Edith Sherwood Ph.D.

The Voynich Manuscript Decoded? Part II

Folio 99r Translation 
Voynich writing - o labada

The next question is, why was this letter written in the first place and what was its significance to the author of the V.M.? While studying the V.M. herbal pages, I observed that the last word on the page of Folio 99r, is O Labada, similar to Folio 116v’s O Ladaba and I assume it referred to the same place.

Figure 5 - Folio 99r

In an earlier article, “The Voynich Manuscript decoded?,”(ix) I describe how I deciphered a few single words, representing herbs, using a modified version of the V.M.’s EVA alphabet(6) and an Italian Anagram Dictionary that is available on the Internet. The decoding and translation of the first paragraph of Folio 99r (Figure 5) showed:

  • The decoded text had nothing to do with the herbal drawings. It appears that the author used the available blank space on this page and possibly other pages (yet to be determined) to write about his experiences in Africa.
  • Decoding the text was more complicated than I first anticipated. Some words were easily decoded but a few offered no meaningful solution, until I realized, as a result of reading Richter’s description of Leonardo da Vinci’s orthography(x), that the author of the V.M., like Leonardo, used a form of phonetic writing and that some words were a combination of two or three words.
  • A few additional letters were added to the modified version of the V.M.’s EVA Alphabet: V.M.'s EVA Alphabet with a few additional letters
  • V.M. examples of the letter P I made an assumption that the letter in the first word in this paragraph that looks like a large ‘P’ represents a ‘V’. Examples of the different ‘P’s used in the V.M. are shown on the right. Do they all represent the same letter or do they represent different letters? The first ‘P’ is the most common and is the one I consider to represent a ‘V’, the second ‘P’ to represent an ‘S’, and the fourth ‘P’ is actually a ‘P’.
  • There are many more letters in the V.M. than in the English or Italian alphabets, so either the V.M. alphabet is degenerate with respect to some letters, or some letters represent abbreviations, or both. It will require more careful work to understand all the idiosyncrasies of this cipher.

I have tried to make my deciphering of this paragraph as transparent as possible. Once I correlate a V.M. letter with a letter from the Roman alphabet, the correlation is never changed. Although I cannot guarantee that the deciphering of this paragraph is completely correct, I will point out that 29 out of the 39 words (73%) that constitute this paragraph, result from single anagrams. The remaining words are from anagrams resulting from the combination of 2 or 3 words and one word appears in triplicate, it is only counted once. Some of the anagrams are degenerate and it required choosing the best word to fit the text.

This paragraph chronicles the Portuguese goals with respect to West Africa(xi):

  • Find the source of the West African gold.
  • Convert the African people to Christianity.

Prince Henry the Navigator, who promoted the Portuguese exploration of the African coast, died in 1460. It is assumed that his death caused all exploration to halt at Sierra Leone. There is no documentation remaining relating to exploration during the next eleven years, except that in 1469, King Afonso V of Portugal granted the merchant, Fernão Gomes, a lease to trade with all Guinea south of Arguim, if he agreed to explore 100 leagues (about 500 kilometers) of coast each year for the next five years and pay 100 milreis per year for the privilege. A number of expeditions were carried out under this contract(xii). Portuguese sailors discovered the source of African gold at El Mina on the coast of Ghana in January 1471 and later the same year reached Cape St.Catherine below the equator (Figure 2). According to a contempory Spanish chronicler, Antonio de Palencia, Gomes paid the Portuguese king “60,000 cruzados of gold, equivalent to the same number of ducats for the right of sending a fleet to Guinea and reaping the profits from such a trade…”(xiii). Considering that Gomes was probably required to provide and pay for the ships (some 20 in number) and their sailors, it would have been very risky to sign this contract unless he knew, from prior exploration of the West African coast, that gold was obtainable at El Mina. The Portuguese were very secretive with respect to their exploration. In 1755 Lisbon was almost completely destroyed by an earthquake followed by a tsunami and fires, resulting in the loss of many historical documents.

The Portuguese were not the only nation interested in West Africa. Between 1453 and 1480 “Aldalusian seamen sent many ships to the West African coast, and that the government of Castile claimed exclusive possession of Guine”(xiv). Spanish records like those of the Portuguese are very limited. The French claim to have discovered West Africa even earlier than the Portuguese or Spanish.

If my deciphering of the first paragraph of Folio 99r is correct, it indicates that the author of the V.M. may have visited an African chief living in O Labada, West Africa, exactly when is unclear, but later than 1460 and probably later than 1471. I should point out that this time and place depends on whether my deciphering of the first two words of the paragraph, Oba Ceve, the Oba is, is correct. This translation depends on whether the fancy V.M. Letter V represents the letter ‘V’. If incorrect, it does not affect the deciphering of the remainder of the paragraph, only its interpretation.

  1. ↑ back European Voynich Alphabet
  1. ↑ back Sherwood, E., 2009, The Voynich Manustript decoded, The Internet
  2. ↑ back Richter, J.P., 1970, The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, Vol I, Dover Publications, New York, p.2.
  3. ↑ back Blake, J.W., 1977, West Africa: Quest for God and Gold 1454-1578, Curzon Press, London, p.4-5.
  4. ↑ back Blake, J.W. 1942, Europeans in West Africa 1450-1560 vol. I, London , The Hakluyt Society, p.3-18
  5. ↑ back Blake, J.W. 1942, Europeans in West Africa 1450-1560 vol. I, London , The Hakluyt Society, p 220.
  6. ↑ back Blake, J.W. 1942, Europeans in West Africa 1450-1560 vol. I, London , The Hakluyt Society, p 185-199.
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