Margarita philosophica

2013/12/12 § Leave a comment

Margarita philosophica

Gregor Reisch, Margarita philosophica

Published in 1496, Margarita philosophica (or Pearls of Wisdom) is an encyclopedia of knowledge, and continued to be used as a textbook until the seventeenth century.

Anders Piltz, a Swedish professor and Latinist comments on the illustration:

All scholarship starts with familiarity with grammar, shown here as a fine lady who in her right hand is showing a young schoolboy a tablet with the alphabet written on it. In her left hand she holds the key to the temple of knowledge. The ground floor is occupied with people doing grammar exercises in congruitas, the art of combining words in the right cases. At the very bottom sits Donatus, on the floor above him Priscian. The lowest floor of the tower is occupied by Aristotle with logic, Cicero with rhetoric (which includes poetry) and Boethius with mathematics. Above them is Pythagoras with music, Euclid with geometry, and Ptolemy with astronomy. The two figures on the next floor are Aristotle once again, but now with physics, and Seneca with ethics. At the top Peter Lombard sits in solitary state with his theology and his metaphysics. The study of the ultimate principles was called ‘metaphysics’, so long as it confined itself to areas covered by natural reason, and ‘theology’ when it assumed divine revelation.1


1 Anders Piltz, The World of Medieval Learning, translated by David Jones (Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes & Noble Books, 1981), 16.

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