Gervase of Tilbury (TILBERIENSIS), medieval writer, b. probably at Tilbury, in the County of Essex, England, about 1150; d. at Arlington, about 1220. He is supposed to have been related to English royalty. During his youth he entered the service of Henry of Guienne, later he traveled in many parts of Europe, for a time studied canon law at Bologna, where for a brief period he also taught, and was afterwards at the court of King William II of Sicily till 1189. Upon the death of King William he settled permanently in Arles and was appointed Marshal of the Kingdom of Arles in 1198 by King Otto IV; in virtue of this office he accompanied the king to Rome in 1209 on the occasion of his coronation as emperor. During the years 1210-1214 he composed the “Otia imperialia” for the instruction and entertainment of the emperor, who was excommunicated by the pope in the latter part of 1210, and in 1214, after his defeat at the battle of Bouvines, was forced to retire to the principality of Brunswick. This work was also entitled “Liber de mirabilibus mundi”, “Solatia imperatoris”, and “Descriptio totius orbis”. It was divided into three parts, and contained all facts then known concerning history, geography, and physics. During the Middle Ages it was much read and was twice translated into French in the fourteenth century. Opinions differ in modern times concerning its value. Leibniz calls it a “bagful of foolish old womens tales”; while by others it is considered very important since in it this medieval teacher of jurisprudence recognizes the correctness of papal claims in the conflict between Church and Empire.
Leibniz edited it (1744) in his “Scriptores rerum Brunsvicensium” (I, 881-1004) with variants from four Parisian manuscripts and a supplement (II, 751-784). Its account of the Frankish and English kings is included by Duchesne in his “Historic Francorum scriptores coaetanei” (I, 19; III, 363-74). Mader edited the same portion in his “De Imperio Romano et Gothorum, Langobardorum, Brittonum, Francorum Anglorumque regnis commentatio” (Helmstadt, 1673). Liebrecht edited a number of geographical and physical excerpts from it (Hanover, 1856). The references to Virgil were published by Spatzier [Altenglische Marchen (Brunswick, 1830), I, 89-92]. Many of the writings of Gervase have perished. He was formerly reputed to be the author of the “Antiquus dialogus de scaccario”, but many critics now ascribe the work to another writer.