Astronomy and Meteorology; Flora and Fauna: The Natural World in the Middle Ages. With 15th c. Provenance. Bound at the Monastery of St Zeno

Berenger of Landorra, Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela (circa 1262-1330), and Gregory of Vorau (ed. Matthias Farinator)

Lumen Animae. Incipit: Liber moralitatum elegantissimus magnarum reru[m] naturalium lumen anime dict[us]: cu[m] septe[m] apparitorib[us] necno[n] sanctoru[m] doctoru[m] orthodoxe fidei p[ro]fessorum Poetaru[m] etia[m] ac oratoru[m] auctoritatib[us] p[er] modum pharatre s[e]c[un]d[u]m ordine[m] alphabeti collectis feliciter incipit.

Strasbourg: Printer of the 1481 Legenda aurea, 22 March 1482


Folio: 29.2 x 21.8 cm. 274 unsigned leaves. [A-C]8, [D]10; [a-m]8, [n]6,[o-z]8, [aa-ff]8, [gg]10. Complete with the initial and final blanks.

FOURTH EDITION (first printed in 1477).

Bound in contemporary blind-stamped calf over wooden boards from the bindery of the Augustinian monastery of St Zeno in Reichenhall (Upper Bavaria, active c. 1475-1528, EDBD w002516). The binding has been rebacked; the metal corner-pieces and perhaps a central boss have been removed. An original vellum label and shelf-mark are affixed to the front board. There is offsetting from now-removed manuscript pastedowns inside the boards, though there are still vellum manuscript strips used for spine lining. The text is in excellent condition throughout with trivial blemishes. The text is rubricated and there some nice are 3- to 8-line initials in red and/or blue, the first of which has marginal extensions. Provenance: A contemporary ownership inscription (obscured by ink) in red ink is to be found at the end of the table. “Ego cristianus [(?)] emi hunc librum decem solidis denariorum". The name is repeated on the penultimate leaf (also crossed through); Another inscription, “Cristiannus Shab 1491” is written on the same leaf. With the bookplates of Jean Furstenberg (1890-1982) and E.P. Goldschmidt (See his catalogue VII (1925), number 29).

The arrival of printed books is so often regarded as one of the inaugural moments of the renaissance that it is sometimes forgotten that the first years of print also represented the last great flowering of the Middle Ages. The “Lumen Anime” (Light of the Soul), is testament to that. Formerly attributed to the Carmelite friar Mathias Farinator of Vienna (who compiled the index), the “Lumen Anime” is now known to be Berenger of Landorra, General of the Dominican order and archbishop of Campostella from 1317 to 1325.

The “Lumen Anime” is a sprawling manual of natural and moral philosophy, that gathers together quotations on relevant themes from authors as diverse as Aristotle, Theophrastus, the elder Pliny, Ptolemy, Solinus, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome, Isidore, Hugh of St Victor, and Avicenna. Its two longest parts concern: 1. The natural world of plants, animals and trees; 2. Problems of morality and philosophy.

“The natural historical content [of the ‘Lumen Anime’] centers as much on astronomy and meteorology as on flora and fauna; it includes a huge number of largely inauthentic citations of frequently exotic-sounding authors and the vast majority of its exempla have a tripartite structure – a scientific ‘proprietas’ is followed by a moralizing interpretation, whose lesson is then reinforced by a quotation from a theological authority.” In the version of the text edited by Matthias Farinator, which is the basis of the printed editions, “chapters tend to be much longer [and] the initial natural historical ‘proprietas’ is often longer and supported by a series of quotations, its components are then analyzed allegorically, and a moralization follows.”(Nigel Harris, “the Light of the Soul”, 2007)

The textual history and authorship of the “Lumen Anime” are matters of considerable complexity. There are some 195 surviving manuscripts and fragments, as well as four fifteenth and one sixteenth-century printed editions. Of the 195 manuscripts, 35 date from the fourteenth century and the remainder from the fifteenth century, including two that derive from the printed editions.

Mary and Richard Rouse have established three principal lines of transmission. “Lumen A” is the original version as composed by Berenger of Landorra, Archbishop of Compostella between 1317 and his death in 1330. It would appear that the collection took shape with the encouragement and support of Pope John XXII. It is the book’s Spanish origin that explains the presence of both Arabic and Greek material in the collections.

By 1332, a copy of the manuscript had reached Austria, where it was revised, modified and expanded by an otherwise unknown monk, Gregory of Vorau. “Lumen B” is the source of the text that was edited by Matthias Farinator, and printed by Anton Sorg at Augsburg in 1477, and then reprinted again at Augsburg by Gunther Zainer in 1477, at Reutlingen in 1479, and in 1482 at Strasbourg. The Rouses have proposed that Farinator’s manuscript was a direct copy of the complete text of either Vorau 130 or Klosterneuberg 384 (p.51), the earliest surviving witnesses to the B tradition.

A third manuscript recension, “Lumen C”, derives from a compilation of material primarily from the A, but also from the B text. This line of descent dates before 1357. As well as these principal traditions, other manuscripts indicate that further modifications were made to the collections over time. Even before it was printed, the “Lumen Anime” was intensively copied, and its success as a printed book was assured.

Yet, if the “Lumen Anime” was a late medieval bestseller, its market was geographically limited. Despite its Spanish origins, only two copies of the manuscripts are now to be found outside of an area bounded by Strasbourg in the north and west, Austria in the south, and Poland and the Czech Republic in the east. The first of these is at Marseilles, and belongs to the A tradition. The other is a fifteenth-century copy in the Bodleian Library that originally came from Erfurt, where Farinator was based in the mid-1470s. There are otherwise no copies of the manuscripts in England, Ireland, France, Italy, Spain or the United States.

Copies of the early printed editions are also extremely rare, especially outside Central Europe. The Strasbourg edition is the only one that seems to have traveled west and north in the late fifteenth and sixteenth century, with copies that can be traced back to this time in England now at All Soul’s, Oxford, the British Library (the Lord Lumley-Prince Henry copy), and Cambridge UL (John Dee’s copy). If to the fifteenth century the “Lumen Anime” was a preacher’s manual of natural and moral philosophy, to the sixteenth century, it became more of a compendium and reference guide.

BMC I, 97; Hain-Copinger 10333*; Goff L-396; Proctor 413; Polain 1468; Wellcome I, 2175; Klebs 631.3; Thorndyke III, 546ff. Sources: Mary A. and Richard H. Rouse, ‘The Texts called Lumen Anime,’ Archivum Fratrum Praedicatorum, 41 (Rome, 1971), 5-113; N.R. Ker, Records of All Soul’s College Library. 1437-1600 (Oxford, 1971), 27.