Jan. B. Hurych

In our search for the VM author, we already concluded that different handwritings in the VM are clearly within the range of one person's handwriting, the existing variations being caused by personal changes (age, health, mood, environment) as well as the mechanical factors (different or worn pen, different ink, coarseness of vellum). If the VM was written by different authors (and that is merely a hypothesis based on statistics and not on the deciphered content), the VM was still handwritten by one hand only. In following evaluation, we will include those minor variations so the results will not be affected by one sample only (see table in my article "How Many "Hands" Wrote The VM?").

First, I have to point out the difference between the true graphology (paleography, calligraphy, forensic analysis, etc.) and handwriting analysis which has two different meanings: the graphical analysis of the writing (similar to the one used in forensic script analysis which we will use here) and the personal profile analysis, sometimes erroneously also called "graphology" or "handwriting analysis") which assigns different features of the writer's script specifics, namely personal and psychological traits. While all former disciplines are considered the true scientific disciplines, the personal profile analysis is not and does not even claim to be. However, it is not a pseudo science either: the results were confirmed statistically and surprisingly the experts in that discipline agree with most of the graphical rules and shape evaluations that are similar to the regular, forensic handwriting analysis. What they do not agree so much are of course their explanations.

We all know the importance of personal handwriting and are periodically reminded of it when we sign the cheques :-). We also agree that our handwriting is very personal and very specific, almost like a fingerprint or voiceprint. Not all of us of course realize that when we write we are concentrating more on WHAT we write rather than HOW we write, meaning that our handwriting becomes automatically our trademark as well. Pretty early in the history people also started to ask if our handwriting also reveals more about our personality, that of course is the subject of the personal profile analysis.

Used basically for generating some king of personal profile , such "graphology" raised a lot of objections, some probably justified, the other maybe less. Morally, it is not right to judge person by the handwriting only and this obstacle is bypassed by alibism claiming that they just "describe the person who would have such kind of handwriting and not the real writer as such". Still, major companies use handwriting analysis when hiring the job candidates and while it is probably illegal, they do it anyway, relaying on the fact the applicants do not know it is used that way. Of course the same objection is raised against the "lie detector" - which was for an alibi renamed as "polygraph", but the changes in (say) the skin resistance are still considered the true measures of truth and lie :-). As in graphology, a lot depends on the skill of the assistant, the "translator". This is one reason why we are going to analyze the handwriting but not to do any "profiling". The other reason is that we do not know the personal behavior of the suspected author so well anyway. The third reason is that the VM could be only a copy, rewritten by unknown scribe. On the other hand, we do have handwritings of different persons and we can make reasonable comparisons by the shapes of their handwritings alone.

My curiosity was raised by the fact that - as far as I know - no true handwriting analysis was yet done on the VM and there is no doubt it may provide some new information for our research. I did only the coarse evaluation, knowing that there are problems hard enough even for a professional. Namely, it is the fact that the VM script is either artificial or a long time forgotten one and since we have only one book and one handwriting, we cannot establish how would the handwriting of those persons look should they write in the VM script. Also, since we do not know how exactly was the script defined (relative dimensions, circularity of arcs, etc.) we cannot tell what is by definition and what is only the product of authors handwriting specifics. For instance: the new script might have been defined as strictly vertical but all we know it IS vertical. Also, the script is so different from our modern style that many contemporary rules simply cannot apply. For instance, the VM "characters" are not connected at all so we can judge only the spacing between "characters" but not the length of connections, which normally differs for different doublets.

I performed the analysis of some suspected VM authors (or rather persons from the VM history ) and luckily we have long enough texts do it properly. Those are letters of Marc, Kircher, Baresch (his only letter in existence) and Horcizky's sample which may not be long enough. Presented below are small cutouts only, shown here just for illustration.

Marci: - I have used the older letter from 1658, with his regular signature, since his two last letters could have been written by his scribe (Marci was almost blind at that time and totally blind at the time of his death). There are many of Marci's letters posted in Archives of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

Marci to Kircher(1658)

Kircher: The following sample is available on Net, in Herzog August Bibliothek and is addressed to him.

Kircher to Duke August (1665)

Baresch: Only one sample exists, in Archives of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and only one page is shown on Net; the other side however leaked through so it is partially visible, too.

Baresch to Kircher (1639)

Marci called him in his book Barschius (his latinized name) while his letter is supposedly signed as "Baresch" (Czech version of his name). What is also interesting is the mysterious text under his signature, see picture below. As it is not recommended to use signatures for analysis (they usually are not the same as current handwriting, for representation reasons), we will not use the siganture anyway.

Signature: Baresch or Barschius?

Horczicky: Recently, I have made one discovery. With the sample of Horczicky's signature w eobtained for Melnik Castle, we received also two lines of text (see below). I originally considered those lines to be written by some official scribe since the text is only Horczicky's full title as the Hauptman of the Melnik castle. However, closer examination of the writing, namely the characteristic letters "p" and "k" (see red markers below) confirmed that those two lines are in his hand too. While the text is not long enough for proper analysis, it bears some typical marks of his handwriting anyway. Again, the signature itself was not used for analysis.

Horczicky (from the Archive of Castle Melnik (1617)

The VM handwriting: We displayed here sample from one typical folio ( Beinecke Library scans), but many were used for evaluation and averaged to avoid the minor excursions.

Voynich manuscript (folio f2r, Beinecke Library)

We tested the above handwritings using same graphological criteria mentioned in my previous article ("How many hands wrote the VM") and the results are here:

Criteria Marci Kircher Baresch Horczicky VM
Slant (degrees) 50-60 70 95-90 ~90 close to right angle
Pressure MED MED HI MED normal or higher
Neatness. MED HI LO HI neat or less neat
Rhythm LO HI MED MED normal, faster
Margins and spaces HI HI IRREG N/A vary irregularly
Changes NONE NONE LO N/A minor, same folio
Line droop HI NONE LO NONE variable, irregular
Graphozones MED MED HI HI N/A
Stroke changes LO LO LO N/A minor
Shakiness SOME NONE LO NONE very little
Capital letters MED LO MED HI N/A
Lower loops MED MED WIDE MED N/A
Characters * * * * N/A
Others N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A

NOTE: For * see point 15 below

Comments to the table:

1) Slant - Marci has variable slant, probably due to age. Kircher has perfect 70 degrees, with no perceptible changes, Baresch fluctuates between 95 to 90 (i.e. mostly negative slant) and Horczicky is close to right angle, all the time.
2) Pressure - Only Baresch has heavy pressure but possibly also a wide, heavier pen.
3) Neat versus sloppy - Kircher has very neat, almost like printed script, not changing at all. Horczicky too, but it was on the ceremonial, official document. Marci is not very neat, but his hand looks tired, which is also shown on the droop of lines at the end. Baresch is not neat at all, but his handwriting shows skilled, fast writing hand.
4) Rhythm(or the text flow) - only Kircher shows beautifully flown script, Horczicky's flows almost like military march, Baresch is quick but impulsive and Marci is too modest to show anything special.
5) Margins and spaces - Marci and Kircher show wide margins, especially on the left side, Baresch's left margin is highly irregular and he apparently does not care too much about it. The sample of Horczicky was too short for any evaluation. Only Marci has rather wide spaces between words.
6) Changes - the script of Kircher is fixed, almost like printed, even Marci has a steady script. Baresch, in spite of the overall, not well organized look has solid, trained script. Horczicky is too ceremonial, however he keeps his special characters same all the time (see letters "k" and "p"), even in his signature.
7) Line droop - again, Kircher has practically no droop (only at the beginnings, the rows go slightly up ad then for most of the line are almost perfectly horizontal ( apparently due to longtime training - how he did it, not having any helping lines? :-) Baresch is slightly going up or arching up and down on the same line. Marcis's droop is extensive in this sample - probably the worse of all his letters - showing tiredness and aging. Before 1653 the lines were either horizontal or even slightly rising towards the end. The letter from 1659 shows some lines raising some drooping and his last letter has again the lines mostly raising.
8) Graphozones - upper and lower zones are of normal width for Kircher and Marci, while they are more pronounced for Baresch and definitely high for Horczicky.
9) Stroke change - all handwritings are od a very steady strokes. Again, Horczicky's sample is too short to analyze.
10) Shakiness - none was observed for Kircher and Horczicky, very low for Baresch, some for Marci, but again the age shows. His shakiness shows more on the baseline than on characters themselves.
11) Capital letters - Only Marci has very low ratio, while Horczicky has rather high, to the point of exaggeration.
12) Upper loops - Marci and Kircher have them narrow, Baresch and Horczicky wide.
13) Lower loops - same as for upper loops.
14) Shading - Marci an Kircher very light, higher for Horczicky, very high for Baresch - he apparently like his pen wider, too.
15) Individual characters - Marci's handwriting is simple, nothing special but readable, while Kircher's is very neat, showing he cares for the reader (of course he had to, the duke was apparently his benefactor :-). Horczicky's official title shows he wanted to stress his importance as the heytman (commander) of the castle, but generally it is true to his normal handwriting (see the other signature in his exlibris), just embellished. Baresch is an enigma: while his letter was basically begging for favor, he did not care to discipline his writing enough to show it. Only Marci's handwriting has characters separated, i.e. disconnected as it is in the VM.

On the purpose, we did not evaluate some factors like "covering the page space" (the VM has it always irregular due to pictures, sometime even crowded, while the letters have certain coverage rules) or effects of the ink, paper and pen (the letters were not written on vellum but rather on paper and that definitely shows). The table indicates the wide variations in personal writings, none of which really shows convincing indications that any of those four scientists really wrote the VM.

But can we entirely eliminate that possibility? Hardly, the script of the VM is quite different from those seen here that I suspect it was not only written, but literally "painted", i.e.more carefully drawn by pen. The smart, simple strokes of the VM "characters" allowed not only for the ease of writing but also required involuntary change of the handwriting habits as well. To write the VM, each one of those four would have to change his writing habits and there were many, as we can see on the samples - actually one could hardly believe they were all written within 50 years - the oldest being Horczicky's from 1617. That may give us an idea how futile is dating of any manuscript only by script. The only thing author would not (or could not) change consciously is the line droop or coverage of the page. Unfortunately, both these factors are so highly irregular in the VM that any reasonable comparison cannot be done. As for the others, there is no point to pick up one factor that is similar and neglect many others that do not fit.

Again, the conclusion that none of the above persons wrote the VM is the most probable, since none ohf tir handwritings has enough common indicators to qualify any one as an author. Besides, the VM script is an artificial script, invented no doubt to be simple, fast and readable. None of that was really vital for the VM since there is only one exemplar, so we may assume the author invented the script mainly for his personal, even everyday needs, maybe as a shorthand, maybe just for a secrecy. The VM was however written very carefully - only very few places offer any ambiguity and so far we could not see any mistakes (like typos or similar). Of course, with such script (simple arches and lines) many hands would be similar, since it does not allow too much for possible deviations.

CONCLUSION: As usual, any deeper research into the VM brings out more problems than solutions. However, we can conclude that handwriting analysis alone will not help us to establish the writer. Beside the fact that the VM could have been written by a scribe or anybody whose name we will never know, there are some other problems with identity of the author: we do not know the age of the VM and could not possibly check all persons who were in contact with the VM, especially when the "provenance" of the VM has so many gaps, namely before Baresch.

One person is missing in our comparison and that is Dr. Raphael Mnishowsky. The rather coarse copy of his handwriting was discovered by Rafal Prinke, but it was not part of this analysis since to my knowledge nobody suspected Mnishowsky as being author of the VM - until now and I discovered it rather late on the pages of Czech Wikipedie here, There is the following statement (translated from Czech by me): "The letters by Baresch suggest that the author of the manuscript was the orientalist Andreas Mueller and that it is undecipherable fraud. The lawyer Rafael Sobiehrd-Mnishovsky, the friend of Ioannes Marci claimed he discovered in 1618 unbreakable cipher which can lead to the opinion that Rafael Mnišovsky wrote Voynich manuscript as a demonstrative example of his cipher. There is no proof for this theory, however some circumstances may suggest that Marci already suspected Mnishowsky created the fraud."

There are several inaccuracies there (Baresch did not suspect Mueller and only one letter of Baresch survived, Marci never claimed Raphael was his friend nor he ever wrote he suspected him to create the fraud, etc.) When I commented in CzechWikipedie that such information should quote a source, I was referred by them to English Wikipedia statement: "Raphael Mnishovsky, the friend of Marci who was the reputed source of Bacon's story, was himself a cryptographer (among many other things), and apparently invented a cipher which he claimed was unbreakable (ca. 1618)." Of course there is no source quoted in English Wikipedia nor the name of the person who posted those speculations.

While I leave the proofs of it to whoever posted it, I am including here for completeness the sample of Mnishowsky's handwriting. By the way, the spelling "Missowski" (or "Mischowsky" on his engraved portrait) is definitely a misspelling and I am using here his name Mnishowsky with "n" as it is closer to teh way it appears in older Czech sources, i.e. Raphael Soběhrd-Mnišovsky. The similar error is on Horczicky's portrait, but it was corrected by artist adding - out of line - missing letter "c".

Mnishowsky (from his textbook of Czech language, in Uppsala)

Interestingly enough, his cursive is very simple, almost modern and if anything, it looks like the one used in Horczicky's name in the VM below (see typical higher first arch in the letter "n" as in "magnus", simple form of letters "c" and "e", e.t.c.).

Part of Horczicky's name in the VM (Beinecke scan, preprocessed)

So the new idea may present itself: what if Baresch actually got the VM from Mnishowsky? And maybe it was Mnishowsky who wrote the Horczicky's name in the VM? We do not know yet. If we can prove that Mnishowsky actually saw the VM or even one time owned it, his little story in Marci's letter may eventually prove to be more then just hearsay.