THE NUMBERS IN THE VM (and who numbered the pages?)
J.B.Hurych ( 3rd June, 2007)

I have already stated elsewhere my doubts about the VM page numbering, namely the fact being claimed by English experts that it was "definitely" done by John Dee (I do not discuss here the quire numbering, that is altogether different matter). Well, looking at the page of Rafal Prinke (, not available any more) I found his proof to support my idea. I have only one comment: the number "8" (see obr.1.) surely eliminated Dee as an author, however as for the arrow in the left picture (marked as "Prinke") I have to disagree - the shading cannot be done by the quill that way. When moving the pen so much sharp amgle in "up" direction (toward the top), the split legs of the pen would be bending and biting into paper (the proper, easier direction is marked as "Hurych"). Well, either way, Dee wrote it differently. Observing the number "8" with large magnification (say via graphic editor) would surely further confirm the way it was written.

As for John Dee, we can see from the table on Mr. Prinke's page (he is comparing Dee's handwriting from Trebona archive, at, now not available), that those in the VM have different shapes than those of John Dee. I do not know from where the English experts took their samples of Dee's handwriting. It is of course possible that John Dee's handwriting changed with his age or sickness, but hardly that much.

Similarly, I do have comments to the table there suggesting the number styles as they were written in different centuries. The table alone is apparently O.K., but when studying old manuscripts, we encounter many exceptions. For instance, Johann Amos Comenius wrote the way of "15th century" as late as in 17th century, that is he used disconnected letters. It all depended mostly on the conservatism of particular writer and the numerals are probably even more conservative than the letters, so we can only speculate. It simply means that we cannot establish the age of the VM by page-number style only. As for the text, each symbol (letters?) in the VM is clearly disconnected one its neighbours, mainly due to the fact that those artificial symbols, when connected together, would create ambiguity (they have often the same segments and we would not know when one ends and the other strats). But "connected" script (cursive?) was here most likely before that.

I also observed the similarity between the page numbers and some VM symbols of similar shape (see obr.2). They are three basic similarities: no. "9" and the script symbol that looks like "9", number "8" and the symbol "8" and also number "4" and the symbol "4". I compared the samples of symbols and numbers, especially when both were on the same pages. There is really more than just similarity - the signs are almost identical, apparently written by same hand as the text itself. The angles, shapes, shadings and overall styles are undoubtedly the same. Also added are the five Arabic numerals, written directly as a part of text (f49v, Beinecke 1006171, (see obr.3). As we can see, they are also all similar to those in page numbering, especially no. 5.


There is no doubt in my mind that the page numbering was most likely done by the author after the book was first assembled. And since John Dee was never considered to be the author, the English theory is surely further doubtful. It also makes more sense that the numbering was done by the author himself - when assembled in the book, the identification by page numbers is immediately needed for better orientation and referencing.

When we observe the pages 78 and 84, we can see that the author carefully avoided the pictures while writing the text as well as when he was numbering the pages. So the pictures were done first, then followed the text - we can see the text was often "squeezed" in order not to interfere with the pictures. The page numbering was apparently done as the last thing - sometimes the author even had to write the numbers "inside" the pictures and not exactly in the right corner, as he otherwise wrote them on the majority of pages.

Most likely, the numbers were written after the binding was done. It looks however like the original covers were lost and the existing ones were provided later. In between, the quires may have been loose and the mixup may occured and/or be lost. Yes, we also suspect that several folios are missing.

The temporary consensus claims the numbering of pages was not done by the author but by somebody else and in wrong order, maybe even after the binding was lost. It is claimed that the proof is that some pages are in wrong order - that is they are not in the order a priori assumed by some researchers.

I do not want to argue with that assumption, since it is only an indirect proof and besides, the suggested orders vary from one to another, so there is no final agreement yet. Instead, what I present here are the real samples of the VM numbers and I simply leave the comparison to the readers of this article. Also, the order of paging is otherwise very consistent, more that could be ex[pected when numbering just randomly misordered or loose sheets. It is quite possible that the misorder, if any, could have happened to the author alone, for various reasons. For instance last minute mix-up could happen to whoever did the binding and the numbering pages after the book was done was rather automatic and was not properly checked. Or it was too late and one does not want the book with non-sequential paging.

True, the numbering could have been done by somebody else than by the author, but as we can see, he would have to copy the author's handwriting extremely to achieve such similarity and for no apparent reason whatsoever. I realize that there are inherently less individual variations in writing the numbers than in writing the letters, but it is still enough of them to make the proper conclusion.

So let's compare them. The similarity of numbers "4" and "9" with their "letter" counterparts is really striking. So is the similarity for number "8" and its counterpart (in all samples except in the first - the page no. "58" has "8" interrupted and thus extra distorted). The vertical lines in "4" not only have the same shape and kind of shading, but also have typical small curves at corners. The Arabic numbers 1 to 5 are also all similar to those in page numbering, especially no. 5. This is not a coincidence. All that applies even if we consider that the author apparently used for his numbering a bigger pen, thus the shading is wider and the numbers are larger than their counterparts in the text. We can also observe that the numbering of pages is quite uniform, apparently all done at the same time, as it would be, if it was done just after the book was bound together.