Skip to main contentAccessibility feedback

Bartholomaeus Anglicus

Franciscan encyclopedist

Click to enlarge

Bartholomaeus Anglicus, Franciscan encyclopedist of the thirteenth century. An Englishman by birth he had been professor of theology at the University of Paris, when, in 1224 or 1225, he entered the newly established Order of St. Francis in company with his countryman and fellow-professor of theology, Haymo of Faversham, and two other professors of the same faculty. He continued his lectures in the claustral school till 1231, when he was sent to Magdeburg in Germany. He was succeeded by his illustrious countryman Alexander of Hales (q.v.) who, by being a member of the university, raised the private school of the Franciscans to the dignity of a school of the university. The date of Bartholornaeus’s death is unknown. He was formerly identified with a later Franciscan and Englishman, Bartholomus of Clan-villa, or Glaunvilla, who died about 1360, and to him the famous work “De proprietatibus rerum” was ascribed. Recent researches place beyond doubt that the two men must be distinguished and that the authorship of the work in question must be attributed to the Magdeburg professor of 1231.

“De proprietatibus rerum” is an encyclopedia of all the sciences of that time: theology, philosophy, medicine, astronomy, chronology, zoology, botany, geography, mineralogy, are the subjects treated in the nineteen books of this work. We have in it the first important encyclopedia of the Middle Ages and the first in which the works of Greek, Arabian, and Jewish naturalists and medical writers, which had been translated into Latin shortly before, were laid under contribution. Aristotle, Hippocrates, Theophrastus, the Jew Isaac Medicus, the Arabian Haly, and other celebrities are quoted. To Bartholomaeus must be given that honor which has been accorded until recently to the Dominican, Vincent of Beauvais, whose work exceeds by ten times the 400-page folio volume of Bartholomaeus. Like the later “Speculum universale” of Vincent, the “De proprie tatibus rerum” enjoyed unbounded popularity. Witness to this are the many manuscripts and editions. There is hardly a large library in Europe which has not manuscript copies of it, the National Library at Paris possessing as many as eighteen. Very many editions appeared in print, at least four-teen before the year 1500, and one as late as 1601 at Frankfort. By being translated and thus made accessible to the laity, the encyclopedia of Bartholominus exercised a greater influence on medieval thought than that of Vincent. Of the latter’s work only the “Speculum historiale” was translated, but Bartholomaeus’s work went through eight editions in French, two in Belgian, one in English, and one in Spanish prior to 1500. The work of Bartholomaeus, though not fulfilling modern requirements of natural sciences, remains a valuable source of information to the student of medieval times.


Did you like this content? Please help keep us ad-free
Enjoying this content?  Please support our mission!