Consider this .. Jerome, Illyrian (brief note).

less than 500 words

This series of posts are notes of work in progress, trying to shed some light on why the Voynich script apparently contains both ‘elongated ascenders’ in the body of its text – something scarcely seen in Latin works after c.9thC AD – but also what appears to be a ‘4’ form unattested in Latin works before it emerges as a numeral form, first in the south-western Mediterranean and Italy and there only from the middle, or the last quarter, of the fourteenth century.

Because this series simply tracks my own effort to resolve this problem, I hope readers won’t be surprised if added information leads to changes of opinions and attitudes. I’m not trying to expound a Vms theory.

so, work done over the past few days means I now think rather better of Kircher’s calling ‘Jerome’s Illyrian’ the script sent to him on a separate sheet with, or after, he’d been sent copies from the Vms.

I’m fairly sure, now, that Kircher identified the script on that printed sheet not just as Glagolitic script in general but as it was used in Dalmatia, where a cult of St.Jerome in Dalmatia saw that saint credited there with having invented Glagolitic script. Elsewhere it was, and still is, credited to ‘Cyril’ and that Cyril regularly identified with the Cyril who created the Cyrillic script.

Kircher’s ‘Ilyrian’ doesn’t necessarily mean the Serbo-Croatian language, either.

The history of Dalmatia is the history of a four-way struggle to control that part of the Adriatic coast. Italian city states (earlier Rome and later most notably Venice), as well as Constantinople, Prague and powers occupying the hinterland all fought to exert direct or indirect control over Dalmatia, occupying as it does an important strategic position on the Adriatic coast.

When a group of Dalmatian Glagolitic monks of the Benedictine order were invited to found a monastery in Prague (see previous post) we may doubt that Charles’ motive was entirely religious.

Recent items from the web:

  • I’ve now seen the same illustration I used in 2011 for ‘Jerome’s Illyrian’ in one wiki article.
  • Another provides a comparison of ‘Jerome’s’ script with its ‘block’ form, and with an example of cursive script, though the history and evolution of the last is not a question for me. It’s one for specialists in palaeography.

I can say that the (modern?) cursive script shown in that illustration shows two forms that might appear to a copyist like the Latins’ “q-o” or the numerical “4-o”.

Whether such cursive forms existed before c.1440, and what dialects they might have recorded, I won’t even try to research. I do know that the Lesina ‘portolan’ chart (now lost), found in a Dalmatian Franciscan monastery, is said to record names according to dialects spoken, in medieval times, around the Black Sea and in Georgia, the last being, both then and now linguistically and ethnically the most diverse region in the world.*

An analysis of the forms used for ‘Jerome’s Illyrian’ shows derivation from a number of other scripts, including Phoenician, Hebrew and Latin.

Postscript: I’ll have more to say about the Black Sea and Georgia, including its demographics, languages and place-names, in a later post.

2 thoughts on “Consider this .. Jerome, Illyrian (brief note).

  1. Those interested in medieval cipher systems might be interested to compare the signs in ‘Jerome’s Glagolitic’ with those adopted as ‘cipher’ in a diplomatic letter by Nicodemo Tranchedini da Pontremoli
    (1413-1481)., a diplomatic agent for Francesco Sforza of Milan.
    It was Mark Knowles’ mention of Ekaterina Domnina which led me to that letter, available at present as a pdf online.

    Ekaterina Domnina, ‘Nicodemo Tranchedini’s Diplomatic Cipher: New Evidence’,
    Proceedings of the 1st Conference on Historical Cryptology, Uppsala, Sweden, (18-20 June, 2018) pp 3– 7,


  2. In a comment made to Nick Pelling’s blog ‘ciphermysteries’, M.R. Knowles mentioned in 2017 that a ‘4’ shape occurs in ‘Croatian Glagolitic’. I assume he means the same script as that I’ve described as ‘Jerome’s Illyrian’ (following Kircher), or simply as ‘Glagolitic’. What languages and dialects might have been recorded in that script before the fifteenth century may be impossible to determine.


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