NOTE: this is the second part, you will not understand it if you have not read this post first!

In the previous post, I color coded the human figures in the Zodiac section based on the amount of their body that was hidden, “sunk” beneath the horizontal base line. Blue nymphs are completely visible. Yellow means that the line cuts somewhere between the foot and the knee, orange between the knee and the waist. Finally, red nymphs are more than waist-deep beneath the line. Just for a quick reference, here is the image from last post again, including unfortunate typo:


Now, in the Zodiac section this was relatively easy. I got rows of nicely lined up nymphs and all I had to do was put the right color on them. In some quire 13 folios this is similarly simple, like with these orderly ladies:


In some instances it will be difficult to determine the right color because there are two horizontal lines: the water level and (in this case) the shore.For the image above, both lines indicate orange: on or above the knee of the supporting leg and beneath the waist.

But these nymphs are well behaved and easy to assess, one neat line, no shoving or pushing. In contrast, the pool below is on the same folio:

The entropy!

Just to say, not everything is equally straightforward. But we’ll work with what we’re given. I will start by color labeling all folios of quire 13b.[1]  The reason for this is that the nymphs in 13b are generally more systematic than those in 13a, and may hence form a bridge between the Zodiac section and quire 13. I will present the folios in their current order of appearance, keeping in mind that this was likely not the original order.[2]

The first folio consists of two pools. The top one shows nymphs at various height intervals. First from yellow to red, then a large blue one. Take note of the two orange ones at the right hand shore.


The bottom pool is orange. Interestingly, here again there are two nymphs of a higher color at the right shore. It is somewhat unexpected that this large “queen” is yellow. Her feet may be hidden by the paint – it’s hard to tell since this green does an annoyingly good job of entirely masking the pen lines.

The next folio, f75v, reveals some nice clustering. All orange with a small row of red in the bottom.


f78r: all orange but two yellow:


And the reverse of the same folio:

Pea soup with oranges.

The next folios that belong to q13b are all the same: orange with one or two reds at the edges. So it appears that vertical level and degree of exposure of legs and feet carry no information here. At best, it marks some exceptions, notably in the long pool on the first folio.

So did this experiment fail for quire 13b? No, not at all. In fact, it is essential to know which parts of the nymphs carry information in which section. I have shown that for the Zodiac section, leg-and-foot-exposure is a phenomenon to take into account, while here it seems less important. Is there any information in these nymphs then, or are they just generic figures? Well, have a look at these ladies, for example:


Where is the information? What sets one nymph apart from the other? There’s the hats, maybe, but I’m not even sure if those matter in this case. No, more importantly, it’s the arms.[3] Let’s first compare the arms closest to the viewer (viewer’s right). Each nymph has this arm in the same position, but the first one has her hand visible. So if we were to quickly assign a numerical value to this parameter, the results would be (1, 0, 0, 0).

And now the arms on the left, those furthest away from the viewer? The first nymph has her arm bent, hand invisible. The second one has the entire arm hidden. Third and fourth have the arm stretched, hand hidden. So that would be, for example, (2, 0, 1, 1). This means that looking at the arms, only nymph three and four carry the same information.

Getting back to color codes now: they can still be of use to understand this section. On the one hand, there is a remarkable consistency within the same pool. And on the other, prominent figures have a different level of exposure. Just have a look at this pool from f84r, where everybody is cut off nicely at the knee of the supporting leg, making them orange. Yet the large figure facing them is fully visible (blue!) lending her a strange floating appearance.


This reinforces my belief that these poses are deliberate and are meant to convey information. The positioning of the figures has been done too consistently, too stubbornly to be attributed to chance. It is this stubborn, consistent manipulating of the positions of legs and arms which leads to the remarkable Voynich compositions we all love.

You better have a good reason for this.

That’s it for quire 13b. I’ll cut it here and publish 13a tomorrow.

EDIT: Part 3 online: Final Foot Post (part 3, conclusion)


[1] Just to remind readers again that I used to have q13a and q13b the other way around, but in my more recent posts adopted Glen Claston’s earlier terminology. Quire 13a is the one with individualized nymphs, generally in drawings that run along the sides of pages. Quire 13b has less individualized nymphs in central pools. I firmly believe that it pays to treat these subsections separately.

[2] Again I refer to Claston’s work on q13:

[3] The subject of arm-information was brought up by Sam G in the comments on the previous post. It seems that we hold very similar views about this matter.

I would also like to thank Anton Alipov from the Voynich forum for introducing me to the concept of entropy in information theory. He did so in relation to the text, but I found that it can be used to better understand these nymphs as well.