Brunetto Latini's Tresor: Latin Sources on Natural Science

Francis J. Carmody

in 12:3 (July)Speculum, 1937, 359-366

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"Mediaeval science is well known to scholars through Latin works, but vulgarizations have commanded far less prestige. Dreyer, for example, mentioned Latini's Tresor (1268 A.D.) very superficially, and was obviously ill informed on the Image du Monde of Gossouin (1245 A.D.). Langlois pointed out that vernacular works are of interest mainly to philologists, who find it difficult to delve into the technical intricacies of the various sciences. Vulgarizations, however, present a valuable picture of the subjects they treat. The Tresor is a compendium of material current in Paris in the active days of the 1260's, when astronomy was at its height, both in technical achievement and in speculative interpretation. Latini was a competent translator and compiler, and was guilty neither of the unorganized agglomeration of details found in the Livre de Sydrac and the translations of Adelard of Bath, nor the mistaken moralizing and theological zeal of Gossouin. One must turn to Vincent of Beauvais to find anything like the freedom from doctrine and the careful method and selection of the Tresor. Latini's manner was so objective that it annoyed many of the first copyists, who added doctrinal and moral references, present in most families of manuscripts. As a vulgarization, the Tresor makes no pretension to scholastic reasoning and deduction, nor to metaphysical subtlety, transmutations of elements, atomic theory, nor to mathematical discussion, elements which characterize so many thirteenth-century works. The material is of a simple nature, akin to Seneca, Bede, and Honorius, though there is no apparent affinity to other popular works like those of Chalcidius, Macrobius, and Pliny, nor to the classics, Aristotle, Plato, Plutarch, Lucretius, or Cicero." - Carmody

Language: English


Last update December 6, 2021