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Folio 68r charts - Anton - 17-09-2015

The below considerations are too raw to be published as an article, so I decided to share them in informal manner.

I was re-reading my own recent article dedicated to the Voynich "stars", when suddenly it occurred to me that the total number of stars in f68r1 and f68r2 (including unlabeled) equals 88.

The interesting fact is that the number of standardized constellations is 88. This is, of course, no more than a curious coincidence, because the definitions and number of constellations evolved over time. However, this made me wonder whether the "stars" in f68r1 and f68r2 might not represent constellations.

A medieval astrological chart would naturally be represented in ecliptic coordinates, that is the "equatorial" plane would be that of the ecliptic. Note that Sun is depicted on the circumference - which would be the ecliptic. This is logical from the astronomical point of view, although I'm afraid this is not common from the perspective of the star maps of this kind.

In the supposed northern, or what I call "dayside" (f68r1), chart we have 29 labeled stars, in the southern (nightside, f68r2) we have 24 labeled and 35 unlabeled stars.

Suppose the labeled stars stand for known constellations. So we need 29 northern and 24 southern constellations.

Ptolemy introduced 48 constellations, of which 47 still survive, and Argo Navis was later split into three distinct constellations, but in 15th century it was Argo Navis still. These 48 constellations can be subdivided as follows:

21 northern (in respect to the ecliptic): Andromeda, Aquila, Auriga, Bootes, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, Corona Borealis, Cygnus, Delphynus, Draco, Equuleus, Hercules, Lyra, Pegasus, Perseus, Serpens, Triangulum, Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, Sagitta, Ophiuchus.

15 southern: Ara, Argo Navis, Canis Major, Canis Minor, Centaurus, Cetus, Corona Australis, Corvus, Crater, Eridanus, Hydra, Lepus, Lupus, Orion, Piscis Austinus.

12 ecliptical (zodiacal): Aquarius, Aries, Cancer, Capricornus, Gemini, Leo, Libra, Pisces, Sagittarius, Scorpius, Taurus, Virgo.

The problem is whether the zodiacal constellations (residing on the ecliptic) would be attributed to the northern or to the southern hemisphere. In contemporary star charts they are shown partly in northern, partly in southern (which is the actual state of things), but here we have each constellation (supposedly) represented by only one asterisk character, so that's the question. Are they there at all? If they are, then how are they distributed between the two? (They can't be all in northern or all in southern because that would be 21+12 = 33 for northern or 15+12 = 27 for southern which exceeds the actual amount of labeled "stars").

In any case, even with 48 constellations of Ptolemy we lack 29+24-48 = 7 constellations. I think that Ulug Begh's constellation system did not differ much from that of Ptolemy, so we need to search for missing pieces elsewhere.

Let us look at Europe.

Circa 1450 the constellation of Crux began to be considered as a standalone constellation.

Later additions seemed to be Coma Berenices and Antinous You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view., which are both northern constellations (Antinous is now obsoleted), and then 12 more southern constellations published in You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view. which actually relied upon the globe of You are not allowed to view links. Register or Login to view. who, in turn, took information from the Dutch naval expedition of Keyser and Houtman. Those constellations are:

Apus, Chamaeleon, Dorado, Grus, Hydrus, Indus, Musca, Pavo, Phoenix, Triangulum Australe, Tucana, Volans.

Of course, this is far later than what the VMS is dated to. But considering the Ptolemy's nomenclature alone, the balance is more or less adequate. Supposing 8 of zodiacal constellations topping up the northern side to 29, with 12-8 = 4 left going to the southern side and yielding 15+4 = 19 for it, we then need only 24-19 = 5 more southern constellations to complete the picture. Where were they taken from? Perhaps from some other influence, such as Chinese. As far as I know, the Chinese constellation system includes much more than 48 constellations, so there is certainly no direct mapping. But some southern constellations known to the Chinese might have been "borrowed". Europeans were in China since 13th c., so that would be nothing surprising.

What for the unlabeled stars? While the 23 stars forming the outer circle of f68r2 may be considered as an "embellishment", at a minimum we are still left with 88-29-24-23 = 12 unlabeled stars. From the perspective of the author this looks like "I know that there are constellations, but I don't know how they are called". Does this look as something real? I don't know.

What do you think?

Re: Folio 68r charts - david - 22-09-2015

Let me reply with a response that is just as rambling Big Grin
The stars on f68v2 are arranged in blocks of 1(4), 9 (3 of them) and 8 (1 of them). 8 segments in the wheel.
On f68v3, they are arranged in blocks of 9(2), 8(2), 7 (3). 7 segments in the wheel.
v3 has "asterisks", drawn in a different manner from the main stars, radiating out between the "spokes" from the sun, which could also be the moon, although the moon is probably depicted on the reverse side.
Both v2 and v3 have the same number of spokes, if you interpret the lines with words in them on v2 as spokes - 16 each.
As to what this means, your guess is as good as mine.

Another irritation to the VM is that it doesn't seem to have any sign of the elements in these star maps. There just aren't 16 elements to the Ptomelaic scheme of the universe. In the Middle Ages there were usually the following in any sky map, usually in concentric rings with the element of Earth at the centre:
  • four elements (earth, water, fire, air)
    seven planets,
    the constellations,
    the crystalline heavens
    and the primum mobile (God), although the last two were sometimes merged into one.

14 is the magic number, not 16.

Let's go back to constellations as depicted in sky maps. In general, when constellations were specifically depicted in "star maps" they were depicted in their correct configuration as you see them in the sky. If you don't depict the representation of the constellation, you're just drawing random points on a page. I've never seen a sky map that just shows dots with a name - what would be the point, if you can't locate the constellation later? The whole point of constellations was to identify iconography in the random mass of stars.

An interesting thought is that the stars in the VM appear to be drawn as fixed patterns, which is the medieval depiction of stars - they were assumed to be laid out as fixed points in the sky by God. It's not until you get past the Kepler revolution that people star depicting stars as random masses with no particular order to them, fixing only the ones that were interesting to them.

V1 is obviously the Earth (note the T/O map in the centre). We have the stars in the firmament and then the nebuly line, which most probably represents the exterior sphere beyond which is the celestial Divine realm (primum mobile). Whatever the "spokes" are, we have four that extend down to Earth, and four that only get to the nebuly line. I suppose that these could be interpretations of the four elements as they interact with the upper and lower boundaries of Earth.

And therein lies a major problem

If we accept that the centre of these diagrams is the sun or the moon or anything not the Earth then we've shot past the Middle Ages and out into the Copernican revolution. The Earth was at the centre of the universe, full stop, until the 1543 publication of De revolutionibus.... And heliocentralism didn't take off in the public imagination until the end of the 16th century. It makes no sense to say "these are the constellations or stars around the Sun".

The Aristotelian-Ptolemaic system of an earth-centred universe worked, with some minor quibbles that weren't picked up really until telescopes came into play. For the naked eye, it was a very complicated system, but it was one that allowed you to predict most of what was going on. In fact, the only real question that bought the system into disrepute was planetary regression, when it seemed as though planets were going backwards (the reason this happens is because the Earth is moving fast at that point than the planet in question, and speeds past it in space - for a few weeks it may seem as if Mars is going backwards every night).

So I don't think we're looking at maps of stars or constellations. Instead we're looking at some sort of astral attributes, or even something mad like stones linked to the different astral bodies. If we look at the faces over these pages they do start to resemble one another, making it possible to suggest that we're looking at the Earth, the Moon and the Sun in different phases. There certainly doesn't seem to be any suggestion that other planets known to antiquity are trying to get a lookin.

Re: Folio 68r charts - Anton - 24-09-2015

Hi David,

I am speaking of the 68 recto pages, not the verso ones.

I agree with your point about maps. Actually I don't consider f68r1 and f68r2 as maps neither, but rather as certain "sets" of objects; those objects may be individual stars, constellations or otherwise.

f68v3 depicts the Sun in the centre, no doubt. Note the rays and compare with f68r.

RE: Folio 68r charts - Anton - 24-12-2015

Also, good idea about stones. Contemporary lapidaries contained some 50+ stones or minerals, which is close to the number of Voynich "stars".

RE: Folio 68r charts - Pardis Motiee - 28-04-2021

Not very sure of how to mine the writings for the labels so I am searching lines of 68, one word is badr(بدر), meaning the full moon. The words are interacting, it is not very understandable: From sea wind .... full moon.. mercury...
Folio 67 was: I go to mercury/mars. Extreme coldness. Found fruit harvest. Darkness of sun. Orbit lines (مدار) till darkness of late night. I become Far. The guide of Sun and the journey of Mercury/Mars.

I just can say it is some kind of sea navigation and maybe they are planets, but then we have 29 stars.