T/O Map Label Implications

As I and others have said before, the labels seem to be one of the best ways “into” the Voynich Manuscript. They might be words which are disclosed by adjoining illustrations, most importantly. And if they can be assumed to be encoded/enciphered in the same manner as the rest of the Voynich, then they limit the possible methods used to do so… by the number of letters, the structure… and the fact that there is an “infinite space” before and after them. One would then have to explain how the space applies to the main text… as a character or symbol… when it cannot, ever, in the labels.

But the T/O maps of the Voynich seem to give us additional possibilities. The reason is, we have two with labels to compare. I believe this is unique in the Voynich, where we have a “word” which can reasonably assumed to have the same meaning as the same word elsewhere. The maps I am referring to are the two left ones in the below illustration.

The actual, known, 1472 T/O map to the right is of course in it’s usual “East up” orientation (thanks, Nick). The Rosettes map is, in the Ms., but I rotated it to line up the labels with the F68v3 map, and to make them more readable (can we use that term, “readable”, in the VMs?). For the sake of this discussion, certain assumptions are being made: That these are T/O maps in the Medieval style, and the segments are meant to represent the same places, and that the words within them, therefore, are meant to represent the same place/idea. Let’s look at the upper left word, first, and compare them.

If we look at these two “words”, and assume they are meant to be the same place or idea, certain points would follow. First, comparing the gallows, it would imply that these should not counted elsewhere as two gallows… that the second version is simply the same character drawn with a more closed upper left loop. Secondly, since the right word is seemingly a shortened version of the first, it implies the use of abbreviations. The importance of determining whether or not abbreviations are used at all in the Voynich can not be underrated. And thirdly, the fact that the fourth character of the right word is different from the fourth, fifth or sixth characters of the left, would imply that it somehow signifies the same meaning of those characters, where missing.

In the second comparable VMs word, we find the same and some new implications. First, the first character of the right word is actually a combination of the first two characters of the left word. There are several reasons this makes sense… for one thing, it includes the rare gallows with the crossed tail. This increases the possibility that it is representative of the left word.  Another reason that it follows the right character is a combination would be, again, the small area it is written in. One would expect a nice clean spacing of characters in a larger space, and the possibility of accidentally, or judiciously, linking them where necessary… and this is exactly what we find. A second major observation here is that the word in the smaller place, as with “Africa”, is also the shorter word. The first four characters are the same, and again, just like Africa, again, the last is different… implying, again, and abbreviation for space reasons. Now the fifth character in the left word may be a shortened tail “9”. If so, it might imply that such “o’s”, with short tails, are the VMs “9’s”, when written within a word. Only guessing there (as in the rest of this post of course, only guessing). But another possible is similar to the Africa example… that is, that the “9” character here is meant to represent the last characters of the left word, and have the same meaning… or, simply, to denote that an abbreviation has taken place.

This is only musing, given the rare but possible opportunity to compare two words which may have the same meaning in the Voynich. I don’t know of any other two words which can be compared in this way, in fact. If so, the implications are important:

  1. Abbreviations might be used in the Voynich
  2. When used, they may have replacement or marker characters, and these are two of them
  3. Two gallows may actually be one, drawn slightly differently
  4. Keys in the Voynich, if there are any, do not change over the pages we find these maps
  5. Some characters may be combination, but should be treated as separate in counts, etc.
  6. Most importantly, the Voynich has meaning…

… for to so closely represent the same idea, or place, on two different maps on two different pages, with so similar words, shows an attempt to convey real meaning. There would be no need to make them as alike as they are, if there was no meaning to the words… and the odds are, if randomly chosen, they would be very much more different from what they actually are, and in ways different from what their situation implies and supports. Of course and unless, this was on purpose, just to confound… but then, it would be the only situation where this was necessary to do, as again, it is our only comparison! What are the odds of that? Not for me to say…

T and O Map, Guntherus Ziner, 1472

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8 Responses to T/O Map Label Implications

  1. Nick Pelling says:

    Hi Rich,

    Ummm… just to be precise, the 1472 T-O map has “oriens” (East) at the top as per normal, while you rotated the VMS T-O maps to have “occidens” (West) at the top (though you’ve done the correspondences right in the text).

    Moreover, the cipher correspondences suggested beyond that don’t really work on any level. I don’t think anybody is now seriously looking for any simple substitution cipher in Voynichese: as I’m sure you know, that notion was already heavily discredited by about 1930 (if not earlier).

    Cheers, ….Nick Pelling….

  2. proto57 says:

    Hi Nick: Thanks for the East/North/West corrections… of course Asia is the East, and so on… it was a slip… and my compass is rusty.

    As for “simple substitution”: I agree completely that it is out, and have often written so… in this blog and elsewhere. I’ve been keen to point that out to others on the VMS-net, too, whenever someone begins down that path.

    So I’m not sure how you thought I was advocating this. The concepts I’ve outlined in this post do not rely on the system being substitution, and disallow transposition. Read a couple of my posts on cipher, and you will see where I stand, and some ideas I have on the subject of possible cipher and code systems… whatever is used, labels must allow it to work, unless they are simple pointers to the text… as some have surmised.

  3. Elmar Vogt says:


    I think it’s pretty obvious that the labels on the same spot of different TO-maps in the VM are not the same. But why should they?

    Even under the assumption that in all cases a TO representation of the world is intended (and not some other kind of diagram), the labels could denote different information in each map.

    For example the labels of the first map might read “Europe/Asia/Africa”. In the second instance, it could be “Cool/moderate/hot”, referring to the climate, then “white/brown/black”, explaining the skin colour of people, followed by a map with “Christian/muslim/pagan” for the predominant religion, …

    That sounds reasonable to me. So, drawing conclusions from the fact that the VM labels look different under the assumption that they represent the same words in each TO map appears a little forced to me…

  4. proto57 says:

    Hi Elmar: I disagree with you on this one: I do feel that the words in the two matching sections of the TO-maps are not all that different, and that they are different in ways that could be explained by the various constraints as I outlined. I feel that the beginnings are surprisingly the same, considering their position/associations.

    But of course you are right in that this is “forced”, in the sense that I did set up the parameters of the argument, with certain assumptions, to look at the words in that “forced” environment. That was the baseline of the experiment. Those assumptions are in the post.

    But it does serve it’s purpose… you can agree I think that at least some of the characters are the same, in the words in the same position? You point out that these words might be for different but expected meanings… such as “cool/moderate/hot”, and “white/brown/black”. I agree, and have wondered similarly. And what would the similar beginnings of the words, with different endings, possibly imply?

    One of the systems I have not seen fully explored is that of artificial language… I mean, it is mentioned, but not tested, to my knowledge. But if characters can be used for concepts, as in AL, then it could be like: geographic/temperature/high for one word, and geographic/people/color/brown for another, and geographic/direction/north/ for a third… thus explaining both the similarities and differences.

    My point is again, with my forced assumption that these do represent the same places in the same areas in the TO-maps, it lets us ask “why and what then would this mean?”… which is exactly what you have done with your scenario… under my imposed constraints, you have come up with an alternate explanation. And there may be others, which also may be surmised from what we observe here.

    Thanks as always for your feedback… Rich.

  5. David Scott says:

    Rich…I’ve really been enjoying these articles. One thing, though, you realize that the Aztec codices are written in Spanish? I ask because your wording seemed to imply that this was a peculiarity of Aztec writing, although the case is, the Aztecs used glyphs, or whatever the appropriate term is, I forget. I realize that the Spanish would have taught the Aztec scribes to write Spanish in order that they document all things in that language.
    To get to the point, the detail of the Auben codex resembles signatures with dates. First entry shown (I don’t claim to know Spanish extremely well or to be able to read this antiquated script type) says something about Wednesday….m. (month) of January. Second entry says Sunday…days of the month of January. These remind me of signatures, as if the document, or some of it’s contents, were signed by someone, either by overseers, or by the scribes themselves. Immediately following the first bird glyph is apparently a name, Inomic don (sir) fran ximen (ximenez or the equivalent of jimenez?) If indeed don indicates sir, this would be one of the Spaniards…whether this is a signature or a reference to a person isn’t clear out of context, and in fact, “don” may not be a seperate word…Inomicdon? hard to say the way it’s written.
    The second entry is similar, as following the “bird” is Inovallo Juez and then what may or may not be part of a name, anton (fragment.) There are words shown that could be Spanish spellings of Aztec words, or that are just unclear to me due to script and my own ignorance, but these are just some thoughts based on the limited amount of text visible here.
    At any rate, thanks for your thoughts throughout, I’ll be eager to finish reading your entries after some much needed sleep.
    Thanks, Dave Scott

    • proto57 says:

      Dave: Thank you for your interest, and your interesting input. I should look again to see if there is a translation to the Auben Codex online… perhaps it has, or will, show up. I’d like to know for certain what is in it. Rich.

  6. ellievellie says:

    The T and O maps are connected with the flat Earth view. The Royal Society behind the Voynich were much more hip in my humble impression of the artwork. Check out Vox Clamantis.


  7. Pingback: Voynich-Manuskript enthält mittelalterliche Weltkarte – Klausis Krypto Kolumne

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