Tuesday, 4 December 2007

365 starred paragraphs (revisited)...?

Just thought I'd post a quick comment about Vladimir Sazonov's suggestion that the "starred" recipe pages in the Voynich Manuscript form some kind of calendar, ie that they originally contained 365 / 366 stars arranged in some kind of date order. Here's his page (from Sept 2005) describing this idea:-

The basic idea of a calendar here is not new: D'Imperio noted ("An Elegant Enigma", p.21, 3.3.7) that Tiltman pointed out in 1975 that the original star-count would very probably have been 365, "thereby providing one 'star recipe' for each day of the year, possibly a set of astrological predictions or prescriptions." The essence of Vladimir's new idea is to count the days forward from the start and from the end, and to then note that many of them start at the 1st of the month (particularly in the second half). Feb 29th/Mar 1st would then align with a particularly ornate star, and there is a tiny star apparently added at the Spring Equinox.

If true, then to make the remaining 324 starred paragraphs fit the magical 365/366 number, the two folios (f109 and f110) in the missing central bifolio of the last quire would need to contain 41 or 42 starred paragraphs, ie roughly 10-11 per page. This is possible... but seems somehow out of sequence to me, as the only two folios with 10 on a page are f105 and f116. Also, Vladimir's March/April/May/June seem just out of step, as though a few extra days have been inserted before them.

One important thing to consider here would be whether the pages as numbered are in the correct order (as per my book). If the rest of the ms is anything to go by, the answer would probably that it is not, but that there is still a high chance that any two adjacent folios were originally adjacent.

Here are some alternative ideas for a calendrical solution. If you group the months of the year together into sets of 3 at a time, you get the following four possible quarterly cycles:-

  • Jan - 90+1 / 91 / 92 / 92
  • Feb - 89+1 / 92 / 92 / 92
  • Mar - 92 / 92 / 91 / 90+1

Interestingly, f106-f108 contain 91 stars and f111-113 contain 92 stars in total. If these correspond to the Apr-Jun and Jul-Sep quarters, this might suggest that the f109/f110 bifolio was originally placed somewhere between the outermost bifolio 103/116 and the bifolio 106/113. If so, f109 might have contained only 10 or 11 stars (to bring 79 up to 90+1), while f110 might have contained 31 (to bring 61 up to 92).

At first sight, this seems counterintuitive: why have a folio with only 10 stars on? I would point out that the author has already done this on f116 (which would mark the end of the calendar year), while the 10-star f109 would also contain the end of the astrological year (at the Spring Equinox).

I also suspect that the 106/113 bifolio is out of order: and so my proposed sequence of pages would then be something along the lines of:-

  1. f103 - 19+14 - Jan 1st
  2. f104 - 13+13 - Feb 3rd
  3. f105 - 10+10 - Mar 1st
  4. f109 - 10+0 - Mar 21st - Spring Equinox to end of month, followed by blank page
  5. f107 - 15+15 - Apr 1st
  6. f108 - 16+16 - May 1st
  7. f106 - 15+14 - Jun 2nd
  8. f113 - 16+15 - Jul 1st
  9. f111 - 17+19 - Aug 1st
  10. f112 - 12+13 - Sep 6th
  11. f110 - 16+15 - Oct 1st
  12. f114 - 13+12 - Nov 1st
  13. f115 - 13+13 - Nov 26th
  14. f116 - 10+0 - Dec 22nd - Winter Solstice to end of month, followed by blank page

I don't claim to know why this should be so: but it seems to me a slightly better calendrical match than Vladimir's proposal. Perhaps one day when I get the chance to re-examine these pages, I might notice something that might confirm or refute one or both of these ideas... something to think about, all the same. :-)

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