First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Alexander of Hales, an incontrovertible and distinguished teacher, was at this time illustrious for his skill and learning. And by virtue of his intelligence and at the request of Pope Innocent he compiled a summary of the Holy Scriptures. He wrote many good and valiant things, and an exposition of the Old and New Testament; for these reasons he earned for himself the epithet the Spring of Life. Because of his divine wisdom, and the exceptional devotion and contemplation that he exhibited toward the most Blessed Virgin, he adopted the habit of the brothers of Saint Francis in his declining days. He gave assurance that if anyone, in the Virgin’s name, asked for anything possible to grant, he would fulfill it. A brother (sc. of the Order of St. Francis), carrying a bag for the collection of alms in the city, met him; and to Alexander he said; Inasmuch as you have served the world with renown for a long time, and our Order has no master, I pray you, for the sake of God and the Virgin Mother, and for the benefit of your soul and the honor of our Order, to adopt the habit of our Order. He answered, I will follow you at once and do as you desire. And thus he retired from the world and entered the order.[Alexander of Hales, known as Doctor Irrefragabilis (the Unanswerable Doctor) was one of the first English scholars and theologians to make his influence felt in Paris. Born about 1175 in Gloucestershire, he went to Paris to study, and there became a master of arts sometime before 1210. About 1231 he entered the Friars Minor, and after his appointment as the first magister regens of the chair of theology held by his order in the university became celebrated as a teacher. John of Rochelle, Bonaventura and probably Roger Bacon were among his pupils. He died in 1245. Bacon tells us that Alexander’s weighed more than a horse and was not entirely of his own composition. The latter statement is well substantiated. However, we know that he attempted to correlate the predominating Augustinianism of his day with the newly introduced philosophy of Aristotle and the Arabians. HE admits the plurality of forms, the independence of body and soul, the existence of an intelligible matter or potency in all spiritual creatures, and the Augustinian theory of Divine Illumination in knowledge. Alexander’s was extensively utilized by Albert the Great, Saint Thomas and Saint Bonaventura.]

Guido Bonatti (Bonatus), an astronomer, was at this time so well informed in his art and the practice of it, that nothing was unknown to him.[Guido Bonatti (date of birth unknown; date of death sometime between 1296-1300) was a famous Italian astronomer and astrologer. An advisor of powerful men of the 13th century (e.g., Frederick II, Ezzelino da Romano III, Guido Novello da Polenta, Guido I da Montefeltro), he also served the governments of Florence, Siena and Forli. His influential book (‘Book of Astrology’) was written around 1277. Dante places him in hell as punishment for his astrology.]

Martinus Scotus of the Cistercian Order, a great teacher, and a man who lived an extraordinary life, was at this time held in great esteem at Rome. He wrote a short history, named Martiniana, after himself. But the Preaching Order gives credit for this work to another Martinus, a bishop of their Order.[Martinus Scotus (‘Martin the Scotsman’) is unknown to the current editor.]

Alexander of Villa-Dei, teacher of the Holy Scriptures, a Benedictine (though some say a Franciscan) at this time wrote a book very useful to students. He divided it into three parts, and it begins with the words Scribere clericulis, etc.[Alexander of Villa-Dei (French Villedieu) was a French author and mathematician born around 1175 in Villedieu-les-Poêles in Normandy. He was a Franciscan (not a Benedictine) and a writer of educational works, including the (‘Instruction for Children’), a versified grammar that became a standard text in the Late Middle Ages, and the (‘Poem on Algorithm’), on arithmetic, which was also widely used in the 13th-15th centuries. He taught at the University of Paris, and died in 1240.]

Vincent of France, a native of Burgundy, historian, master of the Holy Scriptures, and a brother of the Preaching Order, was also illustrious at this time. He wrote countless histories and many excellent works on diverse subjects.

Vincent of Beauvais (in Latin Vincentius Bellovacensis; c. 1190 – c. 1264) wrote the most famous encyclopedia of the Middle Ages. The date of his birth as well as of his death is uncertain, and very little is know of his career. He at one time held the post of “reader” at the monastery of Royaumont (Mons Regalis), not far form Paris.

The Speculum Maius (‘The Great Mirror’), the great compendium of all the knowledge of the Middle Ages, as it left the pen of Vincent, seems to have consisted of three parts: (1) Speculum Naturale (‘Mirror of Nature’) divided into 32 books and 3,718 chapters, a vast summary of all the natural history known to western Europe toward the middle of the 13th century; (2) Speculum Doctrinale (‘Mirror of Instruction’) in 17 books and 2,374 chapters, a summary of all the scholastic knowledge of the age, being intended as a practical manual for the student and official alike; and, to fulfill this object, it treats of the mechanical arts of life as well as the subtleties of the scholar, the duties of the prince and the tactics of the general. It also treats of mathematics, under which head are included music, geometry, astronomy, astrology, weights, and measures, and metaphysics. It is noteworthy that in this book Vincent shows a knowledge of the Arabic numerals, though he does not call them by this name. The last book of the 17 treats of theology or mythology, and concludes with an account of the Holy Scriptures and of the Fathers down to Bernard of Clairvaux, and the brethren of Saint Victor. (3) Speculum Historiale (‘Mirror of History’) is an expansion of the last book of the previous volume, and consists of 31 books divided into 3,793 chapters. It brings history down from the Creation to the Crusade of Saint Louis. Four of the medieval historians from whom the author most frequently quotes are Sigebert of Gembloux, Hugh of Fleury, Helinand of Froidmont, and William of Malmesbury.

Vincent can hardly be reckoned an original writer, but is deserving of high praise for his immense industry in collecting, classifying, and arranging these three huge volumes of 80 books and 9,885 chapters. The undertaking to combine all human knowledge into a single whole was in itself a colossal one. Indeed, more than six centuries passed before the idea was again resuscitated; and, even then, it required a group of brilliant Frenchmen to do what the old Dominican did unaided. All the printed editions of Vincent consist of four parts, the additional one being Speculum Morale, clearly the production of a later hand.

The Florentines, after the death of Emperor Frederick, who had so greatly oppressed them, again obtained their freedom, bringing home the Guelphs whom he had driven out; and they re-established themselves in their proper status and mode of life under a commendable government.

Dissension and war occurred at this time between the Venetians and Genoese concerning a cloister in Asia, to the great detriment and injury of both cities and all Christians as a whole.

Michael Palaeologus, a Greek and friend of Emperor Theodore, drove the French and Venetians out of Greece, and killed the said two sons, who had been under his guardianship, and usurped the sovereignty. He reigned 45 years. And thus ended the Roman Empire in Greece, and the Greeks commenced to rule. The Greek sovereignty continued for 196 years until the Year of the Lord 1454.[Michael VII, Palaeologus (1234 – 1281), was the great grandson of Alexius Angels, emperor of Constantinople. He rose to distinction at an early age, and ultimately became commander of the French mercenaries in the employ of the emperors of Nicaea. A few days after the death of Theodore Lascaris II in 1259, Michael, by the assassination of Muzalon, became guardian of the young emperor John Lascaris. Afterward invested with the title of “despot,” he was finally proclaimed joint emperor and crowned alone at Nicaea in 1260. In 1261, Michael conquered Constantinople, and blinded and banished John Lascaris. For this last act he was excommunicated by Arsenius, and the ban was not removed until the accession of a new patriarch in 1268. Subsequently Michael was involved in wars with the Genoese and Venetians, whose influence in Constantinople he sought to diminish by maintaining the balance of strength between them. In 1269, Charles of Sicily, aided by John of Thessaly, made war with the alleged purpose of restoring Baldwin to the throne of Constantinople, and pressed Michael so hard that he consented to the papal supremacy at the council of Lyons in 1274. The union thus brought about between the two Churches was, however, extremely distasteful to the Greeks, and the persecution of his “schismatic” subjects to which the emperor was compelled to resort weakened his power so much that Martin IV was tempted to enter into an alliance with Charles of Anjou and the Venetians for the purpose of re-conquering Constantinople. The invasion, however, failed, and Michael so far had his revenge in the “Sicilian Vespers,” which he helped to bring about. He died in Thrace in December 1282.]

Henry (Heinricus), cardinal of Ostia, was at this time a man highly educated in civil and canon law; For this reason he was greatly esteemed by Pope Alexander, at whose request he wrote many good and useful things, and a wonderful summary on both branches of the law.[]

Odofredus, second of the name, highly educated in the civil law, wrote many commendable manuscripts on that subject at this time.[Odofredus, Italian jurist of the 13th century, was born at Bologna and studied law under Baldwin (Baldvinus) and Accursius. After having practiced as an advocate both in Italy and France, he became professor at Bologna in 1228. The commentaries on Roman law attributed to him are valuable as showing the growth of the study of law in Italy, and for their bibliographical details of the jurists of the 12th and 13th centuries. Odofredus died at Bologna on December 3rd, 1265.]

Aymo, an Englishman, general of the Barefoot Order, and highly learned in the Holy Scriptures, also flourished in the time of the men mentioned above.[Aymo (Aimo?) is unknown to the current editor.]


Martinus Scotus in his Cistercian habit, open book in hand.