formed in the 18th and 19th century and is based upon the language spoken in and around Ljubljana. At that time, the single letters for č, š and ž were created.
Slovenians use the word “zlaganje” for “creating words”, which literally means putting the syllables together. The first Slovenian grammar books included the table of syllables starting with each letter of the alphabet. Below is a sample that could explain some of the extra (improper) spaces in the VM.
Ideally, one vowel and one consonant form a syllable, but often, there could even be more consonants (in any position), exceptions are the words without a consonant, such as “krt”, “vrt”, “prt”, “smrt” where “R” assumes the role of a vowel. This rule is important for the understanding of the VM words and their division.
In some cases, the vowel alone can represent a word. Slovenian words are created by putting the syllables together. The meaning of the word can be slightly changed by adding a prefix or suffix. The grammatical endings help to express the precise meaning of the words. They are very important for understanding the Slovenian language.
As previously mentioned, PO- is one of the most frequently used prefixes in the VM, followed by O- or OD-. The prefixes are added to the root words to change the meaning, sometimes slightly, sometimes drastically.
The table below shows how prefix’s work for verbs and nouns.
Prefixes, suffixes and grammatical endings
The definition of the word can also be changed by endings and suffixes. The endings are used for different grammatical forms. Slovenian language is a highly inflective language: it recognizes 3 numbers, 3 genders, 6 cases. Different endings are used for the grammatical changes. The table below illustrates the word structures, mostly related to the verb DATI (to give). I could not find examples in the VM for all grammatical forms of this word, however, the list in the table clearly proves that the grammar of the VM conforms to Slovenian word structure.
DA is one of the oldest Indo-European words. In the Voynich Manuscript, many words end on -DY, which could be read as D(A)J, assuming that the vowel was dropped, or on -TI, assuming that the letters T and D were interchangeable, which was not always the case. From the Slovenian verbs that exist in two forms, it can be assumed that many verbs originally developed from a combination of object and verb, such as DAR D(A)Y (dar daj – gift (you) give!), which later evolved into DARI (gift, v.)
There is a common belief among some Voynich researchers that the Voynich Manuscript was written by four or five different hands in at least two different languages or dialects. This assertion is based on the slightly different shapes of the VM glyphs which can be grouped together by digital palaeography, as well as the frequency of a certain glyph and the combination of glyphs, such as DY, PO. There are also some visible differences in the writing style (smaller or larger, straight or slanted glyphs) that are suggestive of different writers.
It has also been suggested that the text might have been written by the same author over different periods of time.
I tend to believe that the work was written at different times, perhaps reflecting different moods of the author, or changes in his environment thus changing or effecting the handwriting.
As far as I was able to determine, the entire text is focused on spiritual things, expressed in many different ways. Unlike manuscripts intended for public use, where it is necessary to be uniform and clear, the VM text represents personal reflection where neatness is not as essential.
I did not determine any difference in the writing convention, vocabulary nor grammar. I focused, particularly, on the use of the rare characters, but could not assign them to a particular hand. As for Zandbergen’s analysis (based on the use of the ending –DY or –AM, or prefix PO-), the endings reflect different grammatical styles, rather than dialect. The suffix –am is characteristic for first-person writing, often used in poetry. It is not uncommon that the poet identifies himself with a flower, particularly a poet who claims that God speaks to him through nature.
The –DY suffix in Slovenian language is used for infinite verbs, as well as for imperative mood, and occasionally for the 3. person, singular, present tense. In the VM, the imperative mood is used for instructions rather than for commands.
I suppose it would be possible that the VM was written by four or even five different authors under the influence of Nicholas Kempf. Kempf was the Prior of two Slovenian monasteries and as such, would have kept in touch with all four Slovenian Carthusian monasteries. As a Prior, Kempf would have to teach other monks not only how to write, but also religion, philosophy, poetry, and of course, the Slovenian language. They could have adopted his writing style, and the central message he intended to share in his book.
COMPARISON WITH THE MEDIEVAL SLOVENIAN LANGUAGE
By comparing documents written during the same time period that the VM was created, in the regions of present day Dolenjska and Štajerska, I have shown, that the writing style and, at least, 14 shapes of the letters were similar to the glyphs in the VM (absence of punctuation and capital letters, use of minims etc.).
I have also noted that the Slovenian language underwent some changes in the middle of the 15th century, due to political changes after the dissolution of the Patriarchate of Aquileia.
My research of the medieval Slovenian language and grammar was therefore focused on the first printed Slovenian books and dictionaries.
The various dictionaries that included Slovenian language, confirm that Slovenian was widely spoken in the Middle Ages, in the Italian, Austrian, Hungarian political entities. A short dictionary, published as an appendix to the first translation of the Bible, in Slovenian, reflects various dialects of the Slovenian language that existed in 1583, such as Carinthian, Carniolan, Slovenian, Istrian etc.
Slovenian language is highly inflective which is the reason that the words used in the text can seldom be found spelled exactly the same way in the dictionary.
Originally, Primož Trubar was credited to be the first person to use the Slovenian word “slovenski jezik”, however, the expression was used much earlier, with a different spelling, as an example, the word “slauonic” written in the Latin document outlining the formation of the fraternity of Slovenian Carthusian monasteries, from the 15th century.
Some Slovenian words were used by various medieval German poets, who may have wanted to leave some memory of their Slovenian predecessors notably in the expression “Stara prauda” used in a German poem about the peasant revolt.
To figure out if the language was Slovenian or Croatian, I examined medieval Slovenian and Croatian writing, initially with the first Slovenian book, written by Slovenian Lutheran priest Primož Trubar.
Primož Trubar: Catechismus
Trubar was born in Rašica, in the Duchy of Carniola (present day Dolenjska, Slovenia) during the time of the Habsburg Empire. He served as a Catholic priest in various parishes until 1547 when he was expelled for accepting the Lutheran faith. In 1550, he published his first book Catechismus, considered to be the first book written in the Slovenian language.
Trubar dedicated Catechismus to “vsem vernim kerszhenikom tega Crainskiga inu Slovenskiga jesiga” (all believing Christians speaking Carniolan and Slovenian languages).
The preface states that the book is written in Slovenian, but also intended for the Carniolans, who were the Slovenians inhabiting the bordering Windic March, named after the German name for Slovenians.
In Catechismus, I found many words and grammatical forms that were spelled exactly the same as in the VM.
Grammatical Comparison with the VM
I, J and Y
Anton Vramec: Kronika
In 1578, the first historical book KRONIKA, written by Anton Vramec, was published in Lublana (Ljubljana). In the Wikipedia article, his name is recorded also as Antun and a claim is made that this is “the first historical book in the Croatian language” and “the second book written in the Kajkavian dialect”.
There could be a mistake in Wikipedia, as it is stated on the first page that the language in which it is written is “szlouenzki” (Slovenian), not Croatian. The name of the author, written in the original as Antol, is changed in the Wikipedia article to Antun. The fact that he was a church official in Zagreb does not mean that he was Croatian. Slavonia was, at that time, an independent kingdom, established on the territory in the 9th century Methodius’ diocese, where Old Church Slavonic language was in use. The name Slovenci was preserved by Slovenci of Prekmurje: by the inhabitants of Sclavinija (that later became Slavonija) and by the Slovacs who were later separated from Slovenians by the Hungarian invasion. The spelling in KRONIKA is influenced by Hungarian writing convention (SZ for S, ZH for Č, V for U) as well, the vocabulary had more Old Church Slavonic words.
While Primož Trubar shows some influence of the German language in his writing, and the writing in Anton Vremec’s Kronika seems to reflect a purer Slovenian language that seems much closer to the Voynich Manuscript.
Between the time the Voynich Manuscript and Kronika were written, the Dolenjska region became the border-land of Austria (thus the name of Krajnska – Lower Carniola). In the 16th century, the area south of the Gorjanci Mountain had been settled mostly by the Vlahs, the Bogomil converts to the Orthodox religion and permitted to cultivate their culture in exchange for their military defense against the invading Turks. After the danger of Turkish invasions had passed, Slavonia founded its own kingdom within the kingdom of Hungary.
While trying to find his way through the grammar, the author of Kronika, a doctor of philosophy, compiled the facts and listed them chronologically in point form.
I noticed the use of the word “BE” (you be) in the VM, however, the word BEHU cannot be found. The equivalent of this word used in the VM is the word BUODO (bodo – will be), which was used in dialectical Slovenian up until the past century, while in the Literary Croatian language the word BE was replaced with BUDE, and BEHU was replaced with BUDEJO. In Slovenian, the word BO is used instead of BE, and BODO or BOJO instead of BEHU.
The spelling convention used in Kronika is particularly characteristic of the Hungarian-Slovenian writing convention and was preserved while the Slovenians lived under Hungary and had, subsequently, cultivated Slovenian language, almost independently from the rest of the Slovenian speaking people.
The region known as the Kingdom of Slavonia within the Habsburg Austro-Hungarian Empire from 1699, was incorporated into the Kingdom of Croatia in 1868. The land had belonged to the ancient Slovenian principality of Prince Kocel and the short-lived medieval state of Sclavonia, known later as the Great Carantania.
Jurij Dalmatin, Translator of the first Slovenian Bible
In his translation of the Bible, Jurij Dalmatin addresses Slovenians as Sloveni. In the appendix to the Bible, Dalmatin offers his explanation for the words that were spoken differently by Krajnci (Carniolans), Korošci (Carinthians), Slovenians or Bežjaks (Bežjaks were Bosnian refugees arriving in Slavonia in the 16th century), Croats, Dalmatians, Istrians and the inhabitants of Karst. The fact that he grouped them together and only wrote the words that differed from one language to the other, is suggesting that, otherwise, they all spoke a mutually understandable language.
It is noteworthy that there is no Serbian, Polish or Czech language mentioned here, although there was a linguistic connection to these languages in the past.
The language used by Dalmatin shows many new words imported into the language used previously by Trubar. Most often, when the words differ, both were preserved in the Slovenian language.
All other dictionaries were intended for foreigners to learn Slovenian or for translating from a foreign language to Slovenian and since they were written by foreigners the spelling shows a lot of inconsistencies. The author of the VM must have been aware of the confusion created by using different writing conventions. In general, the local writing convention was used; Italian for Slovenians living in Italy, Hungarian for Slovenians living in the Kingdom of Hungary, and German for Slovenians in Austria. The use of the printing press and the demand of the Protestant priests to use vernacular languages in liturgy, created the need for dictionaries.
German, Latin, Slovenian (Windish) and Italian Dictionary, composed by Hieronymus Megister
The dictionary is four-lingual: German, Latin, Slovenian (Windish) and Italian, composed by Hieronymus Megiser and published in 1592.
Hieronymus Megiser was a German polymath, linguist and historian and studied at the University of Tübingen as a student of Nicodemus Frischling. He spent some time in Ljubljana, where he was a private tutor. Frischling also spent two years in present day Ljubljana. His father was a Protestant priest in Württemberg.
Megiser equates Illyrian language with Sclavonian “Illvricae (quae vulgo Sclavonica appellatur)”. However, in the headings of four different languages, the Slovenian language is referred to as “Windisch”, which is the German word for “Slovenian”. The word “vulgo” translates as “the language of the natives” from which it can be concluded that they referred to the language they were speaking “as Slovenian”, while foreigners referred to it as “Illyrian”.
This dictionary is now preserved in the Royal Danish National Library in Copenhagen. The dictionary was very helpful and enabled me to see if any of the VM words were taken from any of the four languages. Its publication also attests to the widespread Slovenian speaking population in the medieval Europe.
The infinite verbal form ends with -ti, not with T. The letter K was consistently used for the sound K.
Slovenian Littoral language
The Italians called the language in the Slovenian Littoral region “schiauo”. In the Middle Ages, this region was inhabited predominantly by the Slovenian population and belonged to the Patriarchate of Aquileia. When the Patriarchate was taken over by the Venetian Republic in 1420, the northern section was annexed to the Duchy of Carinthia and the political division was reflected in the language as well. This is evident in the Italian-Slovenian dictionary (Vocabolario Italiano e Schiauo), published in 1572 in Udine (now in Italy). In this dictionary, I found many similar words that are also present in the Voynich Manuscript and they are written in the Italian writing convention. I was surprised to see the letter G frequently used, however the G usage seemed to be missing in the VM. Also, the letter “i” was used instead of Y (something that I had noticed in other medieval Slovenian dictionaries), the letter C was used for K, the letter Z for C and the final Y (i) in the infinite verbal form was left out.
The Italian Slovenian dictionary (Italiano e Schiauo Vocabolario), published in 1607 in Udine, was composed for the Slovenians living in the former Patriarchate of Aquileia which extended from Friuli and Veneto region to Adriatic coast, while the religious authority of the Patriarchate extended into the former Slavonic regions of Pannonia, Bosnia and Slavonia. This dialect could be the Slovenian dialect of the Veneto region Dr. King mentioned in his Voynich theory, which could be considered a pre-Roman language revived in the Middle Ages and spoken by the peasant class of people, while the upper classes were speaking Romanized Vulgar Latin.
The vocabulary collected in this Italian Slovenian dictionary affirms that Slovenian was spoken there long before the first books in Slovenian were written.
Dictionarivm Qvinqve nobilissimarvm Evropae longvarvm latinae, Italicae, Germanica, Dalmatiae, Vngaricae
The dictionary of Latin, Italian, German, Dalmatian and Hungarian languages was compiled by Faust Vrančić, native of Šibenik, and published in 1595 in Venice.
Comparing the five languages, it is obvious that the Dalmatian language is totally different from the other three, and can be understood by Slovenian speaking people, as well as Croatians and Bosnians of that time. It shows a lot of similarity with the Slovenian language, or with present day Kajkavian language. Vrančič did not call this language Croatian, apparently because Dalmatia has an important place in Roman times (when Romans divided Illyria among Pannonia and Dalmatia) and he claims that in the olden times this language was spoken not only in Croatia, but also in Slavonia, Bosnia, Srbia and Bulgaria. It is obvious that he is talking about the Old Church Slavonian language which was spoken in these territories in the 9th century. The dialects were not fully separated and in the dictionary, the čakavian and štokavian (Serbian) dialects are noticable. It is also noticable that he avoided words that were Latinized.
The comparison of Slovenian and Hungarian vocabulary shows that some Slovenian words remained in the Hungarian language, particularly the one related to ancient words which were spoken there before the invasion of Huns.
Therefore, by the 16th century, the language spoken by the Slovenians was called “Slovenski”. The neighbours to this Slovenian speaking region were Germans to the north, Italians to the west, Hungarians to the East and Croatians to the south.
Latin-German-Slovenian and German-Slovenian-Latin Dictionary
Except for a few pages, the dictionary is hand-written by Franciscan (Capuchin) Hippolit Novomeški in 1701. Janez Adam Geiger (1667 – April 28, 1722; monastic name Hippolytus Rudolphswertensis ‘Hippolytus of Novo Mesto‘, Slovenized as Hipolit Novomeški) was a Slovene philologist, religious writer, lexicographer, translator. The dictionary was based on the words spoken in Dolenjska dialect. The spelling is different than the Italian-Slovenian (Schiauo), most notable differences being the suffix -TI for the infinite verbs, the letters ZH for the sound Č and SH for the sound Š, still frequent use of the letter Y for sound J or I:
Latin – Carniolan Dictionary (Dictionarivm Latino-Carniolicvm), 1680
The handwritten Dictionarivm Latino-Carniolicvm was written in 1680 and is important as it reflects the Carniolan vocabulary and spelling. Upon review, it is most likely the hand-written copy of the 1592 dictionary, due to the frequent use of the letter Y, which was mostly abandoned by the Protestant Slovenian writers. It also reflects the Dolenjska dialect as it was preserved in peasant speech. The link with the VM writing and grammar seems evident.
The fact that so many Slovenian Protestant books have been written during the 16th century indicates the existence of many Slovenian speaking people able to read them. In order to achieve a readership, there must have been an effort to teach Slovenians using Latin letters, at least a few generations prior, which brings us to the time of Nicholas Kempf and to the time Voynich Manuscript was created.
There is no telling if the Slovenian language was ever taught in a written form, but the Dukes of Carinthia were required to speak the language and Slovenians were allowed to use Slovenian language in the courts. Slovenian language was very similar to Czech and Slovak.
The fact that Slovenian language was included in so many different multilingual dictionaries also reflects its historical importance. It also illustrates that the rulers and religious leaders were mostly foreigners and needed the dictionary to communicate with the people who were annexed from one political entity to the other.
Over the centuries, the territorial rulers changed, the borders were redrawn after countless wars, and different languages were imposed on the Slovenian people, however, the Slovenian nation and Slovenian language survived. Slovenian-speaking borders have shrunk greatly since the Middle Ages with only a small minority of Slovenians still living in Austria, Italy and Hungary. The union with the other Balkan Slavs of former Yugoslavia proved disappointing. In 1991, Slovenia became an independent country and eventually, the Slovenian language became one of the official languages of the European Union.
At the time the VM was written, Dolenjska region was under the religious authority of the Patriarchate of Aquileia while being under secular authority of Austria since Rudolf IV created a Duchy of Carniola. The powerful Habsburg Dynasty had been replaced with the Slovenian Dynasty known as the Counts of Celje, which, for some time, also ruled as Bans (Dukes) of Slavonia and Bosnia.
The Counts of Celje were Slovenian nobility, who, at the height of their power, were planning to form a large Slavic Empire and were in power at the time the VM was written. It would, therefore, be reasonable to assume that the Carthusians, who were financially supported by the Counts of Celje, were preparing the special Latin script for the Slovenian language. Since the Counts of Celje were connected by marriage to many European royal families, the Latin script might serve them better than Glagolica used by the Croatians.
From these dictionaries, it is evident that the vocabulary and grammar used by Slovenian Protestant writers were similar to the one of the VM, particularly the basic words used from religious and ordinary lives. As far as I was able to determine, the text does not reflect the philosophical and alchemical subjects the illustrations seem to suggest.
From the above notes on the dictionaries, it is evident that the VM cannot be simply transliterated and translated into the Slovenian language. The author wrote Slovenian words as he heard them. Foreigners, from different linguistic backgrounds, would often hear words differently and then write them differently as well. Some Slovenian sounds were unique and did not conform to the writing conventions of the neighbouring lands therefore, the reading became confusing.
SEARCH FOR THE AUTHOR
Besides being written in a unique script, the Voynich Manuscript also contains unique illustrations. Based on the neat writing, many researchers believe the VM was written by a scribe or a monk and the pictures of the flowers and Zodiac circles would support this view, since many monks were also involved with herbal healing and astronomy. Although the pictures show naked females, they do not look pornographic or sexual. The pictures, as simple as they are, are projecting a sense of joy, peace and tranquility, a sense of simplicity and equality, and harmony with nature, unlike the medieval Grail Romances, which are full of horrific images.
The Author was a Mystic
Judging by the pictures in the VM, I concluded the author must have been a mystic, residing in a monastery, where he had access to classical and other books, fine Venetian velum, and a shelter for his overactive creative mind.
Since the 4th century, Christianity was the universal religion in all of the Roman world that stretched from east to west.
Armenia was the first state to adopt Christianity based upon St. Paul’s teachings and Armenians were better prepared spiritually to understand Judaic and Christian mysticism. They understood the need to change society through love and good deeds, through proper understanding of the Bible and through mystical revelation given to certain individuals. Anatolia was at the crossroads of spiritual ideas and that made its people more susceptible to become gnostics and mystics, to acquire better knowledge of spiritual things.
Due to the nature of God’s communication to men (mystical experiences of genuine prophets and artists), the official Church always had its adversaries, who wanted to reform it (either to steer it back on the original track, or to update it to reflect a new reality), and those were most often regarded as “heretics”.
During times of economic and spiritual turmoil, the psychosomatic illnesses are more common as people’s mental equilibrium is shaken. Visions, as well as hallucinations of mentally ill people are unplanned and unexpected. Often, it is hard to tell genuine visions from the false visions, as they both appear in an altered state of mind. It is not the vision, but the meaning and understanding of the vision, and the strong will to act on it, that makes the difference. The result of the genuine vision is constructive, while the false vision leads to destructive behaviour.
Genuine mystics appear in all times and all places. According to William James, all religious mystical experiences are different, yet they all lead to reflection about the past and present to predict the future. Often, religious mystics have the increased need for solitude. Various religious orders were formed by their followers.
The monastic orders have their origin in the East. In the 4th and 5th century AD, they began to spread towards West. By 536, Constantinople alone had over 70 monasteries.
In Europe, monasticism developed out of protest against the degradation of Church and State. The objectives of the monks were to obtain human perfection through contemplation, promotion of arts and culture, and through physical work, by which they supported themselves.
A first stage on a mystical journey is the feeling of guilt, followed by introspection, remorse and penance, that leads toward perfection, which is humanly impossible, and creates more guilt. In the Voynich Manuscript, a reference to spiritual healing could be inferred from many pictures. In the extreme case, the mystic feels as if his soul was separated from the body. In the VM, the human souls are portrayed as a naked female, since the soul in Slovenian is always of the female gender.
On his journey towards perfection, the mystic seems to be stranded between good and evil, particularly when society has no clear laws, nor ethical and just rulers.
For the Catholic church, duality was the surest mark of heretical thinking, yet, the duality represents the very essence of creativity and mysticism.
Most researchers of the Voynich Manuscript recognize the symbols of duality in the pictures, from the astrological pictures reflecting day and night, to the floral and biographical pages. However, the VM does not just show duality, but also trinity, which is suggestive of the mystical author being able to balance the contradictory views in himself, in search for the ultimate Truth and Justice, which is God.
Most mystics have great desire to share the wisdom they had acquired by way of the mystical experience, although they are reluctant to talk about their mental agony associated with their experience.
In the VM pictures and drawings, there is very little artistic merit, however, even with the limited creative ability, the author conveyed great metaphysical ideas. His literary language, as far as I was able to determine, is not eloquent either. There is a lot of repetition, as if he jotted down the ideas that occupied his mind, at times without any particular form and order. The VM poetry, as well, reflects the basic simplicity and the references to biblical writing.
The central theme of the VM is spiritual cleansing, penance, remorse, learning from nature and from one’s own experience to be a spiritual leader and healer.
A genuine mystic often expresses increased appreciation for universal functionality according to certain laws of nature that are gradually being discovered as the collective human wisdom increases. The author of the Voynich manuscript masterfully used flowers to illustrate his spiritual world. Slovenian language offered him this possibility because of the similarity of the words CVET (flower), SVET (the world), SVET (to shine, to enlighten), SVET (holy), and many other words that have a concrete and symbolic meaning simultaneously.
The mystical experience is the highest point in the introspective process of a mystic. He is examining himself by the perfect standard of God-man, and the more perfect concept of God he has, the more sinful and imperfect he feels. As the spread expands, the mystic, on his spiritual journey, is in danger of annihilating himself, feeling like a sinful nothing compared to the infinite greatness and goodness of God. Jesus set the limit when he said, “Where I am, you cannot come.” Whoever understands these words, can be saved by accepting his imperfections as part of humanity, because absolute perfection could only be theoretical, in the realm of spiritual life, not in the realm of realistic human life.
A mystic is more likely to be melancholic, due to his feeling of sinfulness and inadequacy, preoccupied with his own thinking, more focused on the spiritual than on the physical environment, and more likely to be single and engaged in helping professions, such as a priest, doctor, or artist.
The images of washing on the biological pages of the VM are suggestive of the “spiritual” cleansing which, according to various religious traditions, is symbolically represented with baptism.
It is a known fact that mystics and genuine artists were the first psychotherapists. They all recognize that the progress of civilization also carries with it the possibility of the misuse of spiritual, technical and scientific advances, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and for this reason, they are reminding people that the survival of the individual is depended on the survival of the group.
They understand the world as a harmonious interaction of all living things, and man as a superior being who, by the power of his mind, is the only creature capable to put his thoughts in writing enabling transcendence from generation to generation, over time and place.
The mystic is usually introverted, a highly intellectual person who sees his God-given wisdom as a heavy burden he has to carry and share with others.
For all of these reasons, the monasteries were places of refuge and healing for the artists.
The understanding of the mystical experience, particularly as it relates to prophesy and the Bible is very important for the understanding of the VM writing. In my view, a large part (the floral section of the VM) represents poetry, while deeper philosophical messages are expressed by way of allegorical art. As such, the VM is still relevant for today.
NICHOLAS KEMPF – POSSIBLE AUTHOR OF THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT
Judging by the orderly handwriting and strange illustrations, many VM researchers suggested the author was a medieval scribe or a mystic.
Zandbergen is suggesting the manuscript was written somewhere in the Alpine region of Europe, or northern Italy. The region of present-day Slovenia would fit this parameter, since it was influenced by both, Italian and Germanic culture, while using the Slovenian language.
Zandbergen proposed that the author was not some well-known person, renowned for his other works, but believed the author was well acquainted with the philosophical and scientific trends popular in the 15th century.
In the 15th century, there were very few great philosophical and theological mystics in the region of present day Slovenia, and the most obvious place for them were within the Carthusian monasteries where the monks were engaged mostly with copying and writing books. They did not sign their books, and if they did, they used pseudonyms due to their humility.
At first, I could not imagine the author being a monk, due to my religious biases and the strange illustrations, particularly the lack of religious imagery. After extensive research, I acquired a better understanding of the historical and religious situation and became convinced that the author was a Carthusian monk.
I followed my instinct and during my next visit to my homeland, I obtained a comprehensive book on the history of Pleterje Cartherhouse. The name of the Prior Nicholas Kempf stood out, although there was only one half-page written on him, containing the most basic information that he was philosopher, theologian, writer, and poet and that his greatest work was the book on Mystical Theology. The book also mentioned that Kempf wrote about thirty books, none of which was translated into Slovenian or English.
I checked if I could find some additional information about him on the internet. What luck! Dennis Martin studied Kempf’s works for a doctoral degree at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, and eventually wrote a book, entitled The Fifteenth-Century Carthusian Reform: The World of Nicholas Kempf. The book shed a light on the different sites of the Carthusians, the side that the Church kept hidden.
Nicholas Kempf was born somewhere between 1397 and 1400 in Geispolsheim in Rhineland and was registered at the Vienna University as a pauper. His family moved to Strasbourg where his father Mathias became a member of the gardener guild. After obtaining a masters degree, Nicholas served as a faculty member for a few years. He felt the higher knowledge represented a greater burden for him and a greater struggle against pride and avarice. On September 6, 1440, he became a monk at the Charterhouse known as the Throne of Mary, located at Gaming in Carinthia.
Kempf fits the profile of the imaginary author of the VM perfectly. He was a foreigner in the Slovenian speaking lands, a priest, an educator, a philosopher by profession, and a writer, poet and mystic of his personal interest, or by God’s grace, as the mystics would say.
As a Prior, Kempf worked in two different Slovenian speaking environments, and even Gaming was, at one time, a Slovenian speaking location. To be able to administer the Charterhouse and communicate with the lay brothers, he had to learn the Slovenian language. Serving in different Carthusian monasteries, he could have learned words and pronunciation of different dialects, which could result in different spelling for the same words.
From 1447 to 1451 Kempf was Prior of Gairach (Jurklošter, Slovenia) and in 1458, he again became a Prior at Gaming. Several former university colleagues and students followed him to Gaming, which was considered the intellectual centre that supplied leaders to the Carthusian monasteries in all of the neighbouring countries.
In April 1462, Kempf became Prior of the Pleterje Charterhouse in Slovenia, which was founded by the Counts of Celje in 1403 and the initial members came from Gaming. Martin believed that Kempf might have written three of his spiritual works in Pleterje, including his major work on mystical theology.
Turkish incursion to Carniola started even before Kemp became Prior there and in 1467 he became the Prior at Gairach again. According to the Carthusian records, he had numerous internal problems there that were probably due to the political changes the Habsburgs implemented after the extinction of the Counts of Celje who were somewhat tolerant of the Basel Council ideas Kempf promoted.
In 1490, Kempf asked to be relieved of his office duty due to his old age. He moved to Gaming, where he died on November 20, 1497.
Dennis Martin regarded him one of the greatest Carthusian reformers. Unlike Luther, Kempf did not opt for a separation from the Roman Church. He was convinced that the monastic communities could educate people through literature that would eventually lead to Church reforms.
Kempf recommended several reforms, such as the use of vernacular language in liturgy, a greater role of women in the Church, and a greater effort for religious unity. Some of his major reforms had to wait to be implemented until the II. Vatican Council of the Catholic Church in the 1960s.
It is not my intention to go into the details of Kempf’s work, but I would like to mention some of his ideas that make me believe he might be the author of the Voynich Manuscript.
He displayed the writing style that utilizes symbolic communication, even in his work on mystical theology. He used the word Abraham for the Pope, Sara for Mistress Theology, and Maidservant for Canon Law. He complained that the Church had suppressed mystical theology (mysticism) and blamed the Church for the failure of the Basel Council to bring about Church reforms.
In his Latin writing, he referred to the human soul as a female and described her ascent towards God. He used a great deal of floral imagery, such as blossom (“The blossoms of the scripture are gathered by the other meanings of scripture”).
In Martin’s book on Kempf, I found the following citation of Kempf’s criticism of the Church from his book on mystical theology, written about 1460.
How much evil grows from this root in the church today … For from the year 1432 until now a schism continues in the church, a schism between the general council of Basel and Pope Eugenius IV, the like of which has never been heard. For the pope and his adherents, indeed, are holding their own council, a council against a council, as it were. In this schism, it is not unlearned men of the world but the much-blinded leading lights of the Church who adhere pertinaciously to one side, as unjust as it may seem or who insist on holding on toe a pestiferous neutrality. What is this if not God the Father hiding his light of true wisdom and withholding his ray of truth from those who fearlessly and foolishly trust in their own opinions, so that many little ones might know what the luminaries blindly ignore? (Martin p. 129)
Kempf also used the analogy of the dawn as intuition, the morning as allegorical recognition of writing, and noon as the clear understanding of mystical vision, since by then, the morning fog is gone.
Martin assumed Kempf wrote about the mystical experience hypothetically, not from his own experience since a genuine mystical experience is so rare. I believe he actually acquired his wisdom by way of his own mystical experience, as another monk was listed as Prior at Pleterje at the same time as Kempf, which suggests that perhaps, for a period of time, he was unable to function as a Prior. There was also a strange legend circulating in the vicinity of Pleterje about a saintly hermit on the Gorjanci Mountain, where Carthusians had a large tract of forest land. The Church has been erected there, dedicated to St. Nicholas.
Kempf’s writing is full of metaphorical images of spiritual cleansing and penance and these images could be clearly recognized in the Voynich manuscript.
As a Prior, Kempf’s duty also included the education of lay brothers. Up to the 12th century, the access to books was forbidden to the lay brethren, so that the Prior had to teach them orally. In Kempf’s time, it was permitted in the Germanic Carthusian monasteries for the lay brothers to get written resources in the vernacular language. Martin mentions Kempf’s sermons written in German, but he may not have been aware that the Slovenian language was spoken in the regions where Kempf served, particularly in Gairach (Jurklošter) and Pleterje. Would it therefore be possible that Kempf also wrote sermons in Slovenian?
Kempf also used a symbol of “wedding”. In his commentary Song of Songs, he wrote about a secret song between God and a chosen soul (the Bride), united in the spiritual spheres in God’s image, which is indescribable in ordinary human language. He compares this with alcoholic intoxication, but he admits this analogy is inadequate.
Kempf’s expression “doctors” often refers to academics, and he is particularly concerned with spiritual healing.
Like St. Jerome before him, Kempf recognized the moral fall of the Church after Constantine.
Kempf applied natural philosophy to theology in his comments on the illumination of the human mind in comparison to the illumination of rays of light on the human soul compared to fire and air, and on the influence of celestial bodies in relation to God’s grace. These ideas could easily be recognized in the Voynich Manuscript.
According to Kempf, clear vision, as understood by St. Augustine, is granted to people who are not purely in the normal state of mind and not in full control of their human senses, but who have been raised above human senses in ecstasy. Could the females in odd placements in the VM symbolize the souls in ecstasy?
It looks like Kempf had suffered the “rapture”, as Jung would say, the mystical duality, and reached the fifth stage, as Kempf calls it, where God was revealed to him as an eternal BEING, as eternal I AM. He comprehended the meaning of the Trinity and the union with the Divine and used the symbol of the divine wedding for the union of the mystic’s soul with the Divine.
In Kempf’s view, God dwells in the “obscuring mist”, “a divine darkness”. Kempf often uses the symbol of clouds, blindness, night, ignorance etc. The images of clouds and mists of water can be found in the Voynich manuscript, in the biographical pages, where the images also point to purification.
According to Martin, Kempf was very familiar with classical literature that was considered pagan by the Church. Some allusions to the pagan practices described in Petrarch’s Moralia, particularly to prophesy, could be observed in the Voynich Manuscript. As a philosopher, particularly concerned with the moral aspect of religion, it would almost be unthinkable that Kempf was not familiar with Petrarch’s Moralia.
While his family in Strasbourg was involved in the gardening business, he was growing “literary flowers”, a poetry that had great influence on the future of Slovenian literature.
The VM pictures of the swimming pools with plumbing, and also plain pools of water, remind me of the hot springs in the Štajerska and Dolenjska regions of Slovenia, which have been in existence since Roman times. In Laško (near Jurkloster), the monks were running public baths in the 15th century. The house was bought by Prior Nicholas. If this was the case, the pictures of the swimming pools could be sketches for the public baths.
Levitov’s suggestion that the Voynich Manuscript might be connected to the Cathars was rejected mainly due to his claim that the Catharism was related to the pagan goddess Isis and that the images in the Voynich Manuscript are suggestive of Cathar ritualistic suicide (endura). In spite of that, the question of the connection of the Voynich Manuscript to the Cathars is still raised occasionally, due to the lack of Christian images.
Since the Voynich Manuscript was written at the time when the spirit of Bogomilism (Slavic forerunner of Catharism) was still active on the Balkans, I believe some Bogomil ideas could be included in VM. The lack of Christian images could also be attributed to iconoclasm.
Many Bogomil ideas could be found in the works of Nicholas Kempf, however, he regarded himself a Christian heavily burdened by the split within the medieval Church. Along with other members of the Moderna movement, he was hoping to reform the Catholics.
The possible influence of the VM on Slovenian culture
The material presented in this segment is primarily focused on the Voynich Manuscript language and grammar. With the analysis of the comparative documents from the region of the present-day Slovenia, I have proven that the similar shapes of the Latin letters were used, as well as a similar style (minims, Abjad, no capitals, no punctuation). I have also explained why the author felt he needed to create new letters and why he felt it was necessary to write the Slovenian language in Latin letters.
Comparing the Voynich language with medieval Slovenian books and dictionaries, I have also proven that the Voynich vocabulary and grammar comply with the Slovenian language, and that most of the words found in the Voynich Manuscript, were used in the 15th century and many of them have been used up to the present time. I have also sufficiently explained why I believe the author of the VM was Nicholas Kempf, by himself or collectively with his fellow monks. He spent 21 years of his long life at the prestigious Charterhouse at Gaming (Carinthia) and over 30 years as a Prior of the Carthusian Monasteries located in the territory of present day Slovenia – three years at Pleterje and 27 years at Jurklošter. These are the monasteries that were heavily financially supported by the Counts of Celje, one of the most important European dynastic families, with political and family ties to of the most European royal families, of the 15th century. Kempf was one of the greatest Church reformers of his time, and proponent of the use of the vernacular language in liturgy. He was a philosopher, theologian, educator, poet, writer and mystic whose work, like the Voynich Manuscript, would remain a mystery, if Dennis Martin did not discover it in the 1950s.
Ideas expressed in the VM in Slovenian literature, and perhaps some similarity to medieval Slovenian poems. Although I believe the text in the VM on the flower pages are poems, there is no likeness to Slovenian medieval poems, however, there is continuous floral symbolism in Slovenian literature that makes it unique in the world.
In the introduction to the first Slovenian translation of the Bible, there is a particular passage of God’s word dwelling above the clouds, in the air and everywhere on earth as an invisible power ready to be created into human words and acted out in reality.
There are also many historical images that could place the VM to Carniola, the medieval Duchy that included present day Slovenia.
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