There is a wiki page which includes a section called ‘Voynich Jargon’.

It is so badly out-of-date, even though edited last in January 2018 (today is March 5th., 2018) that I publish corrections here.


Nymph =  a term sometimes used to mean one of the small naked women figures, a majority of whom are drawn as females, and which are seen in some sections of the manuscript.    the pages of the balneological and astrological sections.

Picnic Table = an inverted V shape with a flat line across the top (not a gallows character). In EVA this is character <x>.

Quire = a set of bifolios folded around a central “gutter” into a small chapter-like entity: typically in European and Byzantine manuscripts 16 pages long (quaternion).   Less than half the Voynich manuscript is made of quaternions.   The rest is made of  fold-outs (termed ‘quires’ for convenience), and of quires larger than the quarternion.  Quinons – of 20 pages – are considered a characteristic of Semitic and of Irish manuscripts but do occur in western Christian manuscripts.  Within the western Mediterranean, senions are generally identified with Sephardi Jewish origin, and the lowest quire in the Voynich manuscript is a senion.   If a manuscript’s folios are numbered (as they are now in the VMS – usually on the bottom right of the back of each quire),  the numbering is referred to as its quiration.


Voynich Section Jargon

Herbal pages = pages with a single type of plant on a convention for  describing pages from the manuscript which show pictures of plants.  Their description is by analogy with one form of western botanical imagery, an analogy generally presumed but which is disputed in detail by some. Over the past century no-one has found any convincing counterpart for the Voynich manuscript’s botanical section(s) in a herbal of the Latin, the Byzantine or the Islamic tradition.

Pharma pages = a conventional description for pages which show in parallel rows the roots and leaves of plants (only) with what appear to be containers of non-European type.  Formerly imagined ‘majolica’, the manuscript’s radiocarbon dating and their form and colour make it very unlikely that these containers are rightly compared to ‘maiolica’ (or ‘majolica’).  multiple plants and apothecary jars (maiolica)

“Astrological pages” =  is used different senses by different Voynich writers.   Some imagine the diagrams on f70v2-f73v had an astrological purpose, but no convincing evidence supports that idea as yet.   Comparison of these roundels with the form of the volvelle is also by analogy and has doubtful value except to mislead… unless some solid connection is proven.

Astronomical pages =  a means to describe pages showing stars and/or ‘nymphs’ and which some writers apply more broadly, and others (more narrowly) to mean folios  f67r1..f70r2, etc.

“9-rosette page” = a term coined while the Voynich map remained un-read.  The analysis which proved that drawing a map was provided by D.O’Donovan in 2011. Two or three earlier comments had suggested the same, but no detailed investigation had been done, and the issue had been unresolved  – hence the earlier, generalised and descriptive (but erroneous) term.  O’Donovan has emphasised that the style of this map does not accord with any tradition of western cartography though elements in it also appear in Genoese and Majorcan cartes marine produced during the fourteenth century.

“Recipe / Ephemeris pages” –  terms used for convenience and no more than traditions in Voynich writings.  They are used to refer to  the manuscript’s final section in which the folios show only text and small ‘star-flowers’.  It has been suggested that these star-flowers are paragraph divisions after the style seen in some Islamic and especially Persian manuscripts.

“Balneological” pages = again a purely impressionistic description though some writers have made the mistake of presuming it literal and have expended a great deal of energy in arguing that the drawings show a plumber’s guide to creating women’s bathing establishments or matter of similar sort.    Folios 75r-84v.

Key-like sequences = pages with 1+ sets of single glyphs in a row/column/circle

Front page = f 1r

“Magic circle page” = a fairly recent flight-of-fancy, it is an imaginative way of referring to f57v.

“Fertilisation / Seed” page =  another resort to impressionistic description; in this case necessitated by the impossible ‘folio’ numbers created by the Beinecke’s re-foliation, which makes it  (and I quote)  “part-of-85-86-foldout”.     It was previously, and more comfortably, described as folio 86r-2. (Rumour has it that the re-foliation was designed by a committee which accorded serious consideration to the wishes of an anchorman from the Austrian television company which brought us the tests from McCrone and the University of Arizona’s radiocarbon dating.

Until the Beinecke library’s foliation was changed  “folio 86v” meant the Voynich map, now re-foliated as  ’85v-and-86r’, which is unusable and almost unspeakable.  Hence the invention or revival of impressionistic descriptions, most of which are sure to be taken literally by the next generation.


The michiton oladabas page = the last page of the manuscript – better called ‘the last page of the manuscript’.   An often-mentioned reading by Professor Romaine Newbold of a non-Voynichese inscription on this folio was  ‘michiton olabadas’.

Linguistics/Statistics Voynich Jargon

Core-mantle-crust theory = three separate categories to group letters into: part of a VMS grammar proposed by Jorge Stolfi, explained in depth at

Entropy = an overall measure of how unpredictable a sequence of numbers is. However, if you change how you predict what the next number is (ie, change the context or model), and you’ll get a different entropy value. If you change how you transcribe the text, you’ll get a different entropy value too.

Glyph = a single connected entity on a page. Some glyphs are ambiguous, such as the   “4o” which appears to be a ligatured pair but is not necessarily so.  Opinions differ…

(The) Kober/Ventris Approach = the way that Linear B was famously decoded by Michael Ventris, who built his ideas around the patterns noticed by Alice Kober (typically a common triplet at the start of some groups of five symbols, which she suspected formed some kind of root). If the VMS is actually a language, then Kober/Ventris would be relevant, as they decoded Linear B without the help of bilingual texts (like the Rosetta stone, etc). For more info, go to

Stroke = a single pen-stroke in a glyph.

Transcription = A copy made of a text, either by hand or by other means. Typically, if proposing a translation of a difficult or problematic text, the page should contain lines in triplets: (1) the original text in transcription (2) the original text in phonemic transcription to show how the translator understands the original and (3) the proposed translation.  Transcription and translation are inconclusive.  Transcription can also mean the conversion of a text into (ASCII) characters.  In Voynich studies, there are two major forms of ASCII transcription – the stroke-based systems (including EVA, devised by Landini with assistance from Zandbergen) and glyph-based transcriptions.


Cryptography / Shorthand Voynich Jargon

Cipherbet = a contraction of “cipher alphabet” coined by Nick Pelling.

Cleartext = the original text before encoding. Same as plaintext.

Ciphertext = plaintext that has been enciphered/encoded (perhaps encoded text should be called Codetext, but that seems somehow ugly and unusable, I don’t know why).

Code / Cipher = a system to fiddle around with text. Technically, codes replace words with a number reference (a code index) and ciphers replace letters with other letters: though nomenclature (whereby particular key words were replaced by special symbols) forms a kind of bridge between the two types of systems.

Cryptanalysis = the art/science of breaking codes/ciphers.

Cryptography = the art/science of making codes/ciphers.  This term and cryptology are often used interchangeably by non-cryptologists.

Cryptology = the overall science of code-making and code-breaking

Monoalphabetic = a cipher system that only ever has a single (output) replacement character for a single (input) plaintext character. It’s long been agreed that, if the VMs is encoded, it’s using a system that’s more complex than just a monoalphabetic cipher. cf polyalphabetic.

Notarikon = a system of Qabbalistic word manipulation whereby phrases are transformed into their acronyms (and words expanded back into phrases as if they were acronyms), typically to reveal deeper truths in the Torah. Often described as a kind of possible shorthand / code mechanism, but rarely actually used.

Pair cipher = a cipher which replaces one or more plaintext letters with a pair (or group) of letters from the cipherbet. AKA a verbose cipher.

Plaintext = raw text that hasn’t been fiddled around with at all.  Everyone working on the Voynich text hopes that it is basically a fairly decent sort of plaintext.. underneath it all.

Polyalphabetic = a cipher system that has multiple monoalphabetic (qv) ciphers, which it selects between according to context. A “straight polyalpha” will change context every letter, and loop around after (say) every 26 letters: when breaking polyalphas, you often try to discern this “heartbeat”. Unless the text has an internal “rhythm” that matches the internal rhythm of the context change, this typically has the effect of emitting all letters at roughly the same rate – which we don’t observe in the VMS. So, if it isn’t a monoalpha, & it isn’t a straight polyalpha… what is it?

Steganography = a system to hide text in plain sight. Rather than relying on mathematics, this relies on psychology and misdirection to distract the eye from seeing the text. Hiding text in JPEGs or WAVs is the modern form of steganography (various intelligence agencies claimed that Al-Qaeda was doing this, but AFAIK have failed to find even one) – but people have taken delight in hiding secret messages in pictures since time immemorial.

Stenography = a modern name for shorthand. Often confused with steganography (qv), even by people who should know better. 🙂

Tachygraphy = a shorthand system based around writing a limited number of symbols at speed, typically by using a specially designed “single-stroke” alphabet to take notes onto a wax tablet with a stylus.

Verbose cipher = a cipher which replaces one or more plaintext letters with a pair (or group) of letters from the cipherbet: such systems date back to at least 1440. AKA pair cipher.

Miscellaneous Voynich Jargon

Albarelli = maiolica containers (like small barrels) for potions and lotions.  Albarellos have been shown to have consistent forms from their creation (as imitation of Chinese wares), though their Byzantine and Aegean imitations (during the 12th and 13thC) to their final appearance in western Europe.   The containers shown in the Voynich manuscript’s calendar folios are not albarellos by any measure: the form is different, the ornament is different and the formation of the upper rim is different.  Disproof of the ‘albarello’ hypothesis was published a couple of years ago.   These are relevant to the “barrels” with nymphs in (which Edith Sherwood talks about) in the low-numbered astrological volvelle pages, as these could well be albarelli: the complexity of the glazing designs grew steadily throughout the 15th Century, so moved from austere Islamic geometric shapes (circa 1440-1450) through to complex historical scenes (circa 1510). Similarly, the number of colours that could be employed sensibly increased over the same period – these would date the VMS’ albarelli to (say) 1460-1470 (few colours, geometric designs).

Antidotary = manuscript or book from the 15th/16th Century describing recipes, mixtures, plants, jars, etc.

Apothecary = medieval / early modern pharmacist or chemist of western Europe.  The role which was filled in western Europe by the apothecaries was perceived differently elsewhere, and described by different terms.   was differently defined in other parts of the world, including Islam, where the The “apothecary oncia” symbol (a ‘cursive z’ with a bar above it), denoting an ounce or fluid ounce, was a frequent feature of early modern recipes, and is often transcribed as “3”. This means a frequent pattern there is “3 iii” (which means “oncia tria”, 3 ounces) – so some suspect that the VMS’ “dain/daiin/daiiin” could be a steganographic version of “3 i / 3 ii / 3 iii”. However, YMMV. 🙂

Balneological = a hand-rolled fancy Cuban-cigar way of saying “to do with [medicinal] baths and spas”.

(The) Castle Page – a misnomer.   There is no ‘castle page’ but  the Voynich map’s north roundel contains a detail earlier imagined  a ‘castle’.  It does not occupy a separate page.

= part of the foldout page on f85v2. This foldout page is known as “the 9-rosette page”, as it is made up of 9 strange circular shapes arranged in a ‘tic-tac-toe’ pattern, and connected by what look like causeways. Iconographically, the rosette with the castle resembles the circular maps of Milan which appeared in the 15th Century, the most famous of which appeared in Jacopo del Massajo’s 1428 edition of Ptolemy’s Geographia. Make of that what you will! 🙂

Circinus =  one of the ways a medieval person could draw circles. Templates were another and obvious means.


CopyFlo = a kind of monochrome photocopy printout from microfilm produced by the Beinecke Library which you can buy. It’s very nice to own one, but it’s just a shame that it’s not somewhat better quality.


Foldout =  a long sheet of vellum which has been folded and stitched to fit within the manuscript.   Some researchers include the map among the ‘foldouts’ but for codicological descriptions and attribution, it is both more convenient and more appropriate to distinguish those which are longer than they are narrow from the (nearly) square map-sheet.


FSG = First Study Group, a early (and significant) group of cryptographers and historians who tried to crack the VMS, 1944-1946.


Grove Numbers = a way of numbering the nymphs/stars/labels on the circular astrological diagrams: for a particular ring, count clockwise from 9 o’clock (normally the leftmost nymph) up from #1.


Maiolica = 15th/16th century tin-glazed earthenware, AKA lustreware. (Note that Victorian tin-glazed earthenware is called “Majolica”, i.e. with a “j”).   The latest archaeological and documentary research (since 1976)  has shown that the older idea of Maiolica as having been shipped to Italy from Spain via Majorca is mistaken.  It was doubtless a common impression, perhaps fostered to avoid admitting trade was being conducted with regions under papal or political interdiction (though hence the name).    From about 1450, majolica (or maiolica – either is acceptable in contemporary writing) was produced in Italy, and notably in the north.   For details of that later, Renaissance, sort of maiolica see:


Mirror of Princes = a type of medieval document which purported to advise princes on how to tackle numerous different aspects of stately life. Filarete’s utopian “Treatise on Architecture” falls into this category, as does Machiavelli’s (in)famous “Il Principe”. However, Alberti also wrote a satire (“Momo e Il Principe Italiano”, which is online at ) taking the mickey out of these “Mirrors” (which tended to take themselves rather too seriously), & their intention (to influence those in power) seems rarely to have succeeded. Oh well. :-/


Murano = an island off the coast of Venice, to which the glass-makers were ordered and where they lived under very strict regulations, including a penalty of death for revealing the secrets of ‘Murano glass’ making.   It is highly unlikely for reasons of chronology, and the close confining of glass-makers, regulation by guilds and active pursuit of any who left the island, that any book of illustrations would have been made – but the question is academic, since (a) the containers in the Voynich manuscript are unlike that produced later in Murano (from 1450 onwards) and (b) the manuscript’s imagery from that section includes forms which are incompatible with such an attribution.


Nocturnelle =  a term sometimes seen in theoretical discussions of the mansucript.  For details see  David A. King).


Rotoscope / Rotograph =  (see wiki ‘Rotograph’.    kind of projective photograph system used in the early 20th Century, whereby images (rotographs) were projected onto the plane of a screen inside a mechanism (a rotoscope), which could then be examined closely or traced from. The British Library was given a set of VMS rotographs in 1931.


Volvelle = a hand-held medieval astrological instrument made of concentric circular dials, usually with a pointer.  Volvelles could be hand-held, or fastened within a book, and might be made of any suitable material.   Some volvelles were used as mmenonic aids (called ‘preachers wheels’; others were used with a series of alphabets, though whether they were used to generate ciphers is unknown. Volvelles might also be made to serve the needs of time-keepers, astronomers and astrologers.

Wiki / WikiWiki = a generic name for a web-page which anyone can edit quickly without having to learn HTML. Try it yourself! 🙂

WMV = Wilfrid Michael Voynich, who is believed to have bought the VMS in Italy in 1912. His original (Polish) name was “Michal Wojnicz”, and his clandestine spy-name (don’t ask) was “Wilfryd” – when he moved to the West, he westernised his name to be a mixture of the two, spelt more phonetically.

Wolkenband = obsolete.   This was one among many  foreign terms adopted by eighteenth- and nineteenth-century English writers to add a greater air of sophistication to their descriptions of art, chiefly classical- Renaissance- and Rococo.  Some did offer practical benefit over the plain English: by reason of brevity or convenience  e.g. chiaroscuro (It.) manipulation of the light and dark;  collage (Fr.) things layered upon on a surface using adhesive, sgraffito (It.) *decoration made by scratching or cutting through a surface layer to show a contrasting layer beneath.  Since the German word   ‘Wolkenbanden’  offered no advantage over the simple English ‘cloud band’ it is among those which art historians long ago abandoned, but which Voynicheros continued to use enthusiastically in the mistaken belief that the motif of the cloudband was thus proven uniquely German in some way.   This relic of last century’s habits in art history-writing is attributed (by Nick Pelling, I think)  to a letter written in 1945 (!!!)  by Erla Rosakiewicz.   (Voynicheros often show a curious habit of thinking there is one final opinion about everything, and in this case that the ultimate statement was made seventy years ago.)

The ‘cloudband’ in the Voynich manuscript’s imagery is important chiefly for the way it is used –  which carries certain implied associations and significance for that motif.   The actual style of drawing for that line is compatible with forms for cloudbands which become common in Latin art between 1330-1400, and one important Psalter dated 1310 to  1320 records the transition in style, in England, between the usual form for the cloudband in Asian art, and the way it was modified to suit western taste.


YMMV = Your Mileage May Vary, ie “interpret the preceding statement(s) how you will”