16.02.22, Muñoz, Cañizares, and Martín, eds., La Compliación del saber en la Edad Media

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Michael Twomey

The Medieval Review 16.02.22

Muñoz, María José, Patricia Cañizares, and Cristina Martín, eds. La Compilación del saber en la Edad Media / La Compilation du savoir au Moyen Âge / The Compilation of Knowledge in the Middle Ages. Textes et Études du Moyen Âge, 69. Porto / Turnhout: Fédération Internationale des Instituts d'Études Médiévales [FIDEM], Distributed by Brepols, 2013. pp. 632. ISBN: 978-2-503-55034-3 (paperback).

Reviewed by:
Michael Twomey
Ithaca College

This volume's thirty-four essays expand on presentations given in June 2012, at a conference by the same name sponsored by the Fédération Internationale des Instituts d'Études Médiévales (FIDEM) and held at the Department of Latin Philology, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Speakers at the conference came from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, England, Finland, France, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. Papers in this volume are in Spanish (20), French (5), Italian (5), and English (4). The volume is bookended at the beginning by the plenaries of Jacqueline Hamesse, César Chaparro Gómez, and Carmen Codoñer Merino and at the end by the concluding remarks of Louis Holtz.

According to Holtz (594), at the conference in Madrid, papers were grouped thematically, historically, and geographically under these headings: Antecedents, Encyclopedias, Religious Topics, Summaries, Spain, Florilegia, and Humanism and Pre-Humanism. However, readers should know that after the first three plenaries, the essays in this volume are arranged alphabetically by the author's family name, an inconvenience to anyone who wishes to search the book topically. Fortunately, the reader's path through this sizable collection of essays is eased somewhat by three indices: of manuscripts; of ancient, medieval, and Renaissance authors and texts; and of modern scholars.

Compilations (compendia, florilegia, encyclopedias, etc.) are easily dismissed as mere exercises in plagiarism by modern scholars unacquainted with ancient and medieval aesthetics. However, because they predate the modern bias towards authorial originality, compilations are important for understanding medieval ideas of authorship, textual authority, and composition. They also proliferated across the medieval manuscript landscape, and they covered every subject. Some, such as the encyclopedia of Bartholomaeus Anglicus, are attested in hundreds of manuscripts, whereas others exist in unique, holograph copies attesting to the individual interests of only one person.

Most of the essays in La compilación del saber are accounts of the contents and sources of individual compilations, some of which are little known and in some cases unpublished. In broad terms, the topics covered in this volume are encyclopedias, theology, liturgy, philosophy (especially Platonism and Aristotelianism), grammar, orthography, glossaries, rhetoric, medicine, astrology, history, and the computus. As a group, the essays are mostly thoroughly researched, so that one can easily orient oneself to the topic from the author's introduction and footnotes. Notable examples are Noemi Barrera-Gómez on Bartholomaeus Anglicus's encyclopedia, María Teresa Callejas Berdonés on the Epitoma rei militaris of Vegetius in the Manipulus florum, Ivana Dobcheva on the computus as an umbrella for general knowledge on the universe, Georgina Rabassó on the cosmology of Herrad of Hohenbourg's Hortus deliciarum, and Victoria Recio Muñoz on the use of Platearius's Practica in other medical compilations.

Some essays introduce little-known or previously unknown texts. In this regard, there are standout essays by Marta Cruz Trujillo on the correct attribution of sententiae ascribed to Ptolemy in a Montserrat astronomical manuscript, Greti Dinkova-Bruun on an Oxford University manuscript containing a verse encyclopedia on the seven days of creation, Laura López Figueroa on the sources and influence of a medical compilation known as Tereoperica, Francesca Galli on Bartolomeo da Bologna's De luce as a spiritualized manual on optics, Marek Thue Kretschmer on a compilation about geography, history, and theology in a fifteenth-century Madrid manuscript from Avila, Ana Isabel Martín Ferreira on the genesis and contents of the Salernitan medical text Breviarium by Johannes de Sancto Paulo, Rubén Peretó Rivas on the use of Evagrius Ponticus's Antirrhétikos for combating demons, Antonia Rísquez Madrid on an anonymous collection of moralia known as the Contentus terenalis, and Cristina de la Rosa Cubo on a unique fourteenth-century medical compilation called the Summa medicinae.

Several essays are devoted to the Speculum maius of Vincent of Beauvais. Patricia Cañizares Ferriz and Irene Villarroel report about a vademecum commissioned in the first half of the fifteenth century by Don Pedro Fernández de Velasco, first count of Haro, which contains a florilegium composed of extracts from the Doctrinale. Also on the Doctrinale, Guadalupe Lopetegui Semperena argues for the scholastic character of Vincent's scheme for the artes sermocinales on the basis of a review of his selection of source passages. Rino Modonutti examines the adaptation of the Historiale by Giovanni Colonna's Mare historiale (first half, 14th c.). Tomas Zahora, Dmitri Nikulin, Constant Mews, and David Squire report the results of their computer-aided analysis of the pseudo-Vincentian Morale, which leads them to conclude that the compiler of the Morale, who selected much of the text from mainstream passages in Aquinas's Summa theologiae, supplemented Aquinas with extracts from the Franciscan theologian Richard de Mediavilla in order to lend the entire Morale a Franciscan rather than Dominican emphasis.

As the foregoing partial account of the contents may suggest, most essays in this volume focus on one or two compilations. Only the essays of Hamesse and Holtz provide anything resembling an overview. Hamesse maps the development of florilegia from their Carolingian origins into the Renaissance, arguing that they offer modern scholars a means of assessing the popularity of the originalia of which they are composed. Hamesse associates their flourishing in the later Middle Ages with the rise of searching tools that enabled compilers to find source passages more easily. Although florilegia provided students and preachers with easily-accessible material for study or for sermons, they also cherry-picked source passages, sometimes misconstruing them, and thereby encouraged intellectual reductiveness. Holtz more sympathetically explains the production of compilations in terms of authorship and use. Some were made by one scholar for personal use, some were made by teams of scholars for collective use, some were drawn from only one author or text, and some were drawn from a variety of authors and texts. However and by whomever they were composed, behind each compilation there is always an organizing mind, a selection principle, a motive for selection, an idea of a whole that the various assembled parts create. The material circumstances of book production and the scarcity and expense of books partly explain the need for compilations; but equally important as a factor in the creation of compilations was the need of teachers for educational materials. Neither Hamesse nor Holtz breaks new ground as regards a theory of compilation, but given the immensity of the topic and the number and variety of compilations from medieval European libraries, a general theory of the medieval compendium that is based on a study of even a small percentage of texts is probably not a realistic expectation.

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