Home > Characters, Features, Recipes Folios, Theories, Writing > Are the Glyphs placed in specific folio locations?

Are the Glyphs placed in specific folio locations?

Based on a lot of circumstantial evidence related to the weirdness of the Voynich text (such as the odd repeating words, the curious faintness and boldness of some glyphs, and the sometimes curious positioning of text words and lines), it appears that the folios were perhaps not written Left to Right (or Right to Left) and Top to Bottom.

Instead, suppose the scribe started each folio with a prescription: for example “put an h-Gallows at the top left, then put a c in the middle of the folio, then a 9 at the end of the last line”, and so on. This would be sort of like filling out the answers to a bizarre crossword puzzle.

If there was such a prescription, might it explain some of the Voynich text features?

In the following selected charts I’m showing a virtual folio from the Recipes section. Each chart has lines and columns. Line 1 position 1 is the top left of the folio. Let’s look at the chart folio for Glyph “o”:


Each disc indicates that the “o” appears at least twice in that location in the Recipes. The size of the disc indicates how many times it appears there: the bigger the disc, the more times it appeared. The random appearance of the chart suggests that “o” is not placed on the page in any particular pattern.

Let’s now look at the “s” glyph:


Here it is clear that this glyph vastly prefers the first column, but not the first line. It is infrequently found elsewhere on the folio. In contrast, take a look at the rare glyphs (I just call them “?”):


These abhor the early columns, and love the ends of the lines. They also seem to prefer the ends of the first lines (notice a little cluster there). Perhaps they hate the “s” glyphs…

The “4” glyph:


The gap after the first column is explained by how “4” only appears at the start of a word.

Here are some more glyphs:



No conclusions here, as usual!

Addendum: the distribution for “c”:




  1. June 7, 2016 at 2:37 am

    Very interesting! I’m curious if higher-order ngrams behave with similar biases. How do bigrams look when plotted?

  2. June 9, 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Hi Julian

    ‘No conclusions here, as usual!’

    Your conclusion should be that he needs a background before applying his prescription –
    random sets of c’s does the trick!



    • JB
      June 9, 2016 at 5:40 pm

      Yes, Tony – I had your theory in mind when I did this. It’s hard to say one way or the other. I’m going to add the distribution for “c” to my post …

      • JB
        June 9, 2016 at 5:44 pm

        Wouldn’t your theory tend to predict a completely random distribution for the unchanged “c” glyphs? Whereas, the distribution looks like it dis-favours a column or two near the beginning of each line?

  3. June 10, 2016 at 3:00 am

    The unchanged ‘c’ glyphs will only occur in the middle of the larger groups of c’s as it is the ends of the groups that are altered or added to – so they won’t occur at the beginning or end of lines.

    • JB
      June 10, 2016 at 10:14 am

      But then wouldn’t we expect to see a build up of “c” glyphs in the middle of the lines only?

  4. June 10, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    To clarify – we are talking about the unadorned ‘c’ which is EVA ‘e’ (I seem to remember you were using a different notation)
    I don’t know about a ‘build up’ but EVA ‘e’ will not appear at either end of lines.
    Can you right adjust the lines and repeat the above charts?

    • JB
      June 10, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      By right adjust do you mean count from right to left, so position 1 on line 1 in the chart would be the last glyph on the line, and so on?

  5. June 10, 2016 at 3:01 pm

    I meant align the text on the right just as one can in a word document but what you suggest would show up the same effects.

  6. Liata
    August 20, 2016 at 2:14 am

    This is the idea I’ve been favoring, but the trouble is it can’t be analyzed for this with transcribed text since the number of letters pretty much wouldn’t matter — only where on the actual page they are placed, and they’d probably not be the same letters every time on every page. Visually comparing where on the page the text falls is further complicated because the Voynich is only available in photographs, not flat scans, so that any camera distortions or arching of the paper throws off the ability to accurately compare one page to another.

    Still, I’ve been hoping to find some kind of computer program that could assist in visual comparison of the images. Does anybody know of such a thing?

  7. August 20, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Regarding camera distortions: I’ve used software such as ScanTailor (http://scantailor.org/) to correct for skewing and arching of my book scanning projects. I think it would do a reasonable job of reducing the inaccuracies. Adobe Lightroom also has some nice auto-alignment features, too, where it tries to deskew photographs based on its attempts to autodetect how horizontal and vertical features should line up.

    • August 22, 2016 at 4:25 am

      The problem I’ve had isn’t really so much skewing or shadows, but accurate sizing and flatness of the pages. Take for example https://www.jasondavies.com/voynich/#f76v/0.61/0.473/2.00 where the area near the spine is distorted in the photo because of how the paper has to arch inward toward the binding. And that arch will be photographed differently on every page. When you need real precision (if you’re a half space off you likely can’t break the code), that lack of flatness ruins everything.

  8. October 3, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Two comments – first your tag on voynich.ninja is brilliant: “Voynich attacks blog”. Worth a headline!

    Secondly, I should love to see even one page of the manuscript with each glyph allotted a separate colour/tone and the “ccc” made white or black.

    Just curiosity.. but it would be fun.

    • JB
      October 3, 2016 at 12:51 pm

      Diane, I will have a go at that … what do you mean by the “ccc”?

  9. October 4, 2016 at 3:02 am

    Hi Julian – thanks so much.

    I was referring to Tony’s comment, where he said:
    ….he needs a background before applying his prescription – random sets of c’s does the trick!”

    But any colour-coded page would do.

    To be truly honest, I’d have to say I’d prefer the Persian than the western palette and system of contrasts … but any will do. Thanks again.

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