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Cuvier’s History of the Natural Sciences

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Georges Cuvier

7. The Middle Age and Early Renaissance / Le Moyen age et la Pré-Renaissance

23. Albert the Great and Roger Bacon, Inventions and Discoveries

Texte intégral

THE INVENTION OF PRINTING. Printing process and press. From the Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert (volume 7, plate XIV, 1769).

  • 1 [Saint Albert the Great, Latin Albertus Magnus, byname Albert of Cologne, or Doctor Universalis (b (...)
  • 2 [Bolstein is an error for Holstein. The Counts of Holstein and Schauenburg were titles of the Holy (...)

1All the distinguished writers of the thirteenth century belonged to the mendicant orders, which should not surprise us since it was only in the monasteries that men who loved learning could peacefully devote themselves to it and have at hand all the facilities they needed. Often the head of a convent had at his disposal several hundred young monks working for him. It was thus that Albert the Great1 succeeded in composing twenty-two in-folio volumes. This writer, like the majority of the monks who distinguished themselves in this era, was descended from a noble and powerful family, that of the counts of Bolstein.2 He was born in 1193 in Swabia and studied at Padua, which possessed then a celebrated school, later a university. He came to Paris where he taught in 1218-1219 the philosophy of Aristotle, although it was forbidden to do so. His courses had a prodigious success, for several thousand students attended them, coming to the university of Paris from every part of Europe. Every convent received scholars sent to it by its communities in foreign countries. Since no hall was large enough to accommodate the crowd that pressed round Albert, his lectures were given outside in the square called Place Maubert, a contraction of Maître Aubert, the name by which the learned professor was known.

2In 1221, Albert entered the Order of Dominicans or Jacobins and was appointed provincial of the order at Cologne. Later, he was elevated at Rome to one of the most eminent functions in the papal court, the rank of master of the holy palace. The censorship of books throughout Christendom was then among the duties of this functionary. Albert was next named bishop of Ratisbon; he attended the Council of Lyon and returned to his convent where he died at the age of 87 in 1280.

3His mind was very subtle, and in this regard one can only compare him to the Arabian philosophers.

  • 3 [For Works of Albert the Great and the Small, see Petit (Albert), Secrets merveilleux de la magie (...)

4Remembrance of his wide knowledge is preserved in popular memory but disfigured by a host of superstitious traditions. We need hardly say that his written works have no connection with the ridiculous writings published under the title Works of Albert the Great and the Small.3

  • 4 [William, also called William of Holland, German Wilhelm von Holland (born 1228; died 28 January 1 (...)
  • 5 [Twelfth-Day dinner or Twelfth Night, the evening preceding Epiphany (from the Greek epiphaneia,(...)

5The stories retailed about him are proof only of his popularity. It is said, for example, that one time he invited William the count of Holland and king of the Romans4 to Twelfth-Day dinner,5 and changed winter into summer to welcome him; a display of flowers and fruit upon the table disappeared as soon as the meal was ended. It was also said in all seriousness that he constructed a head that answered any questions addressed to it; it even muttered to itself, to the point that Saint Thomas Aquinas, Albert’s pupil, annoyed by the babbling head, broke it.

  • 6 This last opinion was repeated by Monsieur Arago, but supported by arguments different from those (...)

6Virtually everything Albert wrote about physical science was taken from Aristotle, at least as regards general statements, and the little that is his own is of no value. However, he writes about rocks fallen from the sky and he brooks no doubt about the truth of this phenomenon. He asks what are the causes to which such an effect may be attributed, and reviews all the explanations that have since been offered as a reason: either it may be assumed that these rocks have been thrown up by volcanoes in eruption on the globe, or that they have been formed in the upper regions of the atmosphere, or even that they have fallen from the moon.6

7Albert’s writings on animals are also borrowed from Aristotle, as regards generalities. He adds information communicated by the Arabians, and information procured for Europeans on the animals of the North by the fur trade that was carried on with the peoples of Russia and Tartary through Germany. The Greeks and the Romans had not had occasion to participate in such commerce, their climates being too warm for them to need furs. Albert speaks of falconry, following the work of Frederick II, and he gives details that were new for the time on the fishes of the North Sea, in particular on whales and herring. He tells us that herrings were salted, which refutes the received opinion that salting dates only from the fourteenth century.

  • 7 [De Mineralibus et Rebus Metallicis or On minerals and metallic materials, see Albertus Magnus, De (...)

8Albert also published a book in five parts entitled De Mineralibus et Rebus Metallicis.7 He acquired his information on this subject principally from the works of the alchemists who preceded him.

  • 8 [Roger Bacon, byname Doctor Mirabilis (born c. 1220, Ilchester, Somerset, or Bisley, Gloucester, E (...)
  • 9 [Henry III (born 1 October 1207, Winchester, Hampshire, England; died 16 November 1272, London), k (...)
  • 10 [Edward I, byname Edward Longshanks (born 17 June 1239, Westminster, Middlesex, England; died 7 Ju (...)
  • 11 [Louis VIII, byname Louis the Lion, or the Lion-Heart (born 5 September 1187, Paris; died 8 Novemb (...)

9The most remarkable man of the thirteenth century is Roger Bacon,8 who was born in 1214 of an eminent family. He lived in England under Henry III9 and Edward I,10 and in France, where he attended Albertus Magnus’s lectures, under Louis VIII11 and Louis IX. In 1240, he became a Franciscan at Paris, and then became professor at Oxford.

10In the middle of a century that never dreamed of shaking off the yoke of authority, he alone arrived through the power of his intellect at the idea of basing science not upon authority but upon observation and the investigation of nature through experiment. Such an idea did not fail to give scandal: nevertheless, he found a way to get his students to adopt it and he inspired in them such conviction that they paid him more than 2,000 pounds sterling, the equal today of more than 100,000 francs, to help cover the costs of his experiments. It was not long before so original and bold a spirit attracted persecution: the general of the Cordeliers condemned him to life in prison on bread and water.

  • 12 [Pope Clement IV, original French name Gui Foulques, Italian Guido Fulcodi (born Saint-Gilles, Lan (...)
  • 13 [The Opus majus was an effort to persuade the pope of the urgent necessity and manifold utility of (...)
  • 14 [Nicholas IV, original name Girolamo Masci (born 30 September 1227, near Ascoli Piceno, Papal Stat (...)

11In 1266, Pope Clement IV12 had him released and even requested his written works. Bacon wrote his Opus majus13 for this pontiff, who died in 1268. That same year, the general of his order sent him back to prison. But this same general, when he himself became pope, under the name of Nicholas IV,14 set Bacon free again.

12This great man died in 1292 or 1294. The very monks who had persecuted him during his life gave him after death the title of doctor mirabilis, which he certainly deserved. However, they did not canonize him.

13At his death, Bacon left 50 or 60 works. Yet the Cordeliers avoided publishing them; they were so fearful that his works were tainted with magic or witchcraft that they kept them nailed shut at the top of their libraries so that no one would be able to read them. Some of these works still exist only in manuscript.

14The Opus majus, which was not printed until much later, is full of curious new things, but it is not exempt from the errors of the time. In spite of the genius of its author, it is still the work of a monk. Thus, if he uncovers the properties of convex lenses, the application that comes first to his mind is to make spectacles for facilitating the reading of the early Church Fathers. In his astronomical discoveries he sees only a means of arriving at the proper date for celebrating the movable feasts.

  • 15 [Pope Gregory or Gregory XIII, see Lesson 11, note 4.]

15But occasionally his independence, his impatience with the yoke of authority, carry him too far: he even says that if he were the master, he would burn the works of the ancients in order to force the men of his time to do their own work. Such words must be considered hyperbolic and that Bacon did not mean them literally. The delivery he made to Pope Clement IV of his book included a book of the instruments he had invented. He pursued one theory and then another to explain the properties of convex and concave lenses. He describes in an entirely new way the microscope, a convex lens to be used in observing small objects. Of course he also spoke of the telescope, even the reflecting telescope; he asserts that with such an instrument one can distinguish objects situated at great distances, and he even exaggerates the distances. The application he made of this instrument to observing the heavens led him to call for the reform of the calendar, which would be carried out under Pope Gregory15 in the sixteenth century. This fact alone suffices to show how far Bacon’s genius elevated him above his century. The scholar also writes in this work about the feasibility of propelling carriages or vessels by an interior mechanism to which the force of the wind is applied. Judging by what he wrote on this subject, we might think that he had had a presentiment of the great discovery of our own century, the application of steam to the means of transportation.

  • 16 [Bacon is the ascribed author of the alchemical manual Speculum Alchemiae, which was first publish (...)
  • 17 [Gideon, a judge and hero-liberator of Israel whose deeds are described in the Book of Judges. The (...)
  • 18 [Petard, a firework that explodes with a loud report.]

16In his treatise entitled Speculum Alchemiae,16 Bacon writes about gunpowder, both the composition and the properties of which he was most certainly familiar. He records that by properly employing a saltpeter mixture and enclosing it and setting fire to it in a confined space, one can produce astounding effects, both in the great masses it becomes possible to move, and in the noise produced thereby. By using this composition one would be able, he said, to bring down entire cities. He attempts to explain the story of Gideon17 terrifying the Midianites with earthen pitchers by claiming that the pitchers were burst by gunpowder. It is remarkable that in Bacon’s time the use of gunpowder was common; children would enclose it in parchment and then set fire to it. Hence, gunpowder was used for petards18 a century before anyone had the idea of using it in warfare.

  • 19 [Phlogiston, in early chemical theory, hypothetical principle of fire, of which every combustible (...)

17Bacon holds the same opinions about alchemy as do the Arabian authors. He believes that every metal is made up of a metallic principle and a sulphurous principle, the latter complicating and altering the former. The art of preparing metals consists in ridding them of the sulphurous principle. This theory is, of course, analogous to the phlogiston theory.19 Mercury is the correct remedy for metals; it purges them of their impurities in the same way that medicinal remedies cure the human body. If one succeeds in completely purging the metal, one obtains gold. Thus, Bacon was involved in the error of his century relative to the chimera of the transformation of metals. This illusion ought not to lessen the admiration due his genius, for he was the true founder of experimental physical science, and if the human spirit did not immediately follow the path he laid down, it was because he was too far ahead of his time; moreover, the turmoils that were vexing the several states of Europe in the fourteenth century halted the progress of the sciences.

  • 20 [De mirabili potestate artis et naturae or Treatise on the forces of nature and the nullity of mag (...)

18The most voluminous of Bacon’s writings is the Treatise on the forces of nature and the nullity of magic.20 Living in a century when many phenomena were being explained by magic, he thought rightly that it would be useful to show that most effects attributed to a supernatural power were but the result of the laws of nature, some of which were not yet known.

  • 21 [Berthold der Schwarze, also called Berthold Schwarz (fl. fourteenth century), German monk and alc (...)

19Gunpowder, which, as I said earlier, was mentioned by Bacon, and which was putatively discovered by a German monk named Berthold Swartz,21 contributed to the revival of the sciences only in that it gave to centralized power the means of ending feudal anarchy. Other inventions had a more direct influence upon the progress of the human spirit. The first of these is rag paper: heretofore, papyrus or parchment was used for writing: but the former had ceased to be imported into Europe since the beginning of the Middle Ages, and the latter was excessively high in price. The high price of parchment brought about a deplorable abuse; in some convents, the monks took to scraping ancient manuscripts and using the parchment for copying missals. Many precious works were completely destroyed in this way.

  • 22 [Abel-François Villemain (born 9 June 1790, Paris; died 8 May 1870, Paris), French politician and (...)

20In recent times, we have succeeded in recovering from certain manuscripts of antiquity the original characters erased by the monks, and we are able once again to read in its entirety Cicero’s essay on the Republic, which Monsieur Villemain22 has translated.

21The oldest manuscript written on hemp-content paper that we possess is from 1318. But before that time, there was paper made from cotton, which was introduced into Europe after the travels of Marco Polo.

  • 23 [Johannes Gutenberg, in full Johann Gensfleisch Zur Laden Zum Gutenberg (born the last decade of t (...)

22The printing press dates only from the beginning of the fifteenth century; however, as early as the mid-twelfth, we knew how to print wood engravings, along with a few lines of writing. There exists an engraving made at Haarlem in 1441 with a rather extensive caption around it. On this engraving the city of Haarlem bases its claim of inventing the printing press. But a simple engraving of writing, made with immovable letters, does not constitute the inventing of the printing press. It is movable characters that constitutes such an invention, the most important invention of any for the progress of science and letters. Now, the idea of movable characters belongs to Johannes Gutenberg,23 born at Mainz in 1400, and is found recorded in a contract concluded with a merchant at Strasbourg for the joint use of several inventions. Mentioned in this contract is the printing press with wooden, movable type.

  • 24 [Johann Fust (born c. 1400, Mainz, Germany; died 30 October 1466, Paris, France), early German pri (...)
  • 25 [Peter Schöffer (born 1425?, Gernsheim, Hesse; died 1502, Mainz), German printer who assisted Joha (...)

23The same Gutenberg entered into a partnership in 1443 with a wealthy goldsmith named Johann Fust.24 Together they printed a bible by means of movable metal type. Fust then went into partnership with a certain Schöffer,25 who invented in 1445 the letter-punch with which the matrix was formed for casting the metal characters. The invention of printing was thus complete; the means was found of delivering to the public a book for a hundredth part of the price at which manuscripts were sold. Fust was so delighted with Schöffer’s invention that he gave the worker his daughter in marriage.

24The invention of the printing press was quick to achieve perfection. The editions of the fifteenth century are already quite acceptable. Fust and Schöffer brought to Paris in 1466 several examples of the works they had printed; they kept their discovery a secret and sold their books as works by hand. When it was noticed that the books all looked alike, it was thought that they were the product of sorcery. But the decrease in the price of books effected by the printing press made it possible to copy books in a short time and in unprecedented numbers.

25The fall of Constantinople to the Turks spread abroad in the West the manuscripts remaining of the ancient authors just when the invention of printing allowed ease in multiplying copies at a moderate price.

  • 26 [Petrarch, Italian in full Francesco Petrarca (born 20 July 1304, Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy; died 18/ (...)
  • 27 [Giovanni Boccaccio (born 1313, Paris; died 21 December 1375, Certaldo, Tuscany, Italy), Italian p (...)

26The Greek Empire, dismembered by the caliphs’ conquests, succumbed at the same time, in 1452, to the even more vigorous attacks by the Turks. These peoples were quite different from the Saracens who invaded part of the Eastern Empire. The Turks had no love of letters, poetry, or the sciences; they arrived with all the barbarity of the most complete ignorance. Hence, all men who studied the sciences fled Constantinople for the West with their books, which they copied and translated for their livelihood. It is to these that the West owes its knowledge of the ancients, for what had remained of ancient learning in the West amounted to very little. The feeble efforts of Petrarch26 and Boccaccio27 at the beginning of the fourteenth century to procure such knowledge had only served to prove its rarity, to render more valuable the remains of antiquity, and to cause more care to be exercised in preserving what remained. Nevertheless, in the short interval before the Renaissance began, works were still disappearing. Petrarch possessed Cicero’s essay on the Republic and the one on Fame: the former was, as I mentioned, found on a parchment; the latter is probably lost forever.

27Thus, it was from Constantinople that nearly all manuscripts came. The Greeks themselves exercised a good influence on the spirit of the West; for the East, although given over to the most puerile theological disputes, had always preserved the love of literature. It exists there today, at least in the upper social classes.

28Copperplate engraving, so indispensable to the progress of natural history, dates from about the same time as the printing press, the former preceding the latter by only a few years.

29Copper plates are the invention of the goldsmiths. They engraved on urns figures of incised lines, which they made visible by filling the lines with a blackish metallic amalgam. It appears that some goldsmiths got the notion of making prints from these figures, which were called nigella, in French nielle [niello]. In the method of engraving on copper, the cultivation and propagation of the sciences had a very present, material help. By then, alcohol and clear glass were the means of preserving natural history objects: the microscope made it possible to extend the domain of science to objects invisible to the naked eye; engraving could reproduce with fidelity the shapes and colors of objects, and printing procured indefinite duration for all the products of man’s intelligence.

  • 28 [Roman de la Rose (“Romance of the Rose”), one of the most popular French poems of the later Middl (...)

30Also, it was in the fifteenth century, so rich in discoveries and inventions, that we began to make use of the compass. The Chinese had knowledge of this instrument more than a thousand years before Christ, and it appears that this knowledge was introduced into the West in the twelfth or thirteenth century, or, at least it would seem so, according to a passage in the Roman de la Rose,28 unless the passage was interpolated. But it is certain that the compass was not applied to navigation until the fifteenth century; sea voyages made prodigious progress then, when a means of identifying the cardinal points of the horizon became assured.

31The Portuguese were the first to make geographic discoveries; they sailed along the coast of Africa, and, continuing their explorations from 1400 to 1500, they sailed farther and farther, made a considerable number of geographic discoveries, and found the sea route to India.

  • 29 [Christopher Columbus, master mariner and navigator (born about August/October 1451, Genoa, Italy; (...)

32But in that length of time, a greater discovery had been made: Christopher Columbus29 had reached land in America. Starting with information based on the knowledge at this time of the spherical shape of the earth, and combining that with the ideas Marco Polo had expressed about the size of India and China, which he believed to be much greater than they really are, this great man Christopher Columbus resolved to go directly to India and China by sailing west. According to calculations based upon Marco Polo’s travel narrative, a few days of smooth sailing should suffice for this great voyage. Columbus was so taken up with this idea that when he reached the island of Santo Domingo, he had no doubt that he was in the country of Japan mentioned by Marco Polo.

33One can imagine what an influence the contact established with America must have had on the activity of the human spirit at this moment when the sciences had just acquired so many new methods of observation.

34Everything was new in America: the plants, the animals, even the zones of the globe [?]. Speculators and scholars were vying with one another in this new theater. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw the completion of the discovery of America and the creation of a new body of science.

35This discovery dates from 1492. Perhaps it was better for the progress of humanity that it did not take place sooner. If the discovery of the New World had not been preceded by a return to classical Greek and Roman literature, if the new information that it brought to Europe had arrived at a time when the human spirit was chained to the yoke of authority, perhaps the call to observation would have been abandoned for the call to quibbling.

36But at the end of the fifteenth century, the mind of man was near to being emancipated by the Reformation. England, Holland, half of Germany, and most of Switzerland and Hungary had already withdrawn from papal authority; all Russia confessed the Greek religion. Of course this struggle of religious beliefs produced wars and countless calamities, but mankind gained thereby the freedom of thought.

Notes

1 [Saint Albert the Great, Latin Albertus Magnus, byname Albert of Cologne, or Doctor Universalis (born c. 1200, Lauingen an der Donau, Swabia, Germany; died 15 November 1280, Cologne; canonized 16 December 1931; feast day 15 November), Dominican bishop and philosopher best known as a teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas and as a proponent of Aristotelianism at the University of Paris. He established the study of nature as a legitimate science within the Christian tradition. By papal decree in 1941, he was declared the patron saint of all who cultivate the natural sciences. He was the most prolific writer of his century and was the only scholar of his age to be called “the Great”; this title was used even before his death.]

2 [Bolstein is an error for Holstein. The Counts of Holstein and Schauenburg were titles of the Holy Roman Empire. The dynastic family came from Schauenburg near Rinteln (district Schaumburg) on the Weser in Germany. Together with its ancestral possessions in Bückeburg and Stadthagen, the family of Schauenburg ruled the County of Schauenburg and Holstein (in today’s German Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein).]

3 [For Works of Albert the Great and the Small, see Petit (Albert), Secrets merveilleux de la magie naturelle & cabalistique du Petit Albert, traduite exactement sur l’original Latin, intitulé Alberti Parvi Lucii Libellus de mirabilibus naturae arcanis; enrichi de figures mistérieuses & de la maniére de les faire, Lyon: Héritiers de Beringos Fratres, 1743, 240 p.; Le Grand et Le Petit Albert. Les Secrets de la Magie Naturelle et Cabalistique [foreword by Husson Bernard], Paris: Éditions Pierre Belfond, 1970, 271 p.]

4 [William, also called William of Holland, German Wilhelm von Holland (born 1228; died 28 January 1256, near Hoogwoude, Holland), German king from 3 October 1247, elected by the papal party in Germany as antiking in opposition to Conrad IV (born 25 April 1228, died 21 May 1254) and subsequently gaining general recognition. As William II he was also count of Holland, succeeding his father, Count Floris IV, in 1234.]

5 [Twelfth-Day dinner or Twelfth Night, the evening preceding Epiphany (from the Greek epiphaneia, “manifestation”), a festival celebrated on 6 January; one of the three principal and oldest festival days of the Christian Church (including Easter and Christmas). It commemorates the first manifestation of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, and the manifestation of his divinity, as it occurred at his Baptism in the Jordan River and at his first miracle at Cana in Galilee.]

6 This last opinion was repeated by Monsieur Arago, but supported by arguments different from those of Albertus Magnus. It is now abandoned. [M. de St.-Agy.] [Arago is François Arago, in full, Dominique-François-Jean Arago (born 26 February 1786, Estagel, Roussillon, France; died 2 October 1853, Paris), French physicist who discovered the principle of the production of magnetism by rotation of a nonmagnetic conductor. He also devised an experiment that proved the wave theory of light and engaged with others in research that led to the discovery of the laws of light polarization.]

7 [De Mineralibus et Rebus Metallicis or On minerals and metallic materials, see Albertus Magnus, De Mineralibus et Rebus Metallicis, Coloniae: Apud I. Birckmannum & T. Baumium, 1569, 391 + [11] p.]

8 [Roger Bacon, byname Doctor Mirabilis (born c. 1220, Ilchester, Somerset, or Bisley, Gloucester, England; died 1292, Oxford?), English Franciscan philosopher and educational reformer who was a major medieval proponent of experimental science. Bacon studied mathematics, astronomy, optics, alchemy, and languages. He was the first European to describe in detail the process of making gunpowder, and he proposed flying machines and motorized ships and carriages. Bacon (as he himself complacently remarked) displayed a prodigious energy and zeal in the pursuit of experimental science; indeed, his studies were talked about everywhere and eventually won him a place in popular literature as a kind of wonder worker. Bacon therefore represents a historically precocious expression of the empirical spirit of experimental science, even though his actual practice of it seems to have been exaggerated.]

9 [Henry III (born 1 October 1207, Winchester, Hampshire, England; died 16 November 1272, London), king of England from 1216 to 1272. In the 24 years (1234-1258) during which he had effective control of the government, he displayed such indifference to tradition that the barons finally forced him to agree to a series of major reforms, the Provisions of Oxford (1258).]

10 [Edward I, byname Edward Longshanks (born 17 June 1239, Westminster, Middlesex, England; died 7 July 1307, Burgh by Sands, near Carlisle, Cumberland), son of Henry III and king of England in 1272-1307, during a period of rising national consciousness. He strengthened the crown and Parliament against the old feudal nobility. He subdued Wales, destroying its autonomy; and he sought (unsuccessfully) the conquest of Scotland. His reign is particularly noted for administrative efficiency and legal reform. He introduced a series of statutes that did much to strengthen the crown in the feudal hierarchy. His definition and emendation of English common law has earned him the name of the “English Justinian.”]

11 [Louis VIII, byname Louis the Lion, or the Lion-Heart (born 5 September 1187, Paris; died 8 November 1226, Montpensier, Auvergne, France), Capetian king of France from 1223 who spent most of his short reign establishing royal power in Poitou and Languedoc.]

12 [Pope Clement IV, original French name Gui Foulques, Italian Guido Fulcodi (born Saint-Gilles, Languedoc; died 29 November 1268, Viterbo, Papal States), pope from 1265 to 1268. An eminent jurist serving King St. Louis IX of France, Guido was ordained priest when his wife died c. 1256. He subsequently became bishop of Le Puy in 1257, archbishop of Narbonne in 1259, and cardinal in 1261. While on a diplomatic mission to England, he was elected pope in absentia on 5 February 1265, and consecrated 10 days later.]

13 [The Opus majus was an effort to persuade the pope of the urgent necessity and manifold utility of the reforms that he proposed. But the death of Clement in 1268 extinguished Bacon’s dreams of gaining for the sciences their rightful place in the curriculum of university studies.]

14 [Nicholas IV, original name Girolamo Masci (born 30 September 1227, near Ascoli Piceno, Papal States; died 4 April 1292, Rome), pope from 1288 to 1292, the first Franciscan pontiff. He joined the Franciscans when young and became their minister for Dalmatia. In 1272 Pope Gregory X sent him to Constantinople, where he took part in effecting a brief reunion with the Greeks. From 1274 to 1279 he was minister general of the Franciscans, and in 1281 Pope Martin IV made him cardinal bishop of Palestrina, Italy. He was elected on 22 February 1288 to succeed Pope Honorius IV, after the papacy had been vacant for almost 11 months.]

15 [Pope Gregory or Gregory XIII, see Lesson 11, note 4.]

16 [Bacon is the ascribed author of the alchemical manual Speculum Alchemiae, which was first published in Latin in 1541; translated into French as Le Miroir d’Alquimie in 1557, and into English as The Mirror of Alchimy in 1597 (see Bacon (Roger), Le miroir d’alquimie. Traduict de Latin en François, par un gentilhomme du D’aulphiné [i. e. Nicolas Barnaud], Lyon: Macé Bonhomme, 1557, 4 pts. in 1 vol.; The mirror of alchimy [composed by the thrice-famous and learned fryer, Roger Bachon, sometimes fellow of Martin Colledge: and afterwards of Brasen-nose Colledge in Oxenforde. Also a most excellent and learned discourse of the admirable force and efficacie of art and nature, written by the same author. With certaine other treatises of the like argument], London: Printed [by Thomas Creede] for Richard Olive, 1597, 84 p.; see also The mirror of alchimy [composed by the thrice-famous and learned fryer, Roger Bachon, edited by Linden Stanton J.], New York: Garland Pub., 1992, lviii + 144 p.)]

17 [Gideon, a judge and hero-liberator of Israel whose deeds are described in the Book of Judges. The author apparently juxtaposed two traditional accounts from his sources in order to emphasize Israel’s monotheism and its duty to destroy idolatry. Accordingly, in one account Gideon led his clansmen of the tribe of Manasseh in slaying the Midianites, a horde of desert raiders; but, influenced by the cult of his adversaries, he fashioned an idolatrous image from the booty and induced Israel into immorality. In the parallel version he replaced the idol and altar of the local deity Baal with the worship of Yahweh, the God of Israel, who consequently inspired Gideon and his clan to destroy the Midianites and their chiefs as a sign of Yahweh’s supremacy over Baal. The story is also important for showing the development of a monarchy in Israel under Gideon’s son Abimelech.]

18 [Petard, a firework that explodes with a loud report.]

19 [Phlogiston, in early chemical theory, hypothetical principle of fire, of which every combustible substance was in part composed. In this view, the phenomenon of burning, now called oxidation, was caused by the liberation of phlogiston, with the dephlogisticated substance left as an ash or residue. The phlogiston theory was discredited by Antoine Lavoisier (born 25 August 1743, died 8 May 1794 by guillotine) between 1770 and 1790. He studied the gain or loss of weight when tin, lead, phosphorus, and sulfur underwent reactions of oxidation or reduction (deoxidation); and he showed that the newly discovered element oxygen was always involved. Although a number of chemists –notably Joseph Priestley (born 13 March 1733, died 6 February 1804), one of the discoverers of oxygen– tried to retain some form of the phlogiston theory, by 1800 practically every chemist recognized the correctness of Lavoisier’s oxygen theory.]

20 [De mirabili potestate artis et naturae or Treatise on the forces of nature and the nullity of magic; see Bacon (Roger), Frier Bacon his discovery of the miracles of art, nature, and magick faithfully translated out of Dr. Dees own copy by T. M. and never before in English, London: Printed for Simon Miller, 1659, [12] + 51 + [7] p.; Roger Bacon’s letter concerning the marvelous power of art and of nature and concerning the nullity of magic [translated from the Latin by Tenney L. Davis, together with notes and an account of Bacon’s life and work], Easton (Pennsylvania): Chemical Pub. Co., 1923, 76 p.]

21 [Berthold der Schwarze, also called Berthold Schwarz (fl. fourteenth century), German monk and alchemist who, probably among others, discovered gunpowder (c. 1313). The only evidence consists of entries of dubious authenticity in the town records of Ghent (now in Belgium). Little is known of his life, though he appears to have been a cathedral canon in Konstanz about 1300 and a teacher at the University of Paris during the 1330s. He is sometimes credited with being the first European to cast bronze cannon.]

22 [Abel-François Villemain (born 9 June 1790, Paris; died 8 May 1870, Paris), French politician and writer. Educated at the Lycée Louis-le-Grand, he became assistant master at the Lycée Charlemagne, and subsequently at the École Normale. In 1812 he gained a prize from the Academy with an essay on Michel de Montaigne. Under the restoration he was appointed, first, assistant professor of modern history, and then professor of French eloquence at the Sorbonne. Here he delivered a series of literary lectures which had an extraordinary effect on his younger contemporaries. His edition of Cicero’s Republic was published in 1823.]

23 [Johannes Gutenberg, in full Johann Gensfleisch Zur Laden Zum Gutenberg (born the last decade of the fourteenth century, Mainz, Germany; died probably 3 February 1468, Mainz), German craftsman and inventor who originated a method of printing from movable type that was used without important change until the twentieth century. The unique elements of his invention consisted of a mold, with punch-stamped matrices (metal prisms used to mold the face of the type) with which type could be cast precisely and in large quantities; a type-metal alloy; a new press, derived from those used in wine making, papermaking, and bookbinding; and an oil-based printing ink. None of these features existed in Chinese or Korean printing, or in the existing European technique of stamping letters on various surfaces, or in woodblock printing.]

24 [Johann Fust (born c. 1400, Mainz, Germany; died 30 October 1466, Paris, France), early German printer, financial backer of Johannes Gutenberg (the inventor of printing in Europe), and founder, with Peter Schöffer, of the first commercially successful printing firm. A prominent goldsmith, Fust lent Gutenberg 800 guilders in 1450 to perfect his movable-type printing process. An additional 800 guilders was lent about two years later. Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible and his 1457 Psalter were almost finished, but Fust sued in 1455 for 2,026 guilders to recover his money with interest. The court found in Fust’s favor, and Gutenberg lost his invention and equipment.]

25 [Peter Schöffer (born 1425?, Gernsheim, Hesse; died 1502, Mainz), German printer who assisted Johannes Gutenberg and later opened his own printing shop. Schöffer studied in Paris, where he supported himself as a copyist, and then became an apprentice to Gutenberg in Mainz. He entered the printing business as the partner of Gutenberg’s creditor, Johann Fust, whose daughter he later married. The best-surviving examples of his craftsmanship are the 1457 Mainz Psalter and the 1462 48-line Bible. The Psalter was the first printed book to give the date and place of printing and the printers’ names. Schöffer cast the first metallic type in matrices and used it for the second edition of the Vulgate Bible. By the time of his death he had printed more than 300 books.]

26 [Petrarch, Italian in full Francesco Petrarca (born 20 July 1304, Arezzo, Tuscany, Italy; died 18/19 July 1374, Arquà, near Padua, Carrara), Italian scholar, poet, and Humanist whose poems addressed to Laura, an idealized beloved, contributed to the Renaissance flowering of lyric poetry. Petrarch’s inquiring mind and love of classical authors led him to travel, visiting men of learning and searching monastic libraries for classical manuscripts. He was regarded as the greatest scholar of his age.]

27 [Giovanni Boccaccio (born 1313, Paris; died 21 December 1375, Certaldo, Tuscany, Italy), Italian poet and scholar, best remembered as the author of the earthy tales in the Decameron (see Boccaccio (Giovanni), Decameron [transl. by Payne John, revised and annotated by Singleton Charles Southward], Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982, 3 vols, xx + 948 p.) With Petrarch he laid the foundations for the humanism of the Renaissance and raised vernacular literature to the level and status of the classics of antiquity.]

28 [Roman de la Rose (“Romance of the Rose”), one of the most popular French poems of the later Middle Ages (see Lorris (Guillaume de) & Meun (Jean de), Le Roman de la Rose [transl. in modern French by Lanly André], Paris: Honoré Champion, 1971-1976, 5 vols). Modeled on Ovid’s Ars amatoria (c. 1 B. C.; Art of Love; see Ovid, Ars Amatoria Book 3 [edited with introduction and commentary by Gibson Roy K.], Cambridge (UK); New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003, x + 446 p.), the poem is composed of more than 21,000 lines of octosyllabic couplets and survives in more than 300 manuscripts. Nothing is known of the author of the first 4,058 lines except his name, Guillaume de Lorris (a village near Orléans). This section, which was written about 1230, is a charming dream allegory of the wooing of a maiden, symbolized by a rosebud, within the bounds of a garden, representing courtly society.]

29 [Christopher Columbus, master mariner and navigator (born about August/October 1451, Genoa, Italy; died 20 May 1506, Valladolid, Spain), the eldest son of Domenico Colombo, a Genoese wool worker and small-time merchant, and Susanna Fontanarossa, his wife. Columbus is widely thought to have been the first European to sail across the Atlantic Ocean and make landfall on the American continent. He made four voyages across the Atlantic under the sponsorship of Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs of Aragon, Castile, and Leon in Spain. On the first and second voyages (3 August 1492-15 March 1493, and 25 September 1493-11 June 1496) Columbus sighted the majority of the islands of the Caribbean and established a base in Hispaniola (now divided into Haiti and the Dominican Republic). On the third voyage (30 May 1498-October 1500) he reached Trinidad and Venezuela and the Orinoco River delta. On the fourth (9 May 1502-7 November 1504) he returned to South America and sailed from Cape Honduras to the Mosquito Coast of Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Veragua, and Panama. Although at first full of hope and ambition, an ambition partly gratified by his title “Admiral of the Ocean Sea,” awarded to him in April 1492, and by the grants enrolled in the Book of Privileges (a record of his titles and claims), Columbus died a disappointed man. He was removed from the governorship of Hispaniola in 1499, his chief patron, Queen Isabella, died in 1504, and his efforts to recover his governorship of the “Indies” from King Ferdinand were, in the end, unavailing. In 1542, however, the bones of Columbus were taken from Spain to the Cathedral of Santo Domingo in Hispaniola (now the Dominican Republic), where they may still lie.]

Table des illustrations

Légende THE INVENTION OF PRINTING. Printing process and press. From the Encyclopedia of Diderot & d’Alembert (volume 7, plate XIV, 1769).
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