Alphabet&numeral – updating d’Imperio

I should like readers’ help in discovering which modern Voynich writer explained the importance of identifying numerals in text that is to be analysed and deciphered. I had thought it was in Pelling’s ‘Curse of the Voynich’ (which does, btw, have an interesting discussion of what Pelling interprets as quire-numbers, reading the forms as a curious mix of Latin alphanumerics and Arabic numerals).

Otherwise, that very basic exercise – that is, discovering which, if any, among the Voynich glyphs might be meant for numerals – seems not to have been done in fifty years and d’Imperio’s Figure 16 which seems to have had no source save Hill (1915) presents so cursory a summary that the task really needs to done now as if from scratch. Anyone interested in that work is welcome to it!.

Note that I’ve checked the manuscript Hill cites for his “4” in early 14thC Italy and think he’s in error, but it’s possible I missed the detail he means. Below, minus her ’16thC’ column is d’Imperio’s table. I’d suggest any new study include a column for the 12thC.

To illustrate both the range within which Hill sought his examples, and the limits which affected his study, including dependence on other informants, here’s another of his tables. These examples came chiefly from German-speaking regions. Note that tis inverted form for ‘7’ makes it resemble a Greek ν (nu – ‘n’), which is perhaps co-incidental. Also co-incidental, perhaps, is that this shape is another seen among the Voynich glyphs.

The business of history-writing is an effort to present a chaotic system in a linear narrative, much as drawing reduces a three-dimensional world to two dimensions. Lest we forget that the patterns of human activity are chaotic, not linear, here’s a ‘4’ numeral cropping up in fifteenth-century Thames-side church in London.

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