I read Erik Kwakkel’s medievalbooks and the latest post, The Architecture of the Medieval Page, was quite interesting.

Specifically, I was interested in looking into any preparation and planning stages of the writing in VMS.

Most of the VMS have none. No dots, no gutters, no lines or grid. As Koen observed in The Voynich Temple, A Marginal Paradox (Layout Continued), in pages with images, even if only “marginal” images, the text looks secondary to the image.

“Recipe” pages have a some margin at the bottom, but not a designed one, for example f113r:

Other text-only pages have margin wide enough for comments, but again, not designed. There are actually some marginal comments. On page f66r for example, notice that the margin is not strongly aligned:

What text is planned?

In all of the “circular” image pages, Zodiac, star maps, lunar phases and such.
There are 3 types of text on those pages, only one of them planned.

Image text

This is the text that integrates as a part of the image. Usually, along the circles themselves, but also along paths or inside text boxes within the circles. For the obvious reason that this text should fit the image boundaries, it is very much planned. This is the only planned text, with one possible exception which I’ll describe later.


The stars, characters of the Zodiac and other image elements are sometimes labeled. These labels follow the general direction of the image but do not have marked positions.

Additional text

Some of these pages have additional text outside the image. In 6 out of 8 of those the text appears above the circle, 1 to the top right and 1 below. None of them planned.


As with anything in VMS there is an exception. On page f67r2 there is some text that might look as an additional text below the cicle. To my untrained eye it looks like an image text for a few reasons:

  1. This page is the only one with colored text, both along the outer circle and in the “additional” text. This may indicate a connection, though I could not find a textual connection.
  2. With the single exception of f57v, all other circles are centered, even if there is additional text on that page, see f67r1 above for example. In f67r2 it looks like the centering is of the whole unit of circle and additional text.
  3. There are 3 planned lines and 3 lines of text, crammed to the very end of the page, so the last letters are hard or impossible to read. If there was no meaning to the text fitting exactly 3 lines as planned it could easy continue below. I my humble opinion, the 3 line limit is more important to the image than to the text.

Another observation is that the colored text is a little larger and bolder, I would guess due to the characteristics of the colored ink used. The middle line, which is the only to have colored text, is planned to be slightly larger. To me this indicates that the colored text was planned in advance as well.


As Erik wrote: “page design is usually reflective of how the book would be used”. In VMS the lack of margins that may be used for comments indicates it was not used for education. It is also not designed as a book of entertainment.
The design supports the idea that VMS was intended as a scholarly body of information.

*All images of VMS and page numbering are courtesy of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library 

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