Saturday, 18 July 2015

The Rohonc Codex (a Diary of a Decipherer)

22 May 2015, London

Tomorrow I am flying to Japan for the Kendo World Championship. My luggage is almost ready and I have few hours free to go to British Library. For long time I “work” on a strange logographic runiform medieval writing system. During the time the articles that I wanted to read and couldn't find on the Internet grew enormous. Today I order as many magazines and books Library allowed me, and keep copying. Travelling back home in the Tube I pass almost all the pages I have copied. It looks like I don’t find anything promising, anything that would push my “research” forward. At home I pass the pages again. “I need new direction” I think “I need more information”. And then suddenly the Rohonc Codex came to my mind. “What if the RC is connected with my “logographic stuff” in some way. I became aware of the Codex couple a years ago, and since then couple of times I had tried to educate myself on the subject. But my efforts always ended up with reading Wikipedia article about it where RC is presented as a possible hoax and finally when I looked on scanned pages of the Codex of Rohonc where long strings of repetitive signs run wildly from page to page, I use to give up hope that the Codex have something to do with “Runiform Scripts from Balkans” that I was interested on. And yet now, first I remembered were those repetitive strings of similar signs. But now my intuition is “telling” me to take a look again on the RC, and also I was going to vacation so I would have enough time to read.

23 May 2015, London
I am at Heathrow airport. My luggage is sorted, passport control passed. I buy a bottle of water, sit down and go deep searching the Net for information about Rohonc Codex. First I read Wikipedia article (, then I find the page where the actual codex can be downloaded ( Later I find Cypher mysteries (  and Delia Huegel‘s site ( After that, somehow my imagination sends me to seek information on “alphabets of angels” and Medieval Arabic manuscripts on Hieroglyphics. Although searching over magical alphabets don’t give any result I think I find out something interesting: some of the characters on pages of RC are repeated 3 times:,, and other look like pictography: ,. This is enough for now. I switch my reading to a book about pottery in Early Medieval Bulgaria……. We depart from Heathrow on time ….. But the sleep isn't coming. I have been downloaded in my tablet couple of books on history and etymology of Chinese writing that I find helpful to read again.  It is interesting how Chinese pictographic signs slowly become unrecognisable during centuries of use…… Something came to my mind: some of Chinese characters are composed by an element repeated three times. In such a cases the meaning of 3 is plurality. For example, 3 mountain pics make the sign for mountain, 3 waves make a river and so on. Ancient writer didn’t need to write more than 3 mountain pics to represent a mountain. Is this the case with the RC triplets?

24 May 2015, Hong Kong Airport

Our flight departed on time. It is early afternoon. I have more than three hours until my flight to Osaka. I continue reading Delia’s cite. The part named “The Story in the Pictures” is quiet interesting. So it turns out that the RC is about Live of Jesus. I never knew about some of the stories from New Testament depicted in the RC. So I looked up in Wikipedia for more info, then started reading New Testament itself. Then again “The Story in the Pictures”. Then I looked at the pages of the Codex trying to make sense of the writing……

 24-25 May 2015, Osaka
Half an hour before midnight, I figured out that today was the Day of Bulgarian writing and culture, a day dedicated to memory of Saint Cyril and Methodius that created an alphabet known as Glagolithic and translated Holy scripture ……Is that a coincidence?  The flight was late and I needed a taxi to get to the hotel. I cannot sleep probably because of time difference. I stare at the pages of the Codex again and again.

25 May 2015, Kyoto
A long and hot day is about to finish. For first time I give myself account that I am obsessed by idea to figure out the writing system of the codex. I had read an article by Benedec Lang: "Why don't we decipher...."(  and also an overview of his book on the RC by Dóra Bobory : "The Rohonc Code"( So Lang believes that the Codex is not a hoax. He even suppose possibility that it might be older than 19 century. Lang identifies some of the images with scenes from New Testament. He thinks that is very possible that names of Jesus and Pilate are written over their figures.

26 May 2015, Kyoto
It is too hot in Kyoto. I miss London’s weather. It is after 10 PM. I read again after a short sleep, then sleep again, then read again. According to B. Lang writing in the Codex goes from right to left. I can see how lines start neatly on right. I also see intervals between groups of signs, probably words. I start to create a view how the Rohonc Script is composed:  pictographic and logographic signs on one side coexist with alphabetic signs on other. It is like Japanese furigana: mixture of katakana and hiragana that are syllabic alphabets, kanji (logographic), Arabic numbers and letters from Roman alphabet. I try to figure out the meaning of pictographic as well as alphabetic signs of  the Rohonc Script. Pictographic signs “give up” first. Little by little I try to  "identify" some of the signs:  looks like a mountain.  looks like a cave. But then what is ? Mountain again? And is it  a tree, and this one could be a cup? Difficult to say.

27 May 2015, Kyoto

Temples and shrines of Kyoto are numerous and beautiful. It was a wonderful experience. I  watch again drawings from the RC  then read New Testament and pass through the pages of the RC. I am  tired.

28 May 2015, Kyoto

Its early morning. I am going to travel to Tokyo by bus. It will be long journey. But I am excited. I will watch Japanese country side and I prepared a notebook to copy pages of the codex. The bus comes little bit late but is very convenient. During the travel I manage to copy over almost 20 pages. It is good exercise. I try not to think but to feel the script. Of course I write from right to left and from top to bottom. Is it how mysterious author(s) of RC might have written it….. Finally I am in Tokyo. I manage to achieve two difficult tasks: to receive my actual tickets for World Kendo Championship in some agency near Shinjiku station and to find my hotel near Meguro. At the hotel room I go over the material on RC but I am too tired to think. 

29 May 2015, Tokyo

The World Championship is my kendo event of the year. It is enjoyable experience. I am too excited, my brain is too busy, and yet there is a room for thought about RC. I am going pictographic. After I have seen this sign:which looks like a church, I decide that then may be that one is a sign for city. I identify as well two other sign: - horse and  wagon. By the way last sign is somewhat similar to Chinese sign for cart . Unfortunately in the text of New Testament I didn't find yet no horses nor wagons. 

30 May 2015, Tokyo

I work again on the pictographic signs that I had identified. The sign for city is almost always preceded by an alphabetic sign:. The same sign stays in front of other signs as well: . Is this some sort of prefix that can tell us more about the language of the Codex? Another sign pics my attention: . It looks just as latin minuscule "i". According to Delia Huegel, Miklos Locsmandi thinks that this sign is sentence starter. Interesting that the sound value of letter "i" means "and" in Bulgarian and other Slavic languages as well. Also, "and" is a very good sentence starter in Old Bulgarian. By the way, I go already red some passages of the New Testament on different languages and remember that many sentences in Latin Bible start with "at"(and) as well. Interesting. 

02 June 2015, Hong Kong
My first visit of Hong Kong.  Weather is very hot and humid.  Heat never ends. Air-conditioning in the hostel does’t work properly. I read the material on RC again and again. It is long night of reading and thinking. I find a scene of Ten Commandments(according to Delia Huegel):

There in order from right to left are depicted three tablets that are labeled accordingly: 
 and . The second and first symbols in both three headings are same. Only the first part differs. In the second and the third title respectively we can see Latin numerals II and III. This gives me right to assume that the symbol in the first heading is with meaning "first"   . In the second I recognize somewhat a solar symbol   . In Greek the Ten Commandments are called   Δεκάλογος (ten words), in Latin: decem praecepta (ten commandments) in Bulgarian: Десетте Божи заповеди (ten divine commandments). So the third word in the heading (could be "word" or "commandment". The second word () then according to Bulgarian could be "divine" or something like "holly". I am not very sure so I browse the Codex for more "solar" symbols and I find it here:

The symbol inscribed on above drawing together with my "solar" sign is composed with a number III and a suffix: . I assume it could have meaning "trinity" and the whole phrase could be then: trinity holy. There is languages that allow adjective to be after the noun that modify (let say Spanish), but this occasion all my guesses are very hypothetical to make case out of it…., and I am too tired to think any more……..

03 June 2015, Hong Kong

Today I visited The Big Buddha. Up in the mountain  air is cool.  I prayed for well-being of the whole world. It is late evening and I am again at the hostel. Benedec Lang assumes that in the scene where Jesus is in front of Pilate the names of both can be red: 

In her site Delia Huegel also talks about the name of Jesus (but not the Pilate). She actually produces three names:  Abraham,Jesus Christ:and Moses: . According to above drawing  the name of Pilate is spelled: . I stare at Rohonc spellings of the names of Jesus and Pilate trying to find something similar, something that will give me footage to step forward in understanding of Rohonc Script. 

04 June 2015, Hong Kong

History museum of Hong Kong works every day but Thursday. And guess what: today is Thursday. I switch my plans to Chi Lin Nunnery and beautiful Nan Lian Garden where I escape from the tropical heat. Later in the night, I return to my readings. I start with Bible. I find a site where Latin Vulgate Bible is presented parallel with King James’s Bible.  In this way I don’t need to refer to a dictionary. Later I return again to the script. Delia Huegel gives RC spellings of couple of names:

I can add to this material my discoveries:

As I look at above tablets as a whole, I find no coherence. Neither pictographic and logographic signs, nor simple letters seem right. I live unfinished thoughts and begin “browsing” through pages of the Codex. I find two new pictographic signs, book:and  book on a stand ? That’s what I am talking about. What meaning convey those little drawings? I can think of some: book, write, read, even think. Why not. And on what language is the word in question? I need to figure out the alphabetic signs. They are even bigger mess: The name of Moses () starts with Hebrew letter Shin which must represent “m”. Then the name of Abraham finishes with different letter:  which I thought looked like “m” from some Semitic alphabet I had seen before. Well I passed as many charts of Semitic alphabets and their derivatives as I can find at and didn't find such a letter-form. At least the first letter in Abraham's name looks like reversed Semitic Beth, but unfortunately this letter-form is very rarely used in the RC and cannot help to reed other words. Then the names of Jesus and Pilate are composed partially of logography or ligatures:  and . All we can get from them is two signs:   “i” and  “s”. They look just like reversed Cyrillic letters for “i” and “s”. Did the author of the script mixed in it Hebrew, Cyrillic and God knows what else alphabet? By the way the form  of Cyrillic letter “i” is a new development devised by Peter the Great in 1708…, but technically if the script of the Codex was developed after this date, its author could knew it.

5 June 2015, Hong Kong

I wake up early in the morning and get the bus to the airport. At the airport I find a little coffee shop where I could eat my breakfast drink orange juice and continue my search. To this point I am pretty aware that there is no hope of finding a Runiform script into the pages of the Rohonc Codex. But this don't bother me: I enjoy enormously unravelling the secrets of Rohonc Scrip piece by piece. Now I return again to the names of Jesus  Christ and Pilate:   , . In both names, the sign  coexists with signs that I assume are logographic. The name of Jesus itself actually starts with an . And this is not it. The same pattern, where alphabetic signs are mixed with logography,  is used throughout the pages of Codex many times: . I chose here combinations in which I have have some idea what might both signs mean. By now I was thinking that in such a combination, for example  is some sort of prefix or preposition. But in the cases of Jesus and Pilate  is part of the name. So then maybe   is part of the word that stays for  and plays here as determinative that goes together with the pictographic sign in this case "city". As like in case with Jesus where   represents first letter here also  represent first letter. Lets see in with language "city" starts with an sign for "s". Obviously in English. But I am after more obvious candidates from Central Europe German: "stadt", Hungarian: "varos", Croatian "grad", Latin "civitas". Then I check for horse ( ): German- pferd, Hungarian- lo, Croatian: konj, Latin- caballus. This examination strikes me not only that in Latin only I can find words that both start with a "c". Actually in civitas and caballus "c" is pronounced differently which makes me think that rohonc letter-form    is nothing else but reversed Roman "c". I am aware that I go over romance languages I might find similar words for horse and city, but this will not change the fact that  is suspected to be reversed Roman "c". Well this is not the case with , and I am for a moment disappointed, but not for long. Somehow I remember that I have seen the inscription on the Jesus's  Cross I have almost forgotten about. I turn on that page of the Codex:

The inscription is small but still visible:  In the third letter I can see reversed Roman minuscule "r" which obviously stays for Rex. This allows me to read the whole inscription: Iesus Christ Rex Iudeorum. Actually four evangelists disagree about the inscription on the Cross: In Matthew is Iesus rex Iudaeorum, in Mark is Rex Iudaeorum, in Luke is hic est rex Iudaeorum and only in John is Iesus Nazarenus rex Iudaeorum. At least that's what my Latin Vulgate Bible says. But even though I am wrong about the inscription over the Cross, those reversed Roman "r"s are here on the pages of the Codex and not only they: there is more. For example the sign for Jerusalem: . It looks as a rear letter-form of reversed upper case "h". Yes "h" stays for Jerusalem as in Latin it is spell: hierosolyma. I think this is enough for now and I would like to read a book on Latin paleography and find out something about medieval Latin abbreviations. Unfortunately I have to go because is time for my flight. After I get in the plane and dinner is over I have nothing to do but to go over the pages of the RC again and again. And yet I find something very interesting:. This word is composed of four letters. First I think "Golgota" two G's one L and one T. Although that letter-form of "t" is not traditional it was in use not only in medieval times. there is one problem though. Golgota is not a name that will be used everywhere in the New Testament as it is the case with . According to the New Testament another name is more plausible: Galilae. But it doesn't fit the letters perfectly: two L's but only one G . Well this is a question that needs time. 

5 June 2015 London

Home, sweet home. It is evening. I am in front of my computer and have all the books I need. Probably not all of them. I need books on medieval shorthand and Latin abbreviations. First question I need to answer is: Is the RC written in Latin? I find few books about Tironian notes and some histories of shorthand. As well a really good book on Latin abbreviations. Also I reed short information about earliest shorthands in Europe. It will take time. After I pass through some of the books I return to the RC. I am searching  the text for specific words , for example names, on the pages around the drawings that are already recognised by B. Land and D. Huegel. It is not a easy task until I get to that page:

According to D. Huegel here is depicted "Flagellation of Jesus". In the Gospel of John I find the verb: scourge which in Latin is: flagellum. On the above page I find a word made of two symbols:  They appear to be reversed version of Roman letters F and L or FL Those are the two first words of the Latin verb flagelum (to scourge). On the raw 7 from the top this word is followed by a word we already know: - Iesus (Jesus) . So what could be the word before the verb ? Who scourged Jesus? Of course soldiers. And soldiers in Latin is "milites". The word before  is . It starts with L and then a letter that I cannot recognize then T and may be connected with it (I). In shorthand you can omit any letter of the word, even the first. It is difficult to say but the word in question could mean milites and then the whole phrase will be: = Soldiers scourged Jesus. 

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