A Rosetta Stone Theory for Decoding the Voynich Manuscript

A Morten St. George Investigation

In most online descriptions of the Voynich Manuscript (VMS), the twenty-three pages of bulleted text (the stars section) found toward the back of the manuscript are "recipes" for the arrangement or cooking of the plants depicted earlier. In an alternative description, those pages were the original source of thirty-nine prophecies that were incorporated into the more than nine hundred prophecies published in France under the name of Nostradamus.

Evidence for the alternative contention will be presented throughout this essay. The implication is that, with parts of the VMS text decoded and published in the 16th century, we have the potential for acquiring a Rosetta Stone helpful for a fresh decoding of the entire manuscript. It is only a matter of identifying the specific lines of VMS glyphs that encode the verses of a specific prophecy.

On the surface, this may seem like an impossible task as no one in contemporary times knows what the undecipherable manuscript has to say, so there can be no way of associating any sequence of VMS glyphs with anything understandable to us. But not all of the VMS text is unintelligible. Specifically, there are four brief lines of text on the last page of the manuscript where we find words that, in addition to the unfamiliar glyphs of the VMS alphabet, contain glyphs that resemble letters of the Latin alphabet. Those four lines are often referred to as marginalia because they may have been added subsequently to the original redaction of the manuscript but, nonetheless, they give us something to work with.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - pox leber - f116v

These here are the first two words of the marginalia found on the last page. Scholars refer to this page as folio 116v (f116v) where the v denotes the back side of a page. According to contemporary handwriting experts, these words say pox leber, German words for goat's liver, which really makes little sense because the VMS concerns itself far more with botany than biology.

At closer inspection, however, we see that the last letter of pox is darker than the rest, suggesting that the x overwrites another letter. One possibility that quickly comes to mind is that the x overwrites an r, giving us por, a common Spanish word meaning by.

Continuing with the Germanic misdirection, we must note that leber, also in darker ink, has the dot of an i above the letter r. One of the two e's could be an i, and the curl of the first e looks like it could be pointing to the dot. In Latin, the word liber means book as a noun and free as an adjective. By moving the final r one place to the left, we get libre, the Spanish word for free.

Por libre, by free. By free what? Curiously, one the Nostradamus prophecies begins with Par cité franche, by free city. Is there a Spanish word for city on f116v?

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - ubren - f116v

To get libre from liber, we needed to move the r one space to the left. If here again we move the r one space to the left, we get urben, and the first four letters of that gives us urbe, a Spanish word for a large urban area or city.

Por libre urbe, by free city. Here is the complete prophecy in the original French:

Nostradamus Prophecy V-35

By free city of the great sea Saline,
That carries encore the stone to the stomach,
English fleet shall come under a drizzle
To grab a branch, from the great one: open war.

Translation notes: the appearance of the word "sel," salt, in the preceding verse (last line of stanza V-34) was taken as a signal to translate "Seline" as Saline (containing salt); the English encore, like its French counterpart, is here employed in the sense of a second achievement of a feat; in the third verse, classe is a Frenchification of the Latin classis, meaning fleet, and in the fourth verse du grand (masculine gender) cannot modify the ouverte guerre (feminine gender).

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - oladabas - f116v

One must assume that this is Spanish as the first few words have already steered us to that language. And indeed we find that ola (the first three letters) is the Spanish word for wave, which fits quite well with the saline sea of the first verse. Meanwhile, dabas is the Spanish word for you gave, from where we understand you gave wave, fair enough for a free city on the sea. But now look closer at that d in the middle of oladabas.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - S - f116v

The bottom part is open, not closed as it should be, and top curves over to the right and there is even a marking further out to the right as if the top should be extended to reach it. In other words, in isolation, that d could easily be construed as an s, actually a capital S when contrasted with the small a's that surround it. Notice that this S is preceded by la, and in reverse, laS gives us Sal, the Spanish word for Salt (the Sel of Seline).

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - portas - f116v

Our scholars generally transcribe this as portas and we concur. Found at the end of the second line on f116v, portas is the Spanish word for you carry. It correlates with the French porte found in the second line of our prophecy. This correlation is significant: we are very lucky to find a match because the marginalia gives us only a few of the thousands of words in the Spanish language.

The free city carries the stone to the stomach. Perhaps this can be envisioned as applying to the city of London in its fight against the Spanish Armada in 1588. In the critical battle, the English inserted fire ships (the stone, something small) into the Spanish fleet (the stomach, something large). Fearing that the fire ships contained explosives, the Spanish ships broke formation from where they were subjected to attack by the faster moving English ships. Curiously, an anonymous play about Edward III, published in 1596, refers to an English fleet as well as to stomachs in a single dialogue:

Well said, young Phillip! Call for bread and Wine,
That we may cheer our stomachs with repast,
… (five lines)
That, with the sulphur battles of your rage,
The English Fleet may be dispersed and sunk.

Wikipedia insinuates that this play makes a grievous error as the French Philip (in the first line) was "historically not yet born" when those events occurred, but the Spanish Philip was very much alive when he sent his Armada against England in 1588.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - abia - f116v

Again, with Spanish considerations, "abia" can be viewed as a contraction of "abierta" seen in the phrase abierta guerra, open war, from at the end of our prophecy. The concept found its way into English literature: "if I claim by open war."

More likely, however, abia (normally spelled habia but note that the h is completely silent in Spanish) is a basic Spanish word meaning there was or there were. There was what?

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - maria - f116v

This word immediately follows abia. Handwriting experts view it as saying Maria and once again we concur. The cross in the middle apparently associates Maria with Christianity, Catholicism, or perhaps a sacrament like baptism or marriage. Indeed, Maria is the Spanish name of an English queen called Mary, beloved wife of King Philip of Spain who sent the Spanish Armada against England. One can imagine that memories of Mary and her devout Catholicism influenced Philip's decision to send an armada to depose the reigning Protestant queen of England.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - ccccc - f116v

C was the Roman numeral for 100. One way of interpreting this sequence from the second line on f116v is to take into account the single C seen in the first group, the first C in the second group as the next two glyphs are blurred, and the three C's seen in the last group, making a total of 500 (5 x C).

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - xxxv - f116v

One way of interpreting this sequence from the third line of f116v is to assume that the X's and V's are Roman numerals, thereby taking into account the final X on the first three words and the V at the beginning of the fourth word. These add up to 35: 3 x X for 30 plus V for 5 more.

If we assume that the letter I should also represent a Roman numeral, we get the following sequence:

IX (9) + X (10) + X (10) + VI (6), which also adds up to 35.

In total, all the numbers add up to 535. As we know, the number of the Saline Sea prophecy is V-35 (535).

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - mich - f116v

The author of the marginalia drops another hint. Toward the end of the fourth line we find the word mich which certainly looks like a truncation of the name Michel, as in Michel Nostradamus.

In case there remains any doubt that the marginalia refers to a Nostradamus prophecy, the author gives us still another clue:

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - umer - f116v

These two words, part of the Germanic misdirection, immediately follow the pox leber in the first line of f116v. Note the dot above and just to the right of the p but there is nothing here that looks like an i. Later, we are going to encounter a capital P with a lower dot to the right of it, taken as a signal to transition the capital P into a small p. Here, we must assume the opposite, a signal to transition the small p into a capital P. Note that German is a language that capitalizes its nouns.

Earlier, we saw that the marginalia abia (in the third line of f116v) could be either a truncation of the Spanish abierta or a truncation of the Spanish habia. With a precedent for truncation at hand, we can also view umer untpfer as a truncation:

u(nter) mer unt(er) Pfer(d)

Unter is the German word for under, mer is the French word for sea as seen in the Nostradamus publication, and Pferd is the German word for horse: under sea under horse, that is, a seahorse. In mythology, seahorses pulled the chariot of Neptune whereupon they come to symbolize the carrying of a cargo across the sea.

By free city of the great sea Saline,
That carries encore the stone to the stomach,

Thus, the seahorse carries the stone across the sea Saline to reach the stomach of our prophecy.


From where within the main body of the VMS was prophecy V-35 derived?

The general area is self-evident: the twenty-three pages of recipes are the only realistic source for prophecies; everything else in the manuscript apparently relates to nearby drawings mainly botanical or cosmological in nature. But, of course, we need to know the specific page and the specific lines on that page.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - aror - f116v

You are looking at the first two words (written entirely in VMS glyphs) of the fourth line of marginalia on f116v.

Voynich Manuscript text - aror - f104r

And these two words are found in line 28 of f104r (the r denotes the front side of a page).

As you can see, there's a match. The point is that these are the only two places in the entire manuscript where this precise sequence of glyphs can be found. Hence, the marginalia unambiguously identifies a specific location within the main text of the VMS. It points us to line 28 on f104r.

Logically, the fourth line of marginalia on f116v (where we find those glyphs) should correspond to the fourth verse of prophecy V-35 and the preceding three verses should lie above it on f104r. Note that at line 28 the tail of a red star in the left margin comes to an end.

F104r is the third page of recipes. It is also the first page on which the stars in the left-hand column (functioning as bullets marking the start of new paragraphs) have tails. The stars on f103r and f103v have no tails. This leads us to suspect that the tails are marginalia marking the lines that were translated into the Nostradamus prophecies.

The top star (a red one opposite line 2) on f104r has a tail that runs into a white star below and from there the tail continues downward one line but has a faint extension that continues further down and finally comes to an end at line 8.

The next tail starts with the black star (possibly blackening out a star erroneously colored red) opposite line 10, runs through the red star at line 12 and comes to an end at line 13.

The next tail starts with the white star opposite line 16, runs through the red star at line 19, then through the white star at line 22 and finally comes to an end at line 23.

The next tail starts with the red star opposite line 27 and runs down just one line, ending at line 28. This is the line to which the marginalia on f116v points us.

In summary, lines 8, 13, 23 and 28 should convert into the four verses of prophecy V-35, with one VMS line in its entirety converting into one prophecy verse in its entirety. Note also that each of the VMS lines can be found between consecutive pairings of two stars to which red coloring has been added.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - mich o - f116v

This here is the end of the final line of marginalia on f116v. As we saw, the mich is suspected of standing for Michel Nostradamus. Note the alignment of four dots (slightly curved reminding us of the tails) above the final glyph that looks like an o. Presumably, each dot represents one of the four verses of the Nostradamus prophecy.

Voynich Manuscript script - o8 - f104r

Lines 8, 13, 23, and 28 on f104r all begin with these two glyphs. As you can see, they all begin with a glyph that looks like the letter o and we can thereby rest assured that we have selected the lines correctly.

Note also that those two glyphs are the same two glyphs with which the VMS decoding alphabet begins (see below).


The marginalia (which includes text on folio 116v, red-colored stars separating verses, and star "tails" highlighting specific lines of VMS script) leads to a Rosetta Stone. In view of the heavy use of the Spanish language in the marginalia, Spanish can be assumed to be the underlying language. For the VMS symbols, we use the popular EVA (Extensible Voynich Alphabet) transcription.

VMS, f104r, line 8:
equates with V-35, First Verse:
ppor vrbē libre dela grā mar ssalina

VMS, f104r, line 13:
equates with V-35, Second Verse:
ccue porta nvevamēte a estomago la piedra

VMS, f104r, line 23:
equates with V-35, Third Verse:
fflota inglesa venir ayvso el frio

VMS, f104r, line 28
equates with V-35, Fourth Verse:
vvna rama prender delo grād guerra abierta

We have made a crude attempt to convert some of the published French translation into 13th century Spanish, which has to be the type of Spanish underlying the VMS encryption in view of historical considerations (see our essay A Brief History of Solomon's Prophecies).

Note that a double small letter was likely used to indicate a capitalization. There would have been no letter "h", which was either omitted or replaced with an "f" ("fablo" for "hablo"). A single "l" apparently stood for "ll", "nn" for "ñ", "i" for "j", and "v" for either "v" or "u". A bar (macron) above a letter may have been used to attach an "m" or an "n". Acute accents were not yet in use, and punctuation was scarce. Though some words came closer to their French or Portuguese counterparts than modern Spanish, by and large 13th century Spanish was the same as modern Spanish.

Back in the year 1800, the Egyptian Rosetta Stone was immediately recognized for what it was, but it still took another twenty years of tedious work to decipher the hieroglyphs. Fortunately, the author of the marginalia has provided us with clues on how to proceed and we will get to that shortly. But first, let's briefly take up a few topics that might prove helpful down the road for breaking the code as well as for identifying the author of the marginalia.


The four lines of text on f116v along with the coloring and tailing of stars in the stars section are not the only relevant marginalia in the VMS. On the very top of f17r there are a few words employing Latin letters (in the same handwriting as what we see on f116v) and to the right of this we see the following drawing:

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - shield - f17r

It's a shield in the form of a heraldic flower known as the fleur de lys.

Curiously, we find a shield in the form of a fleur de lys on the front cover of an English botanical book (most of the VMS likewise concerns plants) called The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes (henceforth Herball), dated 1597, where it forms the pedestal of an unidentified poet laureate:

Herball 1597 image - poet and pedestal

And here's a close-up view of the shield:

Herball 1597 image - pedestal shield

Notice the Arabic numeral 4 as well as a few letters that can be construed as Roman numerals. On the first line, there's an L (50). The 4 (4) has an exceptionally long shaft and the lower part can be construed as an I (1). On the bottom there are three X's (10 each for a total of 30) reminding us of the three X's in the third line of 116v. These numbers add up to 85 (50 + 4 +1 + 30) and on a foldout behind f85r in the VMS we find:

Voynich Manuscript Drawing - fleur de lys - f85v - foldout

That's an unambiguous fleur de lys in his hand, resulting that Herball points back to the VMS.

To continue, notice that in concept similar to how the Roman XL is 40, the 4L can be construed as 46. The L is followed by an OR below. We see what looks like a comma after the R but there is reason to believe that it is really an apostrophe the rises up to place itself to the right of the top of the L, giving us L'OR.

This is Nostradamus stanza X-46:

Nostradamus Stanza X-46

Notice the L'OR in the middle of the first line. We used the word "stanza" rather than "prophecy" because this may not be a true VMS prophecy but merely a placeholder to mark the Centurie (this is the 10th group of 100 stanzas) of the fleur de lys. Returning now to the shield and considering only the Roman numerals, we get L (50), then IX (9) as the central shaft merges into one of the X's on the bottom, then two more X's (20), making a total of 79. This is prophecy X-79:

Nostradamus Prophecy X-79

And here we spot the "fleur de lys" at the end of the third line. Thus, the numbers on the poet's shield point us to two fleur-de-lys, one in the VMS and the other in the Nostradamus prophecies, and in this manner the two books are linked together as source and output.

Herball, almost certainly inspired by the VMS plants, remains to this day one of the largest botany books ever published in the English language. Some might suspect that the scientists who wrote it probably had never heard of Nostradamus. To dispel any such doubts, we need only note that at the end of the final paragraph of a Herball dedicatory of one botanist to another, we inexplicably find the words: "Nostradami, Salonmensis Gallo prouincie." Nostradamus lived in the town of Salon in the French (Gallo) province of Provence.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - gal mich - f116v

Returning briefly to the marginalia on f116v, we see that the first word here looks like a truncation of the Latin gallo, or even the Spanish galo, both referring to a native of Gaul, from where we understand Mich(el Nostradamus), Frenchman.


As we saw, a VMS prophecy could have inspired the English navy to be aggressive against the Spanish fleet and even have helped them to develop a specific strategy. It would therefore seem that Charles Howard (Lord Admirable of the English navy from 1585 to 1619) owed his poet laureate (presumed contributing decoder of the VMS prophecies and author of the marginalia) a big favor for providing him with crucial information on how to defeat the Spanish Armada. Where and how Howard initiated contact with the unidentified poet laureate is unknown, but he certainly should have had contact with diverse writers since, prior to being promoted to Lord Admirable, he was Lord Chamberlain of the Household with direct authority over players who performed before the Queen.

The favor? Howard became a staunch defender of the London theater and is particularly noted for having successfully defeated efforts by the city of London to close down the theaters on morality grounds. He was also the patron of the Admiral's Men, one of the two leading groups of actors in London, and he married the daughter of Henry Carey who replaced him as Lord Chamberlain and became the founder and patron of the other leading group of actors, called the Lord Chamberlain's Men. Our poet laureate could have had ties to any of the above as well as to the Lord Burghley, opposite whom he is depicted on the cover of Herball.


As evidenced by an extant letter of doubtful authenticity, dated 1666, someone called Godefridus Kinner, living in Prague, wrote to someone called Athanasius Kircher, living in Italy. In this letter, Kinner inquiries if he (Kircher) has made any progress in decoding the VMS, saying that he (Kinner) was anxious to find out what it says. In the next paragraph, Kinner highly recommends that he (Kircher) read a book called "Atlantidis."

We find the word "Atlantidis" (precise spelling) in a publication dated 1648 with reference to a book called Novus Atlas published therein. It turns out that Novus Atlas is merely the Latin version of New Atlantis, a book published in English in 1627 and attributed to Sir Francis Bacon.

A great mystery is why New Atlantis was suddenly called Novus Atlas, New Atlas? Thomas Tenison, Archbishop of Canterbury in the late 17th century, is quoted as saying: "This fable of the New Atlantis in the Latin edition of it, and in the Frankfort collection, goeth under the false and absurd title of Novus Atlas : as if his lordship had alluded to a person, or a mountain, and not to a great island, which according to Plato perished in the ocean."

As absurd as it may be, there is reason to believe that the mountain is correct. In Herball, in the first line of the first Epigramma, we read:

"Define quae vastis pomeria montibus Atlas"

This was some seventeen years prior to publication of the Rosicrucian manifesto (Fama Fraternitatis) which alludes to the Atlas Mountains by referring to a place that draws its name from the old Berber name (Fazaz) of those mountains:

Fama Fraternitatis Fama Fez

Today, it is a large city in Morocco but centuries ago they must have been wondering: why in the world are the prophecies (VI-54) referring to a trading post of the African desert?

In any case, it seems that the Atlas Mountains, along with the insignia RC and its derivatives, became a secret trademark whereby people in the know could identify writings of Rosicrucian origin. Here's an example from English literature:

"The demi-Atlas of this earth, the arm"

The demi indicates that this Atlas is only half the term, ie. is missing the mountains. Elsewhere in the book we read:

"That raught at mountains with outstretched arms,"

Thus, via the arm(s) at the end of each line, the Atlas of the first line picks up the mountains from second line. Of course, a direct referral to the Atlas Mountains could always be coincidental, but this demi rendering successfully stamps the respective book as a product of the Rose Cross.

Similarly, Novus Atlas (by virtue of its ridiculous title) has to be a product of the Rose Cross. With no discredit to the greatness of Francis Bacon, it is surprising that his name appears on the cover of New Atlantis (published after Bacon's death) because at that time the real Rosicrucians never published anything in the true name of one of their members. Indeed, such a thing would run contrary to their oath of secrecy and pledge to renounce all recognition or reward for their undertakings, as mandated in their manifesto.

The Herball, for its part, also points us to the New Atlantis:

"To conclude this point, the example of Saloman is before the rest and greater, whose wisdome and knowledge was such, that he was able to set out the nature of all plantes, from the highest Cedar to the lowest Mosse."

And the New Atlantis phrases it like this:

"So as I take it to be denominate of the King of the Hebrews, which is famous with you, and no stranger to us; for we have some parts of his works which with you are lost; namely, that natural history which he wrote of all plants, from the cedar of Libanus to the moss that groweth out of the wall;"

Wikipedia fails to inform us that the biblical Solomon wrote a natural history of plants which has been lost, nor a lost book of prophecies for that matter. Regardless, for lack of a better name, from here on we will refer to the VMS prophecies as Solomon's Prophecies.

It is most curious that the Herball spells Solomon as Saloman (the correct Latin spelling of Solomon is Salomon) because a modern rendition of the New Atlantis likewise uses the Saloman spelling:

"It was the erection and institution of an order, or society, which we call Saloman's House, the noblest foundation, as we think, that ever was upon the earth, and the lantern of this kingdom. It is dedicated to the study of the works and creatures of God. Some think it beareth the founder's name a little corrupted, as if it should be Solomon's House. But the records write it as it is spoken."

But the records write it as it is spoken. Perhaps the underlying text of the VMS is not formal writing but rather a rendering of languages the way they are pronounced? For sure, this could explain abia in place of habia in the marginalia on f116v. Moreover, similar to how the Latin alphabet is used to represent many languages, the VMS glyphs could represent the sounds of many languages. Which languages?

"In which scroll were written in ancient Hebrew, and in ancient Greek, and in good Latin of the school, and in Spanish these words: Land ye not ..."

We already know about the Spanish. This passage adds Hebrew, Greek, and Latin to the list, but the "Greek" might not constitute more than six words written in ancient Greek in the prophecies themselves. The "good Latin" (as "gut Latein") also pops up in the Fama Fraternitatis:

"allda lehrnet er die Arabische Spraach besser, wie er dann gleich in folgendem Jahr das Buch vnd librum M. in gut Latein gebracht,"

This likely adds Arabic to the list of VMS languages. Thus, in the stars section, all the individual lines in between the stars colored red, all say the same thing, but each line in a different language, except possibly for the short lines whose function and meaning remain to be determined. The marginalia has identified for us the four Spanish lines for one of the prophecies.

In the given scenario, it would make sense for decoders to try to work with at least two lines simultaneously, comparing and contrasting these languages against each other to get a better rendering of each. For example, if it is doubtful whether a word in the English line should be bear or bare, and if the corresponding Spanish line says oso, the decoders would immediately know that bear has to be correct.


The poet laureate did not limit his helpful marginalia to what we saw on f17r and f116v. There are additional markings.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - mini star - f106r

This star on f106r is highlighted by a miniature star just above it. If the intention is to denote a title line, it could be referring to the title line of the following Incantation:

Nostradamus Legis Cantio

This is the only stanza in Nostradamus written entirely in Latin and the only stanza with a title line. The star trails on this page tend to point to lines that begin with a glyph that looks like the number 9. Thus, this glyph (at the beginning of lines) could be marking lines written in Latin.

The title line gives the Incantation a total of five lines. The thirty-nine Solomon prophecies have four lines each. In grand total therefore, there should be 161 lines. To divide up continuous text by placing stars in the left margin, you need one more star than the number of sections. Thus, for 161 sections, you need 162 stars to mark the beginning and ending of each section. The stars section does in fact have 162 stars marked with red coloring.

The number thirty-nine was not invented by us. Three editions of the Nostradamus prophecies published in the 16th century (Roffet, 1588; Roger, 1589; and Ménier, 1589) refer to "trente-neuf articles" on their title page. All three editions present mathematical schema based on the deletion and replacement of thirty-nine stanzas scattered throughout the text.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - three dots - f107r

This star on f107r is marked with three dots to the left.

The word "tiers" (meaning third) appears in the first line of prophecy III-77 and also in the last line of prophecy VIII-83. Meanwhile, we find the word "trois" (meaning three) in prophecy VI-2.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - six dots - f107v

This star on the top of f107v is marked with three dots to the left and three dots to the right. It could mark the end (last line) of the preceding three-dot star if this be a rare instance where the pages run consecutively. Alternatively, it could refer to prophecy II-51 which contains the words "trois les six," three the six.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - first glyph - f103r

Stars broadly-colored red (as opposed to red dots in the center) are found on f103r, f104r (our V-35 prophecy) and f108r. In the Nostradamus text, V-35 is preceded by Solomon Prophecy IV-89 and followed by Solomon Prophecy V-81. One or both of these might be represented on f103r and/or f108r. On cabalistic spheres, V-35 follows prophecy IX-49 which should also be considered.

Take special note of the first glyph depicted in the stars section. This glyph tends to appear at the beginning or within the first line of paragraphs and is rarely seen elsewhere. This suggests that the first line of the respective paragraphs could be a distinct language, or that the first line is used in conjunction with another line found below it (perhaps running in the opposite direction around the circles) to mark alignments.

The New Atlantis provides us with two lists of languages, and both lists begin with Hebrew. The first list was cited above, and here is the second list reaffirming the multiplicity of languages encoded into the VMS:

"There was also in both these writings, as well the Book, as the Letter, wrought a great miracle, conform to that of the Apostles, in the original Gift of Tongues. For there being at that time in this land Hebrews, Persians, and Indians, besides the natives, every one read upon the Book, and Letter, as if they had been written in his own language."

The Book is understood to be the thirty-nine prophecies and the Letter ("epistula" in the Latin version) is understood to be the Incantation (see above). Meanwhile, the Persians, if not alluding to a prophecy where Persia is a theme, are suspected of being only a diversion to trick us into envisioning a transition from the Holy Land to the country of India (which makes no appearance in the prophecies), while the word "natives" points us to the true intention: these Indians are native Americans. See our essay A Brief History of Solomon's Prophecies for more information.


We find more marginalia at the top of f105r:

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - funny glyph - f105r

The marginalia here are the question marks (?) written across the first glyph, possibly suggesting that we should search to find it elsewhere. Minus the final loop (possibly an error made by an overenthusiastic scribe), we find this glyph on f57v where it is the 14th glyph in each of four series of 17 glyphs placed around one of the concentric circles (the alphabet wheel). Thus, the author of the marginalia has pointed us to these circles.

Voynich Manuscript circles - f57v

Note that there is an empty circle between the circles that have glyphs within, as if to be leaving us space to wrap in, and around the circle, a line from one of the Solomon prophecies drawn from the stars section. Also note that running down from the upper left toward the center, a faint start here line (possibly marginalia) crosses the alphabet wheel and neighboring wheels containing text.

Of the 17 glyphs (which is perhaps what truly represent sounds or letters of the Latin alphabet), only eight or nine are regularly seen in the writing. This suggests use of a substitution grille. For example, we could rotate a line of text around the circle until a certain number of glyphs match (glyphs in the text matching glyphs in the four series of 17), whereupon one or more of the other glyphs in the text are exchanged for glyphs in those series of 17.

Note that VMS text tends to average a bit more than 60 glyphs (including spaces) per line and Solomon's Prophecies a bit less than 40 letters (including spaces) per line. This implies that the VMS uses nulls or fillers, or that five glyphs like aiiin, frequently seen together as a group, constitute a single sound or letter, thereby bringing the character counts closer together. The grouping possibilities in common use are far from limitless so surely they can be taken into account in a decoding program.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - shield - f17r

We here repeat the poet's shield from f17r to observe that this shield is placed right up against the number 17, once again pointing us to the four series of 17 glyphs on the alphabet wheel. Let's now turn our attention to the first three words of marginalia (to the left of the shield) at the very top of f17r:

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - three words - f17r

The first word, meillior, looks like a mixture of the French meilleur and the Latin melior. Both words mean better. For whatever reason, the author seems to be breaking away from Spanish here.

The second word, allar, does indeed look like Spanish where the double ell has a pronunciation closer to the French meilleur than it would, for example, to the English follow. Recall that that the VMS writes words by how they are pronounced, not by how they might be spelled in a formal dictionary of the respective language. Recall also that in the marginalia of f116v, the Spanish habia was redacted as abia. Here too the allar needs to be preceded by a silent h, giving us hallar, a very common Spanish verb meaning to find.

Better to find. With these words it certainly looks like the author wishes to give us a clue on how to decode the VMS. But better to find what? Well, it has to be the next word:

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - target word - f17r

The first letter here looks like a P, but with a dot to the right of it (at the height of the top of the u), and with a backslash pointing down, it might be meant as the letter p or, alternatively, a variant form of writing one of the tower glyphs. Earlier, the opposite procedure got us umer untPferd. Unambiguously, a u follows. Recall that on f116v we had to transform liber into libre, and ubre into urbe, in each case moving one letter one space to the left. Thus, we must consider both possibilities: pu(?)(?) and up(?)(?).

Under the mysterious bar, the first glyph is the 16th glyph in the series of 17 glyphs repeated four times around the alphabet wheel on f57v.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - 16th glyph - f57v

It's the one in the middle. Note that in the first of the four series of 17, the 16th glyph begins with a backslash rather than a c, so this glyph might represent two different sounds or two different Latin letters. Similarly, we see slight discrepancies in other glyphs so perhaps twenty or more different sounds or letters are represented in those series of 17.

The second glyph under the bar resembles the 8th glyph in the series of 17 glyphs repeated around the alphabet wheel.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - 8th glyph - f57v

Again, it's the one in the middle.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - auxiliary word - f17r

The first letter of the second word following our mystery word (the one in the same tone of ink) looks like utter confusion between the letters u and v, so we should probably add pv(?)(?) and vp(?)(?) to the potential targets.

Voynich Manuscript marginalia - valsch - f116v

In the fourth line of f116v, the Germanic misdirection valsch, likely meaning false or falsely, begins with a v that could almost be mistaken for a u, and it precedes ubren, so possibly we can here infer confirmation of confusion between the letters u and v.

In view of the break from Spanish at the beginning of the marginalia on f17r, our target word could probably come from any language, even from English for that matter granted that the VMS has strong ties to England. Indeed, the faint word following the target word begins with an h (surely a hint to insert an h before allar) and could be construed as the word how, implying that our mystery word might very well be an English word.

But one thing is for sure: there is no such word, in any of the given possibilities, in the VMS. Where are we supposed to find it?


Here we turn our attention to another enigma: Who wrote the VMS marginalia? The marginalia itself points us to the pedestal of poet laureate and thus we have every reason to suspect that this unnamed poet was the author. The front cover of Herball provides us with the following depiction:

Herball 1597 image - poet close-up

The other three personages depicted on the front cover (the botanist John Gerard, the botanist Matthias de l'Obel, and His Lordship William Cecil) are all easily identifiable from extant portraits. Moreover, the Dedications on the opening pages of Herball refer to all three of them. But for our poet laureate, there is nothing.

At least one renowned literary scholar has studied this Herball depiction and, though it was acknowledged that the Herball portrays a poet laureate, apparently this depiction cannot be associated with any poet known to humankind.

Thus, we will probably never know the identity of the author of the VMS marginalia, but, for some consolation, the same cannot be said of the checkered flower that he is holding in his right hand:

By this the boy that by her side laie kild,
Was melted like a vapour from her sight,
And in his blood that on the ground laie spild,
A purple floure sproong vp, checkred with white,
Resembling well his pale cheekes, and the blood,
Which in round drops, vpō their whitenesse stood.

That checkered flower (with the correct colors named) can be found in the fourth line. But wait a minute. What's that "vpō" in the last line? The ō isn't an English letter and it appears nowhere else in that book. And there's a mysterious bar over the top of it, just like the two glyphs from f17r.

Poetry image - vpō

Beware that the v of vpō is really a u, which could lead one to surmise that the English cherished silliness so much that they would sometimes write a u like a v. Luckily, that madness came to pass just a few decades later but for the moment we are stuck with it. Searching through the entire text for words of four letters matching any of the four spelling possibilities, we found twenty instances of the word vpon and nothing else. The only instance of vpō was the one in our citation. So that has to be the answer: vpō stands for vpon or, in modern English, the word upon.

Thus, the 16th glyph of the series of 17 could represent the Latin letter o and 8th glyph of the series of 17 could represent the Latin letter n. Alternatively, one glyph might stand for the letter p and the other for the letter ō (representing on). It is not much to go on for decoding the VMS, but at least it is a start.

Let's also mention that the poet laureate did not entirely rely on an expectation that some reader of his marginalia would just happen to notice a checkered flower in that Herball depiction of him. He also had a Plan B, another route for us to find the mysterious target word. In an introductory section of Herball entitled "To the courteous and well-willing Readers," we read:

"Wither did the Poets hunt for their syncere delights, but into the gardens of Alcinous, of Adonis, and the orchards of Hesperides?"

One can only wonder: Could one of those words in italics be alluding to the title of the poem where the willing Reader should hunt for the mystery word?

But this much remains certain: a brilliant poet laureate wrote the marginalia to provide a few hints on how to break the VMS code.


Our Rosetta Stone does not imply that a fresh decoding of Solomon's Prophecies (in the stars section of the VMS) will be forthcoming anytime soon: we were provided with only vague indications of the complex processes whereby the VMS glyphs transcribe into words written in the Latin alphabet.

To all appearances, the VMS code was designed to be broken only by someone with specialized knowledge, for example, by someone who knew how to maneuver strings of text (either glyphs or letters), perhaps oscillating them forwards and backwards, around the wheels of the Merkabah (on f57v).

Presumably, when the correct alignments are reached, consonants get paired with vowels (vocalizations) on the opposite side of the wheels to form gates representing the sounds of Middle Eastern or European languages (it is plausible that each line between the red-colored stars says the same thing but in a different language).

Also useful could be knowledge of rotating polygons to rearrange the order of glyphs or letters placed around a circle, knowledge of spheres of emanations, knowledge of the six directions of space, knowledge of the names of God including the 42 and 72 letter names, knowledge of right to left transliterations, and knowledge of gematria.

Today, there may be no one alive who knows how to work the wheels leaving little hope for a breakthrough. Fortunately for the Rosicrucians in 1585, just such a person had joined their secret society:

"The first of this Fraternity which died, and that in England, was I.O., as Brother C. long before had foretold him; he was very expert, and well learned in Cabala, as his Book H [presumably the Sefer Yetzirah written in Hebrew] witnesseth."

"the same author amongst you (as it seemeth) had some relation from the Egyptian priest [translation of sacerdote Aegyptio] whom he cited."

"Jerusalem was not so much now in his mind as Damcar [symbolizing the city of Safed]; also he could not bridle his desires any longer, but made a bargain with the Arabians that they should carry him for a certain sum of money to Damcar … There the Wise Men received him not as a stranger (as he himself witnesseth), but as one whom they had long expected;"

"they call him also the Milken Way [aka Leo], and the Eliah of the Messiah; and many other high names; which though they be inferior to his divine majesty, yet they are far from the language of other Jews."

Most of these words accurately describe a Cabalist who allegedly died in 1572, some dozen or more years prior to the decoding of the VMS. On the other hand, the falsification of one's death and/or burial place appears to have been a Rosicrucian norm.

For more information:

A Brief History of Solomon's Prophecies

Useful links:

High quality TIFF images of the VMS (Yale U.)
f57v: 1006187.tif — f104r: 1006256 — f116v: 1006277.tif

Complete text of Solomon's Prophecies (PDF file)

Some years ago Morten St. George wrote a book about his early efforts to locate Solomon's Prophecies (not then called by that name) within the Nostradamus prophecies. It provides English translation and commentary on dozens of prophecies. Anyone interested in this theme can acquire his book as a paperback or Kindle ebook from Amazon.com:

Incantation of the Law Against Inept Critics
Paperback Edition

Incantation of the Law Against Inept Critics
Kindle Edition

Sale proceeds are used to promote the author's theories but people without funds to spare should note that parts of the book and much of the information contained therein can be found online and read free of charge.