The Project Gutenberg eBook of A History of Magic and Experimental Science, Volume 2 (of 2)

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Title: A History of Magic and Experimental Science, Volume 2 (of 2)

Author: Lynn Thorndike

Release date: February 5, 2022 [eBook #67330]

Language: English

Original publication: United States: Columbia University Press, 1923

Credits: Tim Lindell, sf2001, and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team at (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive/American Libraries.)


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Copyright 1923 Columbia University Press
First published by The Macmillan Company 1923

ISBN 0-231-08795-0
Manufactured in the United States of America
10 9 8 7

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35. The Early Scholastics:
Peter Abelard and Hugh of St. Victor
36. Adelard of Bath 14
37. William of Conches 50
38. Some Twelfth Century Translators,
Chiefly of Astrology from the Arabic
39. Bernard Silvester; Astrology and Geomancy 99
40. Saint Hildegard of Bingen 124
41. John of Salisbury 155
42. Daniel of Morley and Roger of Hereford 171
43. Alexander Neckam on the Natures of Things 188
44. Moses Maimonides 205
45. Hermetic Books in the Middle Ages 214
46. Kiranides 229
47. Prester John and the Marvels of India 236
48. The Pseudo-Aristotle 246
49. Solomon and the Ars Notoria 279
50. Ancient and Medieval Dream-Books 290
Foreword 305
51. Michael Scot 307
52. William of Auvergne 338
53. Thomas of Cantimpré 372
54. Bartholomew of England 401
55. Robert Grosseteste 436
56. Vincent of Beauvais 457
57. Early Thirteenth Century Medicine:
Gilbert of England and William of England
58. Petrus Hispanus 488[Pg vi]
59. Albertus Magnus 517
I. Life
II. As a Scientist
III. His Allusions to Magic
IV. Marvelous Virtues in Nature
V. Attitude Toward Astrology
60. Thomas Aquinas 593
61. Roger Bacon 616
I. Life
II. Criticism of and Part in Medieval Learning
III. Experimental Science
IV. Attitude Toward Magic and Astrology
62. The Speculum Astronomiae 692
63. Three Treatises Ascribed to Albert 720
64. Experiments and Secrets: Medical and Biological 751
65. Experiments and Secrets: Chemical and Magical 777
66. Picatrix 813
67. Guido Bonatti and Bartholomew of Parma 825
68. Arnald of Villanova 841
69. Raymond Lull 862
70. Peter of Abano 874
71. Cecco d’Ascoli 948
72. Conclusion 969
General 985
Bibliographical 1007
Manuscripts 1027

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Chapter 35. The Early Scholastics: Peter Abelard and Hugh of St. Victor.
Chapter 36. Adelard of Bath.
Chapter 37. William of Conches.
Chapter 38. Some Twelfth Century Translators, chiefly of Astrology from the Arabic in Spain.
Chapter 39. Bernard Silvester: Astrology and Geomancy.
Chapter 40. St. Hildegard of Bingen.
Chapter 41. John of Salisbury.
Chapter 42. Daniel of Morley and Roger of Hereford; or, Astrology in England in the Second Half of the Twelfth Century.
Chapter 43. Alexander Neckam on the Natures of Things.
Chapter 44. Moses Maimonides.
Chapter 45. Hermetic Books in the Middle Ages.
Chapter 46. Kiranides.
Chapter 47. Prester John and the Marvels of India.
Chapter 48. The Pseudo-Aristotle.
Chapter 49. Solomon and the Ars Notoria.
Chapter 50. Ancient and Medieval Dream-Books.

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Relation of scholastic theology to our theme—Character of Abelard’s learning—Incorrect statements of his views—The nature of the stars—Prediction of natural and contingent events—The Magi and the star—Demons and forces in nature—Magic and natural science—Hugh of St. Victor—Character of the Didascalicon—Meaning of Physica—The study of history—The two mathematics: astrology, natural and superstitious—The superlunar and sublunar worlds—Discussion of magic—Five sub-divisions of magic—De bestiis et aliis rebus.

Relation of scholastic theology to our theme.

The names of Peter Abelard, 1079-1142, and Hugh or Hugo of St. Victor, 1096-1141, have been coupled as those of the two men who perhaps more than any others were the founders of scholastic theology. Our investigation is not very closely or directly concerned with scholastic theology, which I hope to show did not so exclusively absorb the intellectual energy of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries as has sometimes been asserted. Our attention will be mainly devoted as heretofore to the pursuit of natural science during that period and the prominence both of experimental method and of magic in the same. But our investigation deals not only with magic and experimental science, but with their relation to Christian thought. It is therefore with interest that we turn to the works of these two early representatives of scholastic theology, and inquire what cognizance, if any, they take of the subjects in which we are especially interested. As we proceed into the later twelfth and thirteenth centuries in subsequent chapters, we shall also take occasion to note the utterances of other leading men of learning who speak largely from the theological standpoint, like John of Salisbury and Thomas Aquinas. Let us hasten to admit [Pg 4] also that the scholastic method of instruction and writing made itself felt in natural science and medicine as well as in theology, as a number of our subsequent chapters will illustrate. In the present chapter we shall furthermore be brought again into contact with the topic of the Physiologus and Latin Bestiaries, owing to the fact that a treatise of this sort has been ascribed, although probably incorrectly, to Hugh of St. Victor.

Character of Abelard’s learning.

There is no more familiar, and possibly no more important, figure in the history of Latin learning during the twelfth century than Peter Abelard who flourished at its beginning. His career, as set forth in his own words, illustrates educational conditions in Gaul at that time. His brilliant success as a lecturer on logic and theology at Paris reveals the great medieval university of that city in embryo. His pioneer work, Sic et Non, set the fashion for the standard method of presentation employed in scholasticism. He was not, however, the only daring and original spirit of his time; his learned writings were almost entirely in those fields known as patristic and scholastic; and, as in the case of Sic et Non, consist chiefly in a repetition of the utterances of the fathers. This is especially true of his statements concerning astrology, the magi, and demons. To natural science he gave little or no attention. Nevertheless his intellectual prominence and future influence make it advisable to note what position he took upon these points.

Incorrect statements of his views.

Although not original, his views concerning the stars and their influences are the more essential to expose, because writers upon Abelard have misunderstood and consequently misinterpreted them. Joseph McCabe in his Life of Abelard,[1] for instance, asserts that Abelard calls mathematics diabolical in one of his works. And Charles Jourdain in his in some ways excellent[2] Dissertation sur l’état de la philosophie naturelle en occident et principalement en France pendant la première moitié du XIIe siècle, praises Abelard [Pg 5] for what he regards as an admirable attack upon and criticism of astrology in his Expositio in Hexameron, saying, “It will be hard to find in the writers of a later age anything more discriminating on the errors of astrology.”[3] Jourdain apparently did not realize the extent to which Abelard was simply repeating the writers of an earlier age. However, Abelard’s presentation possesses a certain freshness and perhaps contains some original observations.

The nature of the stars.

In the passage in question[4] Abelard first discusses the nature of the stars. He says that it is no small question whether the planets are animated, as the philosophers think, and have spirits who control their motion, or whether they hold their unvarying course merely by the will and order of God. Philosophers do not hesitate to declare them rational, immortal, and impassive animals, and the Platonists call them not only gods but gods of gods, as being more excellent and having greater efficacy than the other stars. Moreover, Augustine says in his Handbook that he is uncertain whether to class the sun, moon, and stars with the angels. In his Retractions Augustine withdrew his earlier statement that this world is an animal, as Plato and other philosophers believe, not because he was sure it was false, but because he could not certainly prove it true either by reason or by the authority of divine scripture. Abelard does not venture to state an opinion of his own, but he at least has done little to refute a view of the nature of the heavenly bodies which is quite favorable to, and usually was accompanied by, astrology. Also he displays the wonted medieval respect for the opinions of the philosophers in general and the leaning of the twelfth century toward Plato in particular.

Prediction of natural and contingent events.

Abelard next comes to the problem of the influence of the stars upon this earth and man. He grants that the stars control heat and cold, drought and moisture; he accepts the astrological division of the heavens into houses, [Pg 6] in certain ones of which each planet exerts its maximum of force; and he believes that men skilled in knowledge of the stars can by astronomy predict much concerning the future of things having natural causes. Astronomical observations to his mind are very valuable not only in agriculture but in medicine, and he mentions that Moses himself is believed to have been very skilful in this science of the Egyptians. It is only to the attempt to predict contingentia as distinguished from naturalia that he objects. By contingentia he seems to mean events in which chance and divine providence or human choice and free will are involved. He gives as a proof that astrologers cannot predict such events the fact that, while they will foretell to you what other persons will do, they refuse to tell you openly which of two courses you yourself will pursue for fear that you may prove them wrong by wilfully doing the contrary to what they predict. Or, if an astrologer is able to predict such “contingent events,” it must be because the devil has assisted him, and hence Abelard declares that he who promises anyone certitude concerning “contingent happenings” by means of “astronomy” is to be considered not so much astronomicus as diabolicus. This is the nearest approach that I have been able to find in Abelard’s writings to McCabe’s assertion that he once called mathematics diabolical. But possibly I have overlooked some other passage where Abelard calls mathematica, in the sense of divination, diabolical.[5] In any case Abelard rejects astrology only in part and accepts it with certain qualifications. His attitude is about the average one of his own time and of ages preceding and following.

The Magi and the star.

Abelard speaks of the Magi and the star of Bethlehem in a sermon for Epiphany.[6] This familiar theme, as we have seen, had often occupied the pens of the church fathers, so that Abelard has nothing new to say. On the contrary, he exhausts neither the authorities nor the subject in the passages which he selects for repetition. His first point is that [Pg 7] the Magi were fittingly the first of the Gentiles to become Christian converts because they before had been the masters of the greatest error, condemned by law with soothsayers to death, and indebted for their “nefarious and execrable doctrine” to demons. In short, Abelard identifies them with magicians and takes that word in the worst sense. He is aware, however, that some identify them not with sorcerers (malefici) but with astronomers. He repeats the legend from the spurious homily of Chrysostom which we have already recounted[7] of how the magi had for generations watched for the star, warned by the writing of Seth which they possessed, and how the star finally appeared in the form of a little child with a cross above it and spake with them. He also states that they were called magici in their tongue because they glorified God in silence, without appearing to note that this is contrary to his previous use of magi in an evil sense. Abelard believes that a new star announced the birth of Christ, the heavenly king, although he grants that comets, which we read of as announcing the deaths of earthly sovereigns, are not new stars. He also discusses without satisfactory results the question why this new star was seen only by the Magi.

Demons and forces in nature.

In a chapter “On the Suggestions of Demons” in his Ethica seu Scito te ipsum,[8] Abelard attempts to a certain extent a natural explanation of the tempting of men by demons and the arousing of lust and other evil passions within us. In this he perhaps makes his closest approach to the standpoint of natural science, although he is simply repeating an idea found already in Augustine and other church fathers. In plants and seeds and trees and stones, Abelard explains, there reside many forces adapted to arouse or calm our passions. The demons, owing to their subtle ingenuity and their long experience with the natures of things, are acquainted with all these occult properties and make use of them for their own evil ends. Thus they sometimes, by divine permission, send men into trances or give [Pg 8] remedies to those making supplications to them, “and often when such cease to feel pain, they are believed to be cured.” Abelard also mentions the marvels which the demons worked in Egypt in opposition to Moses by means of Pharaoh’s magicians.

Magic and natural science.

Evidently then Abelard believes both in the existence of demons and of occult virtues in nature by which marvels may be worked. Magic avails itself both of demonic and natural forces. The demons are more thoroughly acquainted with the secrets of nature than are men. But this does not prove that scientific research is necessarily diabolical or that anyone devoting himself to investigation of nature is giving himself over to demons. The inevitable conclusion is rather that if men will practice the same long experimentation and will exercise the same “subtle ingenuity” as the demons have, there is nothing to prevent them, too, from becoming at last thoroughly acquainted with the natural powers of things. Also magic, since it avails itself of natural forces, is akin to natural science, while natural science may hope some day to rival both the knowledge of the demons and the marvels of magic. Abelard does not go on to draw any of these conclusions, but other medieval writers were to do so before very long.

Hugh of St. Victor.

Upon Hugh of St. Victor Vincent of Beauvais in the century following looked back as “illustrious in religion and knowledge of literature” and as “second to no one of his time in skill in the seven liberal arts.”[9] Hugh was Abelard’s younger contemporary, born almost twenty years later in Saxony in 1096 but dying a year before Abelard in 1141. His uncle, the bishop of Halberstadt, had preceded him at Paris as a student under William of Champeaux. When Hugh, as an Augustinian canon, reached the monastery of St. Victor at Paris, William had ceased to teach and become a bishop. Hugh was himself chosen head of the school [Pg 9] in 1133. He is famous as a mystic, but also composed exegetical and dogmatic works, and is noted for his classification of the sciences. Edward Myers well observes in this connection: “Historians of philosophy are now coming to see that it betrays a lack of psychological imagination to be unable to figure the subjective coexistence of Aristotelian dialectics with mysticism of the Victorine or Bernardine type—and even their compenetration. Speculative thought was not, and could not be, isolated from religious life lived with such intensity as it was in the middle ages, when that speculative thought was active everywhere, in every profession, in every degree of the social scale.”[10] Later, in the case of St. Hildegard of Bingen, we shall meet an even more striking combination of mysticism and natural science.

Character of the Didascalicon.

Of Hugh’s writings we shall be chiefly concerned with the Didascalicon, or Eruditio didascalica,[11] a brief work whose six books occupy some seventy columns in Migne’s [Pg 10] Patrologia. It is especially devoted, as its first chapter clearly states, to instructing the student what to read and how to read. On the whole, especially for its early twelfth century date, it is a clear, systematic, and sensible treatise, which shows that medieval men were wider readers than has often been supposed and that they had some sound ideas on how to study. In order to have a basis for systematic study, Hugh describes and classifies the various arts and sciences, mechanical and liberal, theoretical and practical. He is possibly influenced in his definitions and derivations by Isidore’s Etymologies, although he seldom if ever acknowledges the debt, whereas he cites Boethius a number of times, but at least his classification and arrangement of material are quite different from Isidore’s. In this description and classification, and indeed throughout the treatise, Hugh seems to display no little originality of thought and arrangement—once he tells us of his own methods of study[12]—although his facts and details are mostly familiar ones from ancient authors and although he of course embodies generally accepted notions such as the trivium and quadrivium.

Meaning of physica.

To the four subjects of the quadrivium he adds physica or physiologia,[13] which he says “considers and investigates the causes of things in their effects and their effects in their causes.” He quotes from Vergil’s Georgics, (II, 479-)

“Whence earthquakes come, what force disturbs the deep,
Virtues of herbs, the minds and wraths of brutes,
All kinds of fruits, of reptiles, too, and gems.”

Thus Physica is more inclusive than the modern science of Physics, while Hugh evidently does not employ it in the specific sense of the art of medicine, of which the word physica was sometimes used in the medieval period. Hugh goes on to say that Physica is sometimes still more broadly interpreted to designate natural philosophy in contrast to logical and ethical philosophy. His quotation from the Georgics also causes one to reflect on the prominent part [Pg 11] played in natural science from before Vergil to after Hugh by the semi-human characteristics ascribed to animals and the occult virtues ascribed to herbs and gems.

The study of history.

Hugh’s attitude to history is interesting to note in passing. In his classification of the sciences he does not assign it a distinct place as he does to economics and politics, but he shows his inchoate sense of the importance of the history of science and of thought by attempting a list of the founders of the various arts and sciences.[14] In this connection he adopts the theory of the origin of the Etruscans at present in favor with scholars, that they came from Lydia. He regards the study of Biblical or sacred history as the first essential for a theologian, who should learn history from beginning to end before he proceeds to doctrine and allegory.[15] Four essential points to note in studying history in Hugh’s opinion are the person, the event, the time, and the place.

The two mathematics: astrology, natural and superstitious.

In discussing the quadrivium Hugh explains the significance of the terms, mathematica, astronomia, and astrologia. Mathematica, in which the first letter “t” has the aspirate, denotes sound doctrine and the science of abstract quantity, and embraces within itself the four subjects of the quadrivium. In other words it denotes mathematics in our sense of the word. But matesis, spelled without the aspirate, signifies that superstitious vanity which places the fate of man under the constellations.[16] Hugh thus allows for the common [Pg 12] use since the time of the Roman Empire of the word mathematicus for an astrologer, and the frequent use of mathematica in the sense of the Greek word mantike or divination. He correctly states the Greek derivation of astrology and astronomy and employs those words in just about their modern sense. Astrology considers the stars in order to determine the nativity, death, and certain other events. For Hugh, however, it is not wholly a superstition, but “partly natural science, partly a superstition,” since he believes that the condition of the human body as well as of other bodies depends upon the constellations, and that sickness and health as well as storms or fair weather, fertility and sterility, can be predicted from the stars, but that it is superstitious to assert their control over contingent events and acts of free will,—the same distinction as that made by Abelard.

The superlunar and sublunar worlds.

In an earlier discussion of the universe above and beneath the moon[17] Hugh had further emphasized the superiority of the heavenly bodies and their power over earthly life and nature. He distinguished three kinds of beings: God the Creator (solus naturae genitor et artifex) who alone is without beginning or end and truly eternal, the bodies of the superlunar world which have a beginning but no end and are called perpetual and divine, and sublunar and terrestrial things which have both a beginning and an end. The mathematicians call the superlunar world nature, and the sublunar world the work of nature, because all life and growth in it comes “through invisible channels from the [Pg 13] superior bodies.” They also call the upper world time, because of the movements of the heavenly bodies in it determining time, and the lower world temporal, because it is moved according to the superior motions. They further call the superlunar world Elysium on account of its perpetual light and peace, while they call the other Infernum because of its confusion and constant fluctuation. Hugh adds that he has touched upon these points in order to show man that, in so far as he shares in this world of change, he is like it, subject to necessity, while in so far as he is immortal he is related to the Godhead.

Discussion of magic.

Hugh’s brief, but clear and pithy, account of magic occurs in the closing chapter of his sixth and last book,[18] and seems to be rather in the nature of an addendum. It is, indeed, missing from the Didascalicon in some of the earliest manuscripts[19] and is found separately in the same collection of manuscripts, so that possibly it is not by Hugh. At any rate, magic is treated by itself apart from his previous description and classification of the arts and sciences and listing of their founders. The definition of magic makes it clear why it is thus segregated: “Magic is not included in philosophy, but is a distinct subject, false in its professions, mistress of all iniquity and malice, deceiving concerning [Pg 14] the truth and truly doing harm; it seduces souls from divine religion, promotes the worship of demons, engenders corruption of morals, and impels the minds of its followers to every crime and abomination.” Hugh had prefaced this definition by much the usual meager history of the origin of magic to be found in Isidore and other writers, but his definition proper seems rather original in its form and in a way admirable in its attitude. The ancient classical feeling that magic was evil and the Christian prejudice against it as the work of demons still play a large part in his summary of the subject, but to these two points that magic is hostile to Christianity or irreligious, and that it is improper, immoral, and criminal, he adds the other two points that it is not a part of philosophy—in other words, it is unscientific, and that it is more or less untrue and unreal. Or these four points may be reduced to two: since law, religion, and learning unite in condemning magic, it is unsocial in every respect; and it is more or less untrue, unreal, and unscientific.

Five subdivisions of magic.

Hugh’s list of various forbidden and occult arts which are sub-divisions of magic is somewhat similar to that of Isidore, but he classifies and groups them logically under five main heads in a way which appears to be partly his own, and which was followed by other subsequent writers, such as Roger Bacon. His first three main heads all deal with arts of divination. Mantike divides as usual into necromancy, geomancy, hydromancy, aerimancy, and pyromancy. Under mathematica are listed aruspicina, or the observation of hours (horae) or of entrails (hara); augury, or observation of birds; and horoscopia, or the observation of nativities. The third main head, sortilegia, deals with divination by lots. The fourth main head, maleficia, with which magic has already been twice identified in the chapter, is now described by Hugh as “the performance of evil deeds by incantations to demons, or by ligatures or any other accursed kind of remedies with the co-operation and instruction of [Pg 15] demons.”[20] Fifth and last come praestigia, in which “by phantastic illusions concerning the transformation of objects the human senses are deceived by demoniacal art.”[21]

De bestiis et aliis rebus.

Among the doubtful and spurious works ascribed to Hugh is a bestiary in four books,[22] in which various birds and beasts are described, and spiritual and moral applications are made from them. At least this is the character of the first part of the treatise; towards the close it becomes simply a glossary of all sorts of natural objects. Physiologus is often cited for the natural properties of birds and beasts, but as we have already dealt with the problem of the Physiologus in an earlier chapter, and as we shall sufficiently deal with the properties and natures ascribed to animals in the middle ages in describing the treatment of them by various encyclopedists like Thomas of Cantimpré, Bartholomew of England, and Albertus Magnus, we are at present mainly interested in some other features of the treatise before us. It is often illustrated with illuminations of birds and animals in the manuscripts and was originally intended to be so, as the prologue on the hawk and dove by its monkish author to a noble convert, Raynerus, makes evident. “Wishing to satisfy the petitions of your desire, I decided to paint the dove whose ‘wings are covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold,’ and to edify minds by painting, in order that what the simple mind can scarcely grasp by the eye of the intellect, it might at least discern with the carnal eye, and vision perceive what hearing could scarcely comprehend. However, I wished not only to depict the dove graphically but to describe it in words and to explain the painting by writing, so that he whom the simplicity of the picture did not please might at least be pleased by the morality of Scripture.” Indeed, the work is often entitled The Gilded [Pg 16] Dove in the manuscripts. The treatise is manifestly of a religious and popular rather than scientific character. One interesting passage states that a monk should not practice medicine because “a doctor sometimes sees things which are not decent to see,” and “touches what it is improper for the religious to touch.” Furthermore, a physician “speaks of uncertain matters by means of experiments, but experience is deceitful and so often errs. But this is not fitting for a monk that he should speak aught but the truth.”[23] It is rather surprising to find free will attributed to the wild beasts, who are said to wander about at their will.[24] This passage, however, is simply copied from Isidore.[25]

[1] J. McCabe, Peter Abelard, New York, 1901.

[2] Especially considering its date, Paris, 1838.

[3] Ibid., p. 119.

[4] Cousin, Opera hactenus seorsim edita (1849-1859), I, 647-9.

[5] I have, however, searched for such in vain.

[6] Migne, PL 178, 409-17.

[7] See above, chapter 20, page 474.

[8] Cap. 4, in Migne, PL 178, 647.

[9] Speculum doctrinale (1472?), XVIII, 62, “Hugo Parisiensis sancti victoris canonicus religione et literarum scientia clarus et in VII liberalium artium peritia nulli sui temporis secundus fuit.”

[10] CE “Hugh of St. Victor,” where is also given a good bibliography of works on Hugh’s theology, philosophy, psychology, and pedagogy.

[11] I have employed the text in Migne PL vol. 176, cols. 739-812. It should be noted, however, that B. Hauréau, Les Œuvres de Hugues de Saint-Victor, Essai critique, nouvelle edition, Paris, 1886, demonstrated that there should be only six books of the Didascalicon instead of seven as in this edition and that of 1648. This will not affect our investigation, as we shall make no use of the seventh book, but we shall have later to discuss whether a passage on magic belongs at the close of the sixth book or not. There appears to be a somewhat general impression that the edition of 1648 is the earliest edition of Hugh’s works, but the British Museum has an undated incunabulum of the “Didascolon” numbered IB. 859, fol. 254.

Vincent of Beauvais in the thirteenth century speaks of the “Didascolon” as in five books (Speculum doctrinale, XVIII, 62) but is probably mistaken. The MSS seem uniformly to divide the work into a prologue and six books, as in the following at Oxford:

New College 144, 11th (sic) century, folio bene exaratus et servatus, fols. 105-43, “Incipit prologus in Didascalicon.”

Jesus College 35, 12th century, fol. 26-

St. John’s 98, 14th century, fol. 123-

Corpus Christi 223, 15th century, fol. 73-

I have not noted what MSS of the Didascalicon there are in the British Museum. The following MSS elsewhere may be worth listing as of early date:

Grenoble 246, 12th century, fols. 99-133.

BN 13334, 12th century, fol. 52-, de arte didascalica, is probably our treatise, although the catalogue names no author.

BN 15256, 13th century, fol. 128-.

Still other MSS will be mentioned in a subsequent note.

[12] Didasc. VI, 3.

[13] Ibid., II, 17.

[14] Didasc. III, 2.

[15] Ibid., VI, 3.

[16] A similar distinction will be found in the Glosses on the Timaeus of William of Conches (Cousin, Ouvrages inédits d’Abélard, 1836, p. 649), one of Hugh’s contemporaries of whom we shall presently treat. A little later in the twelfth century John of Salisbury (Polycraticus, II, 18) makes the distinction between the two mateses or mathematics lie rather in the quantity of the penultimate vowel “e”. In the thirteenth century Albertus Magnus (Commentary on Matthew, II, 1) also distinguished between the two varieties of mathematics according to the length of the “e” in “mathesis”; but he did not regard the second variety as necessarily superstitious, but as divination from the stars which might be either good or bad, like Hugh’s astrologia.

Roger Bacon mentioned both methods of distinction between the true and false mathematics; but statements in his different works are not in agreement as to which case it is in which the “e” is long or short. In the Opus Maius (Bridges, I, 239 and note) and Opus Tertium (caps. 9 and 65) he states that the vowel is short in the true mathematics and long in the superstitious variety; but in other writings he took the opposite view and declared that “all the Latins” were wrong in thinking otherwise (see Bridges, I, 239 note; Steele (1920) viii).

In a twelfth century MS at Munich (CLM 19488, pp. 17-23) a treatise or perhaps an excerpt from some longer work, entitled De differentiis vocabulorum, opens with the words, “Scire facit mathesis et divinare mathesis.” Roger Bacon says (Steele, 1920, p. 3), “Set glomerelli nescientes Grecum ... ex magna sua ignorancia vulgaverunt hos versus falsos:

Scire facit matesis, set divinare mathesis;
Philosophi matesim, magici dixere mathesim.”

[17] Didascalicon, I, 7.

[18] Didasc. VI, 15 (Migne PL 176, 810-12).

[19] BN nouv. acq. 1429, 12th century, fols. iv-23, and CLM 2572, written between 1182 and 1199; both end with the thirteenth chapter of Book VI, or at col. 809 in Migne. St. John’s 98, 14th century, fol. 145v, also ends at this point. Jesus College 35, 12th century, is mutilated at the close.

Other early MSS, however, include the passage on magic in the Didascalicon, and end the sixth book with the closing words of the account of magic, “Hydromancy first came from the Persians”: see Vitry-le-François 19, 12th century, fols. 1-46; Mazarine 717, 13th century, #9, closing at fol. 97v.

The passage on magic is also cited as Hugh’s by Robert Kilwardby, archbishop of Canterbury 1272-1279, in his work on the division of the sciences, cap. 67: MSS are Balliol 3; Merton 261.

In Cortona 35, 15th century, fol. 203, the Didascalicon in six books is first followed by a brief passage, Divisio philosophie continentium, which is perhaps simply the fourteenth chapter of the sixth book as printed in Migne, and then at fol. 224 by the passage concerning magic and its subdivisions.

The account of magic also occurs in MSS which do not contain the Didascalicon, for instance, Vatic. Palat. Lat. 841, 13th century, fol. 139r, “Magice artis quinque sunt species....”

[20] “Malefici sunt qui per incantationes daemonicas sive ligaturas vel alia quaecunque exsecrabilia remediorum genera cooperatione daemonum atque instructu nefanda perficiunt.”

[21] “Praestigia sunt quando per phantasticas illusiones circa rerum immutationem sensibus humanis arte daemoniaca illuditur.”

[22] Migne, PL 177, 13-164, “Hugo Raynero suo salutem. Desiderii tui petitionibus, charissime, satisfacere cupiens....”

[23] I, 45. “De incertis per experimenta loquitur, sed experimentum est fallax, ideo saepe fallitur. Sed hoc religioso non expedit ut alia quam vera loquatur.”

[24] II, prologus. “Ferae appellantur eo quod naturali utantur libertate et desiderio suo ferantur. Sunt enim liberae eorum voluntates et huc atque illuc vagantur et quo animus duxerit eo feruntur.”

[25] Etymologiarum, XII, ii, 2.

[Pg 17]



The De bestiis et aliis rebus or Columba deargentata appears with other opuscula of Hugh of St. Victor or Hugh of Folieto in

Vendôme 156, 12th century, fol. 1v—, “Libellus cuiusdam ad fratrem Rainerum corde benignum qui Columba deargentata inscribitur. Desiderii tui, karissime, petitionibus satisfacere....”

Dijon anciens fonds 225, 12th century, fols. 92v-98, “Prologus Hugonis prioris in librum de tribus columbis. Desiderii tui, karissime, petitionibus satisfacere....”

Cambridge University has several copies, most of which seem to differ from the printed edition and from one another.

CUL 1574, 15th century, Liber de bestiis et aliis rebus; the arrangement is said to be very different from that in Migne.

CUL 1823, 12th century, “Liber bestiarum”; similar in text to the foregoing, but with a different order of chapters, “and there are both large omissions and insertions.” The numerous figures of animals in outline “are remarkable for their finish and vigor.”

CUL 2040, late 13th century, fols. 50-93, “De natura animantium”; said to be “substantially the same as that of Hugo de S. Victore; the arrangement, however, is very irregular.”

CU Sidney Sussex 100, 13th century, James’s description (pp. 115-7) shows it to be our treatise; for its fine miniatures see James (1895) pp. 117-20.

A few other MSS (doubtless the list can be greatly augmented) are:

Vitry-le-François 23, 13th century, fols. 1-23, illuminated, “Incipit libellus cuiusdam ad Rainerum conversum cognomine Corde [Pg 18] Benignum. Incipit de tribus columbis. Si dormiatis inter medios cleros ...”; it closes without Explicit, “... per bonam operationem conformem reddit.” Then follows at fol. 23v, “Incipit tractatus Hugonis de Folieto prioris canonicorum Sancti Laurentii in pago Ambianensi de claustro anime....”

Vitry-le-François 63, 13th century, fol. 1-, “De tribus columbis ad Raynerum conversum cognomento Corde Benignum seu de natura avium....”; followed at fol. 7-, by portions of De claustro anime.

BN 12321, 13th century, fol. 215v (where it follows works by St. Bernard), De naturis avium ad Rainerum conversum cognomine Corde benignum.

Bourges 121, 13th century, fol. 128-, “Libellus cuiusdam (Hugonis de Folieto) ad fratrem Rainerum corde benignum qui Columba deargentata inscribitur.”

CLM 15407, 14th century, fol. 46, Libellus qui “Columba deargentata” inscribitur, etc.

CLM 18368, anno 1385, fol. 121, Hugonis de S. Victore Columba deargentata; fol. 124, Eiusdem avicularius.

[Pg 19]



Place in medieval learning—Some dates in his career—Mathematical treatises—Adelard and alchemy—Importance of the Natural Questions—Occasion of writing—Arabic versus Gallic learning—“Modern discoveries”—Medieval work wrongly credited to Greek and Arab—Illustrated from the history of alchemy—Science and religion—Reason versus authority—Need of the telescope and microscope already felt—Some quaint speculative science—Warfare, science, and religion—Specimens of medieval scientific curiosity—Theory of sound—Theory of vision—Deductive reasoning from hot and cold, moist and dry—Refinement of the four elements hypothesis—Animal intelligence doubted—The earth’s shape and center of gravity—Indestructibility of matter—Also stated by Hugh of St. Victor—Roger Bacon’s continuity of universal nature—Previously stated by Adelard—Experiment and magic—Adelard and Hero of Alexandria—Attitude to the stars: De eodem et diverso—Attitude to the stars: Questiones naturales—Astrology in an anonymous work, perhaps by Athelardus—Authorities concerning spirits—Adelard’s future influence—Appendix I. The problem of dating the De eodem et diverso and Questiones naturales and of their relations to each other—Difficulty of the problem—Before what queen did Adelard play the cithara?—Circumstances under which the De eodem et diverso was written—Different situation depicted in the Natural Questions—Some apparent indications that the De eodem et diverso was written after the Natural Questions—How long had Henry I been reigning?

Quare, si quid amplius a me audire desideras, rationem refer et recipe.

Questiones naturales, cap. 6.

Place in medieval learning.

While the Breton, Abelard, and the Saxon, Hugh of St. Victor, were reviewing patristic literature from somewhat new angles and were laying the foundations of scholastic method, an Englishman, Adelard of Bath,[26] was primarily [Pg 20] interested in exploring the fields of mathematical and natural science. As Hugh came from Saxony to Paris and Abelard went forth from his native Brittany through the towns of France in quest of Christian teachers, so Adelard, leaving not only his home in England but the schools of Gaul where he had been teaching, made a much more extensive intellectual pilgrimage even to lands Mohammedan. “It is worth while,” he declares in one of his works, “to visit learned men of different nations, and to remember whatever you find is most excellent in each case. For what the schools of Gaul do not know, those beyond the Alps reveal; what you do not learn among the Latins, well-informed Greece will teach you.”[27] Adelard seems to have devoted himself especially to Arabian learning and to have made a number of translations from the Arabic, continuing at the beginning of the twelfth century that transfer of Graeco-Arabic science which we have associated with the name of Gerbert in the tenth century and which Constantinus Africanus carried on in the eleventh century. Adelard himself hints that some of his new ideas are not derived from his Arabian masters but are his own, and Haskins has well characterized him as a pioneer in the study of natural science.

Some dates in his career.

Adelard has been described as “a dim and shadowy figure in the history of European learning,”[28] and the dates [Pg 21] of his birth and death are unknown. We possess, however, a number of his works and some may be either approximately or exactly dated. In the preface to his translation of the astronomical tables of Al-Khowarizmi he seems to give the year as 1126.[29] The Pipe Roll for 1130 informs us that Adelard received four shillings and six pence at that time from the sheriff of Wiltshire. This suggests that he was in the employ of the king’s court,[30] and his brief treatise on the astrolabe seems to be dedicated to Prince Henry Plantagenet,[31] later Henry II, and to have been written between 1142 and 1146. It was probably one of his last works and in it he mentions specifically three earlier works.[32] Two other writings, which are the best known and apparently the most original of his works, namely the Questiones naturales and De eodem et diverso, may be dated approximately from the fact that they are dedicated respectively to Richard, Bishop of Bayeux from 1107 to 1133, and to William, Bishop of Syracuse, who died in 1115 or 1116. Both works are addressed to Adelard’s nephew, who is presumably the same person in both cases, one in the form of a letter, the other of a conversation, and both justify Adelard’s studies in foreign lands. In an appendix to this chapter the question when these two treatises were written and their relations to each other will be discussed more fully.

Mathematical treatises.

The subjects of a majority of Adelard’s known works and translations are mathematical or astronomical. The most elementary is a treatise on the abacus, Regule abaci,[33] in which his chief authorities are Boethius and Gerbert and he seems as yet unacquainted with Arabic mathematics. [Pg 22][34] But most of the mathematical treatises extant under Adelard’s name are from the Arabic, such as his translation of Euclid’s Elements;[35] of the astronomical tables of Al-Khowarizmi—who flourished under the patronage of the caliph Al-Mamum (813-833)—“apparently as revised by Maslama at Cordova,” under the title Liber Ezich; and, if by a “Master A” Adelard is meant, of a treatise of the first half of the twelfth century on the four arts of the quadrivium and especially on astronomy, which is apparently also a work of Al-Khowarizmi.[36] Some of the introductory books on the quadrivium have been printed,[37] but “the astronomical treatise has not yet been specially studied.”[38] One therefore cannot say how far it may indulge in astrology, but we are told that Adelard translated from the Arabic another “astrological treatise, evidently of Abu Ma’ashar Dja’afar,”[39] or Albumasar. We have already mentioned in another chapter the ascription to Adelard of one Latin translation of the superstitious work of Thebit ben Corat on astrological images, and in the present chapter the treatise on the astrolabe for Henry Plantagenet.

Adelard and alchemy.

Adelard was interested in alchemy as well as astrology and magic, if the attribution to him in a thirteenth century manuscript[40] of the twelfth century version of the Mappe clavicula is correct. We have seen that the original version [Pg 23] of that work was much older than Adelard’s time, but he perhaps made additions to it, or translated a fuller Arabic version. The occurrence of some Arabic and English words in certain chapters of the later copies are perhaps signs of his contributions. Berthelot, however, thought that few of the new items in the twelfth century version originated with Adelard and that many of the additions were taken by him, or by whoever was responsible for the later version, from Greek rather than Arabic sources.[41]

Importance of the Natural Questions.

Our attention will be devoted chiefly to the two treatises by Adelard which we have already mentioned as the most original of his works. Of these the Natural Questions are evidently much more important than the De eodem et diverso, which is largely taken up with a justification, in the style of allegorical personification made so popular by Martianus Capella and Boethius, and with much use of Plato’s Timaeus, of the seven liberal arts against the five worldly interests of wealth, power, ambition, dignities, and pleasure. The Natural Questions, although put into a dramatic dialogue form somewhat reminiscent of Plato, deal without much persiflage with a number of concrete problems of natural science to which definite answers are attempted.

Occasion of writing.

Adelard opens the Natural Questions with brief allusion to the pleasant reunion with the friends who greeted him upon his return to England in the reign of Henry I after long absence from his native land for the sake of study. After the usual inquiries had been made concerning one another’s health and that of their friends, Adelard asked about “the morals of our nation,” only to learn that “princes were violent, prelates wine-bibbers, judges mercenary, patrons inconstant, the common men flatterers, promise-makers false, friends envious, and everyone in general ambitious.” Adelard declared that he had no intention of conforming to this wretched state of affairs, and when asked what he did [Pg 24] intend to do, since he would not practice and could not prevent such “moral depravity,” replied that he intended to ignore it, “for oblivion is the only remedy for insurmountable ills.” Accordingly that subject was dropped, and presently his nephew suggested and the others joined in urging that he disclose to them “something new from my Arabian studies.”[42] From the sordid practical world back to the pure light and ideals of science and philosophy! Such has been the frequent refrain of our authors from Vitruvius and Galen, from Firmicus and Boethius on. It is further enlarged upon by Adelard in the De eodem et diverso; it has not quite lost its force even today; and parallels to Adelard’s twelfth century lament on England’s going to the dogs may be found in after-the-war letters to The London Times of 1919.

Arabic versus Gallic learning.

The result of the request preferred by Adelard’s friends is the present treatise in the form of a dialogue with his nephew, who proposes by a succession of questions to force his uncle to justify his preference for “the opinions of the Saracens” over those of the Christian “schools of Gaul” where the nephew has pursued his studies. The nephew is described as “interested rather than expert in natural science”[43] in the Natural Questions, while a passage in the De eodem et diverso implies that his training in Gaul had been largely of the usual rhetorical and dialectical character, since Adelard says to him, “Do you keep watch whether I speak aright, observing that modest silence which is your custom amidst the wordy war of sophisms and the affected locutions of rhetoric.”[44] In the Natural Questions the nephew, as befits his now maturer years, has more to say, raising some objections and stating some theories as well as propounding his questions, but Adelard’s answers constitute the bulk of the book. Beginning with earth and plants, [Pg 25] the questions range in an ascending scale through the lower animals to human physiology and psychology and then to the grander cosmic phenomena of sea, air, and sky.

“Modern discoveries.”

In agreeing to follow this method of question and answer Adelard explains at the start that on account of the prejudice of the present generation against any modern[45] discoveries he will attribute even his own ideas to someone else, and that, if what he says proves displeasing to less advanced students because unfamiliar, the blame for this should be attached to the Arabs and not to himself. “For I am aware what misfortunes pursue the professors of truth among the common crowd. Therefore it is the cause of the Arabs that I plead, not my own.”[46] This is a very interesting passage in more ways than one. Adelard appears as an exponent of the new scientific school, stimulated by contact with Arabian culture. He is confident that he has valuable new truth, but is less confident as to the reception which it will receive. The hostility, however, in the Latin learned world is not, as one might expect, to Mohammedan learning. The process of taking over Arabic learning has apparently already begun—as indeed we have seen from our previous chapters—and [Pg 26] Adelard’s Christian friends are ready enough to hear what he has learned in Mohammedan lands and schools, although of course they may not accept it after they have heard it. But he fears that he “would not get a hearing at all,” if he should put forward new views as his own. Indeed, he himself shows a similar prejudice against other novelties than his own in a passage in the De eodem, where he speaks impatiently and contemptuously of “those who harass our ears with daily novelties” and of “the new Platos and Aristotles to whom each day gives birth, who with unblushing front proclaim alike things which they know and of which they know nothing, and whose supreme trust is in extreme verbosity.”[47] Adelard of course regarded his own new ideas as of more solid worth than these, but the fact remains that he was not after all the only one who was interested in promulgating novelties. Yet his justification for writing the De eodem is the silence of “the science of the moderns” compared with the fluency of the ancients, of whose famous writings he has read “not all, but the greater part.”[48] It is not necessary, of course, to regard this passage and the preceding as inconsistent, but it is well to read the one in the light of the other.

Medieval work wrongly credited to Greek and Arab.

But let us return to the passage from the Natural Questions and Adelard’s insinuation—slightly satirical no doubt, but also in part serious—that he has fathered new scientific notions of his own upon the Arabs. There is reason to think that he was not the only one to do this. Not only were superstitious and comparatively worthless treatises which were composed in the medieval period attributed to Aristotle and other famous authors, but this was also the case with works of real value. Also the number is suspiciously [Pg 27] large of works of which the lost originals were supposedly by Greek or Arabian authors but which are extant only in later Latin “translations.”

Illustrated from the history of alchemy.

This point may be specifically illustrated for the moment from the researches of Berthelot among alchemistic manuscripts, which have demonstrated that Latin alchemy of the thirteenth century was less superstitious and more scientific than in previous periods, whether among the ancient Greeks or more recent Arabs. He found but one treatise in Arabic which contained precise and minute details about chemical substances and operations. As a rule the Arabian alchemists wrote “theoretical works full of allegories and declamation.” For a long time several works, important in the history of chemistry as well as of alchemy, were regarded as Latin translations of the Arab, Geber. But Berthelot discovered the Arabic manuscripts of the real Geber, which turned out to be of little value and largely copied from Greek authors. On the other hand, the Latin works which had gone under Geber’s name were produced in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries by men who seem, like Adelard of Bath, to have preferred to ascribe their own ideas to the Arabs. Let us examine for a moment with Berthelot[49] the chief of these Latin treatises. It is a “a systematic work, very well arranged. Its modest method of exposition” differs greatly from “the vague and excessive promises of the real Geber.” Much of the book possesses “a truly scientific character” and “shows the state of chemical knowledge with a precision of thought and expression unknown to previous authors.” As for Adelard’s new ideas, we may not regard them as so novel as they seemed to him, nor estimate them so highly in comparison with ancient Greek science as Berthelot did medieval compared with Greek alchemy—much of Adelard’s thought may be derived by him from those ancient writings in which he claims to have read so widely—but they were probably as new to Adelard’s Latin contemporaries as they were to himself.

[Pg 28]

Science and religion.

While Adelard’s English friends displayed no bigoted opposition to the reception of Saracen science, the question of science and religion is raised in another connection in the very first of the questions concerning nature which the nephew puts to his uncle. The nephew inquires the reason for the growth of herbs from earth, asking, “To what else can you attribute this save to the marvelous effect of the marvelous divine will?” Adelard retorts that no doubt it is the Creator’s will, but that the operation is also not without a natural reason. This attitude of independent scientific investigation is characteristic of Adelard. Again in the fourth chapter when the nephew displays a tendency to ascribe all effects to God indifferently as cause, Adelard objects. He insists that he is detracting in no way from God, whom he grants to be the source of all things, but he holds that nature “is not confused and without system” and that “human science should be given a hearing upon those points which it has covered.” On the other hand he has no desire in the present treatise to overstep the bounds of natural science and enter the field of theology. When his nephew towards the close wishes him to go on and discuss the problem of God’s existence and nature, he wisely responds, “You are now broaching a question to me where it is easier to disprove what isn’t so than to demonstrate what is,”[50] and that they had better go to bed and leave this big question for another day and another treatise.[51]

Reason versus authority.

Besides preferring the learning of Arabian and other distant lands to the schools of Gaul, and favoring scientific investigation rather than unquestioning faith, Adelard also sets reason above authority. He not only complains of his generation’s inborn prejudice against new ideas, but later on, when his nephew proposes to turn his questions from the subject of plants to that of animals, enters upon a longer diatribe against scholastic reliance upon past authorities. “It is difficult for me to discuss animals with you. For I learned [Pg 29] from my Arabian masters under the leading of reason; you, however, captivated by the appearance of authority, follow your halter. Since what else should authority be called than a halter? For just as brutes are led where one wills by a halter, so the authority of past writers leads not a few of you into danger, held and bound as you are by bestial credulity. Consequently some, usurping to themselves the name of authority, have used excessive license in writing, so that they have not hesitated to teach bestial men falsehood in place of truth. For why shouldn’t you fill rolls of parchment and write on both sides, when in this age you generally have auditors who demand no rational judgment but trust simply in the mention of an old title?”[52] Adelard adds that those who are now reckoned authorities gained credence in the first instance by following reason, asserts that authority alone is not enough to convince, and concludes with the ultimatum to his nephew: “Wherefore, if you want to hear anything more from me, give and take reason. For I’m not the sort of man that can be fed on a picture of a beefsteak.”[53]

Need of the telescope and microscope already felt.

The history of natural philosophy and science has demonstrated that the unaided human reason has not been equal to the solution of the problems of the natural universe, and that elaborate and extensive observation, experience, and measurement of the natural phenomena are essential. But exact scientific measurement was not possible with the unaided human senses and required the invention of scientific instruments. As Adelard says in De eodem et diverso, “The senses are reliable neither in respect to the greatest nor the smallest objects. Who has ever comprehended the space of the sky with the sense of sight?... Who has ever distinguished minute atoms with the eye?”[54] Notable natural questions these, showing that the need of the telescope and [Pg 30] microscope was already felt and that the discovery must in due time follow!

Some quaint speculative science.

We must not, therefore, unduly blame Adelard for placing, like the Greek philosophers before him, somewhat excessive trust in human reason and believing that “nothing is surer than reason, nothing falser than the senses.”[55] But in consequence much of his discussion is still in the speculative stage, and uncle as well as nephew shows the influence of dialectical training. Some quaint and amusing instances may be given. Asked why men do not have horns like some other animals, Adelard at first objects to the question as trivial; but when his nephew urges the utility of horns as weapons of defence, he replies that man has reason instead of horns, and that, as a social as well as bellicose animal, man requires weapons which he can lay aside in times of peace.[56] Asked why the nose, with its impurities, is placed above the mouth, through which we eat, Adelard answers that nothing in nature is impure, and that the nose serves the head and so should be above the mouth which serves the stomach.[57] Such arguing from the fitness of things and from design was common in the Greek philosophers whom Adelard had read, and in judging his treatise we must compare it with such books as the Saturnalia of Macrobius which he cites,[58] the Natural Questions of Seneca, Plato’s Timaeus, and the Problems of Aristotle,[59] rather than with works of modern science.

Warfare, science, and religion.

It is noteworthy, however, even in these two amusing instances that the argument from design is questioned, while the question about horns Adelard perhaps inserted as a sly hit against the militarism of the feudal age. Little recked he of the horrible substitutes for horns that twentieth century [Pg 31] warfare would work out with the aid of modern science. The medieval church has too often been wildly accused of persecuting natural scientists and it has been erroneously stated that Roger Bacon dared not reveal the secret of the mariner’s compass—which really was well known before his time—for fear of being accused of magic.[60] There is somewhat more plausibility in the theory that he concealed the invention of gunpowder from fear of the inquisition,[61] since there appears to have been a certain medieval prejudice against inhuman war inventions, which historians of artillery somewhat impatiently ascribe to “ignorance, religion, and chivalry,” and which they hold prevented the use of Greek fire in the west.[62] At any rate in Adelard’s day the Second Lateran Council attempted to prohibit the use of military engines against men on the ground that they were too murderous.[63]

Specimens of medieval scientific curiosity.

Returning to the Natural Questions, we may note that, like the Problems of Aristotle, they vary from such crude queries as might occur to any curious person without scientific training to others that imply some previous theory or knowledge. A list of some of them will illustrate the scope of the scientific curiosity of the time. When one tree is grafted upon another, why is all the fruit of the nature of the grafted portion? Why do some brutes ruminate; why are some animals without stomachs; and why do some which drink make no water? Why do men grow bald in front? Why do some animals see better in the night than in the day and why can a man standing in the dark see objects that are in the light, while a man standing in the light cannot see objects that are in the dark? Why are the fingers of the human hand of unequal length and the palm hollow? Why [Pg 32] don’t babies walk as soon as they are born, and why are they at first nourished upon milk, and why doesn’t milk agree equally with old and young? Why do we fear dead bodies?[64] A number of questions are devoted to each of the topics, vision, hearing, and heat, while the senses of taste, smell, and touch are dismissed in a single question and answer.[65]

Theory of sound.

The discussion of sound and vision may be noted more fully. The nephew has already learned from his Boethius something similar to the wave theory of sound. He states that when the air has been formed by the mouth of the speaker and impelled by the tongue, it impresses the same form upon that which is next to it, and that this process is repeated over and over just as concentric circles are formed when a stone is thrown into water.[66] Vitruvius had given the same explanation in discussing the acoustics of a theater.[67] But when the nephew asks his uncle how the voice can penetrate an iron wall, Adelard replies that every metal body, no matter how solid, has some pores through which the air can pass.[68] Thus he appears to regard air as the only substance which can transmit or conduct sound waves. His notion that air can pass through solids reminds one a little of the milder theory of Hero of Alexandria that heat and light consist of material particles which penetrate the interstices between the atoms composing air and water.[69] But it hardly seems as if Adelard could have derived his notion from Hero, since the impermeability of metal vessels to air is a fundamental hypothesis in many of the devices of Hero’s Pneumatics.

[Pg 33]

Theory of vision.

Adelard’s theory of vision, that of extramission of “a visible spirit,” is similar to that of Plato in the Timaeus, by which he was not unlikely influenced. The visible spirit passes from the brain to the eye through “concave nerves which the Greeks call optic,” and from the eye to the object seen and back again “with marvelous celerity.”[70] It would be interesting to know certainly whether Adelard penned this passage before John of Spain translated into Latin the De differentia spiritus et animae, in which Costa ben Luca speaks of “hollow nerves” from the brain to the eye through which the spiritus passes for the purpose of vision.[71] Apparently Adelard was first, since the Natural Questions were finished at some time between 1107 and 1133, while John of Spain is said to have made his translation for Raymond who was archbishop of Toledo from 1130 to 1150. Were the manuscripts not so insistent in naming John as translator,[72] we might think that Adelard had translated the De differentia spiritus et animae. Very possibly he had come across it during his study with Arabian masters. But he shows no acquaintance with the optical researches of Al-Hazen or with the treatise on Optics ascribed to Ptolemy, which last is extant only in the twelfth century Latin translation by Eugene of Palermo, admiral of Sicily.[73] However, the fact that three other theories of vision than the one which Adelard accepts are set forth by his nephew suggests that the problem was attracting attention. Pliny’s Natural History gave no theory of vision whatever, although he listed various cases of extraordinary sight. Boethius, on the other hand, briefly adverted to the opposing theories of vision by extramission and intramission in the first chapter of his work on music. As for the marvelous celerity of the visible spirit, Augustine had enlarged upon the vast distance to the sun and back traveled by the visual ray in an instant or twinkling of an eye.[74]

[Pg 34]

Deductive reasoning from hot and cold, moist and dry.

Throughout the Natural Questions Adelard’s explanations and answers are based in large measure upon the familiar hypothesis of the four elements and of the four qualities, hot and cold, dry and moist. When asked, for instance, why all ruminating animals begin to lie down with their hind legs, he explains that their scanty animal heat is the cause of their ruminating to aid digestion, and that there is more frigidity in their posterior members, which are consequently heavier and so are bent first in reclining. The nephew thinks that here he has caught his uncle napping, and asks why is it then that in rising they lift themselves first onto their hind legs. But Adelard is not to be so easily nonplussed, and explains that after they have lain down and rested, they feel so refreshed that they lift their heavier limbs first.[75] Again, asked why persons of quick perception often have faulty memories, Adelard suggests that a moist brain is more conducive to intelligence, but a dry one to memory. Thus moist potter’s clay receives impressions more readily but also easily loses them; what is drier receives the impression with more difficulty but retains it.[76] In a third passage, Adelard explains his nephew’s weeping in his joy at seeing his uncle safely returned by the theory that his excessive delight overheated his brain and distilled moisture thence.[77]

Refinement of the four elements hypothesis.

Adelard, however, like Galen, Constantinus Africanus, Basil, and other writers before him, finds it advisable to refine the theory of the four elements. He is at pains in his answer to the nephew’s very first question to explain that what we commonly call earth is not the element earth, and that no one ever touched the pure element water, or saw the elements air and fire. Every particular object contains all four elements and we deal in daily life only with compounds. In an herb, for instance, unless there were fire, there would be no growth upward; unless there were water or air, no [Pg 35] spreading out; and without earth, no consistency. Moreover, when Adelard is asked why some herbs are spoken of as hot by nature, although all plants have more earth than fire in their composition, he says that while earth predominates quantitatively, efficaciously they are more fiery, just as his green cloak is larger than his green emerald, but much less potent.[78] Thus comes in the theory of occult virtue to help out the inadequate and unsatisfactory hypothesis of four elements and four qualities. We shall find our subsequent authors often resorting to the same explanation.

Animal intelligence doubted.

Adelard may believe in the marvelous virtue of emeralds, to which indeed he alludes rather inadvertently, but we do not find in the Natural Questions any of the common tales concerning remarkable animal sagacity or malice. This may be mere accident or it may be due to his warning in introducing the discussion of animals to give and take reason only. However, the question is discussed whether the brutes possess souls,[79] and he states that the common people are sure that they do not, and that only philosophers assert that animals have souls. This does not mean that their souls are rational, however: either animals possess “neither intelligence nor discretion but only opinion which is founded not in the soul but in the body”; or perhaps they have “some judgment why they seek and avoid certain things,” and such discretion of sense as enables a dog to distinguish scents. If they possess such animal souls, do these perish with the body?

The earth’s shape and center of gravity.

Adelard is correctly informed as to the shape of the earth and its center of gravity. Asked how the terrestrial globe is upheld in the midst of space, he retorts that in a round space it is evident that the center and the bottom are the same.[80] This thought is reinforced by the next question, If there were a hole clear through the earth and a stone were dropped in, how far would it fall? Adelard correctly answers, Only to the center of the earth. The same question [Pg 36] is asked of Adelard by a Greek in the De eodem et diverso, so that, in case we regard the De eodem as written before the Natural Questions, it would appear that he had not derived his conclusion in this matter from either the Greeks or the Arabs. However, we have heard Plutarch scoff at the statement that bars weighing a thousand talents would stop falling at the earth’s center, if a hole were opened up through the earth.[81]

Indestructibility of matter.

In a recent review of Sir William Ramsay’s The Life and Letters of Joseph Black, M.D., it is stated, “The nature of the experiment he (Black) made is not now known, but his tremendous comment on it was, ‘Nothing escapes!’ Have we here really the first glimmering of the great principle of the indestructibility of matter which, with the associated principle regarding energy, forms the foundation of modern chemistry and physics?”[82] To this the answer is, “No.” Adelard of Bath stated the indestructibility of matter eight centuries earlier, and apparently not as the result of any experiment. But his utterance was fuller and more explicit than that of Black. “And certainly in my judgment nothing in this world of sense ever perishes utterly, or is less today than when it was created. If any part is dissolved from one union, it does not perish but is joined to some other group.”[83]

Also stated by Hugh of St. Victor.

The indestructibility of matter is also stated by Adelard’s contemporary, Hugh of St. Victor, who remarks in the Didascalicon that of earthly things which have a beginning and an end “it has been said, ‘Nothing in the universe ever dies because no essence perishes.’ For the essences of things do not change, but the forms. And when a form is said to change, it should not be so understood that any existing thing is believed to perish utterly and lose its being, but [Pg 37] only to undergo alteration, either perchance so that those things which were joined are separated, or those joined which had been separated....”[84] Hugh was quite certainly a younger man than Adelard, but it is not so certain that the Didascalicon was written after the Natural Questions, although it is probable. Or Hugh may have heard Adelard lecture in Gaul or learned his view concerning the indestructibility of matter indirectly. Or they both may have drawn it independently from a common source.[85]

Roger Bacon’s continuity of universal nature.

In an article entitled Roger Bacon et l’Horreur du Vide[86] Professor Pierre Duhem advanced the thesis that in place of the previous doctrine that nature abhors a vacuum Roger Bacon was the first to formulate a theory of universal continuity. This was an incorrect hypothesis, it is true, but one which Professor Duhem believed to have served the useful purpose of supplementing “the Peripatetic theory of heavy and light” until the discovery of atmospheric pressure. This theory developed in connection with certain problematical phenomena of which this “experiment” is the chief and typical case. If there be suspended in air a vessel of water having a hole in the top and several narrow apertures in the bottom, no water will fall from it as long as the superior aperture is closed. Yet water is heavier than air and according to the principles of Aristotle’s Physics should fall to the ground. Writers before Roger Bacon, according to Duhem, explain this anomaly by saying that the fall of the water would produce a vacuum and that a vacuum cannot exist in nature. But Bacon argues that a vacuum cannot be the reason why the water does not fall, because a vacuum does not exist; he then explains further that although by their particular natures water tends downwards [Pg 38] and air upwards, by their nature as parts of the universe they tend to remain in continuity. Duhem held that Roger Bacon was the first to substitute this positive law of universal continuity for the mere negation that a vacuum cannot exist in nature.[87]

Previously stated by Adelard.

Professor Duhem supported his case by citation of Greek, Byzantine, and Arabic sources and by use of writings of fourteenth century physicists available only in manuscripts. But unfortunately for his main contention he overlooked a remarkable passage written by Adelard of Bath over a century before Roger Bacon. In the fifty-eighth chapter of the Natural Questions the nephew says, “There is still one point about the natures of waters which is unclear to me.” He then asks his uncle to explain a water jar, similar to that just described, which they had once seen at the house of an enchantress. Adelard replies in his clear, easy style, so different from the scholastic discussion in Bacon’s corresponding passages. “If it was magic, the enchantment was worked by violence of nature rather than of waters. For although four elements compose the body of this world of sense, they are so united by natural affection that, as no one of them desires to exist without another, so no place is or can be void of them. Therefore immediately one of them leaves its position, another succeeds it without interval, nor can one leave its place unless some other which is especially attached to it can succeed it.” Hence it is futile to give the water a chance to escape unless you give the air a chance to enter. Be it noted that Adelard not only thus anticipates the theory of universal continuity, but also in the last clause of the quotation approaches the doctrine of chemical affinity in the formation and disintegration of molecules. Finally, he describes what actually occurs in the experiment more accurately than Roger Bacon or the other physicists cited by Duhem. “Hence it comes about that, if in a vessel which is absolutely tight above an aperture is [Pg 39] made below, the liquid flows out only interruptedly and with bubbling. For as much air gets in as liquid goes out, and this air, since it finds the water porous, by its own properties of tenuity and lightness makes its way to the top of the vessel and occupies what seems to be a vacuum.”

Experiment and magic.

This detailed and accurate description of exactly what takes place shows us Adelard’s powers of observation and experiment at their best, and compares favorably with two cruder examples of experimentation which he ascribes to others. He states that it was discovered experimentally which portion of the brain is devoted to the imagination and which parts to reason and memory through a case in which a man was injured in the front part of the head.[88] In the other instance some philosophers, in order to study the veins and muscles of the human body, bound a corpse in running water until all the flesh had been removed by the current.[89] But the question remains, how often did Abelard exercise his powers of accurate observation by actual experiments? Certainly one thing is noteworthy, that the best and almost sole experiment that he details is represented by him as suggested by the magic water jar of an enchantress. Thus we are once again impelled to the conclusion that experimental method owes a considerable debt to magic, and that magic owed a great deal to experimental method.

Adelard and Hero of Alexandria.

We are also reminded of the association of similar water-jars with thaumaturgy in the Pneumatics of Hero of Alexandria.[90] It will be noted that Adelard is content with a single illustration of the principle involved, while Hero kept reintroducing instances of it. And while Hero gave little more than practical directions, Adelard gives a philosophical interpretation of and scientific deduction from the experiment. But he also describes what actually occurs more accurately, admitting that some liquid will gradually flow out [Pg 40] even when the air-hole is kept closed. Here again, as in the case of the theory of the penetration of the particles of one substance between those of another mentioned in our paragraph above on the theory of sound, it is difficult to say whether Adelard was acquainted with Hero’s works. Probably it is only chance that Hero’s Pneumatics seems to contain almost exactly the same number of theorems as Adelard’s Natural Questions has chapters.[91]

Attitude to the stars: De eodem et diverso.

It remains to consider Adelard’s attitude towards the stars, which is very similar to that of Plato’s Timaeus. We have already seen that he translated works of Arabic astrology. Such a work as the tables of Al-Khowarizmi evidently has an astrological purpose, enabling one to find the horoscope accurately. In the De eodem et diverso he calls the celestial bodies “those superior and divine animals,” and “the causes and principle of inferior natures.” One who masters the science of astronomy can comprehend not only the present state of inferior things but also the past and the future.[92] The existence of music, says Adelard in another passage, supplies philosophers with a strong argument for their belief that “the soul has descended into the body from the stars above.”[93] In the De eodem et diverso Adelard also expresses the belief that from present phenomena the mind can look ahead far into the future, and that the soul can sometimes foresee the future in dreams.[94]

Attitude to the stars: Questiones Naturales.

In the Natural Questions[95] Adelard again alludes to the stars as “those superior animals,” and when asked whether they are animated replies that he deems anyone to be without sense who contends that the stars are senseless, and that to call those bodies lifeless which produce vitality in other bodies is ridiculous. He regards “the bodies of the stars” as composed of the same four elements as this world of inferior creation, but he believes that in their composition those elements predominate which conduce most to life and [Pg 41] reason, and that the celestial bodies are more fiery than terrestrial bodies. “But their fire is not harsh, but gentle and harmless. It therefore follows that it is obedient to and in harmony with sense and reason.” Their form, too, being “full and round,” is especially adapted to reason. Finally, if reason and foresight exist even in our dark and perturbed lower world, how much more must the stars employ intelligence in their determined and constant courses? When the nephew proceeds to inquire what food the stars eat, since they are animals, Adelard shows no surprise, but answers that as diviner creatures they use a purer sustenance than we, namely, the humidities of earth and water which, extenuated and refined by their long upward transit, neither augment the stars in weight nor dull their reason and prudence. But when the nephew asks whether the aplanon or outermost and immovable sphere of heaven should be called God or not, Adelard answers that to assert this is in one sense philosophical but in another, insane and abominable, and he then avoids further discussion by terminating the treatise.

Astrology in an anonymous work, perhaps by Athelardus.

For some reason, which I failed to discover, the catalogue of the Cotton manuscripts in the British Museum, in describing “a philosophical treatise concerning the principles of nature, the power of celestial influences on minds and morals, and other matters,”[96] states that “the author seems to be Athelardus.” The treatise is perhaps of later date than Adelard of Bath, but as it would be equally difficult to connect it with any other of our authors, we will give some account of it now. It seems to be incomplete as it stands both at the beginning and end, but the main interest in the portion preserved to us is astrological. Authorities are cited such as Hermes Trismegistus, Theodosius, Ptolemy, Apollonius of Thebes, “Albateni,” and “Abumaxar.” Discussing the number of elements our author states that medical men speak of the four parts of the inferior [Pg 42] world, fire, air, water, earth,[97] but that astrologers make the number of the elements twelve, adding the eight parts of the superior world.[98] Later our author argues further for astrological influence as against “the narrow medical man who thinks of no effects of things except those of inferior nature merely.”[99] Our author holds that forms come from above to matter here below, and discusses the influence of the sky on the generation of humans and metals, plants and animals, and connects seven colors and seven metals with the planets.[100] He furthermore, in all probability following Albumasar in this, asserts that the course of history may be foretold by means of astrology and that different religions go with different planets.[101] The Jews are under Saturn; the Arabs, under Venus and Mars, which explains the warlike and sensual character of their religion; the Christian Roman Empire, under the Sun and Jupiter. “Ancient writers argue” and “present experience proves”[102] that the Sun stands for honesty, liberality, and victory; Jupiter, for peace, equity, and humanity. The constant enmity between the Jews and Christians, and Moslems and Christians, is explained by the fact that neither Mars nor Saturn is ever in friendly relation with Jupiter. These three religions also observe the days of the week corresponding to their planets: the Christians, Sunday; the Moslems, Friday or Venus’s day; the Jews, Saturday. Our author also explains the worships of the Egyptians and Greeks by their relation to signs of the zodiac.

Authorities on spirits.

Despite the allusion just mentioned to “the experience of to-day,” our author perhaps shows too great a tendency to cite authorities to be that Adelard of Bath who wished to give and take reason and reproved his nephew for blind trust in authority. In discussing the theme of spirits and demons[103]—a different problem, it is true, from natural [Pg 43] questions—he thinks that “it is enough in these matters to have faith in the authority of those who, divinely illuminated, could penetrate into things divine by the purer vision of the mind.” He proceeds to cite Apuleius and Trismegistus, Hermes in The Golden Bough, “Apollonius” in The Secrets of Nature, which he wrote alone in the desert, and Aristotle who tells of a spirit of Venus who came to him in a dream and instructed him as to the sacrifice which he should perform under a certain constellation.

Adelard’s future influence.

But I would close this chapter on Adelard not with superstition from a treatise of dubious authenticity, but rather with reaffirmation of the importance in the long history of science of his brief work, the Natural Questions. Its probable effects upon Hugh of St. Victor and Roger Bacon are instances of its medieval influence to which we shall add in subsequent chapters. But most impressive is the fact that within such compact compass it considers so many problems and topics that are still of interest to modern science. For instance, its two concrete examples of the stone dropped into a hole extending through the earth’s center and of the magic water jar have been common property ever since.

[26] For the De eodem et diverso I have used the text printed for the first time by H. Willner, Des Adelard von Bath Traktat De eodem et diverso, sum ersten Male herausgegeben und historischkritisch untersucht, Münster, 1903, in Beiträge, IV, i.

For the Questiones naturales I have used the editio princeps of Louvain, 1480 (?), and what is supposed to be the original MS at Eton College, 161, (Bl. 6. 16). I have also examined BN 2389, 12th century, fols. 65r-81v, Questiones naturales from cap. 12 on; fols. 81v-90v, De eodem et diverso (sole extant text); and BN 6415, 14th century, where Adelard’s Natural Questions are found together with William of Conches’ Dragmaticon philosophiae and Bernard Silvester’s Megacosmus et microcosmus, of which we treat in succeeding chapters. Professor H. Gollancz has recently translated the Latin text into English for the first time in his Dodi Ve-Nechdi, the work of Berachya based upon Adelard’s and preserved in MSS at Oxford and Munich.

For Adelard’s translation of the Liber Ezich, or astronomical tables of Al-Khowarizmi (as revised by Maslama at Cordova), I have used H. Suter, Die astronomischen Tafeln des Muhammed ibn Musa Al-Khwarizmi, Copenhagen, 1914.

For further bibliography of Adelard’s writings see the articles on Adelard of Bath, by Professor C. H. Haskins in EHR 26 (1911) pp. 491-8, and 28 (1913) 515-6. These articles will henceforth be cited as Haskins (1911) and Haskins (1913).

[27] De eodem et diverso, p. 32.

[28] Haskins (1911) p. 491, who has, however, himself done much to clear up this obscurity. I largely follow his account in the ensuing biographical and bibliographical details.

[29] But the passage giving this date has been found in but one MS; Suter (1914), pp. 5, 37.

[30] R. L. Poole, The Exchequer in the Twelfth Century, London, 1912, p. 56.

[31] CU McLean 165, “Heynrice cum sis regis nepos”; Haskins (1913) pp. 515-6.

[32] Namely, the translation of Euclid, De eodem et diverso, and Liber Ezich.

[33] Ed. Boncompagni, Bullettino di Bibliografia e di Storia della Scienze matematiche, XIV, 1-134.

[34] Unless indirectly through Gerbert.

[35] The numerous MSS vary so in text and arrangement that it is not clear whether Adelard’s work in its original form “was an abridgement, a close translation, or a commentary,” (Haskins (1911) 494-5).

Professor David Eugene Smith states in his forthcoming edition of Roger Bacon’s Communia Mathematicae, which he has very kindly permitted me to see in manuscript, that Roger refers several times to Adelard’s Editio specialis super Elementa Euclidis—“a work now entirely unknown.”

[36] Liber ysagogarum Alchorismi in artem astronomicam a magistro A. compositus: Haskins (1911) p. 493 for MSS.

[37] Ed. Curtze, in Abhandl. z. Gesch. d. Math., VIII, 1-27.

[38] Haskins (1911) p. 494.

[39] Ibid., 495, Ysagoga minor Iapharis mathematici in astronomiam per Adelardum bathoniensem ex arabico sumpta. It is perhaps worth noting the similarity of the Incipit, “Quicumque philosophie scienciam altiorem studio constanti inquirens....” (Digby 68, 14th century, fols. 116-24), to the three “Quicumque” Incipits mentioned in our chapter on Gerbert (see above, Chapter 30, vol. I, page 707.)

[40] Royal 15-C-IV.

[41] Berthelot (1906) 172-77, “Adelard de Bath et le Mappe Clavicula,” as well as the citations from other writings of Berthelot by Haskins (1911) 495-6.

[42] “Aliquid arabicorum studiorum novum me proponere exhortatus.”

[43] “Nepos quidam meus in rerum causis magis implicans quam explicans.”

[44] De eodem et diverso, p. 2, “Tu utrum recte texam animadverte, et ea qua soles vel in sophismatum verboso agmine vel in rhetoricae affectuosa elocutione modesta taciturnitate utere.”

[45] Adelard uses the word modernus a number of times, and usually of his own age, although in one passage of the De eodem et diverso (p. 7, line 3) he speaks of the Latin writers, Cicero and Boethius, as modernos in distinction from Greek philosophers of whom he has previously been speaking. Other uses of the word in De eodem et diverso to apply to his own age are: p. 3, line 3; p. 19, line 24; p. 22, line 33.

Cassiodorus is said to be the first extant author to use modernus.

[46] Quest. nat., Proemium. “Habet enim haec generatio ingenitum vitium ut nihil quod a modernis reperiatur putent esse recipiendum, unde fit ut si quando inventum proprium publicare voluerim, personae id alienae imponens inquam, ‘Quidam dixit, non ego’ Itaque—ne omnino non audiar—omnes meas sententias dans, ‘Quidam invenit, non ego.’ Sed haec hactenus.

... hoc tamen vitato incommodo ne quis me ignota proferentem ex mea id sententia facere, verum arabicorum studiorum sensa putet proponere. Nolo enim si quae dixero minus provectis displiciant, ego etiam eis displicere. Novi enim quis casus veri professores apud vulgus sequatur. Quare causam arabicorum non meam agam.”

In the catalogue of books at Christ Church, Canterbury, which was drawn up while Henry of Eastry was prior (1284-1331), our treatise is listed as “Athelardus de naturalibus questionibus secundum Arabicos”: James (1903) p. 126.

[47] P. 7, “Cui tandem eorum credendum est qui cotidianis novitatibus aures vexant? Et assidue quidem etiam nunc cotidie Platones, Aristoteles novi nobis nascuntur, qui aeque ea quae nesciant ut et ea quae sciant sine frontis jectura promittunt; estque in summa verbositate summa eorum fiducia.”

[48] De eodem, p. 1, “Dum priscorum virorum scripta famosa non omnia sed pleraque perlegerim eorumque facultatem cum modernorum scientia comparaverim, et illos facundos judico et hos taciturnos appello.”

[49] Berthelot (1893) I, 344-7.

[50] Cap. 77. I cite chapters as numbered in the editio princeps.

[51] To which the nephew cheerfully assents.

[52] Quest. nat., cap. 6.

[53] Quest. nat., cap. 6, “Quare, si quid amplius a me audire desideras, rationem refer et recipe. Non enim ego ille sum quem pellis pictura pascere possit.”

[54] De eodem et diverso, p. 13.

[55] De eodem et diverso, p. 13.

[56] Quest. nat., cap. 15.

[57] Ibid., cap. 19.

[58] Ibid., cap. 35.

[59] The ascription of this work to Aristotle is questioned by D’Arcy W. Thompson (1913), 14, note, who calls attention to the fact that the majority of the numerous place-names in it are from southern Italy or Sicily; “and I live in hopes of seeing this work, or a very large portion of it, expunged, for this and other weightier reasons, from the canonical writings of Aristotle.”

[60] See below, chapter 61, page 621.

[61] I refute this theory, however, in Appendix II to the chapter on Bacon.

[62] Reinaud et Favé, Le feu grégeois et les origines de la poudre à canon, (1845) p. 210. In the quotation from Christine de Pisan at pp. 219-20, however, it seems to me that she has reference only to the poisons last-named and not to the Greek fires previously named in declaring them inhuman and against all the laws of war.

[63] Ibid., p. 128.

[64] The questions thus far listed occur in the order of mention in the following chapters: 6, 7, 10, 11, 20, 12, 30, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 46.

[65] Quest. nat., cap. 31.

[66] Quest. nat., cap. 21.

[67] De architectura, V, iii, 6 (Morgan’s translation). “Voice is a flowing breath of air, perceptible to the hearing by contact. It moves in an endless number of circular rounds, like the innumerably increasing circular waves which appear when a stone is thrown into smooth water, and which keep on spreading indefinitely from the center unless interrupted by narrow limits, or by some obstruction which prevents such waves from reaching their end in due formation. When they are interrupted by obstructions, the first waves, flowing back, break up the formation of those which follow.”

[68] Quest. nat., cap. 22.

[69] See above, chapter 5, vol. I, page 191.

[70] Quest. nat., cap. 23.

[71] See above, chapter 28, I, 659.

[72] See above, chapter 28, I, 657.

[73] See above, chapter 3, page 107.

[74] De Genesi ad litteram, IV, 34; Migne, PL 34, 319-20.

[75] Quest. nat., caps. 8-9.

[76] Ibid., cap. 17.

[77] Ibid., cap. 32. On “weeping as a salutation,” see J. G. Frazer (1918) II, 82-93.

[78] Quest. nat., cap. 2.

[79] Ibid., caps. 13-14.

[80] Ibid., cap. 48.

[81] Chapter 6, I, 219.

[82] London Weekly Times, Literary Supplement, Nov. 15, 1918, p. 549.

[83] Quest. nat., cap. 4, “Et meo certo iudicio in hoc sensibili mundo nihil omnino moritur nec minor est hodie quam cum creatus est. Si qua pars ab una coniunctione solvitur, non perit sed ad aliam societatem transit.”

[84] Didascalicon I, 7 (Migne, PL 176).

[85] Plotinus had said, “Nothing that really is can ever perish” (οὐδὲν ἀπολεῖται τῶν ὄντων), as Dean Inge notes, The Philosophy of Plotinus, 1918, I, 189.

There is also resemblance between the Didascalicon (II, 13) and De eodem et diverso (p. 27, line 7) in their division of music into mundane, human, and instrumental. For this Boethius is very likely the common source.

[86] In Roger Bacon Commemoration Essays, ed. by A. G. Little, Oxford, 1914, pp. 241-84.

[87] Roger Bacon Essays, p. 266.

[88] Quest. nat., cap. 16. For a somewhat similar passage in Augustine see De Genesi ad litteram, VII, 18 (Migne, PL 34, 364).

[89] Ibid., cap. 18.

[90] See above, chapter 5, I, 191.

[91] That is, 78 and 77.

[92] De eodem et diverso, p. 32.

[93] Ibid., p. 10.

[94] Ibid., p. 13.

[95] Quest. nat., caps. 74-77.

[96] Cotton Titus D, iv, fols. 75-138v, opening “fiat ordinata parato quo facile amplectamur ...”, and closing “pars tercia tocius orbis terreni, unde reliqua duo spacia reliqua.”

[97] Cotton Titus D, iv, fol. 77r.

[98] Ibid., fol. 78r.

[99] Ibid., fol. 126v.

[100] Ibid., fols. 127-32.

[101] Ibid., fols. 113-4.

[102] Ibid. fol. 113v, “Et antiqui scripture arguunt et hodierni temporis experimentum probat”....

[103] Ibid., fols. 120v-124v.

[Pg 44]



Difficulty of the problem.

It is a difficult matter to fix the date either of the De eodem et diverso or of the Questiones naturales, and to account satisfactorily for the various allusions to contemporary events and to Adelard’s own movements which occur in either. It is not even entirely certain which treatise was written first, as neither contains an unmistakable allusion to the other. On general grounds the De eodem et diverso would certainly seem the earlier work, but there are some reasons for thinking the contrary. It seems clear that not many years elapsed between the composition of the two works, but how many is uncertain. It is evident that the De eodem et diverso must have been written by 1116 at the latest in order to dedicate it to William, bishop of Syracuse. But the Questiones naturales apparently might have been dedicated to Richard, bishop of Bayeux, at almost any time during his pontificate from 1107 to 1133, although probably not long after 1116.

Before what queen did Adelard play the cithara?

Professor Haskins would narrow down the time during which the De eodem et diverso could have been written to the years from about 1104 to 1109, with the single year 1116 as a further possibility. He says, “Adelard speaks of having played the cithara before the queen in the course of his musical studies in France the preceding year, and as there was no queen of France between the death of Philip I and the marriage of Louis VI in 1115, the treatise, unless the bishop of Syracuse was still alive in 1116, would not [Pg 45] be later than 1109.”[104] But may not the queen referred to have been Matilda, the wife of Henry I?[105] She was a patroness both of artists and of men of letters, and the Pipe Roll for 1130 and the treatise on the astrolabe have shown us that later, at least, it was the English royal family with which Adelard, himself an Englishman, was connected. It is of “Gaul,” not of “France” in the sense of territory subject to the French monarch, that Adelard writes,[106] and Normandy was of course under Henry’s rule after the battle of Tinchebrai in 1106.

Circumstances under which the De eodem et diverso was written.

The De eodem et diverso takes the form of a letter[107] from Adelard to his nephew, justifying his “laborious itinerary” in pursuit of learning against the reproach of “levity and inconstancy” made by the nephew, and stating “the cause of my travel among the learned men of various regions,” at which the nephew has time and again expressed his astonishment, and the reasons for which his uncle has kept concealed from him for two years.[108] This letter seems to have been written by Adelard in Sicily, since it is prefaced [Pg 46] with a dedication to William, bishop of Syracuse, and since towards its close Adelard speaks of “coming from Salerno into Graecia maior”[109]—a phrase by which he presumably refers to the ancient Magna Graecia, or southern Italy, and perhaps also Sicily. In the preceding year, however, Adelard and his nephew had been together in Tours.[110] It thus appears that the De eodem was written not very long after Adelard set out on his quest for foreign learning, while he was still in the Greek or semi-Greek learned society of southern Italy and Sicily, and presumably before he had come into contact with the science of the Saracens, which he does not mention in the De eodem et diverso, although traces of it undoubtedly lingered in Sicily. He writes as if the idea had only comparatively recently come to him “that he could much broaden his education, if he crossed the Alps and visited other teachers than those of Gaul.”

Different situation depicted in the Natural Questions.

In the Natural Questions, on the other hand, he returns to England after seven years, instead of a single year, of separation from his nephew, after a visit to the principality of Antioch,[111] and after a considerable period of study among the Saracens or Arabs. It is rather natural, however, to conclude that the same absence abroad is referred to in both treatises, and that Adelard wrote De eodem et diverso to his nephew after he had been absent a year, while the Natural Questions was composed after his return at the end of seven years. Thus six years would separate the two treatises. But the Natural Questions depicts a different last parting of uncle and nephew from that of De eodem et diverso. It does not allude to their having been together in [Pg 47] Tours seven years ago, but reminds the nephew how, when his uncle took leave of him and his other pupils at Laon seven years since, it was agreed between them that while Adelard investigated Arabian learning, his nephew should continue his studies in Gaul.[112] In the De eodem et diverso, on the contrary, neither Laon nor the Arabs nor any such agreement between uncle and nephew is mentioned. Rather, the uncle seems to have at first kept secret the motives for his crossing the Alps. It therefore may be that Adelard had returned from Sicily to Gaul and had taught at Laon for a short time before setting out on a longer period of travel in quest of Arabian science. This would agree well enough with his allusion to his nephew in the De eodem et diverso as “still a boy,”[113] and the statement in the Natural Questions that his nephew was “little more than a boy”[114] when he parted from him seven years before. In this case the Natural Questions would have been written more than seven years after the De eodem et diverso. This is, I think, the most tenable and plausible hypothesis.

Some apparent indications that the De eodem et diverso was written after the Natural Questions.

There are, it is true, one or two circumstances which might be taken to indicate that the De eodem et diverso was written after the Questiones naturales. In the sole manuscript of the De eodem thus far known[115] it follows that treatise, and its title Of the same and different might be taken as a continuation with variations of the general line of thought of the other treatise. But it is perhaps just because some copyist has so interpreted its title that it is put [Pg 48] after the Natural Questions in this manuscript. At any rate in the text itself Adelard gives another explanation of its title, stating that it has reference to the allegorical figures, Philosophia and Philocosmia, who address him in his vision, and who, he says, are designated as eadem and diversa “by the prince of philosophers,”—an allusion perhaps to some of Aristotle’s pronouns.[116] Another curious circumstance is that the problem, How far would a stone of great weight fall, if dropped in a hole extending through the earth at the center? occurs in both the De eodem and Natural Questions.[117] In the latter the nephew puts the query to his uncle: in the former a Grecian philosopher whom Adelard has been questioning concerning the properties of the magnet in attracting iron, in his turn asks Adelard this question. Now in the Natural Questions Adelard’s answer is given, as if the nephew had never heard it before, but in the De eodem et diverso it is simply stated that the Greek “listened to my explanation of this,” as if the nephew had already heard the explanation from his uncle.[118]

How long had Henry I been reigning?

In opening the Natural Questions Adelard states that Henry I was reigning when he returned to England recently. This statement, in Professor Haskins’ opinion, “would seem to imply that he originally left England for his studies in France before Henry’s accession.” I am not quite sure that this inference follows, but if it does, may one not go a step further and argue that Henry I had come to the throne since Adelard parted from his nephew at Laon to investigate the learning of the Arabs? Had Henry become king of England while Adelard was still studying or teaching in northern [Pg 49] Gaul, he would almost certainly have heard of it, and it would have been no news to him on his return from his studies among the Arabs. If we accept this view, Adelard’s return to England would be not later than 1107. But it could scarcely be earlier, if he wrote and dedicated the Natural Questions promptly after his arrival, of which he speaks as a recent event in that work, since the dedicatee did not become Bishop of Bayeux until 1107. And if the De eodem et diverso was written more than seven years before the Natural Questions, we should have to date it back into the eleventh century, which would perhaps be too early for its dedication to William, bishop of Syracuse. And to put these two works so early is to leave a gap between them and the other known dates of Adelard’s career, 1126, 1130, and 1142-1146, and make the period of his literary productivity quite a long one. He would have been quite a graybeard when he wrote on the astrolabe for the juvenile Henry Plantagenet. On the whole, therefore, I am inclined to think that Henry I had been reigning for some time when Adelard wrote the Natural Questions.

[104] Haskins (1911) pp. 492-3.

[105] It is true that after 1109, “The queen herself, who had for a time accompanied the movements of her husband, now resided mostly at Westminster” (G. B. Adams in Hunt and Poole, Political History of England, II, 151), so that Adelard would not have had many opportunities to play before her in the English possessions across the channel after that date.

[106] De eodem et diverso, pp. 25-6, Philosophy addresses Adelard, “... cum praeterito anno in eadem musica Gallicis studiis totus sudares adessetque in serotino tempore magister artis una cum discipulis cum eorum reginaeque rogatu citharam tangeres.”

[107] P. 3, line 16, “Quoniam autem in epistola hac ...”; line 25, “Hanc autem epistolam ‘De eodem et diverso’ intitulavi”; p. 34, line 7, “Vale; et utrum recte disputaverim, tecum dijudica.”

[108] P. 3, line 9, “Nam et ego, cum idem metuens iniustae cuidam nepotis mei accusationi rescribere vererer, in hanc demum sententiam animum compuli, ut reprehensionis metum patienter ferrem, accusationi iniustae pro posse meo responderem.”

P. 4, line 6, “Saepenumero admirari soles, nepos, laboriosi itineris mei causam et aliquando acrius sub nomine levitatis et inconstantiae propositum accusare ...”; line 17, “Et ego, si tibi idem videtur, causam erroris mei—ita enim vocare soles—paucis edisseram et multiplicem labyrinthum ad unum honesti exitum vocabo ...”; line 22, “Ego rem, quam per biennium celavi, ut tibi morem geram aperiam....”

P. 34, line 3, “Hactenus, carissime nepos, tibi causam itineris mei per diversarum regionum doctores flexi satagens explicavi, ut et me injustae accusationis tuae onere alleviarem et tibi eorundem studiorum affectum applicarem....”

[109] P. 33, line 13, “... a Salerno veniens in Graecia maiore ...”; also p. 32, line 27, “Quod enim Gallica studia nesciunt, transalpina reserabunt; quod apud Latinos non addisces, Graecia facunda docebit.”

[110] P. 4, line 25, “Erat praeterito in anno vir quidam apud Turonium ... et te eius probitas non lateat, qui una ibi mecum adesses.”

[111] Quest. nat., cap. 51, “Cum semel in partibus Antiochenis pontem civitatis Manistre transires, ipsam pontem simul etiam totam ipsam regionem terre motu contremuisse.” It is true that this remark is put into the nephew’s mouth, but it is probably meant to refer to an incident of Adelard’s recent trip abroad and not to some previous one.

[112] Quest. nat., proemium, “Meministi, nepos, septennio iam transacto, cum te in gallicis studiis pene puerum iuxta laudisdunum una cum ceteris auditoribus meis dimiserim, id inter nos convenisse ut arabum studia pro posse meo scrutarer, te vero gallicarum sententiarum in constantiam non minus acquireres?

(Nepos) Memini eo quoque magis quod tu discedens philosophie attentum futurum me fidei promissione astringeres.”

[113] De eodem, p. 4, line 10, “cum in pueritia adhuc detinearis.” In this treatise, too, Adelard himself is regularly spoken of as iuvenis, which is, however, an exceedingly vague word.

[114] “pene puerum.”

[115] Latin MS 2389, a twelfth century parchment, of the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. The Questiones naturales end at fol. 82v, whence the De eodem et diverso continues to fol. 91v. The manuscript is described by Willner at p. 37 of his edition of the De eodem et diverso.

[116] P. 3, line 25ff. “Hanc autem epistolam ‘De eodem et diverso’ intitulavi, quoniam videlicet maximam orationis partem duabus personis, philosophiae scilicet atque philocosmiae attribui, una quarum eadem, alter vero diversa a principe philosophorum appellatur.” Adelard fails to explain why the title is not De eadem et diversa, as his explanation might seem to require.

[117] Quest. nat., cap. 49; De eodem et diverso, p. 33.

[118] In both treatises Adelard regards the stars as divine animals, as we have seen, and refers to the same partition of the head among the mental faculties in both (Quest. nat., cap. 18; De eodem, p. 32) but there is nothing to indicate which passage is prior.

[Pg 50]



His relation to his time—Early life—Writings—Philosophia: general character—Contemporary education—Good and bad demons—Astronomy and astrology—Extent of the influence of the stars—Science and religion—Letter of William of St. Thierry to St. Bernard—Extent of William’s retraction in the Dragmaticon—Reassertion of previous views—No denial of science—William’s future influence—Appendix I. Editions and Manuscripts of the Original and of the Revised Version of the Work of William of Conches on Natural Philosophy.

“... rejoicing not in the many but in the probity of the few, we toil for truth alone.

Philosophia (1531) p. 28.

His relation to his time.

Practically contemporary with Adelard of Bath and associated like him with members of the English royal line was William of Conches,[119] of whom we shall treat in the present chapter. Like Adelard also he withdrew from the schools of Gaul after teaching there for a time—longer apparently than Adelard; like Adelard he followed the guidance of reason and took an interest in natural science; like him he employed the dramatic dialogue form in his works. John of Salisbury, who studied grammar under William of Conches and Richard Bishop (l’Évêque) from about 1138 to 1141,[120] represents those masters as successors to the [Pg 51] thorough-going educational methods and humanistic ideals of Bernard of Chartres; but adds that later, when men “preferred to seem rather than be philosophers, and professors of the arts promised to transmit all philosophy to their hearers in less than three or two years’ time, overcome by the onslaught of the unskilled multitude, they ceased teaching.”[121] William then seems to have entered the service of Geoffrey Plantagenet, to whom as duke of Normandy as well as count of Anjou we find William addressing his Dragmaticon or Dramaticus, which takes the form of a dialogue between them. It thus was written at some time between 1144 and 1150, the period when Geoffrey was duke of Normandy.[122] His son, the future Henry II of England, was in Normandy from 1146 to 1149, when William appears to have been his tutor.[123] In the Dragmaticon William praises Geoffrey for training his children “from a tender age” in the study of literature,[124] and before the boy was made duke of Normandy by his father in 1150 at the age of seventeen William prepared for his perusal a collection of moral extracts from such classical Latin authors as Cicero, Seneca, Juvenal, Horace, Lucan, and Persius, entitled De honesto et utili.[125] The last we hear of William seems to be in 1154, under which date Alberic des Trois [Pg 52] Fontaines,[126] a thirteenth century chronicler, states that he had attained a great reputation. He might well have lived on for some time after that date, since his former associate, Richard Bishop, was archdeacon of Coutances at the time John of Salisbury wrote the Metalogicus in 1159, and survived to become bishop of Avranches in 1171, dying only in 1182. One infers, however, from John’s account that William was no longer living in 1159.

Early life.

We may next look back upon the earlier events of William’s life. In the Dragmaticon he speaks of having been previously engaged in teaching “for twenty years and more than that.” Still earlier he had been a student, presumably under Bernard of Chartres, in which town it is possible that much of his own teaching was done. John of Salisbury, however, simply says of his studies with William, “Straightway I betook me to the grammarian of Conches,” while in another passage he mentions “my teachers in grammar, William of Conches and Richard, surnamed Bishop, now an archdeacon at Coutances.” Although this passage might seem to suggest that William taught at Conches, no one so far as I know has ever entertained that supposition, and the chief dispute has been whether he taught at Chartres or at Paris.[127] But that he was born at Conches no one doubts, and he himself once speaks somewhat satirically of his Norman dulness compared to the lightning intelligences of some of his contemporaries.[128]


The Dragmaticon was a revision of a work on philosophy or natural philosophy composed in William’s “younger days.”[129] He also appears to have commented upon Boethius’ Consolation of Philosophy,[130] and to have [Pg 53] written a gloss on the Timaeus[131] in which among other things he dilates upon the perfection of certain numbers. But our discussion will be almost exclusively concerned with his much more influential Philosophia and its revised version, Dragmaticon. We shall first examine the original version.[132]

Philosophia: general character.

The original treatise touches on the fields of philosophy and astronomy in a simple and elementary way, but with considerable skill, if not originality, in the selection and presentation of its subject-matter. William does not seem acquainted with Arabic science except that he has read Constantinus Africanus and from him derived the same doctrine that the four elements are never found in a pure state which we met in Adelard of Bath. William gives us a Platonic interpretation of nature, in which nevertheless he does not adhere at all closely to the Timaeus, interspersed with not infrequent quotation from or reference to astronomical works, classical literature, and the Bible and church fathers. Indeed, he is always careful to allow for divine influence in nature and for the statements of Scripture, and to show that his theories do not contradict either. In such passages his language is always reverent, and he not infrequently alludes respectfully to what the saints have to say (sancti dicunt) on the theme in hand. The body of the treatise opens with definition of philosophy and statement of its method of inquiry, after which the author argues that the world was made by God and discusses the Trinity at some length. He then discusses the topics of world-soul, demons, and elements; next passes to various matters astronomical and astrological concerning the sky and stars; and finally treats of our lower world and of man.

Contemporary education.

The work also contains, especially in the prefaces to its different books but also in other passages, a number of interesting allusions to contemporary learning and education. [Pg 54] William frequently refers to the existence of other scholars and furthermore makes it evident that this learned society is not in its earliest stage. Its paradise period is over; the evil has entered in among the good; the enemy has sown tares amid the wheat. Education has become too popular, and already the insincere and the incapable, the charlatan and the unthinking mob, are cheapening and degrading the ideals of the true philosopher. William speaks of “many who usurp the name of teacher,”[133] and of “certain men who have never read the works either of Constantinus or of any other philosopher, who out of pride disdain to learn from anyone, who from arrogance invent what they do not know,”[134] and who actually insist that the four qualities, hot, cold, moist, and dry, are elements. In another passage William says, “Although we are aware that many strive for an ornate style, few for accuracy of statement, yet rejoicing not in the many but in the probity of the few, we toil for truth alone.”[135] These are not all of William’s complaints. Back in the world of feudalism, crusades, and Holy Roman Empire which seems to many so foreign, distant, and incomprehensible, he voices grievances which are still those of the college or university professor of to-day. The teacher is so occupied with classes that he has little time for research and publication;[136] the vulgar crowd has stolen philosophy’s clothing and left the essential body of truth naked and vainly crying for covering,—a figure borrowed from The Consolation of Philosophy of Boethius without express acknowledgment,[137] but perhaps the allusion was so familiar as not to require one; the truly learned are in danger of the bite of envy; most teachers are catering to their pupils and giving “snap courses” in order to gain popularity; the elective system is a failure, since the students, in the words of the Apostle, “after their own [Pg 55] lusts heap to themselves teachers having itching ears”; academic freedom has become a thing of the past now that masters are become flatterers of their students and students judges of their masters, while “if there is anyone who does maintain a magisterial air, he is shunned as if insane by the meretricious scholars and is called cruel and inhuman.”[138] All which agrees perfectly with John of Salisbury’s statement why William had ceased teaching.

Good and bad demons.

William does not mention magic in his treatise, but the fact that he does not condemn all demons indifferently is perhaps worth noting as a departure from the usual patristic view and as offering opportunity for an innocent variety of necromancy. William, who attributes his classification to Plato, distinguishes three sorts of demons. The first class, existent in the ether betwixt firmament and moon, are rational, immortal, ethereal animals, invisible and impassive, whose function is blissful contemplation of the divine sun. The second class, who dwell in the upper atmosphere near the moon, are rational, immortal, aerial animals. They communicate the prayers of men to God and the will of God to men, either in person or through signs or dreams and “by the closest aspiration of vocal warning.” They are capable of feeling, and, devoting themselves to good men, rejoice in their prosperity and suffer with them in their adversity. Both of these first two classes of demons are good,—kalodaemones. But the third class, who inhabit the humid atmosphere near the earth and are rational, immortal, watery animals, and capable of feeling, are in every way evil,—kakodaemones. They are lustful, cohabit with women, and envy and plot against mankind, for men, although fallen from grace like these demons, can recover their lost estate as the demons cannot.[139]

Astronomy and astrology.

William offers a rather novel and unusual explanation of the difference in meaning between the terms “astronomy” and “astrology,” stating that authorities on the subject speak of the superior bodies in three ways, the fabulous, the [Pg 56] astrological, and the astronomical. The method by fable is that employed by Aratus, Memroth (Nimrod the astronomer?), and Hyginus (“Eginus”), who interpret the Greek myths in an astronomical sense. Hipparchus and Martianus Capella are representatives of the astrological method, which treats of phenomena as they appear to exist in the heavens, whether they are really so or not. Astronomy, on the contrary, deals with things as they are, whether they seem to be so or not. Exactly what he has in mind by this distinction William fails to make any clearer as he proceeds, but from the fact that he lists Julius Firmicus and Ptolemy as instances of the astronomical method it would appear that he included part at least of what we should call astrology under “astronomy.” William cites yet other astronomical authorities, advising anyone wishing to learn about the Milky Way to read Macrobius, and for an explanation of the signs of the zodiac to consult Helpericus (of Auxerre), the ninth century compiler of a Computus which occurs with fair frequency in the manuscripts.[140]

Extent of the influence of the stars.

William represents “Plato, most learned of all philosophers,” as saying that God the Creator entrusted the task of forming the human body to the stars and spirits which He had first created, but reserved to Himself the making of the human soul.[141] This Christian interpretation or rather perversion of Plato’s doctrine in the Timaeus is characteristic. William accepts to the full the control of the stars over nature and the human body, but stops there. Like Adelard he states that the stars are composed of the same four elements as earthly objects. The predominance in their composition of the superior elements, fire and air, accounts for their motion. Their motion heats the atmosphere which in turn heats the element water, which is the fundamental constituent in the various species of animals, which further differ according to the admixture in them of the other elements. Of the superior elements the birds of the air have the most, and fish next. Of land animals choleric [Pg 57] ones, like the lion, possess most fire; phlegmatic ones, like pigs, most water; and melancholic ones, like the cow and ass, most earth. The human body is composed of an unusual harmony of the four elements, to which Scripture alludes in saying that “God formed man of the dust of the earth.”[142] William also lists the natural qualities and humors of each planet and its consequent influence for good or evil. He believes that the ancient astrologi discovered that Saturn is a cold star by repeatedly observing that in those years when the Sun in Cancer burned the earth less than usual, Saturn was invariably in conjunction with it in the same sign. How Saturn comes to exert this chilling influence William is less certain. He has already denied the existence of the congealed waters above the firmament, so that he cannot accept the theory that Saturn is cold because of its proximity to them. He can only suggest that its great distance from us perhaps explains why it heats less than the other planets.[143] The good and evil influences of the planets also come out in the astrological interpretation of myth and fable. Thus Saturn is said to carry a scythe because one who carries a scythe does more execution in receding than in advancing. Jupiter is said in the fables to have ousted his father Saturn because the approach of the planet Jupiter increases the evil influence of Saturn. Jupiter is said to have begotten divers children in adultery because the conjunctions of that planet produce varied effects upon earth; and Venus is said to have had adulterous intercourse with Mars because the propinquity of the planet Venus to the planet Mars renders the former less benevolent. Mars is god of battle because the planet of that name produces heat and drought which in their turn engender animosity.[144] As the tides follow the phases of the moon, so, William believes, a universal flood or conflagration may be produced by the simultaneous elevation or depression of [Pg 58] all the planets.[145] But he accepts comets as special signs of the future caused by the Creator’s will instead of attempting to give a natural explanation of the events which follow them.[146] This is perhaps because of their signifying human events. Thunder and lightning are discussed without mention of divination from them.[147]

Science and religion.

Thus far we have heard William cite authorities rather than spurn them as Adelard did. He could, however, be independent enough on occasion. He went so far as to reject the Scriptural account of waters above the firmament, if that word were taken in its ordinary astronomical sense, as naturally impossible; he explained away the passage in Genesis by interpreting the firmament to mean the air, and the waters above it, the clouds.[148] Like Adelard, too, he several times feels it essential to justify his views against the possible criticism of an obscurantist religious party. Discussing the Trinity, he insists that if anyone finds something in his book which is not found elsewhere, it should not on that account be stigmatized as heresy but only if it can be shown to be against the Faith.[149] Thus he confirms Adelard’s complaint that the present generation is prejudiced against any modern discoveries. William, by the way, also employs the word “modern.” Again, in affirming the physical impossibility of reconciling the elements fire and earth, he notes that someone may object that God could find a way. To this he replies that “we do not place a limit upon divine power, but we do say that of existing things none can do it, nor in the nature of things can there be anything that would suffice.”[150] In a third passage his indignation is fanned to a white heat by those who say, “We do not know how this is, but we know that God can do it.” “You poor fools,” he retorts, “God can make a cow out of a tree, but has He ever done so? Therefore show some reason why a thing is so, or cease to hold that it is so.”[151] Elsewhere he yet [Pg 59] further dilates upon the unreasonableness of the opponents of natural science, who are loath to have explained even the natural facts given in the Bible but prefer to accept them blindly, and who, “since they themselves are unacquainted with the forces of nature, in order that they may have all men as companions in their ignorance, wish them to investigate nothing but to believe like rustics. We, on the contrary,” continues William, “think that a reason should be sought in every case, if one can be found.”[152] Thus he vigorously echoes Adelard’s exhortation to give and take reason, and his retort to the nephew’s suggestion that the growth of plants from earth can be explained only as a divine miracle.

Letter of William of St. Thierry to St. Bernard.

William, it turned out, was too original and bold in some of his assertions concerning the Trinity and kindred topics, which were not allowed to pass unchallenged. A letter to St. Bernard from William, abbot of St. Thierry,[153] shows the attitude of William of Conches’ opponents. The abbot first says,—with the assumption of superior seriousness and dignity characteristic through all time of conservatives, bigots, and pompous persons subconsciously aware of their own stupidity—that anyone who knows William of Conches personally is aware of his levity and will not take his vanities too seriously, and that he is to be classed with Abelard in the presumptuousness of his opinions. The abbot then devotes most of his letter to an attack upon William’s discussion of the Trinity, taking umbrage at his discussing questions of faith at all, especially upon a philosophical basis, and at his distribution of the three faculties, power, will, and wisdom, among the Three Persons. The abbot more briefly objects to William’s physical account of the creation of man, saying: “First he says that man’s body was not made by God but by nature, and the soul was given him by God afterwards, and forsooth that the body was [Pg 60] made by spirits whom he calls demons and by the stars.” This doctrine the abbot regards as on the one hand dangerously close to the opinion “of certain stupid philosophers who say that there is nothing but matter and the material, and that there is no other God in the world than the concourse of the elements and the system of nature”; and on the other hand as manifestly Manichean, affirming that the human soul is created by a good God but the body by the prince of darkness. Finally the abbot complains that William “stupidly and haughtily ridicules history of divine authority,” and “interprets in a physical sense” the account of the creation of woman from one of Adam’s ribs.

Extent of William’s retraction in the Dragmaticon.

The effect of this theological attack upon William of Conches can probably be discerned in the Dragmaticon. There he states that it is his purpose to include “many essential points” which were not contained in the earlier treatise, and to omit those statements which he has since become convinced are erroneous. He then proceeds to list and expressly condemn certain statements in the earlier work as contrary to the Catholic Faith, and he asks those readers who have copies of that treatise to make these corrections in it.[154] He accordingly retracts his assertion that in the Trinity the Father represents power and the Holy Spirit will, since there is no direct scriptural authority for this view, but he still maintains that the Son is Wisdom on the authority of the Apostle. He takes back his interpretation of the words of the Prophet concerning Christ, “Who will tell his generation?” as indicating merely the difficulty and not the impossibility of solving that mystery. Finally he reverts to the letter of Scripture in regard to the creation of Eve.

Reassertion of previous views.

But this done, William becomes his old self again in the remainder of the Dragmaticon. In the rôle of the philosopher [Pg 61] he argues at length with the duke whether Plato’s five circles of the sky and division of spirits into kalodaemones and kakodaemones is in agreement with the Christian Faith. Later on, when the duke cites Bede against him in regard to some astronomical point, he replies that in a pure matter of faith he would feel obliged to accept Bede’s authority, but that on a point of philosophy he feels perfectly at liberty to disagree with him. This declaration of scientific independence from patristic authority became a locus classicus cited with approval by several writers of the next century. Presently to our surprise we find William boldly inquiring at what time of year the six days of creation occurred. He also indulges as before in somewhat bitter reflections upon the learned world of his day.

No denial of science.

William, therefore, has had to withdraw some theological opinions for which he could not show authority in Scripture, and some other opinions wherein he disregarded the literal meaning of the Bible. But except that he has to agree to the miraculous account of the creation of the first woman, he does not seem to have altered his views concerning nature and philosophy, nor to have given up in any way his scientific attitude or his astrological theories. The theologians have forced him to conform in respect to theology, but his retraction in that field takes the form of a second edition of his treatise and a reaffirmation of his astronomical and philosophical views. As Hauréau well says, “He always believes in science, he still defends in the name of science, in the accents, and by the method of the scholar, everything in his former writings that has not been condemned in the name of the Faith.... So it is no denial of philosophy that has been won by the outcries of William of St. Thierry and Walter of St. Victor;[155] those attacks have resulted in merely intimidating the theologian.”[156]

[Pg 62]

William’s future influence.

Such attacks, moreover, had little or no success in lessening William’s ultimate future influence. How utterly they failed to intimidate astrologers may be inferred from the much greater lengths to which William’s contemporary, Bernard Silvester, went without apparently getting into any trouble, and from the half-hearted arguments against the art of John of Salisbury a little later in the century. As Doctor Poole has already pointed out, even the Philosophia, which William of St. Thierry censured and which William of Conches himself modified, survived in its original and unexpurgated version “to be printed in three several editions as the production of the venerable Bede, of saint Anselm’s friend, William of Hirschau, and of Honorius of Autun; the taint of heresy plainly cannot have been long perceptible to medieval librarians.”[157] Also the revised edition, or Dragmaticon, “enjoyed a remarkable popularity, and a wide diffusion attested by a multitude of manuscripts at Vienna, Munich, Paris, Oxford, and other places.”[158] We shall find William’s book much used and cited by the learned writers of the following century, and a number of copies of it are listed in the fifteenth century catalogue of the library of St. Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury. If then from the contemporary and passing world of talk William retired disgusted and discomfited to the shelter of ducal patronage, in the enduring world of thought and letters he carved for himself a lasting niche by his comparative intellectual courage, originality, and thoroughness.

[119] On William of Conches see, besides HL XXI, 455 et seq. and DNB, Antoine Charma, Guillaume de Conches, Paris, 1857; B. Hauréau, in his Singularités historiques et littéraires, Paris, 1861; H. F. Reuter, Geschichte der religiösen Aufklärung im Mittelalter, II (1877) pp. 6-10; R. L. Poole, Illustrations of the History of Medieval Thought, 1884, pp. 124-31, 338-63, (or, 1920, pp. 106-12, 293-310) and “The Masters of the Schools at Paris and Chartres in John of Salisbury’s Time,” EHR, 35 (1920) pp. 321-42. For editions and MSS of the original version and revision of William’s chief philosophical treatise see Appendix I at the close of this chapter. For his other works see my subsequent foot-notes.

[120] Metalogicus II, 10.

[121] Metalogicus, I, 24.

[122] Haskins, Norman Institutions, 1918, p. 130. Haskins, Ibid., p. 205, has found no authority for Geoffrey’s absence on crusade in 1147, so that it need not be taken into account in dating the Dragmaticon.

[123] R. L. Poole, in EHR (1920) p. 334.

[124] R. L. Poole (1884), p. 348, (1920) p. 299, concluded from this, “The dialogue was written therefore some time, probably some years, before Henry was of an age to be knighted, in 1149; and we shall certainly not be far wrong if we place it about the year 1145.” As, however, Henry was knighted when only about sixteen, and as the remark “quos ... studio literarum tenera aetate imbuisti” may be retrospective, and as one can scarcely argue with any chronological exactness from these medieval phrases denoting time of life—Henry, for example, is addressed as “vir optime atque liberalis” in the preface of the collection of ethical maxims which William made for him before he was seventeen,——it seems to me that there is no sufficient reason for fixing on 1145 as the date of the Dragmaticon.

[125] Printed in Migne, PL 171, 1007-56, among the works of Hildebert of Le Mans. William’s authorship was determined by Hauréau, Notices et Extraits, XXXIII, i, 257-63.

[126] Bouquet, Recueil, XIII, 703D.

[127] R. L. Poole, in EHR (1920) p. 334, decides in favor of Chartres.

[128] Cited from the Dragmaticon by Poole (1884) pp. 348-9, (1920) 300.

[129] In iuventute nostra, another example of a vague chronological phrase.

[130] Charles Jourdain, Des Commentaires inédits de Guillaume de Conches et de Nicolas Triveth sur la Consolation de la Philosophie, Paris, 1861.

[131] Printed in part as by Honorius of Autun in Cousin, Ouvrages inédits d’Abélard, Appendix, p. 648, et seq.

[132] My references will be to the editio princeps of Basel, 1531, which is, however, not particularly accurate.

[133] Edition of 1531, p. 1.

[134] Ibid., p. 14.

[135] Ibid., pp. 27-8.

[136] Ibid., p. 51.

[137] The parallel passages are: De consolatione philosophiae, I, i, 21-3 and I, iii, 19-28. It will be recalled that William wrote a commentary on Boethius’ work.

[138] Ed. of 1531, p. 65.

[139] Ibid., pp. 9-10.

[140] Ed. of 1531, pp. 30-32.

[141] Ibid., preface.

[142] Ed. of 1531, pp. 24-25, “... et hoc est quod divina pagina dicit deum fecisse hominem de limo terrae.”

[143] Ibid., p. 34.

[144] Ibid., pp. 36-7.

[145] Ed. of 1531, p. 64.

[146] Ibid., p. 60.

[147] Ibid., pp. 55-6.

[148] Ibid., pp. 28-9.

[149] Ibid., p. 7.

[150] Ibid., p. 19.

[151] Ibid., p. 29.

[152] Ed. of 1531, p. 26.

[153] Migne PL 180, 333-40, Guillelmi abbatis S. Theodorici De erroribus Guillelmi de Conchis ad sanctum Bernardum.

[154] This was the impression that I received from the text in CLM 2595 rather than that “His former work, therefore, he suppressed and begged everyone who possessed the book to join him in condemning and destroying it”;—R. L. Poole (1884) p. 130, (1920) p. 110.

[155] Walter, in an attack upon the views of Abelard, Gilbert de la Porrée, and others, unjustly accused William of holding the Epicurean atomic theory; Poole (1884) pp. 349-50, (1920) pp. 300-1.

[156] B. Hauréau, Histoire de la philosophie scolastique, ed. of 1872, I, 445.

[157] R. L. Poole (1884) p. 130, (1920) p. 111.

[158] Ibid., p. 131, (1920) p. 111.

[Pg 63]



Although, as the ensuing bibliography will make apparent, a variety of titles have been at one time or another applied to the two versions of the work in question, we shall refer to the original version as Philosophia and the revision as Dragmaticon, which appear to be both the handiest and the most correct appellations, although personally I should prefer Dramaticus for the latter. The two works may perhaps be most readily distinguished by their Incipits, which are, for Philosophia, “Quoniam ut ait Tullius in prologo rhetoricorum, Eloquentia sine sapientia ...”, and for Dragmaticon, “Quaeris, venerande dux Normannorum et comes Andagavensium, cur magistris nostri temporis minus creditur quam antiquis....” The titles and the number of books into which the work is divided differ a good deal in different editions and manuscripts, and the catalogues of manuscript collections sometimes do not identify the author.

First as to printed editions. Philosophia has been printed three times as the work of three other authors.

Philosophicarum et astronomicarum institutionum Guilelmi Hirsaugiensis olim abbatis libri tres, Basel, 1531.

Bede, Opera, 1563, II, 311-43, Περὶ Διδάξων, sive Elementorum Philosophiae Libri IV.

Honorius of Autun, De philosophia mundi, Migne, PL vol. 172.

Dragmaticon seems to be have been printed but once under the title,

Dialogus de substantiis physicis confectus a Guillelmo aneponymo philosopho, Strasburg, 1567.

[Pg 64]

In the following list of MSS, which is no doubt far from complete, I have attempted to distinguish between the Philosophia and Dragmaticon but have often had to rely only upon the notices in catalogues which frequently do not give the opening words or other distinguishing marks. The following MS seems unusual in apparently containing both versions, if by “eiusdem philosophia secunda” is indicated the Dragmaticon.

CLM 564, 12th century, with figures, fol. 1-, Willelmi de Conchis philosophiae libri IV, fol. 32-, eiusdem philosophia secunda.

MSS of the Philosophia

Egerton 935, 12th century, small quarto, Phylosophia Magistri Willihelmi de Conchis, cum figuris.

Egerton 1984, 13th century, fols. 2-33.

Royal 9-A-XIV, 14th century, fols. 245-65, Physicorum libri 4.

Royal 13-A-XIV, #7, “Quoniam ut ait Tullius....”

Additional 11676, 13th century, anon. de philosophia naturali, in three parts.

Additional 26770, 13-14th century.

Digby 104, 13th century, fol. 176-, De elementis philosophiae naturalis.

University College 6, 14th century, p. 389, Philosophiae compendium, “Quoniam ut ait Tullius....”

Bodleian (Bernard) 2596, #10, in four parts; 3623, #30, fol. 187v-; 4056, #1.

BN 6656, 14th century, Philosophia, in four parts; 15025; 13th century; 16207, 13th century, fol. 58-.

Ste. Geneviève 2200, anno 1277, fols. 1-47, with colored figures, “Quoniam ut ait Tullius....”

Vienna 2376, 12th century, fols. 32v-64v, “Incipit prologus in phylosophyam Willehelmi. Quoniam ut ait Tullius....”

Amplon. Octavo 85, 13th century; Octavo 87, mid 12th century!

CLM 2594, 13th century, fol. 24, Compendium philosophie de naturis corporum celestium et terrenorum. Sunt libri IV.

CLM 2655, late 13th century, fol. 106, “Summa de naturis videlicet totius philosophiae,” in fine nonnulla desunt.

CLM 14156, 15th century, fols. 1-18, Philosophia minor.

CLM 14689, 12th century, fols. 85-7. Wilhelmi Hirsaugiensis dialogus de astronomia, supersunt tria tantum folia.

[Pg 65]

CLM 15407, 14th century, fols. 1-42, philosophia.

CLM 16103, 12-13th century, fols. 68-99, philosophia naturalis.

CLM 18918, 12th century, fols. 1-34, de philosophia.

CLM 22292, 12-13th century, fol. 40, “Quoniam ut ait Tullius....”

MSS of the Dragmaticon

CLM 2595, 13th century, 43 fols. Dragmaticus.

CLM 7770, 14th century, 56 fols. De secunda philosophia.

Florence II, VI, 2, 13th century, fols. 50-65, “Queris venerande dux....”

Ashburnham (Florence) 98, 13th century, fols. 2-41.

Bibl. Alex: (Rome) 102, 14-17th century, fols. 112-209.

Wolfenbüttel 4610, 12-14th century, fols. 78-160v, Phisica Willendini, “Queris venerande dux....”

Berlin 921, 13th century.

Vienna 5292, 15th century, fols. 105-57, “Veros (sic) Venerande dux....”

Vendôme 189, 13th century, fols. 123-59.

St. John’s 178, early 13th century, fols. 266-360, anon., “Queris venerande dux....”

Corpus Christi 95, end 12-13th century, fol. 1, Universalis Philosophiae libri tres per modum dialogi inter Normannorum ducem et ipsum doctorem.

Digby 1, 14th century, fol. 1, Dragmaticon.

Digby 107, 14th century, Summa magistri Wilhelmi de Conches super naturalibus questionibus et responsionibus, “Queris venerande dux....” The catalogue incorrectly speaks of it as a dialogue with Henry, duke of Normandy, afterwards Henry II of England.

Bodleian (Bernard) 3565.

Royal 4-A-XIII, #5, Philosophia naturalis, “Queris,” etc.

Royal 12-F-X, 13th century.

Arundel 377, 13th century, fol. 104.

Sloane 2424, 14th century.

Additional 18210, 13-14th century.

Egerton 830, 15th century, Dialogus de philosophia inter Henricum II (sic) Normannorum ducem et ipsum auctorem....

BN 6415, 14th century; and 4694.

Montpellier, École de Méd. 145.

Troyes 1342.

[Pg 66]



Importance of medieval translations—Plan of this chapter—Transmission of Arabic astrology—Walcher, prior of Malvern—Pedro Alfonso—His letter to the Peripatetics—Experimental method—Magic and scepticism in the Disciplina clericalis—John of Seville—Dates in his career—Further works by him, chiefly astrological—John’s experimental astrology—Gundissalinus De divisione philosophiae—Place of magic in the classification of the sciences—Al-Farabi De ortu scientiarum—Gundissalinus on astrology—Robert Kilwardby De ortu sive divisione scientiarum—Plato of Tivoli—Robert of Chester—Hermann the Dalmatian—Hugh of Santalla—A contemporary memorial of Gerard of Cremona—Account by a pupil of his astrological teaching—Character of Gerard’s translations—Science and religion in the preface to a translation of the Almagest from the Greek—Arabs and moderns—Astronomy at Marseilles—Appendix I. Some medieval Johns, mentioned in the manuscripts, in the fields of natural and occult science, mathematics and medicine.

Importance of medieval translations.

Already we have treated of a number of Arabic works of occult science which are extant in Latin translations, or have mentioned men, important in the history of medieval science like Constantinus Africanus or Adelard of Bath, whose works were either largely or partly translations. In future chapters we shall have occasion to mention other men and works of the same sort. We have already seen, too, that translations from the Greek were being made all through the early middle ages and in the tenth century; and we shall see this continue in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries especially in connection with Galen, Aristotle, and Ptolemy. We have also seen reasons for suspecting that the Latin versions of certain works were older than the so-called Greek originals, that works were sometimes translated from Arabic into Greek as well as from Greek into [Pg 67] Arabic, and that there probably never were any Arabic originals for some so-called translations from the Arabic which are extant only in Latin. All this is not yet to mention versions from Hebrew and Syriac or in French, Spanish, and Anglo-Saxon. We have seen also in general how important and influential in the history of medieval learning was the work of the translator, and yet how complicated and difficult to follow. Many names of translators are mentioned in the medieval manuscripts: some, for instance, who will not be treated of in the present chapter are: from the Greek, Aristippus of Sicily, Bartholomew of Messina, Burgundio of Pisa, Eugenius admiral of Sicily, Grumerus of Piacenza, Nicolaus of Reggio, Stephen of Messina, and William of Moerbeke; from the Arabic, Egidius de Tebaldis of Parma, Arnold of Barcelona, Blasius Armegandus or Ermengardus of Montpellier, Marcus of Toledo, the canon Salio of Padua, John Lodoycus Tetrapharmacus, Philip of Spain, Philip of Tripoli, Roger of Parma, Ferragius, and so on. But not all such names of translators can be correctly placed and dated, and many translations remain anonymous in the manuscripts. Into this vast and difficult field Jourdain’s work on the medieval translations of Aristotle made but an entrance, and that one which now needs amendment, and even such extensive bibliographical investigations as those of Steinschneider have only made rough charts of portions. Some detailed monographs on single translators[159] and the like topics have been written, but many more will be required before we shall have a satisfactory general orientation.

Plan of this chapter.

The subject of medieval translations as a whole of course in any case lies in large part beyond the scope of our investigation and would lead us into other literary and learned fields not bearing upon experimental science and magic. In the present chapter we shall further limit ourselves [Pg 68] to some translators of the twelfth century who chiefly translated works of astrology from the Arabic and who, although they themselves often came from other lands, were especially active in Spain. One or two men will be introduced who do not possess all these qualifications, but who are related to the other men and works included in the chapter.

Transmission of Arabic astrology.

Throughout the twelfth century from its first years to its close may be traced the transit of learning from the Arabic world, and more particularly from the Spanish peninsula, to northwestern Europe. Three points may be made concerning this transmission: it involves Latin translation from the Arabic; the matter translated is largely mathematical, or more especially astronomical and astrological in character; finally, it is often experimental.

Walcher, prior of Malvern.

On the very threshold of the twelfth century, in addition to Adelard of Bath to whom we have given a separate chapter, we meet with another Englishman, Walcher, prior of Malvern, whom we find associated with Peter Alphonso or Pedro Alfonso, who apparently was a converted Spanish Jew. Walcher’s experimental observations would seem to have antedated his association with Pedro, since a chapter headed, “Of the writer’s experience,”[160] in lunar tables which he composed between 1107 and 1112, tells of an eclipse which he saw in Italy in 1091 but could not observe exactly because he had no clock (horologium) at hand to measure the time, and of another in the succeeding year after his return to England which he was able to observe more scientifically with the aid of an astrolabe. In 1120 Walcher translated into Latin, at least according to the testimony of the manuscripts, an astronomical work by Pedro Alfonso on the Dragon.[161] Pedro perhaps wrote the original in [Pg 69] Hebrew or Spanish or translated it from the Arabic into one of those languages, but we also know of his writing in Latin himself.

Pedro Alfonso.

This Pedro Alfonso seems to have been the same[162] who in 1106 in his forty-fourth year was baptized at Huesca with the name of his godfather, King Alfonso I of Aragon, and who wrote the Disciplina clericalis and Dialogi cum Iudeo. Indeed we find the Disciplina clericalis and De dracone ascribed to him in the same manuscript.[163] In another manuscript chronological and astronomical tables are found under his name and the accompanying explanatory text opens, “Said Pedro Alfonso, servant of Jesus Christ and translator of this book.”[164] This expression is very similar, as Haskins has pointed out, to a heading in a manuscript of the Disciplina clericalis, “Said Pedro Alfonso, servant of Christ Jesus, physician of Henry the first (sic) king of the Angles, composer of this book.”[165] The experimental pretensions and astrological leanings of the astronomical treatise are suggested by Pedro’s statement that the [Pg 70] science of the stars divides into three parts, marvelous in reasoning, notable in the signification of events, and approved in experience; and that the third part is the science of the nature of the spheres and stars, and their significations in earthly affairs which happen from the virtue of their nature and the diversity of their movements, things known by experiment.

His letter to the Peripatetics.

In a manuscript at the British Museum[166] I have read what seems to be a third astronomical treatise by Pedro Alfonso, differing both from the preceding and from the De dracone.[167] We meet as before the expression, “Said Alfonso, servant of Jesus Christ and translator of this book,”[168] and the emphasis upon experiment and astrology continues. It will be noted further that in this treatise, which takes the form of a letter to Peripatetics and those nourished by the milk of philosophy everywhere through France, Pedro is no longer connected with Englishmen, although this manuscript, too, is in an English library. After rehearsing the utility of grammar, dialectic, and arithmetic, Pedro finally comes to astronomy, an art with which “all of the Latins generally” are little acquainted, in which he himself has long been occupied, and a portion of which he presents to them as something rare and precious. It has come to his ears that some seekers after wisdom are preparing to traverse distant provinces and penetrate to remote regions in order to acquire fuller astronomical knowledge, and he proposes to save them from this inconvenience by bringing astronomy to them. Apparently, therefore, this letter to the Peripatetics and other students of philosophy is simply the advertisement of, or preface to, [Pg 71] a translation by Pedro of some astronomical or astrological work, presumably from the Arabic.[169] It is accordingly mainly devoted to a justification of the thorough study of astronomy and astrology. Many persons, in Pedro’s opinion, are simply too lazy to take the trouble to ground themselves properly therein. Those who think they know all about the subject because they have read Macrobius and a few other authors are found wanting in a crisis,—a passage meant doubtless as a hit at those who base their knowledge of astronomy simply upon Latin authors. Pedro also alludes to those who have been accustomed to regard themselves as teachers of astronomy and now hate to turn pupils again.

Experimental method.

The contrast which Pedro draws, however, is not so much between Latin and Arabic writings as it is between dependence upon a few past authorities and adoption of the experimental method. He argues that the principles of astronomy were discovered in the first place only through experimentation, and that today no one can understand the art fundamentally without actual observation and experience. He believes that astrology as well as astronomy is proved by experience. “It has been proved therefore by experimental argument that we can truly affirm that the sun and moon and other planets exert their influences in earthly affairs.”[170] Or, as he says in another passage, “And indeed many other innumerable things happen on earth in accordance with the courses of the stars, and pass unnoticed by the senses of most men, but are discovered and understood by the subtle acumen of learned men who are skilled in this art.”[171] Pedro’s letter further includes some [Pg 72] astrological medicine, interesting in connection with the statement in another manuscript that he was the physician of Henry I of England. In this context, too, he shows familiarity with the translations from the Arabic of Constantinus Africanus.[172]

Magic and scepticism in the Disciplina clericalis.

Pedro’s Disciplina clericalis,[173] although a collection of oriental tales rather than a work of natural science,[174] contains one or two passages of interest to us. Asked by a disciple what the seven arts are, the master gives a list somewhat different from the common Latin trivium and quadrivium, namely, logic, arithmetic, geometry, physics, music, and astronomy. As to the seventh there is some dispute, he says. Philosophers who believe in divination make necromancy the seventh; other philosophers who do not believe in predictions substitute philosophy; while persons who are ignorant of philosophy affirm that grammar is one of the seven arts.[175] Thus while Pedro retains all four arts of the quadrivium, he holds only to logic in the case of the trivium, omitting rhetoric entirely and tending to substitute physics and necromancy for it and grammar. This tendency away from belles-lettres to a curriculum made up of logic and philosophy, mathematical and natural science, also soon became characteristic of Latin learning, while the tendency to include necromancy as one of the liberal arts or natural sciences, although less successful, will be found in other writers who are to be considered in this chapter. In the passage just discussed the importance of the number seven also receives emphasis, as the master goes on to speak of other sevens than the arts. One is impressed also in reading the Disciplina clericalis by a sceptical note concerning [Pg 73] magic and the marvelous properties of natural objects, as in the tale of the thief who repeated a charm seven times and tried to take hold of a moonbeam, but as a result fell and was captured, and in the tale of the Churl and the Bird, who promised his captor, if released, to reveal three pieces of wisdom.[176] The first was not to believe everyone. “This saide,” in the quaint wording of the medieval English version, “the litel brid ascendid vpon the tree and with a sweete voice bigan to synge: ‘Blessid be god that hath shit and closed the sight of thyn eyen and taken awey thi wisdam, forwhi if thow haddest sought in the plites of myn entrailes thow shuldest have founde a jacinct the weight of an vnce.’” When the churl wept and beat his breast at this announcement of his lost opportunity, the bird again warned him not to be so credulous. “And how belivistow that in me shuld be a jacynt the weight of an vnce, whan I and al my body is nat of somoche weight?”

John of Seville.

Apparently the chief and most voluminous translator of astrological works from Arabic into Latin in the twelfth century was John of Seville.[177] Although he translated some other mathematical, medical, and philosophical treatises, the majority of his translations seem to have been astrological, and they remained in use during the later middle ages and many of them appeared in print in early editions. So many Johns[178] are mentioned in medieval manuscripts and even wrote in almost the same fields as John of Seville that it is not easy to distinguish his works. Jourdain identified him with a John Avendeath or Avendehut (Joannes ibn David) who worked with the archdeacon Gundissalinus under the patronage of Raymond, archbishop of Toledo from 1126 to 1151.[179] John of Seville was perhaps not the man who worked with Gundissalinus[180] but he certainly appears to have addressed [Pg 74] translations to Archbishop Raymond. Thus in speaking of Costa ben Luca’s De differentia spiritus et animae we saw that the manuscripts stated that it was translated by John of Seville from Arabic into Latin for Archbishop Raymond of Toledo.[181] John of Seville is further styled of Luna or Limia, in one manuscript as bishop of Luna,[182] and also seems to be the same person as John of Toledo or of Spain. In one of the citations of the Speculum astronomiae of Albertus Magnus he is called “Joannes Ulgembus Hispalensis.”[183] John Paulinus, who translated a collection of twelve experiments with snakeskin entitled Life-saver which he discovered when he “was in Alexandria, a city of the Egyptians,” is in at least one manuscript of his translation identified with John of Spain.[184]

Dates in his career.

Certain dates in the career of John of Seville may be regarded as fairly well fixed. In the Arabic year 529, or 1135 A. D., he translated the Rudiments of Astronomy of Alfraganus (Ahmed b. Muh. b. Ketîr el-Fargânî, or Al-Fargani)[185]; in 1142 A. D. he compiled his own Epitome of [Pg 75] the Art of Astrology or Quadripartite Work of Judgments of the Stars,[186] consisting of Isagoge in astrologiam and four books of judgments. In 1153 A. D. he translated the Nativities of Albohali[187] (Yahyâ b. Gâlib, Abû Alî el-Chaiyât), if we accept the “John of Toledo” who is said to have translated that treatise as the same person as our John of Spain.[188] John of Spain is sometimes said to have died in [Pg 76] 1157, but Förster argued that the Tarasia, queen of Spain, to whom the medical portion of the pseudo-Aristotelian Secret of Secrets, translated by John of Spain, was dedicated, was not the queen of Portugal contemporary with Archbishop Raymond of Toledo, but queen of Leon from 1176 to 1180; and in 1175 a monk of Mt. Tabor is called Johannes Hispanus.[189] If a Vienna manuscript is correct in saying that a marvelous cure for a sore heel which it contains was sent to Pope Gregory by John of Spain, the pope meant must be Gregory VIII (1187).[190] There is of course no impossibility in the supposition that the literary career of John of Spain extended from the days of Archbishop Raymond to those of Gregory VIII or Queen Tarasia. Still there is some doubt whether all the works extant under the name John of Spain were composed by the same individual.[191]

Further works by him, chiefly astrological.

Several books dealing with the science of judgments from the stars by John of Spain are included in the bibliography of deserving works of astrology in the Speculum Astronomiae of Albertus Magnus, but are perhaps simply sections of his Epitome[192] which, after discussing in the [Pg 77] Isagoge the natures of the signs and planets, takes up in turn the four main divisions of judicial astrology, namely; conjunctions and revolutions, nativities, interrogations, and elections. John seems to have translated several astrological treatises by Albumasar and Messahala (Mâ-sâ-allâh), the treatise by Thebit ben Corat on astrological images of which we have already treated, that by Abenragel (ʿAli b. abî’l-Rigâl, abû’l-Hasan) on elections, and the Introduction to the Mystery of Judgments from the Stars by Alchabitius or Alcabitius[193] (ʿAbdelʿazîz b. ʿOtmân el-Qabîsî), which should not be confused with his own somewhat similar Ysagoge. Of other translations by John of Spain, such as a portion of the Secret of Secrets of the Pseudo-Aristotle, the twelve experiments with pulverized snakeskin, and Costa ben Luca’s De differentia spiritus et animae, we treat elsewhere. He was perhaps also the author of a chiromancy.[194]

John’s experimental astrology.

The experimental character of John’s own handbook on astrology is worth noting. In the main, it is true, he follows the works of the philosophers and astrologers of the past, especially when he finds them in agreement.[195] Besides constantly alluding to what astrologers in general or the ancients say on the point in question, he often cites of the Greeks Ptolemy and Dorotheus (“Dorothius”) and Hermes and Doronius, but probably through Arabic mediums. He also gives us the views of the masters of India, and distinguishes [Pg 78] as “more recent masters of this art”[196] the Arabic writers “Alchindus” and Messahala. The latter he seems to regard as an Indian or at least as skilful in their methods of judgment.[197] But he also notes when his authorities are in disagreement[198] or points out that his own experience in many nativities contradicts their views,[199] against which John’s readers are warned when they find them in the books of judgments. Even Ptolemy is twice criticized on the basis of actual experiment.[200] We see that John was not merely a translator or writer on astrology but an expert practitioner of the art. He supplements the divergent views of past authorities, or qualifies their consensus of opinion, by his own apparently rich experience as a practicing or experimental astrologer. Indeed, for him the theory and practice of the art, the paths of reason and experience, are so united that he not merely speaks of “this reasoning” or view as being “tested by experience,”[201] but seems to employ the words ratio and experimentum somewhat indiscriminately for astrological tenet or technique.[202]

Gundissalinus De divisione philosophiae.

The chief known work of Gundissalinus, the archdeacon who was for a time perhaps associated with John of Spain in the labor of translation, is his De divisione philosophiae, [Pg 79][203] a treatise which owes much to the Turkoman Al-Farabi (Muh. b. Muh. b. Tarchân b. Uzlag, Abû Nasr, el-Fârâbî). If Baur is right in thinking that Gundissalinus made use of translations by Gerard of Cremona, 1114-1187, in the De divisione philosophiae,[204] it would appear to be a later work than his translating for Archbishop Raymond, 1130-1150, which perhaps began as early as 1133.[205]

Place of magic in the classification of the sciences.

In the classification and description of the sciences which make up the bulk of the De divisione philosophiae Gundissalinus gives a certain place to the occult arts. At the beginning of the book, it is true, the magic arts are not classed among useful things of the spirit like the virtues and true sciences (honestae scientiae). Neither, however, are they grouped with pride, avarice, and vain glory as harmful vices, but are merely classed along with worldly honors as vanities. [Pg 80][206] “Nigromancy according to physics,” however, is later listed as one of eight sub-divisions of natural science together with alchemy, medicine, agriculture, navigation, the science of mirrors, and the sciences of images and of judgments.[207] Gundissalinus was innocent, however, of any detailed knowledge of necromancy or indeed of any of the other sub-divisions except medicine. He explains that he has not yet advanced as far as these subjects in his studies.[208] He is manifestly simply copying an Arabic classification, probably from Al-Farabi’s De ortu scientiarum, and one of which we find similar traces in other medieval Christian authors.[209]

Al-Farabi De ortu scientiarum.

This little treatise on The Rise of the Sciences by Al-Farabi, although it occupies only a leaf or two in the manuscripts and has only recently been printed,[210] is a rather important one to note, as other of its statements than its eight sub-divisions of natural science seem to be paralleled in medieval Latin writers. There seems, for instance, a resemblance between its attitude towards the sciences and classification of them and that of Roger Bacon in the Opus Maius.[211] Al-Farabi believes in God the Creator, as his opening words show, and he regards “divine science” as the end and perfection of the other sciences; “and beyond it investigation does not go, for it is itself the goal to which all inquiry tends.”[212] At the same time Al-Farabi emphasizes the importance of natural science, adding its eight parts to the four divisions of the quadrivium—arithmetic, geometry, astrology, and music, and saying, “Moreover, this last (i. e. natural) science is greater and broader than any of those [Pg 81] sciences and disciplines (or, than any of those disciplinary sciences).” We need a science, he says in effect, which deals inclusively with changes in nature, showing how they are brought about and their causes and enabling us to repel their harmful action when we wish or to augment them,—a science of action and passion.[213] This suggestion of applied science and of a connection between it and magic also reminds one of Roger Bacon, as does Al-Farabi’s statement later that the beginning of all sciences is the science of language.

Gundissalinus on astrology.

Both for Al-Farabi and Gundissalinus the sciences of images and judgments were undoubtedly astrological. Gundissalinus himself believes that the spiritual virtue of the celestial bodies is the efficient cause, ordained by the Creator, of generation, corruption, and other natural operations in this corporeal world. He defines astrologia as we would astronomy, while he explains that astronomia is the science of answering questions from the position of the planets and signs. There are many such sciences,—geomancy, hydromancy, aeromancy, pyromancy, chiromancy, and augury; but astronomy is superior to the rest because it predicts what will befall upon earth from the dispositions of the heavenly bodies. Gundissalinus also repeats Isidore’s distinction between astronomia and astrologia, and between the natural and superstitious varieties of “astronomy.”[214]

Robert Kilwardby, De ortu sive divisione scientiarum.

At this point it may be well to note briefly a later work with a very similar title to that of Gundissalinus, namely, the De ortu sive divisione scientiarum of Robert Kilwardby, [Pg 82][215] archbishop of Canterbury from 1272 to 1279. The work borrows a great deal from Isidore, Hugh of St. Victor, and Gundissalinus. One of its more original passages is that in which Kilwardby suggests an alteration in Hugh’s division of the mechanical arts, omitting theatrical performances as more suited to Gentiles than Catholics, and arranging the mechanical arts in a trivium consisting of earth-culture, food-science, and medicine, and a quadrivium made up of costuming, armor-making, architecture, and business-courses (mercatura), after the analogy of the seven liberal arts.[216] Kilwardby, as has been already noted elsewhere, repeats Hugh’s classification of the magic arts.[217]

Plato of Tivoli.

Next in importance to John of Spain as a translator of Arabic astrology in the first half of the twelfth century should probably be ranked Plato of Tivoli. They seem to have worked independently and sometimes to have made distinct translations of the same work, as in the case of the Nativities of Albohali and the Epistle of Messahala. On the whole, Plato’s translations[218] would appear slightly to antedate John’s. Haskins has shown, however, that the date 1116, hitherto assigned for Plato’s translation of the Liber embadorum of Savasorda, should be 1145.[219] But Plato’s translation of Albohali is dated 1136, while John’s was not made until 1153.[220] In 1136 is also dated Plato’s translation of the astrological work of Almansor in the form of one hundred and fifty or so brief aphorisms, judgments, propositions, or capitula, which later appeared repeatedly in print. Two years later he turned the famous Quadripartitum of Ptolemy into Latin. His other translations include Albucasis (Abû’l-Qâsim Chalaf b. ʿAbbâs el-Zahrâwî) on the astrolabe, Haly (ʿAlî b. Ridwân b. ʿAlî b. Ğaʿfar, Abû’l-Hasan)[Pg 83] on nativities, and a geomancy. Most of Plato’s translations were produced at Barcelona.

Robert of Chester.

In a manuscript at the British Museum[221] one of Plato of Tivoli’s translations is immediately preceded in the same large clear hand, different from the smaller and later writing employed in the remainder of the manuscript, by a translation of the Judgments of the astrologer Alkindi by Robert of Chester,[222] with an introduction to “my Hermann,” whom Robert commends highly as an astronomer. A letter written in 1143 by Peter the Venerable to St. Bernard tells how in 1141 he had induced two “acute and well trained scholars,” who were then residing in Spain near the river Ebro, to turn for a time from the arts of astrology which they had been studying there, and to translate the Koran. These two translators were the friends whom we have just mentioned, Hermann of Dalmatia and Robert of Chester. Robert, too, tells us in the prefatory letter to the translation of the Koran, completed in 1143, that this piece of work was “a digression from his principal studies of astronomy and geometry.” Besides such mathematical treatises as his translations of the Judicia of Alkindi, the Algebra of Al-Khowarizmi, a treatise on the astrolabe ascribed to Ptolemy, and several sets of astronomical tables, including a revision or rearrangement of Adelard of Bath’s translation of the Tables of Al-Khowarizmi, Robert on February 11, 1144, translated a treatise on alchemy which Morienus Romanus, a monk of Jerusalem, was supposed to have written for “Calid, king of Egypt,” or Prince Khalid ibn Jazid, a Mohammedan pretender and patron of learning at Alexandria. Of it we shall treat more fully in another chapter. About 1150 we seem to find Robert returned to his native England and writing at London.[223]

[Pg 84]

Hermann the Dalmatian.

Hermann the Dalmatian, or twelfth century translator, must be distinguished on the one hand from Hermann the Lame who wrote on the astrolabe,[224] and apparently on the other hand from Hermann the German who translated Averroes and Aristotle in the thirteenth century.[225] To the twelfth century translator we may ascribe such works as a treatise on rains,[226] a brief glossary of Arabic astronomical terms,[227] and Latin versions of the Planisphere of Ptolemy,[228] of the astrological Fatidica of Zahel,[229] and of the Introduction to [Pg 85] Astronomy in eight books of the noted Arabic astrologer Albumasar, a work often entitled Searching of the Heart or Of Things Occult.[230] Hermann dedicated it to Robert of Chester, whom he also mentions in the preface of his translation of the Planisphere,[231] and in his chief work, the De essentiis, a cosmology which he finished at Béziers in the latter part of the same year 1143.[232]

Hugh of Santalla.

Hugo Sanctelliensis or Hugh of Santalla[233] is another translator of the first half of the twelfth century in the Spanish peninsula who appears to have worked independently of the foregoing men, since he to some extent translated the same works, for instance, the Centiloquium ascribed to Ptolemy, Latin versions of which have also been credited to Plato of Tivoli and John of Seville. Hugh’s translations are undated but at least some of them may have antedated those of the men already mentioned,[234] since Haskins has [Pg 86] identified Hugh’s patron, “my lord, Bishop Michael,” with the holder of the see of Tarazona from 1119 to 1151. Hugh’s nine known translations are concerned with works of astronomy, astrology, and divination. Those on astrology include, besides the Centiloquium already mentioned, Albumasar’s Book of Rains, Messahala on nativities, and a Book of Aristotle from 255 volumes of the Indians, of which we shall have more to say in the chapter on the Pseudo-Aristotle. The works on other forms of divination are a geomancy[235] and De spatula, a treatise on divination from the shoulder-blades of animals. In the preface to the geomancy he promises to treat next of hydromancy but says that he has failed to find books of aeromancy or pyromancy.[236] Although, as has been said, Hugh seems to have labored independently of the other translators and in a somewhat out-of-the-way town, he nevertheless seems to have felt himself in touch with the learning of his time. In his various prefaces, like William of Conches, he speaks of “moderns” as well as the arcana of the ancients,[237] and his patron is continually [Pg 87] urging him to write not only what he has gathered from the books of the ancients but what he has learned by experiment.[238] In the preface to his translation of Albumasar’s Book of Rains he tells Bishop Michael that “what the modern astrologers of the Gauls most bemoan their lack of, your benignity may bestow upon posterity,”[239] and the distribution of manuscripts of his translations in European libraries indicates that they were widely influential.

A contemporary memorial of Gerard of Cremona.

The best source for the life and works of Gerard of Cremona[240] (1114-1187) is a memorandum attached by his friends to what was presumably his last work, a translation of the Tegni of Galen with the commentary of Haly, in imitation of Galen who in old age was induced to draw up a list of his own works. Gerard, however, is already dead when his associates write, having worked right up to life’s close and passed away in 1187 at the age of seventy-three. They state that from the very cradle he was educated in the lap of philosophy, and that he learned all he could in every department of it studied among the Latins. Then, moved by his passion for the Almagest, which he found nowhere among the Latins, he came to Toledo. There, beholding the [Pg 88] abundance of books in every field in Arabic and the poverty of the Latins in this respect, he devoted his life to the labor of translation, scorning the desires of the flesh, although he was rich in worldly goods, and adhering to things of the spirit alone. He toiled for the advantage of all both present and future, not unmindful of the injunction of Ptolemy to work good increasingly as you near your end. Now, that his name may not be hidden in silence and darkness, and that no alien name may be inscribed by presumptuous thievery in his translations, the more so since he (like Galen) never signed his own name to any of them, they have drawn up a list of all the works translated by him whether in dialectic or geometry, in “astrology” or philosophy, in medicine or in the other sciences.[241]

Account by a pupil of his astrological teaching.

Another contemporary picture of Gerard’s activity at Toledo is provided us by the Englishman, Daniel of Morley, or de Merlai, who went to Spain to study the sciences of the quadrivium. He tells how Gerard of Toledo (Gerardus tholetanus), interpreting the Almagest in Latin with the aid of Galippus, the Mozarab,[242] asserted that various future [Pg 89] events followed necessarily from the movements and influences of the stars. Daniel was at first astounded by this utterance and brought forward the arguments against the mathematici or astrologers in the homily of St. Gregory. But Gerard answered them all glibly. It should perhaps be added that in another passage Daniel without mentioning Gerard speaks of setting down in Latin what he learned concerning the universe in the speech of Toledo from Galippus, the Mozarab.[243] Gerard’s translation of the Almagest seems to have been completed in 1175,[244] but meanwhile in Sicily an anonymous translation from the Greek had appeared, probably soon after 1160. Of it we shall presently have something to say. Gerard’s version was, however, the generally accepted one, as the number of manuscripts and citations of it show.

Character of Gerard’s translations.

But to return to the list of Gerard’s translations. Only three of the long list are strictly dialectical, Aristotle’s Posterior Analytics, the commentary of Themistius upon them, and Alfarabi on the syllogism. And only one or two of the translations listed under the heading De phylosophya are pure philosophy.[245] Most of Gerard’s work is mathematical and medical, natural and occult science. He translates Ptolemy and Euclid; Archimedes, Galen and Aristotle; Autolycus and Theodosius; and such writers in Arabic as Alkindi, Alfarabi, Albucasis, Alfraganus, Messahala, Thebit, Geber, Alhazen, Isaac, Rasis, and Avicenna. His mathematical translations include the fields of algebra and perspective as well as geometry and astronomy. Of Aristotle’s natural philosophy the list includes the Physics, De coelo et mundo, De generatione et corruptione, De meteoris except the fourth and last book which he could not find,[246] and the first part of [Pg 90] the astrological De causis proprietatum et elementorum ascribed to Aristotle. Among his translations of Galen was the apocryphal De secretis, of which we shall have more to say in a later chapter on books of experiments. Three treatises of alchemy are included in the list of his translations and also a geomancy, although Boncompagni tries to saddle the latter upon Gerardus de Sabloneto. Gerard is also supposed to have translated some works not mentioned in this list but ascribed to him in the manuscripts. One of interest to us is a work on stones of the Pseudo-Aristotle.[247]

Science and religion in the preface to a translation of the Almagest from the Greek.

We must say a word of the anonymous Sicilian translation of the Almagest which preceded that of Gerard of Cremona, because of a defense in its preface[248] of natural science against a theological opposition of which the anonymous translator appears to be painfully conscious. After darkly hinting that he was prevented from speedily completing the translation by “other secret” obstacles[249] as well as by the manifest fact that he did not understand “the science of the stars” well,[250] and remarking that the artisan can hope for nothing where the art is in disrepute, the translator inveighs against those who rashly judge things about which they know nothing, and who, lest they seem ignorant themselves, call what they do not know useless and profane. Hence the Arabs say that there is no greater enemy of an art than one who is unacquainted with it. So far the tone of the preface reminds one strongly of those of William of Conches. The writer proceeds to complain that the opposition to mathematical studies has gone so far that “the science of numbers and mensuration is thought entirely superfluous [Pg 91] and useless, while the study of astronomy (i. e. astrology) is esteemed idolatry.”[251] Yet Remigius tells us that Abraham taught the Egyptians “astrology” (i. e. astronomy), and the translator ironically adds that he supposes it can be shown from Moses and Daniel that God condemned the science of the stars. He then dilates on how essential it is to study and understand the created world before rising to study of the Creator, and waxes sarcastic at the expense of those who study theology before they know anything else and think themselves able like eagles to soar aloft at once above the clouds, disdaining earth and earthly things, and to gaze unblinded upon the full sun:[252]—a passage somewhat similar to Roger Bacon’s diatribe against the “boy-theologians” in the following century.

Arabs and moderns.

The translator, although his own rendition is from a Greek manuscript, shows some familiarity with Arabic learning. Besides the Arabic saying already quoted, in giving the Greek title of Ptolemy’s thirteen books on astronomy he adds that the Saracens call it by the corrupt name, elmeguisti (i. e. Almagest).[253] He also acknowledges the aid he has received from Eugene, the admiral or emir, whose translation of Ptolemy’s Optics from the Arabic we have mentioned elsewhere, and whom he describes as equally skilled in Greek and Arabic, and “also not ignorant of Latin.” It may also be noted that as Adelard of Bath contrasted “the writings of men of old” with “the science of moderns,”[254] so this translator characterizes Ptolemy as veterum lima, specculum modernorum.

Astronomy at Marseilles.

This seems the best place to call attention to some evidence for the existence of astronomical, and apparently also astrological, activity at Marseilles in the twelfth century, seemingly under the influence of the Arabic astronomy and astrology. In a manuscript at Paris which the catalogue dates of the twelfth century[255] is a treatise formerly [Pg 92] said to have been composed at Marseilles in the year 1111 A. D. But Duhem has suggested that the XI should be XL, since the author tells of a dispute at Marseilles in 1139.[256] The text tells how to find the location of the planets for the city of Marseilles and is accompanied by astronomical tables imitating Azarchel. The same treatise appears in a manuscript at Cambridge,[257] written before the year 1175, where it is entitled “The Book of the Courses of the Seven Planets for Marseilles” and seems to be attributed to a Raymond of that city. Duhem notes that our author often cites an earlier treatise of his, De compositione astrolabii. The treatise opens with allusion to “many of the Indians and Chaldeans and Arabs”; the author also says, “And since we were the first of the Latins to whom this science came after the translation of the Arabs,” and avers that he employs the Christian calendar and chronology in order to avoid all appearance of heresy or infidelity. So we would seem to be justified in connecting it with the diffusion of Arabic astronomy and astrology. Our author believes that God endowed the sky with the virtue of presaging the future, cites various authorities sacred and profane in favor of astrology, and emphasizes especially the importance of astrological medicine.[258] It was also at Marseilles that William of England early in the next century in the year 1219 wrote his brief but very popular treatise, found in many manuscripts, entitled “Of Urine Unseen” (De urina non visa), that is, how by astrology to diagnose a case and tell the color and substance of the urine without seeing it. Of it we shall treat again later in connection with thirteenth century medicine. But we may note here that [Pg 93] William, although of English nationality, was a citizen of Marseilles, and that the person to whom his work Of Urine Unseen was addressed had formerly studied with him at Marseilles. William is also spoken of as a professor of medicine. Furthermore in at least one manuscript William of England is called a translator from the Arabic, since he is said to have translated from that tongue into Latin “The very great Secret of Catenus, king of the Persians, concerning the virtue of the eagle.”[259] We may also note that it was in reply to inquiries which he had received from Jews of Marseilles that Moses Maimonides in 1194 addressed to them his letter on astrology.[260] Interest in astronomy and astrology thus appears to have prevailed at Marseilles from the first half to the close of the twelfth century.

[159] Especially by Professor C. H. Haskins, who has corrected or supplemented Steinschneider and others on various points, and who has other studies in preparation in addition to those to be mentioned in ensuing footnotes of this chapter.

[160] The passage is reproduced by C. H. Haskins, “The Reception of Arabic Science in England,” EHR 30, 57, from Bodleian Auct. F-i-9 (Bernard 4137), fols. 86-99.

[161] In the MS mentioned in the preceding note, “Sententia Petri Ebrei cognomento Anphus de dracone quam dominus Walcerus prior Malvernensis ecclesie in latinam transtulit linguam;” Haskins, Ibid., p. 58. I also note in Schum’s Verzeichniss, Amplon. Quarto 351, 14th century, fols. 15-23, the De dracone of Petrus Alphonsus with a table, translated into Latin by “Walter Millvernensis prior.” After two intervening tracts concerning the astrolabe by another author the same MS contains “Alfoncius,” De disciplina clericali.

[162] But not the same apparently as an Alfonsus of Toledo, to whom Steinschneider (1905) p. 4, has called attention, and who translated a work by Averroes (1126-1198) preserved in Digby 236, 14th century, fol. 190. Its prologue speaks of an abridgement of the Almagest by Averroes which Alfonso the Great (presumably Alfonso X or the Wise of Castile, 1252-1284) had had translated and which was in circulation in Spain and at Bologna. From the Explicit of the same treatise one would infer that two Alfonsos were engaged in its translation, one a son of Dionysius of Lisbon, and the other a convert, who became a sacristan at Toledo:—“et iste tractatus translatus fuit a magistro Alfonsio Dionysii de Ulixbona Hispano apud Vallem Toleti, interprete magistro Alfonso converso, sacrista Toletano.” The treatise is followed at fol. 194v by a “Narration concerning Averroes and the Saracen king of Cordova,” which opens, “This is worth knowing which was told me by Alfonso, a trustworthy Jew, physician of the king of Castile.”

[163] Amplon. Quarto 351, as noted in note 2 on the preceding page.

[164] Corpus Christi 283, late 12th century, fols. 113-44, “Dixit Petrus Anfulsus servus Ihesu Christi translatorque huius libri ...”, quoted by Haskins, EHR 30, 60.

[165] CU Ii, vi, 11, fol. 95. “Dixit Petrus Amphulsus servus Christi Ihesu Henrici primi regis Anglorum medicus compositor huius libri”; quoted by Haskins, Ibid., 61. Pedro would hardly have called Henry “first”, so the heading is perhaps not entirely genuine.

[166] Arundel 270, late 12th century, fols. 40v-44v, Epistola de studio artium liberalium praecipue astronomiae ad peripateticos aliosque philosophicos ubique per Franciam.

[167] So far as I can judge from Professor Haskins’ description of and brief excerpts from them; he does not notice the Arundel MS.

[168] This occurs at fol. 43r in the midst of the treatise; at the beginning, in addressing the Peripatetics and other philosophers and students throughout France, the writer calls himself, “Petrus Anidefunfus, servant of Jesus Christ, and their brother and fellow student.”

[169] See fol. 42v, “Ceterum in nostro translationis inicio prologum dictare curavimus de veritate videlicet artis.”

[170] Fol. 44v, “Probatum est ergo argumento experimentali quod re vera possumus affirmare solem et lunam aliosque planetas in terrenis viras (sic) suas exercere.” A little further along on the same page he employs the same phrase again, “Ostensum est quod eodem experimentali argumento....”

[171] Fols. 44v-45r, “Multa quidem alia et innumerabilia iuxta syderum cursus in terra contingunt atque vulgarium sensus hominum non attingit, prudentium vero atque huius artis peritorum subtile acumen penetrat et cognoscit.”

[172] Fol. 41v, “sicut Constantinus in libro suo quem de lingua saracena transtulit in latinam testatur.”

[173] The most recent edition of the Latin text is A. Hilka and W. Söderhjelm, Petri Alfonsi Disciplina Clericalis, 1911. An English version from a 15th century MS in Worcester Cathedral was edited by W. H. Hulme in The Western Reserve University Bulletin, 1919.

[174] In the preface (Hulme’s translation, p. 13) Pedro says, “I have composed this little book partly from the sayings and warnings of the philosophers, partly from Arabic proverbs and admonitions both in prose and verse, and partly from fables about animals and birds.”

[175] Discip. cleric., I, 9.

[176] Discip. cleric., XVII, 48.

[177] The fullest list of his translations that I know of is in Steinschneider (1905) pp. 41-50.

[178] See Appendix I at the close of this chapter for a list of some of them.

[179] Jourdain (1819) pp. 113 et seq., 449.

[180] A difficulty is that John of Seville’s translations are usually described as direct from the Arabic and nothing is said of Gundissalinus, whereas in the preface to Avicenna’s De anima John Avendeath tells the archbishop that he has translated it word for word from Arabic into Spanish, and that Dominicus Gundisalvus has then rendered the vernacular into Latin: Steinschneider (1893) pp. 981 and 380, note 2; J. Wood Brown (1897) p. 117; Karpinski (1915) pp. 23-4. But perhaps John learned Latin as time passed. However, as far as I know, there is no MS where John of Spain is definitely called John Avendeath or vice versa.

[181] For example, S. Marco X-57, 13th century, fols. 278-83; Avranches 232, 13th century; BN 6296, 14th century, #15.

[182] Amplon. Quarto 365, 14th century, fols. 100-19, Liber Haomar de nativitatibus in astronomia ... quem transtulit mag. Iohannes Hyspalensis et Lunensis epyscopus ex Arabico in Latinum. “Bishop” is omitted in Digby 194, 15th century, fol. 127v, “Perfectus est liber universus Aomar Benigan Tyberiadis cum laude Dei et eius auxilio quem transtulit magister Johannes Hispalensis atque Limensis de Arabico in Latinum.” Likewise in CU Clare College 15 (Kk. 4. 2), c. 1280 A. D., fol. 64v.

[183] Spec. astron., cap. 2.

[184] Arundel 251, 14th century, fol. 35v, “Cum ego Johannis hyspanicus....”

Steinschneider (1905) p. 51, lists “Johannes Pauli, oder Paulini,” as distinct from John of Spain. I shall treat of the Salus vitae in a later chapter on “Experiments and Secrets of Galen, Rasis and Others: II. Chemical and Magical.” See below, chapter 65, page 794.

[185] Printed in 1497, 1537, and 1546 as Brevis ac perutilis compilatio or Rudimenta astronomiae. Digby 190, 13-14th century, fol. 87, gives the Arabic year as 529, while its 1173 should obviously not be A. D. but of the Spanish era. Corpus Christi 224 gives the Arabic year as 528, and the era date has been altered to clxx. m. (1170), probably from mclxxiii (1173), the initial ‘m’ dropping out, and the final ‘iii’ in consequence being misread by a copyist as ‘m.’ The same careless copyist has perhaps dropped an ‘i’ from the arabic year. In BN 6506 and 7377B, according to Jourdain (1819) pp. 115-6, the Arabic year is 529, but the other 1070, a further error. I suppose this is the same treatise as the Liber in scientia astrorum et radicibus motuum celestium or Theoria planetarum et stellarum of “El-Fargânî” which Sudhoff (1917) p. 27, following J. Brinkmann, Die apokryphen Gesundheitsregeln des Aristoteles, 1914, says John of Toledo translated into Latin in 1134.

[186] Epitome totius astrologiae conscripta a Ioanne Hispalensi Hispano astrologo celeberrimo ante annos quadringentos ac nunc primum in lucem edita. Cum praefatione Ioachimi Helleri Leucopetraei contra astrologiae aduersarios. Noribergae in officina Ioannis Montani et Ulrici Neuber, Anno Domini M.D.XLVIII. The date 1142 is given at fol. 18r and at the close, fol. 87v.

Steinschneider (1905), p. 41, “im Jahre 1142 kompilierte er, nach arabischen Mustern, eine Epitome totius astrologiae, ed. 1548, deren Teile (Isagoge und Quadripart.) mit besonderen Titeln vielleicht in einzelnen mss. zu erkennen wären.”

In the 14th century MSS, S. Marco XI-102, fols. 107-31, and XI-104, fols. 1-30, the title is “epitome artis astrologiae.” Vienna 5442, 15th century, fols. 158r-79v, Opus quadripartitum de iudiciis astrorum, has the same Incipit, “Zodiacus dividitur in duodecim....” See also Amplon. Octavo 84, 14th century, fols. 1-37, and Quarto 377, 14th century, fols. 7-11, Iudicia Iohannis Hispalensis, and BN 7321, 1448 A. D., fols. 122r-154v, “Incipiunt ysagoge Iohannis Hyspalensis cum parte astrologie iudiciali.”

[187] Laud. Misc. 594, 14-15th century, fols. 94-106, Liber Albohali de nativitatibus translatus a Johanne Toletano. “Perfectus est liber Nativitatis mense Julii anno ab Incarnatione Domini millesimo cliii cum laude Dei et ejus auxilio.”

CU Clare College 15 (Kk. 4, 2), c. 1280 A. D., fols. 39-47, does not name the translator but gives the date as 1153, and the same MS, fols. 24-9, contains John of Seville’s translations of a work on the astrolabe in 40 chapters, of treatises by Messahalla at fols. 48-55, and Aomar at fols. 56-64.

Royal 12-C-XVIII, 14th century, fols. 2-9v, ends incomplete, but a colophon added in another hand gives the date as 1152.

The work was printed at Nürnberg, 1546.

There is a different translation of it, made by Plato of Tivoli in 1136 A. D., in Cotton Appendix VI, fol. 163-, Aubueli liber in judiciis nativitatum quem Plato Tiburtinus ex Arabico sumpsit Ao. Arabum 530 et alexandri 1447 in civitate Barkelona.

[188] Steinschneider ascribes the translation of Albohali to John of Spain; the Catalogue of the Royal Manuscripts says that Johannes Toletanus is possibly the same as John of Spain. Sudhoff (1917), p. 17, identifies “Johann von Toledo (Hispanus, Avendehut).”

Perhaps, however, the John of Toledo to whom a treatise entitled, De conservanda sanitate, is ascribed in two 14th century MSS at Paris, BN 6978, #1 and 16222, fol. 76-; also Berlin 905, 15th century, fol. 74-; CU Gonville and Caius 95, 15th century, fol. 283-; was not the same person.

Rose, in the Berlin MSS catalogue, identifies this last John of Toledo with a John David of Toledo who in 1322 joined with other astrologers in issuing a threatening circular letter predicting terrible events for the year 1329. See Amplon. Quarto 371 for another such letter for the year 1371, and Amplon. Octavo 79 for tables of conjunctions of the sun and moon for the years 1346-1365 by a John of Toledo.

[189] R. Förster, De Aristotelis quae feruntur physiognomonicis recensendis, Killiae, 1882, pp. 26-27; J. Wood Brown (1897), 35; HL XXX, 369.

[190] Vienna 5311, 14-15th century, fol. 41v.

[191] A work that I have not before seen ascribed to him is, Perugia 683, 15th century, fols. 393-6, “Incipit summa magistri Iohannis yspani super arborem de consanguineitate.”

Steinschneider fails, I think, to note in his list of John’s translations an “introductio de cursu planetarum” (St. John’s 188, late 13th century, fol. 99v-) which he translated from Arabic into Latin at the request of two “Angligenarum, Gauconis scilicet et Willelmi.”

[192] However, the Incipits given by Albert do not agree very well with those of the sections of the Epitome in the printed text of 1548. See chapter 42 for the resemblance between this printed text and a treatise in MS ascribed to Roger of Hereford.

[193] Arundel 268, 13-14th century, fols. 7v-23r, Abdolaziz Arabis libellus ad judicium astrorum introductorius qui dicitur Alkabitius, interprete Johanne Hispalensi.

S. Marco XI-104, 14th century, fols. 79-102, Alcabitii ad iudicia astrorum interpretatum a Iohanne Hispalensi.

BN 7321, 1448 A. D., fols. 1-79r, Introductorium ad magisterium iudiciorum astrorum.

[194] S. Marco XI-105, 14th century, fols. 54-61, “Cyromancia est ars demonstrans mores et inclinationes naturales per signa sensibilia manuum.” Valentinelli comments, “Eadem fortasse cum chiromantia Ioannis Hispalensis quam inter codices manuscriptos Ioannis Francisci Lauredani Tomasinus refert.”

[195] Epitome, II, xx, “Iam radicem nativitatis secundum philosophorum dicta complevimus nec edidimus nisi ea in quibus sapientes convenerunt et ex quibus experimentum habetur.”

[196] Epitome, III, viii, “Iuniores huius artis magistri dicunt posse inveniri locum thesauri absconditi quod veteres discreti omiserunt....”

[197] Ibid., “Messehala autem Indorum in iudiciis solertissimus dicit....”

[198] Epitome, III, xii, “... in quaestione autem quis victurus astrologi discordati sunt....”

[199] Epitome, II, x, “Sed expertum est in nativitatibus multis hoc abrogari etiam cum omnes rationes praedictae simul convenerint cuius rei meminimus ne in libris inveniendo fidem daremus.”

[200] The passage just quoted in the preceding note continues, “Porro Ptolemaeus dicit ... sed experti sumus multoties hoc non recipi.” See also the following chapter of the Epitome, II, xi.

[201] Epitome, II, xxii, “... et est ratio experimentata haec....”

[202] See III, xii, where, after stating the discordant views of astrologers he says, “Hanc vero postremam rationem experimentis caeteris preponimus.”

[203] Ed. Ludwig Baur, in Beiträge, IV, 2-3, Münster, 1903, pp. 1-144 text; pp. 145-408 “Untersuchung.” Another work by Gundissalinus on the immortality of the soul was published in the same series by G. F. von Hertling, 1897.

Baur unfortunately failed to note the existence of the De divisione philosophiae in two 13th century MSS at the British Museum in the Sloane collection, nor does Scott’s Index catalogue of the Sloane MSS mention Gundissalinus as their author.

Sloane 2946, 13th century, fols. 209-16, “de philosophia ... auctore Isaaco philosopho.” But the Incipit, “Felix prior aetas qui (quae) tot sapientes ...” is that of Gundissalinus’ treatise. The erroneous ascription to Isaac is probably owing to the fact that the treatise just preceding, at fols. 205-208v, is a translation of a medical work by Isaac. This MS is mutilated towards the close so that the leaves containing our text have the upper right hand corner torn off, thus removing nearly one-sixth of the text. The colophon reads, “Explicit hoc opus a domino Gundissalini apud Tholetum editum, sdens (succedens?) de assignanda causa ex qua orte sunt scientie philosophie et ordo eorum et disciplina.” Similarly in Baur’s text the De divisione philosophiae at pp. 1-142 is followed at pp. 142-44 by Alfarabi’s “Epistola de assignanda causa ex qua orte sunt scientie philosophie et ordo earum in disciplina.”

Sloane 2461, late 13th century, fols. 1-38r, contains the De divisione philosophiae under the caption, Compendium scientiarum, without indication of the author. It also is immediately followed at fols. 38v-40r by De unitate, which Baur found in another MS at the close of Gundissalinus’ De divisione philosophiae, and in a third MS before the above mentioned letter of Alfarabi.

A MS now lost is, Library of St. Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury, 1175, Gundisalvus de ortu et divisione scientiarum.

Cotton Vespasian B-X, fols. 24-27, Alpharabius de divisione omnium scientiarum, is not the treatise of Gundissalinus, as I was at first inclined to suspect that it might turn out to be upon examination.

Alfarabi’s De scientiis was published in his Opera omnia by Camerarius at Paris in 1638 from a MS which the preface represented as a recent discovery. Baur, p. viii, states that this text differs considerably from the Latin version by Gerard of Cremona, but that the borrowings of Gundissalinus from Alfarabi and the citations in Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum doctrinale agree with this 1638 text rather than with Gerard’s.

[204] Baur (1903), p. 163.

[205] Karpinski (1915), p. 23.

[206] Baur, pp. 4-5.

[207] Baur, p. 20.

[208] Baur, p. 89.

[209] See Daniel Morley on the eight parts of astrology in chapter 42 below, p. 177.

[210] I have read it in two MSS at Paris, where, however, the text seems faulty: BN 6298, 14th century, fols. 160r-161v, and BN 14700, fols. 328v-330v. It opens, “Scias nihil esse nisi substantia et accidens et creatorem substantie et accidentis in secula.” Printed in Beiträge, xix.

[211] For Bacon’s views see below, chapter 61.

[212] BN 6298, fol. 160v; BN 14700, fol. 330r. “Scientia divina que est finis scientiarum et perfectio earum. Et non restat post illam ulla inquisitio. Ipsa enim est finis ad quem tendit omnis inquisitio et in ea quiescit.”

[213] “Et imo opus erat (fuit) scientia que hoc totum ostendit scilicet per quam veniremus ad huiusmodi permutationis scientiam (perveniremus ad scientiam huius permutationis) qualiter fiat et que sint eius actiones nocentes (occasiones et cause et quomodo possemus removere has occasiones nocentes) cum vellemus repellere et quomodo cum vellemus possemus eas augere. Hec igitur scientia fuit scientia de naturis que est scientia de actione et passione.” The passages in parentheses are the variant readings in one of the two MSS.

[214] For the passages cited in this paragraph see Baur, 6, 115, 119-21.

[215] Baur, who lists MSS of the work at p. 368 and presents an analysis of it at pp. 369-75, gives the title as De ortu et divisione philosophiae, but the two 13th century MSS at Oxford, Balliol 3 and Merton 261, seem to prefer the form which I have given. I have looked through the text in Balliol 3, a beautifully written MS, but, in view of Kilwardby’s date, scarcely of the early 13th century, as it is described in the catalogue. Hauréau regarded the work as clear, accurate, and worth printing.

[216] Cap. 40.

[217] Cap. 67.

[218] Listed by Steinschneider (1905), pp. 62-6.

[219] C. H. Haskins, in EHR (1911), 26, 491 note.

[220] See page 75 of this chapter, note 2.

[221] Cotton, Appendix VI.

[222] For the biography and bibliography of Robert of Chester see L. C. Karpinski, Robert of Chester’s Latin Translation of the Algebra of Al-Khowarizmi, New York, 1915, especially pp. 26-32; C. H. Haskins, The Reception of Arabic Science in England, EHR 30 (1915), 62-5; Steinschneider (1905), pp. 67-73.

[223] Karpinski (1915), pp. 26, 29-30.

[224] See above, chapter 30, I, 702-3. Besides the articles of Clerval and Haskins there mentioned we may note A. A. Björnbo, Hermannus Dalmata als Uebersetzer astronomischer Arbeiten, in Bibliotheca Mathematica, VI (1903), third series, pp. 130-3.

[225] Steinschneider (1905), pp. 32-5. He says, “Hermannus Alemannus, oder Teutonicus, Germanicus, soll um 1240-1260 Lehrer des Roger Bacon in Toledo (?) gewesen sein,” but I do not know where he gets the notion that Hermann was Roger’s teacher. The following works ascribed to Hermannus Theutonicus by Denifle (1886), p. 231,—and not mentioned by Steinschneider—seem to indicate another person of that name: “(41) fr. Hermannus Theutonicus de Cerwist (Zerbst) scripsit postillam super cantica; (50) fr. Hermannus Theutonicus scripsit librum de ascensu cordis. Item super Cantica. Item de arte precandi.” In Vienna 2507, 13th century, fols. 85-123, an Ars dictandi is attributed to “Magistri Heremanni.”

On the part taken by Hermannus Alemannus in the translation of Aristotle in the thirteenth century see further Grabmann (1916), pp. 208-12, 217-22, etc., where translations of his are connected with the dates 1240 and 1254.

[226] Clare College 15 (Kk. 4. 2), c. 1280 A. D., fols. 1-2r, Hermannus, liber imbrium, “Cum multa et varia de imbrium cognicione precepta Indorum tradat auctoritas ... / ... plerumque etiam imbres occurrunt set steriles” Iafar on rains immediately follows.

Vienna 2436, 14th century, fols. 134v-136v, “Cum multa et varia ... / ... eciam ymbres occurrant sed mediocres. Finitur Hermanni liber de ymbribus et pluviis.”

Dijon 1045, 15th century, fols. 187-91 (following Hermann’s translation of Albumasar), “de pluviis ab Hermano (de) Kanto (?) a judico in latinum translatus. Cum multa et varia de nubium cognicione ... / ... occurrunt sed steriles.”

[227] In CUL 2022 (Kk. IV. 7), 15th century, fol. 116, however, such a short glossary preceding prognostications of famine is said to be “secundum Hermannum Teutonicum.”

[228] Printed Basel, 1536; and Venice, 1558. J. L. Heiberg, Claudii Ptolemaei Opera quae exstant omnia, II, pp. clxxxiii-vi; Karpinski (1915), p. 32; Haskins (1915), p. 62; Suter (1914), p. ix.

[229] Or Sahl ben Biŝr ben Hânî, Abû ʿOtmân. Steinschneider (1905), p. 34, and (1906) pp. 54-5, ascribes the translation to Hermann the Dalmatian; see, too, CUL 2022, 15th century, fols. 102r-115v, pronostica Zahel Iben Bixir, Hermanni secundi translatio. But in Digby 114, 14th century, fols. 176-99, “Explicit fetidica Zael Benbinxeir Caldei. Translacio hec mam. Gi. astronomie libri anno Domini 1138, 3 kal. Octobris translatus est.”

[230] Printed at Augsburg in 1489 and in other editions; it opens, “Astronomie iudiciorum omnium bispertita est via....”

[231] Suter (1914), pp. xiii, xviii, interprets Hermann’s words, “Quem locum a Ptolemaeo minus diligenter perspectum cum Albatene miratur et Alchoarismus, quorum hunc quidam opera nostra Latium habet, illius vero commodissima translatio Roberti mei industria Latinae orationis thesaurum accumulat,” to mean that Robert translated Al-Battani, but in view of Robert’s known translations of Al-Khowarizmi, I should translate hunc as “former” in this case and regard Hermann as the translator of Al-Battani.

[232] Professor Haskins wrote me on July 26, 1921, “The De essentiis is an interesting work of cosmology; when I am able to work it over more carefully I shall print the article on Hermann, now long overdue.”

[233] The best treatment of Hugh is, C. H. Haskins, “The Translations of Hugo Sanctelliensis,” in The Romanic Review, II (1911), 1-15, where attention is called to translations not noted by Steinschneider, and the prefaces of seven extant translations are printed.

[234] I cannot, however, agree with Professor Haskins (p. 10), that “From certain phrases in the preface” (of Hugh’s translation of the Liber Aristotilis de 255 indorum voluminibus) “it would seem that, while Hugo has been for some time a devotee of Arabian science, he has only recently (nunc) and comparatively late in the day (serus ac indignus minister) entered the bishop’s service.” It seems to me that the last phrase should read servus ac indignus minister, for Hugh had already translated at least one other work for the bishop before this one on the 255 books of the Indians, and in the present preface he alludes to many previous discussions between them and to the bishop’s continually exhorting him to publish, so that one would infer that they had been associated for some time past. Since writing this I have learned both from Mr. H. H. E. Craster of the Bodleian and from Professor Haskins himself that the reading in the MS (Digby 159, fol. 1v) is “seruus” or servus, as I have it in the rough notes I took on the treatise in August, 1919.

[235] The following MSS may be noted in addition to those (BN 7453 and Florence, Laur. II-85, Plut. 30, c. 29) listed by Steinschneider (1905), pp. 35-6, and Haskins (1911), p. 13.

CU Magdalene 27, late 14th century, fols. 1-66, “Ludus philosophorum qui apellatur filius (?) Astronomie. Rerum opifex deus qui sine exemplo nova condidit universa ... Ego sanctelliensis geomantie interpretacionem (instead of inscriptionem as given by Haskins from BN 7453) ingredior et tibi mi domine tirasonensis antistes....” James adds, “On a Latin version of a tract of Apollonius, by Hugo Sanctelliensis in MS Bib. Nat. Lat. 14951, see F. Nau in Revue de l’Orient Latin, 1908,” but in a note of 21 June 1921 Dr. James informs me that one should read Orient Chrétien in place of Orient Latin.

Vienna 5508, 14th century, fols. 182-200, Hugo Sacelliensis sive Saxaliensis, Geomantia, “Rerum opifex deus ... / ... sive mundus facie.”

Vienna 5327, 15th century, fols. 59r-60v, Operis de geomantia ad Tirasconensem anstitem prologus et caput primum.

Haskins (1911), p. 13, note 45, notes that the Laurentian MS has a different Incipit from BN 7453, but CU Magdalene 27 and Vienna 5508 agree with the latter Incipit.

[236] Haskins, p. 14.

[237] In the preface to his translation of el-Biruni’s commentary on al-Fargani he says, “Lest therefore, completely intent upon the footprints of the ancients, I seem to dissent from the moderns utterly ...”, (Ne itaque antiquorum vestigiis penitus insistens a modernis prorsus videar dissentire,—Haskins, p. 8). In the preface to the Pseudo-Aristotle on the 255 books of the Indians he speaks of Bishop Michael as exalted above moderns or contemporaries (ultra modernos vel coequevos,—Haskins, 10) in fame and love of learning, and later of “what can be fully explained by none of the moderns” (quod a nullo modernorum plenissime valet explicari—Haskins, p. 11). In the preface to Albumasar’s Book of Rains occurs the allusion to modern astrologers of the Gauls given below in the text.

[238] Haskins, p. 10.

[239] Ibid., p. 12, “... tue offero dignitati, ut quod potissimum sibi deesse moderni deflent astrologi gallorum posteritati tua benignitas largiatur.”

[240] Baldassare Boncompagni, Della Vita e delle Opere di Gherardo Cremonese traduttore del secolo duodecimo e di Gherardo da Sabbionetta Astronomo del secolo decimoterzo, Roma, 1851.

Giovanni Brambilla, Monografie di due illustri Cremonesi, Gherardo Toletano e Gherardo Patulo, Cremona, 1894. It largely repeats Boncompagni without acknowledgement.

K. Sudhoff, Die kurze Vita und das Verzeichnis der Arbeiten Gerhards von Cremona, von seinen Schülern und Studiengenossen kurz nach dem Tode des Meisters (1187) zu Toledo verabfasst, in Archiv f. Gesch. d. Medizin, herausg v. d. Puschmann-Stiftung an der Universität Leipzig, VIII, 73, Nov., 1914.

V. Rose, in Hermes, VIII (1874), 334.

A. A. Björnbo, Alkindi, Tideus und Pseudo-Euclid, 1911 (Abhandl. z. Gesch. d. Math. Wiss. XXVI, 3), 127, 137, 150, etc.

Steinschneider (1905), 16-32.

[241] Boncompagni (1851), 3-4, from Vatican 2392, fols. 97v-98r. I have, except for changing the order, practically translated the Latin text of the Vita, which with some omissions is as follows: “... Ne igitur magister gerardus cremonensis sub taciturnitatis tenebris lateat ... ne per presumptuosam rapinam libris ab ipso translatis titulus infigatur alienus presertim cum nulli eorum nomen suum iscripsisset, cuncta opera ab eodem translata tam de dyalectica quam de geometria, tam de astrologia quam de phylosophya, tam etiam de physica quam de aliis scientiis, in fine huius tegni novissime ab eo translati, imitando Galenum de commemoratione suorum librorum in fine eiusdem per socios ipsius diligentissime fuerint connumerata.... Is etiam cum bonis floreret temporalibus.... Carnis desideriis inimicando solis spiritualibus adhaerebat. Cunctis etiam presentibus atque futuris prodesse laborabat non immemor illius ptolomei, cum fini appropinquas, bonum cum augmento operare. Et cum ab istis infantie cunabulis in gremiis philosophiae educatus esset, et ad cuiuslibet partis ipsius notitiam secundum latinorum studium pervenisset, amore tamen almagesti quem apud latinos minime reperiit tolectum perexit. Ubi librorum cuiuslibet facultatis habundantiam in arabico cernens et latinorum penurie de ipsis quam noverit miserans ...” etc.

Other less complete lists of Gerard’s works are found in the following MSS: Laon 413; All Souls 68, fol. 109; Ashmole 357, fol. 57.

[242] Arundel 377, 13th century, fols. 88-103, Philosophia magistri danielis de merlai ad iohannem Norwicensem episcopum, fol. 103r, “qui galippo mixtarabe interpretante almagesti latinavit.”

[243] Arundel 377, fol. 89v, “quod a galippo mixtarabe in lingua tholetana didici latine subscribitur.”

[244] Boncompagni (1851) 18, quoting Laurent. Plut. 89, 13th century.

[245] Such as “Aristotelis de expositione bonitatis pure.”

[246] It was translated from the Greek about the middle of the twelfth century by Aristippus, minister of William the Bad of Sicily: see Singer (1917) p. 24; V. Rose, Die Lücke im Diogenes Laertius und der alte Uebersetzer, in Hermes I (1866) 376; Haskins (1920) p. 605; F. H. Fobes, Medieval Versions of Aristotle’s Meteorology, in Classical Philology X (1915) 297-314; Greek text, ed. Fobes, Cambridge, 1919.

[247] Ed. V. Rose, in Zeitschrift f. deutsches Alterthum, XVIII (1875) 349-82.

[248] The preface was printed by Haskins and Lockwood, The Sicilian Translators of the Twelfth Century, in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, XXI (1910) pp. 99-102, to which text the following citations apply. Commented upon by J. L. Heiberg, Noch einmal die mittelalterliche Ptolemaios-Uebersetzung, in Hermes, XLVI (1911) 207-16.

[249] Line 31.

[250] Line 42.

[251] Line 61.

[252] Line 87 et seq.

[253] Line 23.

[254] Lines 20-21.

[255] BN 14704, fols. 144-70 (present numbering, fols. 110r-35v). The handwriting seems to me later than the twelfth century, but I am not an expert in such matters. The text ends at fol. 118v; the rest is tables.

[256] Duhem, III (1915), 201-16.

[257] CU McClean 165, fols. 44-47, Liber cursuum planetarum vii super Massiliam, “Cum multos indorum seu caldeorum atque arabum ... / ... Attamen siquis providus fuerit premissa satis emendare poterit. Expl. liber cursuum planetarum vii.” The Paris MS ends with the same sentence, but prefixes at the beginning, “Ad honorem et laudem dominis nostri, patris scilicet et filii,” etc. I have examined the Paris but not the Cambridge MS. Duhem does not note the latter.

[258] Duhem (1915) 205.

[259] Merton College 324, 15th century, but with such early works as that of Marbod, fol. 142, Secretissimum regis Cateni Persarum de virtute aquilae, “Est enim aquila rex omnium avium. ... / ... Explicit iste tractatus a magistro Willelmo Anglico de lingua Arabica in Latinum translatus.” One wonders if it is a fragment of Kiranides.

[260] See below, pp. 206, 211.

[Pg 94]



Johannes Anglicus: see John of Montpellier.

Johannes Archangel: Additional 22773, 13th century, fol. 45, “Tabule Johannis Archangeli” astronomiae; said to be the same as Johannes Campanus.

Johannes de Beltone, Sloane 314, 15th century, fol. 106, Experimentum de re astrologica bonum (imperfect).

Johannes Blanchinus, BN 7268, Distinctiones in Ptolemaei almagestum; BN 7269, 7270, 7271, 7286, Tabulae astronomicae; BN 7270, 7271, de primo mobili; Perugia 1004, 15th century, “Tractatus primus de arithmetricha per Johannem de Blanchinis.... Regule conclusionum ad practicam algebre in simplicibus.... Tractatus florum Almagesti.” Professor Karpinski informs me that the Flores Almagesti of Giovanni Bianchini was discussed by L. Birkenmajer in Bull. d. l’Acad. d. Sciences de Cracovie, 1911.

Johannes Bonia, Valentinus, BN 7416A, translated Fachy, Sex genera instrumentorum sive Canones Quadrantis universalis; see Steinschneider (1905) p. 39.

John of Brescia, who translated with Profatius Judaeus at Montpellier; see Steinschneider (1905) 40.

John of Campania, BN 6948, 14th century, #1, “Abenzoaris Taysir sive rectificatio medicationis et regiminis,” translated from Hebrew into Latin.

Johannes Campanus (of Novara) is of course well known for his Theory of the Planets and translation of and commentary on Euclid. Perhaps less familiar works are: Additional 22772, 15th century, Johannis Campani Novarensis liber astronomicus de erroribus Ptolemaei, dedicated to Pope Urban IV; Amplon. Quarto 349, late 14th century, fols. 57-65, de figura sectorum; indeed, the collection of Amplonius at Erfurt is rich in works by Campanus. Concerning him see further HL XXI (1847) 248-54 and Duhem III (1915) 317-21. They hold that Campanus [Pg 95] is not called John in the MSS. His letter to Urban IV (1261-1265) and Simon of Genoa’s dedication of this Clavis sanationis in 1292 to “master Campanus, chaplain of the pope and canon at Paris,” serve to date him in the later 13th century.

John of Cilicia (apparently the same as John of Sicily), Harleian 1, fols. 92-151, Scripta super Canones Arzachelis de tabulis Toletanis.

John Dastine (or Dastyn), among whose treatises on alchemy may be mentioned Ashmole 1446, fols. 141-54v, “Incipit epistola ... ad Papam Johannem XXII transmissa de alchimia”; also found in CU Trinity 1122, 14-15th century, fol. 94v-.

Johannes de Dondis, Laud. Misc. 620, 16th century, “Opus Planetarii Johannis de Dondis, fisici, Paduani civis.”

Iohannes Egidii Zamorensis, Berlin 934, 14th century, 242 fols., de historia naturali; it includes a reproduction of John of Spain’s 39 chapters on the astrolabe.

John of Florence, Magliabech. XI-22; XVI-66, fols. 260-301, “Incipit liber de magni lapidis compositione editus a magistro artis generalis florentino.... / ... Explicit secretum secretorum mineralis lapidis mag Io.”

Joannes de Janua (Genoa), BN 7281, 7322, Canon eclypsium; 7281, Investigatio eclipseos solis 1337; 7282, Canones Tabulares. He is classed by Duhem IV (1916) 74-, as a disciple of Jean des Linières.

Joannes de Lineriis, BN 7281, 15th century, #9, Theorica planetarum ed. anno 1335, #11, Canones tabularum Alphonsi anno 1310; and other astronomical treatises in BN 7282, 7285, 7295, 7295A, 7329, 7378A, 7405, etc. Gonville and Caius 110, 14th century, pp. 1-6, Canones super magnum almanach omnium planetarum a mag. Iohanne de Lineriis picardi ambianensis dyocesis, compositum super meridianum parisiensem. See also Duhem IV (1916) 60-68, “Jean des Linières.”

Ioannes Lodoycus Tetrapharmacus, S. Marco XIV-38, 14th century, 160 fols., “Antidotarius Galaf Albucassim Açarauni a Ioanne Lodoyco Tetrapharmaco gebenensi filio Petri fructiferi mathematici ... de arabico in latinum translatus” (1198 A. D.).

John of London, BN 7413, 14th century, fols. 19v-21r, de astrologia judicaria ad R. de Guedingue, or it may be better described as a letter, written in 1246 or shortly thereafter (“usque ad consideracionem meam que fuit anno Christi 1246”), in which John discusses various matters, including the motion of the eighth sphere and dog days, and states that he is sending a transcript of tables of the fixed stars which he verified at Paris.

[Pg 96]

The John of London who gave so many MSS to the library of St. Augustine’s, Canterbury—see James (1903)—would seem to have been of later date, since his books included works of Aquinas, Roger Bacon, and John Peckham, the chronicle of Martin which extends to 1277, translations of the astrological treatises of Abraham aben Ezra which were not made until toward the close of the 13th century, and even treatises by Joannes de Lineriis who wrote in the early 14th century and William of St. Cloud who made his astronomical observations between 1285 and 1321. It therefore seems unlikely that the donor, John of London, could be even the young lad who was spoken of in such high terms by Roger Bacon, as is suggested by James (1903) pp. lxxiv-vii. Possibly the Friar John mentioned below is Bacon’s protégé.

John Manduith, CUL 1572 (Gg. VI. 3), 14th century, astronomical treatises and tables. Other MSS, mentioned by Tanner (1748) p. 506, contain tables finished by him in Oxford in 1310.

Johannis de Mehun (Jean de Meun), de lapide minerali et de lapide vegetabili, Sloane 976, 15th century, fols. 85-108; Sloane 1069, 16th century.

Johannes de Messina, a translator for Alfonso X in 1276; perhaps identical with John of Sicily, see Steinschneider (1905) p. 51.

Fratris Joannis ord. Minorum Summa de astrologia, BN 7293A, 14th century, #3. Possibly this is Roger Bacon’s lad John following in his master’s footsteps.

John of Montpellier or Anglicus (and see John of St. Giles), a treatise on the quadrant. BN 7298, 7414, 7416B, 7437, Joannes de Montepessulano de quadrante; Firenze II-iii-22, 16th century, fols. 268-82, “Explicit quadrans magistri Iohannis Anglici in monte;” Firenze II-iii-24, 14th century, fols. 176-82, “Incipit tractatus quadrantis veteris secundum magistrum Iohannem de Montepessulano.” CUL 1707 (Qi. I. 15), fols. 10-14r, “Quadrans Magistri Johannis Anglici in Monte Pessulano.” CUL 1767 (Qi, III. 3), 1276 A. D., fols. 56-60, Tractatus quadrantis editus a magistro Johanne in monte Pessulano.

John of Meurs (Johannes de Muris), a French writer on music, mathematics and astronomy in 1321, 1322, 1323, 1339, and 1345. Parts of his works have been printed. See further L. C. Karpinski, “The ‘Quadripartitum numerorum’ of John of Meurs,” in Bibl. Math. (1912-1913) 99-114; R. Hirschfeld, Io. de Muris, 1884; Duhem (1916) IV, 30-37.

Johannes Ocreatus, see Steinschneider (1905) p. 51.

Johannes Papiensis, see Steinschneider (1905) p. 51.

[Pg 97]

Johannes Parisiensis, master in theology, besides several theological treatises wrote de yride and super librum metheorum. His Contra corruptum Thome shows that he wrote after Aquinas. See Denifle (1886) p. 226.

There was also a medical writer named John of Paris who perhaps, rather than Thaddeus of Florence, wrote the treatise, De complexionibus corporis humani, Amplon. Quarto 35, 1421 A. D., fols. 142-58. The remark of V. Rose may also be recalled, “Ioh. Parisiensis ist bekanntlich ein Mädchen für alles.”

John of Poland, Addit. 22668, 13th-14th century, “Liber Magistri Johannis Poloni,” medical recipes, etc.

Johannes de Probavilla, Vienna 2520, 14th century, fols. 37-50, “Liber de signis prognosticis.”

John of Procida, see De Renzi, III, 71, Placita Philosophorum Moralium Antiquorum ex Graeco in Latinum translata a Magistro Joanne de Procida Magno cive Salernitano.

Johannes de Protsschida, CLM 27006, 15th century, fols. 216-31, Compendium de occultis naturae.

Ioannes de Rupecissa, a Franciscan who wrote various works on alchemy and who was imprisoned by the pope in 1345 for his prophecies concerning the church and antichrist; it would take too long to list the MSS here.

Johannes de Sacrobosco (John Holywood), well known for his Sphere, which has been repeatedly printed and was the subject of commentaries by many medieval authors.

Joannes de S. Aegidio (John of St. Giles, also Anglicus or de Sancto Albano), Bodleian 786, fol. 170, Experimenta (medical).

John of St. Amand, a medical writer, discussed in our 58th chapter.

Johannes de Sancto Paulo, another medical writer whose best known work seems to be that on medicinal simples.

John of Salisbury; see our 41st chapter.

John of Saxony, or John Danko of Saxony, at Paris in 1331 wrote a commentary on the astrological Ysagogicus of Alchabitius, which John of Spain had earlier translated. Amplon. Quarto 354, 14th century, fols. 4-59, Commenta Dankonis scilicet magistri Iohannis de Saxonia super Alkubicium; Amplon. Folio 387, 14th century, 46 fols., Iohannis Danconis Saxonis almanach secundum tabulas Alfonsinas compositum et annis 1336-1380 meridiano Parisiensi accomodatum—also in Amplon. Folio 389 and many other MSS; BN 7197, 7281, 7286, 7295A, Canones ad motum stellarum ordinati. Duhem IV (1916) 77 and 578-81[Pg 98] holds that two men have been confounded as John of Saxony,—one of the 13th, the other of the 14th century.

Johannes de Sicca Villa, Royal 12-E-XXV, fols. 37-65, de principiis naturae.

Joannes de Sicilia, BN 7281, 7406, Expositio super canones Arzachelis. Steinschneider (1905) p. 51, dates it in 1290 and regards this John as “hardly to be identified” (“schwerlich identisch”) with John of Messina. See also Duhem IV (1916) 6-9.

Joannes de Toledo, perhaps identical with John of Spain, as we have said.

Iohannes de Tornamira, dean or chancellor of Montpellier, Amplon. Folio 272, 1391 A. D., fols. 1-214, Clarificatorium ... procedens secundum Rasim in nono Almansoris.

Joannes Vincentius, Presbyter, Prior Eccles. de Monast, super Ledum, BN 3446, 15th century, #2, Adversus magicas artes et eos qui dicunt artibus eisdem nullam inesse efficaciam; Incipit missing.

John of Wallingford, Cotton Julius D-V I, fols. 1-7r, an astronomical fragment.

[Pg 99]



Problem of his identity—His works—Their influence—Disregard of Christian theology—The divine stars—Orders of spirits—The stars rule nature and reveal the future—Plot of the Mathematicus—Different interpretations put upon the Mathematicus—Hildebert’s Hermaphrodite’s horoscope—The art of geomancy—Prologue of the Experimentarius—Pictures of Bernard Silvester—Problem of a spying-tube and Hermann’s relation to the Experimentarius—Text of the Experimentarius—Two versions of the 28 Judges—Other modes of divination—Divination of the physician of King Amalricus—Prenostica Socratis Basilei—Further modes of divination—Experimental character of geomancy—Various other geomancies—Interest of statesmen and clergy in the art—Appendix I. Manuscripts of the Experimentarius of Bernard Silvester.

“Nell’ ora che non può il calor diurno
Intrepidar più il freddo della luna,
Vinto da terra, o talor da Saturno
Quando i geomanti lor Maggior Fortuna
Veggiono in oriente, innanzi all’ alba,
Surger per via che poco le sta bruno.”
Purg. XIX, 1-6.
Problem of his identity.

Bernard Silvester, of whom this chapter will treat, is now generally recognized as a different person from the Bernard of Chartres whom William of Conches followed and on whose teaching John of Salisbury looked back.[261] From John’s account it is plain that Bernard of Chartres belonged to the generation before William of Conches, and Clerval has shown reason to believe that he was [Pg 100] dead by 1130.[262] Bernard Silvester, on the other hand, wrote his De mundi universitate during the pontificate of Eugenius III, 1145-1153. Moreover, one of his pupils informs us that he taught at Tours.[263] This last fact also makes it difficult, although not impossible, to identify him with a Breton, named Bernard de Moelan, who, after serving as canon and chancellor at Chartres, became bishop of Quimper from 1159 to 1167.[264] At least they appear to have had somewhat similar interests, and Silvester seems to have had some connection with the school of Chartres, since he dedicated the De mundi universitate to Theodoric of Chartres.[265]

His works.

A number of works are extant under the name of Bernard Silvester. His interest in rhetoric and poetry is shown by a long Summa dictaminis (or, dictaminum) and by a Liber de metrificatura, in the Titulus of which he is called “a poet of the first rank” (optimi poetae).[266] He also wrote a commentary on the first books of the Aeneid.[267] Two other treatises are ascribed to him in which we are not here further interested, namely: De forma vitae honestae and De cura rei familiaris or Epistola ad Raimundum de modo rei familiaris gubernandae.[268] The three works of especial interest to us, while no one of them is exactly a treatise on astrology, all illustrate, albeit each in a different way, the dominance of astrological doctrine in the thought of the time. One is Experimentarius, an astrological geomancy translated into verse from the Arabic.[269] Another is a narrative [Pg 101] poem whose plot hinges upon an astrologer’s prediction and whose very title is Mathematicus.[270] The third work, variously entitled De mundi universitate, Megacosmus et Microcosmus, and Cosmographia[271] has much to say of the stars and their rule over inferior creation.[272] It is written partly in prose and partly in verse,[273] and shows that Bernard laid as much stress on literary form in his scientific or pseudo-scientific works as in those on rhetoric and meter. Sandys says of it, “The rhythm of the hexameters is clearly that of Lucan, while the vocabulary is mainly that of Ovid”; but Dr. Poole believes that the hexameters are modelled upon Lucretius.[274] He would date it either in 1145 or about 1147-1148.[275]

Their influence.

The manuscripts of these three works are fairly numerous, indicating that they were widely read, and no contemporary [Pg 102] objection appears to have been raised against their rather extreme astrological doctrines. As was well observed concerning the De mundi universitate over one hundred and fifty years ago, “These extravagances and some other similar ones did not prevent the book from achieving a very brilliant success from the moment of its first appearance,” as is shown by the contemporary testimony of Peter Cantor in the closing twelfth century and Eberhart de Bethune in the early thirteenth century, who says that the De mundi universitate was read in the schools. Gervaise of Tilbury and Vincent of Beauvais also cited it.[276] Indeed in our next chapter we shall find a Christian abbess, saint, and prophetess of Bernard’s own time charged—by a modern writer, it is true—with making use of it in her visions. Passages from Silvester are included in a thirteenth century collection of “Proverbs” from ancient and recent writers,[277] and more than one copy of the De mundi universitate is listed in such a medieval monastic library as St. Augustine’s, Canterbury.[278]

Disregard of Christian theology.

In the De mundi universitate we see the same influence of Platonism and astronomy, and of the Latin translation of the Timaeus in especial, as in the Philosophia of William of Conches. At the same time, its abstract personages and personified sciences, its Nous and Natura, its Urania and Physis with her two daughters, Theoretical and Practical, remind us of the pages of Martianus Capella and of Adelard of Bath’s De eodem et diverso. The characterization by Dr. Poole that the work “has an entirely pagan complexion,” and that Bernard’s scheme of cosmology is pantheistic and takes no account of Christian theology,[279] is essentially true, although occasionally some utterance indicates that the writer is acquainted with Christianity and no true pagan. Perhaps [Pg 103] it is just because Bernard makes no pretense of being a theologian, that at a time when William of Conches was retracting in his Dragmaticon some of the views expressed in his Philosophia and the Sicilian translator was conscious of a bigoted theological opposition, Bernard should display neither fear nor consciousness of the existence of any such opposition. And yet it does not appear that the Sicilian translator engaged in theological discussion. Yet he complains of those who call astronomy idolatry; Bernard calmly calls the stars gods, and no one seems to have raised the least objection. At least Bernard’s fearless outspokenness and its subsequent popularity should prevent our laying too much stress upon the timidity of other writers in expressing new views, and should make us hesitate before interpreting their attitude as a sure sign of real danger to freedom of thought and speech, and to scientific investigation.

The divine stars.

What especially concerns our investigation are the views concerning stars and spirits expressed by Silvester. Like William of Conches, he describes the world of spirits in a Platonic or Neo-Platonic, rather than patristic, style. He differs from William in hardly using the word “demon” at all and in according the stars, like Adelard of Bath, a much higher place in his hierarchy. “The heaven itself is full of God,” says Bernard, “and the sky has its own animals, sidereal fires,”[280] just as man, who is in part a spiritual being, inhabits the earth. Bernard does not hesitate to call the stars “gods who serve God in person,” or “who serve in God’s very presence.”[281] There in the region of purer ether which extends as far as the sun they enjoy the vision of bliss eternal, free from all care and distraction, and resting in the peace of God which passeth all understanding.[282] He also [Pg 104] repeats the Platonic doctrine that the mind is from the sky and that the human soul, when at last it lays aside the body, “will return to its kindred stars, added as a god to the number of superior beings.”[283]

Orders of spirits.

Between heaven and earth, between God and man, comes the mediate and composite order of “angelic creation.” “With the divinity of the stars” the members of this order share the attribute of deathlessness; with man they have this in common, to be stirred by passion and impulse.[284] Between sun and moon are benevolent angels who act as mediums between God and man. Other spirits inhabit the air beneath the moon. Some of them display an affinity to the near-by ether and fire, and live in tranquillity and mental serenity, although dwelling in the air. A second variety are the genii who are associated each with some man from birth to warn and guide him. But in the lower atmosphere are disorderly and malignant spirits who often are divinely commissioned to torment evil-doers, or sometimes torment men of their own volition. Often they invisibly invade human minds and thoughts by silent suggestion; again they assume bodies and take on ghostly forms. These Bernard calls angelos desertores, or fallen angels. But there are still left to be noted the spirits who inhabit the earth, on mountains or in forests and by streams: Silvani, Pans, and Nerei. They are of harmless character (innocua conversatione) and, being composed of the elements in a pure state, are long-lived but in the process of time will dissolve again.[285] This classification of spirits seems to follow Martianus Capella.

The stars rule nature and reveal the future.

Bernard’s assertion that the stars are gods is accompanied, as one would naturally expect, by a belief in their control of nature and revelation of the future. From their proximity to God they receive from His mind the secrets of the future, which they “establish through the lower species [Pg 105] of the universe by inevitable necessity.”[286] Life comes to the world of nature from the sky as if from God, and the creatures of the earth, air, and water could not move from their tracks, did they not absorb vivifying motions from the sky.[287] Nous or Intelligence says to Nature, “I would have you behold the sky, inscribed with a multiform variety of images, which, like a book with open pages, containing the future in cryptic letters, I have revealed to the eyes of the more learned.”[288] In another passage Bernard affirms that God writes in the stars of the sky what can come “from fatal law,” that the movements of the stars control all ages, that there already is latent in the stars a series of events which long time will unfold, and that all the events of history, even the birth of Christ, have been foreshadowed by the stars.

“Scribit enim caelum stellis totumque figurat
Quod de fatali lege venire potest,
Praesignat qualique modo qualique tenore
Omnia sidereus saecula motus agat.
Praejacet in stellis series quam longior aetas
Explicet et spatiis temporis ordo suis:
Sceptra Phoronei, fratrum discordia Thebae,
Flammae Phaëthonis, Deucalionis aquae.
In stellis Codri paupertas, copia Croesi,
Incestus Paridis, Hippolytique pudor;
In stellis Priami species, audacia Turni,
Sensus Ulixeus, Herculeusque vigor.
In stellis pugil est Pollux, et navita Typhis,
Et Cicero rhetor, et geometra Thales;
In stellis lepidus dictat Maro, Milo figurat,
Fulgurat in latia nobilitate Nero.
Astra notat Persis, Aegyptus parturit artes,
Graecia docta legit, praelia Roma gerit.
Exemplar specimenque Dei virguncula Christum
Parturit, et verum saecula numen habent.”[289]

[Pg 106]

Yet Bernard urges man to model his life after the stars,[290] and once speaks of “what is free in the will and what is of necessity.” He thus appears, like the author of the treatise on fate ascribed to Plutarch, like Boethius, and like a host of other theologians, philosophers, and astrologers, to believe in the co-existence of free will, inevitable fate, and “variable fortune.”[291]

Plot of the Mathematicus.

Bernard Silvester’s interest and faith in the art of astrology is further exemplified by his poem Mathematicus, a narrative which throughout assumes the truth of astrological prediction concerning human fortune. Hauréau showed that it had been incorrectly included among the works of Hildebert of Tours and Le Mans, and that the theme is suggested in the fourth Pseudo-Quintillian declamation, but that Bernard has added largely to the plot there briefly outlined. A Roman knight and lady were in every respect well endowed both by nature and fortune except that their marriage had up to the moment when the story opens been a childless one. At last the wife consulted an astrologer or mathematicus, “who could learn from the stars,” we are told, “the intentions of the gods, the mind of the fates, and the plan of Jove, and discover the hidden causes and secrets of nature.” He informed her that she would bear a son who would become a great genius and the ruler of Rome, but who would one day kill his father. When the wife told her husband of this prediction, he made her promise to kill the child in infancy. But when the time came, her mother love prevailed and she secretly sent the boy away to be reared, while she assured her husband that he was dead. She named her son Patricida in order that he might abhor the crime of patricide the more. The boy early gave signs of great intellectual capacity. Among other studies he learned “the [Pg 107] orbits of the stars and how human fate is under the stars,” and he “clasped divine Aristotle to his breast.” Later on, when Rome was hard pressed by the Carthaginians and her king was in captivity, he rallied her defeated forces and ended the war in triumph.

“And because the fatal order demands it so shall be,
The fates gave him this path to dominion....
Blind chance sways the silly toiling of men;
Our world is the plaything and sport of the gods.”

The king thereupon abdicated in favor of Patricida, whom he addressed in these words, “O youth, on whose birth, if there is any power in the stars, a favorable horoscope looked down.”

The mother rejoiced to hear of her son’s success, and marveled at the correctness of the astrologer’s prediction, but was now the more troubled as to her husband’s fate. He noticed her distraction and at last induced her to tell him its cause. But then, instead of being angry at the deception which she had practiced upon him, and instead of being alarmed at the prospect of his own death, he, too, rejoiced in his son’s success, and said that he would die happy, if he could but see and embrace him. He accordingly made himself known to his son and told him how he had once ordered his death but had been thwarted by the eternal predestined order of events, and how some day his son would slay him, not of evil intent but compelled by the courses of the stars. “And manifest is the fault of the gods in that you cannot be kinder to your father.”

The son thereupon determines that he will evade the decree of the stars by committing suicide. He is represented as soliloquizing as follows:

“How is our mind akin to the ethereal stars,
If it suffers the sad necessity of harsh Lachesis?
In vain we possess a particle of the divine mind,
If our reason cannot make provision for itself.
God so made the elements, so made the fiery stars, [Pg 108]
That man is not subject to the stars.”

Patricida accordingly summons all the Romans together, and, after inducing them by an eloquent rehearsal of his great services in their behalf to grant him any boon that he may ask, says that his wish is to die; and at this point the poem ends, leaving us uninformed whether the last part of the astrologer’s prediction remained unfulfilled, or whether Patricida’s suicide caused his father’s death, or whether possibly some solution was found in a play upon the word Patricida. Hauréau, however, believed that the poem is complete as it stands.

Different interpretations put upon the Mathematicus.

The purpose of the poet and his attitude towards astrology have been interpreted in diametrically opposite ways by different scholars. Before Hauréau it was customary to attribute the poem to Hildebert, archbishop of Tours, and to regard it as an attack upon astrology. The early editors of the Histoire Littéraire de la France supported their assertion that the most judicious men of letters in the eleventh and twelfth centuries had only a sovereign scorn for the widely current astrological superstition of their time by citing Hildebert as ridiculing the art in his Mathematicus.[292] A century later Charles Jourdain again represented Hildebert as turning to ridicule the vain speculations of the astrologers.[293] Bourassé, the editor of Hildebert’s works as they appear in Migne’s Patrologia Latina, seems to have felt that the poem was scarcely an outspoken attack upon astrology and tried to explain it as an academic exercise which was not to be taken seriously, but regarded as satire upon judicial astrology. Hauréau not only denied Archbishop Hildebert’s authorship, but took the common sense view that the poet believes fully in astrology. It would, indeed, be difficult to detect any suggestion of ridicule or satire about the poem. Its plot is a tragic one and it seems written in all seriousness. Even Patricida, despite his assertion [Pg 109] that “man is not subject to the stars,” does not doubt that he will kill his father conformably to the learned astrologer’s prediction, if he himself continues to live. It is only by the tour de force of self-slaughter that he hopes to cheat fate.

Hildebert’s Hermaphrodite’s horoscope.

Even Archbishop Hildebert shows a tendency towards astrology in other poems attributed to him; for example, in his Nativity of Christ and in a short poem, The Hermaphrodite, which reads as follows, representing the fulfillment of a horoscope:

“While my pregnant mother bore me in the womb, ’tis said the gods deliberated what she should bring forth. Phoebus said, ‘It is a boy’; Mars, ‘A girl’; Juno, ‘Neither.’ So when I was born, I was a hermaphrodite. When I seek to die, the goddess says, ‘He shall be slain by a weapon’; Mars, ‘By crucifixion’; Phoebus, ‘By drowning.’ So it turned out. A tree shades the water; I climb it; the sword I carry by chance slips from its scabbard; I myself fall upon it; my trunk is impaled in the branches; my head falls into the river. Thus I, man, woman, and neither, suffered flood, sword, and cross.”[294]

This poem has always been greatly admired by students of Latin literature for its epigrammatic neatness and conciseness, and has been thought too good to be the work of a medieval writer, and has been even attributed to Petronius. Another version, by the medieval poet, Peter Riga, entitled De ortu et morte pueri monstruosi, is longer and far less elegant. Hauréau, however, regarded the Hermaphrodite as a medieval composition, since there are no manuscripts of it earlier than the twelfth century; but he was in doubt whether to ascribe it to Hildebert or to Matthew of Vendôme, who in listing his own poems mentions hic et haec hermaphroditus homo.[295]

[Pg 110]

The art of geomancy.

We turn to the association of the name of Bernard Silvester with the superstitious art of geomancy. It may be briefly defined as a method of divination in which, by marking down a number of points at random and then connecting or cancelling them by lines, a number or figure is obtained which is used as a key to sets of tables or to astrological constellations. The only reason for calling this geomancy, that is, divination by means of the element earth, would seem to be that at first the marks were made and figures drawn in the sand or dust, like those of Archimedes during the siege of Syracuse. But by the middle ages, at least, any kind of writing material would do as well. Although a somewhat more abstruse form of superstition than the ouija board, it seems to have been nearly as popular in the medieval period as the ouija board is now.

Prologue of the Experimentarius.

The name of Bernard Silvester is persistently associated in the manuscripts with a work bearing the title Experimentarius, which seems to consist of sets of geomantic tables translated from the Arabic. Its prologue is unmistakable, but it is less easy to make out what text should go with it and how the text should be arranged. Sometimes the prologue is found alone in the manuscripts,[296] and the text which accompanies it in others varies in amount and sometimes is more or less mixed up with other similar modes of divination. The prologue is sometimes headed, Evidencia operis subsequentis, and regularly subdivides into three brief sections. The first, opening with the words, Materia huius libelli, describes the subject-matter of the text as “the effect and efficacy of the moon and other planets and of the constellations, which they exert upon inferior things.” The writer’s opinion is that God permits mortals who make sane and sober inquiry to learn by subtle consideration of the [Pg 111] constellations many things concerning the future and persons who are absent, and that astrology also gives information concerning human character, health and sickness, prosperity, fertility of the soil, the state of sea and air, business matters and journeys. In a second paragraph, opening, Utilitas autem huius libelli, the writer states that the use of his book is that one may avoid the perils of which the stars give warning by penitence and prayers and vows to God who, as the astrologer Albumasar admits, controls the stars. And through them the Creator reveals his will, as in the case of the three Magi who learned from a star that a great prophet had been born. Finally, in a paragraph of a single sentence, which opens with the words, Titulus vero talis est, we are informed that the title is the Experimentarius of Bernard Silvester, “not because he was the original author but the faithful translator from Arabic into Latin.”

Pictures of Bernard Silvester.

In one manuscript which contains the Experimentarius there is twice depicted, although the second time in different colors, a seated human figure evidently intended to represent Bernard Silvester. He is bearded and sits in a chair writing, with a pen in one hand and a knife or scalpel in the other. Neither miniature is in juxtaposition to the prologue in which Bernard is named, but in both cases the figure is accompanied by five lines of text, written alternately in red and blue colors and proclaiming that Bernard Silvester is the translator and that the number seven is the basis in this infallible book of lot-casting.[297] It would not be safe, however, to accept this miniature as an accurate representation of Bernard, since the manuscript is not contemporary [Pg 112] and it contains similar portraits of Socrates and Plato, Pythagoras, Anaxagoras, and Cicero.

Problem of a spying-tube and Hermann’s relation to the Experimentarius.

Both in the manuscript which we have just been describing and another of older date[298] is a picture of two persons seated. In both manuscripts one is called Euclid, in the older manuscript only is the other named, and designated as Hermann. According to Black’s description Euclid “uplifts a sphere with his right hand, and with his left holds a telescope through which he is observing the stars; towards whom ‘Hermannus,’ on the other side, holds forth a circular instrument hanging from his fingers, which is superscribed ‘Astrolabium.’” The picture in the other manuscript is similar, but in view of the fact that they were written in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the rod along which, or tube through which ‘Euclid’ is squinting, can scarcely be regarded as a telescope without more definite proof of the invention of that instrument before the time of Galileo. Perhaps it is a dioptra[299] or spying-tube of the sort described by the ancients, Polybius and Hero, and used in surveying. But I mention the picture for the further reason that Clerval[300] asserted a connection between Hermann of Dalmatia, the twelfth century translator, and Bernard Silvester, affirming that Hermann sent Bernard his work on the uses of the astrolabe and that he really translated the Experimentarius from the Arabic and sent it to Bernard who merely versified it. But we have already proved that it was Hermann the Lame of the eleventh century who wrote on the astrolabe and that he did so a century before Bernard Silvester. The aforesaid picture is clearly of him and not of Hermann the Dalmatian. And whether the “B” at whose request Hermann wrote on the astrolabe be meant [Pg 113] for Berengarius or Bernard, it certainly cannot be meant for Bernard Silvester, who was not born yet.

Text of the Experimentarius.

Apparently the text proper of the Experimentarius opens with the usual instructions of geomancies for the chance casting of points and drawing of lines. The number of points left over as a result of this procedure is used as a guide in finding the answer to the question which one has in mind. In a preliminary table are listed 28 subjects of inquiry such as life and death, marriage, imprisonment, enemies, gain. One turns to the topic in which one is interested and, according as the number of points obtained by chance is over or under seven, reckons forward or backward that many times from the number opposite his theme of inquiry, or, if exactly seven points were left over, takes the number of the theme of inquiry as he finds it. In one manuscript the new number thus obtained is that of the “Judge of the Fates” to whom one should next turn. There are 28 such judges, whose names are the Arabic designations for the 28 divisions of the circle of the zodiac or mansions of the moon, which spends a day in each of them.[301] A page is devoted to each judge, under whose name are twenty-eight lines containing as many responses to the twenty-eight subjects of inquiry. The inquirer selects a line corresponding to his number of points and the tables are so arranged that he thus always receives the answer which fits his inquiry. But most of the manuscripts, instead of at once referring the inquirer to his Judge as we have described, insert other preliminary tables in which he is first referred to a planet and then to a day of the moon. This unnecessarily indirect and complicated system is probably intended to mystify the reader and to emphasize further the supposedly astrological basis of the [Pg 114] procedure, whereas it is in reality purely a matter of lot-casting.

Two versions of the 28 judges.

Now in most of the manuscripts which I have examined there are two versions of these twenty-eight pages of Judges of the Fates, worded differently, although the corresponding lines always seem to answer the same questions and apply to the same topics of inquiry as before. In the version which comes first, for example, the first line under the first Judge, Almazene or the belly of Aries, is

Tuum indumentum durabit tempore longo

while in the second version the same line reads,

Hoc ornamentum decus est et fama ferentum. [302]

Both versions seem to be regarded as the Experimentarius of Bernard Silvester, for in the manuscripts where they occur together the first usually follows its prologue, while the second is preceded by his picture and the line, Translator Bernardus Silvester.[303] In one manuscript[304] the prologue is immediately followed by the second version and the first set of Judges does not occur. In some manuscripts,[305] however, the second version occurs without the first and without the prologue, in which cases, I think, there is nothing to indicate that it is by Bernard Silvester or a part of the Experimentarius. The first version ends in several manuscripts with the words, Explicit libellus de constellationibus[306] rather than some such phrase as Explicit Experimentarius. Furthermore in some manuscripts where it [Pg 115] occurs alone this first set of Judges is called the book of Alchandiandus or Alkardianus.[307] He may, however, have been the Arabic author and Bernard his translator, and the liber alkardiani phylosophi opens in at least one manuscript with words appropriate to the title, Experimentarius, “Since everything that is tested by experience is experienced either for its own sake or on some other account.”[308]

Other modes of divination.

There are so many treatises of this type in medieval manuscripts and they are so frequently collected in one codex that they are liable to be confused with one another. Thus in two manuscripts a method of divination ascribed to the physician of King Amalricus[309] is in such juxtaposition to the Experimentarius that Macray takes it to be part of the Experimentarius, while the catalogue of the Sloane Manuscripts combines the two as “a compilation ‘concerning the art of Ptolemy.’” Macray also includes in the Experimentarius a Praenostica Socratis Basilei, which is of frequent occurrence in the manuscripts, and other treatises on divination which are either anonymous or ascribed to Pythagoras and, judging from the miniatures prefixed to them, to Anaxagoras and Cicero, who thus again is appropriately punished for having written a work against divination. I doubt if these other modes of divination are parts of the Experimentarius, which often is found without them, as are some of them without it. But they are so much like it in general form and procedure that we may consider them now, especially as they are of such dubious date and authorship that it would be difficult to place them more exactly.

[Pg 116]

Divination of the physician of King Amalricus.

The treatise which is assigned to the physician of King Amalricus and which is said to have been composed in memory of that monarch’s great victory over the Saracens and Turks in Egypt, obtains its key number by revolution of a wheel[310] rather than by the geomantic casting of points, and introduces a trifle more of astrological observance. If on first applying the inquirer receives an unfavorable reply, he may wait for thirty days and try again, but after the third failure he must desist entirely. “It is not allowed to inquire concerning one thing more than three times.” The twenty-eight subjects of inquiry are divided in groups of four among the seven planets, and the inquirer is told to return on the weekday named after the planet under which his query falls. On the day set the astrologer must further determine with the astrolabe when the hour of the same planet has arrived, and not until then may the divination by means of the wheel take place, as a result of which the inquirer is directed as before to one of 28 Judges who in this case, however, are said to be associated with mansions of the sun[311] rather than moon. At the close of the treatise of the physician of King Amalricus in both manuscripts[312] that I have examined is inserted some sceptical person’s opinion to the effect that these methods of divination are subtle trifles which are not utterly useless as a means of diversion, but that faith should not be placed in them. The more apparent the devil’s nets are, concludes the passage, the more wary the human bird will be.

Prenostica Socratis Basilei.

In the Prenostica or Prenosticon Socratis Basilei—Prognostic of Socrates the King—a number from one to nine is obtained by chance either by geomancy or by revolving a wheel on which an image of “King Socrates” points his finger. The inquirer then consults a table where sixteen questions are so arranged in compartments designated [Pg 117] by letters of the alphabet that each question is found in two compartments. Say that the inquirer finds his question in A and E. He then consults another table where 144 names of birds, beasts, fish, stones, herbs, flowers, cities, and other “species” are arranged in nine rows opposite the numbers from one to nine and in sixteen columns headed by the sixteen possible pairs of letters such as the AE of our inquirer. Looking in the row corresponding to his number and the column AE he obtains a name. He must then find this name in a series of twelve circular tables where the aforesaid names are listed under their proper species, each table containing twelve names. He now is referred on to one of sixteen kings of the Turks, India, Spain, Francia, Babylonia, the Saracens, Romania, etc. Under each king nine answers are listed and here at last under his original number obtained by lot he finds the appropriate answer.[313]

Further modes of divination.

In the Prenostica Pitagorice we are assured that we may rest easy as to the integrity of the Catholic Faith being observed, “for that does not happen of necessity which human caution forewarned, can avoid.” It answers any one of a list of thirty-six questions by means of a number obtained by chance between one and twelve. The inquirer is referred [Pg 118] to one of 36 birds whose pictures are drawn in the margins with twelve lines of answers opposite each bird. Other schemes of divination found with the Experimentarius in some manuscripts differ from the foregoing only in the number of questions concerning which inquiry can be made, the number of Judges and the names given them, the number of lines under each Judge, and the number of intermediate directory tables that have to be consulted before the final Judge is reached. As Judges we meet the twelve sons of Jacob, the thirty-six decans or thirds of the twelve signs, and another astrological group of twenty made up of the twelve signs, seven planets, and the dragon.[314]

Experimental character of geomancy.

In one manuscript[315] the directions for consulting this last group of Judges are given under the heading, Documentum experimenti retrogradi, which like Bernard’s Experimentarius suggests the experimental character of the art of geomancy or the arts of divination in general. Later we shall hear Albertus Magnus in the Speculum astronomiae call treatises of aerimancy,[316] pyromancy, and hydromancy, as well as of geomancy “experimental books.”

Various other geomancies.

Geomancies are of frequent occurrence in libraries of medieval manuscripts.[317] Many are anonymous[318] but others bear the names of noted men of learning. The art must have had great currency among the Arabs,[319] for not only are [Pg 119] treatises current in Latin under such names as Abdallah,[320] Albedatus,[321] Alcherius,[322] Alkindi,[323] and Alpharinus,[324] but almost every prominent translator of the time seems to have tried his hand at a geomancy. In the manuscripts we find geomancies attributed to Gerard of Cremona,[325] Plato of Tivoli,[326] Michael Scot,[327] Hugo Sanctelliensis,[328] William of [Pg 120] Moerbeke,[329] William de Saliceto of Piacenza,[330] and Peter of Abano,[331] and even to their medical confrère and contemporary, Bernard Gordon, who is not usually classed as a translator.[332] Some of these, however, were translators from the Greek or the Hebrew rather than Arabic, and some of the geomantic treatises in the manuscripts claim an origin from India.[333] But a Robert or Roger Scriptoris who compiled a geomancy towards the close of the medieval period thinks first among his sources of “the Arabs of antiquity and the wise moderns, William of Moerbeke, Bartholomew of Parma, Gerard of Cremona, and many others.”[334] These other geomancies are not necessarily like the Experimentarius of Bernard Silvester[335] and we shall describe another [Pg 121] sort when we come to speak of Bartholomew of Parma in a later chapter.

Interest of statesmen and clergy in the art.

In the fifteenth century such intellectual statesmen as Humphrey, Duke of Gloucester, and Henry VII of England displayed an interest in geomancy, judging from a manuscript de luxe of Guido Bonatti’s work on astrology which was made for Henry VII and contains a picture of him, and also Plato’s translation of the geomancy of Alpharinus and geomantic “tables of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester.”[336] The interest of the clergy in this superstitious art is attested not only by the translation of such a person as William of Moerbeke, who was papal penitentiary and later archbishop of Corinth, but by a geomancy which we find in two fifteenth century manuscripts written by Martin, an abbot of Burgos, at the request of another abbot of Paris.[337] Treatises on geomancy continue to be found in the manuscripts as late as the eighteenth century, that of Gerard of Cremona especially.

[261] Clerval, Les Écoles de Chartres, Paris, 1895, pp. 158-63. The point was for a time contested by Ch. V. Langlois, “Maître Bernard,” in Bibl. de l’École des Chartes, LIV (1893) and by Hauréau. The two Bernards are still identified in EB, 11th edition, while Steinschneider (1905), p. 8, still identified Bernard of Chartres with the author of De mundi universitate.

[262] Dr. R. L. Poole, EHR (1920), p. 327, does not regard this as absolutely certain but agrees at p. 331 “that the evidence of place and time make it impossible to identify Bernard Silvester with Bernard of Chartres,” as he had done earlier in Illustrations of Medieval Thought (1884), pp. 113-26.

[263] B. Hauréau, Le Mathematicus de Bernard Silvestris, Paris, 1895, p. 11.

[264] Clerval (1895), pp. 158, 173.

[265] BN 6415, fol. 74v, “Terrico veris scientiarum titulis doctori famosissimo bernardus silvestris opus suum.”

[266] Clerval (1895), pp. 173-4.

[267] BN 16246, 15th century. Extracts from it are printed by Cousin, Fragments philosophiques, II, 348-52. John of Salisbury in 1159 used it in the Polycraticus, ed. Webb (1909) I, xxx, xlii-xliii.

[268] Many MSS at Paris, BN 3195, 5698, 6395, 6477, 6480, 7054, 8299, 8513, and probably others. MSS catalogues often ascribe it to St. Bernard.

[269] Attention was first called to it by Langlois, Maître Bernard, 1893. It has not been printed. A description of some of the MSS of it will be found in Appendix I at the close of this chapter.

[270] B. Hauréau, Le Mathematicus de Bernard Silvestris, Paris, 1895, contains the text and lists the following MSS: BN 3718, 5129, 6415; Tours 300; Cambrai 875; Bodleian A-44; Vatican 344, 370, 1440 de la Reine; Berlin Cod. Theol. Octavo 94. Printed in Migne PL 171, 1365-80, among the poems of Hildebert of Tours.

[271] Ed. by Wrobel and Barach, in Bibl. Philos. mediae aetatis, Innsbruck, 1876, from two MSS, Vienna 526 and CLM 23434. HL XII (1763), p. 261 et seq., had already listed six MSS in the then Royal Library at Paris (now there are at least eight, BN 3245, 6415, 6752A, 7994, 8320, 8751C, 8808A, and 15009, 12-13th century, fol. 187), four at the Vatican, and many others elsewhere. The following may be added:

Cotton Titus D-XX, fols. 110v-115r, Bernardi Sylvestris de utroque mundo, majore et minore.

Cotton Cleopatra A-XIV, fols. 1-26, Bernardi Sylvestris cosmographia proso-metrice in qua de multis rebus physicis agitur.

Additional 35112, Liber de mundi philosophia, author not named.

Sloane 2477 and Royal 15-A-XXXII.

CU Trinity 1335, early 13th century, fols. 1-25v, Bernardi Silvestris Cosmographia.

CU Trinity 1368 (II), late 12th century, 50 leaves, Bernardi Silvestris Megacosmus et Microcosmus.

[272] Clerval’s (1895) pp. 259-61, “Le système de Bernard Silvester,” is limited to the De mundi universitate and says nothing of his obvious astrological doctrine, although at p. 240 Clerval briefly states that in that work Bernard takes over many figures from pagan astrology.

[273] HL XII (1763) p. 261 et seq., besides the De mundi universitate mentioned “two poems in elegiacs written expressly in defense of the influence of the constellations.” These were very probably the Mathematicus and Experimentarius, or the two parts or versions of the latter.

[274] History of Classical Scholarship (1903) I, 515; Illustrations of Medieval Thought (1884) p. 118.

[275] EHR (1920) p. 331.

[276] HL XII (1763) p. 261 et seq.

[277] Berlin 193 (Phillips 1827), fol. 25v, “Proverbia.”

[278] Indeed, the 15th century catalogue of that abbey lists one MS, 1482, which contains both the Megacosmus and Mathematicus, with the treatise of Valerius to Rufinus on not getting married sandwiched in between.

[279] Poole (1884) pp. 117-18.

[280] De mundi universitate, II, 6, 10, “Caelum ipsum Deo plenum est.... Sua caelo animalia ignes siderei....”

[281] Ibid., I, 3, 6-7,

“Motus circuitus numina turba deum
Dico deos quorum ante Deum praesentia servit.”

Also II, 4, 39, “deos caelumque.”

[282] Ibid., II, 6, 49, “Qui quia aeternae beatitudinis visione perfruuntur, ab omni distrahentis curae sollicitudine feriati in pace Dei quae omnem sensum superat conquiescunt.”

[283] De mundi universitate, II, 4, 49-50.

“Corpore iam posito cognata reibit ad astra
Additus in numero superumdeus.”

[284] Ibid., II, 6, 36-, “Participatenim angelicae creationis numerus cum siderum divinitate quod non moritur; cum homine, quod passionum affectibus incitatur.”

[285] Ibid., II, 6, 92 et seq.

[286] De mundi universitate, II, 6, 47-.

[287] Ibid., I, 4, 5-.

[288] Ibid., II, 1, 23-.

[289] Ibid., I, 3, 33 et seq.

[290] De mundi universitate, II, 4, 31-50; and II, 1, 30-32.

[291] Ibid., II, 1, 33-35.

“Parcarum leges et ineluctabile fatum
Fortunaeque vices variabilis
Quae sit in arbitrio res libera quidve necesse.”

[292] HL VII (1746) p. 137.

[293] C. Jourdain, Dissertation sur l’état de la philosophie naturelle etc., Paris, 1838, p. 116, note.

[294] Migne, PL 171, 1446. Juno here stands for the planet Venus: see Hyginus II, 42, “Stella Veneris, Lucifer nomine, quam nonnulli Junonis esse dixerunt”; and other passages cited by Bouché-Leclercq, L’Astrologie grecque, 1899, p. 99, note 2.

[295] J. B. Hauréau, Les mélanges poétiques d’Hildebert, 1882, pp. 138-47. In Digby 53, a poetical miscellany of the end of the 12th century, no author is named for the “De Ermaphrodito” nor for some other items which appear in the printed edition of Hildebert’s poems, although Hildebert’s name is attached to a few pieces in the MS.

[296] Ashmole 345, late 14th century, fol. 64. Bodleian Auct. F. 3. 13, fol. 104v. For a summary of the MSS see Appendix I at the close of this chapter.

[297] Digby 46, 14th century, fol. 1v, the first line is blue, the next red, etc.

An sors instabilis melius ferat ars docet eius
In septem stabis minus una petens numerabis
Post septem sursum numerando perfice cursum
Translator Bernardus Silvester
Hic infallibilis liber incipit autem peius.

At fol. 25v, the same five lines except that the last line is put first, where it would seem to belong, and is accordingly colored red instead of blue as before, the colors of the other four lines remaining the same as before.

[298] Ashmole 304, 13th century, fol. 2v.

[299] In this connection the following MS might prove of interest: CU Trinity 1352, 17th century, neatly written, Dioptrica Practica. Fol. 1 is missing and with it the full title. Cap 1, de Telescopiorum ac Microscopium Inventione, diversitate, et varietati. Quaestio I, Quid sunt Telescopia et quomodo ac quando inventa. After fol. 90 is a single leaf of diagrams.

[300] Clerval (1895), pp. 169, 190-91.

[301] These 28 Judges, or mansions of the moon, are seldom spelled twice alike in the MSS, but are somewhat as follows: Almazene, Anatha, Albathon, Arthura, Adoran, Almusan, Atha, Arian, Anathia, Althare, Albuza, Alcoreten, Arpha, Alana, Asionet, Algaphar, Azavenu, Alakyal, Alcalu, Aleum, Avaadh, Avelde, Cathateue, Eadabula, Eadatauht, Eadalana, Algafalmar, Algagafalui.

[302] In the MSS, which are very carelessly and often slovenly written, the wording of these lines varies a good deal, for instance, in Digby 46, fol. 11r, “Sum (sic) monumentum durabit tempore longo,” and in CU Trinity 1404 (II), fol. 2r, “Hoc ornamentum est et fama parentum.”

[303] Digby 46, fol. 25v; in Ashmole 304 the corresponding leaf has been cut out, probably for the sake of the miniature; Sloane 3857, fol. 181v, omits the picture but has the phrase, “Translator Bernardus Silvester.”

[304] Sloane 3554, fol. 13v-.

[305] Ashmole 342, early 14th century, #2.

Ashmole 399, late 13th century, fols. 54-8.

Royal 12-C-XII, fols. 108-23.

CU Trinity 1404 (II), 14-15th century, fols. 2-16.

Some of these MSS I have not seen.

[306] Digby 46, fol. 24v; Ashmole 304, fol. 16v; Sloane 3857, fol. 180v.

[307] Additional 15236, English hand of 13-14th century, fols. 130-52r, “libellus Alchandiandi”; BN 7486, 14th century, fol. 30v, “Incipit liber alkardiani phylosophi. Cum omne quod experitur sit experiendum propter se vel propter aliud....” And see above, the latter pages of Chapter 30.

[308] See the preceding note.

[309] Sloane 3554, fol. 1-; Digby 46, fols. 3r-5v, and fol. 90r. But in both MSS it precedes the prologue of the Experimentarius. Macray was probably induced to regard everything in Digby 46 up to fol. 92r as Experimentarius by the picture of Bernard Silvester which occurs at fol. 1v with the accompanying five lines stating that he is the translator of “this infallible book.” But the picture is probably misplaced, since it occurs again at fol. 25v before the second version of the 28 Judges.

[310] Inset inside the thick cover of Digby 46 are two interlocking wooden cogwheels for this purpose, with 28 and 13 teeth respectively.

[311] In Digby 46 diagrams showing the number of stars in each are given.

[312] Digby 46, fol. 5v; Sloane 3554, fol. 12r.

[313] I have described the Prenostica as it is found in Digby 46, fol. 40r-, with a picture at fol. 41v of Socrates seated and Plato standing behind him and pointing. Ashmole 304 has the same text and picture; and the text is practically the same in Sloane 3857, fols. 196-207, “Documentum subsequentis considerationis quae Socratica dicitur.” In Additional 15236, 13-14th century, fols. 95r-108r, the inquirer is first directed to implore divine aid and repeat a Paternoster and Ave Maria, and some details are slightly different, but the general method is identical. The final answers are given in French. In BN 7420A, 14th century, fol. 126r- (or clxxxxvi, or col. 451), “Liber magni solacii socratis philosophi” is also essentially the same; indeed, its opening words are, “Pronosticis Socratis basilii.” Preceding it are similar methods of divination, beginning at fol. 121v (or clxxxxii or col. 440), “Si vis operare de geomancia debes facere quatuor lineas....” Evidently the following is also our treatise: CU Trinity 1404 (IV), 14-15th century, Iste liber dicitur Rota fortune in qua sunt 16 questiones determinate in pronosticis sententiat’. (sic) basilici que sub sequentibus inscribuntur et sunt 12 spere et 16 Reges pro iudicibus constituti et habent determinare veritatem de questionibus antedictis cum auxilio sortium. James (III, 423) adds, “The questions, tables, spheres, and Kings follow....” Our treatise is also listed in John Whytefeld’s 1389 catalogue of MSS in Dover Priory, No. 409, fol. 192v, Pronostica socratis phi.

[314] These tracts of divination are found in Digby 46, fols. 52r-92r, and partially in Ashmole 304, Sloane 3857, and Sloane 2472.

[315] Sloane 2472, fol. 22r.

[316] The word seems to be regularly so spelled in the middle ages, although modern dictionaries give only aeromancy.

[317] For instance, at Munich the following MSS are devoted to works of geomancy: CLM 192, 196, 240, 242, 276, 392, 398, 421, 436, 456, 458, 483, 489, 541, 547, 588, 671, 677, 905, 11998, 24940, 26061, 26062.

[318] For instance, Amplon. Quarto 174, 14th century, fol. 120, Geomancia parva; Qu. 345, 14th century, fols. 47-50, geomancia cum theorica sua; Qu. 361, 14th century, fols. 62-79, five treatises; Qu. 365, fol. 83; Qu. 368, 14th century, fol. 30; Qu. 374, 14th century, fols. 1-60; Qu. 377, 14th century, fols. 70-76; Amplon. Octavo 88, 14th century, fols. 5-10; Amplon. Duodecimo 17, 14th century, fols. 27-35. Harleian 671; 4166, 15th century; Royal 12-C-XVI, 15th century; Sloane 887, 16th century, fols. 3-59; 1437, 16th century; 2186, 17th century; 3281, 13-14th century, fols. 25-34, “Liber 28 iudicum” or “Liber parcarum sive fatorum.”

[319] Additional 9600 is a geomancy in Arabic, and Addit. 8790, La Geomantia del S. Christoforo Cattaneo, Genonese, l’inventore di detta Almadel Arabico.

[320] Vatic. Urbin. Lat. 262, 14-15th century, Abdallah geomantiae fragmenta. Amplon. Folio 389, 14th century, fols. 56-99, Geomantia Abdalla astrologi cum figuris; perhaps the same as Math. 47, Geomancia cum egregiis tabulis Abdana astrologi, in the 1412 catalogue.

Amplon. Quarto 380, early 14th century, fols. 1-47, geomancia optima Abdallah filii Ali.

Magliabech. XX-13, 15th century, fols. 208-10, “Il libro di Zaccheria ebrio il quale compuose le tavole de giudici. Disse il famiglio di Abdalla....”

[321] Amplon. Octavo 88, early 14th century, fols. 1-5, geomancia Albedato attributa, fols. 107-10, Albedatii de sortilegiis.

CLM 398, 14th century, fols. 106-14, “Belio regi Persarum vates Albedatus salutem.”

BN 7486, 14th century, fol. 46r-, Albedaci philosophi ars punctorum; here the work is addressed to “Delyo regi Persarum” and is said to be translated by “Euclid, king and philosopher.” It immediately follows another geomancy by Alkardianus, of whom we have spoken elsewhere.

Berlin 965, 16th century, fol. 64-, “Incipit liber Albedachi vatis Arabici de sortilegiis ad Delium regem Persarum / Finis adest libri Algabri Arabis de sortilegiis”; similarly Amplonius in 1412 listed Math, 8, “liber subtilis valde Algabre geomanticus ad futurorum negociaciones.”

[322] Vienna 5508, 14-15th century, fols. 200-201v, “Ego Alcherius inter multa prodigia / nudus postea quolibet subhumetur.” Is this the Alcherius mentioned by Mrs. Merrifield (1849) I, 54-6 as copying in 1409 “Experiments with Color,” from a MS which he had borrowed?

[323] CLM 489, 16th century, fols. 207-22, Alchindi libellus de geomantia; also in CLM 392, 15th century.

[324] Arundel 66, 15th century, fols. 269-77, “Liber sciencie arienalis de judicis geomansie ab Alpharino filio Abrahe Judeo editus et a Platone de Hebreico sermone in Latinum translatus.”

CLM 11998, anno 1741, fol. 209-, Alfakini Arabici filii quaestiones geomantiae a Platone in Latinum translatae anno 1535 (which cannot be right).

CU Magdalene College 27 (F. 4. 27, Haenel 23) late 14th century, fols. 120-125v, “Incipit liber arenalis sciencie ab alfarino abizarch editus et a Platone Tiburtino de Arabico in latinum translatus.”

[325] Bologna University Library 449, 14th century, “Geomantia ex Arabico translata per Magistrum Gerardum de Cremona. Si quis partem geomanticam / multum bonum signi.”

Magliabech XX-13, fol. 61.

Digby 74, 15-16th century, fols. 1-52.

Sloane 310, 15th century.

Amplon. Quarto 373, 14th century, fols. 1-31, with notes at 32-37.

CLM 276, 14th century, fols. 69-75, Geomantia mag. Gerardi Cremonensis ab auctoribus via astronomice conposita.

Also printed under the title Geomantia astronomica in H. C. Agrippa, Opera, 1600, pp. 540-53.

[326] See note 324.

[327] CLM 489, 16th century, fol. 174-, Michaelis Scoti geomantia.

[328] MSS of Hugo’s geomancy have already been listed in chapter 38, p. 86.

[329] CLM 588, 14th century, fols. 6-58, “Incipit geomantia a fratre gilberto (?) de morbeca domini pape penitentionario compilata quam magistro arnulfo nepoti suo commendavit.”

CLM 905, 15th century, fols. 1-64, Wilhelmi de Morbeca Geomantia.

Wolfenbüttel 2725, 14th century, “Geomantia fratris Guilhelmi de Marbeta penitenciarii domini pape dedicata Arnulpho nepoti. Anno domini millesimo ducentesimo octuagesimo octavo. Hoc opus est scientie geomancie.”

Vienna 5508, 14-15th century, fol. 1-, “Liber geomancie editus a fratre Wilhelmo de Morbeta. Omnipotens sempiterne Deus / querenti vel in brevi.”

Amplon. Quarto 373, 14th century, fols. 39-118; Qu. 377, 62-67; Qu. 384.

For MSS in Paris see HL 21; 146.

Magliabech. XX-13, 15th century, fol. 101-, in Italian.

CU Trinity 1447, 14th century, fols. 1-112r, a French translation made by Walter the Breton in 1347. He states that Moerbeke’s Latin version was translated from the Greek.

[330] Magliabech, XX-13, 15th century, fol. 210-, “del detto Çacheria Albiçarich,” translated from Hebrew into Latin by “maestro Saliceto.”

[331] CLM 392, 15th century; 489, 16th century, fol. 222, Petri de Abano Patavini modus iudicandi quaestiones; in both MSS accompanied by the geomancy ascribed to Alkindi. Printed in Italian translation, 1542.

[332] BN 15353, 13-14th century, fol. 87-, Archanum magni Dei revelatum Tholomeo regi Arabum de reductione geomancie ad orbem, tr. de Bernard de Gordon, datée de 1295.

[333] Harleian 2404, English hand, two geomancies (Indeana).

Sloane 314, 15th century, fols. 2-64, Latin and French, “Et est Gremmgi Indyana, que vocatur filia astronomie quam fecit unus sapientum Indie.”

With the opinions of Siger of Brabant in 1277 was condemned a book of geomancy which opened “Estimaverunt Indi”; Chart. Univ. Paris, I, 543.

CU Magdalene College 27 (F. 4. 27), late 14th century, fols. 72-88, “Hec est geomantia Indiana.”

[334] Sloane 3487, 15th century, fols. 2-193, Geomantia Ro. Scriptoris, fol. 2r, “... arabes antiquissimi et sapientes moderni Guillelmus de morbeca, Bartholomeus de Parma, Gerardus Cremonensis, et alii plures.”

[335] A geomancy by Ralph of Toulouse, however, preserved in a 14th century MS, has, like Bernard’s, the four pages of key followed by the twenty-eight pages of “judges of the fates,” from “Almatene” to “Algagalauro.” Berlin 969, fol. 282-, “Divinaciones magistri Radulfi de Tolosa.”

[336] Arundel 66 (see above, p. 119, note 5); the portrait of Henry is at fol. 201, at fols. 277v-87, “Tabulae Humfridi Ducis Glowcestriae in judiciis artis geomansie.”

[337] Corpus Christi 190, fols. 11-52, “Explicit liber Geomancie compilatus per magistrum Martinum Hispanum phisicum abbatem de Cernatis in ecclesia Vurgensi quam composuit ad preces nobilis et discreti viri domini Archimbaldi abbatis sancti Asteensis ac canonici Parisiensis.”

Ashmole 360-II, fols. 15-44, Explicit as above except “Burgensi,” “Archibaldi,” and “Astern.”

Also by the listing of geomancies in the medieval catalogues of monastic libraries. See James, Libraries of Canterbury and Dover.

[Pg 122]



Digby 46, 14th century, fols. 7v-39v.

Ashmole 304, 13th century, fols. 2r-30v.

Sloane 3857, 17th century, fols. 164-95.

These three MSS are much alike both in the Experimentarius proper and the other tracts of divination which accompany it. Digby 46 has more of them than either of the others and more pictures than Ashmole 304. Sloane 3857 has no pictures. I have given the numbers of the folios only for the Experimentarius proper.

Sloane 2472, a quarto in skin containing 30 leaves, dated in the old written catalogue as late 12th, but in Scott’s printed Index as 14th century, fols. 3r-14v, the prologue and 22 of 28 Judges of the first version; fols. 15r-21v, the last part of the method of divination by the 36 decans, “Thoas Iudex X” to “Sorab Iudex XXXVI”; fols. 23r-30v, divination by planets and signs as in Digby 46.

Sloane 3554, 15th century, contains the divination of the physician of King Amalricus, the prologue of the Experimentarius, and the second set only of 28 Judges.

The following MSS also contain only this second version:

Ashmole 342, early 14th century, #2.

Ashmole 399, late 13th century, fols. 54-8.

CU Trinity 1404 (II), 14-15th century, fols. 2-16.

Royal 12-C-XII, fols. 108-23, has the second version of the Experimentarius but also a few of the other items of divination found in Ashmole 304.

The first set of 28 Judges is found without mention of Bernard Silvester in the following MSS:

[Pg 123]

BN 7486, 14th century, fol. 30v-, “Incipit liber alkardiani phylosophi. Cum omne quod experitur sit experiendum propter se vel propter aliud.”

Additional 15236, 13-14th century, English hand, fols. 130-52r, “libellus Alchandiandi”; and at fols. 95r-108r, Prenosticon Socratis Basilei.

The prologue of the Experimentarius is found alone in

Ashmole 345, late 14th century, fol. 64, “Bernardinus.”

Bodleian (Bernard 2177, #6) Auct. F. 3. 13, fol. 104v, “Bernardini silvestris.”

[Pg 124]



Was Hildegard influenced by Bernard Silvester?—(Bibliographical note)—Her personality and reputation—Dates of her works—Question of their genuineness—Question of her knowledge of Latin—Subject-matter of her works—Relations between science and religion in them—Her peculiar views concerning winds and rivers—Her suggestions concerning drinking-water—The devil as the negative principle—Natural substances and evil spirits—Stars and fallen angels; sin and nature—Nature in Adam’s time; the antediluvian period—Spiritual lessons from natural phenomena—Hildegard’s attitude toward magic—Magic Art’s defense—True Worship’s reply—Magic properties of natural substances—Instances of counter-magic—Ceremony with a jacinth and wheaten loaf—Her superstitious procedure—Use of herbs—Marvelous virtues of gems—Remarkable properties of fish—Use of the parts of birds—Cures from quadrupeds—The unicorn, weasel, and mouse—What animals to eat and wear—Insects and reptiles—Animal compounds—Magic and astrology closely connected—Astrology and divination condemned—Signs in the stars—Superiors and inferiors; effect of stars and winds on elements and humors—Influence of the moon on human health and generation—Relation of the four humors to human character and fate—Hildegard’s varying position—Nativities for the days of the moon—Man the microcosm—Divination in dreams.

Was Hildegard influenced by Bernard Silvester?

The discussion of macrocosm and microcosm, nous and hyle, by Bernard Silvester in the De mundi universitate is believed by Dr. Charles Singer, in a recent essay on “The Scientific Views and Visions of Saint Hildegard,” to have influenced her later writings, such as the Liber vitae meritorum and the Liber divinorum operum. He writes “The work of Bernard ... corresponds so closely both in form, in spirit, and sometimes even in phraseology to the Liber divinorum operum that it appears to us certain that Hildegard must have had access to it.”[338] Without subscribing unreservedly [Pg 125] to this view, we pass on from the Platonist and geomancer of Tours to the Christian “sibyl of the Rhine.”[339]

[Pg 126]

Her personality and reputation.

From repeated statements in the prefaces to Hildegard’s works, in which she tells exactly when she wrote them and how old she was at the time,—for not only was she not reticent on this point but her different statements of her age at different times are all consistent with one another—it is evident that she was born in 1098. Her birthplace was near Sponheim. From the age of five, she tells us in the Scivias, she had been subject to visions which did not come to her in her sleep but in her wakeful hours, yet were not seen or heard with the eyes and ears of sense. During her lifetime she was also subject to frequent illness, and very likely there was some connection between her state of health and her susceptibility to visions. She spent her life from her eighth year in religious houses along the Nahe river, and in 1147 became head of a nunnery at its mouth opposite Bingen, the place with which her name was henceforth connected. She became famed for her cures of diseases as well as her visions and ascetic life, and it is Kaiser’s opinion that her medical skill contributed more to her popular reputation for saintliness than all her writings. At any rate she became very well known, and her prayers and predictions were much sought after. Thomas Becket, who seems to have been rather too inclined to pry into the future, as we shall see later, wrote asking for “the visions and oracles of that sainted and most celebrated Hildegard,” and inquiring whether any revelation had been vouchsafed her as to the duration of the existing papal schism. “For in the days of Pope Eugenius she predicted that not until his last days would he have peace and grace in the city.”[340] It is very doubtful whether St. Bernard visited her monastery and called the attention of Pope Eugenius III to her visions, but her letters[341] show her in correspondence with St. Bernard and several popes and emperors, with numerous [Pg 127] archbishops and bishops, abbots and other potentates, to whom she did not hesitate to administer reproofs and warnings. For this purpose and to aid in the repression of heresy she also made tours from Bingen to various parts of Germany. There is some disagreement whether she died in 1179 or 1180.[342] Proceedings were instituted by the pope in 1233 to investigate her claims to sainthood, but she seems never to have been formally canonized. Gebenon, a Cistercian prior in Eberbach, made a compendium from her Scivias, Liber divinorum operum, and Letters, “because few can own or read her works.”[343]

Dates of Hildegard’s works.

As was stated above, we can date some of Hildegard’s works with exactness. In her preface to the one entitled Scivias[344] she says that in the year 1141, when she was forty-two years and seven months old, a voice from heaven bade her commit her visions to writing. She adds that she scarcely finished the book in ten years, so we infer that she was working at it from 1141 to 1150. This fits exactly with what she tells us in the preface to the Liber vitae meritorum, which she was divinely instructed to write in 1158, when she was sixty years old. Moreover, she says that the eight years preceding, that is from 1151 to 1158, had been spent in writing other treatises which also appear to have been revealed in visions and among which were “subtilitates diversarum naturarum creaturarum,” the title of another of her works with which we shall be concerned. On the Liber vitae meritorum she spent five years, so it should have been completed by 1163. In that year, the preface to the Liber divinorum operum informs us,—and the sixty-fifth year of her life—a voice instructed her to begin its composition, and seven more years were required to complete it. This leaves undated only one of the five [Pg 128] works by her which we shall consider, namely, the Causae et curae, or Liber compositae medicinae as it is sometimes called, while the Subtilitates diversarum naturarum creaturarum bears a corresponding alternative title, Liber simplicis medicinae.

Question of their genuineness.

“Some would impugn the genuineness of all her writings,” says the article on Hildegard in The Catholic Encyclopedia, “but without sufficient reason.”[345] Kaiser, who edited the Causae et curae, had no doubt that both it and the Subtilitates were genuine works. Recently Singer has excluded them both from his discussion of Hildegard’s scientific views on the ground that they are probably spurious, but his arguments are unconvincing. His objection that they are full of German expressions which are absent in her other works is of little consequence, since it would be natural to employ vernacular proper names for homely herbs and local fish and birds and common ailments, while in works of an astronomical and theological character like her other visions there would be little reason for departing from the Latin. Anyway Hildegard’s own assertion in the preface of the Liber vitae meritorum is decisive that she wrote that work. The almost contemporary biography of her also states that she wrote “certain things concerning the nature of man and the elements, and of diverse creatures,”[346] which may be a blanket reference to the Causae et curae as well as the Subtilitates diversarum naturarum creaturarum. The records which we have of the proceedings instituted by the pope in 1233 to investigate Hildegard’s title to sainthood mention both the Liber simplicis medicinae and Liber compositae medicinae as her works; and later in the same century Matthew of Westminster ascribed both treatises to her, stating [Pg 129] further that the Liber simplicis medicinae secundum creationem was in eight books and giving the full title of the other as Liber compositae medicinae de aegritudinum causis signis et curis.[347] Kaiser has pointed out a number of parallel passages in it and the Subtilitates, while its introductory cosmology seems to me very similar to that of Hildegard’s other three works. Indeed, as we consider the contents of these five works together, it will become evident that the same peculiar views and personality run through them all.

Question of Hildegard’s knowledge of Latin.

In the preface to the Liber vitae meritorum Hildegard speaks of a man and a girl who gave her some assistance in writing out her visions.[348] From such passages in her own works and from statements of her biographers and other writers[349] it has been inferred that she was untrained in Latin grammar and required literary assistance.[350] Or sometimes it is said that she miraculously became able to speak and write Latin without having ever been instructed in that language.[351] Certainly the Causae et curae is a lucid, condensed, and straightforward presentation which it would be very difficult to summarize or excerpt. One must read it all, for further condensation is impossible. One can hardly say as much for her other works, but a new critical edition of them such as the Causae et curae has enjoyed might result in an improvement of the style. But our concern is rather with their subject-matter.

Subject-matter of Hildegard’s works.

Three of the five works which we shall consider are written out in the form of visions, and are primarily religious [Pg 130] in their contents but contain considerable cosmology and some human anatomy, as well as some allusions to magic and astrology. The other two deal primarily with medicine and natural science, and give no internal indication of having been revealed in visions, presenting their material in somewhat didactic manner, and being divided into books and chapters, like other medieval treatises on the same subjects. As printed in Migne, the Subtleties of Different Natural Creatures or Book of Medicinal Simples is in nine books dealing respectively with plants, elements, trees, stones, fish, birds, animals, reptiles, and metals. In this arrangement there is no plan evident[352] and it would seem more logical to have the books on plants and trees and stones and metals together. In Schott’s edition of 1533 the discussion of stones was omitted—perhaps properly, since Matthew of Westminster spoke of but eight books—and the remaining topics were grouped in four books instead of eight as in Migne. First came the elements, then metals, then a third book treating of plants and trees, and a fourth book including all sorts of animals.[353] That the Subtleties was a widely read and influential work is indicated by the number of manuscripts of it listed by Schmelzeis and Kaiser. Of the five books of the Causae et curae the first, beginning with the creation of the universe, Hyle, the creation of the angels, fall of Lucifer, and so forth, deals chiefly with celestial phenomena and the waters of the sea and firmament. The second combines some discussion of Adam and Eve and the deluge with an account of the four elements and humors, human anatomy, and various other natural phenomena.[354] With book three the listing of [Pg 131] cures begins and German words appear occasionally in the text.

Relations between science and religion in them.

So much attention to the Biblical story of creation and of Adam and Eve as is shown in the first two books of the Causae et curae might give one the impression that Hildegard’s natural science is highly colored by and entirely subordinated to a religious point of view. But this is not quite the impression that one should take away. A notable thing about even her religious visions is the essential conformity of their cosmology and physiology to the then prevalent theories of natural science. The theory of four elements, the hypothesis of concentric spheres surrounding the earth, the current notions concerning veins and humors, are introduced with slight variations in visions supposed to be of divine origin. In matters of detail Hildegard may make mistakes, or at least differ from the then more generally accepted view, and she displays no little originality in giving a new turn to some of the familiar concepts, as in her five powers of fire, four of air, fifteen of water, and seven of earth.[355] But she does not evolve any really new principles of nature. Possibly it is the spiritual application of these scientific verities that is regarded as the pith of the revelation, but Hildegard certainly says that she sees the natural facts in her visions. The hypotheses of past and contemporary natural science, somewhat obscured or distorted by the figurative and mystical mode of description proper to visions, are embodied in a saint’s reveries and [Pg 132] utilized in inspired revelation. Science serves religion, it is true, but religion for its part does not hesitate to accept science.

Peculiar views concerning winds and rivers.

We cannot take the time to note all of Hildegard’s minor variations from the natural science of her time, but may note one or two characteristic points in which her views concerning the universe and nature seem rather daring and unusual, not to say crude and erroneous. In the Scivias she represents a blast and lesser winds as emanating from each of four concentric heavens which she depicts as surrounding the earth, namely, a sphere of fire, a shadowy sphere like a skin, a heaven of pure ether, and a region of watery air under it.[356] In the Liber divinorum operum she speaks of winds which drive the firmament from east to west and the planets from west to east.[357] In the Subtilitates Hildegard seems to entertain the strange notion that rivers are sent forth from the sea like the blood in the veins of the human body.[358] One gets the impression that the rivers flow up-hill toward their sources, since one reads that “the Rhine is sent forth by the force of the sea”[359] and that “some rivers go forth from the sea impetuously, others slowly according to the winds.”

Since Hildegard lived on the Nahe or Rhine all her life she must indeed have been absorbed in her visions and monastic life not to have learned in which direction a river flows; and perhaps we should supply the explanation, which she certainly does not expressly give in the Subtilitates, that the sea feeds the rivers by evaporation or through subterranean [Pg 133] passages. Perhaps a passage in the Causae et curae may be taken as a correction or explanation of the preceding assertions, in which case that work would seem to be of later date than the Subtilitates. In it too Hildegard states that “springs and rivers” which “flow from the sea” are better in the east than in the west, but her next sentence straightway adds that they are salt and leave a salt deposit on the sands where they flow which is medicinal.[360] The waters rising from the southern sea are also spoken of by her as salt.[361] Even in the Causae et curae she speaks of the water of the great sea which surrounds the world as forming a sort of flank to the waters above the firmament.[362]

Suggestions concerning drinking-water.

On the subject of whether waters are wholesome to drink or not Hildegard comes a trifle nearer the truth and somewhat reminds us of the discussions of the same subject in Pliny and Vitruvius.[363] She says that swamp water should always be boiled,[364] that well water is better to drink than spring-water and spring-water than river water, which should be boiled and allowed to cool before drinking;[365] that rain-water is inferior to spring-water[366] and that drinking snow-water is dangerous to the health.[367] The salt waters of the west she regards as too turbid, while the fresh waters of the west are not warmed sufficiently by the sun and should be boiled and allowed to cool before using.[368] The salt waters arising from the south sea are venomous from the presence in them of worms and small animals. Southern fresh waters have been purged by the heat, but make the [Pg 134] flesh of men fatty and of black color.[369] Hildegard is not the first author to advise the boiling of drinking-water,[370] but she certainly lays great stress on this point.

The devil as the negative principle.

While the scheme of the universe put forward by ancient and medieval science is, as we have seen, on the whole adopted even in Hildegard’s most visionary writings, it is equally true that the religious interest is by no means absent from her two works of medicine and natural history. In the first place, the devil is a force in nature which she often mentions. Her opening the Causae et curae with a discussion of creation—of course a usual starting-point with the medieval scientist—soon leads her to speak of the fall of Lucifer. She has a rather good theory that Lucifer in his perverse will strove to raise himself to Nothing, and that since what he wished to do was Nothing, he fell into nothingness and could not stand because he could find no foundation under him.[371] But after the devil was unable to create anything out of nothing and fell from heaven, God created the firmament and sun, moon, and stars to show how great He was and to make the devil realize what glory he had lost.[372] Other creatures who willingly join themselves to the devil lose their own characteristics and become nothing.[373] Lucifer himself is not permitted to move from Tartarus or he would upset the elements and celestial bodies, but a [Pg 135] throng of demons of varying individual strength plot with him against the universe.[374] But in other passages Hildegard seems to admit freely the influence, if not the complete presence, of the devil in nature. And he has the power of deceiving by assumed appearances, as Adam was seduced by the serpent.

Natural substances and evil spirits.

Indeed, the dragon to this day hates mankind and has such a nature and such diabolical arts in itself that sometimes when it emits its fiery breath, the spirits of the air disturb the air.[375] This illustrates a common feature of Hildegard’s natural history and pharmacy; namely, the association of natural substances with evil spirits either in friendly or hostile relationships. In the preface to the first book of the Subtleties she states that some herbs cannot be endured by demons, while there are others of which the devil is fond and to which he joins himself. In mandragora, for example, “the influence of the devil is more present than in other herbs; consequently man is stimulated by it according to his desires, whether they be good or bad.”[376] On the other hand, the holm-oak is hostile to the spirits of the air; one who sleeps under its shade is free from diabolical illusions, and fumigating a house with it drives out the evil spirits.[377] Certain fish, too, have the property of expelling demons, whether one eats them or burns their livers or bones.[378] Finally, stones and metals have their relations to evil spirits. It is advisable for a woman in childbirth to hold the gem jasper in her hand, “in order that malignant spirits of the air may be the less able to harm her and her child; for the tongue of the ancient serpent extends itself towards the perspiration of the child, as it emerges from the mother’s womb.”[379] Not only does the touch of red-hot steel weaken the force of poison in food or drink, but that metal also signifies the divinity of God, and the devil flees from and avoids it.[380]

[Pg 136]

Stars and fallen angels: sin and nature.

It is perhaps not very surprising that we should find in Hildegard’s works notions concerning nature which we met back in the Enoch literature, since some of her writings take the same form of recorded visions as Enoch’s, while one of them, the Liber vitae meritorum, is equally apocalyptic. At any rate, in the Scivias in the second vision, where Lucifer is cast out of glory because of his pride, the fallen angels are seen as a great multitude of stars, as in the Book of Enoch, and we are told that the four elements were in harmony before Lucifer’s fall.[381] The disturbing effect of sin, even human, upon nature is again stated in the Causae et curae, where it is said that normally the elements serve man quietly and perform his works. But when men engage in wars and give way to hate and envy, the elements are apt to rage until men repent and seek after God again.[382] In the Liber vitae meritorum, too, the elements complain that they are overturned and upset by human depravity and iniquity.[383]

Nature in Adam’s time: the antediluvian period.

The influence of the Christian religion is further shown and that of the Bible in particular is manifested by numerous allusions to Adam and the earliest period of Biblical history, but very few of them find any justification in the scriptural narrative. Thus the Liber divinorum operum states[384] that after the fall of Adam and before the deluge the sun and moon and planets and other stars were “somewhat turbulent from excessive heat,” and that the men of that time possessed great bodily strength in order that they might endure this heat. The deluge reduced the temperature and men since have been weaker. In the preface to the fifth book of the Subtleties we are told that there are certain plants which fish eat, and which, if man could procure and eat, would enable him to go without food for four or five months. Adam used to eat them at times after he [Pg 137] had been cast out of Eden, but not when he could get enough other food, as they make the flesh tough. In the preface to the eighth book Hildegard says that all creatures were good before Adam’s fall, but when Abel’s blood stained the soil noxious humors arose from which venomous and deadly reptiles were generated. These perished in the deluge, but others were generated from their putrefying carcasses. In the Causae et curae, too, the names of Adam and Eve occasionally appear in the chapter headings, for instance, “Of Adam’s fall and of melancholy.”[385]

Spiritual lessons from natural phenomena.

Hildegard also held the view, common among medieval Christian writers, that one purpose of the natural world about us is to illustrate the spiritual world and life to come, and that invisible and eternal truths may be manifested in visible and temporal objects. In the Scivias she hears a voice from heaven saying, “God who established all things by His will, created them to make His Name known and honored, not only moreover showing in the same what are visible and temporal, but also manifesting in them what are invisible and eternal.”[386] But neither Hildegard nor medieval Christians in general thought that the only purpose of natural phenomena and science was to illustrate spiritual truth and point a moral. But this always constituted a good excuse which sounded well when one of the clergy wished to investigate or write about things of nature. Not that we mean to question the sincerity of the medieval writers one whit more than that of certain “Christian colleges” of the present which deem it wise to demonstrate their piety and orthodoxy by maintaining compulsory chapel attendance and holding an occasional “Convocation.” But certainly our abbess of Bingen in the course of her writings, especially the Subtleties and Causae et curae, lists many natural phenomena and medical recipes without making any mention of what spiritual truth they may or may not illustrate.

[Pg 138]

Hildegard’s attitude toward magic.

Associating natural substances as much with the devil or spirits of the air as she does, it is not surprising that Hildegard believes in the reality of magic and has something to say about it. Magic is regarded by Hildegard as an evil and diabolical art. She describes it in a vision of the Scivias, where God Himself is represented as speaking, as the art of seeing and hearing the devil, which was taught to men by Satan himself.[387] Similarly in the Liber divinorum operum it is stated that Antichrist will excel “in all diabolical arts” and in “the magic art.”[388] This was of course the usual Christian view. In the Liber vitae meritorum with more apparent originality Magic or Maleficium is presented as one of the personified Vices and is allowed to speak for itself. It is represented as having the body of a dog, the head of a wolf, and the tail of a lion. This beast or image speaks in its own praise and defense as follows.

Magic Art’s defense.

“Of Mercury and other philosophers I will say many things, who by their investigations harnessed the elements in such wise that they discovered most certainly everything that they wished. Those very daring and very wise men learned such things partly from God and partly from evil spirits. And why shouldn’t they? And they named the planets after themselves, since they had made many investigations and learned a great deal concerning the sun and moon and stars. I, moreover, rule and reign wherever I list in those arts, forsooth in the heavenly luminaries, in trees and herbs and all that grows in the earth, and in beasts and animals upon the earth, and in worms both above and below the earth. And on my marches who is there that resists me? God created all things, so in these arts I do Him no injury. For He wishes it, as is proved in His scriptures and perfect works. And what would be the advantage, if His works were so blind that no cause could be studied in them? There wouldn’t be any.”[389]

[Pg 139]

True Worship’s reply to Magic.

To this bold attempt of Magic to identify itself with scientific investigation, the True Worship of God responds with the counter question, “Whether it is more pleasing to God to adore Him or His works?” and reminds Maleficium that mere creatures which proceed from God can give life to no one and that man is the only rational created being. “You, moreover, O Magic Art, have the circle without the center, and while you investigate many problems in the circle of creation ... you have robbed God of His very name.” This reply does not seem to separate magic and scientific investigation or to deny Magic’s claim that they are identical, and its force would seem about as cogent against science as against magic. But a little later in the same work Hildegard reverts to her former charge that maleficium is “by diabolical arts,” and that its devotees “by directing all their works to impurity turn their science also to the pursuit of evils.” “For they name demons as their gods and worship them instead of God.”[390]

Magic properties of natural substances.

That magic, however diabolical it may be, does employ natural forces and substances, is not only asserted by Magic Art itself, but freely admitted by Hildegard in her discussions of the properties of animals, plants, and minerals in her other two works, the Subtleties of Diverse Creatures and Cases and Cures. In the latter work she states that while herbs in the east are full of virtue and have a good odor and medicinal properties, those in the west are potent in the magic art and for other phantasms but do not contribute much to the health of the human body.[391] In the former work she tells that the tree-toad is much employed in diabolical arts, especially when the trees are beginning to leaf and blossom, since at this time the spirits of the air are especially active.[392] Sometimes, however, there is a way to remove this magic virtue from a natural substance. The root mandragora “is no longer efficacious for magic and fantastic purposes,” if it is purified in a fountain for a [Pg 140] day and a night immediately after it has been dug from the earth.[393]

Instances of counter-magic.

There are also substances which counteract magic. It has little force in any place where a fir-tree grows, for the spirits of the air hate and avoid such spots.[394] In the Causae et curae Hildegard tells how to compound a powder “against poison and against magic words.”[395] It also “confers health and courage and prosperity on him who carries it with him.” First one takes a root of geranium (storkesnabil) with its leaves, two mallow plants, and seven shoots of the plantagenet. These must be plucked at midday in the middle of April. Then they are to be laid on moist earth and sprinkled with water to keep them green for a while. Next they are dried in the setting sun and in the rising sun until the third hour, when they should once more be laid on moist earth and sprinkled with water until noon. Then they are to be removed and placed facing the south in the full sunshine until the ninth hour, when they should be wrapped in a cloth, with a stick on top to hold them in place, until a trifle before midnight. Then the night begins to incline towards day and all the evils of darkness and night begin to flee. A little before midnight, therefore, they should be transferred to a high window or placed above a door or in some garden where the cool air may have access to them. As soon as midnight is passed, they are to be removed once more, pulverized with the middle finger, and put in a new pill-box with a little bisemum to keep them from decaying but not a sufficient quantity to overcome the scent of the herbs. A little of this powder may be applied daily to the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, or it may be bound on the body as an antiaphrodisiac, or it may be held over wine without touching it but so that its odor can reach the wine, which should then be drunk with a bit of saffron as a preventive of indigestion, poison, magic, and so forth.

[Pg 141]

Ceremony with a jacinth and wheaten loaf.

In the Subtilitates[396] the following procedure is recommended, if anyone is bewitched by phantasms or magic words so that he goes mad. Take a wheaten loaf and cut the upper crust in the form of a cross. First draw a jacinth through one line of the cross, saying, “May God who cast away all the preciousness of gems from the devil when he transgressed His precept, remove from you N. all phantasms and magic words and free you from the ill of this madness.” Then the jacinth is to be drawn through the other arm of the cross and this formula is to be repeated, “As the splendor which the devil once possessed departed from him because of his transgression, so may this madness which harasses N. by varied phantasies and magic arts be removed from you and depart from you.” The ceremony is then completed by the bewitched person eating the bread around the cross.

Hildegard’s superstitious procedure.

These two illustrations make it apparent that Hildegard has a licit magic of her own which is every whit as superstitious as the magic art which she condemns. It is evident that she accepts not only marvelous and occult virtues of natural substances such as herbs and gems, but also the power of words and incantations, and rites and ceremonies of a most decidedly magical character. In the second passage this procedure assumed a Christian character, but the plucking and drying of the herbs in the first passage perhaps preserves the flavor of primitive Teutonic or Celtic paganism. Nor is such superstitious procedure resorted to merely against magic, to whose operations it forms a sort of homeopathic counterpart. It is also employed for ordinary medicinal purposes, and is a characteristic feature of Hildegard’s conception of nature and whole mental attitude. This we may further illustrate by running through the books of the Subtilitates.

Use of herbs.

Except for passages connecting the devil with certain herbs which we have already noted, Hildegard’s discussion of vegetation is for the most part limited to medicinal properties [Pg 142] of herbs, which are effective without the addition of fantastic ceremonial. Sometimes nevertheless the herbs are either prepared or administered in a rather bizarre fashion. Insanity may be alleviated, we are told, by shaving the patient’s head and washing it in the hot water in which agrimonia has been boiled, while the hot herbs themselves are bound in a cloth first over his heart and then upon his forehead and temples.[397] An unguent beneficial alike for digestive and mental disorders is made of the bark, leaves, and bits of the green wood of the fir-tree, combined with saliva to half their weight. This mess is to be boiled in water until it becomes thick, then butter is to be added, and the whole strained through a cloth.[398] The mandragora root should first be worn bound between the breast and navel for three days and three nights, then divided in halves and these bound on the thighs for three days and three nights. Finally the left half of the root, which resembles the human figure, should be pulverized, camphor added to it, and eaten.[399] If a man is always sad and in the dumps, after purifying the mandragora root in a fountain, let him take it to bed with him, hold it so that it will be warmed by the heat of his body, and say, “God, who madest man from the dust of the earth without grief, I now place next me that earth which has never transgressed”—Hildegard has already stated that the mandragora is composed “of that earth of which Adam was created”—“in order that my clay may feel that peace just as Thou didst create it.” That the prayer or incantation is more essential than the virtue of the mandragora in this operation, is indicated by the statement that shoots of beech, cedar, or aspen may be used instead of the mandragora.

Marvelous virtues of gems.

Other marvelous effects than routing the devil, which Hildegard attributes to gems in the course of the fourth book of the Subtilitates, are to confer intellect and science for the day, to banish anger and dulness, bestow an equable temper, restrain lust, cure all sorts of diseases and infirmities, [Pg 143] endow with the gift of sound speech, prevent thefts at night, and enable one to fast. These marvelous results are produced either by merely having the stone in one’s possession, or by holding it in the hand, placing it next the skin, taking it to bed with one and warming it by the heat of the body, breathing on it, holding it in the mouth especially when fasting, suspending it about the neck, or making the sign of the cross with it. In the cure of insanity by use of the magnet the stone should be moistened with the patient’s saliva and drawn across his forehead while an incantation is repeated.[400] A man may be brought out of an epileptic fit by putting an emerald in his mouth.[401] Having recovered, he should remove the gem from his mouth and say, “As the spirit of the Lord filled the earth, so may His grace fill the temple of my body that it may never be moved.” This ceremony is to be repeated on nine successive mornings, and that here the gem is as important as the prayer is indicated by the direction that the patient should have the gem with him each time and take it out and look at it as he repeats the incantation. Different is the procedure for curing epilepsy by means of the gem achates.[402] In this case the stone should be soaked in water for three days at the full moon; this water should be slightly warmed, and then preserved, and all the patient’s food cooked in it dum luna tota crescat. The gem should also be placed in everything that he drinks. This astrological procedure is to be repeated for ten months.

Remarkable properties of fish.

We have already heard that certain fish have the property of expelling demons. Fish also have other remarkable virtues. The eye of a copprea, worn in a gold or silver ring so that it touches one’s finger, arouses a sluggish intellect.[403] The lung of a tunny fish, taken in water, is good for a fever, and it keeps one in good health to wear shoes and a belt made of its skin.[404] Pulverized salmon bones are recommended [Pg 144] for bad teeth.[405] But eating the head of a barbo gives one a headache and fever.[406] Hildegard also tells some wonderful stories concerning the modes of generation of different varieties of fish. In the Causae et curae[407] for dimness of the eyes it is recommended to dry some walrus skin in the sun, soften it in pure wine, and apply it in a cloth between the eyes at night. It should be removed at midnight and applied only on alternate nights for a week. “Either it will remove dimness of the eyes, or God does not permit this to be done.”

Use of the parts of birds.

To render available or to enhance the occult virtues of birds Hildegard suggests a great amount of complicated ceremonial. The heart of a vulture, split in two, dried before a slow fire and in the sun, and worn sewn up in a belt of doeskin, makes one tremble in the presence of poison.[408] This is explained by the vulture’s own antipathy to poison, which is increased and purified by the fire, sun, and especially by the belt, for the doe is swifter and more sensitive than other animals. Mistiness is marvelously removed from the eyes by catching a nightingale before day-break, adding a single drop of dew found on clean grass to its gall, and anointing the eyebrows and lashes frequently with the same.[409] Another eye-cure consists in cooking a heron’s head in water, removing its eyes, alternately drying them in the sun and softening them in cold water for three successive times, pulverizing and dissolving them in wine, and at night frequently touching the eyes and lids with the tip of a feather dipped in this concoction.[410] The blood of a crane, dried and preserved, and its right foot are employed in varied ways to facilitate child-birth.[411] Hildegard also often tells how to make a medicinal unguent by cooking some bird in some prescribed manner and then pulverizing certain portions of the carcass with various herbs or other animal substances.[412] Even without the employment of ceremonial [Pg 145] sufficiently remarkable powers are attributed to the bodies or parts of birds. Eating the flesh of one reduces fat and benefits epileptics, while eating its liver is good for melancholy.[413] The liver of a swan has the different property of purifying the lungs, while the lung of a swan is a cure for the spleen.[414] Again, a heron’s liver cures stomach trouble, while a cure for spleen is to drink water in which its bones have been stewed, and if one who is sad eats its heart, it will make him glad.[415]

Cures from quadrupeds.

Hildegard’s chapters on quadrupeds are so delightfully quaint that I cannot pass them over, although the properties which she attributes to them and the methods by which their virtues are utilized are not essentially different from those in examples already given. The camel, however, is peculiar in that its different humps have quite different virtues.[416] The one next to its neck has the virtues of the lion; the second, those of the leopard; the third, those of the horse. A cap of lion’s skin cures ailments of the head whether physical or mental.[417] Deafness may be remedied by cutting off a lion’s right ear and holding it over the patient’s ear just long enough to warm it and to say, “Hear adimacus by the living God and the keen virtue of a lion’s hearing.” This process is to be repeated many times. The heart of a lion is somewhat similarly employed, but without any incantation, to make a stupid person prudent. Burying a lion’s heart in the house is regarded as fire insurance against its being struck by lightning, “for the lion is accustomed to roar when he hears thunder.” Digestion is aided by drinking water in which the dried liver of a lion has been left for a short time. Placing a bit of the skin from between a bear’s eyes over one’s heart removes timidity and anxiety.[418] If anyone suffers from paralysis or one of those changeable diseases which wax and wane with the moon like lunacy, let him select a spot where an ass has been slain, or has died a natural death, or has wallowed, and let him [Pg 146] spread a cloth on the grass or ground and repose there a short time and sleep if he can. Afterwards you should take him by the right hand and say, “Lazarus slept and rested and rose again; and as Christ roused him from foul decay, so may you rise from this perilous pestilence and the changing phases of fever in that conjunction in which Christ applied Himself to the alleviation of such complaints, prefiguring that He would redeem man from his sins and raise him from the dead.” With a brief interval of time allowed between, the same performance is to be repeated thrice in the same place on the same day, and then again thrice on the next and the third days, when the patient will be cured.[419]

The unicorn, weasel, and mouse.

The liver and skin of the unicorn have great medicinal virtues, but that animal can never be caught except by means of girls, for it flees from men but stops to gaze diligently at girls, because it marvels that they have human forms, yet no beards. “And if there are two or three girls together, it marvels so much the more and is the more quickly captured while its eyes are fixed on them. Moreover, the girls employed in capturing it should be of noble, not peasant birth, and of the middle period of adolescence.”[420] When one weasel is sick, another digs up a certain herb and breathes and urinates on it for an hour, and then brings it to the sick weasel who is cured by it.[421] But what this herb is is unknown to men and other animals, and it would do them no good if they did know it, since its unaided virtue is not efficacious, nor would the action of their breath or urine make it so. But the heart of a weasel, dried and placed with wax in the ear, benefits headache or deafness, and the head of a weasel, worn in two pieces in a belt next the skin, strengthens and comforts the bearer and keeps him from harm. The mouse, besides being responsible for two other equally marvelous cures, is a remedy for epilepsy. “For inasmuch as the mouse runs away from everything, therefore it drives away the falling disease.”[422] It should be [Pg 147] put in a dish of water, and the patient should drink some of this water and also wash his feet and forehead in it.

What animals to eat and wear.

Hildegard gives some strange advice what animal products to eat and wear. “Sheepskins are good for human wear, because they do not induce pride or lust or pestilence as the skins of certain other animals do.”[423] Pork is not good for either sick or healthy persons to eat, in her opinion, while beef, on account of its intrinsic cold, is not good for a man of cold constitution to eat.[424] On the other hand, she recommends as edible various birds which would strike the modern reader as disgusting.[425]

Insects and reptiles.

Fleas remain underground in winter but come forth to plague mankind when the sun dries the soil in summer. But one may be rid of them by heating some earth until it is quite dry and then scattering it upon the bed.[426] Hildegard also describes a complicated cure for leprosy by use of the earth from an ant-hill.[427] If a man kills a certain venomous snake just after it has skinned itself in the cleft of a rock, and cautiously removes its heart and dries the same in the sun, and then preserves it in a thin metal cover, it will serve as an amulet. Holding it in his hand will render him immune to venom and cheer him up if he becomes gloomy or sorrowful.[428]

Animal compounds.

In the Causae et curae Hildegard combines the virtues of parts of a number of animals into one composite medicine for epilepsy.[429] Four parts of dried mole’s blood are used because the mole sometimes shows himself and sometimes hides, like the epilepsy itself. Two parts of powdered duck’s bill are added because the duck’s strength is in its beak, “and because it touches both pure and impure things with its bill, it is repugnant to this disease which is sudden and silent.” One portion of the powdered claws of a goose, minus the skin and flesh, is added for much the same reason, and the claw of a goose rather than a gander is required [Pg 148] because the female bird is the more silent of the two. These constituents are bound together in a cloth, placed for three days near a recent molecast,—for such earth is more wholesome, then are put near ice to cool and then in the sun to dry. Cakes are then to be made with this powder and the livers of some edible animal and bird and a little meal and cummin seed, and eaten for five days. Against diabolical phantasms is recommended a belt made of the skin of a roebuck, which is a pure animal, and of the skin of the helun, which is a brave beast, and hence both are abhorred by evil spirits.[430] The two strips of skin are to be fastened together by four little steel[431] nails, and as each is clasped one repeats the formula, “In the most potent strength of almighty God I adjure you to safeguard me”; only in the second, third, and fourth instance instead of saying “I adjure” (adiuro), the words benedico, constituo, and confirmo are respectively substituted. One should be girded with this belt night and day, and magic words will not harm one.

Magic and astrology closely connected.

We have already encountered more than one instance of observance of the phases of the moon in Hildegard’s medicinal and magical procedure, and have met in one of her formulae a hint that Christ employed astrological election of a favorable conjunction in performing His miracles. Thus as usual the influence of the stars is difficult to separate from other occult virtues of natural substances, and we may complete our survey of Hildegard’s writings by considering her views concerning the celestial bodies and divination of the future.

Astrology and divination condemned.

In the passage of the Scivias to which we have already referred God condemned astrology and divination as well as magic.[432] Mathematici are called “deadly instructors and followers of the Gentiles in unbelief,” and man is reproved [Pg 149] for believing that the stars allot his years of life and regulate all human actions, and for cultivating in the place of his Creator mere creatures such as the stars and heavens, which cannot console or help him, or confer either prosperity or happiness. Man should not consult the stars as to the length of his life, which he can neither know beforehand nor alter. He should not seek signs of the future in either stars or fire or birds or any other creature. “The error of augury” is expressly rebuked. Man should abstain not only from worshiping or invoking the devil but from making any inquiries from him, “since if you wish to know more than you should, you will be deceived by the old seducer.”

Signs in the stars.

It is true that sometimes by divine permission the stars are signs to men, for the Son of God Himself says in the Gospel by Luke that “There shall be signs in the sun and moon and stars,” and His incarnation was revealed by a star. But it is a stupid popular error to suppose that other men each have a star of their own, and, continues God, speaking through the medium of Hildegard, “That star brought no aid to My Son other than that it faithfully announced His incarnation to the people, since all stars and creatures fear Me and simply fulfill My dictates and have no signification of anything in any creature.” This last observation receives further interpretation in a passage of the Causae et Curae[433] which explains that the stars sometimes show many signs, but not of the future or hidden thoughts of men, but of matters which they have already revealed by act of will or voice or deed, so that the air has received an impression of it which the stars can reflect back to other men if God allows it. But the sun and moon and planets do not always thus portray the works of men, but only rarely, and in the case of some great event affecting the public welfare.

[Pg 150]

Superiors and inferiors; effect of stars and winds on elements and humors.

If the stars do not even signify the fate and future of man, they are none the less potent forces and, under God, causes in the world of nature. “God who created all things,” writes Hildegard in the Liber divinorum operum,[434] “so constituted superiors that He also strengthens and purifies things below through these, and in the human form introduces also those things allotted for the soul’s salvation.” This passage has two sides; it affirms the rule of superiors over inferiors, but it makes special provision for the salvation of the human soul. And thus it is a good brief summary of Hildegard’s position. Sun, moon, and stars are represented as by the will of God cooperating with the winds—which play an important part in Hildegard’s cosmology—in driving the elements to and fro;[435] and the humors in the human body now rage fiercely like the leopard, now move sluggishly like the crab, now proceed in other ways analogous to the wolf or deer or bear or serpent or lamb or lion—animals whose heads, belching forth winds, are seen in the vision about the rim of the heavenly spheres.[436] They suggest the influence of the signs of the zodiac, although there appears to be no exact correspondence to these in Hildegard’s visionary scheme of the universe as detailed in the Liber divinorum operum. In the Causae et curae, on the other hand, she gives a detailed account of how pairs or triplets of planets accompany the sun through each of the twelve signs.[437] In other passages[438] she affirms that the sun and moon serve man by divine order, and bring him strength or weakness according to the temper of the air.

Influence of the moon on human health and generation.

Hildegard more especially emphasizes the influence of the moon, in which respect she resembles many an astrologer. In the Causae et curae[439] she states that some days of the moon are good, others bad; some, useful and others, useless; some, strong and others, weak. “And since the moon [Pg 151] has this changeability in itself, therefore the moisture in man has its vicissitudes and mutability in pain, in labor, in wisdom, and in prosperity.” Similarly in the Liber divinorum operum[440] it is noted that human blood and brain are augmented when the moon is full and diminish as it wanes, and that these changes affect human health variously. Sometimes one incurs epilepsy when the moon is in eclipse.[441] The moon is the mother of all seasons. Hildegard marvels in the Causae et curae[442] that while men have sense enough not to sow crops in mid-summer or the coldest part of winter, they persist in begetting offspring at any time according to their pleasure without regard either to the proper period of their own lives or to the time of the moon. The natural consequence of their heedlessness is the birth of defective children. Hildegard then adds[443] by way of qualification that the time of the moon does not dominate the nature of man as if it were his god, or as if man received any power of nature from it, or as if it conferred any part of human nature. The moon simply affects the air, and the air affects man’s blood and the humors of his body.

Relations of the four humors to human character and fate.

Hildegard, however, not only believed that as the humors were perturbed and the veins boiled, the health of the body would be affected and perhaps a fever set in,[444] but also that passions, such as wrath and petulance, were thereby aroused and the mind affected.[445] This is suggested in a general way in the Liber divinorum operum, but is brought out in more detail in the Causae et curae, where various types of men are delineated according to the combinations of humors in their bodies, and their characters are sketched and even their fate to some extent predicted therefrom. In one case[446] “the man will be a good scholar, but headlong and too vehement in his studies, so that he scatters his knowledge [Pg 152] over too wide a field, as straw is blown by the wind; and he seeks to have dominion over others. In body he is healthy except that his legs are weak and he is prone to gout; but he can live a long while, if it so please God.” Such a passage hardly sounds consistent with Hildegard’s statement elsewhere already noted that man cannot know the length of his life beforehand. In the case of choleric, sanguine, melancholy, and phlegmatic men[447] Hildegard states what the relations of each type will be with women and even to some extent what sort of children they will have. She also discusses four types of women in very similar style.[448] These are not exactly astrological predictions, but they have much the same flavor and seem to leave little place for freedom of the will.

Hildegard’s varying position.

In one passage, however, Hildegard comfortingly adds that nevertheless the Holy Spirit can penetrate the whole nature of man and overcome his mutable nature as the sun dispels clouds, and so counteract the moist influence of the moon. She also states concerning the significations of the stars concerning man’s future, “These significations are not produced by the virtue of the planets themselves alone or stars or clouds, but by the permission and will and decree of God, according as God wished to demonstrate to men the works of the same, just as a coin shows the image of its lord.”[449] In another passage, on the other hand, Hildegard recognizes, like Aquinas later, that it is only rarely and with difficulty that the flesh can be restrained from sinning.[450]

Nativities for the days of the moon.

Finally, the Causae et curae close with predictions for each day of the moon of the type of male or female who will be conceived on that day.[451] Selecting the eighteenth day by lot as an example of the others, we read that a male conceived then will be a thief and will be caught in the act and will be deprived of his landed property so that he possesses neither fields nor vineyards, but strives to [Pg 153] take from others what is not his. He will be healthy in body and live a long life, if left to himself. A woman conceived on that day will be cunning and deceitful of speech and will lead upright men to death if she can. She too will be sound of body and naturally long-lived, but sometimes insane. Hildegard then seems to feel it advisable to add, “But such morals, both in men and in women, are hateful to God.”

Man the microcosm.

The theory of macrocosm and microcosm had a considerable attraction for Hildegard. At the beginning of the Causae et curae she exclaims, “O man, look at man! For man has in himself heavens and earth ... and in him all things are latent.”[452] Presently she compares the firmament to man’s head, sun, moon, and stars to the eyes, air to hearing, the winds to smelling, dew to taste, and “the sides of the world” to the arms and sense of touch. The earth is like the heart, and other creatures in the world are like the belly.[453] In the Liber divinorum operum she goes into further detail. Between the divine image in human form which she sees in her visions and the wheel or sphere of the universe she notes such relationships as these. The sun spreads its rays from the brain to the heel, and the moon directs its rays from the eyebrows to the ankles.[454] Elsewhere she says, “The eyebrows of man declare the journeyings of the moon, namely, the one route by which it approaches the sun in order to restore itself, and the other by which it recedes after it has been burnt by the sun.”[455] Again, from the top of the cerebral cavity to “the last extremity of the forehead” there are seven distinct and equal spaces, by which are signified the seven planets which are equidistant from one another in the firmament.[456] An even more surprising assumption as to astronomical distances is involved in the comparison[457] that as the three intervals between the top of the human head and the end of the throat and the navel and the groin are all equal, so are the spaces intervening [Pg 154] between the highest firmament and lowest clouds and the earth’s surface and center. Corresponding to these intervals Hildegard notes three ages of man, infancy, adolescence, and old age. One more passage may be noted, since it also involves a similar explanation of weeping for joy to that given by Adelard of Bath. As the heart is stirred by emotion, whether of joy or of sorrow, humors are excited in the lungs and breast which rise to the brain and are emitted through the eyes in the form of tears. And in like manner, when the moon begins to wax or wane, the firmament is disturbed by winds which raise fogs from the sea and other waters.[458]

Divination in dreams.

If Hildegard resorts to a magic of her own in order to counteract the diabolical arts, and if she accepts a certain amount of astrological doctrine for all her censure of it, it is not surprising to find her in the Causae et curae saying a word in favor of natural divination in dreams despite her rejection of augury and such arts. She believes that, when God sent sleep to Adam before he had yet sinned, his soul saw many things in true prophecy, and that the human soul may still sometimes do the same, although too often it is clouded by diabolical illusions.[459] But when the body is in a temperate condition and the marrow warmed in due measure, and there is no disturbance of vices or contrariety of morals, then very often a sleeper sees true dreams.[460] Hildegard’s own visions, as we have seen, came to her in her waking hours.

[338] Singer (1917) p. 19.

[339] Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 197. This volume contains the account of Hildegard in the Acta Sanctorum, including the Vita sanctae Hildegardis auctoribus Godefrido et Theodorico monachis, etc.; the Subtilitatum diversarum naturarum creaturarum libri novem, as edited by Daremberg and Reuss; the Scivias and the Liber divinorum operum simplicis hominis. I shall cite this in the following chapter simply as Migne without repeating the number of the volume.

Pitra, Analecta sacra, vol. VIII (1882). This volume contains the only printed edition of the Liber vitae meritorum, pp. 1-244,—Heinemann, in describing a thirteenth century copy of it (MS 1053, S. Hildegardis liber meritorum vite) in 1886 in his Catalogue of Wolfenbüttel MSS, was therefore mistaken in speaking of it as “unprinted,”—an imperfect edition of the Liber compositae medicinae de aegritudinum causis signis atque curis, and other works by Hildegard.

A better edition of the last named work is: Hildegardis causae et curae, ed. Paulus Kaiser, Leipzig, Teubner, 1903.

Earlier editions of the Subtilitates were printed at Strasburg by J. Schott in 1533 and 1544 as follows:

Physica S. Hildegardis elementorum fluminum aliquot Germaniae metallorum leguminum fructuum et herbarum arborum et arbustorum piscium denique volatilium et animantium terrae naturas et operationes IV libris mirabili experientia posteritati tradens, Argentorati, 1533.

Experimentarius medicinae continens Trotulae curandarum aegritudinum muliebrum ... item quatuor Hildegardis de elementorum fluminum aliquot Germaniae metallorum ... herbarum piscium et animantium terrae naturis et operationibus, ed. G. Kraut, 1544.

F. A. Reuss, De libris physicis S. Hildegardis commentatio historico-medica, Würzburg, 1835.

F. A. Reuss, Der heiligen Hildegard Subtilitatum diversarum naturarum creaturarum libri novem, die werthvolleste Urkunde deutscher Natur- und Heilkunde aus dem Mittelalter. In Annalen des Vereins für Nassau. Alterthumskunde und Geschichtsforschung, Bd. VI, Heft i, Wiesbaden, 1859.

Jessen, C. in Sitzb. Vienna, Math, naturw. Klasse, (1862) XLV, i. 97.

Jessen, C. Botanik in kulturhistorischer Entwickelung, Leipzig, 1862, pp. 124-26.

Jessen, C. in Anzeiger für Kunde der deutschen Vorzeit, (1875), p. 175.

Von der Linde, Die Handschriften der Kgl. Landesbibl. in Wiesbaden, Wiesbaden, 1877.

Schmelzeis, J. Ph. Das Leben und Wirken der hl. Hildegardes, Freiburg, 1879.

Battandier, A. “Sainte Hildegarde, sa vie et ses œuvres,” in Revue des questions historiques, XXXIII (1883), 395-425.

Roth, F. W. E. in Zeitsch. für kirchl. Wissenschaft u. kirchl. Leben, Leipzig, IX (1888), 453.

Kaiser, P. Die Naturwissenschaftliche Schriften der hl. Hildegard, Berlin, 1901. (Schulprogramm des Königsstädtischen Gymnasiums in Berlin.) A pamphlet of 24 pages. See also his edition, mentioned above, of the Causae et curae.

Singer, Chas. “The Scientific Views and Visions of Saint Hildegard,” in Studies in the History and Method of Science, Oxford, 1917, pp. 1-55. Dr. Singer seems unacquainted with the above work by Kaiser, writing (p. 2) “The extensive literature that has risen around the life and works of Hildegard has come from the hands of writers who have shown no interest in natural knowledge.” Yet see also

Wasmann, E. “Hildegard von Bingen als älteste deutsche Naturforscherin,” in Biologisches Zentralblatt XXXIII (1913) 278-88. Herwegen in the Kirchl. Handlexicon (1908), I, 1970.

[340] Migne, 28, citing Baronius, Ann. 1148, from Epist. S. Thomas, I, 171.

[341] I have noted one MS of them in the British Museum, Harleian 1725.

[342] Migne, 84-85, 129-130.

[343] CLM 2619, 13th century, Gebenonis prioris Cisterc. in Eberbach, Speculum futurorum temporum sive Compendium prophetiarum S. Hildegardis; also, at Rome, Bibl. Alex. 172, 14th century, fols. 1-29.

[344] Early MSS of the Liber Scivias simplicis hominis are Palat. Lat. 311, 12th century, 204 fols.; Merton 160, early 13th century.

[345] Citing Preyer, Gesch. d. deutsch. Mystik. 1874; Hauck, Kirchengesch, Deutsch. IV, 398; Von Winterfeld, Neue Archiv, XXVII, 297.

[346] Migne, 101, quaedam de natura hominis et elementorum, diversarumque creaturarum. Singer, taking the words as an exact title of one work, tries to deny that they apply even to the Subtilitates; but the writer of the Vita is obviously simply giving a general idea of the subjects treated by Hildegard.

[347] In what is so far the only known extant copy, a thirteenth century MS at Copenhagen, which Jessen discovered in 1859 and called attention to in 1862 (Act. Acad. Vindob., XLV, i. 97-116), the Titulus is Causae et curae (shown in facsimile by Singer (1917), Plate 5a.)

[348] Pitra, 7-8, “Et ego testimonio hominis illius quem ut in prioribus visionibus praefata sum occulte quaesieram et inveneram et testimonio cuiusdam puellae mihi assistentis manus ad ascribendum posui.”

[349] Vincent of Beauvais, Speculum historiale, XXVII, 83, and other actors cited from the Acta Sanctorum in Migne, col. 197.

[350] This may be a further explanation of the use of German words in some of her works and their absence in others.

[351] Migne, 17, 19-20, 73-74, 93, 101.

[352] It is, however, the order in at least one of the MSS, Wolfenbüttel 3591, 14th century, fols. 1-174, except that the second book is called Of rivers instead of, Of elements: “B. Hildegardis Physica seu liber subtilitatum de diversis creaturis, scilicet f. 2 de herbis, f. 62 de fluminibus, f. 67 de arboribus, f. 90 de lapidibus preciosis, f. 106v de piscibus, f. 120 de volatilibus, f. 141 de animalibus, f. 162 de vermibus, f. 168 de metallis.

[353] It was, however, subdivided into three parts, treating respectively of fish, fowl, and other animals.

[354] The variety and confusing order of its contents may be best and briefly indicated by a list of chapter heads (pp. 33-52): De Adae casu, de spermate, de conceptu, quare homo hirsutus est, de reptilibus, de volatilibus, de piscibus, de conceptus diversitate, de infirmitatibus, de continentia, de incontinentia, de flegmaticis, de melancholis, de melancholice morbo, de elementorum commixtione, de rore, de pruina, de nebula, quod quatuor sunt elementa tantum, de anima et spiritibus, de Adae creatione, de capillis, de interioribus hominis, de auribus, de oculis et naribus, quod in homine sunt elementa, de sanguine, de carne, de generatione, de Adae vivificatione, de Adae prophetia, de animae infusione, de Adae somno, de Evae malitia, de exilio Adae, quare Eva prius cecidit, de diluvio, quare filii Dei, de lapidum gignitione, de iri, de terrae situ, quod homo constat de elementis, de flegmate diversitate, de humoribus, de frenesi, de contractis, de stultis, de paralysi.

[355] Causae et curae, pp. 20 and 30.

[356] Migne, 403-4.

[357] Migne, 791-95.

[358] Subtilitates, II, 3 (Migne, 1212), Mare flumina emittit quibus terra irrigatur velut sanguine venarum corpus hominis.

[359] Subtilitates, II, 5 (Migne), Rhenus a mari impetu emittitur. Singer (p. 14) is so non-plussed by this that he actually interprets mari as the lake of Constance, and asks, questioning Hildegard’s authorship of the Subtilitates, “How could she possibly derive all rivers, Rhine and Danube, Meuse and Moselle, Nahe and Glan, from the same lake, as does the author of the Liber subtilitatum?”

That all waters, fresh or salt, came originally from the sea is asserted in the Secretum Secretorum of the Pseudo-Aristotle, as edited by Roger Bacon: Steele (1920), p. 90.

[360] Causae et curae (1903), p. 24.

[361] Ibid., p. 25.

[362] Ibid., p. 23.

[363] See Vitruvius, Book VIII, chapters 2-4, on “Rain-water,” “Various Properties of Different Waters,” and “Tests of Good Water.” Pliny, NH, Book XXXI, chapters 21-23, on “The Wholesomeness of Waters,” “The Impurities of Water,” “Modes of Testing Water.”

[364] Causae et curae (1903), p. 27.

[365] Ibid., p. 28.

[366] Vitruvius held that rain-water was unusually wholesome, but Pliny disputed this notion.

[367] Causae et curae (1903), p. 30, “si quis eam bibit, ulcera et scabies in eo saepissime crescunt ac viscera eius livore implentur.” Pliny noted the belief that ice-water and snow-water were unhealthy, and both he (XXXVII, 11) and Vitruvius speak of Alpine streams which cause diseases or swellings in the throat.

[368] Causae et curae (1903), pp. 24-25.

[369] Causae et curae (1903), p. 26.

[370] Both Vitruvius and Pliny mention the practice, and the latter calls it an invention of the emperor Nero. A note, however, in Bostock and Riley’s translation of the Natural History states that Galen ascribed the practice to Hippocrates and that Aristotle was undoubtedly acquainted with it. When Pliny goes on to say, “Indeed, it is generally admitted that all water is more wholesome when it has been boiled,” another translator’s note adds, “This is not at all the opinion at the present day,” that is, 1856. But apparently the progress of medical and biological science since 1856 has been in this respect a retrogression to Pliny’s view.

[371] Causae et curae (1903), p. 1. Somewhat similarly Moses Maimonides, the Jewish philosopher, who was born thirty-seven years after Hildegard, held that evil was mere privation and that the personal devil of scripture was an allegorical representation thereof. He also denied the existence of demons, but considered belief in angels as second only in importance to a belief in God. See Finkelscherer (1894) pp. 40-51; Mischna Commentary to Aboda-zara, IV, 7; Lévy (1911) 89-90.

[372] Causae et curae (1903), p. 11.

[373] Ibid., p. 5.

[374] Causae et curae, pp. 57-58.

[375] Subtleties, VIII, 1.

[376] Ibid., I, 56.

[377] Ibid., III, 25.

[378] Ibid., V, 1 and 4.

[379] Ibid., IV, 10.

[380] Ibid., IX, 8.

[381] Migne, 387-9.

[382] (1903) p. 57.

[383] II, 1, “Querela elementorum. ‘Nam homines pravis operibus suis velut molendinum subvertunt nos.’” III, 23, “Quod elementa humanis iniquitatibus subvertuntur.”

[384] Migne, 966.

[385] (1903), p. 143.

[386] Migne, 404-405.

[387] Vision III, Migne, 410.

[388] Vision X, 28 and 32, Migne, 1028 and 1032.

[389] Pitra (1882) Vitae meritorum, V, 6-7.

[390] Vitae meritorum, V, 32.

[391] Causae et curae (1903) 31-32.

[392] Subtleties, VIII, 6.

[393] Subtleties, I, 56.

[394] Ibid., III, 23.

[395] (1903), p. 196.

[396] IV, 2.

[397] Subtleties, I, 114.

[398] Ibid., III, 23.

[399] Ibid., I, 56.

[400] Subtleties, IV, 18.

[401] Ibid., IV, 1.

[402] Ibid., IV, 16.

[403] Ibid., V, 8.

[404] Ibid., V, 1.

[405] Subtleties, V, 5.

[406] Ibid., V, 10.

[407] (1903), pp. 193-4.

[408] Subtleties, VI, 7.

[409] Ibid., VI, 49.

[410] Ibid., VI, 6.

[411] Ibid., VI, 4.

[412] Ibid., VI, 5, 20, 40.

[413] Subtleties, VI, 2.

[414] Ibid., VI, 5.

[415] Ibid., VI, 6.

[416] Ibid., VII, 2.

[417] Ibid., VII, 3.

[418] Ibid., VII, 4.

[419] Subtleties, VII, 9.

[420] Ibid., VII, 5.

[421] Ibid., VII, 38.

[422] Ibid., VII, 39.

[423] Subtleties, VII, 16.

[424] Ibid., VII, 17.

[425] Ibid., VII, 14.

[426] Ibid., VII, 42.

[427] Ibid., VII, 43.

[428] Ibid., VIII, 2.

[429] (1903), pp. 206-7.

[430] (1903), pp. 194-5.

[431] (1903), p. 195, “Nam calibs est firmamentum et ornamentum aliarum rerum et est quasi quaedam adiunctio ad vires hominis quemadmodum homo fortis est.”

[432] Migne, 409-14; I alter the order somewhat in my summary.

[433] (1903), p. 15.

[434] Migne, 807.

[435] Migne, 791 and 798.

[436] Migne, 732 et seq.

[437] (1903), pp. 11-14.

[438] Migne, 778.

[439] (1903), pp. 16-17.

[440] Migne, 779.

[441] Migne, 793.

[442] (1903), pp. 17-18; and again 77-78; see also p. 97, “de concepta in plenilunio.”

[443] (1903), p. 19.

[444] Migne, 793.

[445] (1903), p. 19.

[446] (1903), p. 54.

[447] Causae et curae (1903), pp. 70-76.

[448] Ibid., pp. 87-9.

[449] Ibid., pp. 19-20.

[450] Ibid., p. 84.

[451] Ibid., pp. 235-42.

[452] (1903), p. 2.

[453] (1903), p. 10.

[454] Migne, 779.

[455] Migne, 833.

[456] Migne, 819.

[457] Migne, 943.

[458] Migne, 829.

[459] (1903), p. 82.

[460] (1903), p. 83.

[Pg 155]



His picture of the learned world—Chief events of his life—General character of the Polycraticus—Magic, maleficia, and mathematica—Use of Isidore on magic—Relation of Thomas Becket to John’s discussion—Inconsistent Christian attitude toward superstition—Divine and natural signs—Miracle and occult virtue—Interpretation of dreams—Dreams of Joseph and Daniel—The witchcraft delusion—Prevalence of astrology—John’s attack upon it—Does astrology imply fatal necessity?—John’s lame conclusion—Other varieties of magic—Thomas Becket’s consultation of diviners—Witch of Endor: exorcisms—Divination from polished surfaces—Natural science and medicine—Summary.

His picture of the learned world.

In 1159 John of Salisbury completed his two chief works, the Metalogicus and the Polycraticus.[461] In the former he tells the interesting story of his education in the schools of northern France, and describes the teachers and methods of the humanistic school of Chartres and the schools of logic at Paris. This valuable picture of educational conditions in the middle of the twelfth century has already supplied us with a number of bits of information concerning authors of whom we have treated. Its importance in the history of the study of the classics and of scholasticism has long been recognized, and its content has often been reproduced in secondary works, so that we need not dwell upon it specifically here.[462] Moreover, although John spent some twelve years in his studies in France, he appears from his [Pg 156] own statements to have passed from the study of logic and “grammar” to that of theology without devoting much attention to natural science,[463] although he received some instruction in the Quadrivium from Richard Bishop and Hardewin the Teuton. He was, it is true, according to his own statement, a pupil of William of Conches for three years, but he always alludes to William as a grammarian, not as a writer on natural philosophy and astronomy. This one-sided description of William’s teaching warns us not to place too implicit faith in John’s account of the learned world of his times. Even if reliable as it stands, it is not in itself a complete or adequate picture. In the Polycraticus, however, he engages in a rather long discussion of magic, astrology and other forms of divination which it behooves us to note.

Chief events of his life.

John tells us that he was a mere lad when in 1136 he first came from England to Gaul to hear the famous Abelard lecture. Like many medieval students, he was or soon came to be in a needy condition and eked out a living at one time by tutoring the sons of nobles. During the time that had elapsed between his long training in the liberal arts and theology and his writing of the Metalogicus in 1159, he had led a busy life in the employ of Theobald, archbishop of Canterbury, crossing the Alps ten times, journeying twice all the way from England to Apulia, and frequently traveling about England and what is now France (John says, “the Gauls”—Gallias). In 1159 he addressed the Polycraticus to Thomas Becket, then absent with Henry II as his chancellor at the siege of Toulouse. Thomas was just about John’s age and, before he became chancellor in 1154 at the age of thirty-six, had been like John first a student and then in the employ of Archbishop Theobald. John sided with Thomas Becket in the struggle with Henry II, retired to France, and returned to England with him in 1170. In 1176 he crowned his career by becoming bishop [Pg 157] of Chartres where perhaps some years of his early studies had been spent. His death was in 1180.

General character of the Polycraticus.

In the Metalogicus John tells us that he has scarcely touched a book of logic since he left the palaestra of the dialecticians so many years ago, but he returns to the subject again in that work. In the Polycraticus his literary tastes and interests are more manifest. He writes a good Latin style and shows a wide acquaintance with classical authors and ancient history as well as with patristic literature. The character and content of the Polycraticus is more clearly suggested by its sub-title, “Courtiers’ Trifles and Philosophers’ Footprints” (De nugis curialium et vestigiis philosophorum). In part it is satirical, although there is considerable serious discussion of the state and philosophy and much moralizing for the benefit of contemporary courts and statesmen. John confesses that the entire work is little more than a patch-work of other men’s opinions, sometimes without specific acknowledgment of the authorities. He professes to believe that Thomas will recognize the sources of these passages without being told, while other readers who are more ignorant will be thereby spurred on to wider reading. These quotations, moreover, are either from ancient classical or comparatively early Christian writers. John does not epitomize recent literature and thought, although he makes application of the thought of the past to contemporary society and politics, and although he shows some acquaintance with the works of contemporary writers such as Bernard Silvester. In the main his attitude is essentially conservative; he repeats traditional views in an attractive but somewhat dilettante literary form, with such rational criticism as a study of the classics might be expected to produce when qualified by scrupulous adherence to medieval Christian dogma. This is especially true of his discussion of the magic arts and astrology.

Magic, maleficia, and mathematica.

John begins to discuss magic in the first of the eight books of the Polycraticus after a few chapters have been taken up with such other triflings of courtiers as hunting, [Pg 158] dicing, music, and theatrical shows and spectacles. More harmful than the illusions of the stage, he declares, are those of the magic arts and various kinds of disreputable mathematica, long since forbidden by the holy fathers who knew that all these artificia, or rather maleficia arose from a fatal familiarity of men and demons.[464] John thus takes as practically synonymous the three terms, magica, mathematica and maleficium. He presently explains that the word mathesis in one sense denotes learning in general, but that when it has a long penultima, it signifies the figments of divination,[465] which belong under magic, whose varieties are many and diverse. Thus magic is John’s most general and inclusive term for all occult arts.

Use of Isidore on magic.

The account of magic in John’s ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth chapters is largely derived without acknowledgment from that of Isidore of Seville.[466] We have already seen how this became a stock description of the subject copied with little change by successive writers and embodied in the decretals of the church. It is rather surprising that a writer as well versed in the classics as John is generally supposed to be should not have borrowed his account more directly from some such ancient Latin writers as Pliny and Apuleius. John, however, alters the wording and arrangement and consequently the emphasis considerably. He makes it seem, for example, that several magic arts, which really have nothing to do with predicting the future, are sub-varieties of divination. He also adds some new varieties to Isidore’s list of practitioners of the magic arts. The vultivoli try to affect men by making images of them from wax or clay. Imaginarii, on the other hand, make images with the intent that demons should enter these images and instruct them in regard to doubtful matters. Besides interpreters of dreams (conjectores) and chiromancers John further mentions specularii who practise divination by gazing into polished surfaces such as the edges of swords, [Pg 159] basins, and mirrors. It was this art that Joseph is described as exercising or pretending to exercise, when he charged his brothers with having made off with the cup in which he was wont to practice divination. The thirteenth and closing chapter of John’s first book is a long list of omens from Roman history and Latin literature, especially Vergil.

Relation of Thomas Becket to John’s discussion.

In the second book he resumes the same subject after a brief and somewhat apologetic preface in which he states that all things are of use to the wise man. Therefore he responds with alacrity to Thomas Becket’s request that he publish his trifles, introducing interpreters of dreams and astrologers with some other triflers. We shall later meet with some further explanation of Thomas’ interest in such matters. It is perhaps significant that John further expresses his confidence that Thomas will faithfully protect those in whom he has inspired boldness of utterance,[467] but it would be too much to assume from it that John fears any persecution because he discusses such subjects. More likely he merely shares the common medieval fear of the envious bite of critics and reviewers, or wishes to remind Thomas of his need of his patronage. At any rate he closes the prologue with the request that Thomas will correct any mistake in either book.

Inconsistent Christian attitude toward superstition.

In opening his second book John subscribes to the proverb that he who trusts in dreams and auguries will never be secure and asks—like Cicero in his De divinatione[468]—what possible connection there can be between sneezes, yawns, and other such things accepted as signs and the events which they are supposed to signify. With Isidore and Augustine[469]—although he names neither—he rejects those empty incantations [Pg 160] and superstitious ligatures which the entire medical art condemns, although some call them physica.[470] This seems like an admirable approach to an attitude of rational criticism, but John after all may be merely repeating others’ statements like a parrot, and he entirely spoils its effect by what he goes on to say. He believes that the cloak of St. Stephen raised the dead, and that such practices as saying the Lord’s prayer while plucking or administering medicinal herbs, or wearing or hearing or repeating the names of the four evangelists,[471] are not only allowable but most useful. He adds further that the force of all omens depends upon the faith of the recipient.

Divine and natural signs.

Although opposing faith in omens and augury, John admits that God provides signs for His creatures, such as those of the weather which sailors and farmers learn by experience and the birds are not ignorant of, or the indications by which doctors can prognosticate the course of diseases. Unfortunately the demons also are able to show signs and thus lead men astray. Mention of signs which preceded the fall of Jerusalem then leads John into a digression for several chapters concerning the horrors of the siege itself and Vespasian and Titus, a passage which was very likely inserted because Henry II and Becket were at that very time engaged in laying siege to Toulouse.

Miracle and occult virtue.

Returning to the subject of signs, John interprets the verse in Luke, “There shall be signs in sun and moon and stars” as having reference to unnatural signs, and the obscuration of the sun during Christ’s passion as not a natural eclipse.[472] John explains that by nature he means “the accustomed course of things or the occult causes of events for which a reason can be given.”[473] If, however, we accept Plato’s definition of nature as the will of God there will be no unnatural events. But John would distinguish between the gradual growth of leaves and fruit on tree or [Pg 161] vine by means of roots drawing nutriment from earth’s vitals and sap produced within the trunk, which is indeed marvelous and has the most occult causes, and the performance of the same process without any interval of time, which he regards as a miracle and of a divine height which transcends our understanding. After drawing this distinction between divine miracle and wonders wrought by occult virtues in nature John returns again to the subject of signs.

Interpretation of dreams.

For some chapters the topic of dreams and their interpretation absorbs his attention,[474] and at first he discusses in an apparently credulous and approving tone “the varied significations of dreams, which both experience approves and the authority of our ancestors confirms.”[475] He explains that now the dream concerns the dreamer himself, now someone else, now common interests, sometimes the public or general welfare; and he quotes Nestor to the effect that “trust is put in the king’s dream concerning public matters.”[476] After referring credulously to the Sibylline verses predicting Christ’s incarnation, passion, and ascension, John continues his exposition of the interpretation of dreams. He explains that the season of year when one dreams, the place where one dreams, and the personal characteristics of the dreamer must all be taken into account; that sometimes interpretations should be by contraries, and again from like to like. But then he checks himself with the words: “But while we pursue these traditions of the interpreters, I fear lest we deservedly seem not so much to trace the art of interpretation, which is either no art at all or an idle one, as to dream ourselves.” He adds further, “Whoever fastens his credulity to the significations of dreams evidently wanders as far from sincere faith as from the path of reason.”[477]

[Pg 162]

Dreams of Joseph and Daniel.

John then attacks the Dream-Book of Daniel, which he says “circulates impudently among the hands of the curious” and gives a specific interpretation for each thing imagined by the dreamer. He denies the truth and authority of the book and argues at some length that neither Joseph nor Daniel would have composed such a work, and that they interpreted dreams by divine inspiration, not by any occult art learned in Chaldea or Egypt. In the first place, the method of interpretation set forth in this book is faulty and crude. The remainder of John’s argument is worth quoting in part:

“Daniel indeed had the grace to interpret visions and dreams, which the Lord inspired in him, but it is inconceivable that a holy man should reduce this vanity to an art, when he knew that the Mosaic law prohibited any of the faithful to heed dreams, being aware how Satan’s satellite for the subversion of men is transformed into an angel of light and how suggestions are made by bad angels. Joseph, too, won the rule of Egypt by his ability to predict.... But if this could have come from any science of human wisdom, I should think that some one of his ancestors before him would have merited it, or I should think that the saint, desirous of serving science and full of pious impulses, would have left the art as a legacy, if not to the human race at large, which would nevertheless have been just, at any rate to his brothers and sons. Besides, Moses, trained in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, either was ignorant of or spurned this art, since, detesting the error of impiety, he took pains to exterminate it from among God’s people. Furthermore, St. Daniel learned the studies and wisdom of the Chaldeans, which, as a saint, he would not have done, had he thought it sinful to be instructed in their lore. And he had companions in his education whom he rejoiced to have as comrades in divine law and justice. For at the same time Ananias, Axarias, [Pg 163] Misael learned whatever a Chaldean would learn.... But notice that the privilege which man could not confer was given to Daniel alone, to bring to light the riddles of dreams and to scatter the obscurities of figures....”

Pointing out that Daniel read the king’s thoughts and prophesied “the mystery of salvation” in addition to interpreting the dream, John then concludes sarcastically: “Are the interpreters of dreams thus wont to examine thoughts and remove obscurities, to explain what is involved and illuminate the darkness of figures? If there is any who enjoys a like portion of grace, let him join Daniel and Joseph and like them ascribe to God the glory. He whom the spirit of truth does not illume vainly puts his confidence in the art of dreams.”[478]

The witchcraft delusion.

John concludes that many dreams are the work of demons.[479] Especially as of this sort he classifies the illusions of those who think that they have taken part during the night in witches’ Sabbats. “What they suffer in spirit they most wretchedly and falsely believe to have occurred in the body.”[480] And such dreams come mainly to women, feeble-minded men, and those weak in the Christian faith. Too much stress must not, however, be laid upon this apparent opposition to the witchcraft delusion.[481] John admits that the demons send dreams, and if he denies their verity, he merely repeats a hesitation as to the extent and reality of the power of demons over the body of men and the world of nature which we have frequently met in [Pg 164] patristic literature and which is due to a natural reluctance to admit that their magic is as real as God’s miracles.

Prevalence of astrology.

From divination by dreams and demons John passes to astrology. To start with he admits the attraction which the art has for men of intellect in his own time. “Would,” he exclaims, “that the error of the mathematici could be as readily removed from enlightened minds as the works of the demons fade before true faith and a sane consciousness of their illusions. But in it men go astray with the greater peril in that they seem to base their error upon nature’s firm foundation and reason’s strength.”[482] Beginning with mathematical and astronomical truths based on nature, reason and experience, they gradually slip into error, submitting human destiny to the stars and pretending to knowledge which belongs to God alone.

John’s attack upon it.

John ridicules the astrologers for attributing sex to the stars and stating the exact characteristics and influences of each planet, when they cannot agree among themselves whether the stars are composed of the four elements or some fifth essence, and when they are confounded by a schoolboy’s question whether the stars are hard or soft.[483] He grants that the sun’s heat and the moon’s control of humors as it waxes and wanes are potent forces, and that the other heavenly bodies are the causes of many utilities, and that from their position and signs the weather may be predicted. But he complains that the astrologers magnify the influence of the stars at the expense of God’s control of nature and of human free will. “They ascribe everything to their constellations.” Some have even reached such a degree of madness that they believe that “an image can be formed in accordance with the constellations so that it will receive the spirit of life at the nod of the stars and will [Pg 165] reveal the secrets of hidden truth.”[484] Whether John has some magic automaton or merely an engraved astrological image in mind is not entirely clear.

Does astrology imply fatal necessity?

John is aware, however, that many astrologers will deny that their science detracts in any way from divine prerogative and power, and will “appear to themselves to excuse their error quite readily” by asserting with Plotinus that God foreknew and consequently foredisposed everything that is to occur, and that the stars are as much under his control as any part of nature.[485] But John will have none of this sort of argument. “These hypotheses of theirs are indeed plausible but nevertheless venom lies under the honey. For they impose on things a certain fatal necessity under the guise of humility and reverence to God, fearing lest his intent should perchance alter, if the outcome of things were not made necessary. Furthermore, they encroach upon the domain of divine majesty, when they lay claim to that science of foreseeing times and seasons, which by the Son’s testimony are reserved to the power of the Father, even to the degree that they were hid from the eyes of those to whom the Son of God revealed whatever He heard from the Father.”[486]

John furthermore contends that divine foreknowledge does not require fatal necessity. For instance, although God knew that Adam would sin, Adam was under no compulsion to do so. God knew that by his guilt Adam would bring death into the world, but no condition of nature impelled him to this; in the beginning man was immortal. At this point John wanders off into a joust at the Stoics and Epicureans, whom he censures as equally in error, since the one subjected all to chance, the other to necessity. It is true, John argues, that I know a stone will fall to earth if I hurl it skywards, but it “does not act under necessity, for it might fall or not.” But that it does fall, “though not [Pg 166] necessary, is true.” John presently recognizes that he has given away his previous argument against astrology and that the devotee of the stars will say that he does not care whether his predictions are necessary or not provided they are true. “‘Nor does it make any difference to me,’ says the devotee of the stars, ‘whether the affair in question might be otherwise, provided I am not doubtful that it will be (as I think.)’”[487]

John’s lame conclusion.

John accordingly resorts to other arguments and to facetious sarcasm to cover his confusion. Then he recovers sufficiently to reiterate his belief that God frequently interferes in the operation of nature by special providences; and asserts that God has been known to change His mind, while the astrologers assert that the stars are constant in their influences. Expressing doubt, however, whether Thomas Becket will be convinced by his arguments, especially the one concerning fate and Providence, or whether he will not laugh up his sleeve at such a clumsy attempt to refute so formidable a doctrine, John lamely concludes by citing Augustine and Gregory against the art, and by affirming that every astrologer whom he has known has come to some bad end,[488] in which assertion he probably simply echoes Tertullian.

Other varieties of magic.

Resuming his discussion of the varieties of magic John briefly dismisses necromancers with the bon mot that those deserve death who try to acquire knowledge from the dead.[489] A number of other terms in Isidore’s list—auspices, augurs, salissatores, arioli, pythonici, aruspices—he says it is needless to discuss further since these arts are no longer practiced in his day, or at least not openly. Turning to more living superstitions of the present, he explains that chiromancy professes to discern truths which lie hidden in the wrinkles of the hands, but that since there is no apparent [Pg 167] reason for this belief it is not necessary to contravert it.

Thomas Becket’s consultation of diviners.

John wishes to ask Thomas one thing, however, and that is what triflers of this sort say when they are interrogated concerning uncertain future matters. He knows that Becket is familiar with such men because on the occasion of a recent royal expedition against Brittany he consulted both an aruspex and a chiromancer. John notes that a few days afterwards Thomas “lost without warning the morning-star so to speak of your race,” and warns him that such men by their vanity deserve to be consulted no more. This gentle rebuke did not avail, however, to wean Thomas entirely from his practice of consulting diviners, which he continued to do even after he became Archbishop of Canterbury. In a letter written to the future martyr and saint in 1170 John again chides Thomas for having delayed certain important letters because he had been “deluded by soothsayings which were not of the Spirit” and exhorts him “So let us renounce soothsayings in the future.”[490]

Witch of Endor: exorcisms.

Despite his previous declaration that he need not discuss the pythonici, John now proceeds to do so, listing instances of ambiguous and deceptive Delphic oracles and discussing at length the well-worn subject of Saul and the witch of Endor. He concludes the chapter by a warning against abuse of the practice of exorcism: “For such is the slyness of evil spirits that what they do of their own accord and what men do at their suggestion, they with great pains disguise so that they appear to perform it unwillingly. They pretend to be coerced and simulate to be drawn out as it were by the power of exorcisms, and that they may be the less guarded against they compose exorcisms apparently expressed in the name of God or in the faith of the Trinity or in the power of the incarnation or passion; and they transmit the same to men and obey men who use these, until they finally involve them with themselves in the crime of sacrilege [Pg 168] and penalty of damnation. Sometimes they even transform themselves into angels of light, they teach only things of good repute, forbid unlawful things, strive to imitate purity, make provision for needs, so that, as if good and favoring, they are received the more familiarly, are heard the more kindly, are loved the more closely, are the more readily obeyed. They also put on the guise of venerable persons....”[491]

Divination from polished surfaces.

“The specularii,” John continues, “flatter themselves that they immolate no victims, harm no one, often do good as when they detect thefts, purge the world of sorceries, and seek only useful or necessary truth.”[492] He insists that the success of their efforts is none the less due to demon aid. John tells how as a boy he was handed over for instruction in the Psalms to a priest who turned out to be a practitioner of this variety of magic, who after performing various adjurations and sorceries tried to have John and another boy look into polished basins or finger-nails smeared with holy oil or chrism and report what they saw. The other boy saw some ghostly shapes but John thanks God that he could see nothing and so was not employed henceforth in this manner. He adds that he has known many specularii and that they have all suffered loss of their sight or some other evil except the aforesaid priest and a deacon, and that they took refuge in monasteries and later suffered evils above their fellows in their respective congregations.

Natural science and medicine.

John closes his second book with a chapter on natural scientists and medical men, for he seems to apply the term physici in both senses, although towards the close of the chapter he also employs the word medici. He begins by saying that it is permissible to consult concerning the future anyone who has the spirit of prophecy or who from scientific training knows by natural signs what will happen in the bodies of animals, or who “has learned experimentally the nature of the time impending,” provided only that these latter men say and do nothing prejudicial to the Christian [Pg 169] faith. But sometimes the physici attribute too much to nature,[493] and John has heard many of them disputing concerning the soul and its virtues and operations, the increase and diminution of the body, the resurrection, and the creation, in a way far from accord with the Christian faith. “Of God Himself too they sometimes so speak, ‘As if earth-born giants assailed the stars.’”[494] John recognizes, however, their knowledge of animals and medicine, although he finds their theories sometimes in conflict. As for practicing physicians, he dares not speak ill of them, for he too often falls into their hands, and he grants that no one is more necessary or useful than a good doctor. John makes considerable use of the Natural History of Pliny and of Solinus, and sometimes for occult or marvelous phenomena, as when he cites Pliny concerning men who have the power of fascination by voice and tongue or by their glances, and adds the testimony of the Physiognomists.[495]


It may be well to review and further emphasize some of the chief features of John’s rather rambling discussion. Despite its frequent quotations from classic poets and moralists, it is theological in tone and content to a degree perhaps greater than I have succeeded in suggesting, for to repeat all its scriptural passages would be tedious. There is even some theological jealousy and suspicion of natural science shown. John perhaps more nearly duplicates the attitude of Augustine than that of any other writer. Magic is represented as inevitably associated with, and the work of, demons. John sometimes charges the magic arts with being irrational or injurious, but these charges are in a way but corollaries of his main thesis. The arts must be harmful [Pg 170] since demons are concerned with them, while the influence of demons seems the only rational explanation for their existence. John repeats the old Isidorian definition of magic but he adds some current superstitions and shows that the magic arts are far from having fallen into disuse. Finally he shows us how vain must have been all the ecclesiastical thunders and warnings of demons and damnation, like his own, directed against magic, from the fact that not merely kings of the past like Saul and Pharaoh, but clergy of the present themselves—a priest and a deacon, a chancellor and an archbishop of England—practice or patronize such arts. Sometimes John’s own condemnation of them seems a bit perfunctory; he takes more relish, it seems at times, in describing them. Again, as in the case of astrology, he evidently feels that his opposition will be of little avail.

[461] Johannis Sarisberiensis Episcopi Carnotensis Policratici sive de nugis curialium et vestigiis philosophorum libri VIII. Recog. C. C. I. Webb. 2 vols. Oxford, 1909. The work is also contained in Migne, PL vol. 199. For John’s life see DNB. All references are to book and chapter of the Polycraticus unless otherwise stated.

[462] The most recent discussion of it is by R. L. Poole, “The Masters of the Schools at Paris and Chartres in John of Salisbury’s Time,” in EHR XXXV (1920), 321-42.

[463] Metalog. II, 10.

[464] I, 9.

[465] At II, 18 he makes the same distinction.

[466] For Isidore’s account see PL 82, 310-14.

[467] Polycrat. II, prologus. “Alacres itaque exeant nugae nostrae quas serenitas tua prodire iubet in publicum, ut conjectores, mathematicos, cum quibusdam aliis nugatoribus introducant; quia quibus dedisti egrediendi audaciam, securitatis quoque fiduciam praestabis.” The following words, “Connectantur ergo inferiora superioribus” seem to mean that the second book goes on where the first left off, but perhaps the suggestion of astrological doctrine is an intentional play upon words on John’s part.

[468] II, 12.

[469] De doctrina Christiana, II, 20 in Migne, PL vol. 34.

[470] Thus, it will be recalled, Marcellus Empiricus and Alexander of Tralles labelled their superstitious recipes.

[471] “Capitula Evangelii.”

[472] II, 11.

[473] II, 12.

[474] II, 14-17.

[475] II, 14. Quis nescit somniorum varias esse significationes, quas et usus approbat et maiorum confirmat auctoritas.

[476] II, 15. Somnium ... gerit imagines, in quibus coniectorum praecipue disciplina versatur, et nunc suum cuiusque est, nunc alienum, modo commune, interdum publice aut generale est. Ut enim ait Nestor, de statu publico regis credatur somnio.

[477] II, 17. Sed dum has coniectorum traditiones ex(s)equimur, vereor ne merito non tam coniectoriam ex(s)equi, quae aut nulla aut inania ars est, quam dormitare videamur ... Verum quisquis credulitatem suam significationibus alligat somniorum, planum est quia tam a sinceritate fidei quam a tramite rationis exorbitat.

[478] Polycrat. II, 17. Gratian appears to refer to the same book on oneiromancy in his Decretum, Secunda pars, Causa XXVI, Quaest. vii, cap. 16, “somnialia scripta et falso in Danielis nomine intitulata.”

[479] II, 17 (Webb I, 100). Quis huius facti explicet rationem nisi quod boni spiritus vel maligni exigentibus hominum meritis eos erudiunt vel illudunt?... Quod si materiam vitiis afferat, libidinem forte accendens aut avaritiam aut dominandi ingerens appetitum aut quidquid huiusmodi est ad subversionem animae, procul dubio aut caro aut spiritus malignus immittit.

[480] II, 17 (Migne, col. 436), Webb I, 100-1.

[481] John is perhaps influenced by a similar passage in the Canon, Ut episcopi (Burchard, Decreta, X, 1).

[482] II, 18. Possit utinam tam facile mathematicorum error a praestantioribus animis amoveri quam leviter in conspectu verae fidei et sanae conscientiae istarum illusionum demonia conquiescunt. Verumtamen eo periculosius errant quo in soliditate naturae et vigore rationis suum fundare videntur errorem.

[483] II, 19.

[484] II, 19 (Migne, col. 442). Webb, I, 112. ... stellarum nutu recipiet spiritum vitae et consulentibus occultae veritatis manifestabit arcana.

[485] II, 19.

[486] II, 20.

[487] Cap. 24, nec mea, inquit astrorum secretarius, interest an aliter esse possit, dum id de quo agitur ita futurum esse non dubitem.

[488] John’s argument against astrology extends from the 18th to the 26th chapter of the second book of the Polycraticus.

[489] II, 27.

[490] Epistola 297 (Migne, cols. 345-46).

[491] II, 27; Webb, I, 155-56.

[492] II, 28.

[493] II, 29 (Migne, col. 475). Licet tamen ut de futuris aliquis consulatur, ita quidem si aut spiritu polleat prophetiae, aut ex naturalibus signis quid in corporibus animalium eveniat physica docente cognovit, aut si qualitatem temporis imminentis experimentorum indiciis colligit. Dum tamen his posterioribus nequaquam quis ita aurem accommodet ut fidei aut religioni praejudicet.... At physici, dum naturae nimium auctoritatis attribuunt, in auctorem naturae adversando fidei plerumque impingunt.

[494] Webb, I, xxxiii and xxxv.

[495] V, 15 (Webb, I, 345).

[Pg 171]



Daniel’s education—(Bibliographical note)—Defense of Arabian learning—A moderate treatment of moot points between science and religion—The four elements and fifth essence—Superiors and inferiors—Daniel’s astronomy—Astrological argument—Astrology and other sciences—Daniel and Greek: a misinterpretation—Daniel and the church: a misinterpretation—Daniel’s future influence—Roger of Hereford—An astrology in four parts—Another astrology in four parts—Book of Three General Judgments—Summary.

Daniel’s education.

In discussing Gerard of Cremona in a previous chapter we noticed the studies at Toledo of Daniel de Merlai or of Morley, how he heard Gerard translate the Almagest into [Pg 172] Latin and defend the fatal influence of the stars, and Galippus, the Mozarab, teach concerning the universe in “the tongue of Toledo,”—presumably Spanish. Like Adelard of Bath, Daniel had long absented himself from England in the pursuit of learning, and had first spent some time at Paris, apparently engaged in the study of Roman law. He became disgusted, however, with the instruction [Pg 173] there and in his preface[496] speaks sarcastically of “the brutes” (bestiales) who occupied professorial chairs “with grave authority” and read from codices too heavy to carry (importabiles) which reproduced in golden letters the traditions of Ulpian. Holding lead pencils in their hands, they marked these volumes reverently with obeli and asterisks. They wished to conceal their ignorance by maintaining a dignified and statuesque silence, “but when they tried to say something, I found them most childish.” Daniel accordingly made haste away to Spain to acquire the learning of the Arabs and to hear “wiser philosophers of the universe.” Finally, however, his friends summoned him back to England [Pg 174] and he returned “with an abundant supply of precious volumes.” On his arrival he found that the interest in Roman law had almost completely eclipsed that in Greek philosophy, and that Aristotle and Plato were assigned to oblivion. Not wishing to remain the sole Greek among Romans, he prepared to withdraw again where the studies in which he was interested flourished. But on the way he met John, bishop of Norwich (1175-1200) who asked him many questions concerning his studies at Toledo and the marvels of that city, and concerning astronomy and the rule of the superior bodies over this sublunar world. Daniel’s present treatise gives a fuller reply to these inquiries than time then permitted him to make.

In the following bibliographical note the MSS will be listed first and then the printed works by or concerning Daniel of Morley.

Arundel 377, 13th century, well-written small quarto, fols. 88-103, “Philosophia magistri danielis de merlai ad iohannem Norwicensem episcopum ... / ... Explicit liber de naturis inferiorum et superiorum.” Until very recently this was supposed to be the only MS of Daniel’s sole extant work. No other treatise has as yet been identified as his, but several other MSS may be noted of the whole or parts of the aforesaid “Philosophia” or “Liber de naturis inferiorum et superiorum.”

Corpus Christi 95, 13th century, where, according to K. Sudhoff in the publication noted below, the first two or three books ascribed to William of Conches are really the work of Daniel of Morley.

Berlin Latin Quarto 387, 12th century, 51 fols. Attention was called to it by Birkenmajer in the publication noted below. It has many slips of copyists and is regarded by him as neither the original nor a direct copy thereof. For the MS to be written in the twelfth century this would require a very rapid multiplication and dissemination of Daniel’s treatise which was at the earliest not composed until after 1175.

The remaining MSS have not hitherto been noted by writers on Daniel:

CUL 1935 (Kk. I. 1), 13th century, small folio, fols. 98r-105r (and not to 115r, as stated in the MSS catalogue, which gives Daniel Morley as the author, but De creatione mundi as the title). From rotographs of fols. 98r-v, 100r, and 105r, I judge that this copy is almost identical with Arundel 377 but somewhat less legible and accurate.

Oriel 7, 14th century folio, fols. 194v-196v (191-193, according to Coxe), extracts from De philosophia Danielis, opening, “Nos qui mistice.”... They are immediately preceded by extracts from “Adelardi Bathoniensis ... de decisionibus naturalibus.”

Corpus Christi 263, early 17thI’ll sp century, fols. 166v-67r, “Ex Daniele de Merlai” (or, “Merlac,” according to Coxe) “alias Morley in lib. de superioribus et inferioribus primo De creationis Mundi.” This MS is one of the notebooks of Brian Twyne, the Elizabethan antiquary, written in his own hand.

Twyne perhaps made his extracts from Arundel 377, for immediately after them he gives extracts “from William of Conches who is together with Daniel Merlai in our library,” and in Arundel 377 Daniel’s work is immediately followed by that of William of Conches. Moreover, of the Selden MSS which are now in the Bodleian, Supra 72 was once owned by Lord “William Howarde” who died in 1640, while Supra 77 is marked “Arundel,” referring presumably to Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel, who died in 1646, and Supra 79 consists of astronomical and astrological treatises copied by Brian Twyne. If MSS which once belonged to the Arundel collection and to Twyne have thus passed somehow into the Selden collection and are found listed there in close proximity to one another, it is at least tempting to conjecture that the MS containing Daniel’s treatise, followed by that of William of Conches, which Twyne says was once “in our library,” somehow became Arundel 377.

BN 6415 does not contain De philosophia Danielis, as stated by C. Jourdain (1838) p. 101; Jourdain, however, regarded Adelard of Bath as the author of De philosophia Danielis, and BN 6415 does contain Adelard’s Questiones naturales.

Balliol 96, 15th century, a commentary upon Aristotle’s eight books of Physics in the form of questions and preceded by a prologue, “Expliciunt questiones super 8 libros phisicorum compilate a domino Marlo magistro in artibus Tholose ac canonico de Timsey.” This does not seem to be a work by Daniel of Morley; a cursory examination revealed no reason for thinking that domino Marlo should read Daniele Merlai, or that Tholose should be Tholeto.

I have not examined two MSS at Queen’s College, Oxford, Reg. lxxi; lxxiv, 4) containing pedigrees of the Morlay or Morley family which may possibly throw some light upon Daniel’s identity.

All the printing that has been done of Daniel’s treatise has been based upon Arundel 377. J. O. Halliwell, Rara Mathematica, 1839, and Thomas Wright, Biographia Literaria, London, 1846, II, 227-30, printed the preface and other brief extracts for the first time.

Valentin Rose reprinted the preface and also published the conclusion in his article, “Ptolemaeus und die Schule von Toledo,” Hermes VIII (1874) 327-49. Rose also gave a list of the authorities cited by Daniel which makes a very large number of omissions: for example, fol. 89r, “sicut in trismegisto repperitur” and “isidori”; fol. 90v, Aristotle, “philosophus,” “Adultimus” (?), “Platonitus”; fol. 91r, “Esiodus autem naturalis scientie professor omnia dixit esse ex terra,” and so on for “tales milesius,” Democritus, and other Greek philosophers; fol. 91v, “sicut ab inexpugnabili sententia magni hermetis”; fol. 92r, “audiat ysidori in libro differentiarum”; fol. 92v, “unde astrologus ille poeta de creatione mundi ait,” and “magnus mercurius” and “trismegistus mercurius” and “trismegistus mercurius praedicti mercurii nepos”; fol. 97r, “Aristotelis in libro de sensu et sensato,” “Albumaxar,” “Aristotelis in libro de auditu naturali”; fol. 98v, “in libro de celi et mundo”; fol. 99v, Almagest, and “Ypocrati et galieno”; fol. 100v, “liber veneris ... quem edidit thoz grecus,” and “aristoteles ... in libro de speculo adurenti.”

Karl Sudhoff, Daniels von Morley Liber de naturis inferiorum et superiorum nach der Handschrift Cod. Arundel 377 des Britischen Museums zum Abdruck gebracht, in Archiv für die Geschichte der Naturwissenschaften und der Technik, Band 8, 1917 (but not received at the New York Public Library until July 8, 1921). Here is printed for the first time the full text of Daniel’s treatise as contained in Arundel 377, but from photographs taken years before and apparently without further reference to the MS itself. Also according to the following article by Birkenmajer, Sudhoff sometimes renders the contractions and abbreviations incorrectly. As Sudhoff’s text comes late to my hand, I leave my references to the folios of Arundel 377 as they are. These folios (with the exception of 88v) are marked in Sudhoff’s text.

Alexander Birkenmajer, Eine neue Handschrift des Liber de naturis inferiorum et superiorum des Daniel von Merlai, in the same Archiv, December, 1920, pp. 45-51, gives some variant readings from Berlin 387.

Dr. Charles Singer has published a brief account of Daniel of Morley in a recent issue of Isis.

The article on Daniel in DNB XXXIX (1894) by A. F. Pollard is criticized by Sudhoff for failing to mention “Roses wichtigste Vorarbeit;” but I observe that Sudhoff himself similarly fails to mention the publications by Halliwell and Thomas Wright which preceded both Rose’s and his own.

Defense of Arabian learning.

Daniel warns his readers at the start not to scorn the simple language and lucid style in which the doctrines of the Arabs are set forth, or to mistake the laborious circumlocutions and ambiguous obscurities of contemporary Latins for signs of profound learning. Nor should anyone be alarmed because he presents the opinions of Gentile philosophers instead of church fathers in treating of the creation of the world. They may not have been Christians, but where their opinions seem sound, Daniel believes in taking spoils of learning even from pagans and infidels, as God instructed the Hebrews to do in the case of the golden and silver vessels of the Egyptians. Thus he borrows the theory of a triple universe from an Arabic work. The first universe exists only in the divine mind and is neither visible nor corporeal, but is eternal. The second universe is in work and is visible, corporeal, and in that state not eternal. It was created simultaneously with time. The third universe is imitative. It is the microcosm and was formed in time and is visible and corporeal, but is in part eternal.[497] In a later passage[498] Daniel again defends his use of Arabian authorities, contending that it is only just that one who is already informed concerning the opinions about things supercelestial of the philosophers in use among the Latins should [Pg 175] also not disdain to listen attentively to the views of the Arabs which cannot be impugned. It may be perilous to imitate them in some respects, but one should be informed even on such points in order to be able to refute and avoid the errors to which they lead.

A moderate treatment of moot points between science and religion.

In general plan, tone, and content, as well as in the title, Philosophia, Daniel’s treatise roughly resembles that of William of Conches. As Daniel says in his preface, the first part deals with the inferior portion of the universe, and the second part with the superior part. The work proper opens with a discussion of the creation, in which Daniel expresses some rather original ideas, although he treats of such time-worn topics as God’s creation of the angels, of the universe, and of man in His own image, and then of man’s fall through concupiscence, virtue and vice, and like matters. Later he argues against those who hold that the world is eternal, but he is not quite ready to accept the Mosaic account of creation entire. He argues that in the beginning God created heaven and earth and cites Augustine, Isidore, and Bede to show that the meaning is that heaven and earth were created simultaneously. He then adds that philosophers are loath to accept the division of the works of creation over six days; in human works it is true that one thing must be done before another, but God could dispense everything with “one eternal word.”[499]

The four elements and fifth essence.

The four elements are discussed a good deal and it is explained that fire is hot and dry, air is hot and wet, and so on.[500] To fire correspond cholera, the light of the eyes, and curiosity; to air, blood, words, and loquacity; to water, phlegm, abundance of natural humors, and lust; to earth, melancholy, corpulence, and cruelty.[501] Daniel, like Adelard of Bath and William of Conches, repeats the doctrine that the four elements are not found in a pure state in any bodies perceptible to our sense, that no one has ever touched earth or water, or seen pure air or fire, and that the four elements [Pg 176] are perceptible only to the intellect. Daniel differs from Adelard and William, however, in denying that the stars are made merely out of the purer parts of the four elements. He declares that the Arabs will not agree to this, but that the higher authorities in astrology assert that the stars are composed of a fifth essence.[502] Daniel furthermore speaks of three bonds existing between the four elements, stating that scientists call the relation between fire and air, obedience; that between air and water, harmony; and that between water and earth, necessity.[503] This faintly reminds one of the three relationships between the four principles of things which were associated with the names of the three fates in the essay on fate ascribed to Plutarch.

Superiors and inferiors.

But the greatest bond in nature is that existing between the superior and inferior worlds. An oft-repeated and fundamental principle of Daniel’s philosophy, and one which explains the division of his work into two parts, is the doctrine that superiors conquer inferiors, that the world of the sky controls the world of the four elements, and that the science of the stars is superior to all other disciplines.[504] “The sages of this world have divided the world into two parts, of which the superior one which extends from the circle of the moon even to the immovable heaven is the agent. The other, from the lunar globe downwards, is the patient.”[505] Much depends, however, not only upon the force emitted by the agent but upon the readiness of the patient to receive the celestial influence.

Daniel’s astronomy.

Daniel of course believed in a spherical earth and a geocentric universe. Influenced probably by the Almagest, he explains the eccentrics of the five planets in a way which he regards as superior to what he calls the errors of Martianus Capella and almost all Latins, and to the obscure traditions which the Arabs have handed down but scarcely understood themselves.[506] He affirms that there are not ten heavens or [Pg 177] spheres, as some have said, but only eight, as Alphraganus truly teaches.[507]

Astrological argument.

There are some men who deny any efficacy to the motions of the stars, but Daniel charges that they for the most part condemn the science without knowing anything about it, “and hold astronomy in hatred from its name alone.”[508] He replies that it is useful to foreknow the future and defends astrology in much the usual manner. He details the qualities of the seven planets[509] whom the Arabs call “lords of nativities.”[510] Also he takes up the properties and attributes of the signs of the zodiac and how the Arabs divide the parts of the human body among them.[511]

Astrology and other sciences.

Daniel interprets the scope of astrology very broadly, asserting that it has eight parts: the science of judgments, or what we should call judicial astrology; medicine; nigromancy according to physics; agriculture; illusions or magic (de praestigiis); alchemy, “which is the science of the transmutation of metals into other species; the science of images, which Thoz Grecus set forth in the great and universal book of Venus; and the science of mirrors, which is of broader scope and aim than the rest, as Aristotle shows in the treatise on the burning glass.”[512] Except that magic illusions have replaced navigation, this list of eight branches of learning is the same as that which Gundissalinus repeated from Al-Farabi, but which they called branches of natural science rather than of astrology. At any rate we see again the close association of natural science and useful arts with astrology and magic, and necromancy and alchemy, and with pseudo-writings of Aristotle and Hermes Trismegistus. In other passages Daniel cites genuine Aristotelian treatises[513] and speaks of “the great Mercury” and of the other “Mercury [Pg 178] Trismegistus, the nephew of the aforesaid.”[514] Despite his subordination of alchemy to astrology in the above passage, Daniel does not seem to have it in mind when he remarks that there are “some who assign diverse colors of metals to the planets,” as lead to Saturn, silver to Jupiter, white to Venus, and black to Mercury.[515] He goes on to deny that the stars are really colored any more than the sky is.

Daniel and Greek: a misinterpretation.

Some modern scholars have drawn inferences from Daniel’s treatise with which I am unable to agree. Mr. S. A. Hirsch in his edition of Roger Bacon’s Greek Grammar follows Cardinal Gasquet[516] in observing concerning Daniel’s preface, “There can be no clearer testimony than this to the complete oblivion into which Greek had in those days fallen in western Europe, including England.” It may be granted that there was and had been little knowledge of Greek grammar and the Greek language in twelfth century England, but that is not what Daniel is talking about: indeed, there seems to be no reason for believing Daniel himself proficient in either Greek grammar or Greek literature, although he was shrewd enough to question whether Chalcidius always interpreted Plato aright.[517] When he calls himself “the only Greek among Romans,” he means the only one interested in Greek philosophy and astronomy and in translations of the same made largely from the Arabic. But earlier in the same century we have seen Adelard of Bath, William of Conches, and Bernard Silvester interested either in Platonism or Arabic science, and the anonymous Sicilian translator of the Almagest from the Greek, and before him Burgundio of Pisa and other translators from the Greek. Therefore all that Daniel’s remarks seems to indicate is that [Pg 179] there was less interest in Greek philosophy in England after his return than before he went away, owing to the temporary popularity of the study of Roman law. But he knew where the studies in which he was interested still flourished.

Daniel and the church: a misinterpretation.

A more serious misinterpretation of Daniel’s relation to his age is Valentin Rose’s assertion that, because of Daniel’s addiction to Arabian and astrological doctrines, “his book found no favor in the eyes of the church and was shunned like poison. It has left no traces in subsequent literature; no one has read it and no one cites it.”[518] Rose spoke on the assumption that only one copy of Daniel’s treatise had reached us, whereas now we know of several manuscripts of it. If it did not become so widely known as some works, the more probable reason for this may well be that his brief résumé of Arabic and astrological doctrines appeared too late, when the fuller works of Ptolemy and of the Arabic astrologers were already becoming known through complete Latin translations. Brief pioneer treatises, like those of Adelard of Bath and William of Conches, which had appeared earlier in the century, had had time to become widely known during a period when there was perhaps nothing fuller and better available. But Daniel’s little trickle of learning from Toledo, which does not represent any very considerable advance over Adelard and William, might well be engulfed in the great stream of translations that now poured from Spain into Christian western Europe.[519] It is unreasonable to conjecture that Daniel’s book, which is rather mild anyway in its astrological doctrine, and which was called forth by the favoring questions of a bishop, was then crushed by bitter ecclesiastical opposition; when we know that William’s book, which actually encountered an ecclesiastical [Pg 180] opposition of which we have no evidence in Daniel’s case, nevertheless continued in circulation and was much cited in the next century; and when we know that both Arabic and astrological doctrines and books were widespread in Christian western Europe both in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Treatises with more poison of astrology in them than his were read and cited and seem to have weathered successfully, if not to have escaped unscathed, whatever ecclesiastical censure may have been directed against them. If Daniel’s own composition did not secure a wide circle of readers, the chances are that “the multitude of precious volumes” which he imported from Spain to England did. And if the work of the pupil remained little cited, the translations of the master, Gerard of Cremona, who had taught him astrology at Toledo, became known throughout western Europe. Thus, while Daniel’s personal influence may not have been vast, he reflects for us the progress of a great movement of which he was but a part.

Daniel’s future influence.

But Rose was further mistaken in his assertion that Daniel’s De philosophia “has left no trace in subsequent literature; no one has read it and no one cites it.” Not only is the work found complete in three manuscripts of which Rose did not know, and of which one appears to be twice removed from the original. In a manuscript of the fourteenth century at Oriel College, Oxford,[520] in the fitting company of excerpts from Adelard of Bath and Gundissalinus, are over three double column folio pages of extracts drawn from various portions of the Philosophia. These begin with Daniel’s excuse for borrowing the eloquence and wisdom of the infidels and with some of his utterances anent the creation of the world. They include a number of his citations of other writers, his story of the two fountains outside the walls of Toledo which varied in fulness with the moon’s phases and contained salt water although remote six days journey from the sea, and other bits of his astrological doctrine. [Pg 181] A similar, although not identical, selection of pearls from Daniel’s philosophy is found in one of the notebooks of Brian Twyne,[521] the Elizabethan antiquary, who gives the title of Daniel’s work as De superioribus et inferioribus and makes extracts both from its first and second books. Both Twyne and the Oriel manuscript’s writer seem to have been particularly impressed with Daniel’s views concerning the creation, rather than his retailing of astrological doctrine. Twyne first repeats his statement that the quantity of the universe reveals the power of its Maker; its quality, His wisdom; and its marvelous beauty, His unbounded good will. Twyne also notes Daniel’s phrase, “court of the world,” for the universe. Both Twyne and the Oriel manuscript note the passage concerning the triple universe, and another in which Daniel tells how the three human qualities, reason, irascibility, and desire, may be either used to discern and resist evil, or perverted to evil courses. Both also notice his contention that the chaos preceding creation was not hyle or matter but a certain contrariety present in matter.

Roger of Hereford.

In the same manuscript with Daniel’s treatise is a work by another Englishman, Roger of Hereford,[522] who was contemporary with him, who wrote treatises both in astronomy and astrology, and who, again like Daniel, was encouraged by a bishop. We are not, I believe, directly informed whether any of his works were translations from the Arabic or whether he was ever in Spain, but some of them sound as if they might be at least adaptations from the Arabic. At any rate Alfred of England dedicated to Roger the translation which he made from the Arabic of the pseudo-Aristotelian De vegetabilibus. Astronomical tables which Roger calculated for the meridian of Hereford in 1178 are based upon tables for Marseilles and Toledo, and the manuscript of one of his works is said by the copyist of 1476 to have been [Pg 182] taken by him from an ancient codex written in Toledo in the year 1247.[523] Other astronomical treatises attributed to Roger are a Theory of the Planets, a Treatise concerning the rising and setting of the Signs, and a Compotus which dates itself in 1176 and is addressed to a Gilbert[524] who seems to be no other than Foliot, bishop of Hereford until 1163 and thereafter bishop of London. The signature of Roger of Hereford attests one of his documents in 1173-1174. In 1176 in the preface to the Compotus[525] Roger speaks of himself as iuvenis, and the heading in the manuscript even calls him “Child Roger” or “Roger Child,”[526] but he also says that he has devoted many years to learning, so that we need not regard him as especially youthful at that time. The definite dates in his career seem to fall in the decade from 1170 to 1180, although his association with Alfred of England may well have been later.

An astrology in four parts.

Professor Haskins ascribes one or more astrological works to Roger of Hereford and lists a number of manuscripts with three different Incipits.[527] Some of these manuscripts I have examined. One at Paris has the Titulus, “In the name of God the pious and merciful, here opens the book of the division of astronomy and its four parts composed by the famous astrologer Roger of Hereford.”[Pg 183][528] Roger explains that the first part is general and concerned with such matters as “peoples, events, and states, changes of weather, famine, and mortality.” The second is special and deals with the fate of the individual from birth to life’s close. The third deals with interrogations and the fourth with elections. The first chapter of the first part is entitled, “Of the properties of the signs and planets in any country,” and opens with the statement that it has been proved by experience that the signs Aries and Jupiter have dominion in the land “baldac and babel and herach,” Libra and Saturn in the land of the Christians, Scorpion and Venus in the land of the Arabs, Capricorn and Mercury in India, Leo and Mars over the Turks, Aquarius and the Sun in Babylonia, Virgo and the Moon in Spain. The other five signs seem to be left without a country.[529] Chapter two tells how to find what sign dominates in any villa; three, of the powers of the planets in universal events; four, of the science of the annual significance of the planets; five, knowledge of rains for the four seasons; six, knowledge of winds in any villa;[530] nine, the twenty-eight mansions of the moon. After the tenth chapter distinguishing these mansions as dry and wet and temperate, the second part on nativities opens with the retrospective statement, “Now we have treated of the first part of this art, omitting what many astrologers have said [Pg 184] without experience and without reason.”[531] After a dozen chapters on the significance of the twelve houses in nativities, the author again asserts that in his discussion of that subject he has said nothing except what learned men agree upon and experience has tested.[532] After devoting three chapters to the familiar astrological theme of the revolution of years, he takes up in the third and fourth books[533] interrogations according to the twelve houses and elections, which are made in two ways according as the nativity is or is not known. The invocation of God the pious and compassionate in the Titulus and the list of countries and peoples in the first chapter have a Mohammedan and oriental flavor and suggest that the work is a translation.

Another astrology in four parts.

Different from the foregoing is another work dealing with four parts of judicial astrology which the manuscripts ascribe to Roger of Hereford. Its opening words[534] and the subjects of its four parts all differ from those of the other treatise. Its first part deals with “simple judgment”; its fourth part, with “the reason of judgment”; while its second and third parts instead of third and fourth, as in the foregoing treatise, deal with interrogations, now called Cogitatio, and elections.[535] I know of no manuscript where this second work is to be found complete; in fact, I am inclined to surmise that usually the manuscripts give only the first of its four parts.[536] It professes at the start to be a [Pg 185] brief collection of rules of judicial astrology hitherto only to be found scattered through various works. Astrology is extolled as an art of incomparable excellence without which other branches of learning are fruitless. “They appear to a few through experiments; ... it gives most certain experiments.”[537] The first book treats of the properties of the signs and planets, of the twelve houses, and defines a long list of astrological terms such as respectus, applicatio, separatio, periclitus, solitudo, allevatio, translatio, collatio, redditio, contradictio, impeditio, evasio, interruptio, compassio, renuntiatio, and receptio.[538] Some tables are also given, in connection with one of which we are told that the longest hour at Hereford exceeds the shortest by eleven degrees and forty minutes.[539]

Book of Three General Judgments.

To Roger is also ascribed a Book of Three General Judgments of Astronomy, from which all others flow, which sometimes is listed separately in the manuscripts and apparently is found alone as a distinct work,[540] but in other manuscripts[541] seems to be an integral part of the work of four parts which we have just described. Its three general judgments are: gaining honors and escaping evils; intentio vel meditacio, which, like the cogitacio mentioned above, refers [Pg 186] to interrogations; and comparatio vel electio which of course is elections. Thus the second and third parts of this Book of Three General Judgments deal with the same subjects as the second and third books of the work in four parts, which makes it difficult to distinguish them. I am inclined to think that in those manuscripts where the Book of Three General Judgments seems an integral part of the work in four parts, we really have simply the first of the four parts, followed by the Book of Three General Judgments.[542] At any rate it seems clear that most of Roger’s astrological composition is on the theme of interrogations and elections. Iudicia Herefordensis,[543] found in more than one manuscript, may come from a fourth work of his or be portions of the foregoing works.


In this chapter we have treated of two Englishmen of the latter half of the twelfth century who are not generally known.[544] They were not, however, without influence, as we [Pg 187] have already shown in the case of Daniel of Morley and as the number of manuscripts of the works of Roger of Hereford sufficiently attests for him. Daniel and Roger show that the same interest in astrology and astronomy from Arabic sources prevails at the close of the century in England as at its beginning in the cases of Walcher, prior of Malvern, and Adelard of Bath. Daniel, like Adelard, illustrates the relation of science to Christian thought; Roger, like Walcher, is an astronomer who makes and carefully records observations of his own,[545] while he trusts in astrology as based upon experience. As Alfred of England dedicated his translation of the pseudo-Aristotelian De vegetabilibus to Roger, so he dedicated his De motu cordis (On the Motion of the Heart) to a third Englishman, Alexander Neckam, to whom we turn in the next chapter for a picture of the state of science and his work On the Natures of Things (De naturis rerum) in his time.

[496] Fol. 88r.

[497] Fols. 88v-89r.

[498] Fol. 95v.

[499] Fol. 96.

[500] Fol. 94v.

[501] Fol. 89v.

[502] Fol. 95v.

[503] Fol. 93v.

[504] Fols. 95r-96.

[505] Fol. 92r.

[506] Fol. 101v.

[507] Fol. 100v.

[508] Idem.

[509] Fol. 99v.

[510] Fol. 102v.

[511] Fol. 102r.

[512] Fol. 100v.

[513] De sensu et sensato at fols. 97r and 98v; De coelo et mundo, ibid.; De auditu naturali, fol. 97r. I do not know if Al-Farabi’s De ortu scientiarum is meant by (fol. 96r) “Aristotiles in libro de assignanda ratione unde orte sunt scientie.”

[514] Fols. 92v, 91v, and 89r.

[515] Fol. 99r.

[516] Edmund Nolan and S. A. Hirsch, The Greek Grammar of Roger Bacon, Cambridge, 1902, p. xlvii. Gasquet, “English Scholarship in the Thirteenth Century,” and “English Biblical Criticism in the Thirteenth Century,” in The Dublin Review (1898), vol. 123, pp. 7 and 362.

[517] Fol. 89v, “Calcidius, forte minus provide exponens Platonem, dixit....” We have so often been assured that the Middle Ages knew Plato only through Chalcidius’ translation of the Timaeus that I think it advisable to note this bit of evidence that the medievals did not swallow their Chalcidius whole.

[518] Rose (1874), p. 331. Sudhoff (1917), p. 4, although himself calling attention to a second manuscript of Daniel’s treatise, continues to hold that it “scheint wenig Verbreitung gefunden zu haben.”

[519] Sudhoff (1917), p. 4, expresses a similar opinion. He still, however, repeats with respect Rose’s assertion that the treatise “wie ein Gift beseitigt worden,” but would explain this as less due to Daniel’s astrological doctrine than his employing Arabian authorities instead of the church fathers.

[520] Oriel 7, fols. 194v-96v: see bibliographical note at beginning of this chapter for a fuller description of it and the following MS of Brian Twyne.

[521] Corpus Christi 263, fols. 166-7.

[522] Professor Haskins’ account of Roger’s life and works in his “Introduction of Arabic Science into England,” EHR (1915), XXX, 65-8, supplements and supersedes the article in DNB. Where I do not cite authorities for statements that follow in the text, they may be found in Haskins’ article.

[523] BN 10271, fol. 203v, quoted by Haskins (1915), p. 67. It seems to me, however, from an examination of the MS that Roger’s work concludes at fol. 201v, “Explicit liber,” and that this extract, “Ad habendam noticiam quis est vel erit dominus anni,” at fol. 203v, may be another matter.

[524] The initial letters of the table of contents form the acrostic, “Gilleberto Rogerus salutes H. D.”

[525] Printed in part by T. Wright, Biograph. Lit., p. 90 et seq.

[526] Digby 40, fol. 65, “Prefatio magistri Rogeri Infantis in compotum”; Haskins conjectures that Infantis may be a corruption for Hereford, or an equivalent for the iuvenis of the text; but Leland took it as Roger’s surname and called him Roger Yonge.

[527] Haskins is not quite accurate in saying (p. 67), “Royal MS 12 F, 17 of the British Museum, catalogued as ‘Herefordensis iudicia’ is really the treatise of Haly, De iudiciis,” for while the MS does contain Egidius de Tebaldis’ translation of Haly de iudiciis in a fourteenth century hand, on its fly-leaves are inserted in a fifteenth century hand both “iudicia Herfordensis” and a treatise on conjunctions of John Eschenden. Moreover, all these items are listed both in the old and the new catalogue of the Royal MSS.

[528] BN 10271, written in 1476, 1481 A. D., etc., fol. 179-, “In nomine dei pii et misericordis Incipit liber de divisione astronomie atque de eius quatuor partibus compositus per clarum Rogerium Herfort Astrologum.” The text proper opens: “Quoniam principium huic arti dignum duximus de quatuor eius partibus agamus.”

[529] This chapter is almost exactly like the first chapter of the first book of the printed edition of John of Seville’s Epitome totius astrologiae, and the general plan of the two treatises and their emphasis upon experience are very similar, although there also seem to be considerable divergences. For instance, the next chapter in the printed text is different, “De coniunctionibus planetarum, quae sunt numero c.xx.” Unfortunately I have not been able to compare edition and manuscript in detail. Both may represent texts of late date which have rearranged or added variously to the original, whether it be by John or Roger. Or both John and Roger may have taken similar liberties with a common Arabic source. John’s authorship appears to be supported by more MSS than Roger’s.

[530] Caps. 7 and 8, at fol. 182r-v, are, “De proprietate signorum in qualibet terra” and “De cognitione de bono anno vel malo.”

[531] Fol. 183v, “Iam egimus de prima parte huius arte omissis que astrologi multi sine experimento et ratione dixerunt.”

[532] Fol. 190v (cap. 14, de revolutione annorum nativitatis), “Iam radicem nativitatis sermone complevimus nec diximus nisi in quibus sapientes convenerunt et experimentum ex ipsis habetur.” The same sentence occurs in John of Spain, Epitome totius astrologiae, 1548, II, xx, fol. 62v.

[533] Book 3, fols. 192v-199r, has 16 chapters; Book 4, fols. 199v-201v, has ten. The division into chapters is different in the printed text ascribed to John of Spain.

[534] Berlin 964, 15th century, fol. 87-, “Quoniam regulas artis astronomie iudicandi non nisi per diversa opera dispersas invenimus universali astrologorum desiderio satisfacere cupientes....” Other MSS similar.

[535] Selden supra 76, fol. 3v, de simplici iudicio, de cogitatione, de electione, de ratione iudicii.

[536] Digby 149, 13th century, fols. 189-95, “Liber de quatuor partibus astronomie iudiciorum editus a magistro Rogero de Herefordia. Quoniam regulas astronomie artis ... / ... Explicit prima pars.”

CUL 1693, 14th century, fols. 40-51, “Liber Magistri Rogeri de Herfordia de iudiciis Astronomie. Quoniam Regulas artis Astronomice ... / ... oportet inspicere diligenter et completur Liber primus.”

I shall presently show reason for thinking that Selden supra 76 and MS E Musaeo 181 also give only the first part.

[537] Selden supra 76, fol. 3r.

[538] Selden supra 76, fol. 6, has only those terms from redditio on; the others will be found in MS E Musaeo 181.

[539] Selden supra 76, fol. 5r.

[540] BN 7434, 14th century, #5, de tribus generalibus iudiciis astronomie ex quibus certa (cetera?) defluunt....

Dijon 1045 (the same, I judge, as that numbered 270 by Haskins), 15th century, fol. 172v-, “Quoniam circa tria fit omnis astronomica consideratio ... / ... sed non respiciens 3. Explicit.”

In the following MS it follows the first book of the work in four parts but is listed as distinct therefrom in the catalogue:

CUL 1693, 14th century, fols. 51-59, “Liber de tribus generalibus iudiciis astronomie ex quibus cetera omnia defluunt editus a Magistro Rogero de Herfordia. Quoniam circa tria sit (fit?) omnis astronomica consideratio ... / ... minimus vero septem horarum et 20 minutorum etc.” This last is not the same ending as in Dijon 1045, but would seem to refer to the length of the shortest day.

[541] Selden supra 76 and MS E Musaeo 181.

[542] As we have already seen to be the case in CUL 1693, fols. 40-51-59. In Selden supra 76, the work in four parts begins at fol. 3r, “Liber magistri Rogeri Hereford de iudiciis astronomicis. Quoniam regulas artis....” At fol. 10v, Liber de tribus generalibus iudiciis astronomie ex quibus cetera omnia defluunt, editus a magistro Rogero Hereford. In three books and a prologue, opening, “Quoniam circa tria fit omnis astronomica consideracio....” The question then arises, do fol. 14v, “Incipit liber secundus de cogitatione. Sed quum iam de intentione et cogitatione tractandum...”; and fol. 18r, “Incipit liber tercius de electione vel operatione per quod fiat electio”; have reference to the last two books of Three General Judgments or to the two middle books of the work in four parts? Apparently the former, since there is no fourth part given; at fol. 20 seems to open another treatise, Liber de motibus planetarum.

MS E Musaeo 181 has the same arrangement as Selden supra 76, fols. 10-18, but ends with the second book De cogitacione. For the first of the four parts it is fuller than Selden supra 76, fols. 3-9.

Laud. Misc. 594, fols. 136-137r, beginning mutilated, opens “illius signi et duodenarie ostendentis” and ends “secunda si vero respiciens tertia. Explicit liber de quatuor partibus iudiciorum astronomiae editus a magistro Rogero de Hereford.” But the closing words, “respiciens tertia,” are those connected with the Incipit of the Book of Three General Judgments in Dijon 1045, a good illustration of the complexities of the problem.

[543] Besides the fly-leaf of Royal 12-F-17, mentioned above in a note, Ashmole 192, #2, pp. 1-17, “Expliciunt iudicia Herfordensis multum bona et utilia.” It will be noted that in Selden supra 76 the title De iudiciis is applied to the work in four parts.

[544] Neither name, for example, despite the devotion of both to astrology, appears in the index of T. O. Wedel’s, The Mediaeval Attitude toward Astrology particularly in England, Yale University Press, 1920.

[545] For example, in the same MS with Daniel of Morley’s work, Arundel 377, fol. 86v, de altitudine Solis etc. apud Toletum et Herefordiam; Ibid., “Anni collecti omnium planetarum compositi a magistro Rogero super annos domini ad mediam noctem Herefordie anno ab incarnatione domini mclxxviii post eclipsim que contigit Hereford eodem anno” (13 September).

[Pg 188]



Birth and childhood—Education—The state of learning in his time—Popular science and mechanical arts—His works—De naturis rerum—Neckam’s citations—His knowledge of Aristotle—Use of recent authors—Contemporary opinion of Neckam—His attitude toward natural science—Science and the Bible—His own knowledge of science—Incredible stories of animals—A chapter on the cock—Effect of sin upon nature—Neckam on occult virtues—Fascination—His limited belief in astrology—Neckam’s farewell.

Birth and childhood.

In the year 1157 an Englishwoman was nursing two babies. One was a foster child; the other, her own son. During the next fifty years these two boys were to become prominent in different fields. The fame of the one was to be unsurpassed on the battlefield and in the world of popular music and poetry. He was to become king of England, lord of half of France, foremost of knights and crusaders, and the idol of the troubadours. He was Richard, Cœur de Lion. The other, in different fields and a humbler fashion, was none the less also to attain prominence; he was to be clerk and monk instead of king and crusader, and to win fame in the domain of Latin learning rather than Provençal literature. This was Alexander Neckam. Of his happy childhood at St. Albans he tells us himself in Latin verse somewhat suggestive of Gray’s lines on Eton:

Hic locus aetatis nostrae primordia novit
Annos felices laetitiaeque dies
Hic locus ingenuis pueriles imbuit annos
Artibus et nostrae laudis origo fuit,

A number of years of his life were spent as teacher at Dunstable in a school under the control of the monastery [Pg 189] of St. Albans. It was at Paris, however, that he received his higher education and also taught for a while. Scarcely any place, he wrote late in life, was better known to him than the city in whose schools he had been “a small pillar” and where he “faithfully learned and taught the arts, then turned to the study of Holy Writ, heard lectures in Canon Law, and upon Hippocrates and Galen, and did not find Civil Law distasteful.” This passage not only illustrates his own broad education in the liberal arts, the two laws, medicine, and theology, but also suggests that these four faculties were already formed or forming at Paris. Neckam visited Italy, as his humorous poem bidding Rome good-by attests, and from two of the stories which he tells in The Natures of Things[546] we may infer that he had been in Rouen and Meaux. In 1213 Neckam was elected abbot of Cirencester, and died in 1217. An amusing story is told in connection with Neckam’s first becoming a monk. He is said to have first applied for admission to a Benedictine monastery, but when the abbot made a bad pun upon his good name, saying, Si bonus es, venias; si nequam, nequaquam (If you are a good man you may come; if Neckam, by no means), he joined the Augustinians instead.[547]

The state of learning.

Neckam gives us a glimpse of the learned world of his time as well as of his own education. He thinks past times happy, when he recalls that “the greatest princes were diligent and industrious in aiding investigation of nature,” and that it was then commonly said, “An illiterate king is a crowned ass.”[548] But he is not ashamed of the schools of his own day. After speaking of the learning of Greece and Egypt in antiquity and stating that schools no longer flourish in those lands, he exclaims, “But what shall I say of [Pg 190] Salerno and Montpellier where the diligent skill of medical students, serving the public welfare, provides remedies to the whole world against bodily ills? Italy arrogates to itself proficiency in the civil law, but celestial scripture and the liberal arts prefer Paris to all other cities as their home. And in accord with Merlin’s prophecy the wisdom now flourishes at Oxford which in his time was in process of transfer to Ireland.”[549] Neckam’s assertion that there were no schools in the Greece and Egypt of his day is interesting as implying the insignificance of Byzantine and Mohammedan learning in the second half of the twelfth century. He perhaps does not think of Constantinople as in “Greece,” but in Egypt he must certainly include Cairo, where the mosque el-Azhar, devoted in 988 to educational purposes, “has been ever since one of the chief universities of Islam.”[550] At any rate it is clear that to his mind the intellectual supremacy has now passed to western Europe.

Popular science and mechanical arts.

In his praises of learning Neckam is a little too inclined, like many other Latin writers, to speak slightingly of the vulgus or common crowd. In antiquity, he affirms, the liberal arts were the monopoly of free men; mechanical or adulterine arts were for the ignoble.[551] This does not mean, however, that his eyes are closed to the value of practical inventions, since both in The Natures of Things and his De utensilibus we find what are perhaps the earliest references to the mariner’s compass[552] and to glass mirrors.[553] Indeed, he often entertains us with popular gossip and superstition, mentioning for the first time the belief in a man in the moon,[554] and telling such stories of daily life as that of the lonely sailor whose dog helped him reef the sails and manage the ropes of the boat in crossing the Channel,[555] or of the sea-fowl whose daily cry announced to the sheep in the [Pg 191] tidal meadow that it was time to seek higher pasture, until one day its beak was caught by the shell of an oyster it tried to devour and the sheep were drowned for lack of warning.[556]

His works.

Neckam’s writings were numerous, and, as might have been expected from his wide studies, in varied fields. They include grammatical treatises,[557] works on Ovid and classical mythology, commentaries upon the books of the Bible such as the Psalms and Song of Songs, and the writings of Aristotle, and other works of a literary, scientific, or theological character.[558] Most of them, however, if extant, are still in manuscript. Only a few have been printed;[559] among them is The Natures of Things which we shall presently consider.

Neckam is a good illustration of the humanistic movement in the twelfth century. He wrote Latin verse[560] as well as prose; took pains with and pride in his Latin style; and shows acquaintance with a large number of classical authors. He had some slight knowledge, at least, of Hebrew. He [Pg 192] was especially addicted, according to Wright,[561] to those ingenious but philologically absurd derivations of words in which the Etymologies of Isidore of Seville had dealt, explaining, for example, the Latin word for corpse (cadaver) as compounded from the three roots seen in the words for flesh (caro), given (data), to worms (vermibus). Yet in one chapter of The Natures of Things Neckam attacks “the verbal cavils” and use of obsolete words in his time as “useless and frivolous,” and asks if one cannot be a good jurist or physician or philosopher without all this linguistic and verbal display.[562] Wright, moreover, was also impressed by Neckam’s interest in natural science, calling him “certainly one of the most remarkable English men of science in the twelfth century,”[563] and noting that “he not infrequently displays a taste for experimental science.”[564]

De naturis rerum.

The Natures of Things, however, is not primarily a scientific or philosophical dissertation, as Alexander is careful to explain in the preface, but a vehicle for moral instruction. Natural phenomena are described, but following each comes some moral application or spiritual allegory thereof. The spots on the moon, for instance, are explained by some as due to mountains and to depressions which the sun’s light cannot reach, by others as due to the greater natural obscurity of portions of the moon. Neckam adds that they are for our instruction, showing how even the heavenly bodies were stained by the sin of our first parents, and reminding us that during this present life there will always be some blot upon holy church, but that when all the planets and stars shall stand as it were justified, our state too will become stable, and both the material moon and holy church will be spotless before the Lamb.[565] Neckam intends to admire God through His creatures and in so doing humbly to kiss as it were the feet of the Creator. Despite this religious tone and the moralizing, Wright regarded the work “as an interesting monument of the history of science in western Europe [Pg 193] and especially in England during the latter half of the twelfth century,”[566] and as such we shall consider it. That it was written before 1200 is to be inferred from a quotation from it by a chronicler of John’s reign.[567] It seems to have been the best known of Neckam’s works. The brevity of The Natures of Things, which consists of but two books, if we omit the other three of its five books which consist of commentaries upon Genesis and Ecclesiastes, hardly allows us to call it an encyclopedia; but its title and arrangement by topics and chapters closely resemble the later works which are usually spoken of as medieval encyclopedias. Later in life Neckam wrote a poetical paraphrase of it with considerable changes, which is entitled De laudibus divinae sapientiae.

Neckam’s citations.

The citations of authorities in the De naturis rerum are of much interest. A number of references to the law books of Justinian show Neckam’s knowledge of the Roman law,[568] and, as we should expect after hearing of his commentary upon Ovid’s Metamorphoses, allusions to that work, the Fasti, and the Ars amandi are frequent. Claudian is once quoted for two solid pages and considerable use is made of other Latin poets such as Vergil, Lucan, Martial, and Juvenal. Neckam believed that the diligent investigator could find much that was useful in the inventions of the poets and that beneath their fables moral instruction sometimes lay hid.[569] Neckam quotes Plato, perhaps indirectly, and repeats in different words the fable of the crow and fox, as given in [Pg 194] Apuleius.[570] The church fathers are of course utilized—Augustine, Jerome, Gregory, Basil, and a more recent theologian like Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury; and familiarity is shown with the early medieval standard authorities, such as Boethius, Cassiodorus, Bede, and Isidore. Of writers who may be regarded as dealing more particularly with natural science there are mentioned Pliny and Solinus on animals—but he seems to use Pliny very little and Solinus a great deal, Macer and Dioscorides on the properties and effects of herbs,[571] while works in the domain of astronomy or astrology are attributed to Julius (perhaps really Firmicus) and Augustus Caesar as well as to Ptolemy.[572]

His knowledge of Aristotle.

But what is most impressive is the frequent citation from Euclid and Aristotle, especially the latter. Not only the logical treatises are cited, but also the History of Animals[573] and the Liber Coeli et Mundi, while allusion is also made to Aristotle’s opinions concerning vision, motion, melancholy, waters, and various astronomical matters.[574] Such passages—as well as the fact that commentaries on Aristotle are ascribed to Neckam—suggest that Roger Bacon was mistaken in the much-quoted passage in which he states that the works of Aristotle on natural philosophy were first introduced to the medieval (Latin) learned world [Pg 195] in Latin translations by Michael Scot about 1230. Neckam perhaps cites the History of Animals indirectly: at any rate he makes little use of it; but his numerous mentions of Aristotle’s views on nature make it evident that “the truth of Aristotelian” doctrine is already known in the twelfth century. And he already regards “the most acute Aristotle” as the pre-eminent authority among all philosophers. After stating that “all philosophers generally seem to teach” that the planets move in a contrary direction to the firmament like flies walking on a rushing wheel, Neckam adds a number of objections to this view, and adds, “It therefore was the opinion of Aristotle, the most acute, that the planets moved only with the firmament.” He then expresses his amazement that the other philosophers should have dared to oppose Aristotle, should have presumed to set their opinions against so great a philosopher. It is as if a peacock spread its spotted tail in rivalry with the starry sky, or as if owls and bats should vie with the eagle’s unblinking eye in staring at the mid-day sun.[575]

Use of recent authors.

That Neckam had some acquaintance with Arabic and Jewish writers is indicated by his citing Alfraganus and Isaac. Of Christian writers of the century before him Neckam quotes from Hildebert, and four times from Bernard [Pg 196] Silvester. He cites the Pantegni or Tegni of Constantinus Africanus more than once.[576] He does not mention Adelard of Bath by name but in discussing experiments with vacuums repeats the experiment of the water jar. In another chapter he states that, if the earth were perforated, an enormous weight of lead would fall only to the center. Neckam’s chapter on “Why in the same earth plants grow of contrary effects” is similar to the third chapter of the Natural Questions of Adelard, and his chapter on “Why certain animals ruminate” is like Adelard’s seventh in the same work.[577]

Contemporary opinion of Neckam.

Roger Bacon, whose estimates of his contemporaries have sometimes been accepted at too high a value, wrote of Neckam some fifty years after Alexander’s death: “This Alexander wrote true and useful books on many subjects, but he cannot with justice be named as an authority.”[578] Bacon himself, however, seems on at least one occasion to have used Neckam as an authority without naming him.[579] On the other hand, another Englishman of note in science, Alfred of Sarchel or Sareshel, dedicated his book on The Movement of the Heart (De motu cordis) to Neckam.

His attitude toward natural science.

Whatever Neckam’s own scientific attainments may have been, there can be no doubt that he had a high regard for scientia and that he was not wanting in sympathetic appreciation of the scientific spirit. This fact shines out in the pages of the De naturis rerum amid its moral lessons and spiritual illustrations, its erroneous etymologies and popular anecdotes. “Science is acquired,” he says in one passage, “at great expense, by frequent vigils, by great expenditure of time, by sedulous diligence of labor, by vehement application of mind.”[580] But its acquisition abundantly justifies itself even in practical life and destructive war. “What craftiness of the foe is there that does not yield to the precise knowledge of those who have tracked down the elusive [Pg 197] subtleties of things hidden in the very bosom of nature?”[581] He often cites these experts in natural science, whom he always seems to regard with respect as authorities.[582] Not that he believes that they have solved all problems. Some things forsooth are so hidden that it seems as if Nature is saying, “This is my secret, this is my secret!”[583] On the other hand, there are many natural phenomena too familiar through daily use and experience to need mention in books, since even those who do not read are acquainted with them. Neckam consequently will follow a middle course in selecting the contents of his volume.

Science and the Bible.

Although a Christian clergyman, Neckam seems to experience little difficulty in adopting the scientific theories of Aristotle; or, if there are Aristotelian doctrines known to him with which he disagrees, he usually quietly disregards them.[584] But he does raise the question several times of the correctness of Biblical statements concerning nature. He explains that Adam’s body was composed of all four elements and not made merely from earth, as the account of creation in the Book of Genesis might seem to imply.[585] And of the scriptural assertion that “God made two great lights” he says, “The historical narrative follows the judgment of the eye and the popular notion,” but of course the moon is not one of the largest planets.[586] In a third chapter entitled, “That water is not lower than earth,” he notes that the statement of the prophet that “God founded the earth upon the waters” does not agree with Alfraganus’ dictum that there is one sphere of earth and waters.[587] Wright quite unreasonably interprets this chapter as showing “to what a degree science had become the slave of scriptural phraseology.”[588] What it really shows is just the contrary, for even the Biblical expositors, Neckam tells us, say that the passage [Pg 198] is to be taken in the sense that one speaks of Paris as located on the Seine. Neckam then makes a suggestion of his own, that what is really above the waters is the terrestrial paradise, since it is even beyond the sphere of the moon, and Enoch, translated thither, suffered no inconvenience whatever from the waters of the deluge. Moreover, the terrestrial paradise symbolizes the church which is founded on the waters of baptism. All of which is of course far-fetched and fanciful, but in no way can be said to make science “the slave of scriptural phraseology.” On the contrary it makes scriptural phraseology the slave of mysticism, while it subjects Enoch’s translation to somewhat material limitations. Possibly there may be used here some of the apocryphal books current under Enoch’s name.[589] On one occasion Neckam does accept a statement of the Bible which seems inconsistent with the views of philosophers concerning the four elements. This is the assertion that after the day of judgment there will be neither fire nor water but only air and earth will be left. To an imaginary philosopher who seems unwilling to accept this assertion Neckam says, “If you don’t believe me, at least believe Peter, the chief of the apostles, who says the same in his canonical epistle. Says what? Says that fire and water will not exist after the judgment day.”[590] But if Neckam prefers to believe his Bible as to what will occur in the world of nature after the day of judgment, he prefers also, as we have seen, to follow natural science in regard to present natural phenomena. Moreover, in neither the canonical nor apocryphal books can I find any such statement in the Epistles of Peter as Neckam here credits him with, unless after the elements have melted with fervent heat, the new heavens and a new earth are to be interpreted as made respectively of air and earth!

His own knowledge of science.

We may agree at least with Wright that Neckam’s scientific attainments are considerable for his time. In physics and astronomy he shows himself fairly well versed. He [Pg 199] knows something of vacuums and syphoning; he argues that water tends naturally to take a spherical shape;[591] he twice points out that the walls of buildings should not be exactly parallel, since they should ultimately meet, if prolonged far enough, at the center of the earth;[592] and he asserts that the so-called “antipodes” are no more under our feet than we are under theirs.[593] He gives us what is perhaps our earliest information of some medieval inventions, such as the mariner’s compass and mirrors of glass.[594] But he does not attempt to explain differences in the images in convex and concave mirrors.[595] He is modest in regard to his biological attainments, saying that he “is not ashamed to confess” that there are species of which he does not even know the names, to say nothing of their natures.[596] But when Wright calls Neckam’s account of animals “a mere compilation” and says that “much of it is taken from the old writers, such as Solinus, Isidore, and Cassiodorus,”[597] he is basing his conclusion simply on the fact that marginal notes in the medieval manuscripts themselves ascribe a number of passages to these authors. This ascription is correct. But there are many passages on animals where the manuscripts name no authorities, and with one exception—the chapter on the hyena from Solinus—Wright fails to name any source from which Neckam has borrowed these other passages. It is easy to show that Neckam is a compiler when he himself or others have stated his authorities but it is equally fair to suppose that he is honest and original when he cites no authorities or has not been detected in borrowing. And he sometimes criticizes or discriminates between the earlier writers. After quoting Bernard Silvester’s statement that the beaver castrates itself to escape its hunters, he adds, “But [Pg 200] those who are more reliably informed as to the natures of things assert that Bernard has followed the ridiculous popular notion and not reached the true fact.”[598] Neckam also questions the belief that a lynx has such keen sight that it can see through nine walls. This is supposed to have been demonstrated experimentally by observing a lynx with nine walls between it and a person carrying some raw meat. The lynx will move along its side of the walls whenever the meat is moved on the other side and will stop opposite the spot where the person carrying the meat stops. Neckam does not question the accuracy of this absurd experiment, but remarks that some natural scientists attribute it rather to the animal’s sense of smell than to its power of vision.[599]

Incredible stories of animals.

But as a rule Neckam’s treatment of animals is far more credulous than sceptical. He believes that the barnacle bird is generated from fir-wood which has been soaked in the salt water for a long time,[600] and that the wren, after it has been killed and is being roasted, turns itself on the spit.[601] He tells a number of delightful but incredible stories in which animals display remarkable sagacity and manifest emotions and motives similar to those of human beings. Some of these tales concern particular pets or wild beasts; others are of the habits of a species. The hawk, for example, keeps warm on wintry nights by seizing some other bird in its claws and holding it tight against its own body; but when day returns it gratefully releases this bird and satisfies its morning appetite upon some other victim.[602] Neckam also shares the common belief that animals were acquainted with the medicinal virtues of herbs. When the weasel is wounded by a venomous animal, it hastens to seek salubrious plants. For “educated by nature, it knows the virtues of herbs, although it has neither studied medicine at Salerno nor been drilled in the schools at Montpellier.”[603]

[Pg 201]

A chapter on the cock.

Neckam’s chapter on the barnyard cock perhaps will illustrate the divergences between medieval and modern science as well as any other. As a rooster approaches old age, he sometimes lays an egg upon which a toad sits, and from which is hatched the basilisk. How is it that the cock “distinguishes the hours by his song”? From great heat ebullition of the humors within the said bird arises, it produces saltiness, the saltiness causes itching, from the itching comes tickling, from the tickling comes delectation, and delectation excites one to song. Now nature sets certain periods to the movements of humors and therefore the cock crows at certain hours. But why have roosters crests and hens not? This is because of their very moist brains and the presence near the top of their heads of some bones which are not firmly joined. So the gross humor arising from the humidity escapes through the openings and produces the crest.[604]

Effect of sin upon nature.

Neckam harbored the notion, which we met long before in the pagan Philostratus, in the Hebraic Enoch literature, in the Christian Pseudo-Clementines and Basil’s Hexaemeron, and more recently in the writings of Hildegard, that man’s sin has its physical effects upon nature. To Adam’s fall he attributes not only the spots on the moon but the wildness of most animals, and the existence of insects to plague, and venomous animals to poison, and diseases to injure mankind.[605] But for the fall of man, moreover, all living creatures would be subsisting upon a vegetarian diet.

Neckam on occult virtues.

Magic is hardly mentioned in the De naturis rerum. In a passage, however, telling how Aristotle ordered some of his subtlest works to be buried with him, Neckam adds that he so guarded the neighborhood of his sepulcher “by some mysterious force of nature or power of art, not to say feat of the magic art, that no one in those days could enter it.”[Pg 202][606] But Neckam is a believer in occult virtues and to a certain extent in astrology. He would also seem to believe in the force of incantations from his assertion that “in words and herbs and stones diligent investigators of nature have discovered great virtue. Most certain experience, moreover, makes our statement trustworthy.”[607] He mentions a much smaller number of stones than Marbod, but ascribes the same occult virtues to those which he does name. In the preface to his first book he says that some gems have greater virtue when set in silver than when set in gold. A tooth separated from the jaw of a wild boar remains sharp only as long as the animal remains alive, an interesting bit of sympathetic magic.[608] The occult property of taming wild bulls possessed by the fig-tree which we have already seen noted by various authors is also remarked by Neckam.[609] A moonbeam shining through a narrow aperture in the wall of a stable fell directly on a sore on a horse’s back and caused the death of a groom standing nearby. Out-of-doors the effect would not have been fatal, since the force of the moon’s rays would not have been so concentrated upon one spot and the humidity would have had a better chance to diffuse through space.[610]


After telling of the fatal glances of the basilisk and wolf, Neckam says that fascination is explained as due to evil rays from someone who looks at you. He adds that nurses lick the face of a child who has been fascinated.[611]

His limited belief in astrology.

Neckam will not believe that the seven planets are animals.[612] He does believe, however, that they not merely adorn the heavens but exert upon inferiors those effects which God has assigned to them.[613] Each planet rules in turn three hours of the day. As there are twenty-four hours in all, the last three hours of each day are governed by the same planet which ruled the first three. Hence the names of the days [Pg 203]in the planetary week, Sunday being the day when the sun governs the first three and last three hours, Monday the day when the moon controls the opening and closing hours of day, and so on.[614] But the stars do not impose necessity upon the human will which remains free. Nevertheless the planet Mars, for instance, bestows the gift of counsel; and science is associated with the planet Venus which is hot and moist, as are persons of sanguine temperament in whom science is wont to flourish. Neckam also associates each of the seven planets which illuminate the universe with one of the seven liberal arts which shed light on all knowledge.[615] He alludes to the great year of which the philosophers tell, when after 36,000 years the stars complete their courses,[616] and to the music of the spheres when, to secure the perfect consonance of an octave, the eighth sphere of the fixed stars completes the harmony of the seven planets. But he fears that someone may think he is raving when he speaks with the philosophers of this harmony of the eight spheres.[617]

Neckam’s farewell.

At Jesus College, Oxford, in a manuscript of the early thirteenth century, which is exclusively devoted to religious writings by Neckam,[618] there occurs at the close an address of the author to his work, which is in the same hand as the rest of the manuscript, which we may therefore not unreasonably suppose to have been Neckam’s own writing. As he is spoken of in the manuscript as abbot of Cirencester, perhaps these are also actually the last words he wrote. We may therefore appropriately terminate our account of Neckam by quoting them.

“Perchance, O book, you will survive Alexander, and worms will eat me before the book-worm gnaws you; for my body is due the worms and book-worms will demolish you. You are the mirror of my soul, the interpreter of my meditations, the surest index of my meaning, the faithful messenger [Pg 204] of my mind’s emotions, the sweet comforter of my grief, the true witness of my conscience. To you as faithful depositary I have confided my heart’s secrets; you restore faithfully to me those things which I have committed to your trust; in you I read myself. You will come, you will come into the hands of some pious reader who will deign to pour forth prayers for me. Then indeed, little book, you will profit your master; then you will recompense your Alexander by a most grateful interchange. There will come, nor do I begrudge my labor, the devotion of a pious reader, who will now let you repose in his lap, now move you to his breast, sometimes place you as a sweet pillow beneath his head, sometimes gently closing you with glad hands, he will fervently pray for me to Lord Jesus Christ, who with Father and Holy Spirit lives and reigns God through infinite cycles of ages. Amen.”

[546] I, 37 and II, 158.

[547] For references to the sources for the above facts of Neckam’s life see the first few pages of the preface to Thomas Wright’s edition of the De naturis rerum, and the De laudibus divinae sapientiae, in Rerum Britannicarum Medii Aevi Scriptores, vol. 34, London, 1863. All references in this chapter, unless otherwise noted, will be to this volume, and to the book and chapter of the De naturis rerum.

[548] II, 21.

[549] II, 174.

[550] S. Lane-Poole, The Story of Cairo, London, 1902, p. 124.

[551] II, 21.

[552] II, 98. Wright, Volume of Vocabularies, p. 96.

[553] II, 154, and Wright, Preface, p. 1, note. Wright gives no authority for his further observation, “The employment of glass for mirrors was known to the ancients, but appears to have been entirely superseded by metal.”

[554] I, 14.

[555] II, 20.

[556] II, 36.

[557] Such as his “Corrogationes Promethei” found at Oxford in the following MSS: Laud. Misc. 112, 13th century, fols. 9-42; Merton College 254, 14th century; Bodleian (Bernard 4094) and 550 (Bernard 2300), middle of 13th century.

[558] HL XVIII (1835), 521 was mistaken in saying that the De naturis rerum is the only one of Neckam’s works found in continental libraries, for see Evreux 72, 13th century. Alexandri Neckam opuscula, fol. 2. “Correctiones Promethei,” fol. 26v, “super expositione quarundem dictionum singulorum librorum Bibliothece scilicit de significatione eorum et accentu.” And there is a copy of his De utensilibus in BN 15171, fol. 176.

[559] The De utensilibus was also edited by Thomas Wright in 1857 in A Volume of Vocabularies. Professor Haskins has printed “A List of Text-books from the Close of the Twelfth Century” in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, XX (1909), 90-94, which he argues is from a work by Neckam (Gonville and Caius College MS 385, pp. 7-61). In 1520 there was printed under the name of Albericus a work which is really by Neckam, as a MS at Oxford bears witness, Digby 221, 14th century, fol. 1. “Mithologie Alexandri Neckam et alio nomine Sintillarium appellatur”; Incipit, “Fuit vir in Egipto ditissimus nomine Syrophanes.” In the same MS, fols. 34v-85, follows another work, “Alexander Nequam super Marcianum de nuptiis Mercurii et Philologie.” See also in the Bodleian (Bernard 2019, #3, and 2581, #6) Scintillarium Poiseos in quo de diis gentium et nominibus deorum et philosophorum de eis opiniones ubi et de origine idolatriae.

[560] See M. Esposito, “On Some Unpublished Poems Attributed to Alexander Neckam,” in English Historical Review, XXX (1915), 450-71. He prints several poems on wine, etc., and gives a bibliography of Neckam’s works, five printed and eleven in MSS.

[561] P. xiii.

[562] II, 174.

[563] P. ix.

[564] P. xii.

[565] I, 14.

[566] Pp. xiv-xv.

[567] Wright (p. lxxvii) used four MSS of the 13th or very early 14th century. At Corpus Christi College, Oxford, there is a beautifully written twelfth century copy which he did not use, MS 45, folio, 186 fols., double columns. Comment, in Genesim et Ecclesiasten, sive de naturis rerum libri quinque; “Explicit tract. mag. Alex. Neckam super Ecclesiasten de naturis rerum.” Although Wright used two MSS from the Royal Library, he fails to note a third, MS 3737 in the Harleian collection of the British Museum. It is of the 13th century according to the catalogue and contains this interesting inscription, “Hic est liber S. Albani quam qui abstulerit aut titulum deleverit anathema sit. Amen.” (This book belongs to St. Albans. May he who steals it or destroys the title be anathema. Amen.)

[568] I, 75; II, 155, 173.

[569] II, 11; II, 107; II, 12; II, 126.

[570] In H. E. Butler’s translation, Oxford, 1909, given as Florida, cap. 26; in the MSS and in Hildebrand’s text, part II, Lipsiae, 1842, included in the prologus to the De Deo Socratis, with which we may therefore infer that Neckam was acquainted. Indeed there is a twelfth century manuscript of the De Deo Socratis in the British Museum—Harleian 3969.

[571] II, 166.

[572] II, 12.

[573] II, 44. Narcos piscis est tantae virtutis, ut dicit Aristoteles.... II, 159. Ut docet Aristoteles, omnia mula sterilis est. While the substance of these two passages is found in Pliny’s Natural History, he does not mention Aristotle in these connections nor use the Greek word “narcos.” Moreover, Neckam seems to give credit as a rule to his immediate sources and not to copy their citations; as we have seen, he credited the fable of the fox and crow to Apuleius and not to Aesop to whom Apuleius credits it.

[574] II, 153. Sed Aristoteli magis credendum esse reor quam vulgo. I, 39. Dicit tamen Aristoteles quod nihil habet duos motus contrarios. I, 7. Aristoteles qui dicit, “Solos melancholicos ingeniosos esse.” II, 1. Secundum veritatem doctrinae Aristotelicae omnes aquae sunt indifferentes secundum speciem. I, 9. Placuit itaque acutissimo Aristoteli planetas tantum cum firmamento moveri. Sed quid? Aristoteli audent sese opponere?... etc.

[575] It would therefore seem that Professor Haskins (EHR, 30, 68) is scarcely justified in saying that “the natural philosophy and metaphysics of Aristotle” are “cited in part but not utilized by Alexander Neckam,” especially since he states presently that “Neckam himself seems to have been acquainted with the Metaphysics, De Anima, and De generatione et corruptione” (Ibid., 69, and “A List of Textbooks,” Harvard Studies, XX (1909), 75-94). Professor Haskins, however, believes that the new Aristotle was by this time penetrating England, but gives the main credit for this to Alfredus Anglicus or Alfred of Sareshel, the author of the De motu cordis, and the translator of the Pseudo-Aristotelian De vegetabilibus and of an appendix to the Meteorologica consisting of three chapters De congelatis, also translated from the Arabic. Alfred was no isolated figure in English learning, since he dedicated the De vegetabilibus to Roger of Hereford and the De motu cordis to Neckam: ed. Baruch, Innsbruck, 1878; and see Baeumker, Die Stellung des Alfred von Sareshel ... in der Wissenschaft des beginnenden XIII Jahrts., München, Sitzber. (1913), No. 9. On the whole it is probably safe to assume that his knowledge of Aristotle was soon at least, if not from the start, shared with others. Grabmann (1916), pp. 22-25, adds nothing new on the subject of Neckam’s knowledge of Aristotle.

[576] I, 39; II, 11; I, 49; II, 129, 140, 157; II, 157 and 161.

[577] I, 19; I, 16; II, 57; II, 162.

[578] Fr. Rogeri Bacon, Opera Inedita, ed. Brewer, p. 457 in RS, vol. 15.

[579] As I shall point out when I come to Roger Bacon, there are one or two rather striking resemblances between his interests and method and those of Neckam.

[580] II, 155.

[581] II, 174.

[582] For instance, II, 148. “Qui autem in naturis rerum instructi sunt.”

[583] II, 99.

[584] I, 16, a citation from Aristotle gives him a little trouble.

[585] II, 152.

[586] I, 13. “Sed visus iudicium et vulgarem opinionem sequitur historialis narratio.”

[587] II, 49.

[588] Preface, p. xxx.

[589] See I Hermas, iii, 42. “Hear therefore why the tower is built upon the water: because your life is and shall be saved by water....”

[590] I, 16.

[591] II, 14. Vitruvius, VIII, v. 5, ascribes this doctrine to Archimedes.

[592] II, 172; and p. 109 of De utensilibus.

[593] II, 49.

[594] Wright points out (p. 1, note) that in Beckman’s History of Inventions no instances are given of allusions to glass mirrors earlier than the middle of the thirteenth century.

[595] II, 154.

[596] II, 99.

[597] P. xxxix.

[598] II, 140.

[599] II, 138.

[600] I, 48.

[601] I, 78.

[602] I, 25.

[603] II, 123. This reminds one of the account of the tunny fish by Plutarch which we noted in our chapter on Plutarch, where he says that the tunny fish needs no astrological canons and is familiar with arithmetic; “Yes, by Zeus, and with optics, too.” It is unlikely that Neckam was acquainted with Plutarch’s Essays.

[604] I, 75; the reasoning is somewhat similar to Adelard of Bath’s explanation why his nephew wept for joy.

[605] II, 156.

[606] II, 189.

[607] II, 85.

[608] II, 139.

[609] II, 80.

[610] II, 153; this item is also found in the De Natura rerum of Thomas of Cantimpré.

[611] II, 153.

[612] I, 9.

[613] I, 7.

[614] I, 10. See p. 670 for Bacon’s different account of this point.

[615] II, 173.

[616] I, 6.

[617] I, 15.

[618] Jesus 94. The MS includes a gloss on the psalter, a commentary on the proverbs of Solomon, two sermons, and three books on “Who can find a virtuous woman?” by Bede.

[Pg 205]



His life—His works in the west—His works in Latin—Attitude to science and religion—Attitude to magic—Towards empiricism—Abuse of divine names—Occult virtue and empirical remedies in his work on poisons—Attitude to astrology—Divination and prophecy—Marvels in the Aphorisms.

His life.

In this chapter we turn to consider perhaps the leading representative of Hebrew learning in the middle ages, Moses Maimonides[619] or Musa ibn Maimum or Moses ben Maimon, as he is variously briefly styled, not to entangle ourselves in the intricacies of his full Arabic name. In the Latin versions of his works he is spoken of as Rabbi Moyses of Cordova[620] or is made to call himself an Israelite of Cordova, [Pg 206][621] but it seems to have been not much more than the scene of his birth and childhood, since the invasion of the fanatical Almohades in 1148 forced his father to flee with his family first from place to place in Spain, in 1160 to Fez, later to Syria and Egypt. From about 1165 on Maimonides seems to have lived most of the time at Cairo and there to have done most of his work. After the deaths of his father and brother forced him to earn a livelihood by practicing medicine, he became physician to the vizier of Saladin and head of the Jewish community in Cairo.

His works in the west.

Whether or not he returned to Spain before his death in 1204, he was certainly known to the western world of learning. In 1194 he wrote a letter on the subject of astrology in response to inquiries which he had received from Jews of Marseilles.[622] In it he tells them that his Repetition of the Law (Iteratio legis) has already spread through the island of Sicily. But he apparently was still in Cairo, where in July, 1198, he wrote his treatise on Poisons for the Cadi Fadhil.[623] After his death, however, it was between the conservative and liberal parties among the Jews of France and Spain that a struggle ensued over the orthodoxy of his works, which was finally settled, we are told, by reference in 1234 to the Christian authorities, who ordered his books to be burned. His Guide for the Perplexed, first published in Egypt in Arabic in 1190, had been translated into Hebrew at Lunel in southern France before the close of the twelfth century, and then again by a Spanish poet.[624] But the rabbis of northern France opposed the introduction of Maimonides’ works there and, when they were anathematized for it by those of the south, are said to have reported the writings [Pg 207] to the Inquisition. The Maimonist party then accused them of delation and several of them were punished by having their tongues cut out.[625]

His works in Latin.

If certain Christian authorities really did thus burn the books of Maimonides, their action was unavailing to check the spread of his writings even in Christian lands, and certainly was not characteristic of the attitude of Christian Latin learning in general. The Guide of the Perplexed had already been translated into Latin before 1234,[626] and we find Moses of Cordova cited by such staunch churchmen as Alexander of Hales, Albertus Magnus,[627] Thomas Aquinas, and Vincent of Beauvais. It was for Pope Clement V himself that Ermengard Blasius of Montpellier translated at Barcelona Maimonides’ work on Poisons at the beginning of the fourteenth century from Arabic into Latin.[628]

Attitude to science and religion.

It was not surprising that Albert and Aquinas should cite Maimonides, for he did for Jewish thought what they attempted for Christian, namely, the reconciliation of Aristotle and the Bible, philosophy and written revelation. If he anteceded them in this and perhaps to some extent showed them the way, we must remember that William of Conches, who was earlier than he, had already faced this difficulty of the relations between science and religion, the scriptures and the writings of the philosophers, although he of course did not know all the books of Aristotle. As for Maimonides, continuing the allegorical [Pg 208] method of Philo, he tried to discover in the Old Testament and Talmud all the Aristotelian philosophy, and was convinced that the prophets of old had received further revelations of a philosophical character, which had been transmitted orally for a time but then lost during the periods of Jewish wandering and persecution.[629] He defended Moses from the slurs of Galen who had charged the lawgiver with an unscientific attitude.[630] He denied the eternity of matter[631] and of the heavens,[632] but held that the celestial bodies were living animated beings and that the heavenly spheres were conscious and free.[633] He spoke of belief in demons as “idle and fallacious,” holding that evil is mere privation and that the personal Devil of Scripture was an allegory for this, while the possession by demons was merely the disease of melancholy.[634] Yet he believed that God does nothing without the mediation of an angel and that belief in the existence of angels is only second in importance to a belief in God.[635] Thus the rationalism and scepticism which modern Jewish admirers have ascribed to Maimonides had their decided limitations.

Attitude to magic.

An interesting discussion of magic occurs in the Guide for the Perplexed[636] in connection with the precepts of the Mosaic law against idolatry. Maimonides holds that magicians and diviners are closely akin to idolaters, and this part of his discussion is very similar to patristic treatments which we have already encountered. He goes on, however, to say that astrology and magic were especially characteristic of the Chaldeans, Egyptians, and Canaanites, and to distinguish three varieties of magic: one employing the properties of plants, animals and metals; a second determining the times when these works should be performed;[Pg 209] a third employing gesticulations, actions, and cries of the human operator himself. Thus he recognizes the three elements of materials, times, and rites in magic. He sees that they may be combined in one operation, as when an herb is plucked when the moon is in a specified degree. He notes that magic is largely performed by women, towards whom men are more merciful than towards their own sex. He also notes that magicians claim to do good or at least to ward off evils such as snakes and wild beasts or the blight from plants. But the lawgiver forbade “all those practices which contrary to natural science are said to produce utility by special and occult virtues and properties, ... such forsooth as proceed not from a natural cause but a magical operation and which rely upon the constellations to such a degree as to involve worship and veneration of them.”[637]

Towards empiricism.

But then Maimonides goes on to say that “everything is licit in which any natural cause appears.” And he goes farther than that. He says that the reader need not feel uneasy because the rabbis have allowed the use in suspensions of a nail from the yoke worn by criminals or the tooth of a fox. “For in those times they placed faith in these things because they were confirmed by experience and served in the place of medicine.” Similarly in Maimonides’ own day Galen’s remedy of the suspension of a peony from the patient’s neck was employed in cases of epilepsy, dog’s dung was used against pustules and sore throat, and so forth. “For whatever is proved by experience to be true, although no natural cause may be apparent, its use is permitted, because it acts as a medicine.” Thus he condemns magic, but approves of empirical medicine as well as of natural science, and evidently does not regard the employment of occult virtues as necessarily magical and forbidden.

[Pg 210]

Abuse of divine names.

In another passage of the Guide Maimonides cautions, however, against the abuse of divine names, and, while he holds to the Tetragrammaton “which is written but is not pronounced as it is spelled,” deplores the many inventions of meaningless and inefficacious names which superstitious and insane men have too often imposed upon the credulity of good men as possessed of peculiar sanctity and purity and having the virtue of working miracles. He therefore warns his readers against such “amulets or experimental charts.”[638]

Occult virtue and empirical remedies in his work on poisons.

Maimonides again approves of empirical remedies and of occult virtues in his treatise on poisons. He holds that counter-poisons do not act by any physical or chemical quality but by their entire substance or by a special property.[639] Lemon pips, peeled and applied in a compress; a powdered emerald, which should be a beautiful green, quite transparent, and of good water; and the animal bezoar, which comes from the eyes or gall bladder of deer; these are antidotes whose efficacy is proved by incontestible experimentation. When terra sigillata cannot be had, a powdered emerald of the sort just described may be substituted for it as an ingredient in the grand theriac.[640] Maimonides believes that this last named remedy is the outcome of experiments with vipers carried on through the course of centuries by ancient philosophers and physicians.[641] As for the stone bezoar, the writings of the moderns are full of marvelous tales concerning it, but Galen does not mention it, and Maimonides has tried all the varieties which he could obtain against scorpion bites without the least success. But experience confirms the virtue of the bezoar of animal origin, as has been stated. Maimonides’ observations concerning cures for the bites of mad dogs are interesting. He states that at first the bite of a mad dog does not feel any different from that of a dog who is not mad. He also warns his readers not to trust to books to distinguish between [Pg 211] the two, but unless they are sure that the dog was not mad, to keep on the safe side by taking the remedies against the bite of a mad dog.[642] He also states that all of the various remedies listed for the cure of the bite of a mad dog must be employed before hydrophobia manifests itself, “for after the appearance of that symptom, I have never seen a patient survive.”[643] In speaking of sucking the venom from a wound, Maimonides affirms that it is better to have this done by a fasting person, since the spittle of such a person is itself hostile to poisons.[644]

Attitude to astrology.

That Maimonides was well acquainted with the art of astrology may be inferred from his assertion that he has read every book in Arabic on the subject.[645] Maimonides not only believed that the stars were living, animated beings and that there were as many pure intelligences as there were spheres,[646] but he states twice in the Guide for the Perplexed[647] that all philosophers agree that this inferior world of generation and corruption is ruled by the virtues and influences of the celestial spheres. While their influence is diffused through all things, each star or planet also has particular species especially under its influence. According to Lévy[648] he further held not only that the movement of the celestial sphere starts every motion in the universe, but that every soul has its origin in the soul of the celestial sphere. In his letter on astrology to the Jews of Marseilles he repeats that all the philosophers have held, and that Hebrew masters of the past have agreed with them, that whatever is in this inferior world the blessed God has brought about by that virtue which arises from the spheres and stars. As God performs signs and miracles by angels, so natural processes and operations by the spheres and stars which are animated and endowed with knowledge and science. All this is true and in no way derogates from the Jewish faith. But Maimonides regards as folly and not [Pg 212] wisdom the doctrine found in Arabic works of astrology that a man’s nativity compels everything to happen to him just as it does and in no otherwise. He regards this doctrine as derived from the Chaldeans, Egyptians, and Canaanites and makes the rather rash assertion that no Greek philosopher ever wrote a book of this sort. This doctrine would make no distinction between a man whom a lion meets and tears limb from limb and the mouse which a cat plays with. It would make men warring for kingdoms no different from dogs fighting over a carcass. These illustrations may seem to the reader rather favorable to the doctrine which Maimonides is endeavoring to combat, but he upholds human free will and man’s responsibility for his actions, which he declares are fundamental tenets of the Jewish law. For some reason which is not clear to me he identifies the doctrine of nativities and the control of human destiny by the constellations with the rule of blind chance and the happening of everything fortuitously, which would seem quite a different matter and third alternative.[649] Maimonides holds that God planned all human affairs beforehand, and that just as He planned the course of nature so as to allow for the occurrence of miracles, so He planned human affairs in such a way that men could be held responsible and punished for their sins. Maimonides regards the rule of chance and the doctrine of nativities as incompatible with this.

Divination and prophecy.

Yet Maimonides believed in a human faculty of natural divination, stating that the ability to conjecture and divine is found in all men to some degree, and that in some imagination and divination are so strong and sure that they correctly forecast all future events or the greater part of them.[650] The difference between true prophets and the diviners and observers of times “is that the observers of times, diviners, [Pg 213] and such men, some of their words may be fulfilled and some of them may not be fulfilled.”[651]

Marvels in the Aphorisms

In his Aphorisms which are drawn largely from the works of Galen Maimonides repeats many marvelous stories, instances of belief in occult virtue, and medical methods bordering upon the practice of magic.[652] Most of these have already been mentioned in our chapters upon Galen and need not be reiterated here. It is perhaps worth noting that Maimonides displays some critical sense as to the authenticity of works ascribed to Galen. He does not accept as his a treatise forbidding the burial of a man until twenty-four hours after his supposed death, although the patriarch who translated it from Greek into Arabic regarded it as Galen’s. Maimonides suggests that it may be by some other Galen than the great physician “whose books are well known.” Maimonides also notes that in the work of Hippocrates on female ailments which Galen commented upon and Hunain translated there have been added many statements of a marvelous character by some third hand.

[619] In English, besides the article on Maimonides in the Jewish Encyclopedia, there is a rather good essay by Rabbi Gottheil in Warner’s Library of the World’s Best Literature. Recent works in French and German are: L. G. Lévy, Maimonide, 1911; Moses ben Maimon, sein Leben, seine Werke, und sein Einfluss, zur Erinnerung an den siebenhundertsten Todestag des Maimonides, herausg. v. d. Gesell. z. Förderung d. Wiss. d. Judenthums durch W. Bacher, M. Brann, D. Simonsen, J. Guttmann, 2 vols., containing twenty essays by various contributors, Leipzig, 1908 and 1914. L. Finkelscherer, Mose Maimunis Stellung zum Aberglauben und zur Mystik, Breslau, 1894; a Jena doctoral dissertation, full of somewhat juvenile generalizations, and which fails to appraise Maimonides’ attitude towards magic, astrology, and superstition comparatively. See also D. Joël, Der Aberglaube und die Stellung des Judenthums zu demselben, 1881-1883. Other older works on Maimonides are listed in the bibliography in the Jewish Encyclopedia. The Guide of the Perplexed (Moreh Nebukim) was translated by M. Friedländer, second edition, 1904, and I have also used the Latin translation of 1629. The Yad-Hachazakah was published in 1863; The Book of Precepts, in 1849; the Commentary on the Mishnah, in 1655. Other works will be listed in the four following foot-notes.

[620] “Rabymoyses Cordubensis,” fols. 1r and 13v of the Latin translation of his work on Poisons by Ermengard Blasius of Montpellier in an Oxford MS, Corpus Christi College 125.

[621] “Moysi israhelitici,” on the first page of a Latin translation printed in 1477 (?)—numbered IA.27063 in the British Museum—from his “Yad Hachazakah,” under the title, “De regimine sanitatis omnium hominum sub breviloquio compilatus.” In the Latin version of the Aphorisms printed in 1489 (numbered IA.28878 in the British Museum), “ait Moyses filius servuli dei israeliticus cordubensis,” and “Incipiunt aphorismi excellentissimi Raby Moyses secundum doctrinam Galieni medicorum principis.”

[622] Moses ben Maimon, De astrologia ... epistola, 1555, Hebrew text and Latin translation.

[623] See the preface as given in the French translation by I. M. Rabbinowicz, Paris, 1865. There is a German translation by M. Steinschneider, Gifte und Ihre Heilungen, Berlin, 1873.

[624] Lévy (1911), 237.

[625] Lévy (1911), 233, who cites “pour le détail” Kobéç III; Henda ghenonza, 18, Königsberg, 1856; Taam zeqanim, Frankfurt, 1854.

[626] Lévy (1911), 261, “Le Guide avait dû être traduit en latin au début du XIIIe siècle, attendu que, dès ce moment, on relève des traces de son influence dans la scolastique.... Moïse de Salerno déclare qu’il a lu le Guide en latin avec Nicolo Paglia di Giovenazzo, qui fonda en 1224 un convent dominicain à Trani.”

According to Gottheil, it was this Latin translation of the Guide which the Jewish opponents of Maimonides’ teaching induced the church to consign to the flames.

The Latin translation in CUL 1711 (Qi. I. 19), fols. 1-183, is ascribed in the catalogue to Augustinus Justinianus, Nebiensium Episcopus, and is said to have been printed in Paris, 1520.

[627] M. Joël, Verhältnis Albert des Grossen zu Moses Maimonides, 1863. A. Rohner, Das Schöpfungsproblem bei Moses Maimonides, Albertus Magnus, und Thomas von Aquin, 1913.

[628] See his preface in Corpus Christi 125, fol. 1r.

[629] Jewish Encyclopedia, p. 74.

[630] Aphorismi (1489), partic. 25. “Et ostendam hac demonstratione quod insipientia quam attribuit Moysi erat attribuenda ipsi Galieno vere et ponam dictum meum inter eos sicut inter duos sapientes unum compilatiorem alio....”

[631] JE, p. 77.

[632] Lévy (1911), p. 86.

[633] Lévy (1911), p. 84.

[634] Finkelscherer (1894), pp. 40-51.

[635] Lévy, pp. 89-90.

[636] More Nevochim (1629), III, 37.

[637] “... interdixit omnia ea quae contra speculationem naturalem specialibus et occultis viribus ac proprietatibus utilitatem afferre asserunt ... talia videlicet quae non ex ratione naturali sed ex opere magico sequuntur et stellarum dispositionibus ac rationibus innituntur, unde necessario ad colendas et venerandas illas devenitur.”

[638] More Nevochim (1629), I, 61-62.

[639] French translation (1865), p. 26.

[640] Ibid., pp. 27-28, 53-4.

[641] Ibid., p. 38.

[642] Poisons (1865), p. 43.

[643] Ibid., p. 40.

[644] Ibid., p. 21.

[645] So he states at the beginning of his De astrologia (1555).

[646] Lévy (1911), pp. 84-5.

[647] II, 5 and 10.

[648] Lévy (1911), p. 87.

[649] And the following passage seems quite confused and illogical; but perhaps the fault is with the Latin translator: “Ad haec omnes illae tres sectae philosophorum qui asseverant omnia per sphaeras et stellas fieri etiam dicunt quicquid mortalibus contingit id casu temere et fortuito fieri et nullam de supernis causam habere, nec ea in re quicquam.”

[650] More Nevochim (1629), II, 38.

[651] Yad-Hachazakah, (1863), I, i, x, pp. 63-4.

[652] These occur in the 24th section which is devoted to medical marvels: “Incipit particula xxiiii continens aphorismos dependentes a miraculis repertis in libris medicorum.” It is rather to Maimonides’ credit that he segregated these marvels in a separate chapter.

[Pg 214]



Prince Khalid ibn Jazid and The Book of Morienus—Robert of Chester’s preface—The story of Morienus and Calid—The secret of the philosopher’s stone—Later medieval works of alchemy ascribed to Hermes—Medieval citations of Hermes otherwise than as an alchemist—Astrological treatises—Of the Six Principles of ThingsLiber lune—Images of the seven planets—Book of Venus of Toz Graecus—Further mentions of Toz Graecus—Toz the same as Thoth or Trismegistus—Magic experiments.

Prince Khalid ibn Jazid and The Book of Morienus.

Al-Mas’udi, who lived from about 885 to 956 A. D., has preserved a single recipe for making gold from the alchemical poem, The Paradise of Wisdom, originally consisting of some 2315 verses and written by the Ommiad prince, Khalid ibn Jazid (635-704 A. D.) of Alexandria. Other Arabic writers of the ninth and tenth centuries represent this prince as interested in natural science and medicine, alchemy and astrology, and as the first to promote translations from the Greek and Coptic. Thus the alchemistic Book of Crates is said to have been translated either by him or under his direction. The Fihrist further states that Khalid was instructed in alchemy by one Morienes, who was himself a disciple of Adfar.[653] There is still extant, but only in Latin translation, what purports to be the book of this same Morienes, or Morienus as he is called in Latin, addressed to this same Khalid. The book cites or invents various Greek alchemists but claims the Thrice-Great Hermes as its original author. It is of this work that we shall now treat as the first of a number of medieval Hermetic books.

[Pg 215]

Robert of Chester’s preface.

One of the earliest treatises of alchemy translated from Arabic into Latin would appear to be this which Morienus Romanus, a hermit of Jerusalem, edited for “Calid, king of the Egyptians,” and which Robert of Chester turned into Latin[654] on the eleventh day of February in the year 1182 of the Spanish era or 1144 A. D. Of Robert’s other translations we have spoken elsewhere.[655] He opens his preface to the present treatise with an account of three Hermeses—Enoch, Noah, and the king, philosopher, and prophet who reigned in Egypt after the flood and was called Hermes Triplex. This account is very similar to one which we shall presently find prefixed to an astrological treatise by Hermes Trismegistus. It was this Hermes, Robert continues, who rediscovered and edited all the arts and sciences after the deluge, and who first found and published the present work, which is a book divine and most replete with divinity, and which is entitled, The Book of the Composition of Alchemy. “And since,” says Robert, “what alchemy is and what is its composition, your Latin world does not yet know truly,[656] I will elucidate the same in the present treatise.” Alchemy is that substance which joins the more precious bodies which are compounded from one original matter and by this same natural union converts them to the higher type. In other words, it is the philosopher’s [Pg 216] stone by which metals may be transmuted. Although Robert is a relatively young man and his Latinity perhaps not of the best, he essays the task of translating this so great and important a work and reveals his own name in the preface lest some other person steal the fruits of his labor and the praise which is his due. Lippmann dismisses the translation rather testily as “surpassed by no later work for emptiness, confusion, and sheer drivel,”[657] but we shall attempt some further description.

The story of Morienus and Calid.

Following Robert’s preface comes an account, in the usual style of apocryphal and occult works, told partly in the first person by Morienus and partly of him in the third person by someone else. Long after Christ’s passion an Adfar of Alexandria found the book of Hermes, mastered it after long study, and himself gave forth innumerable precepts which were spread abroad and finally reached the ears of Morienus, then a young man at Rome. This reminds us of the opening of the Recognitions of Clement. Morienus left his home, parents, and native land, and hastened to Alexandria to the house of Adfar. When Adfar learned that Morienus was a Christian, he promised to divulge to him “the secrets of all divinity,” which he had hitherto kept concealed from nearly everyone. When Adfar died, Morienus left Alexandria and became a hermit at Jerusalem. Not many years thereafter a king arose in Egypt named Macoya. He begat a son named Gezid who reigned after his father’s death and in his turn begat a son named Calid who reigned after his death. This Calid was a great patron of science and searched all lands for someone who could reveal this book of Hermes to him. Morienus was still living, and when a traveler brought him news of Calid and his desire, he came to his court, not for the sake of the gifts of gold which the king had offered, but in order to instruct him with spiritual gifts. Saluting Calid with the words, “O good king, may God convert you to a better,” he asked for a house or laboratory in which to prepare his [Pg 217] masterpiece of perfection, but departed secretly as soon as it was consummated. When Calid saw the gold which Morienus had made, he ordered the heads to be cut off of all the other alchemists whom he had employed for years, and grieved that the hermit had left without revealing his secret.

The secret of the philosopher’s stone

More years passed before Calid’s trusty slave, Galip, learned the identity and whereabouts of Morienus from another hermit of Jerusalem and was despatched with a large retinue to bring him back. The king and the hermit at first engaged in a moral and religious discussion, and many days passed before Calid ventured to broach the subject of alchemy. He then put to Morienus a succession of questions, such as whether there is one fundamental substance, and concerning the nature and color of the philosopher’s stone, also its natural composition, weight and taste, cheapness or expensiveness, rarity or abundance, and whether there is any other stone like unto it or which has its effect. This last query Morienus answered in the negative, since in the philosopher’s stone are contained the four elements and it is like unto the universe and the composition of the universe. In the process of obtaining it decay must come first, then purification. As in human generation, there must first be coitus, then conception, then pregnancy, then birth, then nutrition. To such general observations and analogies, which are commonplaces of alchemy, are finally added several pages of specific directions as to alchemistic operations. Such enigmatic nomenclature is employed as “white smoke,” and “green lion,” but Morienus later explains to Calid the significance of most of these phrases. “Green lion” is glass; “impure body” is lead; “pure body” is tin, and so on.

Later works of alchemy ascribed to Hermes.

In so far as I have examined the alchemical manuscripts of the later middle ages,[658] which I have not done very [Pg 218] extensively owing to the fact that most of them consist of anonymous and spurious compositions which are probably of a later date than the period with which we are directly concerned,[659] I have hardly found as many treatises ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus as might be expected. Perhaps as many works are ascribed to Aristotle, Geber, and other famous names as to Hermes or Mercury. Thus out of some forty items in an alchemical miscellany of the fourteenth or fifteenth century[660] two are attributed to Hermes and Mercury, two to Aristotle, one to Plato, three to Geber, two to Albertus Magnus, and others to his contemporaries like Roger Bacon, Brother Elias, Bonaventura, and Arnald of Villanova. Of the two titles connected with Hermes one is simply a Book of Hermes; the other, A Treatise of Mercury to his disciple Mirnesindus. Other specimens of works ascribed to Hermes in medieval Latin manuscripts are: The Secrets of Hermes the philosopher, inventor of metals, according to the nature of transmutation[661] or in another manuscript, “inventor of transformation,”[662] a treatise [Pg 219] on the fountain of youth by Trismegistus;[663] and a work on alcohol ascribed to “father Hermes.”[664] The Early English Text Society has reprinted an English translation of the Latin treatise on the fifth essence “that Hermes, the prophet and king of Egypt, after the flood of Noah, father of philosophers, had by revelation of an angel of God to him sent,” which was first published “about 1460-1476 by Fred J. Furnival.”[665] “The book of Hermogenes” is also to be accredited to Hermes Trismegistus.[666]

Medieval citations of Hermes

Among the Arabs and in medieval Latin learning the reputation of Hermes continued not only as an alchemist, but as a fountain of wisdom in general. Roger Bacon spoke of “Hermes Mercurius, the father of philosophers.”[667] Daniel of Morley we have heard cite works of Trismegistus and distinguish between “two most excellent authorities,” the “great Mercury,” and his nephew, “Trismegistus Mercurius.”[668] Albertus Magnus cited “The so-called Sacred Book of Hermes to Asclepius,”[669] an astrological treatise of which the Greek version has been mentioned in our earlier chapter on Hermes, Orpheus, and Zoroaster. And Albert’s contemporary, William of Auvergne, bishop of Paris, makes use several times[670] of the dialogue between Mercurius Trismegistus, “the Egyptian philosopher and magician,” and Asclepius from a Liber de hellera or De deo deorum, which is presumably the Greek Ἱερὰ βίβλος. Trismegistus is [Pg 220] represented as affirming that there is divine power in herbs and stones. In the Speculum astronomiae[671] Albert listed a number of bad books on necromantic images[672] by Hermes of which Christians were to beware: a book of images for each of the seven planets, an eighth treatise following them, a work on The seven rings of the seven planets, a book of magical illusions (liber praestigiorum),[673] and a book addressed to Aristotle. William of Auvergne seems to allude to the same literature when he twice repeats a story of two fallen angels from Hermes, citing his Seven Planets in one case and Book of Venus in the other.[674] Albertus Magnus also cites “books of incantations” by Hermes in his work on vegetables and plants;[675] and a Liber Alcorath is ascribed to Hermes in the Liber aggregationis or Experimenta Alberti which is current under Albert’s name. The astrologer Cecco d’Ascoli in the early fourteenth century cites a treatise by Hermes entitled De speculis et luce (Of mirrors and light).[676] These few instances of medieval citation of Hermes could of course be greatly multiplied but suffice to suggest the importance of his name in the later history of magic and astrology as well as of alchemy.

Astrological treatises.

We may, however, briefly examine some specimens of the works themselves, chiefly, as in the citations, of a magical and astrological character, which are current under Hermes’ name in the medieval manuscripts. A treatise on fifteen stars, fifteen stones, fifteen herbs, and fifteen images to be engraved on the stones, is ascribed sometimes to Hermes and sometimes to Enoch.[677] The number fifteen is difficult to [Pg 221] relate to planets, signs, or decans; in fact the fifteen stars are fixed stars supposed to exceed others in virtue. John Gower in the fourteenth century treated of the same subject in his Confessio amantis.[678] In the middle ages a Centiloquium, or series of brief astrological dicta, was ascribed to Hermes as well as to Ptolemy. Some manuscripts imply that the Centiloquium of Hermes was a selection from the astrological treatises of Hermes put together by Stephen of Messina for Manfred, king of Sicily.[679] In a fifteenth century manuscript is ascribed to Hermes a Latin astrological treatise of considerable length opening with the thirty-six decans and their astrological influence[680] but dealing with various other matters bearing upon the prediction of nativities; and a much briefer but equally astrological [Pg 222] work on Accidents, which we are told was rewritten by Haly before it was translated into Latin.[681] Two books of “Hermes the Philosopher” on the revolutions of nativities by some unspecified translator were printed by H. Wolf in 1559.[682] A work on medical diagnosis of diseases from the stars without inspection of urine which is ascribed to Hermes in a Wolfenbüttel manuscript[683] would probably turn out upon examination to be the treatise on that theme of William of England.

Of the Six Principles of Things.

By the thirteenth century, if not before, a treatise was in existence by “Hermes Mercurius Triplex” on the six principles of things[684] with a prologue concerning the three Mercuries,[685] of whom we have already heard Robert of Chester speak in his preface. Here too the first is identified with Enoch, the second with Noah, and the third is called triplex because he was at once king, philosopher, and prophet, ruling Egypt after the flood with supreme equity, renowned in both the liberal and mechanical arts, and the first to elucidate astronomy. He wrote The Golden Bough, Book of Longitude and Latitude, Book of Election, Canons on the Planets, and a treatise on the astrolabe. Among his pastimes he brought to light alchemy which the philosopher Morienus developed in his writings. The Six Principles of [Pg 223] Things is a treatise part astronomical and part astrological, considering the natures of the signs and the powers of the planets in their houses. Citations of such authors as Zahel and Dorotheus show that the work is much later than Hermes. It is followed by four other brief treatises, of which the first discusses time, the winds, pestilences, divination from thunder, and eclipses of the sun and the moon; the second and the third deal with the astrological topics, Of the triple power of the celestial bodies, and Of the efficacy of medicines according to the power of the planets and the effect of the signs. The fourth treatise tells how to use the astrolabe.

Liber lune.

Of the books of bad necromantic images for each of the seven planets by Hermes, which the Speculum astronomiae censured, at least one seems to have been preserved for our inspection in the manuscripts, since it has the same Incipit as that cited by Albert, “Probavi omnes libros ...,” and the same title, Liber lune,[686] or Book of the Moon, or, as it is more fully described, of the twenty-eight mansions and twenty-eight images of the moon and the fifty-four angels who serve the images. And as Albert spoke of a treatise of magic illusions which accompanied the seven books of necromantic images for the planets, so this Liber lune is itself also called Mercury’s magic illusion.[687] It probably is the same Book of Images of the Moon which William of Auvergne described as attempting to work magic by the [Pg 224] names of God. The treatise opens in the usual style of apocryphal literature by narrating how this marvelous volume came to be discovered. After some “investigator of wisdom and truth and friend of nature had read the volumes of many wise men,” he found this one in a golden ark within a silver chest which was in turn placed in a casket of lead,—a variant on Portia’s method. He then translated it into Arabic for the benefit of the many. Nevertheless we have the usual caution to fear God and not show the book to anyone nor allow any polluted man to touch it, since with it all evils as well as all goods may be accomplished. It tells how to engrave images as the moon passes through each of its twenty-eight houses. The names of angels have to be repeated seven times and suffumigations performed seven times in the name of God the merciful and pious. Just as the moon is nearer to us than other planets and more efficacious, so this book, if we understand it aright, is more precious than any other. Hermes declares that he has proved all the books of the seven planets and not found one truer or more perfect than this most precious portion. Balenuch, however, a superior and most skilful philosopher, does much of the talking for his master Hermes. The Latin text retains the Arabic names for the mansions of the moon, the fifty-four angels also have outlandish names, and a wood that grows in an island in India is required in the suffumigations. Instructions are given for engraving images which will destroy villa, region, or town; make men dumb; restrain sexual intercourse within a given area; heat baths at night; congregate ten thousand birds and bees; or twist a man’s limbs. Four special recipes are given to injure an enemy or cause him to sicken.

Hermes on images of the seven planets.

We shall leave until our chapter on the Pseudo-Aristotle “The book of the spiritual works of Aristotle, or the book Antimaquis, which is the book of the secrets of Hermes ... the ancient book of the seven planets.” But in at least one manuscript the work of Hermes on the images of the moon is accompanied by another briefer treatise [Pg 225] ascribed to him on the images of the seven planets, one for each day of the week, to be made in the first hour of that day which is ruled by the planet after which the day is named. This little treatise begins with the words, “Said Hermes, editor of this book, I have examined many sciences of images.”[688] Altogether I have noted traces of it in four manuscripts.

Book of Venus of Toz.

In two of these manuscripts the work of Hermes on images of the seven planets is immediately followed by a work of Toc or Toz Graecus on the occult virtues of stones called the Book of Venus or of the twelve stones of Venus.[689] The first part of the treatise, however, consists of instructions, largely astrological in character but also including use of names of spirits and suffumigations, for casting a metal image in the name of Venus. Astrological symbols are to be placed on the breast, right palm, and foot of the image.

In the discussion of stones each paragraph opens with the words, “Said Toz.” The use of these stones is mainly medicinal, however, and consists usually in taking a certain weight of the stone in question. Of astrology, spirits, and power of words there is little more said. Some marvelous virtues are attributed to stones nevertheless. With one, if you secretly touch two persons who have hitherto been firm friends, you will make them enemies “even to the end of [Pg 226] the world. And if anyone grates from it the weight of one argenteus and mixes it with serpent’s blood (possibly the herb of that name) and gives it to anyone to drink, he will flee from place to place.”

Further mentions of Toz Graecus.

Toz Graecus was cited by more than one medieval writer and the work which we have just been describing was not the only one that then circulated under his name, although it seems to be cited by Daniel Morley in the twelfth century.[690] Albertus Magnus in his list of evil books on images in the Speculum astronomiae included a work on the images of Venus,[691] another on the four mirrors of Venus, and a third on stations for the cult of Venus. This last is also alluded to by William of Auvergne, bishop of Paris, in his De universo, and ascribed by him to “Thot grecus.”[692] There also was once among the manuscripts of Amplonius at Erfurt a “book of Toz Grecus containing fifty chapters on the stations of the planets.”[693] Cecco d’Ascoli, the early fourteenth century astrologer, mentions together “Evax king of the Arabs and Zot grecus and Germa of Babylon.” Which reminds one of Albert’s allusion in his theological Summa[694] to “the teachings of that branch of necromancy” which treats of “images and rings and mirrors of Venus and seals of demons,” and is expounded in the works of Achot of Greece—who is probably our Toz Graecus, Grema of Babylon, and Hermes the Egyptian. And again in his [Pg 227] work on minerals[695] Albert lists together as authorities on the engraving of gems with images the names of Magor Graecus, Germa of Babylon, and Hermes the Egyptian.

Toz the same as Thoth or Hermes Trismegistus.

Moreover, not only is the work of Toz closely associated both in the extant manuscripts and by Albertus Magnus with that of Hermes, but William of Auvergne’s spelling “Thot” shows what has perhaps already occurred to the reader, that this Toc or Toz Graecus is no other than the Greek equivalent of the Egyptian god Thoth; in other words, Hermes Trismegistus himself. I have not yet mentioned one other treatise found in a seventeenth century manuscript, and which, while very likely a later invention, shows at least that Toz remained a name to conjure with down into modern times.[696] The work is called A commentary by Toz Graecus, philosopher of great name, upon the books of Solomon to Rehoboam concerning secrets of secrets. A long preface tells how Solomon summed up all his vast knowledge in this book for the benefit of his son Rehoboam, and Rehoboam buried it in his tomb in an ivory casket, and Toz after its discovery wept at his inability to comprehend it, until it was revealed to him through an angel of God on condition that he explain it only to the worthy.

Magic experiments.

The text is full of magic experiments: experiments of theft; experiments in invisibility; love experiments; experiments in gaining favor; experiments in hate and destruction; “extraordinary experiments”; “playful experiments”; and so on. These with conjurations, characters, and suffumigations make up the bulk of the first book. The second book deals chiefly with “how exorcists and their allies and disciples should conduct themselves,” and with the varied paraphernalia required by magicians: fasts, baths, vestments, the knife or sword, the magic circle, fumigations, water and hyssop; light and fire, pen and ink, blood, parchment, stylus, wax, needle, membrane, characters, [Pg 228] sacrifices, and astrological images. Two of its twenty-two chapters deal with “the places where by rights experiments should be performed” and with “all the precepts of the arts or experiments.” In another seventeenth century manuscript are Seven Books of Magical Experiments of Hermes Trismegistus. “And they are magic secrets of the kings of Egypt,” drawn, we are told, from the treasury of Rudolph II, Holy Roman emperor from 1576 to 1612.[697] Another manuscript at Vienna contains a German translation of the same work.[698]

[653] For detailed references for this and the preceding statements see Lippmann (1919), pp. 357-9.

[654] I have used the edition of Paris, 1564, Liber de compositione alchemiae quem edidit Morienus Romanus Calid Regi Aegyptiorum Quem Robertus Castrensis de Arabico in Latinum transtulit. A number of MSS of the work will be found listed in the index of Black’s Catalogue of the Ashmolean MSS, and elsewhere, as in Sloane 3697 and Digby 162, 13th century, fols. 21v and 23r. Other editions are Basel, 1559; Basel, 1593, in Artis Auriferae quam Chemiam vocant, II, 1-54; and Geneva, 1702, in J. J. Manget, Bibliotheca Chemica Curiosa, I, 509-19.

[655] See above, chapter 38, p. 83.

[656] Berthelot (1893) I, 234, took the date to be 1182 A. D. and so, on the basis of this remark, placed the introduction of Arabic alchemy into Latin learning 38 years too late. It is rather amusing that Lippmann, who elsewhere avails himself of petty pretexts to belittle the work of Berthelot, should have overlooked this error. He still (1919), pp. 358 and 482, states the date as 1182 A. D., although he is puzzled how to reconcile it with that of 1143 A. D. for Robertus Castrensis or Robert de Retines. He also is at a loss as to the identity of this Robert or the meaning of “Castrensis,” and has no knowledge of the publications of Karpinski (1915) and Haskins, EHR (1915).

[657] Lippmann (1919), p. 358.

[658] Berthelot is a poor guide in any such matter since his pretentious volumes on medieval alchemy are based on the study of a comparatively small number of MSS at Paris. He made little or no use of the Sloane collection in the British Museum which is very rich in alchemical MSS, a subject in which Sir Hans Sloane was apparently much interested, or of the Ashmolean collection at Oxford, although Elias Ashmole edited the Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum, 1652, “containing several poetical pieces of our famous English philosophers who have written the hermetic mysteries in their own ancient language,”—a work in which Ashmole himself is called Mercuriophilus Anglicus.

[659] The two earliest MSS used by Berthelot for medieval Latin alchemy were BN 6514 and 7156 of the late 13th or early 14th century. In an earlier chapter we have mentioned Berlin 956 of the 12th century, fol. 21, “Hic incipit alchamia,” and probably a fairly long list could be made of alchemical MSS of the 13th century, like Digby 162 mentioned in a previous note to this chapter. However, as a rule the numerous alchemical collections in the Sloane MSS—a majority of the MSS numbered from about 3600 to about 3900 are in whole or part concerned with alchemy, as well as a number of earlier numbers—are not earlier than the 14th and 15th centuries, and many are subsequent to the invention of printing.

[660] Riccard. 119.

[661] Sloane 1698, 14th century, fol. 53-, “Hic incipiunt secreta Hermetis inventoris metallorum secundum transmutationis naturam ... / ... Explicit Hermes de salibus et corporibus.”

Corpus Christi, 125, fols. 39-42, “Incipiunt secreta Hermetis philosophi inventoris metallorum secundum mutacionis naturam.”

[662] Library of the Dukes of Burgundy 4275, 13th century, Secreta Hermetis philosophi “Inventor transformationis.” The preceding item 4274 is in the same MS and consists of an exposition of Hermes’ words, “Quoniam ea quae ...” etc.

[663] Vienna 2466, 14th century, fols. 85-88, Trismegistus, aqua vite.

[664] Wolfenbüttel 2841, anno 1432, fols. 138-44v, De aque ardentis virtutibus mirabilibus que de vino utique fit....

[665] Reprinted London, 1866; revised, 1889. Treatises of alchemy are also ascribed to Hermes in Sloane 2135, 15th century, and 2327, 14th century.

[666] Arezzo 232, 15th century, fols. 1-14, “Liber transmissus ab Alexandro rege ex libra Hermogenis”; Bodleian 67, fol. 33v (Secret of Secrets of the pseudo-Aristotle), “Et pater noster Hermogenes qui triplex est in philosophia optime philosophando dixit.”

[667] Opus minus, ed. Brewer (1859), in RS XV, 313.

[668] Arundel 377, 13th century, Philosophia magistri danielis de merlai, fols. 89r, 92v; these citations, like many others, are not included in V. Rose’s faulty list of Daniel’s authorities in his article, “Ptolemaeus und die Schule von Toledo,” Hermes, VIII (1874), 327-49.

[669] De animalibus, XX, i, 5, “dicit Hermes ad Esclepium.”

[670] The passages are mentioned in the chapter on William of Auvergne; see below, p. 350.

[671] Spec. astron., cap. 11 (Opera, ed. Borgnet, X, 641).

[672] A book on necromantic images by Hermes is listed in the 1412 A. D. catalogue of MSS of Amplonius: Math. 54.

[673] See in the same catalogue, Math. 9, Mercurii Colotidis liber prestigiorum.

[674] Opera, Venetiis, 1591, pp. 831, 898.

[675] De veget. et plantis, V, ii, 6.

[676] P. G. Boffito, Il Commento di Cecco d’Ascoli all’ Alcabizzo, Firenze, 1905, p. 43.

[677] Catalogue of Amplonius (1412 A. D.) Mathematica 53, “Liber Hermetis de quindecim stellis, tot lapidibus, tot herbis, et totidem figuris.” But in Amplon. Quarto 381, fols. 43-5, the work is ascribed to Enoch, whom it is not surprising that Robert of Chester classed as one of three Hermeses.

Ashmole 1471, 14th century, fols. 50r-55, “Incipit liber Hermetis de 15 Stellis, 15 lapidibus, 15 herbis et 15 ymaginibus.”

Ashmole 341, 13th century, fols. 120v-28.

Corpus Christi 125, fols. 70-75.

Royal 12-C-XVIII, 14th century.

Harleian 80, 14th century.

Harleian 1612.

Sloane 3847, 17th century.

BN 7440, 14th century. No. 4.

Vienna 5311, 14-15th century, fols. 37-40.

Vienna 3124, 15th century, fols. 161-2, De Stellis fixis, translatus a Mag. Salione, is perhaps the same work. This Salio, who seems to have been a canon at Padua, also translated Alchabitius on nativities from Arabic into Latin: Ibid., fols. 96-123; BN 7336, 15th century, #13; S. Marco XI-110, 15th century, fols. 40-111.

By the fourteenth century the work had been translated into French:

CU Trinity 1313, early 14th century, fol. 11-, “Cy commence le livre Hermes le Philosofre parlaunt des 15 esteilles greyndres fixes et 15 pierres preciouses,” etc.

[678] Sloane 3847, fol. 83. “What stones and hearbes are appropriated unto the 15 Starres accordinge to John Gower in his booke intituled De confessione amantis.”

[679] Amplon. Quarto 354, mid 14th century, fols. 1-3, “Centiloquium Hermetis ... domino Manfrido inclito regi Cicilie Stephanus de Messana has flores de secretis astrologie divi Hermetis transtulit.”

CLM 51, 1487-1503 A. D., fols. 46v-49, Hermetis divini Propositiones sive flores Stephanus de Messana transtulit. Other MSS are numerous.

Printed before 1500; I have used an edition numbered IA.11947 in the British Museum. It was printed behind Ptolemy at Venice in 1493.

[680] Harleian 3731, 15th century, fols. 1r-50r, “Incipit liber hermetis trismegisti de XXXVI decanis XII signorum et formis eorum et de climatibus et faciebus quas habent planete in eisdem signis.” After this rubric the text opens, “Triginta sex autem decani”; closes, “... aspexerit illum dictis prius mori.” It is obviously different from the Dialogue with Asclepius included in the works of Apuleius and longer than the Greek astrological text dealing with the thirty-six decans published by J. B. Pitra, Analecta Sacra, V, ii, 284-90. The discussion of the decans terminates at the bottom of fol. 2.

[681] Harleian 3731, fols. 170v-172v, “Incipiunt sermones hermetis de accidentibus. Ordina significationes fortiorem ... / ... erit res egritudo. Explicit sermo hermetis de accidentibus rescriptus ab Haly.”

[682] Hermetis philosophi de revolutionibus nativitatum libri duo incerto interprete, in an astrological collection by H. Wolf, Basel, 1559, pp. 201-79.

[683] Wolfenbüttel 2841, anno 1432 fols. 380-2. Liber Hermetis philosophi de iudiciis urine sine visu eiusdem urine et de prognosticatione in egritudinibus secundum astronomiam.

Vienna 5307, 15th century, fol. 150, has a “Fragmentum de iudicio urinae” ascribed to Hermes, but it follows the treatise of William of England.

[684] Digby 67, end of 12th century according to the catalogue but I should have placed it in the next century, fols. 69-78, “Hermes Mercurius Triplex de vi rerum principiis multisque aliis naturalibus; partibus quinque; cum prologo de tribus Mercuriis.”

Bodleian 464, 1318 A. D., fols. 151-162r, Hermetis Trismegisti opuscula quaedam; primum de 6 rerum principiis, is almost identical.

[685] A Liber mercurii trismegisti de tribus mercuriis appears in the 15th century catalogue of the MSS of St. Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury.

[686] Corpus Christi 125, fols. 62-68 (“Liber lunae” is written in the upper margin of fol. 62), “Hic incipit liber ymaginum tr. ab Hermete id est Mercurio qui latine prestigium Mercurii appellatur, Helyanin in lingua Arabica ... / ... Explicit liber lune de 28 mansionibus lune translatus ab Hermete.”

Digby 228, 14th century, fols. 54v-55v, incomplete. Macray describes it as “‘Liber lune’; tractatus de 28 mansionibus et 28 imaginibus lunae, et de 54 angelis ‘qui serviunt ymaginibus.’”

Florence II-iii-214, 15th century, fol. 8-, “Dixit Hermes huius libri editor, lustravi plures imaginum”; fol. 9-, “Hec sunt ymagines septem planetarum et characteres eorum”; fols. 9-15, “liber ymaginum lune”.... fols. 33-43, “Liber planetarum inventus in libris Hermetis.”

[687] The Incipit, however, which Albert gave for Hermes’ Liber praestigiorum, namely, “Qui geometriae aut philosophiae peritus, expers astronomiae fuerit,” identifies it with Thebit ben Corat’s work on images.

[688] See Florence II-iii-214, fols. 8-9, already listed with Incipits among the MSS of the Liber lune on p. 223, note 1 above. Also Bodleian 463, 14th century, written in Spain, fol. 77v, “Dixit hermes editor huius libri lustranti plures imaginum (?) scientias invenit.” The work is mutilated at the end, as a leaf has been torn out between those now numbered 77 and 78. See also Sloane 3883, 17th century, fol. 95-; Arundel 342, fol. 78v, “Hermetis ut fertur liber de imaginibus et horis.”

[689] Owing to the missing leaf above mentioned only the latter part of the Liber Toc is now contained in Bodleian 463. Sloane 3883, fols. 96r-99, “Liber Toc; et vocatur liber veneni (sic), et liber de lapidibus veneris. Dixit Toc Graecus observa Venerem cum perveniret ad pliades et coniuncta fuerit.” In the text and Explicit, however, the author’s name is often spelled Toz. This MS seems to be directly copied from Bodleian 463, for not only is it preceded by the Hermes on images for the seven planets and also by an “Instructio ptholomei” which deals with the subject of astrological images, but furthermore it exactly reproduces its text, down even to such a manuscript copyist’s pi as “ad dumtanpo itulia” for “alicui ad potandum.”

[690] Arundel 377, fol. 100v, “Thoz Grecus Liber Veneris.”

[691] Spec. astron., cap. 11 (Borgnet, X, 641), “Toz Graeci, de stationibus ad cultum Veneris” opening “Commemoratio historiarum”; “de quatuor speculis eiusdem” opening “Observa Venerem cum pervenerit ad Pleiades”;—this is the Incipit of our treatise in Sloane 3883, but the title does not seem to fit very well; perhaps Albert, who says that he last looked at these bad books long ago and then with abhorrence, so that he is not sure he always has the titles and Incipits exact, has exchanged the Incipit with that of the third treatise, “de imaginibus veneris,” which opens, “Observabis Venerem cum intrabit Taurum.”

[692] De universo II, ii, 96 (p. 895, ed. 1591), “Thot grecus in libro quern scripsit de cultu veneris dixit quandam stationem cultus illius obtinere ab ipsa venere colentes septem qui illi et veneri serviant.”

[693] Math. 8 in the catalogue of 1412 A. D., Liber Toz Greci continens 50 capitula de stacionibus planetarum.

[694] II, 30.

[695] II, iii, 3.

[696] BN 15127, fols. 1-100, Toz Graeci philosophi nominatissimi expositio super libros salomonis de secretis secretorum ad Roboam.

[697] Wolfenbüttel 3338, 17th century, 43 fols.

[698] Vienna 11267, 17-18th century, fols. 2-31.

[Pg 229]



Question of the origin of the work—Its prefaces—Arrangement of the text—Virtues of a tree—Feats of magic—An incantation to an eagle—Alchiranus—Treatises on seven, twelve, and nineteen herbs—Belenus.

Question of the origin of the work.

The virtues, especially medicinal, of plants and animals comprise the contents of a work in Latin of uncertain date and authorship, usually called the Kiranides of Kiranus, King of Persia.[699] Thomas Browne, in his Pseudodoxia Epidemica or Inquiry into Vulgar Errors, included in his list of “authors who have most promoted popular conceits, ... Kiranides, which is a collection out of Harpocration the Greek and sundry Arabick writers delivering not only the Naturall but Magicall propriety of things, a work as full of vanity as variety, containing many relations, whose invention is as difficult as their beliefs, and their experiments sometime as hard as either.”[700] The work purports to be a translation from the Greek version which in its turn was from the Arabic,[701] and Berthelot affirms[702] that in antiquity Kiranides was cited by Galen and by Olympiodorus, the historian and alchemist of the early fifth century, [Pg 230] while Kroll cites a Greek manuscript at Paris as ascribing the third book of Kiranides to Hermes Trismegistus.[703]

Its prefaces.

The preface of the medieval Latin translator is by “a lowly cleric” who addresses some ecclesiastical or scholastic superior, possibly the Chancellor at Paris.[704] He marvels that the mind of his patron, which has penetrated beyond the seven heavens to contemplate supernatural things above our sphere, should nevertheless not disdain an interest in the most lowly of terrene “experiments.” The master has asked him to translate this medical book from Greek into Latin, a task easier to ask than to execute. There are several Greek versions of it, all professedly translations from some oriental original, but the volume which his patron gave him to translate into Latin is that translated into Greek at Constantinople in 1168[705] or 1169[706] by order of the Byzantine emperor, Manuel Comnenus, whom we shall also find associated with the Letter of Prester John of which we shall treat in the next chapter. The translator speaks of the work as The Book of Natural Virtues, Complaints, and Cures, but adds that it is a compilation from two other books, namely, The Experience of the Kiranides of Kiranus, King of Persia, and The Book of Harpocration[707] of Alexandria to his Daughter. There then follows the preface of Harpocration to his daughter, which tells of a certain city and of encountering an aged sage there, of great towers and of precious writing on a column which Harpocration proceeds to transcribe. We are given to understand [Pg 231] that the original was written in “antique archaic Syriac” and was as old as the Euphrates.

Arrangement of the text.

The text is divided into four books, each arranged alphabetically. The first book subdivides into “Elements.” For example, Elementum XII is devoted to a tree, a bird, a stone, and a fish, each of which begins with the letter M. Most, however, of the virtues and medicinal prescriptions which follow have to do with the tree or herb only. The second book treats of beasts or quadrupeds, the third of birds, and the fourth of fish.

Virtues of a tree.

Much superstition and magical procedure is found scattered through, or better, crowded into, the book. For instance, in a medicinal application of the cyme of the tree Μορέα, one is to face the southwest wind, use two fingers of the left hand to remove the cyme, then look behind one toward the east, wrap the cyme in purple or red silk (vera?), and touch the patient with it or bind it about her. In another recipe the fruit of this tree is to be compounded in varying proportions with such substances as an Indian stone and the tips of the wings of crows and is then to be stirred with a crow’s feather until the mixture is “soft and sticky.” In a third prescription a stone engraved with an image of the fish mentioned under the letter M—μόρμυρος, and enclosed in an iron box, is to be combined with the “eyes” (buds?) of the tree Morea as an amulet against certain ills.

Feats of magic.

In some cases the end sought as well as the procedure employed is magical rather than medicinal. In another chapter of the first book, for example, the reader is instructed how to make a licinium or combustible compound in whose light those present will appear to one another like flaming demons. Or in book two the reader is told that wearing the dried tongue of a weasel inside his socks will close the mouths of his enemies. The weasel’s testicles, right and left, are used as charms to stimulate and prevent conception respectively.

[Pg 232]

An incantation to an eagle.

Incantations are employed in connection with the eagle, the first of forty-four birds taken up in the third book. Catch one, collect the dung it makes during the first day and night of its captivity, then bind its feet and beak and whisper in its ear, “Oh, eagle, friend of man, I am about to slay you for the cure of every infirmity. I conjure you by the God of earth and sky and by the four elements that you efficaciously work each and every cure for which you are oblated.” The eagle is then decapitated with a sword composed entirely of iron, all its blood is carefully caught in a bowl, its heart and entrails are removed and placed in wine, and other directions observed. The discussion of the virtues of fish in the fourth and last book is essentially identical in character with the examples already given for plants, birds, and beasts.


In a sixteenth century manuscript at Venice[708] is a Latin version which would seem to be translated from the Arabic since it gives the author’s name as Alchiranus, although some scholiast has interpolated and added to the words of this author and of Harpocration. As described by Valentinelli the arrangement into books is the same as that which we have noted. Valentinelli also was impressed by the fact that “medical substances are used to produce not merely physical but moral effects, such as prescience of the future, dispelling demons and evil phantoms, avoiding shipwreck by binding the heart of a foca to the mast of the vessel; discovering what sort of life a woman has led, becoming invisible, averting storms, perils, wild beasts, robbers.” And further that “the efficacy of the medicaments is dependent upon their mode of preparation or application, at the rising or setting of the sun, at the waning or waxing of the moon, by uttering certain words or engraving stones.”[709]

[Pg 233]

Treatises on seven, twelve, and nineteen herbs.

The Latin translator of the Kiranides says that it should be preceded by the book of Alexander the Great concerning seven herbs and the seven planets, and by the Mystery of Thessalus to Hermes about twelve herbs for the twelve signs of the zodiac and seven herbs for the seven stars. And in what is left of the preface to the latter treatise in an Erfurt manuscript we are told that after discovering the volumes of the Kyranides the writer found also in the city of Troy the present treatise enclosed in a monument along with the bones of the first king named Kyrannis.[710] The first treatise on seven herbs, however, seems to be more often ascribed in the manuscripts to an Alexius Affricus[711] or Flaccus Africanus[712] than to Alexander the Great.[713] Alexius [Pg 234] or Flaccus seems to address his work to a Claudius or Glandiger of Athens. The work of Thessalus, whose name is sometimes corrupted to Tesalus or Texilus, and whose work is variously styled of twelve or of nineteen herbs, usually is found with the other treatise in the manuscripts.[714] It was one of the authorities acknowledged by Jacobus de Dondis in his Aggregatio Medicamentorum, written in 1355.[715] The treatise on seven herbs of Alexander or Flaccus Africanus closes with the direction that the herbs should be gathered from the twenty-first to twenty-seventh day of the moon, with Mercury rising during the entire first hour of the day. As they are plucked, the passion of our Lord should be mentioned, and they should be preserved in barley or wheat. But one manuscript adds, “But do not put credulity in them beyond due measure.”[716] We have, of course, already met with similar treatises ascribed to Enoch and Hermes.[717]


The Belenus, as whose disciple Flaccus Africanus is represented, is also the reputed author of a work on astrological images found in several manuscripts of the British Museum.[718] Albertus Magnus in the Speculum astronomiae attributed to Belenus two reprehensible books of necromantic images.[719] The Turba philosophorum, a medieval work of alchemy consisting in large measure of Latin re-translation [Pg 235] of Arabic versions from Greek alchemists, also cites a Belus or Belinus. The name is believed to be a corruption from Apollonius of Tyana, with whom Apollonius of Perga, the mathematician, is perhaps also confused.[720] One of the Incipits of the tracts listed in the Speculum astronomiae is, “Said Belenus who is also called Apollo.” However, many medieval Latin manuscripts attribute works to Apollonius under that name, as in the case of a work on the Notory Art which we shall mention in another chapter.[721]

[699] I know of no very early printed editions, but have consulted a copy published at Leipzig in 1638, and two MSS, Ashmole 1471, late 14th century, fols. 143v-167r, and Arundel 342, 14th century, in an Italian hand. The work is also contained either in toto or brief excerpt in several Sloane MSS, and was printed in English in 1685 as The Magick of Kiranus. See also Wolfenbüttel 1014, 15th century, fol. 102, De libro Kyranidis Kyrani, regis Persarum. I have not seen P. Tannery, Les Cyranides, in Congrès international d’histoire des sciences, Geneva, 1904.

[700] I, 8.

[701] See Black’s description of Ashmole 1471, “Translator qui libros tres operis huius ... e Gracca versione (ex Arabico textu anno 377 facta) ... Latinos fecit.”

[702] Berthelot (1885) p. 47.

[703] Article Hermes Trismegistus in PW 798.

[704] Ashmole 1471, fols. 143v-167r, “Incipit liber Kirannidarum in quo premittitur tale prohemium. Prudentissimo domino Magistro Ka. Parissen. infimus clericus salutem.” The translator’s address to his patron sounds a little like Hugh of Santalla, but a date after 1168 is rather late either for Hugh or the anonymous Sicilian translator of the Almagest, whom the association in this case with Paris also tends to preclude. Possibly the translator may be Philip, the cleric of Tripoli, who speaks of himself in a similarly humble style, and of whom we shall speak in the next two chapters.

[705] According to the printed text of 1638.

[706] Ashmole 1471, “anno Christi 1280 aliter 1169.”

[707] Harpocration is cited by Galen: see Kühn XII, 629, “ad aures purulentas Harpocration.”

[708] S. Marco XIV, 37, fols. 11-73 Alchirani, liber de proprietatibus rerum. Liber physicalium virtutum, compassionum et curationum, collectus ex libris duobus.

[709] Bibliotheca Manuscripta ad S. Marci Venetiarum, Codices MSS Latini, V (1872) 109-10 ....“medicamina proponuntur ad effectus non tantum physicos sed et morales progignendos. Eiusmodi sunt ad praescienda futurorum; ad fugandos daemones et phantasmata mala; ad naufragium evitandum, dummodo cor focae in arbore navis ligetur; ad sciendum quid mulier egerit in vita sua; ad corpus invisible reddendum; ad avertendum tempestates, pericula, feras, latrones. Medicaminum autem efficacitas pendet ab eorum confectione vel applicatione, in ortu vel occasu solis, sub augmento aut diminutione lunae, verbis quibusdam prolatis vel lapidibus insculptis.”

[710] Amplon. Quarto 217, No. 5, “Post antiquarum kyrannidarum volumina ... inveni in civitate troiana in monumento reclusum presentem libellum cum ossibus primi regis kyrannis qui compendium aureum intitulatur eo quod per discussionem (or distinctionem?) factam a maiorum kyrannidarum volumine diligenter compilatum et studio vehementi tractat de vii herbis vii planetis attributis secundum illas impressiones.” See also Vienna 5289, 15th century, fol. 21, “Tractatus de septem herbis et septem planetis qui dicitur inventus in ciuitate Trojana in monumento primi Regis Kyrani” sive “aureum compendium.”

[711] Ashmole 1450, 15th century, fol. 31v, “Incipit quidam tractatus de vii herbis vii planetis attributis. Alexius Affricus, discipulus Belbeis, Claudio Artheniensi epylogiticis studium continuare et finem cum laude. Post etiam antiquorum Kirannidarum volumina”; only the first page of the treatise now remains in this MS.

All Souls 81, 15-16th century, fols. 133v-45, “De virtutibus et operationibus septem herbarum secretarum per ordinem, et quomodo per eas fiunt mirabilia”; the treatise, however, here appears in English and by “Alaxus Affrike, disciple of Robert Claddere of the worthye studie.”

CLM 405, 14-15th century, fol. 98, Fracii Africii liber de vii herbis vii planetis attributis.

[712] Amplon. Q. 217, 14th century, fols. 51-54, Incipit tractatus de vii herbis vii planetis attributis Flacti Africani discipuli Belbenis.... Glandegrio Atthoniensi epylogitico studium.

Sloane 1754, 14th century, fols. 45-57, “Flacius Affricus discipulus Bellenis Glandigero Atthonensi epilogitico.”

Sloane 75, 15th century, fols. 131-2, “Inquit Flaccus Affricanus discipulus Beleni septem sunt herbe.”

See also Sloane 73, fols. 4-7; Sloane 3092, 14th century, fols. 2-6.

Berlin 900 (Latin Octavo 42), anno 1510, Compendium aureum des Flaccius Africanus.

[713] Ashmole 1448, 15th century, pp. 44-45, “Virtutes septem herbarum et septem planetarum secundum Alexandrum imperatorem.”

Vienna 3124, 15th century, fol. 49, Alexander is given as the author in the catalogue, but I do not know if the name actually appears in the MS.

[714] Berlin Folio 573, fol. 22, Liber Thesali philosofi de virtutibus 19 herbarum.

Amplon. Quarto 217, #5.

Montpellier 277, 15th century.

Vienna 3124, 15th century, fols. 49-53, Texili, “Liber secretorum de virtutibus 12 herbarum secundum influentiam quam recipiunt a 12 celestibus signis.”

Judging by their varying length, I should imagine that some of the MSS listed in the preceding notes contain the Thessalus also.

[715] “Tesalus in secretis de xii herbis per signa celi et de vii secundum planetas.”

[716] Digby 147, 14th century, fol. 106.

[717] See above chapters 13, 45.

[718] Royal 12-C-XVIII, 14th century (?), Baleni de imaginibus.

Sloane 3826, 17th century, fols. 100v-101, Liber Balamini sapientis de sigillis planetarum.

Sloane 3848, 17th century, fols. 52-8, 59-62, liber sapientis Balemyn de ymaginibus septem planetarum.

[719] Opera ed. Borgnet, X, 641, “Belenus, liber de horarum opere, ‘Dixit Belenus qui et Apollo dicitur, imago....;’ liber de quatuor imaginibus ab aliis separatis, ‘Differentia in qua fiunt imagines magnae....’”

[720] Berthelot (1893) I, 257-8.

[721] See below, chapter 49, pp. 281-3.

[Pg 236]



Medieval notions of the marvels of India—India’s real contribution to knowledge—The legend of Prester John—Miracles of the Apostle Thomas—Otto of Freising on Prester John—Prester John’s letter to the Emperor Manuel—Marvels recounted by Prester John—Additional marvels in later versions—The letter of Pope Alexander III—Philip, the papal physician.

Medieval notions of the marvels of India.

In a twelfth century manuscript at Berlin a treatise on precious stones and their medicinal and other marvelous virtues which is ascribed to St. Jerome,[722] opens with a prologue describing a voyage to India, the home of the carbuncle, emerald, and other gems, and the land of mountains of gold guarded by dragons, griffins, and other monsters. According to this prologue the navigation of the Red Sea is extremely dangerous and takes six months, while another full year is required to cross the ocean to India and the Ganges.

India was still a distant land of wonders and home of magic to the minds of medieval men, as it had been in the Life of Apollonius of Tyana, and as even to-day many westerners are credulous concerning its jugglers, fakirs, yogis, and theosophists. So William of Auvergne, bishop of Paris, writing in the first half of the thirteenth century, states that feats of magic are very seldom wrought in the Europe of his time. For one thing, as Origen and other early church fathers had already explained, the demons since the coming of Christ to earth had largely ceased their magical activities in Christian lands. But another reason was that the materials for working natural magic, the gems and herbs and animals with marvelous virtues, were seldom found in European lands. In India and other countries [Pg 237] adjacent to it, on the contrary, such materials were abundant. Hence natural magic still flourished there and it was a land of many experimenters and of skilful marvel-workers.[723] Similarly Albertus Magnus, discussing the marvelous powers of astrological images, states that the best gems upon which to engrave them are those from India.[724] Costa ben Luca says in his work on physical ligatures that doctors in India are firm believers in the efficacy of incantations and adjurations; and about 1295 Peter of Abano speaks in his Phisionomia of the wise men of India as prolix on astrological themes. Medieval geomancies, too, often claim a connection with India.[725]

India’s real contribution to knowledge.

It should also be kept in mind, however, that medieval men believed that they derived from India learning which seems to us even to-day as sound and useful as it did to them then; for example, the Hindu-Arabic numerals.[726] Leonardo of Pisa, the great arithmetician of the early thirteenth century, tells us in the preface to his Liber Abaci[727] how, summoned as a boy to join his father who was a customs official at a trading station in Algeria, he was introduced to [Pg 238] the art of reckoning “by a marvelous method through the nine figures of the Indians.” Thus we see that India’s marvels were not always false. Later he traveled in Egypt, Syria, Greece, Sicily, and Provence and studied their various methods of reckoning, but vastly preferred the Indian method to all others, returned to a more intensive study of it, and developed it further by additions from Euclid and contributions of his own. Not always, it is true, were medieval mathematicians as favorable to Indian methods as this. Jordanus Nemorarius in one passage characterizes an Indian theorem as “nothing but mere credulity without demonstration.”[728] But to return to the natural marvels of India.

The legend of Prester John.

In the extraordinary accounts of Prester John,[729] which are first met in the twelfth century and were added to with succeeding centuries and which had great currency from the start, as the number of extant manuscripts shows, the natural marvels of India vie in impressiveness and wonderment with the power of Prester John himself and with the miracles of the Apostle Thomas.

Miracles of the Apostle Thomas.

Odo, Abbot of St. Rémy from 1118 to 1151, states in a letter in response to the inquiry of a Count Thomas what had happened when he was recently in Rome. Byzantine ambassadors introduced to the pope an archbishop of India who had already had the extraordinary and disconcerting experience of having to return a third time to Constantinople for a new prince for his country, each previous Byzantine nominee having died on his hands. This archbishop said that the body of the Apostle Thomas was preserved in his country in a church rich in treasure and ornaments and surrounded by a river fordable only at the time [Pg 239] of the saint’s festival. On that solemn occasion the Apostle’s body was shown to believers and the Apostle would raise his arm and open his hand to receive their gifts, but close it and refuse to receive any gift offered by a heretic. When this tale reached the pope’s ears he forbade the archbishop to disseminate such falsehoods further under pain of anathema, but the archbishop finally convinced the pope by taking an oath on the holy gospels.

Another longer and anonymous account has come down from manuscripts going back to the twelfth century of the visit of a Patriarch John of India to Rome under Pope Calixtus II (1119-1124). It is this account which is often joined in the manuscripts and early printed editions with the Letter of Prester John of which we shall presently speak. In this account the Patriarch John told “of memorable matters of his Indian region that were unknown to the Romans,” such as of the gold and gems in the river Physon which flows from Paradise, “but especially of the miracles of the most holy Apostle Thomas.” Without going into further details, such as that of the miraculous balsam lamp, which differ a good deal from Odo’s account, it may be noted that in this account the Apostle’s hand ministers the Eucharist to believers and refuses it to infidels and sinners.

Otto of Freising on Prester John, the descendant of the Magi.

We have progressed from an archbishop of India to a Patriarch John; we now come to Prester John the monarch. The historian, Otto of Freising, learned in 1145 from a Syrian bishop at Rome of a great victory recently gained over the Moslems by “a certain John who lived beyond Persia and Armenia in the extreme East, a king and priest, since he was a Christian by race but a Nestorian ... Prester John, for so they are wont to call him.” He was of the ancient progeny of the Magi mentioned in the Gospel, ruled the same races as they, and enjoyed such glory and abundance that he was said to use only an emerald scepter. After his victory he would have come to the aid of the crusaders at Jerusalem, but could not cross the Tigris, although [Pg 240] he marched north along its eastern bank and waited for some years in the hope that it would freeze over.[730]

Prester John’s letter to the Emperor Manuel.

This Prester John was to be heard from again, however, for in the same century there appeared a letter purporting to have been written by him to the Byzantine Emperor, Manuel (1143-1180).[731] It is in this letter that the natural and artificial marvels of India and adjacent territories—Prester John’s dominion reaches from farther India to the Babylonian desert—are especially recorded. This letter even in its earliest and briefest form seems without doubt a western forgery and bears the marks of its Latin origin, [Pg 241][732] since despite the use of a few Greek ecclesiastical and official terms[733] and the attempt to rehearse unheard-of wonders, the writer indulges in a sneer at Greek adoration of the emperor[734] and is unable to conceive of Prester John except as a feudal overlord[735] with the usual kings, dukes and counts, archbishops, bishops and abbots under him. The letter then is of value chiefly as showing us what ideas prevailed concerning India and the orient in the Latin world of the twelfth and succeeding centuries, for the letter received many additions and variations, was translated into the vernacular languages, and appeared in print before 1500.[736] In the following account of its contents, however, I shall try to describe the letter as it existed in the twelfth century, after which I shall mention what seem to be interpolations of the thirteenth or later centuries.

Marvels recounted by Prester John.

But while different copies of the work vary, all have the same general character. Prester John tells what a mighty and Christian potentate he is and describes his marvelous palaces and contrivances or the natural marvels, strange beasts and serpents, monstrous races of men, potent herbs, stones, and fountains, to be found in the lands owning his sway. In one province is the herb assidios which enables its bearer to rout an impure spirit and force him to [Pg 242] disclose his name and whence he comes. “Wherefore impure spirits in that land dare not take possession of anyone.”[737] A fountain flows from Mount Olympus not three days’ journey from Paradise whence Adam was expelled. Three draughts from it taken fasting insure one henceforth from all infirmity, and however long one may live, one will seem henceforth but thirty years of age.[738] Then there are some little stones which eagles often bring to Prester John’s territories and which worn on the finger preserve or restore the sight, or if consecrated with a lawful incantation, make one invisible and dispel envy and hatred and promote concord.[739] After a description of a sea of sand in which there are various kinds of edible fish and a river of stones, Prester John soon mentions the worms which in his language are called salamanders, who cannot live except in fire, and from whose skins he has robes made which can be cleansed only by fire.[740] After some boasting concerning the absence of poverty, crime, and falsehood in his country and about the pomp and wealth with which he goes forth to war, Prester John then comes to the description of his palace, which is similar to that which the Apostle Thomas built for Gundaphorus, King of India. Its gates of sardonyx mixed with cornu cerastis (horn of the horned serpents) prevent the secret introduction of poison; a couch of sapphire keeps [Pg 243] John chaste; the square before the palace where judicial duels are held is paved with onyx “in order that the courage of the fighters may be increased by the virtue of the stone.”[741] Near this square is a magic mirror which reveals all plots in the provinces subject to Prester John or in adjacent lands.[742] In some manuscripts of the twelfth century is a description of another palace which before Prester John’s birth his father was instructed in a dream to build for his son. One feature of it is that no matter how hungry one may be on entering it, he always comes out feeling as full as if he had partaken of a sumptuous banquet.[743]

Additional marvels in later versions.

To such marvels in the early versions of the Letter of Prester John were added others in the course of the thirteenth century and later middle ages:—the huge man-eating ants who mined gold by night;[744] the land where men lived on manna, a substance which we shall find somewhat similarly mentioned by Michael Scot and Thomas of Cantimpré;[745] the tale, which we shall also hear from Roger Bacon, of men who tame flying dragons by their incantations and magic, saddle and bridle them, and ride them through the air;[746] the five marvelous stones that froze or heated or reduced to an even state of temperature or made light or dark everything within a radius of five miles; the second five stones, of which two were unconsecrated and turned water to milk or wine, while three were consecrated and would respectively cause fish to congregate, wild beasts to follow one, and, sprinkled with hot lion’s blood, produce a conflagration which could only be quenched by sprinkling the stone with hot dragon’s blood;[747] the marvelous mill operated by the occult virtue of the stone adamant;[748] the [Pg 244] wonderful tree on which the wonderful healing apple grew;[749] the marvelous chapel of glass, always just big enough for as many persons as entered it;[750] and the stone and the fountain that served as fireless heaters.[751] In another case a marvel is wrought by stone and fountain combined. Two old men guard a large stone and admit to its hollow only Christians or those who desire to become Christians. If this profession of faith is genuine, the water in the hollow which is usually only four fingers deep thrice rises above the head of the person admitted, who thereupon emerges recovered from all sickness.[752]

The letter of Pope Alexander III.

How real Prester John was to the men of the twelfth century may be seen from the fact that Pope Alexander III on September 27, 1177, addressed from the Rialto in Venice a letter to him or to some actual eastern potentate whom he had confused with him.[753] The Pope does not expressly mention Prester John’s letter to Manuel but says that he has heard of him from many persons and common report, and more especially from “Master Philip, our friend and physician,” who had talked “with great and honourable men of your kingdom,” by whom he had been informed of their ruler’s desire for a church and altar at Jerusalem. It is this Philip whom the Pope now sends with his letter to Prester John and to instruct him in the doctrine of the Roman church. But it is a long and laborious journey involving many hardships and vicissitudes and the traversing of many countries with barbarous and unknown languages.

Philip, the papal physician.

Whether Philip ever succeeded in delivering the letter is not known and he has himself been regarded as a mysterious personage of whom nothing further was known.[754] I would suggest, however, that, as he seems to have been conversant with Syria and the Holy Land, he may have been the Philip of whose translation of the Secret of [Pg 245] Secrets of the Pseudo-Aristotle we shall treat in the next chapter, a work which he found in Antioch and dedicated to the bishop of Tripoli. Or, if we do not meet this particular Philip again, we shall find in close relations with other popes other physicians whose names are prominent in the natural and occult science of the age.

[722] Berlin 956, 12th century, fols. 24-25.

[723] Gulielmi Alverni ... Opera Omnia, 1591, p. 1003, De universo, II, iii, 23.

[724] Mineral. II, iii, 4.

[725] One condemned at Paris in 1277 began, “The Indians have believed....”; two in a Harleian MS 2404 are called Indeana; a third, part Latin and part French, in Sloane MS 314 of the 15th century, opens, “This is the Indyana of Gremmgus which is called the daughter of astronomy and which one of the sages of India wrote.” See also CU Magdalene 27 (F. 4. 27, Haenel 23), late 14th century, fols. 72-88, “Hec est geomentia Indiana que vocatur filia Ast ... quam fecit unius (sic) sapientum Indie....”

[726] See D. E. Smith and L. C. Karpinski, The Hindu-Arabic Numerals, Boston, 1911; S. R. Benedict, A Comparative Study of the Early Treatises introducing into Europe the Hindu Art of Reckoning, Concord, 1914; L. C. Karpinski, “Two Twelfth Century Algorisms,” Isis, III (1921) 396-413. For “newly discovered evidence showing that the Hindu numerals were known to and justly appreciated by the Syrian writer Severus Sebokht, who lived in the second half of the seventh century,” see F. Nau in Journal asiatique, 1910, and J. Ginsburg, “New Light on our Numerals,” in the Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society, XXIII (1917) 366-9. On the question of the debt of Arabic algebra to India, especially in the case of Muhammad. b. Musa al-Hwarazmi, who was also an astrologer, see J. Ruska Zur ältesten arabischen Algebra und Rechenkunst, in Sitzb. d. Heidelberger Akademie d. Wiss. Philos. hist. Klasse, 1917.

[727] Scritti di Leonardo Pisano, vol. I, 1857.

[728] Jordani Nemorarii Geometria vel De triangulis libri IV, ed. M. Curtze, Thorn, 1887, pp. 43-44.

[729] A good brief summary of the results of d’Avezac, Zarncke, and others will be found in Sir Henry Yule’s article on “Prester John,” EB. For the various texts to be here considered, with later interpolations and additions distinguished, see Friedrich Zarncke, Der Priester Johannes, in Abhandl. d. Kgl. Sächs. Gesells. d. Wiss. VII (1879), 627-1030; VIII (1883) 1-186.

[730] In Yule (1903) I, 231-7, Cordier discusses whether this monarch was Gurkhan of Kara Khitai (as urged by d’Avezac and Oppert) who “in 1141 came to the aid of the King of Khwarizmi against Sanjar, the Seljukian sovereign of Persia, ... and defeated that prince with great slaughter,” or whether he was “John Orbelian ... for years the pride of Georgia and the hammer of the Turks” (as urged by Professor Bruun of Odessa).

[731] For its text, with interpolations distinguished from the original text, see Zarncke (1879) 909-924. Some of the passages which Zarncke regards as interpolations are, however, already found in 12th century MSS. On the other hand, his text does not include all the interpolations and variations to be found even in the MSS which he describes. For instance, in BN 6244A, fol. 130r, just before the description of the herb assidios, occurs a passage which may be translated as follows: “You should know also that in our country we do not need doctors, for we have precious stones, herbs, fountains, and trees of so great virtue that they prevail against every infirmity and against poisons and wounds. And we have books which instruct us and distinguish between the potencies and virtues of the herbs.” In this MS Prester John is also more voluble on the theme of his devotion to the Christian faith than appears in Zarncke’s text, and (fols. 127v-128r) repeats the story of the administration of the Eucharist by the hand of the body of the Apostle Thomas. Zarncke lists about one hundred MSS of the letter but fails to use or mention any of those in the Bodleian Library where, for instance, Digby 158, fols. 2r-5v, is of the twelfth century. Another twelfth century MS not in his list is Paris Arsenal 379A, fol. 34. Zarncke also does not list the MSS of the letter at Madrid and Wolfenbüttel.

[732] In many MSS. nothing is said of its being a translation or when or by whom it was translated; others state that it was translated into Greek and Latin, or, in at least one case, from Arabic into Latin. Only from the thirteenth century on, I think, is Christian, Archbishop of Mainz, sometimes said to have translated it from Greek into Latin. Often it is simply stated that Manuel transmitted the letter to the Emperor Frederick, to whom also it is sometimes represented as sent direct by Prester John. Sometimes it is to the Pope to whom the letter comes from Manuel or Prester John.

The statement that Manuel transmitted the letter to the Emperor Frederick makes one wonder whether Anselm, Bishop of Havelberg and later of Ravenna, can have had anything to do with it. He was sent by Frederick on an embassy to Manuel in 1153, which seems to identify him with the author of a “Liber de diversitate nature et persone proprietatumque personalium non tam Latinorum quam ex Grecorum auctoritatibus extractus”—CUL 1824 (Qi. vi. 27), beautiful 13th century hand, fols. 129-76,—who states in his preface that he collected his Greek authorities in Constantinople where he was sent by Frederick on an embassy to Manuel, and on his return to Germany showed them to “Petro venerabili Tusculano episcopo.”

[733] Such as Apocrisarius and Archimandrite, a word however not entirely unknown in the west; see Ducange.

[734] “Cum enim hominem nos esse cognoscamus, te Graeculi tui Deum esse existimant, cum te mortalem et humanae corruptioni subiacere cognoscamus,” Zarncke (1879) 910.

[735] For instance, the writer twice alludes to the square before Prester John’s palace where he watches the combatants in judicial duels or wager of battle, Zarncke (1879) 918, 919.

[736] I have seen a copy in the British Museum (IA.8685), De Mirabilibus Indiae, where the account given Calixtus II of miracles of the Apostle Thomas is run together with the letter of Prester John.

[737] Zarncke, 912; Digby 158, fol. 2v; BN 2342, fol. 191v; BN 3359, fol. 144v.

[738] Zarncke, 912-913; MSS as before. This fountain of youth was little improved upon by another inserted later (Zarncke, 920-21; BN 3359, fol. 146v; not in the other two MSS), which one had to taste thrice daily on a fasting stomach for three years, three months, three weeks, three days, and three hours, in order to live and remain youthful for three hundred years, three months, three weeks, three days, and three hours.

[739] Zarncke, 913; Digby 158, fol. 3r, etc.

[740] Zarncke, 915; Digby 158, fol. 3v; BN 2342, fol. 192r; BN 3359, fol. 145r. It will be recalled that Charlemagne is said to have had such a garment. Pliny discussed both salamanders and asbestos but did not connect the two. Marco Polo, however, says (I 42, Yule (1903) I, 212-3), “The real truth is that the salamander is no beast, as they allege in our part of the world, but is a substance found in the earth.... Everybody must be aware that it can be no animal’s nature to live in fire, seeing that every animal is composed of all four elements.” Polo confirms, however, the report of robes made of incombustible mineral fibre and cleansed by fire.

[741] Zarncke, 918; Digby 158, fol. 4r; BN 2342, fol. 192r; BN 3359, fol. 145v.

[742] Zarncke, 919-20; Digby 158, fols. 4v-5r; BN 2342, fol. 192v; BN 3359, fol. 146r.

[743] Zarncke, 920-22; Digby 158 fol. 5v; BN 2342, fol. 192v; BN 3359, fol. 146r-v.

[744] Zarncke, 911.

[745] Ibid., 913. For Michael Scot, see Chapter 51, page 324; for Thomas of Cantimpré, Chapter 53, Page 393.

[746] Zarncke, 913. For Roger Bacon, see Chapter 61, page 657.

[747] Zarncke, 915-16.

[748] Ibid., 918-19.

[749] Zarncke, 921.

[750] Ibid., 922.

[751] Ibid., 923.

[752] Ibid., 914.

[753] Text of the letter in Zarncke, 941-44.

[754] Zarncke, 945, “Der Philippus, den der Papst seinen familiaris nennt, ist bis jetzt nicht nachgewiesen.”

[Pg 246]



Alexander and Aristotle—Spurious writings ascribed to Aristotle—Aristotle and experiment—Aristotle and alchemy: Meteorology and On colors—Works of alchemy ascribed to Aristotle—Aristotle and Alexander as alchemists—Aristotle and astrology—Astrology and magic in the Theology and De Pomo of Aristotle—Liber de causis proprietatum elementorum et planetarum—Other astrological treatises ascribed to Aristotle—Aristotle and 250 volumes of the Indians—Works on astrological images—And on necromantic images—Alexander as an astrologer—Aristotle and spirits—On plants and the Lapidary—Virtues of gems—Stories of Alexander and of Socrates—Alexander’s submarine—Arabian tales of Alexander—A magic horn—More stories of Alexander and gems—Story of Alexander’s belt—The royal Lapidary of Wenzel II of Bohemia—Chiromancy and Physiognomy of Aristotle—The Secret of Secrets—Its textual history—The Latin translations of John of Spain and Philip—Philip’s preface—Prominence of occult science—Absence of mysticism—Discussion of kingship—Medical discussion—Astrology—Story of the two boys—Virtues of stones and herbs, incantations and amulets—Thirteenth century scepticism—Number and alchemy—The poisonous maiden—The Jew and the Magus.

Alexander and Aristotle.

In a previous chapter we have seen what a wide currency the legend of Alexander had both in east and west in the later Roman Empire and early middle ages, and how with Alexander was associated the magician and astrologer Nectanebus. We also saw that by about 800 A. D. at least a separate Letter of Alexander to Aristotle on the Marvels of India was current in the Latin west, and in the present chapter it is especially to the Pseudo-Aristotle and his connection with Alexander and India, rather than to the Pseudo-Callisthenes, that we turn. The tremendous historical importance of the career of Alexander the Great and of the writings of Aristotle impressed itself perhaps even unduly upon both the Arabian and the medieval mind. The personal [Pg 247] connection between the two men—Aristotle was for a time Alexander’s tutor—was seized upon and magnified. Pliny in his Natural History had stated that Alexander had empowered Aristotle to send two thousand men to different parts of the world to test by experience all things on the face of the earth.[755] This account of their scientific co-operation was enlarged upon by spurious writings associated with their names like the letter on the marvels of India.[756] With the introduction into western Europe in the twelfth and early thirteenth centuries of many genuine works of Aristotle unknown to the early middle ages, which had possessed only certain of his logical treatises, there also came into circulation a number of spurious writings ascribed to him.

Spurious writings ascribed to Aristotle.

It is not surprising that many spurious works were attributed to Aristotle in the middle ages, when we remember that his writings came to them for the most part indirectly through corrupt translations, and that some writing from so great a master was eagerly looked for upon every subject in which they were interested. It seemed to them that so encyclopedic a genius must have touched on all fields of knowledge and they often failed to realize that in Aristotle’s time the departments of learning had been somewhat different from their own and that new interests and doctrine had developed since then. There was also a tendency to ascribe to Aristotle any work of unknown or uncertain authorship. At the close of the twelfth century Alexander Neckam[757] lists among historic instances of envy Aristotle’s holding back from posterity certain of his most subtle writings, which he ordered should be buried with [Pg 248] him. At the same time he so guarded the place of his sepulcher, whether by some force of nature or power of art or prodigy of magic is uncertain, that no one has yet been able to approach it, although some think that Antichrist will be able to inspect these books when he comes. Roger Bacon in the thirteenth century believed that Aristotle had written over a thousand works and complained bitterly because certain treatises, which were probably really apocryphal, had not been translated into Latin.[758] Indeed, some of the works ascribed to Aristotle in the Oriental and Mohammedan worlds were never translated into Latin, such as the astrological De impressionibus coelestibus which Bacon mentions, or the Syriac text which K. Ahrens edited in 1892 with a German translation as “Das Buch der Naturgegenstände”; or first appeared in Latin guise after the invention of printing, as was the case with the so-called Theology of Aristotle,[759] a work which was little more than a series of extracts from the Enneads of Plotinus.[760] Some treatises attributed to Aristotle in medieval Latin do not bear especially upon our investigation, such as Grammar which Grosseteste is said to have translated from Greek.[761]

[Pg 249]

Aristotle and experiment.

For our purposes the Pseudo-Aristotelian writings may be sub-divided under seven heads: experiment, alchemy, astrology, spirits, occult virtues of stones and herbs, chiromancy and physiognomy, and last the famous Secret of Secrets. Under the first of these heads may be put a treatise on the conduct of waters, which consists of a series of experiments in siphoning and the like illustrated in the manuscript by lettered and colored figures and diagrams.[762] In a Vatican manuscript it is perhaps more correctly ascribed to Philo of Byzantium.

Aristotle and alchemy: Meteorology and On colors.

From experiment to alchemy is an easy step, for the alchemists experimented a good deal in the period which we are now considering. The fourth book of the Meteorology of Aristotle, which, if not a genuine portion of that work, at least goes back to the third century before Christ,[763] has been called a manual of chemistry,[764] and apparently is the oldest such extant. Its doctrines are also believed to have been influential in the development of alchemy; and there were passages in this fourth book which led men later to regard Aristotle as favorable to the doctrine of the transmutation of metals. Gerard of Cremona had translated only the first three books of the Meteorology; the fourth was supplied from a translation from the Greek made by Henricus Aristippus who died in 1162; to this fourth book were added three chapters translated by Alfred of England or of Sareshel from the Arabic,[765] apparently of Avicenna. [Pg 250][766] These additions of Alfred from Avicenna discussed the formation of metals but attacked the alchemists.[767] Vincent of Beauvais[768] and Albertus Magnus[769] were both aware, however, that this attack upon the alchemists was probably not by Aristotle. The short treatise On colors,[770] which is included in so many medieval manuscript collections of the works of Aristotle in Latin,[771] by its very title would suggest to medieval readers that he had been interested in the art of alchemy, although its actual contents deal only in small part with dyes and tinctures. Its form and contents are not regarded as Aristotle’s, but it was perhaps by someone of the Peripatetic school. Thus works which, if not by Aristotle himself, at least had been written in Greek long before the medieval period, gave medieval readers the impression that Aristotle was favorable to alchemy.

[Pg 251]

Works of alchemy ascribed to Aristotle.

It is therefore not surprising that works of alchemy appeared in medieval Latin under Aristotle’s name. The names of Plato and Aristotle had headed the lists of alchemists in Greek manuscripts although no works ascribed to Aristotle have been preserved in the same.[772] Berthelot, however, speaks of a pseudo-Aristotle in Arabic,[773] and in an Oxford manuscript of the thirteenth century under the name of Aristotle appears a treatise On the twelve waters of the secret river said to be “translated from Arabic into Latin.”[774] In the preface the author promises that whoever becomes skilled, adept, and expert in these twelve waters will never lose hope nor be depressed by want. He regards this treatise as the chief among his works, since he has learned these waters by experiment. They are all chemical rather than medical; a brief “chapter” or paragraph is devoted to each. In another manuscript at the Bodleian two brief tracts are ascribed to Aristotle; one describes the seven metals, the other deals with transmutation.[775] In a single manuscript at Munich both a theoretical treatise in medicine and alchemy and a Practica are attributed to Aristotle, and in two other manuscripts he is credited with the Book of Seventy Precepts which sometimes is ascribed to Geber.[776] Thomas of [Pg 252] Cantimpré cites Aristotle in the Lumen luminum as saying that the best gold is made from yellow copper ore and the urine of a boy, but Thomas hastens to add that such gold is best in color rather than in substance.[777] The translation of the Lumen luminum is ascribed both to Michael Scot and brother Elias.[778] Aristotle is quoted several times in De alchimia, ascribed to Albertus Magnus, but only in the later “Additions” to it, where Roger Bacon also is cited, is the specific title Liber de perfecto magisterio given as Aristotle’s.[779] Sometimes works of alchemy were very carelessly ascribed to Aristotle, when it is perfectly evident from the works themselves that they could not have been written by him.[780]

Aristotle and Alexander as alchemists.

The alchemical discoveries and writings ascribed to Aristotle are often associated in some way with Alexander the Great as well. In one manuscript John of Spain’s translation of the Secret of Secrets is followed by a description of the virtues and compositions of four stones “which Aristotle sent to Alexander the Great.”[781] It seems obvious that these are philosopher’s stones and not natural gems. The Liber ignium of Marcus Grecus, composed in the thirteenth or early fourteenth century, ascribes to Aristotle the discovery of two marvelous kinds of fires. One, which he discovered while traveling with Alexander the king, will burn for a year without cessation. The other, in the composition of which observance of the dog-days is requisite, “Aristotle [Pg 253] asserts will last for nine years.”[782] A collection of chemical experiments by a Nicholas, of whom we shall have more to say in a later chapter, gives “a fire which Aristotle discovered with Alexander for obscure places.”[783] A letter of Aristotle to Alexander in a collection of alchemical tracts is hardly worth noting, as it is only seven lines long, but it is interesting to observe that it cites Aristotle’s Meteorology.[784] Perhaps by a mistake one or two alchemical treatises are ascribed to Alexander rather than Aristotle.[785]

Aristotle and astrology.

Aristotle’s genuine works give even more encouragement to the pretensions of astrology than to those of alchemy. His opinion that the four elements were insufficient to explain natural phenomena and his theory of a fifth essence were favorable to the belief in occult virtue and the influence of the stars upon inferior objects. In his work on [Pg 254] generation[786] he held that the elements alone were mere tools without a workman; the missing agent is supplied by the revolution of the heavens. In the twelfth book of the Metaphysics he described the stars and planets as eternal and acting as intermediaries between the prime Mover and inferior beings. Thus they are the direct causes of all life and action in our world. Charles Jourdain regarded the introduction of the Metaphysics into western Europe at the opening of the thirteenth century as a principal cause for the great prevalence of astrology from that time on, the other main cause being the translation of Arabian astrological treatises.[787] Jourdain did not duly appreciate the great hold which astrology already had in the twelfth century, but it is nevertheless true that in the new Aristotle astrology found further support.

Astrology and magic in the Theology and De pomo of Aristotle.

Astrology crops out here and there in most of the spurious works extant under Aristotle’s name, just as it does in medieval learning everywhere. One section of a dozen pages in the Theology discusses the influence of the stars upon nature and the working of magic by making use of these celestial forces and the natural attraction which things have for one another. It regards artificial magic as a fraud but natural and astrological magic as a reality. However, as in the original text of Plotinus which the Theology follows, it is only the animal soul which is affected by magic and the man of impulse who is moved thereby; the thinking man can free himself from its influence by use of the rational soul. In the treatise, De pomo,[788] which seems not to have been translated into Latin until the thirteenth century under Manfred,[789] Aristotle on his death bed, holding in his hand an [Pg 255] apple from which the treatise takes its title, is represented as telling his disciples why a philosopher need not fear death and repudiating the doctrines of the mortality of the soul and eternity of the universe. He also tells how the Creator made the spheres and placed lucid stars in each and gave them the virtue of ruling over this inferior world and causing good and evil and life or death. They do not, however, do this of themselves, but men at first thought so and erroneously worshiped the stars until the time of Noah who was the first to recognize the Creator of the spheres.[790]

Liber de causis proprietatum elementorum et planetarum.

There are also attributed to Aristotle treatises primarily astrological. A “Book on the Properties of the Elements and of the Planets” is cited under his name by Peter of Abano at the end of the thirteenth century in his work on poisons,[791] by Peter d’Ailly in his Vigintiloquium[792] written in 1414, and by Pico della Mirandola, who declares it spurious, in his work against astrology written at the close of the fifteenth century. D’Ailly and Pico cite it in regard to the theory of great conjunctions; Abano, for a tale of Socrates and two dragons which we shall repeat later. It is probable that all these citations were from the paraphrase of and commentary on the work by Albertus Magnus[793] who accepted it as a genuine writing of Aristotle. We shall consider its contents in our chapter upon Albertus Magnus.

Other astrological treatises ascribed to Aristotle.

In a manuscript of the Cotton collection in the British Museum is a work of some length upon astrology ascribed to Aristotle.[794] After a discussion of general principles in which the planets, signs, and houses are treated, there are separate books upon the subjects of nativities,[795] and of elections and [Pg 256] interrogations.[796] In a Paris manuscript a treatise on interrogations is ascribed in a marginal heading to “Aristoteles Milesius, a Peripatetic physician.”[797] In the Cotton Manuscript in commentaries which then follow, and which are labelled as commentaries “upon the preceding treatise” Ptolemy is mentioned rather than Aristotle.[798] In an astrological manuscript of the fifteenth century at Grenoble written in French, works of Messahala and Zaël translated for Charles V of France are preceded by “a book of judicial astrology according to Aristotle,” which opens with “the preface of the last translator,” and is in four parts.[799] Perhaps both the above-mentioned manuscripts contain, like a third manuscript at Munich, “The book of judgments which is said by Albert in his Speculum to be Aristotle’s.”[800] This work also occurs in a manuscript at Erfurt.[801] Roger Bacon was much impressed by an astrological treatise ascribed to Aristotle entitled De impressionibus coelestibus, and told Pope Clement IV that it was “superior to the entire philosophy of the Latins and can be translated by your order.”[802]

Aristotle and two hundred and fifty volumes of the Indians.

A treatise found in two manuscripts of the Bodleian Library bears the titles, Commentary of Aristotle on Astrology, and The book of Aristotle from two hundred and fifty-five volumes of the Indians, containing a digest of all problems, whether pertaining to the sphere or to genethlialogy. [Pg 257][803] From the text itself and the preface of Hugo Sanctelliensis, the twelfth century translator from Arabic into Latin, addressed to his lord, Michael, bishop of Tarazona, we see that the work is neither entirely by Aristotle nor from the books of the Indians but is a compilation by someone who draws or pretends to draw from some 250 or 255 books[804] of the philosophers, including in addition to treatises by both Aristotle and the Indians, 13 books by Hermes, 13 by Doronius (Dorotheus?), 4 by Ptolemy, one by Democritus, two by Plato, 44 by the Babylonians, 7 by Antiochus, and others by authors whose names are unfamiliar to me and probably misspelled in the manuscripts. In one of the works of Aristotle of which the present work is supposed to make use, there are said to have been described the nativities of twelve thousand men, collected in an effort to establish an experimental basis for astrology.[805] It is not so surprising that the present work bears Aristotle’s name, since Hugh had promised his patron Michael, in the prologue to his translation of the Geometry of Hanus ben Hanne,[806] that if life endured and opportunity was given he would next set to work as ordered by his patron, not only upon Haly’s commentaries on the Quadripartite and Almagest of Ptolemy, but also upon a certain general commentary by Aristotle on the entire art of astrology.

Works on astrological images.

The Secret of Secrets of the Pseudo-Aristotle is immediately followed in one manuscript by chapters or treatises addressed to Alexander and entitled, Of ideas and forms, Of the impression of forms, and Of images and rings.[807] The [Pg 258] theory, very like that of Alkindi, is maintained that “all forms are ruled by supercelestial forms through the spirits of the spheres” and that incantations and images receive their force from the spheres. The seven planets pass on these supercelestial ideas and forms to our inferior world. By selecting proper times for operating one can work good or ill by means of the rays and impressions of the planets. The scientific investigator who properly concentrates and fixes intent, desire, and appetite upon the desired goal can penetrate hidden secrets of secrets and occult science both universal and particular. The writer goes on to emphasize the importance of understanding all the different positions and relationships of the heavenly bodies and also the distribution of terrestrial objects under the planets. He then describes an astrological image which will cause men to reverence and obey you, will repel your enemies in terror, afflict the envious, send visions, and perform other marvelous and stupefying feats too numerous to mention.

And on necromantic images.

As the Speculum astronomiae of Albertus Magnus listed a Book of Judgments by Aristotle among deserving works of astronomy and astrology, so in its list of evil books dealing with necromantic images appear a treatise by Hermes addressed to Aristotle and opening, “Aristotle said, ‘You have seen me, O Hermes,’” and a treatise ascribed to Aristotle with the sinister title, Death of the Soul, opening, “Said Aristotle to King Alexander, ‘If you want to perceive.’” This treatise the Speculum calls “the worst of all” the evil books on images. Roger Bacon, too, alludes to it by title as filled with figments of the magicians, but does not name Aristotle as author.[808] Peter of Abano in his Lucidator follows the Speculum astronomiae in listing it among depraved, obscene, and detestable works.[809]

[Pg 259]

Alexander as an astrologer.

Alexander himself, as well as Aristotle, had some medieval reputation as an astrologer. We have already seen[810] in the tenth and eleventh century manuscripts of the Mathematica of Alhandreus, supreme astrologer, that “Alexander of Macedon” was more than once cited as an authority, and that there were also given “Excerpts from the books of Alexander, astrologer, king,” and a “Letter of Argafalan to Alexander.” Different from this, moreover, was the Mathematica of Alexander, supreme astrologer, found in a thirteenth century manuscript, in which from the movements of the planets through the signs one is instructed how to foretell prosperous and adverse journeys, abundance and poverty, misfortune or death of a friend, or to discover stolen articles, sorceries, buried treasure and so forth.[811] A treatise on seven herbs related to the seven planets is sometimes ascribed to Alexander,[812] but perhaps more often to Flaccus Africanus, as we saw in Chapter 46, and at least once to Aristotle.[813]

Aristotle and spirits.

The association of astrological images with spirits of the spheres in one of the above-mentioned works ascribed to Aristotle has already brought us to the border-line of our next topic, Aristotle and spirits. Under this caption may be placed a work found in a fifteenth century manuscript. [Pg 260][814] It also is in part astrological and is associated with the name of Hermes as well as of Aristotle. Its title runs, The book of the spiritual works of Aristotle, or the book Antimaquis, which is the book of the secrets of Hermes: wonderful things can be accomplished by means of this book and ’tis the ancient book of the seven planets. The treatise opens, “To every people and clime pertains a group of spirits.” It then maps out these regions of different spirits in accordance with the planets and signs of the zodiac. Apparently this is the same work as that which Hunain ibn Ishak translated into Arabic and of which he says, “Among the works of Aristotle which we have found and translated from Greek into Arabic was The book of the Causes of Spirituals which has Hermes for author.... It is the book in which Aristotle treats of the causes of spirituals, talismans, the art of their operation, and how to hinder it, ordered after the seven climates.”[815] It was probably some such spurious work that William of Auvergne had in mind when he spoke of Aristotle’s boast that a spirit had descended unto him from the sphere of Venus.[816]

On plants and the Lapidary.

No genuine work of Aristotle on vegetables or minerals has come down to us to accompany his celebrated History of Animals, but supposititious writings were soon found by the Arabs to fill this gap. On plants a brief treatise by Nicolaus Damascenus passed for Aristotle’s. Alfred of Sarchel translated it from Arabic into Latin,[817] presumably before the close of the twelfth century, since he dedicated it to Roger of Hereford, and Albertus Magnus expanded its two short books into seven long ones in his De vegetabilibus et plantis. There also existed in Arabic a Lapidary ascribed to Aristotle,[818] which we have heard cited in the ninth [Pg 261] century by Costa ben Luca. Ruska believes the work to be of Syrian and Persian origin,[819] although one Latin text professes to have been originally translated from Greek into Syriac.[820] Valentin Rose regarded it as the basis of all subsequent Arabic mineralogy, but found only two Latin manuscripts of it.[821] Albertus Magnus in his Minerals confesses that, although he had sought diligently in divers regions of the world, he had seen only excerpts from Aristotle’s work. But another writer of the thirteenth century, Arnold of Saxony, cites translations of Aristotle on stones both by Dioscorides, which would seem sheer nonsense, and by Gerard, presumably of Cremona. Gerard’s translation occurs in one of Rose’s manuscripts; the other seems to give a version translated from the Hebrew.

Virtues of gems.

In Gerard’s translation, a work marked by puerile Latin style, the Lapidary of Aristotle is about equally devoted to marvelous properties of stones and tales of Alexander the Great. After some general discussion of stones and their wonderful properties, particular gems are taken up. The gesha brings misfortune. Its wearer sleeps poorly, has many worries, many altercations and law-suits. If it is hung about a boy’s neck, it makes him drivel. “There is great occult force” in the magnet, and instructions are given how to set water on fire with it. Several stones possess the property of neutralizing spells and counteracting the work of demons. With another stone the Indians make many [Pg 262] incantations. Vultures were the first to discover the virtue of the stone filcrum coarton in hastening delivery. When a female vulture was near death from the eggs hardening in her body, the male flew off to India and brought back this stone which afforded instant relief. Another stone is so soporific that suspended about the neck it induces a sleep lasting three days and nights, and the effects of which are thrown off with difficulty even on the fourth day, when the sleeper will awake but will act as if he were intoxicated and will still seem sleepier than anyone else. Another stone prevents a horse from whinnying, if suspended from his neck.

Stories of Alexander and of Socrates.

Other gems suggest stories of Alexander. Near the frontier of India in a valley guarded by deadly serpents whose mere glance was fatal were many precious gems. Alexander disposed of the serpents by erecting mirrors in which they might stare themselves to death, and he then secured the gems by employing the carcasses of sheep in the manner which we have already heard described by Epiphanius.[822] A somewhat similar tale is told of Socrates by Albertus Magnus in his commentary on the pseudo-Aristotelian work on the properties of the elements and planets.[823] In the reign of Philip of Macedon, who is himself described as a philosopher and astronomer, the road between two mountains in Armenia became so poisoned that no one could pass. Philip vainly inquired the cause from his sages until Socrates came to the rescue and, by erecting a tower as high as the mountains with a steel mirror on top of it, saw two dragons polluting the air. The mere glance of these dragons was apparently not deadly, for men in air-tight armor went in and killed them. The same story is told by William of St. Cloud, who composed astronomical tables based upon his own observations from about 1285 to 1321, in which he detected errors in the earlier tables of Thebit, Toulouse, and Toledo.[824] In Peter of Abano’s treatise on [Pg 263] poisons,[825] however, although he too cites the Pseudo-Aristotle On the causes of the elements, the mirror has become a glass cave in which Socrates ensconces himself to observe the serpents. A Lapidary dedicated to King Wenzel II of Bohemia tells of Socrates’ killing a dragon by use of quicksilver.[826] That Socrates also shared the medieval reputation of Aristotle and Plato for astrology and divination we have already seen from the Prenostica Socratis Basilei.

Alexander’s submarine.

Similar to Abano’s tale of Socrates in the glass cave is the story told a century earlier by Alexander Neckam of Alexander himself. So sedulous an investigator of nature was the Macedonian, says Neckam, that he went down in a glass vessel to observe the natures and customs of the fishes. He would seem to have remained submerged for some time, since Neckam informs us that he took a cock with him in order to tell when it was dawn by the bird’s crowing. This primitive submarine had at least a suggestion of war about it, since Neckam goes on to say that Alexander learned how to lay ambushes against the foe by observing one army of fishes attack another. Unfortunately, however, Alexander failed to commit to writing his observations, whether military or scientific, of deep-sea life; and Neckam grieves that very few data on the natures of fishes have come to his attention.[827] We shall hear Roger Bacon tell of Alexander’s descending to see the secrets of the deep on the authority of Ethicus.[828]

[Pg 264]

Arabian tales of Alexander.

Neckam’s account differs a good deal from the story as told by the Arabian historian, Masʿudi, in the tenth century. There we read that, when Alexander was building the city of Alexandria, monsters came from the sea every night and overthrew the walls that had been built during the day. Night watchmen proved of no avail, so Alexander had a box made ten cubits long and five wide, with glass sides fastened into the frame work by means of pitch and resin. He then entered the box with two draughtsmen, who, after it had been let down to the bottom of the sea, made exact drawings of the monsters, who had human bodies but the heads of beasts. From these sketches Alexander had images constructed and placed on pillars, and these magic figures served to keep off the monsters until the city was completed. But the effect apparently began to wear off and talismans had to be added on the pillars to prevent the monsters from coming and devouring the inhabitants, as they had begun to do again.[829] Another Arab, Abu-Shâker, of the thirteenth century, repeats a current tradition that Aristotle gave Alexander a box of wax soldiers which were nailed, with inverted spears and swords and severed bow-strings, face-downwards in the box, which in its turn was fastened by a chain. As long as the box remained in Alexander’s possession and he repeated the formulae which Aristotle taught him whenever he took the box up or put it down, he would triumph over his foes in war.[830] This reminds one of the methods of warfare employed by Alexander’s fabled natural father, Nectanebus.

A magic horn.

While we are speaking of military matters, it may be noted that in a manuscript of the thirteenth century which once belonged to an Albertus Bohemus or Beham, dean of the church at Padua, and seems to have been his note-book, we find between the Secret of Secrets of the Pseudo-Aristotle and a treatise on the significations of the moon in the signs “a delineation of a brazen horn made with marvelous [Pg 265] art by which Alexander in time of war summoned his army from a distance of sixty miles.”[831] Such a horn “of Temistius” is mentioned in some versions of the Secret of Secrets.[832]

More stories of Alexander and gems.

But to return to other tales of Alexander in the Lapidary. Once he saw afar enchanters and enchantresses who slew and wounded the men of his army by their diabolical power until Alexander prayed to God, who revealed two stones which counteracted the sorcery. On another occasion when by Alexander’s order his barons had carried off certain gems, during the night following they suffered much insult from demons and were sore afraid, since sticks and stones were thrown about the camp by unseen hands and men were beaten without knowing whence the blows came. It thus became apparent that the demons cherished those gems as their especial property and were accustomed to perform occult operations with them of which they did not wish men to learn the secret. Alexander found that these gems would protect him from any beast, serpent, or demon, although the nocturnal experience of his barons would scarcely seem to support this last point. On a third occasion his troops were held motionless and gazed open-mouthed at certain stones, until a bird fluttered down and covered the gems with its outstretched wings. Then Alexander had his followers close their eyes and carry the stones away under cover and place them on top of the wall of one of his cities so that no one might scale the wall to spy upon the town.

Story of Alexander’s belt.

Yet another curious story of Alexander and a stone is repeated by Peter of Abano in his work on poisons[833] from a treatise “On the Nature of Serpents” which he ascribes to Aristotle. Alexander always wore a certain stone in his belt to give him good luck in his battles, but on his return from India, while bathing in the Euphrates, he removed [Pg 266] the belt, whereupon a serpent suddenly appeared, bit the stone out of the belt, and vomited it into the river. Deprived of his talisman, Alexander presently met his death.[834]

The royal Lapidary of Wenzel II of Bohemia.

Another Lapidary, printed as Aristotle’s at Merseburg in 1473, is really a compilation of previous medieval works on the subject with the addition of some items derived from the personal knowledge or experience of the author. It was composed “to the honor of almighty God and the glory and perpetual memory of that virtuous and most glorious prince, Wenzel II, King of Bohemia” (1278-1305). As the treatise itself states, “the Lapidary of Aristotle in the recent translation from the Greek” is only one of its sources along with Avicenna, Constantinus Africanus, Albertus Magnus, and others.

Chiromancy and Physiognomy of Aristotle.

Another work which claims Aristotelian authorship only in its title is the Chiromancy of Aristotle, printed at Ulm in 1490, which quotes freely from Albertus Magnus and Avicenna. There are also brief tracts on chiromancy ascribed to Aristotle in manuscripts of the thirteenth or fourteenth century.[835] Förster has identified Polemon as the author of the Greek treatise on physiognomy ascribed to Aristotle.[836] The art of physiognomy of course professed to read character from the face or other parts of the body, and chiromancy which we have just mentioned is really a branch of it. In Latin translation the treatise was accepted as Aristotle’s [Pg 267] by such medieval schoolmen as Albertus Magnus and Duns Scotus. There are many manuscripts of it in the British Museum, including one which perhaps dates back to the twelfth century.[837] Its popularity continued long after the invention of printing, as is shown by separate editions of it brought out at Paris in 1535 and at Wittenberg in 1538, and by commentaries upon it[838] published at Paris in 1611, at Bologna in 1621, and at Toulouse in 1636. Besides such separate manuscripts and editions of it, it was also regularly embodied in the numerous copies of the pseudo-Aristotelian work to which we next turn.

The Secret of Secrets.

Most widely influential upon the medieval mind of all the spurious works attributed to Aristotle was The Secret of Secrets. Förster enumerated two hundred and seven Latin manuscripts of it and his list is probably far from complete.[839] Gaster calls it “The most popular book of the middle ages.”[840] This is not surprising since it purports to sum up in concise form what the greatest of ancient philosophers deemed it essential for the greatest of ancient rulers to know, and since under the alluring pretense of revealing great secrets in parable and riddle it really masses together a number of the best-tested and most often repeated maxims of personal hygiene and practical philosophy, and some of the superstitions to which men have shown themselves most inclined. Every European library of consequence contains a number of copies of it. It was translated into almost every European language and was often versified, as in Lydgate’s [Pg 268] and Burgh’s Secrees of old Philisoffres.[841] Albertus Magnus cited it as Aristotle’s;[842] Roger Bacon wrote a rather jejune commentary upon it.[843] It was printed a number of times before 1500.[844]

Its textual history.

The Secrets of Secrets is believed to be the outcome of a gradual process of compilation from very varied sources, and to have reached something like its present form by the seventh or eighth century of our era. But its chapters on physiognomy, as we have seen, go back to Polemon’s treatise, and part of its medical discussion is said to be borrowed from Diocles Caristes who wrote about 320 B. C. Some Graeco-Persian treatise is thought to be the basis of its discussion of kingship. It is also believed to have appropriated bits from popular literature to its own uses. In Arabic there is extant both a longer and a shorter version, and Gaster has edited a Hebrew text which is apparently [Pg 269] derived from an Arabic original different from that of any Latin text. The process of successive compilation, or at least, re-editing and repeated translation which the work underwent is suggested by a series of prologues which occur at the beginning. Following the preface of the Latin translator and the table of contents comes what is called “the prologue of a certain doctor in commendation of Aristotle,”[845] in which omnipotent God is prayed to guard the king and some anonymous editor states that he has executed the mandate enjoined upon him to procure the moral work on royal conduct called The Secret of Secrets, which Aristotle, chief of philosophers, composed. After some talk about Aristotle and Alexander a second prologue begins with the sentence, “John who translated this book, son of a patrician, most skilful and faithful interpreter of languages, says.” This John appears to have been Yuhanna ibn el-Batrik, or Ibn Yahya al-Batrik, who died in 815 A. D.[846] What he says is that he searched the world over until he came to an oracle of the sun which Esculapides had constructed. There he found a solitary abstemious sage who presented him with this book which he translated from Greek into Chaldaic and thence into Arabic. This passage reminds one of Harpocration’s prefatory remarks to his daughter in the Kiranides; indeed, it is quite in the usual style of apocryphal writings.

The Latin translations of John of Spain and Philip.

In the matter of the Latin translation we are on somewhat more certain ground. John of Spain in the first half of the twelfth century seems to have translated only the medical portion.[847] Manuscripts of this partial translation are [Pg 270] relatively few,[848] and it was presently superseded by the complete translation made either in the twelfth or early thirteenth century[849] by Philip, “the least of his clerics” for “his most excellent lord, most strenuous in the cult of the Christian religion, Guido of Valencia, glorious pontiff of the city of Tripoli.” Philip goes on to say in his dedicatory preface that it was when he was with Guido in Antioch that they found “this pearl of philosophy, ... this book which contains something useful about almost every science,” and which it pleased Guido to have translated from Arabic into Latin. Although the various printed editions and manuscripts of The Secret of Secrets in Latin vary considerably, they regularly are preceded by this ascription of the Latin translation to Philip, and usually by the other prologues afore-mentioned. Who this Philip was, other than a cleric of Tripoli, is still undetermined. If he was the same as the papal physician whom Alexander III in 1177 proposed to send on a mission to Prester John,[850] he had probably made his translation before that date. J. Wood Brown would identify him with Philip of Salerno, a royal notary whose name appears in 1200 on deeds in the kingdom of Sicily. [Pg 271][851] I have already suggested that possibly he translated the Kiranides.

Philip’s preface.

Returning to Philip’s preface to Guido, it may be noted that he states that Latins do not have the work, and that it is rare among the Arabs.[852] His translation is a free one since the Arabic idiom is different from the Latin. Aristotle wrote this book in response to the petition of King Alexander his disciple who demanded that Aristotle should either come to him or faithfully reveal the secrets of certain arts, namely, the motion, operation, and power of the stars in astronomy, the art of alchemy, the art of knowing natures and working enchantments, and the art of geomancy. Aristotle was too old to come in person, and although it had been his intention to conceal in every way the secrets of the said sciences, yet he did not venture to contradict the will and command of so great a lord. He hid some matters, however, under enigmas and figurative locutions. For Alexander’s convenience he divided the work into ten books, each of which is divided into chapters and headings. Philip adds that for his readers’ convenience he has collected these headings at the beginning of the work, and a table of contents follows.[853] Then come the two older prologues [Pg 272] which we have already described, next a letter of Aristotle to Alexander on the extrinsic and intrinsic causes of his work,[854] and then with a chapter which is usually headed Distinctio regum or Reges sunt quatuor begins the discussion of kingship which is the backbone of the work.

Prominence of occult science.

It is evident from Philip’s preface that occult science also forms a leading feature in the work as known to him. Gaster, who contended that the Hebrew translation from the Arabic which he edited was as old as either John of Spain’s or Philip’s Latin translations, although the oldest of the four manuscripts which he collated for his text is dated only in 1382 A. D., made a rather misleading statement when he affirmed, “Of the astrology looming so largely in the later European recensions the Hebrew has only a faint trace.”[855] As a matter of fact some of the printed editions contain less astrology than the thirteenth century manuscripts, while Gaster’s Hebrew version has much more than “a faint trace” of astrology. But more of this later.

Absence of mysticism.

On the other hand, I cannot fully subscribe to Steinschneider’s characterization of The Secret of Secrets as “a wretched compilation of philosophical mysticism and varied superstition.”[856] Of superstition there is a great deal, but of philosophical mysticism there is practically none. Despite the title and the promise in Philip’s preface of enigmatic and figurative language, the tone of the text is seldom mystical, and its philosophy is of a very practical sort.

Discussion of kingship.

Nor can The Secret of Secrets be dismissed as merely “a wretched compilation.” Those portions which deal with [Pg 273] kingcraft and government display shrewdness and common sense, worldly wisdom and knowledge of human nature, are not restricted by being written from any one premise or view-point, and often evince real enlightenment. Those historians who have declared the love of fame a new product of the Italian Renaissance should have read the chapter on fame in this most popular book of the middle ages, where we find such statements as that royal power ought not to be desired for its own sake but for the sole purpose of achieving fame. Other noteworthy utterances indicative of the tone and thought of the book are that “the intellect ... is the root of all things praiseworthy”; that kings should cultivate the sciences; that liberality involves respect for others’ property; that “war destroys order and devastates the lands and turns everything to chaos”; that no earthly ruler should shed blood, which is reserved for God alone, but limit his punishments to imprisonment, flogging, and torture; that the king, as Chief Justice Coke later told James I, is under the law; that taxes upon merchants should be light so that they will remain in the country and contribute to its prosperity; that his people are a king’s true treasury and that he should acquaint himself with their needs and watch over their interests.

Medical discussion.

From the medical passages of the book one would infer that the art of healing at first developed more slowly than the art of ruling in the world’s history. The medical theory of The Secret of Secrets is not of an advanced or complex sort, but is a combination of curious notions, such as that vomiting once a month or oftener is beneficial, and sensible ideas, such as that life consists of natural heat and that it is very important to keep the abdomen warm and the bowels moving regularly. Turkish baths are described for perhaps the first time in Europe, and Alexander is advised to keep his teeth and mouth clean. The well-known apothegm of Hippocrates is quoted, “I would rather eat to live than live to eat,” and Alexander is advised to cease eating while he still has an appetite.

[Pg 274]


Much of the advice offered to Alexander by Aristotle in The Secret of Secrets is astrological. Among those studies which the king should promote, the only one specifically mentioned is astrology, which considers “the course of the year and of the stars, the coming festivals and solemnities of the month, the course of the planets, the cause of the shortening and lengthening of days and nights, the signs of the stars which determine the future and many other things which pertain to prediction of the future.”[857] Alexander is adjured “not to rise up or sit down or eat or drink or do anything without consulting a man skilled in the art of astronomy.”[858] Later the two parts of astronomy are distinguished, that is, astronomy and astrology in our sense of the words. Alexander is further warned to put no faith in the utterances of those stupid persons who declare that the science of the stars is too difficult to master. No less stupid is the argument of others who affirm that God has foreseen and foreordained everything from eternity and that consequently all things happen of necessity and it is therefore of no advantage to predict events which cannot be avoided. For even if things happened of necessity, it would be easier to bear them by foreknowing and preparing for them beforehand, just as men make preparations against the coming of a cold winter—the familiar contention of Ptolemy. But The Secret of Secrets also believes that one should pray God in His mercy to avert future evils and ordain otherwise, “For He has not so ordained things that to ordain otherwise derogates in any respect from His Providence.” But this is not so approved astrological doctrine. Later in the work Alexander is once more urged never to take medicine or open a vein except with the approval of his astronomers,[859] and directions are given as to the constellations under which [Pg 275] bleeding should be performed and also concerning the taking of laxatives with reference to the position of the moon in the signs of the zodiac.[860] Later the work discusses the relations of the four elements and of various herbs to the seven planets,[861] and in the next to last chapter Alexander is advised to conduct his wars under the guidance of astrology.[862]

Story of the two boys.

There is much indulging in astrological theory in the midst of the chapter on Justice, and the constitution of the universe is set forth from the first and highest simple spiritual substance down through the nine heavens and spheres to the lowest inferiors. To illustrate the power of the stars the story is presently told of two boys,[863] one a weaver’s son, the other a royal prince of India. Sages who were chance guests in the weaver’s house at the time of the child’s birth noted that his horoscope was that of a courtier high in royal councils but kept their discovery to themselves. The boy’s parents vainly tried to make a weaver of him, but even beatings were in vain; he was finally allowed to follow his natural inclination, secured an education, and became in time a royal governor. The king’s son, on the contrary, despite his royal birth and the fact that his father sent him through all his provinces to learn the sciences, would take no interest in anything except mechanics conformably to his horoscope.

Virtues of stones and herbs, incantations and amulets.

In The Secret of Secrets the Pseudo-Aristotle refers Alexander for the virtues of gems and herbs to his treatises on stones and plants, presumably those which we have already described. He does not entirely refrain from discussion [Pg 276] of such marvelous properties in the present work, however, mentioning the use of the virtues of stones in connection with incantations. We also again hear of stones which will prevent any army from withstanding Alexander or which will cause horses to whinny or keep them from doing so; and of herbs which bring true or false dreams or cause joy, love, hate, honor, reverence, courage, and inertia.[864] One recipe reads, “If you take in the name of someone seven grains of the seeds of the herb called androsimon, and hold them in his name when Lucifer and Venus are rising so that their rays touch him (or them?), and if you give him those seven grains to eat or pulverized in drink, fear of you will ever abide in his heart and he will obey you for the rest of his life.”[865] The discussion of incantations, astrological images, and amulets is omitted from many Latin manuscripts but occurs in Roger Bacon’s version.[866]

Thirteenth century scepticism.

The extreme powers attributed to herbs and stones in The Secret of Secrets aroused some scepticism among its Latin readers of the thirteenth century.[867] Geoffrey of Waterford, a Dominican from Ireland who died about 1300, translated The Secret of Secrets into French. He criticized, however, its assertions concerning the virtues of stones and herbs as more akin to fables than to philosophy, a fact of which, he adds, all clerks who know Latin well are aware. He wonders why Alexander had to win his battles by hard fighting when Aristotle is supposed to inform him in this book of a stone which will always rout the enemy. Geoffrey decides that such false statements are the work of the translators and that Aristotle is the author only of what is well said or reasonable in the work.

Number and alchemy.

Something is said in The Secret of Secrets of the occult properties and relative perfection of numbers, and as usual [Pg 277] the preference is for the numbers, three, four, seven, and ten.[868] The Hebrew version adds a puerile method of divining who will be victor in a battle by a numerical calculation based upon the letters in the names of the generals. The Latin versions of the thirteenth century contain a chapter on alchemy which had great influence and gives a recipe for the philosopher’s stone and the Emerald Table of Hermes.[869] But in the Hebrew version and Achillini’s printed text occurs a passage in which Alexander is warned that alchemy is not a true science.[870]

The poisonous maiden.

We may conclude our picture of the work’s contents with two of its stories, namely, concerning the poisonous maiden and the Jew and the Magus. A beautiful maiden was sent from India to Alexander with other rich gifts. But she had been fed upon poison from infancy “until she was of the nature of a snake. And had I not perceived it,” continues Aristotle in the Hebrew version, “for I suspected the clever men of those countries and their craft, and had I not found by tests that she would kill thee by her embrace and by her perspiration, she surely would have killed thee.”[871] This venomous maiden is also alluded to in various medieval discussions of poisons. Peter of Abano mentions her in his De venenis.[872] Gilbert of England, following no doubt Gerard of Cremona’s translation of Avicenna, cites Ruffus rather than the Pseudo-Aristotle concerning her and says nothing of her relations with Alexander, but adds that animals who approached her spittle were killed by it.[873] In Le Secret aux philosophes, a French work of the closing thirteenth [Pg 278] century, where the story is told at considerable length, Socrates rather than Aristotle saves Alexander from the poisonous maid.[874]

The Jew and the Magus.

In the other story a Magus is represented in a much more favorable light than magicians generally were; he seems to represent rather one of the Persian sages. He was traveling on a mule with provisions and met a Jew traveling on foot. Their talk soon turned to their respective religions and moral standards. The Magus professed altruism; the Jew was inclined to get the better of all men except Jews. When these principles had been stated, the Jew requested the Magus, since he professed to observe the law of love, to dismount and let him ride the mule. No sooner had this been done than the Jew, true to his law of selfishness and hate, made off with both mule and provisions. This misfortune did not lead the Magus to lose his faith in God, however, and as he plodded along he by and by came again upon the Jew who had fallen off the mule and broken his neck. The Magus then mercifully brought the Jew to the nearest town where he died, while the king of the country made the Magus one of his trusted ministers of state.[875]

[755] See Roger Bacon’s allusion to this passage in F. A. Gasquet, “An Unpublished Fragment of a Work by Roger Bacon,” in EHR, XII (1897), p. 502.

[756] Ch. Gidel, La Légende d’Aristote au moyen âge, in Assoc. des Études Grecques, (1874), pp. 285-332, except for the Pseudo-Callisthenes uses only the French vernacular literature or popular legends concerning Aristotle. Similar in scope is W. Hertz, Aristoteles in den Alexanderdichtungen des Mittelalters, in Abhandl. d. philos-philol. Classe d. k. bayr. Akad. d. Wiss., XIX (1892) 1-103; revised in W. Hertz, Gesammelte Abhandlungen, 1905, 1-155.

[757] De naturis rerum, II, 189.

[758] Compendium Studii Philosophiae, ed. Brewer, (1859), p. 473.

[759] It was translated into Arabic about 840 A. D.; an interpolated Latin paraphrase of it was published at Rome in 1519, by Pietro Niccolo de’ Castellani,—Sapientissimi Aristotelis Stagiritae Theologia sive mistica philosophia, secundum Aegyptios noviter reperta et in latinam castigatissime redacta; a French version appeared at Paris in 1572 (Carra de Vaux, Avicenne, p. 74). F. Dieterici translated it from Arabic into German in 1883, after publishing the Arabic text for the first time in 1882. For divergences between this Arabic text and the Latin one of 1519, and citation of Baumgartner that the Theology was known in Latin translation as early as 1200, see Grabmann (1916), pp. 245-7.

[760] Indeed Carra de Vaux, Avicenne, p. 73, says, “Tout un livre qui ne contient en réalité que des extraits des Ennéades IV à VI de Plotin.”

[761] See Arundel MS 165, 14th century. On the general subject of the Pseudo-Aristotelian literature the reader may consult V. Rose, Aristoteles Pseudepigraphus, and De ordine et auctoritate librorum Aristotelis; Munk’s article “Aristote” in La France littéraire; Schwab, Bibliographie d’Aristote, Paris, 1896; and R. Shute, History of the Aristotelian Writings, Oxford, 1888. It is, however, a difficult subject and for the middle ages at least has not been satisfactorily investigated. Grabmann (1916) devotes only a page or two of supplement to it; see pp. 248-51. A work on Aristotle in the middle ages, announced in 1904 by G. H. Luquet, seems not to have appeared.

[762] Sloane 2030, fols. 110-13.

[763] Hammer-Jensen, Das sogenannte IV Buch der Meteorologie des Aristoteles, in Hermes, vol. 50 (1915) pp. 113-36, argues that its teachings differ from those of Aristotle and assigns it to Strato, his younger contemporary. Not content with this thesis, which is easier to suggest than to prove, Hammer-Jensen contends that it was a work of Strato’s youth and that it profoundly influenced Aristotle himself in his last works. “The convenient Strato!” as he is called by Loveday and Forster in the preface to their translation of De coloribus (1913) vol. VI of The Works of Aristotle translated into English under the editorship of W. D. Ross.

[764] So Hammer-Jensen, p. 113, and earlier Heller (1882), I, 61.

[765] Nürnberg Stadtbibliothek (centur. V, 59, membr. 13th century)—cited by Rose, Hermes 1, 385,—“Completus est liber metheororum cuius tres primos libros transtulit magister Gerardus Lumbardus summus philosophus de arabico in latinum. Quartum autem transtulit Henricus Aristippus de greco in latinum. Tria ultima capitula transtulit Aluredus Anglicus sarelensis de arabico in latinum.”

Steinschneider (1893) pp. 59 and 84; (1905) p. 7; and others, including Hammer-Jensen, give the name of the translator of the fourth book from the Greek as Hermann and of the last three chapters as Aurelius, whom Steinschneider is more correct in describing as “otherwise unknown.” On the other hand, we know that Aristippus and Alfred translated other Aristotelian treatises. Evidently Steinschneider and the others have followed MSS where the copyist has corrupted the proper names.

[766] Steinschneider and Hammer-Jensen quote from MSS, “tria vero ultima Avicennae capitula transtulit Aurelius de arabico in latinum.” Albertus Magnus, Mineral, III, i, 9, also ascribed the passage to Avicenna; others have suggested that it is by disciples of Avicenna. See J. Wood Brown (1897) pp. 72-3, for a similar passage from Avicenna’s Sermo de generatione lapidum.

[767] They were printed at Bologna, 1501, as Liber de mineralibus Aristotelis and also published, sometimes as Geber’s, sometimes as Avicenna’s, under the title, Liber de congelatione.

BN 16142 contains a Latin translation of the four books of the Meteorology with an addition dealing with minerals and geology which is briefer than the printed Liber de mineralibus Aristotelis, omitting the passage against the alchemists: published by F. de Mély, Rev. des Études grecques, (1894), p. 185 et seq. (cited Hammer-Jensen, 131).

[768] Speculum naturale, VIII, 85.

[769] See note 1 above.

[770] Greek text by Prantl, Teubner, 1881; English translation by Loveday and Forster, 1913. See also Prantl, Aristoteles über die Farben, 1849.

[771] Just a few examples are: Mazarine 3458 and 3459, 13th century; 3460 and 3461, 14th century; Arsenal 748A, 15th century, fol. 185; BN 6325, 14th century, #1; BN 14719, 14-15th century, fol. 38-; BN 14717, end 13th century; BN 16633, 13th century, fol. 102-; S. Marco X, 57, 13th century, beautifully illuminated, fols. 312-17; Assisi 283, 14th century, fol. 289-; Volterra 19, 14th century, fol. 196-.

[772] Berthelot (1885) p. 143, “Platon et Aristote sont mis en tête de la liste des alchimistes œcuméniques sans qu’aucun ouvrage leur soit assigné.”

[773] Berthelot (1888) I, 76; citing Manget, Bibl. Chemica, I, 622.

[774] Digby 162, 13th century, fols. 10v-11v, “Incipit liber Aristotelis de aquis secreti fluminis translatus ab arabico in latinum.” In the margin the twelve waters are briefly designated: 1 rubicunda, 2 penetrativa, 3 mollificativa, et ingrediente, 4 de aqua eiusdem ponderis et magnitudinis, 5 ignita, 6 sulphurea, 7 aqua cineris, 8 aurea, etc. In one or two cases, however, these heads do not quite apply to the corresponding chapters.

[775] Ashmole 1448, 15th century, pp. 200-202, de “altitudinibus, profundis, lateribusque” metallorum secundum Aristotelem (name in the margin). It opens, “Plumbum est in altitudine sua ar. nigrum.” It takes up in turn the altitudo of each metal and then discusses the next quality in the same way.

Ibid., pp. 239-44, opens, “Arestotilus, Cum studii, etc. Scias preterea quod propter longitudines”; at p. 241 it treats “de purificatione solis et lune” (i.e., gold and silver); at p. 243, “de separatione solis et lune.” It ends with a paragraph about the composition of a golden seal.

[776] CLM 12026, 15th century, fol. 46-, “Alchymia est ars docens ... / ... Explicit dicto libri (sic) Aristotelis de theorica in rebus naturalibus”; fol. 78, Liber Aristotelis de practica summae philosophiae, “Primo de separatione salis communis....”

CLM 25110, 15th century, fols. 211-45, Liber Aristotelis de 70 preceptis.

CLM 25113, 16th century, fols. 10-28, A. de alchimia liber qui dicitur de 70 preceptis.

[777] Egerton 1984, fol. 141v; in the De natura rerum.

[778] See Chapter 51 on Michael Scot, near the close.

[779] Caps. 22 and 57. It was printed with further “Additions” of its own in 1561 in Verae alchemiae artisque metallicae citra aenigmata, Basel, 1561, II, 188-225.

[780] Thus in Auriferae artis quam chemiam vocant antiquissimi authores, Basel, 1572, pp. 387-99, a treatise which cites Morienus, Rasis, and Avicenna is printed as Tractatulus Aristotelis de Practica lapidis philosophici. Apparently the only reason for ascribing it to Aristotle is that it cites “the philosopher” in its opening sentence, “Cum omne corpus secundum philosophum aut est elementum aut ab elementis generatum.”

[781] Laud. Misc. 708, 15th century, fol. 54.

[782] Berthelot (1893), I, 105 and 107.

[783] Ashmole 1448, 15th century, p. 123.

[784] Ashmole 1450, 15th century, fol. 8, “Epistola ad Alexandrum. O Alexander rector hominum ... / ... et audientes non intelligant.”

Harleian 3703, 14th century, fols. 41r-42r, Aristoteles ad alexandrum. “In primo o elaxandor tradere tibi volo secretorum maximum secretum ...,” is a similar treatise.

[785] Ashmole 1384, mid 14th century, fols. 91v-93r, “Incipit Epistola Alexandri. Dicunt philosophi quod ars dirivata sit ex creatione hominis cui omnia insunt ... / ... ex omni specie et colore nomine. Explicit epistola Alexandri.” In the text itself, which is written in the manner of a master to a disciple, there is nothing to show that the work is by Alexander rather than Aristotle.

The following is apparently the same treatise but the closing words are different.

Riccard. 1165, 15th century, fols. 161-3, Liber Alexandri in scientia secretorum nature. “Dicitur quod hec ars derivata sit ex creacione hominis cui omnia insunt ... / ... et deo annuente ad optatum finem pervenies.”

The next would seem to be another treatise than the foregoing.

Arezzo 232, 15th century, fols. 1-14, “Liber transmissus ab Alexandro rege ex libro Hermogenis.”

Hermogenes, who is cited on the subject of the philosopher’s stone in at least one MS of the Secret of Secrets (Bodleian 67, fol. 33v, “Et pater noster Hermogenes qui triplex est in philosophia optime philosophando dixit”), is apparently none other than Hermes Trismegistus. He is also mentioned in a brief work of Aristotle to Alexander; Harleian 3703, 14th century, fols. 41r-42r, “... hermogenes quod (sic) egypti multum commendunt et laudant et sibi attribuant omnem scientiam secretam et celerem (?).” The use of the reflexive pronoun in this sentence to refer to Hermogenes I would have the reader note, as it appears to illustrate a fairly common medieval usage which has or will lead me to alter the translations which have been proposed for certain other passages.

[786] II, 9.

[787] Excursions historiques, etc., p. 562.

[788] I have read it in an incunabulum edition numbered IA.49867 in the British Museum.

[789] Ibid., fols. 21v-22r, “Nos Manfredus divi augusti imperatoris frederici filius dei gratia princeps tharentinus honoris montis sancti angeli dominus et illustris regis conradi servi in regno sicilie baiulus ... quem librum cum non inveniretur inter cristianos, quoniam eum in ebrayco legimus translatum de arabico in hebreum, sanitate rehabita ad eruditionem multorum et de hebrea lingua transtulimus in latinam in quo a compilatore quedam recitabilia inseruntur. Nam dictum librum aristotiles non notavit sed notatus ab aliis extitit qui causam hylaritatis sue mortis discere voluerunt sicut in libri serie continetur.”

[790] Edition No. IA.49867 in the British Museum, fols. 25v-26r.

[791] Cap. 4.

[792] Verbum 4.

[793] De causis et proprietatibus elementorum, IX, 585-653 in Borgnet’s edition of Albert’s works; Albert himself in his treatise on Minerals cites the title as “Liber de causis proprietatum elementorum et planetarum.

[794] Cotton Appendix VI, fol. 8r, “liber iste est aristotelis in scientia ipsius astronomie.”

[795] Fol. 11v, “Alius liber de nativitatibus”; opens, “Superius prout potuimus promissorum partem explevimus.”

[796] Fol. 13r, “De electionibus alius liber”; opens, “Unde constellationibus egyptios imitantes nativitates satis dilucide dixerimus.” This book intermingles the subjects of interrogations and elections, and ends at fol. 20v, “Finit liber de interrogationibus.”

[797] BN 16208, fol. 76r-, “liber arystotelis milesii medici perypathetici in principiis iudiciorum astronomorum in interrogationibus.”

[798] Cotton Appendix VI, fol. 20v, “Incipit commentum super praemissa scilicet praedictum librum”; fol. 23v, “Expositio ad litteram superioris tractatus. Ptolomaeus summus philosophus et excellentissimus egyptiorum rex....”

[799] Grenoble 814, fols. 1-24. “Cy commence le livre de jugemens d’astrologie selon Aristote. Le prologue du derrenier translateur. Aristote fist un livre de jugemens....”

[800] CLM 25010, 15-16th century, fols. 1-12, “liber de iudiciis qui ab Alberto in Speculo suo dicitur esse Aristotelis.”

[801] Amplon. Quarto 377, 14th century, fols. 25-36, de iudiciis astrorum. Schum identifies it with the work ascribed to Aristotle by Albert in the Speculum astronomiae.

[802] Bridges (1897), I, 389-90; Brewer (1859) p. 473.

[803] Digby 159, 14th century, fols. 1-87, mutilated at the end. “Liber Aristotilis de ducentis lvque Indorum voluminibus, universalium questionum tam genecialium quam circularium summam continens.” At fol. 5v, “Explicit prologus. Incipit Aristotelis commentum in astrologiam.” This is the MS which I have chiefly followed.

Savile Latin 15 (Bernard 6561), 15th century, fols. 185-204v, is similar.

[804] In the text the number is given as ccl; see Digby 159, fol. 2r.

[805] Digby 159, fol. 2r.

[806] Savile 15, fol. 205r.

[807] Bodleian 67 (Bernard 2136), 14th century, fol. 54r, De ydeis et formis; fol. 54v, De impressione formarum; fol. 56v, De ymaginibus et annulis. These chapters are sometimes included in the Secret of Secrets, as in Roger Bacon’s version; Steele (1920) 157-63. But “in the greater part of the Latin MSS this section is entirely omitted”; Ibid., lxii. Steele does not mention Bodleian 67.

[808] Brewer (1859) p. 532, De secretis, cap. 3.

[809] BN 2598, fol. 101r, “liber quem Aristoteles attribuit Alexandro et quem nonnulli mortis intitulent anime.”

[810] See above, I, 713-714.

[811] Ashmole 369, late 13th century, fols. 77-84v, “Mathematica Alexandri summi astrologi. In exordio omnis creature herus huranicus inter cuncta sidera xii maluit signa fore / nam quod lineam designat eandem stellam occupat. Explicit.” Cap. x, de inveniendo de prospero aut adverso itinere; xi, de copia et paupertate; xiv, de nece aut casu amici; xvi, de latrocinio inveniendo; xxiv, de pecunia in terra defossa; xxxviii, de noscendis maleficiis.

[812] In the preface to the Kiranides; in Montpellier 277, 15th century; and in Ashmole 1448, 15th century, pp. 44-45, “Virtutes 7 herbarum a septem planetis secundum Alexandrum Imperatorem.” It is also embodied in some editions and MSS of the Liber aggregationis or Experimenta attributed to Albertus Magnus (see Chapter 63), where it is entitled, “Virtutes herbarum septem secundum Alexandrum Imperatorem.”

[813] Ashmole 1741, late 14th century, fol. 143, “Incipiunt virtutes septem herbarum Aristotilis. Et has quidem virtutes habent ipse septem herbe ab influentia 7 planetarum. Nam contingit unamquamque recipere virtutem suam a superioribus naturaliter. Nam dicit Aristotiles quod corpora inferiora reguntur per superiora.”

[814] Sloane 3854, 15th century, fols. 105 V-110.

[815] L. Blochet, Études sur le Gnosticisme musulman, in Rivista degli studi orientali, IV, 76.

[816] De universo, II, ii, 39 and 98; II, iii, 6. I presume that there is some connection between our present treatise and those on the seven planets, Venus, and the moon mentioned in our chapter on the Hermetic books.

[817] One MS is Harleian 3487, 14th century, #11.

[818] V. Rose, Aristoteles de lapidibus und Arnoldus Saxo, in Zeitschrift für deutsches Alterthum, XVIII (1875) 321 et seq. More recently the Lapidary of Aristotle has been edited by J. Ruska, Das Steinbuch des Aristoteles ... nach der arabischen Handschrift, Heidelberg, 1912, who gives both the Latin of the Liège MS and the text of the translation into Arabic by Luca ben Serapion from BN 2772, with a German translation of it.

[819] Ruska (1912), p. 43.

[820] Ibid., p. 183, “Et ego transfero ipsum ex greco sermone in ydyoma su(r)orum vel Syrorum.”

[821] Liège 77, 14th century; printed by Rose (1875) pp. 349-82.

Montpellier 277, 15th century, fol. 127-; printed by Rose (1875) pp. 384-97.

The following treatises, also ascribed to Aristotle, I have not examined: Sloane 2459, 15th century, fols. 9v-16, de proprietatibus herbarum et lapidum; Vienna 2301, 15th century, fols. 81-2, “Isti sunt lapides quorum virtutes misit Aristotiles in scriptis maximo imperatori Alexandro.” Perhaps the last may have reference to philosopher’s stones, like the similar treatise of Aristotle to Alexander noted above in our discussion of the pseudo-Aristotelian alchemical treatises.

[822] See above chapter 21, I, 496.

[823] De causis elementorum, etc., II, ii. 1 (Borgnet, IX 643).

[824] HL XXV, 65.

[825] De venenis, cap. 5, probably written in 1316, but see chapter 70, appendix vi.

[826] Aristotle, Lapidarius et Liber de physionomia, Merseburg, 1473, p. 8.

[827] De naturis rerum, II, 21. In an illustrated 13th century MS of the vernacular Romance of Alexander three pictures are devoted to his submarine. CU Trinity 1446, 1250 A. D., fol. 27r, “Coment Alisandre vesqui suz les ewes; a covered ship with windows under green water, Alexander and three men in it; fol. 27v, Des nefs ke sont apelees colifas; a similar ship in the water, no one visible in it; Coment Alisandre encercha la nature de pessons; Alexander and two men in the ship, fish and mermaid below.” I have quoted James’ description of the MS (III, 488).

See also Lacroix, Science and Literature in the Middle Ages, 1878, Fig. 87, p. 119, for Alexander descending to the bottom of the sea in a glass cask, from a thirteenth century MS, Brussels 11040.

[828] See chapter 61, pp. 654-5.

[829] Budge, Egyptian Magic, 1899, pp. 152-6; Masʿudi, Les Prairies d’Or. ed. B. de Maynard and Pavet de Courteille, 1861, II, 425ff.

[830] Budge (1899), pp. 95-6.

[831] CLM 2574b, bombyc. 13th century, fol. 69v. Although Steele (1920) p. lviii, says, “No Latin manuscript is known in which there is a figure of the horn, with the exception of that in Holkam Hall, in the borders of which an entirely fanciful instrument is depicted (reproduced in plate 151 of the Roxburghe Club publication of 1914). There are drawings in MSS C and D of the Eastern Arabic text, of entirely different shape.”

[832] Steele (1920), p. 151.

[833] Cap. 5.

[834] Very similar is the story in the Gilgamesh epic, a work “far more ancient than Genesis,” of a serpent stealing a life-giving plant from Gilgamesh while he was bathing in a well or brook. The plant, which had been revealed to Gilgamesh by the deified Utnapishtim, “had the miraculous power of renewing youth and bore the name, ‘the old man becomes young.’” Sir James Frazer (1918), I, 50-51, follows Rabbi Julian Morgenstern (“On Gilgamesh Epic, XI, 274-320,” in Zeitschrift f. Assyriologie, XXIX, 1915, p. 284ff.) in connecting this incident with the serpent and the tree of life in the Biblical account of the fall of man, and gives further examples from primitive folk-lore of other jealous animals, such as the dog, frog, duck, and lizard, perverting divine gifts or good tidings to man to their own profit.

[835] Sloane 2030, fols. 125-26; Additional 15236, fols. 154-60; BN, 7420A (14th century) #16.

[836] Richard Förster, De Aristotelis quae feruntur physiognomonicis recensendis, Kiliae, 1882; De translat. latin. physiognom., Kiliae, 1884; Scriptores Physiognomici, Lipsiae, 1893-1894.

[837] Cotton Julius D-viii, fol. 126ff.; Harleian 3969; Egerton 847; Sloane 2030, fol. 95-103; Additional 15236, fol. 160 (in abbreviated form); Sloane 3281, fols. 19-23; Sloane 3584; Egerton 2852, fol. 115v, et seq.

[838] There is a manuscript copy of a commentary on it of the fourteenth century at Erfurt, Amplon. Quarto 186. See Schum’s catalogue for MSS of the Physiognomia itself in the Amplonian collection.

[839] R. Förster, De Aristotelis quae feruntur secreta secretorum Commentatio, Kiliae, 1888; Handschriften und Ausgaben des pseudo-aristotelischen Secretum secretorum, in Centralblatt f. Bibliothekwesen, VI (1889), 1-22, 57-76. And see Steele (1920).

[840] M. Gaster, in his “Introduction to a Hebrew version of the Secret of Secrets,” in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society (1908, part 2), pp. 1065-84; for the Hebrew text and an English translation, Ibid. (1907), pp. 879-913 and (1908, part 1), pp. 111-62.

[841] Ed. Robert Steele, EETS, LXVI, London, 1894. Volume LXXIV contains three earlier English versions. There are numerous MSS of it in Italian in the Riccardian and Palatini collections at Florence.

[842] De Somno et vigilia, I, ii, 7.

[843] Tanner 116, 13th century; Corpus Christi 149, 15th century. Recently edited by Robert Steele, 1920, as Fasc. V of his Opera hactenus inedita Rogeri Baconi.

[844] There are considerable discrepancies between the different early printed editions, which differ in length, order of arrangement, tables of contents, and number of chapters. And in the same edition the chapter headings given in the course of the text may not agree with those in the table of contents, which as a rule, even in the MSS, does not fully cover the subject-matter of the text. The different printers have probably used different manuscripts for their editions rather than made any new additions of their own. The following editions are those to which references will be made in the following pages.

An edition printed at Cologne about 1480, which I examined at the Harvard University Library, divides the text into only thirty chapters and seems imperfect.

An edition of about 1485, which I examined at the British Museum, where it was numbered IA.10756, has 74 chapters, and the headings of its 25th and 30th chapters, for instance, agree with those of the 11th and 13th chapters in the Harvard copy.

A third edition of Paris, 1520, has no numbered chapters and contains passages not found in the two earlier editions.

As a check upon these printed texts I have examined the three following MSS, two of the 13th, and one of the 14th, century. Of these Egerton 2676 corresponds fairly closely throughout to the edition numbered IA.10756 in the British Museum.

Egerton 2676, 13th century, fols. 3-52.

BN 6584, 13th century, fols. 1r-32v.

Bodleian 67, 14th century, fols. 1-53v, is much like the preceding MS.

[845] BN 6584, fol. 1v, “De prologo cuiusdam doctoris in commendatione aristotelis.” See also Digby 228, 14th century, fol. 27, where a scribe has written in the upper margin, “In isto libello primo ponitur prologus, deinde tabula contentorum in libro, deinde prologus cuiusdam doctoris in commendacionem Aristotilis, deinde prologus Iohannis qui transtulit librum istum....” In Egerton 2676, fol. 6r, “Deus omnipotens custodiat regem....”

[846] Steele (1920), p. xi.

[847] Steinschneider (1905), p. 42, it is true, says, “Ob Joh. selbst das ganze Secretum übersetzt habe, ist noch nicht ermittelt”; but the following passage, cited by Giacosa (1901), p. 386, from Bibl. Angelica Rome, Cod. 1481, 12th century, fols. 144-146v, indicates that he translated only the medical part.

“Cum de utilitate corporis olim tractarim et a me quasi essem medicus vestra nobilitas quereret ut brevem libellum et de observatione diete et de continentia cordis in qualibus se debent contineri qui sanitatem corporis cupiunt servare accidit ut dum cogitarem vestre iussioni obedire huius rei exempliar aristotelis philosophi Alexandro dictum repente in mente occurreret quod excerpi de libro qui arabice vocatur ciralacerar id est secretum secretorum que fecit fieri predictus Aristotelis philosophus Alexandro regi magno de dispositione regni in quo continentur multa regibus utilia....”

Steele (1920) pp. xvii-xviii, gives the same passage, worded and spelled a little differently, from another MS, Addit. 26770.

[848] Ed. H. Souchier, Denkmäler provenzal. Lit. u. Sprache, Halle, 1883, I, 473 et seq.

[849] Thirteenth century MSS of Philip’s translation are numerous: I have not noted a 12th century one.

[850] See above, chapter 47, p. 244.

[851] Brown (1897), pp. 19-20, 36-7. But not much reliance can be placed on the inclusion of this name, “Master Philip of Tripoli,” in a title which Brown (p. 20) quotes from a De Rossi MS, “The Book of the Inspections of Urine according to the opinion of the Masters, Peter of Berenico, Constantine Damascenus, and Julius of Salerno; which was composed by command of the Emperor Frederick, Anno Domini 1212, in the month of February, and was revised by Master Philip of Tripoli and Master Gerard of Cremona at the orders of the King of Spain,” etc., since Gerard of Cremona at least had died in 1187 and there was no “king of Spain” until 1479. Brown does not give the Latin for the passage, but if the date 1212 could be regarded as Spanish era and turned into 1174 A. D., Gerard of Cremona would still be living, the emperor would be Frederick Barbarossa instead of Frederick II, and Master Philip of Tripoli might be the same Philip whom Pope Alexander III proposed to send to Prester John in 1177.

Steele (1920) p. xix, inclines to identify Philip of Tripoli with a canon of Byblos from 1243 to 1248, but that seems to me too late a date for his translation of The Secret of Secrets.

[852] BN 6584, fol. 1r, “Hunc librum quo carebant latini eo quod apud paucissimos arabies reperitur transtuli cum magno labore....” A considerable portion of Philip’s preface is omitted in the Harvard edition.

[853] The preliminary table of contents, however, gives only chapter headings, which in BN 6584 are 82 in number, but the beginnings of the ten books are indicated in the text in BN 6584 as follows. The numbers in parentheses are the corresponding leaves in Bodleian 67 which, however, omits mention of the book and its number except in the case of the fourth book.

Fol. 3v (5r), Incipit liber primus. Epistola ad Alexandrum.

Fol. 6r, Secundus liber de dispositione Regali et reverentia Regis.

Fol. 12r (18v), Incipit liber tertius. Cum hoc corpus corruptibile sit eique accidit corruptio....

Fol. 22r (36r), Incipit liber quartus. transtulit magister philippus tripolitanus de forma iusticie.

Fol. 28r (44v), Liber Quintus de scribis et scriptoribus secretorum.

Fol. 28r (45r), Liber Sextus de nuntiis et informationibus ipsorum.

Fol. 28v (46v), Liber Septimus de hiis qui sr’ intendunt et habent curam subditorum.

Fol. 29r (47r), Liber Octavus de dispositione ductoris sui et de electione bellatorum et procerum inferiores (?).

Fol. 29v (48r), Liber Nonus de regimine bellatorum et forma aggrediendi bellum et pronatationibus eorundem.

Fol. 30v (50v), Sermo de phisionomia cuiuslibet hominis.

[854] It is omitted in some printed editions, but occurs in both 13th century MSS which I examined.

[855] Gaster (1908), p. 1076.

[856] Steinschneider (1905), p. 60.

[857] Cap. 11 (Harvard copy); cap. 25 (BM IA.10756); Egerton 2676, fol. 12r; BN 6584, fol. 9v; Steele (1920) pp. 58-59.

[858] Cap. 13 (Harvard copy); cap. 30 (BM IA.10756); Egerton 2676, fol. 13r; BN 6584, fol. 10r; Steele (1920) p. 60; also in Gaster’s Hebrew text.

[859] Egerton 2676, fol. 32r; cap. 62 (BM IA.10756); fol. 33r (Paris, 1520); BN 6584, fol. 19v; Steele (1920) pp. 108-10.

[860] The Paris, 1520, edition then goes on to explain the effects of incantations and images upon astrological grounds, but this passage seems to be missing from the earlier printed editions and the thirteenth century manuscripts. Roger Bacon, however, implies that incantations were present in Philip’s original translation, and one Arabic MS gives cabalistic signs for the planets; Steele (1920) pp. 258-9.

[861] This passage is found both in Egerton MS 2676 and in BM IA.10756. BN 6584, fol. 21r-v. Bodl. 67, fol. 32v-35v. Steele, 119-20.

[862] Cap. 73 (BM IA.10756); fols. 44v-45r (Paris, 1520); BN 6584, fol. 30v; Steele, 155-6.

[863] BN 6584, fol. 21r; also in Gaster’s Hebrew version; cap. 26 in the Harvard copy; Steele, 137.

[864] Gaster, pp. 116, 160-62; Egerton 2676, fols. 34r-35r; cap. 66 (BM IA.10756); fol. 37v (Paris, 1520); BN 6584, fol. 20r-22r; Steele, 121-2.

[865] Egerton 2676, fol. 36v; BN 6584, fol. 22r; Steele, 122.

[866] Steele (1920) pp. lxii, 157-63, 252-61; Paris (1520), fol. 37; Gaster, p. 159.

[867] HL XXI, 216ff.

[868] Caps. 68 and 72 (BM IA.10756); cap. 68 appears in Egerton 2676; cap. 72 in Gaster’s text and in the Paris (1520) edition. I could not find the passage in BN 6584; Steele (1920) 134-5.

[869] BN 6584, fol. 20r-v; Egerton 2676, fols. 33v-34r; cap. 65 (BM IA.10756); fols. 36v-37r (Paris 1520); Steele, 114-15.

[870] Gaster, 159-60; fol. 38r (Paris, 1520); Steele, 174.

[871] Gaster, p. 127; cap. 12 (Harvard copy); also in BM IA.10756, and BN 6584, fol. 10r, where Aristotle seems to detect the venomous nature of the maiden by magic art—“Et nisi ego illa hora sagaciter inspexissem in ipsam et arte magica iudicassem....”; while it is her mere bite that kills men, as Alexander afterwards proved experimentally; Steele, 60.

[872] Cap. 3.

[873] Gilbertus Anglicus, Compendium medicinae, Lyons, 1510, fol. 348v.

[874] HL XXX, 569ff. “Die Sage vom Giftmädchen” is the theme of a long monograph by W. Hertz, Gesammelte Abhandlungen (1905), pp. 156-277.

[875] BN 6584, fol. 27; IA.10756, cap. 68; also in Paris, 1520 edition, etc.; Steele, 144-6.

[Pg 279]



Solomon as a magician—Magic books ascribed to Solomon—Manuscripts of them—Notory art of Solomon and Apollonius—Other works ascribed to Solomon and Apollonius—Liber sacratus; preface—Incipit and Explicit—A work of theurgy or the notory art—Character of its contents—The third “work”—The fourth and fifth “works”—How to operate with spirits—The seal of the living God—Spirits of Saturn.

Solomon as a magician.

It was only natural that Solomon, regarded as the wisest man in the history of the world, should be represented in oriental tradition as the worker of many marvels and that in the course of time books of magic should be attributed to him, just as treatises on the interpretation of dreams were ascribed to Joseph and Daniel. Roger Bacon speaks of the magic books in a grand-sounding style which were falsely ascribed to Solomon and which “ought all to be prohibited by law.”[876] Solomon’s reputation as a magician, even in the western Latin-speaking world, was much older than the thirteenth century, however. In 1918 Roman archaeologists excavated at Ostia a bronze disc, on one side of which was depicted Solomon as a magician, stirring with a long ladle some mess in a large cauldron. On the other side of the disc was a figure of the triple Hecate, who, like Solomon, was surrounded by mystic signs and magic characters.[877]

Magic books ascribed to Solomon.

But to return to the medieval period. In the first half of the thirteenth century William of Auvergne, bishop of Paris, in his treatise on laws declares that there is no divinity [Pg 280] in the angles of Solomon’s pentagon, that the rings of Solomon and the seals of Solomon and the nine candles (candariae) are a form of idolatry, and involve execrable consecrations and detestable invocations and images. “As for that horrible image called the Idea Salomonis et entocta, let it never be mentioned among Christians.” In the same class are the book called Sacratus and the figure Mandel or Amandel.[878] Some years later Albertus Magnus, listing evil books of necromantic images in his Speculum astronomiae,[879] includes five treatises current under the name of Solomon, and seems to have in mind about the same works as William. One is De figura Almandel, another De novem candariis, and a third on the four rings (De quatuor annulis) opens with the words “De arte eutonica et ideica,” which remind one of William’s “Idea Salomonis et entocta,” and is perhaps also identical with a Liber de umbris idearum cited under the name of Solomon by Cecco d’Ascoli in his necromantic commentary upon the Sphere of Sacrobosco,[880] written in the early fourteenth century.

Manuscripts of them.

Moreover, these same works are apparently still extant in manuscripts in European libraries. The figure Almandal or Almandel and the rings of Solomon are found in fifteenth century manuscripts at Florence and Paris,[881] while in the Sloane collection of the British Museum we find Solomon’s pentagon, the divine seal, the four rings, and the nine candles, all in seventeenth century manuscripts.[882] In these seventeenth century manuscripts also appear, and more than once, the Clavicula or Key of Solomon, in French, Italian, [Pg 281] and English,[883] the book by Solomon called Cephar or Saphar Raziel,[884] and the Liber sacer or sacratus.[885] The last-named work, mentioned at least twice in the thirteenth century by William of Auvergne, who calls it “a cursed and execrable book,”[886] is also found in manuscripts of the fourteenth or fifteenth century,[887] and we shall presently consider it in particular as a specimen of the Pseudo-Solomon literature and of medieval books of magic, theurgy, and necromancy.

Notory art of Solomon and Apollonius.

Let us first, however, note some other works ascribed to Solomon and which have to do with the Ars Notoria, or Notory Art, which seeks to gain knowledge from or communion with God by invocation of angels, mystic figures, and magical prayers. We are told that the Creator revealed this art through an angel to Solomon one night while he was praying, and that by it one can in a short time acquire all the liberal and mechanical arts.[888] There seems to be little difference between the notory art of Solomon, that of [Pg 282] Solomon, Machineus, and Euclid,[889] and the Golden Flowers of Apollonius,[890] in which Solomon is mentioned almost every other sentence. Cecco d’Ascoli may have had it in mind when he cited the Book of Magic Art of Apollonius and the Angelic Faction of the same author.[891] In one manuscript at the close of the Golden Flowers of Apollonius are prayers which one “brother John Monk” confesses he himself has composed in the years 1304-1307.[892] In a later manuscript we find his prayers described as given to him by the blessed God and as “perfect science,” and they are followed by “The Pauline art,” discovered by the Apostle Paul after he had been snatched up to the third heaven, and delivered by him at Corinth.[893] Other works of notory art are listed in the manuscript catalogues without name of author.[894] But all alike are apt to impress the present reader as unmeaning jumbles of diagrams and magic words.[895] We shall sufficiently [Pg 283] illustrate them all when we come to speak of the Liber sacratus which is itself in large measure concerned with the Notory Art.

Other works ascribed to Solomon and Apollonius.

Certain works may be mentioned which are ascribed to Solomon or to Apollonius in the medieval manuscripts, and which do not seem to be concerned with the notory art. Experiments ascribed to Solomon will be mentioned in another place in connection with experimental literature. Treatises of alchemy and astrology also were attributed to him.[896] Under the name of Apollonius we find a work on the properties or occult virtue of things, and another, or possibly the same, on the principal causes of things.[897] One wonders if it may have any connection with the book on six principles of things ascribed to Hermes Trismegistus and which has been discussed in our chapter on Hermetic Books in the Middle Ages. A treatise on palmistry is ascribed to Solomon in a fourteenth century manuscript at Cambridge.[898] A “Philosophy of Solomon” in a manuscript of the late twelfth century in the British Museum consists of “notes perhaps from more than one source on the analogy between the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the three divisions of philosophy (moralis, naturalis, inspectiva), and the three books of Solomon.”[899]

Liber sacratus: preface.

The Liber sacratus, as William of Auvergne twice entitles it, or the Liber sacer or Liber juratus, as it is also [Pg 284] called in the manuscripts,[900] is associated with the name Honorius as well as Solomon, and is often spoken of as The Sworn Book of Honorius. The preface, as given in the Latin manuscripts of the fourteenth century—one of which once belonged to Ben Jonson—states that under the influence of evil spirits the pope and cardinals had passed a decree aiming at the complete extirpation of the magic art and condemning magicians to death. The grounds for this action were that magicians and necromancers were injuring everyone, transgressing the statutes of holy mother church, making invocations and sacrifices to demons, and dragging ignorant people down to damnation by their marvelous illusions. These charges the magicians hotly deny as inspired by the envy and cupidity of the devil who wished to keep a monopoly of such marvels. The magicians declare that it is impossible for a wicked or impure man to work truly by the magic art, in which they assert that the spirits are compelled against their will by pure men. The magicians further profess to have been forewarned by their art of this legislation against them. They hesitate, however, to summon the demons to their aid lest those spirits avail themselves of the opportunity to destroy the populace utterly. Instead an assembly of 89 masters from Naples, Athens, and Toledo has chosen Honorius, son of Euclid,[901] a master of Thebes, to reduce their magic books to one volume containing 93 chapters, which they may more readily conceal and preserve. And inasmuch as it has pleased the prelates and princes to order the burning of their books and the destruction of schools of magic, the followers of that art have taken an oath not to give this volume to anyone until its owner is on his death-bed, never to have more than three copies of it made at a time, and never to give it to a woman or to a man who is not of mature years and proved fidelity. Each new recipient of the sacred volume is also to take this oath. [Pg 285] Hence the name, Juratus or Sworn-Book. Its other titles, Sacer or Sacratus, refer either to the sacred names of God which constitute much of its text or to its consecration by the angels.

Incipit and Explicit.

After this proemium, which, like the magic art itself, is probably more impressive than true, the work proper opens with the statement, “In the name of almighty God and Jesus Christ, one and true God, I, Honorius, have thus ordered the works of Solomon in my book.” Later Honorius reiterates that he is following the precepts and in the foot-prints of Solomon, whom he also often cites or quotes in course. The Explicit of the Sworn-Book is unusually long and sets forth in grandiloquent style the purpose of the volume.

“So ends the book of the life of the rational soul,[902] which is entitled Liber sacer or The Book of the Angels or Liber juratus, which Honorius, Master of Thebes, made. This is the book by which one can see God in this life. This is the book by which anyone can be saved and led beyond a doubt to life eternal. This is the book by which one can see hell and purgatory without death. This is the book by which every creature can be subjected except the nine orders of angels. This is the book by which all science can be learned. This is the book by which the weakest substance can overcome and subjugate the strongest substances. This is the book which no religion possesses except the Christian, or if it does, does so to no avail. This is the book which is a greater joy than any other joy given by God exclusive of the sacraments. This is the book by which corporeal and visible nature can converse and reason with the incorporeal and invisible and be instructed. This is the book by which countless treasures can be had. And by means of it many other things can be done which it would take too long to enumerate; therefore it is deservedly called The Holy Book.”

A work of theurgy or the notory art.

From this description it will be seen that the work has a good deal to do with the so-called Notory Art. Moreover, [Pg 286] in the manuscript copy said to have belonged to Ben Jonson the word Theurgia is written on the fly-leaves before the beginning and after the close of the text. This calls to mind the passage in The City of God[903] where Augustine speaks of “incantations and formulae composed by an art of depraved curiosity which they either call magic or by the more detestable name goetia or by the honorable title theurgia. For they try to distinguish between these arts and condemn some men, whom the populace calls malefici, as devoted to illicit arts, for these, they say, are concerned with goetia; but others they want to make out praiseworthy as being engaged in theurgy. But they are both entangled in the deceptive rites of demons who masquerade under the names of angels.”

Character of its contents.

The text is full of the names of spirits, prayers in strange words, supposedly derived from Hebrew or Chaldaic, and other gibberish. Series of letters and figures often occur and names inscribed in stars, hexagons, and circles. An English translation in a fifteenth century manuscript[904] is adorned with pictures of rows of spirits dressed like monks in robes and caps but with angelic wings. The text does not seem to be complete in any of the manuscripts that I have examined,[905] but Sloane 3854 of the fourteenth century contains an apparently complete table of contents. The chapter headings, anyway, are more intelligible than the jargon of the text. The first chapter deals with the composition of the great name of God which contains 72 letters. The second is about the divine vision and by the time it is finished we are nearly two-thirds through the space allotted to the Liber juratus in one manuscript. The third chapter is on knowledge of the divine power, the fourth on absolution from sin, the fifth deals with mortal sin, the sixth with the redemption of souls from purgatory. With this the “first work” of the collection of Honorius ends. The [Pg 287] opening chapters of the second work discuss the heavens, the angels found in each heaven and at the four points of the compass, their names and powers, seals and virtues, and invocation. Chapters 14 and 15 tell how to get your wish from any angel or to acquire the sciences. Chapter 16 tells how to learn the hour of one’s death, and chapter 17 how to know all things, past, present, or future. It was perhaps these chapters that William of Auvergne had in mind when, in censuring works on divination by inspection of mirrors, sword-blades, and human nails to discover stolen articles and other hidden things, he added that “from this pest of curiosity proceeded that accursed and execrable work called Liber sacratus.”[906] That work next returns for three chapters to the stars and planets and their virtues and influence. Chapter 21 then instructs how to turn day into night or night into day. Next spirits are further considered, those of air and those of fire, their names and their superior spirits, their powers, virtues, and seals. Attention is then given to the four elements and bodies composed thereof, to herbs and plants, and to human nature, after which aquatic and terrestrial spirits are discussed. The future life is then considered and the 33rd chapter, which is the last one of the “second work,” deals with “the consecration of this book.”

The third “work.”

The “third work,” which extends from chapter 34 to 87 inclusive, treats of the control of spirits by words, by seals, by tables, and by shutting them up. It tells how to provoke thunder and lightning, storms, snow, ice, rain, or dew; how to produce flowers and fruit; how to become invisible; how to wage war and to make an indestructible castle, how to destroy a town by means of mirrors; how to sow discord or concord, how to open closed doors, to catch thieves, fish, and animals, and to produce varied apparitions.

The fourth and fifth “works.”

The fourth work deals with similar marvels but it is stated that two of its chapters, namely, 91 on the apparition of dead bodies which speak and seem to be resuscitated, and 92 on the apparent creation of animals from earth, will be [Pg 288] omitted as contrary to the will of God. The fifth work or book, which seems to coincide with the 93rd and last chapter of Honorius, is in reality divided into five chapters, which return to themes similar to those of the first work.

How to operate with spirits.

To illustrate further the character of the work a few particular passages may be noticed. We are told that there are three ways of operating by means of spirits: the pagan, Jewish, and Christian. The pagans sacrificed to spirits of earth and air but did not really constrain them. The spirits only pretended to be coerced in order to encourage such idolatrous practices. “Whoever wishes to operate by such experiments” (mark the word!), “deserts the Lord God.” As for the Jews, they get along only so-so, and “do in no wise work to obtain the vision of the deity.” Only a Christian, therefore, can operate successfully in such visions. “And although three kinds of men work at this art of magic, one should not think that there is any evil included in this name of magus, for a magus per se is called a philosopher in Greek, a scribe in Hebrew, and a sage in Latin.”[907]

The seal of the living God.

Very elaborate directions are given for the composition of the seal of the living God. Circles are drawn of certain proportions emblematic of divine mysteries, a cross is made within, numerous letters are written down equidistant from one another. A pentagon and two hexagons have to be placed just so in relation to one another; characters are inscribed in their angles; and various sacred names of God, Raphael, Michael, and other angels are written along their sides. Different parts must be executed in different colors; a particular kind of parchment must be employed; and the blood of a mole or hoopoe or bat must be used as ink for some of the writing. Finally, there are sacrifices, purifications, suffumigations, invocations, and prayers to be performed and offered. This seal, we are told, “will conquer the celestial powers, subjugate the aerial and terrestrial together with the infernal; invoke, transmit, conjure, constrain, excite, gather, disperse, bind, and restore unharmed;[Pg 289] will placate men and gain petitions from them graciously, pacify enemies,”[908] etc., etc.

Spirits of Saturn.

The spirits associated with the planet Saturn are Bohel, Casziel, Uuchathon, and Dacdel. Their nature is to cause sadness and wrath and hate, to produce ice and snow. Their bodies are long and large, pale or golden. Their region is in the north and they have five or nine demons under them.[909] As a rule spirits of the north and south are ferocious, those of the east and the west gentle.[910]

[876] Brewer (1859), pp. 526, 531.

[877] The Nation, New York, May 10, 1919, p. 744. In January, 1922, it was announced that a paper by Professor C. C. McCown, “Solomon as a Magician in Christian Legend,” would appear in the Journal of the Palestine Oriental Society.

[878] De legibus, cap. 27.

[879] Cap. 11.

[880] Ed. of 1518, p. 22F2.

[881] Florence II-iii-24, 15th century, 74-77, “Liber in figura Almandel et eius opere / et eius iuditio”; 77, “Alius liber de Almandal qui dicitur tabula vel ara Salomonis.”

BN 7349, 15th century, #8, Annuli Salomonis.

[882] Sloane 3851, fols. 31v-53, “Signum Pentaculum Salomonis”; 3853, fol. 127v, Divine seal of Solomon; 3847, fols. 66v-81, “Opus mirabile et etiam verissimum de quatuor annulis sapientissimi Salomonis”; 3850, fols. 68-75, Salomonis opus de novem candariis celestibus. In a 16th century MS in French there is a book of conjurations of spirits ascribed to Solomon. The conjurations themselves are mainly in Latin. CU Trinity 1404 (VI).

[883] Harleian 3536, in French; Sloane 1307, in Italian, the translation being ascribed to “Gio. Peccatrix”; Sloane 3825 and 3847 are not identical versions.

[884] Sloane 3826, fols. 1-57; 3846, fols. 127-55; 3847, fols. 161-88; 3853, fols. 41-53. Perhaps the same as the “Sefer ha-Yashar” mentioned by Haya Gaon in the early eleventh century: Gaster, The Sword of Moses, 1896, p. 16.

[885] Sloane 3883, fols. 1-25, De modo ministrandi librum sacrum (revealed to Solomon by an angel).

Sloane 3885, fols. 1-25, “Liber sacer Salomonis,” repeated at fols. 96v-125; fols. 58-96, Tractatus de re magica ab Honorio filio Euclidis magistro Thebarum ex septem voluminibus artis magicae compilatus, et intitulatus Liber sacer, sive juratus.

[886] De legibus, caps. 24 and 27.

[887] Sloane 313, late 14th or 15th century (according to a Letter from Dr. Montague Rhodes James to me, dated 21 May, 1921), mutilus, quondam Ben Jonsonii, 26 fols., Salomonis opus sacrum ab Honorio ordinatum, tractatus de arte magica.

Sloane 3854, 14th century, fols. 112-39, Honorii Magistri Thebarum liber cui titulus “Juratus.”

[888] BN 7153, 15th century, Solomon, Sacratissima ars notoria.

Harleian 181, fol. 18-, Ars notoria (Salomoni ab angelo tradita) preceded at fol. 1- by Ars memorativa, and followed at fol. 81 by “de arte crucifixa.”

CU Trinity 1419, 1600 A. D., Liber de Arte memorativa sive notoria ... Prologus per Sallomonem ... Inc. sanctissima Ars notoria quam Creator altissimus per Angelum suum super altare templi quodam modo Salomoni dum oraret ministrans.

Math. 50 (Amplonius’ catalogue of 1412), “Item liber continens septem libros parciales qui dicitur angelus magnus vel secreta secretorum et est de arte notoria Salomonis et non debet rudibus exponi.”

CLM 19413, 10-11th century, fols. 67-108, Salomonis III formulae, might turn out to be a work on Notory Art.

[889] Sloane 1712, 13th century, fols. 1-22, “Ars notoria Salomonis, Machinei, et Euclidis,” followed at fols. 22-37 by an anonymous “ars notoria quae nova ars appellatur.”

BN 7152, 14th century, Expositiones quas Magister Apollonius flores aureos ad eruditionem et cognitionem omnium scientiarum et naturalium artium generaliter et merito et competenter appellavit; hoc opus Salomonis Machinei et Euclidii actoritate maxima compositum et probatum est: accedunt figurae.

[890] CLM 268, 14th century, 16 fols.; CLM 276, 14th century, fols. 1-26, Apollonii flores aurei, quorum pars extat in cod. 268.

Amplon. Quarto 380, 13th century, fols. 49-64, ars notoria Appolonii philosophi et magi; while the 1412 catalogue gives Math. 54, “Liber Appollonii magi vel philosophi qui dicitur Elizinus”; Amplon. Octavo 84, 14th century, fols. 95-106 (Apollonii) de arte notoria Salomonis.

Ashmole 1515, 16th century, fol. 4r, “Incipit primus tractatus istius sanctissime artis notorie et expositiones eius et temporum exceptiones, quas Salomon et Apollonius flores aureos appellaverunt, et hoc opere probatum est et confirmatum authoritate Salomonis, Manichei et Euduchii.”

[891] Sphere (1518), fol. 3.

[892] CLM 276, fol. 49.

[893] BN 7170A, 16th century, #1, de arte notoria data a Deo beato Joanni Monacho sive de scientia perfecta: praemittuntur orationes decern; #2, Ars Paulina, a Paulo Apostolo inventa post raptum eius et Corinthiis denotata.

[894] BN 9336, 14th century, “Sacratissima ars notoria.”

Amplon. Quarto 28, anno 1415, fols. 38-41, ars notoria et orationibus et figuris exercenda; Amplon. Octavo 79, 14th century, fols. 63-64, ars notoria brevis et bona.

Sloane 3008, 15th century, fol. 66-, de arte notoria, brief and illegible.

[895] Essentially similar is “The Sword of Moses. An ancient book of magic from an unique manuscript, with introduction, translation, an index of mystical names and a facsimile. Published for the first time,” London, 1896, by M. Gaster from a Hebrew MS of 13-14th century. Gaster (p. 18) describes the treatise as “a complete encyclopaedia of mystical names, of eschatological teachings, and of magical recipes.” The Sword proper is a series of names.

[896] Sloane 3849, 15-16th century, fols. 30-38, A noble experiment of King Solomon with astrological tables.

Ashmole 1416, 15th century, fol. 113v, Libellus de sulphuris virtutibus; 114-, Fragmentum de planetarum influentia; 123-, On perilous days; 123-4, Ars artium, or prayers to invoke spirits, is perhaps a portion of the Ars Notoria.

[897] Vienna 3124, 15th century, “Verba de proprietatibus rerum quomodo virtus unius frangitur per alium. Adamas nec ferro nec igne domatur / cito medetur.”

BN 13951, 12th century, Liber Apollonii de principalibus rerum causis.

[898] Trinity 1109, fols. 388-90, Expl. tract. de Palmistria Salamonis. The tract consists of two full page diagrams and an explanation in French.

[899] Royal 7-D-II, late 12th century, fols. 3-10, opening, “Hanc ergo triplicem divine philosophie formam....” I quote the description in the new catalogue of the Royal MSS.

[900] See above, page 281 of this chapter, notes 3 and 5.

[901] Possibly he is the same Euclid as one of the three co-authors of the work on the Notory Art mentioned above.

[902] One wonders if this can be the evil book of magic referred to by Roger Bacon and other writers as De morte animae.

[903] De civitate Dei, X, 9.

[904] Royal 17-A-XLII.

[905] Sloane 313 seems to reach only as far as the early chapters of the “second work.”

[906] De legibus, cap. 24, p. 68 in ed. of 1591.

[907] Sloane 3854. fol. 114r.

[908] Sloane 3854, fols. 114r-115v.

[909] Ibid., fol. 129v; Royal 17-A-XLII, fol. 67v.

[910] Sloane 3854, fol. 132r.

[Pg 290]



Oneirocritica of Artemidorus—Astrampsychos and Nicephorus—Achmet translated by Leo Tuscus—Byzantine and oriental divinations by Daniel—Latin Dream-Books of DanielSompniale dilucidarium Pharaonis—An anonymous exposition of dreams—Physiological origin of dreams—Origin and justification of the art of interpretation—Sources of the present treatise—Demoniac and natural causes of dreams—Interpretation—William of Aragon on prognostication from dreams—Who was William of Aragon?—His work formerly ascribed to Arnald of Villanova—Another anonymous work on dreams.

Oneirocritica of Artemidorus.

Both Jews and Greeks at the beginning of the Christian era were much given to the interpretation of dreams. There were “established and frequented dreaming places” at the shrines of Asclepius at Epidaurus, Amphiaraus at Oropus, Amphilochus at Mallos, Sarpedon in the Troad, Trophonius at Lebedea, Mopsus in Cilicia, Hermonia in Macedon, and Pasiphaë in Laconia. We hear of dream-books by Artemon, Antiphon, Strato, Philochoros, Epicharmus, Serapion, Cratippus, Dionysius of Rhodes, and Hermippus of Beirut. But the chief work upon the interpretation of dreams which has reached us from the time of the Roman Empire is that of Artemidorus, who was born at Ephesus and lived in Lydia in the time of the Antonines. He of course wrote in Greek and, despite the superstitious character of his work, in a pure and refined Attic style. The Ὀνειροκριτικά has also been translated into Latin, French, and Italian.[911] It is [Pg 291] a compilation in five books gathered from previous literature on the subject and by the author personally in travel in Greece, Italy, and elsewhere. The first thirteen chapters of the fourth book, which Artemidorus opens with a general instruction to his son, deal with such preliminary and general considerations as the different types of dreams and more especially those divinely sent, the significance of times, the personal qualifications requisite in the interpreter, and certain rules of interpretation such as that native customs are good signs and foreign ways bad signs in dreams. But the great bulk of the work consists of specific interpretation arranged either under topical headings such as “Concerning Nativity,” or listed as single dreams.

Astrampsychos and Nicephorus.

In the edition of 1603[912] the work of Artemidorus is followed by much briefer metrical treatises on the same subject by Astrampsychos and Nicephorus.[913] These poems, if they may be so called, devote a line of interpretation to each of the things seen in dreams, and these verses are arranged in alphabetical order. This was to be the method of arrangement adopted in the medieval dream-books ascribed to the prophet Daniel. Astrampsychos is first named by Diogenes Laertius[914] in the early third century. He was supposed to have been one of the Persian Magi, and other occult treatises are ascribed to him, including astrological writings, a book of oracles addressed to Ptolemy, and love charms in a papyrus in the British Museum.[915]

Achmet translated by Leo Tuscus.

Still another work on the interpretation of dreams contained in the edition of 1603[916] is ascribed to “Achmet, the [Pg 292] son of Sereim” or Ahmed ben Sirin.[917] The Greek text states that he was interpreter of dreams to Mamoun, the first minister of the Caliph, which fixes his date as about 820 A. D.[918] Perhaps he is the same Achmet who wrote an astrological treatise extant in Greek which he says he compiled from books from Adam’s time to the present day.[919] Of the work on dreams there is a Latin version in the medieval manuscripts translated from the Greek by Leo Tuscus,[920] who died in 1182 and was interpreter of imperial letters in the time of the Byzantine emperor, Manuel Comnenus. Leo prefixes to his translation a prologue addressed [Pg 293][921] to his brother Hugo Eterianus or Eteriarius (Ecerialius). This work of Achmet is of about the same length as that of Artemidorus and contains over three hundred chapters. It is or pretends to be drawn mainly from Indian, Persian, and Egyptian sources and often cites in turn the doctrine or interpretation of those three peoples, or mentions by name interpreters of dreams of the kings and pharaohs of those countries.[922] The preface states that the same dream must be interpreted differently in the case of king and commoner, of rich and poor, and according to sex. The time of the dream must also be taken into account. For example, to see a tree blossom is a good sign in spring but a bad omen in autumn. The hour of the night when the dream occurs and the phases of the moon are other time factors which must be reckoned with. The remainder of the treatise is devoted to specific interpretation of dreams.

Byzantine and oriental divinations by Daniel.

To Joseph and Daniel, as the chief Biblical interpreters of dreams, books on the subject were assigned in the middle ages, as John of Salisbury has informed us. Daniel, however, seems to have been the greater favorite. Liutprand the Lombard, who died in 972, says in the account of his embassy to Constantinople, “The Greeks and Saracens have books which they call the horaseis, or Visions, of Daniel, but I should call them Sibylline. In them is found written how many years each emperor will live, and what will be the character of his reign, whether peace or strife, whether favorable or hostile relations with the Saracens.”[Pg 294][923] A brief set of Greek verses in alphabetical order ascribed to the emperor Leo, which occur in a late manuscript with various works of the fathers, seem to resemble the Latin alphabetical dream-books of which we shall presently treat.[924] Works of divination were also attributed to Daniel in Syriac and Arabic, such as predictions of rain, hail, and the like for each day of the year, and of eclipses and earthquakes,[925] or astrological forecasts for each month of the year.[926] There is even a geomancy in Turkish ascribed to the prophet Daniel.[927]

Latin Dream-Books of Daniel.

Dream-Books ascribed to the prophet Daniel are found in Latin manuscripts at least as early as the tenth century, and continue through the fifteenth century despite the denial of their authenticity by John of Salisbury in the twelfth century. At least three different types of Dream-Books of Daniel are represented in incunabula editions in the British Museum.[928] The Dream-Book of Joseph occurs with less [Pg 295] frequency.[929] These Latin Dream-Books do not go into details of politics like the Byzantine books which Liutprand described. The simplest form, which we have already mentioned in speaking of the Moon-Books of the tenth and eleventh centuries, is according to the days of the moon.[930] It is often embodied in the fuller versions. Their usual arrangement is an alphabetical list of objects seen in dreams with a line of interpretation for each and perhaps a page for each letter of the alphabet. Sample lines are:

Aerem serenum videre lucrum significat
(“To see a clear sky signifies gain”)
Intestina sua videre secreta manifesta
(“To see one’s own intestines means secrets revealed”)

This alphabetical arrangement already appears in the early manuscripts.[931] Sometimes, however, the procedure is by opening the Psalter at random, taking the first letter on the page opened to, and then referring to a list where the letters of the alphabet have various significations, such as “A signifies power of delight,” “B signifies victory in war.”[932] This last method might, of course, be employed without having any dream at all, and perhaps should not be regarded as a Dream-Book. It is interesting to note that in one manuscript it is called Experiments of Daniel. In these books of [Pg 296] Daniel further instructions are sometimes given, as when it is stated that dreams which occur before midnight are of no value for purposes of interpretation, or when one is told before opening the Psalter to repeat on bended knees a Lord’s Prayer, Ave Maria, and Miserere. Days to be observed are also sometimes mentioned as a sort of accompaniment to the Dream-Book: forty dangerous days “which the masters of the Greeks have tested by experiment,”[933] “bromantic days” from the twenty-fourth of November to the eighteenth of December, and “perentalic days” from the first of January to the first of March. “And these are the days when the leaves fall from the trees,” which is apparently supposed to have a disturbing effect upon the clarity of dreams.[934]

Sompniale dilucidarium Pharaonis.

A Sompniale dilucidarium Pharaonis, as it is entitled in the manuscript of it which I have examined,[935] or Morale somnium Pharaonis, as it is called in the printed editions,[936] was addressed by a John of Limoges[937] to Theobald, King of Navarre and Count of Champagne and Brie, who died in 1216.[938] It is really not a Dream-Book but a series of imaginary and fulsomely rhetorical letters between Pharaoh and his Magi, Pharaoh and Joseph, and Joseph and adulators and detractors. John states in his introductory letter to Theobald that the famous dream of Pharaoh will here be “morally expounded concerning royal discipline.” Pharaoh typifies any curious king; Egypt stands for any studious kingdom; Joseph represents any virtuous counselor; and the [Pg 297] dream will be interpolated with flowers of rhetoric and theology.

An anonymous Exposition of Dreams.

More elaborate and making more pretense to philosophical character than the brief Dream-Books of Daniel is an anonymous work on dreams contained in a Paris manuscript of apparently the later part of the thirteenth century.[939] It is the first treatise in the manuscript, which further contains two important works of the first half of the twelfth century, namely, the Imago mundi of Honorius of Autun and the De philosophia of William of Conches. The texts of these two latter works are much cut up and intermixed with each other. It is therefore not unlikely that the opening treatise on dreams is also a work of the twelfth century, although there does not seem to be much reason for ascribing it either to Honorius of Autun or William of Conches. A long prohemium fails to throw much light upon the personality of the author, but the work does not seem to be a translation. That it is not earlier than the twelfth century is indicated by its citation of the Viaticum and Passionarius, presumably the well known medical works of Constantine Africanus and Gariopontus,[940]—unless indeed it be by Constantinus himself, to some of whose views it shows a resemblance.

Physiological origin of dreams.

The preface opens by stating that a desirable treasure lies hidden in the heart of the wise but that it is of no utility unless it is revealed. In other words, dreams must be interpreted. [Pg 298] The author regards dreams, like thoughts in general, as beginning with the spiritus which rises from the heart and ascends through two arteries to the brain.[941] Our author perhaps still holds to Aristotle’s view of the importance of the heart in the nervous system as against Galen’s exclusive emphasis upon the brain, since he allots the heart a share even in mental processes; and he seems to be ignorant of Galen’s discovery that the arteries contain blood and not spiritus.

Origin and justification of the art of interpretation.

The preface goes on to justify the study of dreams on the ground that “the most ancient Magi and perfect physicians” thereby adjudged to each man health and sickness, life and death. “Medicine and divine thoughts, dreams, visions, or oracles are not prohibited, but demoniacal incantations, sorcery, lot-castings, insomnia, and vain phantasms are condemned that you may not readily trust in them.”[942] No doctrine is to be spurned wholesale, but only what is vicious in it. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego excelled all the Magi and soothsayers of the Chaldeans. Our author explains that among the Chaldeans then as today learning consisted not of the philosophy and sophistry of the Greeks and Latins, but of astronomy and interpretations of dreams. He alludes to a prayer of seven verses which they repeat when going to bed in order to receive responses in dreams. They pay little heed to the superficial meaning of their dreams, but by examining the inner meaning they learn either past or future. The author exhorts the person to whom he addresses the preface to do the same, laying aside all terrors that dreams may arouse in him. He points out that interpretation of dreams has Biblical sanction and that Joseph, Daniel, and Marduch all profited thereby.

Sources of the present treatise.

As for the present treatise, it is collected from divine and human scripture, based upon experience as well as reason, [Pg 299] and drawn from Latins, Greeks, Persians, and the annals of Pharaoh and Nebuchadnezzar in which many of their dreams are recorded, for they were both lovers of the future and, since they had no philosophers like the Gentiles, God allowed them as a compensation to foresee the future in dreams. For by dreams life and death, poverty and riches, sickness and health, sorrow and joy, flight and victory, are known more easily than through astrology, a more difficult and manifold art.[943] But lest his introduction grow too long, the author at this point ends it and begins the text proper.

Demoniac and natural causes of dreams.

After stating what a dream is, the author discusses the origin and causes of dreams further. Some are from the devil or at least are influenced by demons, as when a monk was led to become a Jew by a dream in which he saw Moses with a chorus of angels in white, while Christ was surrounded by men in black. But when we see chimeras in dreams, this is generally due to impurity of the blood. The author also opines that, while the sage can judge from the nature of the dream whether there is fallacy and illusion of the demon in it, the origin of virtues and vices is mainly in ourselves. He who goes to sleep with an easy conscience is unlikely to be disturbed by nightmares and is more likely in quiet slumber to behold secrets and mysteries. The author next discusses the effect of the passions and exercise of the mental faculties upon the liver, heart, and brain. He adopts the common medieval view that the brain contains three ventricles devoted respectively to imagination, reason, and memory. He explains that the so-called incubus, popularly thought of as a dwarf or satyr who sits on the sleeper, is really a feeling of suffocation produced by blood-pressure near the heart. The interpretation of a dream must vary according to the social rank of the person concerned. As images in a mirror deceive the ordinary observer but are readily accounted for by the geometer, and as the philosopher notes the significations of other planets than the sun and moon, whose effects alone impress the vulgar herd, so [Pg 300] there are dreams which only a skilled interpreter can explain. Dreams are affected by food and by the humors prevailing in the body, and also by the occult virtues of gems, of which a list is given from “Evax” or Marbod.[944]


The second book takes up again the varying significations of dreams according to the person concerned, and also the significance of the time of the dream. The four seasons, the phases of the moon, nativity of the dreamer, and hour of the night are discussed. The remaining two-thirds of the treatise consists in stating the interpretation to be placed upon the varied persons and things seen in dreams, beginning with God and Jesus Christ, and continuing with crucifixes, idols, statues, bells, hell, the resurrection of the dead, and so on and so forth. Early mention of eunuchs and icons suggests a Byzantine source. More especially in the last third of the treatise, various marginal headings indicate that the interpretations are “according to the Indians” or “according to the Persians and Egyptians,” which suggests that use is being made of the work of Achmet or of Leo Tuscus’ translation thereof.

William of Aragon on prognostication from dreams.

The influence of Achmet’s work is also seen in a treatise on the prognostication of dreams compiled by master William of Aragon.[945] It opens by referring to the labors in this art of the ancient philosophers of India, Persia, Egypt, and Greece, and later it cites Smarchas the Indian,[946] whom I take to be the same as the Strbachan of Achmet’s second chapter. William justifies writing his treatise by saying that while there may be many Dream-Books in existence already, they are mere Practice and without reason, while he intends to base the prediction of the future from dreams upon rational [Pg 301] speculation, and to support his particular reasoning by specific examples.[947] He makes more use of Aristotle’s classification of dreams[948] than the anonymous work just considered, from which he further differs in dwelling more upon the connection of dreams with the constellations.[949] The second part of his treatise consists of twelve chapters devoted to the twelve astrological houses.[950] Earlier he mentions that at the nativity of Alexander an eagle with extended wings rested all day on the roof of the palace of his father Philip.[951] In stating the signification of various objects William has a chapter on what different parts of the human body signify when seen in dreams.[952] Like our previous works on divination from dreams, he lays considerable stress upon experience, illustrating his statement that dreams are often due to bodily ills by cases which “I have seen,”[953] and also asserting that it is shown by experience that dreams seen on the first four days of the week are most quickly fulfilled.[954]

Who was William of Aragon?

This William of Aragon is no doubt the same who commented upon the Centiloquium ascribed to Ptolemy.[955] From his medical experience and his tendency to give an astrological explanation for everything one is tempted to identify him further with the William Anglicus or William of Marseilles who wrote the treatise of astrological medicine entitled, Of Urine Unseen, in the year 1219, but it is of course unlikely that the same man would be called of Aragon as well as of England and Marseilles or that the words Anglicus and Aragonia should be confused by copyists.

His work formerly ascribed to Arnald of Villanova.

The treatise on dreams has been printed among the works of Arnald of Villanova,[956] a physician who interpreted dreams for the kings of Aragon and Sicily at the end of the thirteenth century, under the title Expositio (or, Expositiones) [Pg 302] visionum quae fiunt in somniis.[957] The Histoire Littéraire de la France[958] has noted that in the manuscript copies the work was anonymous and not ascribed to Arnald, but I believe that I am the first to identify it with the work of William of Aragon.

Another anonymous work on dreams.

In the same manuscript with the Sompniale dilucidarium Pharaonis and the work of William of Aragon on dreams just described is another long anonymous work on the interpretation of dreams.[959] It makes the usual points that the meaning of dreams varies with times and persons. But the treatise consists chiefly[960] of a mass of significations which are not even arranged in alphabetical order, a failing which it is attempted to remedy by an alphabetical index at the close.[961]

[911] Cockayne, Anglo-Saxon Leechdoms, RS vol. 35, 1864-1866, III. x. The Ὀνειροκριτικά was printed by the Aldine press at Venice, 1518; a Latin translation by Cornarius appeared at Basel, 1539; it was published in both Latin and Greek by N. Rigaltius at Paris, 1603; the modern edition is by R. Hercher, Leipzig, 1864.

I have not seen P. Diepgen, Traum und Traumdeutung als medizinisch-naturwissenschaftliches Problem im Mittelalter, Berlin, 1912.

[912] Its full title reads: Artemidori Daldiani et Achmetis Sereimi F. (filius) Oneirocritica. Astranpsychi et Nicephori versus etiam Oneirocritici. Nicolai Rigaltii ad Artemidorum Notae. Paris. 1603.

[913] They cover only twenty pages in large type as against the 269 pages of small type of Artemidorus. Astrampsychos was also published at Amsterdam in 1689 with the Oracula Sibyllina by S. Gallaeus.

[914] Proem. 2.

[915] Papyrus 122.

[916] See note 1 on this page. The work was previously printed at Frankfort under the title Apomasaris Apotelesmata or Predictions of Albumasar. There is some matter missing at the beginning of both of these editions of the work.

[917] Rigaltius, however, states that Achmet’s name did not appear in either of the two Latin MSS at Paris which he used, nor in the Greek one; but the opening of his text, as just stated in the previous note, seems defective.

On Ahmed ben Sirin see: Drexl, Achmets Traumbuch (Einleitung und Probe eines kritischen Textes), Munich dissertation, 1909; and articles by Steinschneider in Zeitschrift d. deutsch. Morgenl. Gesellschaft, XVII, 227-44, Vienna Sitzungsberichte, Phil-hist. Kl. CLXIX, 53 and CLI, 2: cited by Haskins (1918), p. 494, note 12.

[918] Krumbacher (1897), p. 630.

[919] Cat. Cod. Astrol. Graec., II, 122, Achmet, De introductione et fundamento astrologiae. ἡ ποίησις τούτου τοῦ τοιούτου βιβλίου ἐκ τῶν βιβλίων τῶν Περσῶν ὃ ἐποίησεν ὁ Ἀχμάτης, ὅστις ὡς ἔφη συνῆξε τὰ βιβλία τὰ εὑρισκόμενα ἀπὸ τοῦ Ἀδὰμ μέχρι τῆς αὐτοῦ ἡμέρας.

Since this astrological work mentions Albumasar, while Achmet, the author of the dream-book, wrote early in the ninth century, the editors of the Catalogus doubt if the two Achmets are the same, but it should be noted that in the astrological treatise Achmet is spoken of in the third person and that it may be a re-editing of his original work. On the other hand, perhaps this astrological Achmet is Alphraganus, or Ahmetus filius Ahmeti (Ameti), as he is often called.

[920] C. H. Haskins, Leo Tuscus, in EHR (1918), pp. 492-6. Leo’s activity as a translator is further attested by BN 1002, “Liturgia sancti Joannis Chrysostomi,” printed in Claudius de Sainctes, Liturgiae sive Missae Sanctorum Patrum, Antwerp, 1562, fol. 49.

[921] Haskins, op. cit., prints the prologue from the first of the following MSS of Leo’s Latin translation.

Digby 103, late 12th century, fol. 59-, “Ad Hugonem Ecerialium doctorem suum et utraque origine fratrem Leo Tuscus imperatoriarum epistolarum interpres de sompniis et oraculis.” “Explicit liber sompniorum Latine doctus loqui a Leone Thusco imperialium epistolarum interprete temporibus magni imperatoris Manuel.” Neither this Titulus to the prologue nor this Explicit appears in the printed edition of 1603.

Wolfenbüttel 2917, 13-14th century, fols. 1-20, “Ad Hugonem Eteriarium doctorem summum et utraque origine fratrem Leo Tuscus imperatoriarum epistolarum interpres de somniis et oraculis. Quamquam, optime preceptor, invictum imperatorem Manuel sequar per fines Bithinie Licaonieque fugantem Persas.” Haskins (1918), p. 494, shows that this statement applies to the year 1176 rather than 1160-1161 as scholars have previously held.

Haskins also lists the following MSS: Harleian 4025, fols. 8-78; Ashmole 179; Vatic. Lat. 4094, fols. 1-32v; but does not mention these:

BN 7337, 15th century, pp. 141-61, which has the same Titulus and includes the prologue, a table of 198 chapters, and the text as far as the 37th chapter, De ventre.

Vienna 5221, 15th century, 136 fols., “Laborans laboraui inveniendum ... / ... huiusmodi egritudinem jnueniret. Explicit liber sompniorum latine doctus loqui a leone Imperialium epistolarum interprete temporibus Magni Imperatoris Manuel.”

[922] Preface, “ac primo quidem secundum Indorum doctrinam, deinde Persarum, tum denique Aegyptiorum”; cap. 2, “Strbachan regis Indorum interpres ait”; cap. 3, “Baram Interpres Saanissae Persarum regi”; cap. 4, “Tarphan Interpres Pharaonis regis Aegyptiorum.”

[923] Quoted by Haskins and Lockwood, The Sicilian Translators, 1910, p. 93, from the Legatio, ed. Dümmler, Hanover, 1877, pp. 152-3.

[924] BN 3282, 17th century, fols. 27v-29r, Leonis (sapientis) imp. versus alphabetici de futuro judicio.

[925] Bodleian 3004, #15 (Qu. Catal. VI, Syriac, #161), Arabice literis Syriacis.

[926] Alger 1517 and 1518, in Arabic but according to the months of the Syrian year.

[927] Additional 9702.

[928] Sōnia Daniel’ (IA.8754), “Danielis somniorum expositoris veridici libellus incipit.... Ego sum daniel propheta unus de israhelitis qui captivi ducti sunt....”

Somnia Danielis et Ioseph (IA.31744), “Omnes prophete tradebant somnia que videbant in somniis eorum et solus propheta Daniel filius Iude qui captus a rege Nabuchudonosor....” This is followed by a second treatise which opens, “Incipiunt somnia quae composuit Joseph dum captus erat a rege Pharaone in egypto....”

Interpretationes somniorum Danielis prophete revelate ab angelo misso a deo (IA.11607, and IA.18164 is very similar).

The Incipit in the second edition is given in more nearly correct form in Sloane 3281, 13-14th century, fol. 39r, “Omnes homines tradebant sompnia que tradebant (?) ut solveret propheta daniel....”

Another opening, found in the MSS, states that the princes of Babylonia asked the prophet Daniel to interpret their dreams. See Digby 86, late 13th century, fols. 34v-40r, “Daniel propheta petebatur a principiis civitatis Babilone ut somnia que eis videbantur solvere (solveret?). Tunc sedit et hec omnia scribat (et) tradidit populo ad legendum.” The first two lines of interpretation are:

“Arma in somniis portare securitatem significat;
Arcum tendere et sagittas mittere lucrum vel laborem significat.”
(“To bear arms in dreams signifies security;
To draw bow and shoot arrows signifies gain or labor.”)

Bodleian 177 (Bernard 2072), late 14th century, fol. 64r, opens somewhat differently, “Danielem prophetam cum esset in Babilonia petebant principes,” and its first two lines of interpretation are:

“Aves cum se pugnare videre fecundiam significat;
Aves in sompniis apprehendere lucrum significat.”
(“To see birds fight among themselves signifies fecundity;
To catch birds in one’s dreams signifies gain.”)

[929] For a printed edition see the second item in the preceding note.

CLM 7806, 14th century, fol. 153, where as in the printed edition it follows a Dream-Book of Daniel.

Vatican Palat. 330, 15th century, fol. 303v.

[930] For instance, Chartres 90, end of tenth century, fol. 16, “Somnium Danielis prophete. Luna I. Quidquid videris ad gaudium pertinet. Luna II et III et IIII. Bonus affectus erit,” etc.

[931] Tiberius A-III, fols. 25v-30v; Titus D-XXVI, fols. 11v-16r; Sloane 475, fols. 217v-218r, breaking off in the midst of the letter B. In Harleian 3017, fol. iv-, however, the lines of interpretation are not in alphabetical order.

[932] This is the method in the second part of the printed edition numbered IA.8754 in the British Museum. See also: BN 7453, 14th century, #3, Ars psalterii a Daniele inventa; BN 7349, 15th century, Danielis experimenta sive modus divinandi ad aperturam psalterii et conjiciendi per somnia.

[933] Ashmole 361, 14th century, fols. 158v-159.

[934] Sloane 3281, fol. 39r; also in IA.31744, except that the names are misspelled.

[935] St. John’s 172, 15th century, fols. 99v-123, where the work is rather appropriately preceded by two treatises on Ars dictaminis. Our author, according to Fabricius, Bibl. Med. et Inf. Lat., Padua, 1754, IV, 90, also wrote De Stylo dictionario. Other MSS of the Sompniale are CUL Dd. iv. 35, 15th century, fols. 49r-73v, and Ii. vi. 34.

[936] The first 18 letters were printed at Altdorf, 1690, by J. C. Wagenseil, and in Fabricius, Cod. Pseud. Vet. Test., 1713, I, 441-96. For letters 19 and 20 see Fabricius, Bibl. Med. et Inf. Lat., 1754, IV, 91-4.

[937] Joannes Lemovicensis; but Fabricius calls him “Joannes a Launha, Lemovicensis.” Steele (1920) p. ix, calls him “Jean de Launha or de Limoges.”

[938] Steele (1920) p. ix, however, says, “but modern scholars put the date as about 1250, a much more probable one.” Steele does not add his references or reasons for this statement.

[939] BN 16610, fols. 2r-24r, Expositio somniorum. It opens, “Thesaurus occultus requiescit in corde sapientis et immo desiderabilis sed in thesauro occulto et in sapientia abscondita nulla pene utilitas ergo revelanda sunt abscondita et patefacienda que sunt occulta.” It closes, “... ventus si flavit in hyeme calidus fructus frugisque in illo loco erit copia frigidus et acer (?) ventus in hyeme visus per sompnium contrarium in messe significat si frigidus. Explicit expositio somniorum.”

The mistakes made in the text in such matters as case-endings and abbreviations indicate that our MS is not by the hand of the author but by that of some later and careless copyist. A number of corrections of the text have been made in the margin or between the lines, and apparently the same hand has written in the margin or between the lines a number of headings to indicate the contents. These occur chiefly, however, towards the close of the work.

[940] BN 16610, fol. 7v, “Fiunt preterea sompnia secundum qualitates ciborum et humorum a quibus et certissima signa ut diximus cuiusque infirmitatis capiuntur sicut in viatico et passionario demonstrantur.”

[941] The point is repeated in the text proper at fol. 4r. In the preface at fol. 2r the author also states that a small boy can be put into a stupor when standing up, by pressing his arteries between the thumb and forefinger so that “the vapor of the heart cannot ascend to the brain.”

[942] Ibid., fol. 3r.

[943] BN 16610, fol. 3v.

[944] BN 16610, fols. 4r-8r. In my summary I have followed the order of the text for the first book.

[945] BN 7486, fols. 2-16r, “Incipit liber de pronosticationibus sompniorum a magistro Guillelmo de aragonia compilatus. Philosophantes antiquos sive yndos sive persos sive egyptios sive grecos.”

St. John’s 172, early 15th century, fols. 140-52, where it appears anonymously.

It is listed in the 15th century catalogue of MSS in St. Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury, 1545, Tractatus W. de Arrogon de interpretatione sompniorum.

[946] Simarchardus, as printed in the works of Arnald of Villanova.

[947] St. John’s 172, fol. 140v.

[948] BN 7486, fols. 3v-4r.

[949] Ibid., fols. 4v-6v.

[950] Ibid., fols. 10r-16r.

[951] Ibid., fol. 6r.

[952] Ibid., fol. 7v.

[953] Ibid., fol. 9r.

[954] Ibid., fol. 9v.

[955] Harleian 1, 13-14th century, fol. 76v-.

[956] See below for a chapter concerning him.

[957] In the edition of Lyons, 1532, at fols. 290-2.

[958] HL 28, 76-7.

[959] St. John’s 172, fols. 153-209r, “Summus opifex deus qui postquam homines ad ymaginem suam plasmaverit animam rationalem eidem coniunxerit ratione cuius malum a bono discernit suum creatorem laudando unde anima futura in sompniis comprehendit sive bonum sive malum in posterum futurum....”

[960] Ibid., fols. 153v-208v.

[961] Ibid., fols. 209v-212r.

[Pg 303]


Chapter 51. Michael Scot.
Chapter 52. William of Auvergne.
Chapter 53. Thomas of Cantimpré.
Chapter 54. Bartholomew of England.
Chapter 55. Robert Grosseteste.
Chapter 56. Vincent of Beauvais.
Chapter 57. Early Thirteenth Century Medicine: Gilbert of England and William of England.
Chapter 58. Petrus Hispanus.
Chapter 59. Albertus Magnus.
I. Life.
II. As a scientist.
III. His allusions to magic.
IV. Marvelous virtues in nature.
V. Attitude toward astrology.
Chapter 60. Thomas Aquinas.
Chapter 61. Roger Bacon.
I. Life.
II. Criticism of and part in medieval learning.
III. His experimental science.
IV. Attitude toward magic and astrology.
V. Conclusion.
Chapter 62. The Speculum Astronomiae.
Chapter 63. Three Treatises Ascribed to Albert.
Chapter 64. Experiments and Secrets of Galen, Rasis, and Others
I. Medical and Biological.
II. Chemical and Magical. [Pg 304]
Chapter 66. Picatrix.
Chapter 67. Guido Bonatti and Bartholomew of Parma.
Chapter 68. Arnald of Villanova.
Chapter 69. Raymond Lull.
Chapter 70. Peter of Abano.
Chapter 71. Cecco d’Ascoli.
Chapter 72. Conclusion.

[Pg 305]



In our preceding book on the twelfth century we included some writers, like Alexander Neckam, who lived on a few years into the following century but whose works were probably written in the twelfth. We now, with Michael Scot, begin to treat of authors whose period of literary productivity dates after 1200. We shall endeavor to consider the various authors and works in something like chronological order, but this is often difficult to determine and in one or two cases we shall purposely disregard strict chronology in order to bring works of the same sort together. Our last four chapters on Arnald of Villanova, Raymond Lull, Peter of Abano, and Cecco d’Ascoli carry us over the threshold of the fourteenth century, the death of the last-named not occurring until 1327.

Greater voluminousness and thoroughness mark the work of these writers as compared with those of the twelfth century. The work of translation has been partly accomplished; that of compilation, reconciliation, criticism, and further personal investigation and experimentation proceeds more rapidly and extensively. The new Friar Orders invade the world of learning as of everything else: of the writers whose names head the following chapters Bartholomew of England and Roger Bacon were Franciscans;[962] Thomas of Cantimpré, Vincent of Beauvais, Albertus Magnus, and Thomas Aquinas were Dominicans. In these representatives of the new religious Orders, however, theology [Pg 306] cannot be said to absorb attention at the expense of natural science. The prohibitions of the study of the works of Aristotle in the field of natural philosophy by the University of Paris early in the century preceded the friars and were not lasting, and the mid-century struggle of the friars with the other teachers at Paris[963] was one over privilege and organization rather than tenets. Teachers and writers were, however, sometimes condemned for their intellectual views at Paris and elsewhere in the thirteenth century, and whether the study of natural science and astrology was persecuted is a question which will arise more than once. In any case the friars seem to have declined in scientific prowess as in other respects toward the close of the century. Petrus Hispanus, who became Pope John XXI in 1276-1277, had not been a friar himself, and is said to have been more favorable to men of learning than to the regular clergy. Finally, in Guido Bonatti, Arnald of Villanova, Peter of Abano, and Cecco d’Ascoli we come to laymen, physicians and astrologers, who were to some extent either anti-clerical themselves or the object of clerical attack.

This was the century in which Roger Bacon launched his famous eulogy of experimental science. A good-sized fleet of passages recognizing its importance will be found, however, in our other authors, and we shall need to devote two chapters to experimental books which were either anonymous or pretended to date back to ancient or Arabic authors. And not without some justification, since we have been tracing the history of experimental science through our previous books.

[962] Little that is new on the theme of the Franciscans and learning is contributed by H. Felder, Geschichte der wissenschaftlichen Studien im Franziskanerorden bis um die Mitte des 13 Jahrhunderts, Freiburg, 1904.

[963] Concerning it consult F. X. Seppelt, Der Kampf der Bettelorden an die Universität Paris in der Mitte des 13 Jahrhunderts, Breslau, 1905, in Kirchengesch. Abhandl., III; or H. Rashdall, The Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages, I, v, 2, “The Mendicants and the University”; or P. Feret, La faculté de théologie de Paris: moyen âge, Paris, 1894-1897, 4 vols.; and other works listed by Paetow (1917), p. 441.

[Pg 307]



Bibliographical note—Michael Scot and Frederick II—Some dates in Michael’s career—Michael Scot and the papacy—Prominent position in the world of learning—Relation to the introduction of the new Aristotle—Thirteenth century criticism of Michael Scot—General estimate of his learning—God and the stars—A theological digression—The three Magi—Astrology distinguished from magic—The magic arts—Experiments of magic—History of astronomy—The spirits in the sky, air, and earth—Occult medicine—The seven regions of the air—Michael’s miscellaneous content—Further astrological doctrine—Omission of nativities—Magic for every hour—Quaint religious science—The Phisionomia—Influence of the stars on human generation—Discussion of divination—Divination from dreams—Works of divination ascribed to Michael Scot—Medical writings—Occult virtues—Astrology in the Commentary on the Sphere—Dionysius the Areopagite and the solar eclipse during Christ’s passion—Alchemy—Works of alchemy ascribed to Michael Scot—Brother Elias and alchemy—Liber luminis luminum and De alchemia—Their further characteristics.

Michael Scot and Frederick II.

But little can be said with certainty concerning the life of Michael Scot.[964] However, a poem by Henry of Avranches, [Pg 308] addressed to the emperor Frederick II in 1235 or 1236,[965] [Pg 309] shows that Michael was then dead and that he apparently had occupied the position of astrologer at the court of Frederick II at the time of his death. The poet explains how astrologers (mathematici) “reveal the secrets of things,” by their art affecting numbers, by numbers affecting the procession of the stars, and by the stars moving the universe. He recalls having heard “certain predictions concerning you, O Caesar, from Michael Scot who was a scrutinizer of the stars, an augur, a soothsayer, a second Apollo”; and then tells how “the truthful diviner Michael” ceased to publish his secrets to the world, and “the announcer of fates submitted to fate,” apparently in the midst of some prediction made on his death-bed. Michael’s own statements also show that he was one of Frederick’s astrologers.[966] If at the time of his death Michael was Frederick’s astrologer, it is more questionable at what date his association with Frederick began, and in what countries Michael resided with the emperor, or accompanied him to, whether Sicily, southern Italy, northern Italy, or Germany. From the fact that three of Michael Scot’s works, or rather, the three chief divisions of his longest extant work,[967] namely, Liber Introductorius, Liber Particularis, and Phisionomia, were written at the request of Frederick II for beginners[968] and apparently in the time of Innocent III,[969] J. Wood Brown jumped to the conclusion that Michael was Frederick’s tutor before that monarch came of age, and that he spent some time in the island of Sicily, from which Brown failed to distinguish [Pg 310] Frederick’s larger kingdom of Sicily.[970] As a matter of fact, there would seem to be rather more evidence for connecting Michael with Salerno than with any Sicilian city, since in one manuscript of his translation for the emperor of the work of Avicenna on animals he is spoken of as “an astronomer of Salerno,”[971] while in another manuscript he is associated with a Philip, clerk of the king of Sicily, and this royal notary in two deeds of 1200 is called Philip of Salerno.[972] Brown was inclined to identify him further with Philip of Tripoli, the translator of the pseudo-Aristotelian Secret of Secrets.

Some dates in Michael’s career.

No date in Michael’s career before the thirteenth century is fixed. If it is true that the three sections of his main work were written under Innocent III, that places them between 1198 and 1216. The date of his translation of the astronomical work of Alpetragius or Alpetrangi (Nûr ed-din el-Betrûgî, Abû Ishâq) seems to have been in the year 1217 on Friday, August 18, in the third hour and at Toledo. [Pg 311][973] Brown holds that Michael translated Avicenna on animals in 1210 for Frederick II and that the emperor kept it to himself until 1232, when he allowed Henry of Cologne to copy it.[974] But the date 1210 perhaps applies only to a glossary of Arabic terms which accompanies the work and which is ascribed to a “Master Al.”[975] In a thirteenth century manuscript at Cambridge Michael Scot’s translation of Aristotle’s History of Animals is accompanied by a note which begins, “And I Michael Scot who translated this book into Latin swear that in the year 1221 on Wednesday, October twenty-first.”[976] The note and date, however, do not refer to the completion of the translation but to a consultation in which a woman showed him two stones like eggs which came from another woman’s womb and of which he gives a painstakingly detailed description. There is, however, something wrong with the date, since in 1221 the twenty-first of October fell on Thursday.[977]

Michael Scot and the papacy.

The career of Michael Scot affords an especially good illustration of how little likelihood there was of anyone’s being persecuted by the medieval church for belief in or practice of astrology. Michael, although subordinating the stars to God and admitting human free will, as we shall see, both believed in the possibility of astrological prediction and made such predictions himself. Yet he was a clergyman, perhaps even a doctor of theology,[978] as well as a court astrologer, and furthermore was a clergyman of sufficient rank and prominence to enable Pope Honorius III to procure in 1224 his election to the archbishopric of Cashel in Ireland.[979] At the same time the papal curia issued a dispensation [Pg 312] permitting Michael to hold a plurality, so that he evidently already occupied some desirable benefice. Michael declined the archbishopric of Cashel, on the ground that he was ignorant of the native language but perhaps because he preferred a position in England; for we find the papacy renewing its efforts in his behalf, and Gregory IX on April 28, 1227, again wrote to Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, urging him to make provision for “master Michael Scot,” whom he characterized as “well instructed not only in Latin but also in the Hebrew and Arabic languages.”[980]

Prominent position in the world of learning.

Whether Michael ever secured the additional foreign benefice or not, he seems to have remained in Italy with Frederick until the end of his days. He also seems to have continued prominent among men of learning, since in 1228 Leonardo of Pisa dedicated to him the revised and enlarged version of his Liber abaci,[981] important in connection with the introduction of the Hindu-Arabic numerals into western Europe.

Relation to the introduction of the new Aristotle.

Roger Bacon in the Opus Maius[982] in a passage often cited by historians of medieval thought ascribes the introduction of the new Aristotle into western Latin Christendom to Michael Scot who, he says, appeared in 1230 A. D. with portions of the works of Aristotle in natural philosophy and metaphysics. Before his time there were only the works on logic and a few others translated by Boethius from the Greek; since 1230 the philosophy of Aristotle “has been magnified among the Latins.” Although many writers have quoted this statement as authoritative in one way or another, it must now be regarded as valuable only as one more illustration of the loose and misleading character of most of [Pg 313] Roger’s allusions to past learning and to the work of previous translators. We know that the books of Aristotle on natural philosophy had become so well known by that time that in 1210 the study of them was forbidden at the university of Paris, and that about that same year, according to Rigord’s chronicle of the reign of Philip II, the books of Metaphysics of Aristotle were brought from Constantinople, translated from Greek into Latin, and began to be read at Paris.[983] But Bacon’s date is more than twenty years too late, and we have already mentioned the translation of The Secret of Secrets, which Bacon regarded as genuine, the acquaintance of Alexander Neckam with works of Aristotle, Alfred of England’s translation of the De vegetabilibus and of three additional chapters to the Meteorology, the still earlier translation of the rest of that work by Aristippus from the Greek and by Gerard of Cremona from the Arabic, and Gerard’s numerous other translations of works of Aristotle in natural philosophy. The translations of Gerard and Aristippus take us back to the middle of the twelfth century nearly a century before the date set by Bacon for the introduction of the new Aristotle.[984] Michael Scot, then, did not introduce the works of Aristotle on natural science and Bacon’s chronological recollections are obviously too faulty for us to accept the date 1230 as of any exact significance in even Michael’s own career, to say nothing of the history of the translation of Aristotle.

This is not to say that Michael was not of some importance in that process, since he did translate works of Aristotle and his Arabic commentators, especially Avicenna and Averroes. Frederick II is sometimes said to have ordered the translation from Greek and Arabic of such works of [Pg 314] Aristotle and other philosophers as had not yet been translated from Greek or Arabic.[985] But the letter which has been ascribed in this connection to Frederick is really by his son and successor, Manfred,[986] for whom many translations were made, including several Aristotelian treatises, genuine and spurious, by Bartholomew of Messina. Already, however, in 1231 and 1232 a Jew at Naples had translated Averroes’ abridgement of the Almagest and his commentary on the Organon, in the latter extolling Frederick’s munificence and love of science.[987] Michael Scot has been shown to have translated from the Arabic the History of Animals and other works on animals, making nineteen books in all, and also Avicenna’s compendium of the same, the De caelo et mundo, the De anima with the commentary of Averroes, and perhaps the Metaphysics or part of it.[988] His translation of the De caelo et mundo was accompanied by a translation of Alpetrangi’s commentary on the same.[989]

Thirteenth century criticism of Michael Scot.

Scholars of the succeeding generation sometimes spoke unfavorably of Michael’s work. Although Roger Bacon recognized his translations as the central event in the Latin reception of the Aristotelian philosophy, and spoke of him as “a notable inquirer into matter, motion, and the course of the constellations,”[990] he listed him among those translators who “understood neither sciences nor languages, not even Latin,” and charged more than once that a Jew named Andrew was really responsible for the translations credited to Michael.[991] Albertus Magnus asserted that Michael Scot “in reality was ignorant concerning nature and did not understand [Pg 315] the books of Aristotle well.”[992] Yet he used Michael’s translation of the Historia Animalium as the basis of his own work on the subject, often following it word for word.[993] Michael was, however, listed or cited as an authority by the thirteenth century encyclopedists, Thomas of Cantimpré, Bartholomew of England, Vincent of Beauvais, and at the close of that century is frequently cited by the physician Arnald of Villanova in his Breviarium practicae.[994]

General estimate of his learning.

Michael Scot may be said to manifest some of the failings of the learning of his time in a rather excessive degree. His mind, curious, credulous, and uncritical, seems to have collected a mass of undigested information and superstition with little regard to consistency or system. Occasionally he includes the most childish and naïve sort of material, as we shall illustrate later. He continues the Isidorean type of etymology, deriving the name of the month of May, for example, either from the majesty of Jupiter, or from the major chiefs of Rome who in that month were wont to dedicate laws to Jupiter, or from the maioribus in the sense of elders as June is derived from Juniors.[995] He also well illustrates the puerilities and crudities of scholastic argumentation. Thus one of the arguments which he lists against regarding a sphere as a solid body is that solids can be measured by a straight line and that it cannot.[996] Asking whether fire is hot in its own sphere, he says that it might seem not, because fire in its own sphere is light and light is neither hot nor cold.[997] This argument he rebuts in the end, and he finally decides that a sphere is a solid. But he would have seemed wiser to the modern reader to have omitted these particular contrary arguments entirely. Such propositions continue, however, to be set up and knocked [Pg 316] down again all through the thirteenth century, and such famous men as Thomas Aquinas and Peter of Abano are guilty of much the same sort of thing. To Michael Scot’s credit may be mentioned his considerable power of experimentation and of scientific observation. Perhaps some of the “experiments” attributed to him are spurious, but they show the reputation which he had for experimental method, and on the whole it would seem to be justified. The note in his name in a thirteenth century manuscript at Cambridge,[998] giving a carefully dated and detailed account of two human foetuses which had solidified into stones like eggs, shows a keen sense of the value of thorough observation and a precise record of the same. Experimental science would seem to have received considerable encouragement at the court of Frederick II, judging from the stories told of that emperor and the pages of his own work on falconry.[999]

God and the stars.

But let us examine Michael’s views and methods more particularly. In opening the long preface to his voluminous Introduction to Astrology he states that hard study is requisite to become a good astrologer, but he finds incentive to such effort in citations from Seneca, Cato, and St. Bernard that it is virtuous to study and to be taught, and in the reflection that one who knows the conditions and habitudes of the superior bodies can easily learn those of inferior bodies. The signs and planets are not first movers or first causes, and do not of themselves confer aught of good or evil, but by their motion do indicate “something of truth concerning every body produced in this corruptible world.” The hour of conception is important and Michael explains why two persons born at the same moment may be unlike. He then jumbles together from Christian and astrological writers such assertions as that the stars are only signs, not causes, and that their influence on inferior creation may be compared to the action of the magnet upon iron, or that we see on earth good men suffer and bad men prosper, [Pg 317] which has usually been regarded as a better argument for a fatalistic or mechanical universe than for divine control. He agrees that the universe is not eternal and that everything is in God’s power, but insists that much can be learned concerning the future from the stars.[1000]

A theological digression.

Michael then embarks upon a long theological digression[1001] in the course of which he quotes much Scripture concerning the two natures, angelic and human. After telling us of the nine orders of angels in the empyrean heaven, he deals with the process of creation, just as William of Conches and Daniel of Morley had done in their works of astronomy and astrology. In the first three days God created spiritual substances such as the empyrean heaven, angels, stars, and planets; in the other three days, visible bodies such as mixtures of the elements, birds, fish, and man. Michael also answers various questions such as why man was created last, although nobler than other creatures, what an angel is, whether angels have individual names like men, and much concerning the tenth part who fell. Perhaps the emperor Frederick is supposed to put these queries to Michael, but there seemed to be no indication to that effect in the manuscript which I examined. The reply to the question where God resides is, potentially everywhere but substantially in the intellectual or empyrean heaven.[1002] Michael discusses the holy Trinity and thinks that we have a similitude of it in the rational soul in the three faculties, intellect, reason, and memory,[1003] although he attempts no association of these with the three Persons as William of Conches imprudently did in the case of power, wisdom, and will. He indulges, however, in daring speculation as to where the members of different professions will go after they die. Philosophers, “who die in the Lord,” will be located in the order of Cherubim, which is interpreted as plenitude of science; sincere members of religious orders and hermits [Pg 318] will become Seraphim; while pope, emperor, cardinals, and prelates will enter the order of Thrones.[1004] Michael also contributes the following acrostic of eight sins whose initials compose the word, “Diabolus”:

The three Magi.

In the course of the foregoing digression Michael inserted an account of the Magi and the star that appears to be based in part but with variations on the spurious homily of Chrysostom. He makes them three in number, one from Europe, Asia, and Africa respectively; and states that forewarned by Balaam’s prophecy they met together annually for worship on the day of Christ’s nativity, which they appear to have known beforehand. They stood in adoration for three days continuously on Mount Victorialis until on the third day they saw the star in the form of a most beautiful boy with a crown on his head. Then they followed the star upon dromedaries which, Michael explains, can go farther in a day than horses can in two months. Beside the star three suns arose that day at equal distances apart and then united in token of the Trinity; and Octavianus, emperor of the Romans, saw the Virgin holding the Child in the center of the sun’s disk. As for the word magus, Michael explains that it has a threefold meaning,—which, however, has nothing to do with the Trinity,—namely: trickster, sorcerer, and wise man, and that the Magi who saw the star were all three of these until their subsequent conversion to Christianity.[1006]

[Pg 319]

Astrology distinguished from magic.

The remainder of Michael’s lengthy and lumbering preface is largely occupied with the utility of astrology, which he often calls “astronomy” (astronomia), and differentiation of it from prohibited arts of magic and divination. While, however, he distinguishes these other occult arts from astrology, he affirms that nigromancers, practitioners of the notory art, and alchemists owe more to the stars than they are ready to admit.[1007] He also distinguishes a superstitious variety of astrology (superstitiosa astronomia),[1008] under which caption he seems to have in mind divination from the letters of persons’ names and the days of the moon, and other methods in which the astronomer or astrologer acts like a geomancer or sorcerer or tries to find out more than God wills. Scot also distinguishes between mathesis, or knowledge, and matesis, or divination, and between mathematica, which may be taught freely and publicly, and matematica, which is forbidden to Christians.[1009]

The magic arts.

Michael condemns magic and necromancy but takes evident joy in telling stories of magicians and necromancers and shows much familiarity with books of magic. He explains “nigromancy” as black art, dealing with dark things and performed more by night than day, as well as the raising of the dead to give responses, in which the nigromancer is deceived by demons.[1010] He repeats Hugh of St. Victor’s definition that the magic art is not received in philosophy, destroys religion, and corrupts morals. As he has said before, the magus is a trickster and evil-doer as well as wise in the secrets of nature and in prediction of the future.[1011] Michael lists twenty-eight varieties or methods of divination. He believes that they are all true: augury by song of birds, interpretation of dreams, observance of days, or divination by holocausts of blood and corpses. But they are forbidden as infamous and evil. Later on, in the text [Pg 320] itself, he returns to this point, saying that these methods of predicting the future are against the Christian Faith, but nevertheless true, like the marvels of Simon Magus.[1012] Michael defines and describes various magic arts in much the same manner as Isidore, Hugh of St. Victor, and John of Salisbury; but with some divergences. Under aerimancy he includes divination from thunder, comets, and falling stars, as well as from the shapes assumed by clouds. Hydromancy he calls “a short art of experimenting” as well as divining. The gazing into clear, transparent, or liquid surfaces for purposes of divination is performed, he says, with some observance of astrological hours, secrecy, and purity by a child of five or seven years who repeats after the master an incantation or invocation of spirits over human blood or bones. He speaks of a maleficus as one who interprets characters, phylacteries, incantations, dreams, and makes ligatures of herbs. The praestigiosus deceives men through diabolic art by phantastic illusions of transformation, such as changing a woman into a dog or bear, making a man appear a wolf or ass, or causing a human head or limb to resemble that of some animal. Even alchemy, or perhaps only the superstitious practice of it, Michael seems to classify as a forbidden magic art, saying, “Alchemy as it were transcends the heavens in that it strives by the virtue of spirits to transmute common metals into gold and silver and from them to make a water of much diversity,” that is, an elixir. Lot-casting, on the other hand, both the authority of Augustine and many passages in the Bible pronounce licit.

Experiments of magic.

Michael more than once ascribes an experimental character to magic arts. Besides calling hydromancy “a short art of experimenting,” he states that, since demons are naturally fond of blood and especially human blood, nigromancers or magicians, when they wish to perform experiments, often mix water with real blood or use wine which has been exorcized in order to make it appear bloody. “And they make some sacrifice with the flesh of a living human [Pg 321] being, for instance, a bit of their own flesh, or of a corpse, and not the flesh of brutes, knowing that consecration of a spirit in a bottle or ring cannot be achieved except by the performance of many sacrifices.”[1013] Despite his censure of the art in the preface under discussion, we find a necromantic experiment of an elaborate character ascribed to Michael Scot in a fifteenth century manuscript[1014] which purports to copy it “from a very ancient book,”[1015] a phrase which scarcely increases our confidence in the genuineness of the ascription. The object of the experiment is to secure the services of a demon to instruct one in learning. Times and astrological conditions are to be observed as well as various other preliminaries and ceremonies; a white dove is to be beheaded, its blood collected in a glass vessel, a magic circle drawn with its bleeding heart; and various prayers to God, invocations of spirits, and verses of the Bible are to be repeated. At one juncture, however, one is warned not to make the sign of the cross or one will be in great peril.

History of astronomy.

But to return to Michael’s magnum opus. The preface closes with a rather long and very confused[1016] account of the history of astronomy and astrology. While Zoroaster of the lineage of Shem was the inventor of magic, the arts of divination began with Cham, the son of Noah, who was both of most subtle genius and trained in the schools of the demons. He tested by experience what they taught him and having proved what was true, indited the same on two columns and taught it to his son Canaan who soon outstripped his father therein and wrote thirty volumes on the arts of divination and instructed his son Nemroth in the same. When Canaan was slain in war and his books were burned, Nemroth revived the art of astronomy from memory and was, like his father, deemed a god by many because of his great lore. He composed a work on the [Pg 322] subject for his son Ionicon,[1017] whose son Abraham also became an adept in the art and came from Africa to Jerusalem and taught Demetrius and Alexander of Alexandria, who in turn instructed Ptolemy, king of Egypt, who invented astronomical canons and tables and the astrolabe and quadrant. The giant Atlas brought the art to Spain before Moses received the two tables containing the ten commandments. If this chronology surprises us, there is something more amazing to follow. At this point in the manuscript the copyist has either omitted a great deal[1018] or Atlas was extremely long-lived, since we next read about his showing the astrolabe to two “clerks of France.” Gilbertus (presumably Gerbert) borrowed the instrument for a while, conjured up demons—for he was the best nigromancer in France, made them explain its construction, uses, and operation to him, and furthermore all the rest of astronomy. Later he reformed and had no more dealing with demons and became bishop of Ravenna and Pope. Having thus got rather ahead of time, Michael mentions various other learned astronomers, most of whom really lived before Gerbert, such as Thebit ben Corat, Messahalla, Dorotheus, Hermes, Boethius, Averroes, John of Spain, Isidore, Zahel, and Alcabitius.

The spirits in the sky, air, and earth.

Having finally terminated his preface, Michael begins the first book with a description of the heavens and their [Pg 323] motion. Some say that the planets are moved by angels; others, by winds; but he holds that they are ruled by divine virtues, spiritual and not corporeal, but of whom little further can be predicated, since they are imperfectly known to man and naturally will remain so.[1019] Later he states that they do not move or rule the celestial bodies naturally but as a service of obedience to their Creator.[1020] He has already spoken in the preface of spirits in the northern and southern air, and asserted that very wise spirits who give responses when conjured dwell in certain images or constellations among the signs of the zodiac.[1021] In the Liber particularis he speaks of similar demons in the moon.[1022] Now he mentions “a legion of spirits damned” in the winds.[1023] In later passages in the Liber introductorius he gives the names of the ruling spirits of the planets, Kathariel for Saturn,[1024] and so on, and a list of the names of spirits of great virtue who, if invoked by name, will respond readily and perform in marvelous wise all that may be demanded of them.[1025] And as the planets are said to have seven rectors who are believed to be the wisest spirits in the sky, so the seven metals are said to have seven rectors who are believed to be angels in the earth.[1026] Names of angels also occur in some of his astrological diagrams.[1027] This education of the reader in details of astrological necromancy shows that Michael is not to be depended upon to observe consistently the condemnation of magic and distinction between astrology and necromancy with which he started out in the preface.

Occult medicine.

By affirming that the physician must know the state of the moon and of the wind and that “there are many passions of the soul under the sphere of the moon,”[1028] Michael introduces us to the subject of astrological medicine, a theme to which he returns more than once in the course [Pg 324] of the work.[1029] The practice of flebotomy is illustrated by a figure showing the influence of the signs of the zodiac upon the human body.[1030] From the fact that there are fourteen joints in the fingers of the hand or toes of the foot Michael infers that man’s span of life should be 140 years, a maximum which sin has reduced to 120.[1031] There are as many medicines as there are diseases and these consist in the virtues of words, herbs, and stones, as illustrations of which Michael adduces the sacrament of the altar, the magnet and iron used by deep-sea sailors, and plasters and powders.[1032] In some cases, however, neither medicine nor astrology seems to avail, and, despite his preliminary condemnation of the magic arts, Michael argues that when the doctor can do nothing for the patient he should advise him to consult an enchantress or diviner.[1033]

The seven regions of the air.

From the seven planets and sphere of the moon Michael turns to the seven regions of the air, which are respectively the regions of dew, snow, hail, rain, honey, laudanum, and manna.[1034] This is the earliest occurrence of this discussion which I have met, and I do not know from what source, if any, Michael took it. It is essentially repeated by Thomas of Cantimpré in his De natura rerum, where he gives no credit to Michael Scot but cites Aristotle’s Meteorology in which, however, only dew, snow, rain, and hail are discussed. In the History of Animals[1035] Aristotle further states that honey is distilled from the air by the action of the stars and that the bees make only the wax. Michael similarly describes the honey as falling from the air into flowers and herbs and being collected by the bees; but he distinguishes two kinds of honey, the natural variety just described and the artificial honey which results from the [Pg 325] bee’s process of digestion. He also explains that sugar (and molasses?) is not a liquor which will evaporate like honey and manna, but is made from the pith of canes.[1036] “Laudanum” is a humor of the air in the Orient, and manna descends mainly in India with the dew, being found in Europe only in times of great heat. It is of great virtue, both medicinal and in satisfying hunger, as in the case of the children of Israel under Moses.

Michael’s miscellaneous content.

We cannot take the time to follow Michael in all his long ramblings through things in heaven above and earth beneath: sun, tides, springs, seasons, the difference between stella, aster, sidus, signum, imago, and planeta, the music of the spheres, the octave in music, eight parts of speech in grammar, and eight beatitudes in theology, zones and paradise, galaxy and horizon and zenith, divisions of time, the four inferior elements and the creatures contained in them, eclipses of sun and moon, Adam protoplasm and minor mundus as the letters of his name indicate, the mutable and transitory nature of this world, the inferno in the earth, and purgatory.

Further astrological doctrine.

Sooner or later Michael comes to or returns to astrological doctrine and technique, lists the qualities of the seven planets and head and tail of the dragon,[1037] explains the names and some of the effects of the signs of the zodiac,[1038] gives weather prognostications from sun and moon,[1039] states the moon’s influence in such matters as felling trees and slaughtering pigs,[1040] and expounds by text and figures planetary aspects, exaltations, and conjunctions,[1041] friendships and enmities.[1042] The planet Mercury signifies in regard to the rational soul, grammar, arithmetic, and every science.[1043] The election of hours is considered and a list given of what to do and not to do in the hour of each planet and that of [Pg 326] the moon in each sign.[1044] There then follows, despite Michael’s animadversions in the preface against interpreters of dreams and those observing days, an “Exposition of dreams for each day of the moon,”[1045] nativities for each day of the week, and a method of divination from the day of the week on which the New Year falls.[1046] A discussion of the effect of the moon upon conception is interrupted by a digression on eggs: how to estimate the laying power of a hen by the color and size of its crest, the effect of thunder upon eggs, how from eggs to make a water of great value in alchemy, and how to purify bad wine with the white of an egg.[1047] Returning again to the moon, we are told that in the new moon intellects are livelier, scholars study and professors teach better, and all artisans work harder. Michael Scot used to say to the emperor Frederick that if he wished clear counsel from a wise man, he should consult him in a waxing moon and in a human and fiery or aerial sign of the zodiac.[1048] Michael had spoken earlier of the planets as judges of the varied questions of litigators,[1049] and now, although admitting the freedom of the human will, he proceeds to discuss at considerable length[1050] the art of interrogations by which the astrologer answers questions put to him. With this the Bodleian manuscript of the Liber introductorius ends, apparently incomplete.[1051]

Omission of nativities.

In the marginal gloss accompanying a Latin translation of the astrological works of Abraham Avenezra in a manuscript of the fifteenth century[1052] Michael Scot is quoted a good deal on the subject of nativities. But the Liber introductorius, or at least as much of it as appears in the Bodleian manuscript, contains little upon this side of astrology, [Pg 327] except the brief nativities for each day of the week. A passage quoted by Brown[1053] to the effect that the person born under a certain sign will be an adept in experiments and incantations, in coercing spirits and working marvels, and will be an alchemist and nigromancer, appears in the manuscript as a marginal addition rather than part of the text and so is presumably not by Michael Scot himself.

Magic for every hour.

In connection with the subject of elections Michael gives a list of the prayers, conjurations, and images appropriate for each of the twelve hours of the day and of the night.[1054] For instance, in the first hour of the day men pray to God and it is a good time to bind all tongues by images, characters, and conjurations. In the second hour angels pray to God and images and other devices to promote love and concord should be constructed then. In the third hour birds and fishes pray to God and it is a good time to make images and other contrivances to catch birds and fish. In the first hour of the night demons hold colloquy with their lord and the time is favorable for the invocation of spirits.

Quaint religious science.

A more Christian and less magical enumeration of the hours occurs in the Liber particularis.[1055] At morning Christ was arrested on the Mount of Olives. In the first hour Christ was presented to Ananias and Caiaphas, the high priests; in the third hour, to Pontius Pilate; in the sixth hour He was brought back to Herod and taken to Mount Calvary; in the ninth He was given vinegar and gave up the ghost and the earth quaked and the veil of the temple was rent in twain; at vespers He was taken down from the cross. Another specimen of this quaint religious science is found in the Liber introductorius,[1056] where Michael, writing before the invention of the telescope, speaks of the limits set to seeing into the heavens except by special grace of God, as in the case of Katherine and of Stephen, the first [Pg 328] martyr, who, when stoned, saw the heavens opened. A third example occurs in the third part of the opus magnum, or Phisionomia, where it is stated that at birth a male child cries “Oa” and a female child “Oe,” as if to say respectively, “O Adam (or, O Eve) why have you sinned that I on your account must suffer infinite misery?”[1057] In the same work Michael gives original sin as one of two reasons why a baby cannot talk and walk as soon as it is born.[1058]

The Phisionomia.

The third part of Scot’s main work, and the only section which has been printed, is that primarily devoted to the pseudo-science of physiognomy, which endeavors to determine a man’s character from signs furnished by the various parts of his body. The Phisionomia[1059] is addressed to the Emperor Frederick II who is exhorted to the pursuit of learning in general and the science of physiognomy in particular. This is probably a conscious or unconscious imitation of the remarks addressed to Alexander by the Pseudo-Aristotle in The Secret of Secrets, of which also a considerable portion is devoted to physiognomy, and from which Rasis and Michael borrowed a good deal.[1060] Indeed, the Phisionomia of Michael Scot is also often entitled De secretis naturae and really only a certain portion of it is devoted exclusively to physiognomy proper. Its early chapters and first part deal rather with the process of generation and it is only with the twenty-third chapter and second part that Michael “reverts to the doctrine of physiognomy.” Perhaps these chapters on generation had more to do with the popularity and frequent printing of the work than did those on physiognomy.

Influence of the stars on human generation.

In this discussion of the process of human generation the influence of the stars receives ample recognition. Michael regards the moment of conception as of great astrological importance; then according to the course of the stars and the disposition of the bodies conceiving the foetus [Pg 329] receives “similarly and simultaneously” each and all of the determining factors in its subsequent nature and history.[1061] This we may perhaps regard as a medieval approach to the theory of Mendel. Michael further urges every woman to note the exact moment of sexual intercourse, when this is to result in generation, and so make astrological judgment easy.[1062] Yet he states later that God gives a new and free soul with the new body, just as a father might give his son a new tablet on which to write whatever he wills of good or evil.[1063] He notes the correspondence of the menstrual fluid to the waxing and waning of the moon and that planet’s influence during the seventh month of the formation of the child in the womb,[1064] and gives the usual account of the babe’s chances of life or death according as it is born within seven months, or during the eighth, or ninth, or tenth month. It is not quite clear if it is because there are seven planets that Michael affirms that a woman can bear as many as seven children at once.[1065] He adds that in this case the child conceived in the middle one of the seven cells of the matrix will be a hermaphrodite.[1066]

Discussion of divination.

Scot’s treatise on Physiognomy has considerable to say of other forms of divination and they here appear in a more favorable light than in his discussion of varieties of the magic arts in the preface preceding his Liber introductorius. Among signs to tell whether a pregnant woman will give birth to a boy or a girl he suggests “a chiromantic experiment”[1067] which consists simply in asking her to hold out her hand. If she extends the right, the child will be a boy; if the left, a girl. He also expounds methods of augury at some length, although again stating that they are in the canons of the church, that is to say prohibited by canon [Pg 330] law. The divisions of space employed in augury are twelve in number after the fashion of the signs of the zodiac.[1068] Michael also discusses the significance of sneezes. If anyone sneezes twice or four times while engaged in some business and immediately rises and moves about, he will prosper in his undertaking. If one sneezes twice in the course of the night for three successive nights, it is a sign of death or some catastrophe in the house. If after making a contract one sneezes once, it is a sign that the agreement will be kept inviolate; but if one sneezes thrice, the pact will not be observed.[1069]

Divination from dreams.

Dreams and their interpretation are also discussed in the Physionomia.[1070] The age of the dreamer, the phase of the moon, and the stage reached in the process of digestion, all have their bearing upon interpretation. A dream which occurs before the process of digestion has started either has no significance or concerns the past. The dream which comes while the food is being digested has to do with the present. Only when the process of digestion has been completed do dreams occur which signify concerning the future. In order to recall a dream in the morning Michael recommends sleeping upon one’s other side for the remainder of the night or rubbing the back of the head the next day. Some dreams signify gain, others loss; some joy, others sadness; some sickness, others health, others war; some labor, others rest. For instance, to catch a bird signifies gain, to lose a bird in one’s dream signifies loss; to mourn in dreams portends joy, to laugh indicates grief. The rest of his discussion of dreams Scot limits to their significance in matters of health and physical constitution. He takes up dreams indicative of predominance of blood, red cholera, phlegm, and melancholy respectively; of heat, cold, dryness, and humidity; of excess of humors and of bad humors.

[Pg 331]

Works of divination ascribed to Michael Scot.

While on the subject of divination we may note that a geomancy[1071] and a chiromancy[1072] have been ascribed to Michael Scot, and also prophetic verses concerning the fate of Italian cities in the style of the Sibylline verses and prophecies of Merlin. Brown held that the evidence for the authenticity of these verses was as convincing as that for any event in Scot’s life.[1073]

Medical writings.

It would not be surprising to find that Michael himself practiced medicine as well as astrology, in view of the attention given to human physiology and the process of generation in his Physiognomy and elsewhere, and the interest in biology which his translation of the Aristotelian works on animals evidences. A treatise on prognostication from the urine is ascribed to him[1074] and “Pills of Master Michael Scot” are mentioned in at least one manuscript,[1075] where they are declared to be good for all diseases and of virtue indescribable.

Occult virtues.

Michael’s general allusion to the occult virtue of words, herbs, and stones in the Liber introductorius may be supplemented by a few specific examples of the same from the other two divisions of his main work. In the Liber particularis he mentions such virtues of stones as the property of the agate to reveal various signs of demons and illusions of enchantment, and the power of the jasper to render its bearer rich, amiable, and eloquent.[1076] In the Phisionomia he suggests that persons who cannot maintain physical health without frequent sexual intercourse may be able to do so by carrying a jasper or topaz.[1077] He also states that [Pg 332] bathing in the blood of a dog or of two-year-old infants mixed with hot water “undoubtedly cures leprosy,”[1078] and that many sorceries can be wrought by use of the menstrual fluid, semen, hairs of the head, blood, and footprints in dust or mud.[1079]

Astrology in the Commentary on the Sphere.

Michael Scot’s Commentary upon the Sphere of Sacrobosco[1080] confines itself rather more strictly to astronomical and astrological topics than did the Liber introductorius, but otherwise their contents are not dissimilar. In the Commentary Michael discusses such questions as whether the universe is eternal, one or many, and what form or figure it should have; whether the mover of the sky is moved, whether the stars are spherical bodies, and whether the zone between the tropic of Capricorn and the Antarctic Circle is temperate and inhabited. Also whether the elements are four in number, and whether the heavens include a ninth sphere. One argument against its existence is that there are no stars in it, on which account some hold that it would exert no influence upon the earth. But Michael replies that it has light apart from any starry bodies and by virtue of this light does exert influence. Other astrological questions which he raises are whether the signs of the zodiac should be designated by the names of animals, whether the first heaven is a more potent cause of generation and corruption than the circle of the zodiac is, whether celestial bodies have particular properties as terrestrial [Pg 333] bodies do, whether the heavens are animate, whether their motion is natural or voluntary, whether the motion of the planets is rational, and whether supercelestial bodies act upon inferiors by virtue of their motion. In mentioning the departments of life over which the seven planets rule, Michael cites either theologians or astrologers[1081] to the effect that Saturn signifies concerning pagans, Jews, and all other adversaries of the Faith, who are slow to believe just as Saturn is slow of movement and chilling in effect, while Jupiter is the sign of true believers and Christians.

Dionysius the Areopagite and the solar eclipse during Christ’s passion.

In commenting upon Sacrobosco’s concluding passage concerning the miraculous eclipse at the time of Christ’s passion and the remark attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite, “Either the God of nature suffers or the machine of the universe is dissolved,” Michael explains that ancient Athens was divided into three parts. One of these was the shore which was consecrated to Neptune, but in place of the plain and the mountains, Michael appears to take a leaf out of Plato’s Republic and mentions the region of the warriors, dedicated to Pallas, goddess of war, and the residential quarter of the philosophers, named the Areopagus from Ares meaning virtue and pagus meaning villa. According to Michael the altar to the unknown god was erected by Dionysius the Areopagite at the time of the darkness and earthquake accompanying Christ’s passion, and when Paul came and preached the Christ whom he ignorantly worshiped, Dionysius was converted, and became a missionary to the Gauls, bishop of Paris, and finally gained a martyr’s crown.


In the Liber Introductorius Michael seemed to associate alchemy with the magic arts. In his Commentary on the Sphere his attitude is more favorable. After citing the fourth book of the Meteorology and other passages from Aristotle to the effect that no element can be corrupted and [Pg 334] hence the transmutation striven after by the alchemists is impossible, Michael explains that the word element may be taken in two senses. As a part of the universe it is neither generable nor corruptible, but in so far as an element is mixed with active and passive qualities, it is both generable and corruptible.[1082]

Works of alchemy ascribed to Michael Scot.

Thanks perhaps to this passage the composition or translation of several works of alchemy is ascribed to Michael Scot in manuscripts or printed editions. The Quaestio curiosa de natura Solis et Lunae, which was printed as Michael’s in two editions of the Theatrum Chemicum,[1083] was apparently written after his death.[1084] A Palermo manuscript contains among other alchemical tracts a “Book of Master Michael Scot in which is contained the mastery.”[1085] In at least one manuscript Michael Scot is called the translator of the Liber luminis luminum, of which Rasis is elsewhere mentioned as the original author.[1086] In an Oxford manuscript a De alchemia is attributed to Michael Scot. It is addressed to “you, great Theophilus, king of the Saracens”[1087] rather than to the Emperor Frederick, and speaks of “the noble science” of alchemy as “almost entirely rejected among the Latins.” Michael Scot mentions himself by name in it rather too often for us to accept the treatise as his without question, while the allusions to “Brother Elias” the Franciscan as a fellow-worker in alchemy are perhaps also open to suspicion.

Brother Elias and alchemy.

We find, however, another suggestion of Brother Elias’s interest in alchemy and association therein with Michael [Pg 335] Scot in the fact that in the same manuscript containing the translation of the Liber luminis luminum ascribed to Michael occurs another Liber lumen luminum which Brother Elias, General of the Friars Minor, edited in Latin for the Emperor Frederick.[1088] A brother Cyprian translated it from Arabic into Latin for him. In view of the later interest of another Franciscan friar, Roger Bacon, in alchemy and the supposition which some have entertained that he was persecuted by his Order because of his experimental studies, this reputation of Brother Elias as an alchemist is interesting to note. One of St. Francis’s earliest followers, he succeeded him in 1226 as General of the Order. Deposed by the pope in 1230 on the charge of promoting schism in the Order, he was re-elected in 1236 and was again deposed by the pope in 1239, after which he joined the imperial party and was excommunicated from 1244 until just before his death in 1253.[1089] Brown suggested that his alchemical activities were alluded to by the pope on the occasion of his first deposition in the words “mutari color optimus auri ex quo caput erat compactum.”[1090] But if Elias was an alchemist, no open objection to this appears to have been made either by the pope or his Order. Indeed, many of the alchemists in Italy of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were clergy and even friars.[1091]

Liber luminis luminum and De alchemia.

Brown has already discussed the contents of the Liber luminis luminum and De alchemia (or, alchimia)[1092] but erroneously and from not quite the same standpoint as ours. He incorrectly interprets “the secrets of nature” which the writer says he has investigated as the title of a book which has formed his chief source.[1093] Brown also states that one [Pg 336] of several features which distinguishes the De alchemia from the Liber luminis “is an early passage which refers to the correspondence between the metals and the planets.”[1094] But there is a similar passage connecting seven metals with the seven planets in the opening paragraph of his own printed text of the Liber luminis luminum.[1095] The latter treatise, brief as it is, divides into five parts dealing with salts, alums, vitriols, spirits, and the preparation of alums, and the employment of these in transmutation. The De alchemia is less orderly in arrangement and seems largely a brief collection of particular recipes for transmutation.

Their further characteristics.

Both works emphasize the secret character of alchemy. The De alchemia holds forth concerning the great secret of Hermes and Ptolemy, and tells how most men’s eyes are blinded, and to how few the truth of the art is revealed. The Liber luminis luminum narrates that “when the great philosopher was dying he said to his son, ‘O my son, hold thy secret in thy heart, nor tell it to anyone, nor to thy son, unless when thou canst retain it no longer.’ Wise philosophers have yearned with yearning to know the truth of this salt. But few have known it and those who have known it have not told in their books the truth concerning it as they saw it.”[1096] Both works also are largely experimental in form and in the De alchemia we are assured more than once that “I, Michael Scot, have experienced this many times.”[1097] The books of the ancients and past philosophers are cited both in general and by name, but a black vitriol from France called French earth[1098] and a gum found in [Pg 337] Calabria and at Montpellier[1099] are mentioned as well as herbs and minerals from India and Alexandria, and we also hear of the experiments of brother Elias, certain Saracens who seem of comparatively recent date, and of the operation at Catania or Cortona by master Jacob the Jew which “I afterwards proved many times.”[1100] The Liber luminis luminum often speaks of “the great virtue” of this or that, and both treatises make much use of animal substances such as “dust of moles,” the urine of the taxo or of a boy, the blood of a ruddy man or of an owl or frog. Five toads are shut up in a vessel and made to drink the juices of various herbs with vinegar as the first step in the preparation of a marvelous powder for purposes of transmutation.[1101]

[964] James Wood Brown, An inquiry into the life and legend of Michael Scot, Edinburgh, 1897. While this book has been sharply criticized (for instance, by H. Niese in HZ, CVIII (1912), p. 497) and has its failings, such as an unsatisfactory method of presenting its citations and authorities, it gives, obscured by much verbiage intended to make the book interesting and popular and much fanciful speculation as to what may have been, a more reliable account of Michael’s life and a fuller bibliography of his writings than had existed previously. But it must be used with caution.

Liber introductorius: extant only in MSS, of which some are:

Bodleian 266, 15th century, 218 fols. “Quicumque vult esse bonus astrologus ... / ... finitur tractatus de notitia pronosticorum.” This is the MS which I have used.

CLM 10268, 14th century, 146 fols. Described by F. Boll (1903), p. 439. I tried to inspect this MS when I was in Munich in 1912 but it had been loaned out of the library at that time.

Brown further mentions BN nouv. acq. 1401 and an Escorial MS of the 14th century which I presume is the same as Escorial F-III-8, 14th century, fols. 1-126, “Incipit prohemium libri introductorii quem edidit Michael Scotus,” etc.

The following are perhaps extracts from the Liber Introductorius:

BN 14070, 13th-14th-15th century, fol. 112-, Mich. Scoti de notitia conjunctionis mundi terrestris cum celesti; fol. 115-, Eiusdem de presagiis stellarum.

Vienna 3124, 15th century, fols. 206-11, “Capitulum de hiis quae generaliter significantur in partibus duodecim celi sive domibus.”

Vatican 4087, fol. 38r, “Explicit liber quem edidit micael scotus de signis et ymaginibus celi.”

See also MSS mentioned by Brown at p. 27, note 2.

Liber particularis, or Astronomia; also extant only in MSS.

Canon. Misc. 555, early 14th century, fols. 1-59. “Cum ars astronomie sit grandis sermonibus philosophorum....” This is the MS I have used; others are:

Escorial E-III-15, 14th century, fols. 41-51, Michaelis Scoti ars astronomiae ad Federicum imperatorem II.

CLM 10663, 18th century, 261 fols., Michael Scot, Astronomia.

At Milan, Ambros. L. 92.

Phisionomia: eighteen editions are said to have appeared between 1477 and 1660. I have used the following text:

Michael Scot, De secretis naturae, Amsterdam, 1740, where it follows at pp. 204-328 the De secretis mulierum and other treatises ascribed to Albertus Magnus.

It occurs at fols. 59-88 of Canon. Misc. 555, immediately after the Liber particularis, and is found in other MSS.

Commentary on The Sphere of Sacrobosco.

Eximii atque excellentissimi physicorum motuum cursusque siderei indagatoris Michaelis Scoti super auctorem sperae cum questionibus diligenter emendatis incipit expositio confecta Illustrissimi Imperatoris Dn̄i D. Fedrici precibus, Bologna, 1495. I have also used an edition of 1518, and there are others.

Liber lumen luminum.

Riccardian 119, fols. 35v-37r, “Incipit liber luminis luminum translatus a magistro michahele scoto philosopho.”

Printed by Brown (1897), Appendix III, pp. 240-68.

I presume it is the same as the Lumen luminum ascribed to Rasis in BN 6517 and 7156—see Berthelot (1893), I, 68—but I have not compared them.

In the same Riccard. 119 at fol. 166r is a Liber lumen luminum ascribed to Brother Elias, general of the Franciscans. “Incipit liber alchimicalis quem frater helya edidit apud fredericum Imperatorem. Liber lumen luminum translatus de sarraceno ac arabico in latinum a fratre cypriano ac compositus in latinum a generali fratrum minorum super alchimicis. Incipit liber qui lumen luminum dicitur ex libris medicorum et experimentis et philosophorum et disciplinarum ex(t)ranearum.”

De alchimia (or, alchemia)

Corpus Christi 125, fols. 97v-100v, Michaelis Scoti ad Theophilum Saracenorum regem “de alkemia.” “Explicit tractatus magistri michaelis Scoti de alke.”

The above-mentioned books and manuscripts are those especially discussed and utilized in the present chapter. The following may be noted, since they are omitted by Brown, although they have little to do with our investigation:

Mensa philosophica. Of this brief work ascribed to Michael Scot several incunabula exist in the library of the British Museum.

Amplon. Folio 179, 14th century, fols. 98-99, “Liber translative theologie de decem kathegoriis.” The attribution of this to Michael Scot might be taken to support the tradition that he was a doctor of theology at Paris.

[965] The poem is printed in Forschungen zur deutschen Geschichte, XVIII (1878), p. 486. Yet Cantor II (1913), p. 7, has Michael outlive Frederick and transfer his residence to the court of Edward I of England.

[966] Canon. Misc. 555, fol. 44v, “Quadam vice me michaelem scotum sibi fidelem inter ceteros astrologos domestice advocavit.”

[967] That they are sections of one work is made clear from his statement at the end of the long preface to all three: Bodleian 266, fol. 25v; Boll (1903), p. 439, quotes the same passage from CLM 10268.

[968] “Scolares novitii.”

[969] The MSS say “Innocent IV,” but Michael had died before his pontificate.

[970] Brown (1897), chapter II. Criticized by H. Niese in Historische Zeitschrift, vol. 108 (1912), p. 497, note 3.

[971] Bologna University Library 693, 16th century, “Michaelis Scoti astronomi Salernitani liber de animalibus. Incipit liber primus de animalibus Avicenne rubrica. Frederice domine mundi Romanorum Imperator, suscipe devote hunc laborem Michaelis Scoti.”

[972] Laurentian P. lxxxix, sup. cod. 38, 15th century, p. 409; printed in Brown (1897), pp. 231-4. Concerning Philip see also Brown, pp. 19, 36-7. The important passage in the MS is, “Explicit nicromantiae experimentum illustrissimi doctoris Domini Magistri Michaelis Scoti, qui summus inter alios nominatur Magister, qui fuit Scotus, et servus praeclarissimo Domino Philipo Regis Ceciliae coronato; quod destinavit sibi dum esset aegrotus in civitate Cordubae, etc. Finis.” Brown, p. 19, translates the last clause, “which experiment he (i. e., Michael) contrived when he lay sick in the city of Cordova,” and so concludes that Scot visited that city; but I should translate it, “which he (Michael) sent to him (Philip) while he (Philip) lay sick in the city of Cordova.” Otherwise why is Philip mentioned at all?

[973] Brown, p. 104, citing Jourdain, Recherches, p. 133, who called attention to two Paris MSS, Anciens fonds 7399 and Fonds de Sorbonne 1820, in one of which the MS is dated 1217, while the other gives the year as 1255 which is the exactly corresponding year of the Spanish era. Arsenal 1035, 14th century, fol. 112, a MS not noted by Jourdain or Brown, states the year as 1207 A. D., but this is evidently a mistake for 1217, since it gives the same day of the week and month as the other MSS and August 18th fell on Friday in 1217, but not in 1207. BN 16654, 13th century, fol. 33, gives the date as 1217.

[974] P. 55, arguing from a Vatican MS which is described at pp. 235-7.

[975] “Glosa magistri al. Explicit anno domini mccx.”

[976] Gonville and Caius 109, fols. 102v-103r, written in a different hand from the text of the History of Animals, “Et iuro ego michael scotus qui dedi hunc librum latinitati quod in anno MCCXXI, xii kal. novembr. die mercurii....”

[977] Perhaps the year is correct, but “xii kal.” should be “xiii kal.”

[978] HL XX, 47; Brown (1897), p. 14; both citing Du Boulay, Hist. univ. Paris., 1656-1675.

[979] See Denifle et Chatelain, Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, 1889, I, 104, for a letter of Honorius III of January 16, 1224, asking Stephen Langton, archbishop of Canterbury, to secure a benefice for Michael Scot whom he calls “singularly gifted in science among men of learning”: and Theiner, Vetera Monumenta Hibernorum et Scotorum, Rome, 1864, p. 23, for a letter of Honorius III of June in the same year, stating that Michael has declined the archbishopric of Cashel and appointing another man. Brown has incorrectly dated both letters in 1223.

[980] Denifle and Chatelain, I, 110.

[981] For the date and MSS see Boncompagni, Intorno ad alcune opere di Leonardo Pisano, Rome, 1854, pp. 2 and 129-30.

[982] Bridges (1897) I, 55; in Jebb’s edition, pp. 35-6.

[983] Rigordus de Gestis Philippi II; quoted in the Leo XIII edition of Aquinas, Rome, 1882, vol. I, p. cclix, “legi Parisiis coepisse libellos quosdam aristotelis, qui docebant metaphysicum, de novo Constantinopoli delatos et a graeco in latinum translatos.”

[984] P. Duhem, “Du temps où la Scolastique latine a connu la physique d’Aristote,” in Revue de philosophie, August, 1909, pp. 163-78, argues that the Physics was known to Latins in the twelfth century.

[985] Petrus de Vineis III, ep. lxvii; Latin cited in Dissertation 23 in vol. I of the Rome, 1882, edition of the works of Aquinas. Frederick II is not even mentioned in Grabmann’s dissertation on the translation of Aristotle in the thirteenth century. In the preface to his De arte venandi cum avibus Frederick refuses to follow Aristotle who, he says, had little or no practice in falconry: Haskins, EHR XXXVI (1921) 343-4.

[986] The letter of Manfred accompanied his gift to the University of Paris of copies of the translations made for him. See Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, I, 435-6.

[987] Renan, Averroès et Averroïsme, p. 188.

[988] Grabmann (1916), pp. 143-4, 175-6, 186-7, 198.

[989] BN 17155, 13th century, fol. 225-.

[990] Brown, 145.

[991] Brown, 119, Brewer (1859), p. 91.

[992] Meteor. III, iv. 26 (Borgnet, IV, 697).

[993] See Jourdain, Recherches, etc., and more recently H. Stadler, “Irrtümer des Albertus Magnus bei Benutzung des Aristoteles,” in Archiv f. d. Gesch. d. Naturwissenschaften u. d. Technik, VI (1913) 387-93.

[994] De Renzi, I, 292.

[995] Canon. Misc. 555, fol. 6.

[996] Sphere (1518), p. 106.

[997] Ibid., p. 107.

[998] Gonville and Caius 109, fol. 1O2v-1O3r.

[999] C. H. Haskins, “The ‘De Arte Venandi cum Avibus’ of the Emperor Frederick II,” EHR XXXVI (1921) 334-55.

[1000] Bodleian 266, fols. 1r-v. Future citations, unless otherwise specified, will be to this MS.

[1001] It extends from fol. 2 to fol. 19.

[1002] fol. 4r.

[1003] fol. 10r.

[1004] fols. 11v-12r.

[1005] fol. 17v.

[1006] fol. 3r-v.

[1007] fols. 2 and 20v.

[1008] fols. 21v-22r.

[1009] fol. 22r.

[1010] fol. 22v.

[1011] In another passage at fol. 23r which speaks of a magus as inspecting entrails of animals I take it that the word is a slip of the copyist for haruspex.

[1012] fol. 175r.

[1013] fol. 22v.

[1014] Printed by Brown (1897), pp. 231-4.

[1015] Ibid., p. 18.

[1016] At least in the MS which I have used; Bodleian 266, fols. 24r-25r.

[1017] What purported to be this work is listed in the Speculum astronomiae of Albertus Magnus, and Haskins, “Nimrod the Astronomer,” Romanic Review, V. (1914), 203-12, has called attention to the following MSS: S. Marco VIII, 22; Vatic. Pal. Lat. 1417; and an extract in Ashmole 191. Haskins notes various mentions of Nimrod as an astronomer in medieval authors, but not the above passage from Michael Scot. Although Latin writers make Ioathon or Ionaton (and various other spellings) the disciple of Nimrod, in Syrian writers Ionitus is the fourth son of Noah and himself the discoverer of astronomy and teacher of Nimrod (Haskins, op. cit. 210-11).

[1018] The word Explicit is written across the knees of a figure of the giant Athalax or Caclon who supports the heavens on his head at fol. 25r, col. 1, but the passage concerning “Gilbertus” follows and the proper Explicit of the preface does not occur until fol. 25v, col. 1. See Haskins, op. cit. p. 207 for pictures in the MSS of Atlas and Nimrod side by side, the one standing on the Pyrenees and supporting the starry firmament; the other on the mount of the Amorites bearing the starless heavens.