A Vergilian Art of Memory

Sibutus, Georg Daripinus (c. 1480-1528)

Ars memorativa Gerogii [!] Sibuti daripini co[n]cionatorib[us] et iurisperitis multum utilis et fructuosa. Carmen eiusdem in vita[m] sanctae Annae Heroicu[m]. Sphico annexum. Saphicum Ioannis Murmellii. Saphicum Ioanuis [!] cesarii.

Cologne: [heirs of Heinrich] Quentel, 7. VIII. 1506


Quarto: 16 pp.

THIRD EDITION (1st and 2nd. eds. Both printed in 1505) of this early 16th c. art of memory.

Sewn. A nice copy, lightly toned; minor dampstain at the top of the gutter. The margins are broad, preserving some deckles along the fore-edge. Extremely rare in all printings. A search for copies (of all three editions) yielded only a single copy in the U.S. (Harvard.)

The humanist Sibutus (c. 1480-1528), probably from Tannroda in Thuringia, was a student of Conrad Celtis. Crowned poet laureate by Emperor Maximilian in 1505, he practiced as a physician and taught rhetoric in Wittenberg, Rostock, Cologne, and Vienna.

A practitioner of mnemotechnics as well as a theorist, Sibutus was famously proficient in the art. We know, for instance, that for Frederick, Elector of Saxony, Sibutus recited from memory 600 verses of his "Silvula in Albiorim", a poem in praise of Wittenberg. And as a poet and the student of Celtis (whose own writings on the art of memory influenced a generation) it is not surprising that Sibutus brought fresh innovations to the ars memorandi tradition. He breaks from Celtis in some important particulars. And in explaining his method, Sibutus draws liberally from the classical Roman poets, including Horace and Ovid, and most frequently from Vergil.

Sibutus’ work was successful enough to merit three editions in quick succession. But his praxis has drawn some negative criticism:

"This frequently cited and rarely discussed instruction by Sibutus contains so many obscure precepts, counter-productively mingled with verses by Virgil, Ovid, and others, that it must be quite incomprehensible to anyone unaccustomed with mnemonics. It is apparent that Sibutus employed a very difficult and roundabout method. So as to have no more than 36 mnemonic devices, he used the first verse of Vergil’s “Aeneid” ('arma virumque cano' etc.); for each letter he would imagine a person whose name began with that letter. He does not explain how to avoid confusing these persons in case a particular letter occurs more than once" (cf. Aretin, Systematische Anleitung zur Theorie und Praxis der Mnemonik, Sulzbach 1810, p. 194ff.).

The present volume includes two introductory poems by Johannes Murmellius and Johannes Cesarius, a dedicatory poem to the Lübeck jurist Heinrich Bucholt, as well as Sibutus's own "Carmen in vitam S. Annae".

VD 16, S 6262. BM-STC German 812. Panzer VI, p. 358, no. 104. Verfasserlex. II.3, col. 892. OCLC 230985978. Not in Adams.