Encyclopedia

Lambert of Saint-Omer

Biography

Lambert (ca. 1061-1150), also known as Lambertus de Sancto Audomaro, was a French Benedictine monk, chronicler and abbot. In his youth he entered the monastery of St-Bertin in France. He afterwards visited several famous schools in France, having first laid the foundation of his subsequent learning by the study in his own monastery of grammar, theology, and music. For some time he filled the office of prior, and in 1095 was chosen abbot at once by the monks of St-Bertin and by the canons of St-Omer. Even during his lifetime, Lambert was lauded in glowing terms for his great learning by an admirer in the Tractatus de moribus Lamberti Abbatis S. Beretini. This work mentions several otherwise unknown writings of Lambert, e.g. Sermones de Vetere Testamento, also studies on free will, the Divine prescience, original sin, origin of the soul, and questions of physical science. - [Adapted in part from the Catholic Encyclopedia]

Lambert writing the Liber Floridus

Liber Floridus

Lambert is most well known for his Liber floridus ("book of flowers"), an encyclopedia of Biblical, chronological, astronomical, geographical, theological, philosophical and natural history subjects. Lambert saw the compilation as a bouquet of flowers plucked from the heavenly meadow "that the faithful bees may fly together to them and drink from them the sweetness of the heavenly potion."

The encyclopedia is an extract or synopsis from different authors. It was begun in 1090 and finished in 1120. Written originally in Latin, it was later translated into French as Le Livre fleurissant en fleurs. It includes a section on animals, both real and imaginary; multiple tables, such as lists of popes and other historical figures; a section on the constellations and other astronomical subjects, with diagrams; world and local maps; and several sections on history and philosophy. It is arranged in 372 chapters, many very brief, but some extensive; the manuscripts typically have over 200 folios (over 400 pages).

Manuscripts

At least nine manuscript copies of the Liber Floridus are known to exist, dating from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries; one (Universiteitsbibliotheek Gent MS 92) is thought to be Lambert's autograph original or at least the earliest copy. All were produced in northern France or Flanders, and all are written in Latin. One of the manuscripts, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 9675 is different in content from the others and does not include the animal section.

In the table below, the first column shows the standard manuscript designation; the symbol in the third column indicates the manuscript is illustrated.


Ch Bibliothèque du Musée Condé, Ms 724
Do Bibliothèque Municipale de Douai, Ms. 796
Du Private library, location unknown
G Universiteitsbibliotheek Ghent, MS 92
H1 Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB, 72 A 23
L Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden, VLF 31
P1 Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 8865
P2 Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 9675
W Herzog August Bibliothek Wolfenbüttel, Cod. Guelf. 1 Gud. lat.

There is also a French translation from 1512, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB, 128 C 4, with the title Livre fleurissant en fleurs.

Illustrations

All of the manuscripts are illustrated except for two: Bibliothèque Municipale de Douai, 796 and Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 9675. Some of the manuscripts are lavishly illustrated with elaborate diagrams and maps, with most images colored; only manuscript Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB, 128 C 4 has uncolored drawings. In the illustrated manuscripts only six animals have images: lion, griffin, dragon, crocodile, behemoth and leviathan. The lion image has a small animal, probably a pig, at its feet; the animal is not mentioned in the text and may be there to show how large the lion is. The astronomy section also has several animal images, all related to the constellations that are named after them. The quality of the illustrations varies considerably between manuscripts, with the fifteenth-century Bibliothèque du Musée Condé, Ms 724 manuscript having the most skilled artist.

Beasts

The text for the animal section is basically the same in all of the manuscripts. There are about 198 beast descripions squeezed into about 10 folios. Each beast has a brief description, most only one line, with a few longer. Some animals are repeated in a section that refers to the Physiologus; these descriptions are longer and usually have different text.

As in most encyclopedias, there are animals included that do not appear in bestiaries; many of these remain unidentified. The spelling of animal names varies across the Liber Floridus manuscripts, and is not always consistent within a manuscript.

There is some variation in the order the animals appear in the manuscripts. In Universiteitsbibliotheek Ghent, MS 92, the probable original manuscript, folio 58 has another full folio attached to its right edge; this folio is designated 58bis (or 58², the designation used here). The text on pages 58²r and 58²v is about beasts (the bird section begins on folio 58v and continues on 59r) so the attached folio was probably intended to extend folio 58r. This extra folio caused confusion as to the correct reading order of the manuscript, resulting in later copies having different orders. Here the reading order is assumed to be folio 58r, 58²r, 58²v, 58v, 59r. See the Beasts page for each manuscript for the animal order in that manuscript.


See also Encyclopedia.