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"Questiones Alani"
Lynn Thorndike
Isis, 51:2, 1960, 181-185
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"In a manuscript of the Bibliotheque Nationale at Paris (Latin 18081, 13-14th century, fols. 210va-227rb) between two standard works of medieval science, the Questiones naturales of Adelard of Bath, composed before 1133, and the somewhat earlier Liber lapidum of Marbod, who died aged 88 in 1123, Incipiunt questiones Alani." But this intervening text appears to be almost completely unknown. For its author the name of Alanus de Insulis (Alain de Lille) naturally suggests itself, although he lived considerably later than either Adelard or Marbod, from about 1128 to 1202. But while he has found a place in Sarton's Introduction to the History of Science, II (1931), 383-384, and has had ascribed to him De naturis quorundam animalium, which Fabricius long since identified with the second book of the Bestiary of Hugh of St. Victor, and even an alchemical treatise, these Questiones have not been attributed to him. The manuscript in which they are found opens with De spiritu et anima, which was printed with the works of Augustine but cites authors of the twelfth century, and continues with religious works and sermons until at fol. 195ra-va we reach the table of contents of Adelard's Questiones naturales, written in a hand of the early thirteenth century. The Questiones Alani are in the same hand. ... The next two questions are concerned with animals: why the unicorn is captured by embracing a virgin, and why mules are sterile. ... Many of the questions raised by Alanus concern stock topics and problems of ancient, medieval and even early modern science; the phoenix, virgin and unicorn, basilisk (three times), ...weasel curing itself with the herb portulaca, when bitten by the serpent, ...the salamander living in fire, vultures perceiving corpses from afar, softening a raw egg in vinegar so that it will pass through a small opening, the bear not eating for two months and the stork spending the winter under water stuck in the mud by its beak, that men once were giants and stronger than now." - Author

Language: English

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