4406 entries. 94 themes. Last updated December 26, 2016.

1100 to 1200 Timeline


Papermaking Reaches the Moorish Parts of Spain Circa 1100 – 1151

Xativa, Spain, highlighted in blue. (View Larger)

Through the Arab conquest of North Africa and Southern Spain, papermaking first reached the Moorish parts of Spain (Al-Andalus) in the 12th century. A paper mill is recorded at Fez (Fes) in Morocco in 1100, and the first paper mill on the Spanish mainland is recorded at Xàtiva, near Valencia, which was still under Arab rule, in 1151.

"Paper seems to have advanced less rapidly in Europe than it had advanced either in China or in the Arabic world. The European parchment with which paper had to compete was a far better writing material than either bamboo slips or papyrus. Furthermore, there were few in Europe who read, and the demand for a cheaper writing material, until the advent of printing, was small. While it was the coming of paper that made the invention of printing possible, it was the invention of printing that made the use of paper general. After Europe began to print, first from blocks and then from type, paper quickly took its place as the one material for writing as well as for printing, though, strange to say, the first paper mill in England was not set up until seventeen years after Caxton began to print at Westminster" (Carter, Invention of Printing in China 2nd ed [1955] 137-38).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Medieval Handbook of Applied Arts Including Book Production 1100 – 1120

Folio 1 of Codex 2527, preserved at the Austrian National Library. (View Larger)

Between 1100 and 1120 Benedictine (?) monk Theophilus Presbyter (possibly same as Roger of Helmarshausen) wrote Schedula diversarum artium ("List of various arts") or De diversibus artibus ("On various arts"), containing detailed descriptions of various medieval applied arts, including drawing, painting, manuscript illumination, and bookbinding.

"The work is divided into three volumes. The first covers the production and use of painting and drawing materials (painting techniques, paints, and inks), especially for illumination of texts and painting of walls. The second deals with the production of stained glass and techniques of glass painting, while the last deals with various techniques of goldsmithing. It also includes an introduction into the building of organs. Theophilus contains perhaps the earliest reference to oil paint."

Volume 1 includes directions for making glue and gold leaf.

"Vol. III on metal work covers: openwork sheets of silver and copper for book covers inter alia (chapter 72); die-stamping, also used for book covers (chapter 75); studs for fastening leather covers to the boards (chapter 76) and repoussé work for book covers (chapter 78)" (Pollard, Early Bookbinding Manuals [1984] no. 3).

Theophilus also provides some of the earliest instructions for the use of metalpoints in drawing:

"Indications of the use of metalpoints for artistic purposes, other than those mentioned in connection with manuscripts, were rare until the late fourteenth century, a period which can be associated with the early fourishing of drawing as an important art form. Therefore, instructions for the use of metalpoints by the monk Theophilus, written sometime during the tenth to twelfth centuries, were exceptional. In Diversarum Artium Schedula Theophilus wrote that preparatory designs for windows were delineated upon large boards or 'tables' which had been rubbed with chalk. Over this surface one drew images with lead or tin. Moreover, in his directions for design figures to be incised on ivroy Theophilus recommended that the ivory tablet be covered with chalk, upon which one drew figures  with a piece of lead. These medieval 'grounds' of chalk dust were antecedents of a rudimentary method of preparing metalpoint surfaces with the dust of bones, chalk, or white lead which was described by Cennino in the late fourteen or early fifteenth century, and of a similar practice used during the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries for quickly preparing a metalpoint ground for sketching outlines for miniatures or for writing on little ivory sheets.

"It is impossible to determine when metalpoint media were first used for producing sketches and studies in the form and character we now assign to master drawings. But during the fourteenth century both Petrarch and Boccaccio mention drawing with the stylus. The former, in his sonnets to Laura, wrote of Simone (Martini) taking the likeness of his love with the metalpoint and the latter in the Decamerone expressed his admiration for the skill of the incomparable Giotto in the statement that there was nothing in nature which the master could not draw or paint with the stylus, pen, or brush. Although we may hesitate to accept these statements at face value, nevertheless they indicate that the metallic stylus was an accepted instrument for drawing by artists of the late middle ages" (Watrous, The Craft of Old Master Drawings [1957] 4).

The oldest surviving copies of Theophilus's work are Codex 2527 preserved at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna, and Codex Guelf 69 preserved at the Herzog-August-Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel.

For centuries after the Middle Ages Theophilus's work was forgotten until the poet, philosopher, and critic Gotthold Ephraim Lessing rediscovered the text while he worked as librarian in Wolfenbüttel around 1770.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The Earliest Extant Document from Europe Written on Paper 1109

The earliest extant European document on paper, possibly written on paper manufactured in Europe, comes from the chancellery of the Norman kings who had occupied the island of Sicily. It is an order dated 1109 in Greek and Arabic concerning a salt mine near Castrogiovanni (now Enna) issued by the countess Adelasia, first wife of Roger I of Sicily. The document is preserved in the state archives at Palermo.

Levey, "Mediaeval Arabic Bookmaking and its Relation to Early Chemistry and Pharmacology," Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, new series, Vol. 52, part 4 [1962] 10.

Carter, Invention of Printing in China 2nd ed (1955) 137.

Frugoni, Inventions of the Middle Ages (2007) 62, reproducing the document as figure 41.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The Codex Ebnerianus and Early Manuscript Scholarship Circa 1110

The Codex Ebnerianus, a Greek language illuminated manuscript of the New Testament, was probably written in Constantinople at the beginning of the 12th century during the Comnenian Period.

"Its full-page illustrations make it one of the finest of a large group of manuscripts which are the most important representatives of the Comnenian revival in pictorial art.

"The cycle of illustrations is unique among surviving Greek New Testament manuscripts in that it places author portraits and scenes connected with the authors at the beginning, not only of the Gospels, but also at the beginning of Acts and some of the Epistles" (Meredith, "The Illustration of Codex Ebnerianus", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes XXIX (1966) 419.

The codex is named after the Nuremberg diplomat, historian, scholar and patron, Hieronymus Wilhelm Ebner von Eschenbach who founded a library, the Bibliotheca Ebneriana, using his extensive collection. While the codex belonged to Ebner von Eschenbach in 1738 the scholar Conrad Schoenleben issued a pamphlet on it entitled Egregii codicis graeci Novi Testamenti manuscripti quem Noribergae servat vir illustris Hieronymous Gvilielmus Ebner. According to Roland Folter, Schoenleben's 44-page pamphlet with two illustrations was the first publication about a specific medieval manuscript, and also probably the first publication on a specific book in a private library.

The Codex Ebnerianus is preserved in the Bodleian Library. According to Macray's Annals of the Bodleian Library, Oxford, A. D. 1598-A.D. 1867 p. 229, the Bodleian bought the Codex in 1820 from booksellers Payne and Foss. McCray also mentions that Schoenleben's pamphlet was incorporated by De Murr in his Memorabilia Bibliothecarum publicarum Norimbergensium published in 1788, part ii., p. 100. To that version De Murr added "thirteen well-engraved plates of the illuminations, binding and text. It was formerly bound in leather-covered boards, ornamented with gold, with five silver-gilt stars on the sides, and fastened with four silver clasps. This covering being much decayed, Ebner cased the volume in a most costly binding of pure silver, preserving the silver stars, and affixing on the outside a beautiful ivory figure (coaeval with the MS.) of our Saviour, throned, and in the attitude of benediction. Above the figure, Ebner engraved an inscription in Greek characters, corresponding to the style of the MS., praying for a blessing upon himself and his family" (McCray, p. 230). 

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Among the Best Known Records of Early Forbidden Romantic Love 1115

A folio from MS 2085 of the Schoyen Collection, one of the twelve extant manuscripts of the letters of Abelard and Heloise. (View Larger)

At the great cathedral school of Notre Dame de Paris, Pierre Abelard became one of the most famous teachers of philosophy in Europe.

"Distinguished in figure and manners, Abélard was seen surrounded by crowds - it is said thousands of students, drawn from all countries by the fame of his teaching. Enriched by the offerings of his pupils, and entertained with universal admiration, he came, as he says, to think himself the only undefeated philosopher in the world. But a change in his fortunes was at hand. In his devotion to science, he had always lived a very regular life, enlivened only by philosophical debate: now, at the height of his fame, he encountered romance.

"Living within the precincts of Notre-Dame, under the care of her uncle, the canon Fulbert, was a girl named Heloise, of noble birth, and born about 1101. She is said to have been beautiful, but still more remarkable for her knowledge, which extended beyond Latin, it is said, to Greek and Hebrew. Abélard fell in love with her; and he sought and gained a place in Fulbert's house. Becoming tutor to the girl, he used his power for the purpose of seduction, and she returned his devotion. Their relations interfered with his public work, and were not kept a secret by Abélard himself. Soon everyone knew except the trusting Fulbert. When he found out, they were separated, only to meet in secret. Heloise became pregnant, and was carried off by her lover to Brittany, where she gave birth to a son. To appease her furious uncle, Abélard proposed a secret marriage, in order not to mar his prospects of advancement in the church; but Heloise opposed the idea. She appealed to him not to sacrifice for her the independence of his life, but reluctantly gave in to pressure. The secret of the marriage was not kept by Fulbert; and when Heloise boldly denied it, life was made so difficult for her that she sought refuge in the convent of Argenteuil at Abélard's bidding. Immediately Fulbert, believing that her husband, who had helped her run away, wanted to be rid of her, plotted revenge. He and some others broke into Abélard's chamber by night, and castrated him. The priesthood and ecclesiastical office were canonically closed to him. Heloise, not yet twenty, consummated her work of self-sacrifice at Abélard's jealous bidding that she never again share romantic love with a man, and became a nun."

For the remainder of his life Abelard endured persecution for the scandal. Apart from fiction, such as" Romeo and Juliet, " the letters of Abelard and Eloise are among the best known records of early forbidden romantic love.

"Only 12 MSS of this text are known. 7 MSS are in Paris: Bibliothèque nationale, ms. lat. 2923 (13th c.), 2544, 2545, 13057, 13826, (17th c.) and ms.n.a.lat. 1873 and 20001 (a fragment); 1 in Reims: Bibliothèque Municipale, ms.872; 1 in Troyes: Bibliothèque Municipale, ms.802; Douai: Bibliothèque Municipale, ms.797; and Oxford: Bodleian MS. Add.C.271 (a fragment)" (Schøyen Collection MS 2085).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Earliest Record of the Use of the Compass in Navigation 1119

Chinese author Zhu Yu 's book Pingzhou Ke Tan (Pingzhou Table Talks), named after his country house in Huanggang(黄岗), Hubei province, named "Pingzhou," and written in 1119, contains the earliest record of the use of the mariner's magnetic needle compass in navigation.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Printing in Clay by the Typographic Principle in Germany in 1119 1119

The Prüfening dedicatory inscription (Prüfeninger Weiheinschrift), a high medieval inscription created in 1119 in Prüfening Abbey, a former Benedictine monastery, in Regensburg, Germany, was produced by stamping individual carved wooden Roman square capitals into clay, using the typographic principle in which identical pre-formed letters were repeated. This may be the earliest precisely datable application of the typographic principle in Europe.

The inscription, attached to one of the main pillars of the church,  

"reports the consecration act of the monastery in honour of St. George, carried out by the two bishops Otto of Bamberg and Hartwig of Regensburg. The inscription plate specifies the year of the act and, by implication, its own date as 1119 (•MCXVIIII•). It was made of baked clay, painted over in an alternating, red white pattern, and is approximately 26 cm wide, 41 cm high and 3 cm thick, with a crack running through its entire breadth. The sunk letterforms are the classical capitalis monumentalis or Roman square capitals. . . .

"The unusual sharpness of the inscription letters has long led epigraphists to believe that they were not carved by hand into the clay. The typographic character of the inscription was recently demonstrated in a systematic examination of the text body by the typesetter and linguist Herbert Brekle. His findings confirm that the text was produced with a printing method similar to that of the Phaistos Disc: The 17-line text was created by pressing individual, pre-formed stamps (probably made of wood) into the soft clay in a way that, for each letter which occurred more than once, the same letter stamp was re-used, thereby producing identical imprints throughout the text. Thus, the essential criterion for typographic text production was met, namely the repeated use of identical types for a single character. In applying this technique, it is not relevant that the Prüfening inscription was made by stamping letters into the clay and not − as later practiced by Gutenberg − by printing on paper, since neither the technical execution nor the print medium define movable type printing, but rather the criterion of type identity:

"The defining criterion which a typographic print has to fulfill is that of the type identity of the various letter forms which make up the printed text. In other words: each letter form which appears in the text has to be shown as a particular instance ('token) of one and the same type which contains a reverse image of the printed letter.

"By projecting the text letters one upon the other (e.g., all 'A's onto one another) at high magnification, the consistent type identity of the dedicatory inscription could be demonstrated beyond doubt. An additional indication that its creator had worked with reusable types is the marked tendency of some letters to tilt to the right or left; in those case the artisan apparently did not succeed in setting up the letter stamps completely parallel to the lateral borderline of the plate. The evidence of the skewed letters, but most importantly the observation that the type token criterion was met throughout the text prove the 'typographic character of the Prüfening dedicatory inscription with certainty.'

"A fragment of another inscription plate found close to the monastery indicates that the Prüfening abbey inscription did not remain an isolated phenomenon, but that at least locally the typographic production method was applied more frequently" (Wikipedia article on Prüfening inscription, accessed 10-31-2012). 

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The First Code of English Law and the Oldest Anglo-Saxon Text 1122 – 1124

The Textus de Ecclesia Roffensi per Ernulphum episcopum (The Book of the Church of Rochester through Bishop Ernulf), usually referred to as the Textus Roffensis, is a collection of documents that includes the t,Law of Aethelberht attributed to Aethelberht of Kent, King of Kent from 560 or later to his death of February 24, 616, and the first Anglo-Saxon king to convert to Christianity. This is the first code of English law and the oldest surviving Anglo-Saxon text. It is also the earliest law code of any kind in any Germanic language and the earliest surviving document written in the English language. Though written about 500 years after Aethelberht's code was promulgated, the manuscript predates King John's Magna Carta by almost 100 years.

The second part of the Textus Roffensis is the oldest register of the Rochester Cathedral. It is thought that both sections of the manuscript were written by a single scribe.

The manuscript is preserved in the Medway Studies Centre in Rochester, Kent, England.  In November a digital facsimile was available from the British Library in its Hidden Treasures series at this link.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The Universitas Guild: Early Origin of What We Characterize as a University Circa 1125 – 1225

Early in the twelfth century a universitas magistrorum et scholarium (a guild of masters and scholars) grew up around Notre Dame cathedral. From this guild, later in the twelfth century, the University of ParisOffsite Link began. 

"First of all, it is clear that the earliest three 'universities'— the universitas guilds of Bologna, Paris, and Oxford—appear at approximately the same time in history, the late twelfth or early thirteenth century; regardless of scholarly tradition, none has been demonstrated with any certainty to be significantly earlier than the others. However, it cannot be overemphasized that although the Latin word universitas is usually translated as university, the early universitas was totally unlike a university in its purpose, structure, and functions. The word universitas originally meant an 'incorporated' guild of any kind. Although the word universitas later acquired the meaning of a 'guild of scholars' specifically, even then it still was strictly a guild; it was nothing like a university: 'The universitas was in its origin a voluntary association of indvidual masters rather than a single educational institution conducted by an organized staff. The universitas prescribed the studies which were to lead to the master's chair; but it did not attempt to interfere with the discipline of the scholars. In a sense all scholars were regarded as members, though not as governing members, of the Universitas of Masters and Scholars.'

"In short, the scholars' universitas, however influential we might think it was, long remained a guild, pure and simple: 'At the outset it [the term universitas] was applied to a single group that formed a legally recognized self-governing association. Thus a faculty of arts was a 'university' as was any faculty of medicine or faculty of theology. The masters and students of the arts faculty formed their own legal corporation, or university, as did the teachers and students of the medical faculty, and so on.'

"The early universitas guilds of scholars did not own buildings or other physical property, they were not supported by permanent financial arrangements such as pious foundations, and they did not have much of anything else that we think marks an institution of higher education as such. The only significant thing the early universitas guilds did have that we would recognize as related to the function of university was the right to bestow an advanced degree—the license to teach— and this has been shown to be a borrowing from the earlier attested ijaza li-'l-tadris 'license to teach' of medieval Islamic culture.

" 'The term that was initially employed and was in common use by the middle of the thirteenth century, to encompass all of these individual disparate universities, or university associations, was studium generale. Every master and student was a member not only of his own individual university, or corporation, but also of the studium generale. . . .The term was usuually assigned to schools that either were sufficiently prestigious, such as the customary universities of Paris, Oxford and Bologna, or were large enough to include at least three of the four traditional faculties (arts, theology, law, and medicine), or were both.'

"But by the mid-thirteenth century, when the term studium generale came into general use, the college had already spread everywhere too. its influence on the universitas, and vice versa, was such that a new institution developed out of both, namely, the university in the modern sense. The college is considered by Verger to have been the most dynamic new feature in Western European higher education. The term university replaced studium generale by the end of the Middle Ages, marking the merger of the universitas, the studium generale, and the college into the early modern college-university" (Christopher Beckwith, Warriors of the Cloisters. The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World [2012] 43-45. ♦Note that I have not included the many footnotes to statements in this quote. The interested reader is advised to consult this very worthwhile book for further details, and for Beckwith's overall historical argument.).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The Oldest University in Spain 1134

The Universidad de Salamanca was founded in 1134 and given the Royal charter of foundation by King Alfonso IX in 1218. It is the oldest university in Spain and the third oldest European university in continuous operation. It was the first European institution to receive the formal title of "University," granted by King Alfonso X in 1254 and recognized by Pope Alexander IV in 1255.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The First Translation of the Qur'an into a Western Language 1143

Peter the Venerable.

Probably at the request of French Abbot Peter the Venerable, English theologian, astronomer, Archdeacon of Pamplona, Spain, and translator from the Arabic, Robert of Ketton (Robertus Ketenensis), prepared the first translation of the Qur'an (Koran) from Arabic into Latin in 1143. This was intended as a tool for aiding the conversion of Muslims to Christianity.

Entitled Lex Mahumet pseudoprophete, Ketton's work was the first translation of the Qur'an into a Western language. The translation was popular and "over 25" medieval manuscript copies remain extant. In spite of its inaccuracies, Ketton's translation remained the standard Latin translation for four centuries. It appeared in print for the first time in 1542/43 as the first printed Latin translation of the Qur'an.

Zwemer, Samuel M. "Translations of the Koran," The Moslem World (July 1915) 244-61.


View Map + Bookmark Entry

The First Building in the Gothic Style June 14, 1144

The west exterior facade of the Abbey of Saint Denis, considered by historians to be the firs building in the Gothic style. (View Larger)

On June 14, 1144 Frankish abbot-statesmen and historian Abbot Suger, friend and confidante of French Kings Louis VI and Louis VII, dedicated the rebuilt Abbey of Saint Denis. This building is often cited by historians as the first major structure of which a substantial part was designed and built in the Gothic style. Both stylistically and structurally it heralded the change from Romanesque architecture to Gothic architecture. Before the term "Gothic" came into common use, it was known as the "French Style" (Opus Francigenum).

"Suger began with the West front, reconstructing the original Carolingian façade with its single door. He designed the façade of Saint-Denis to be an echo of the Roman Arch of Constantine with its three-part division and three large portals to ease the problem of congestion. The rose window is the earliest-known example above the West portal in France.

"At the completion of the west front in 1140, Abbot Suger moved on to the reconstruction of the eastern end, leaving the Carolingian nave in use. He designed a choir (chancel) that would be suffused with light. To achieve his aims, his masons drew on the several new features which evolved or had been introduced to Romanesque architecture, the pointed arch, the ribbed vault, the ambulatory with radiating chapels, the clustered columns supporting ribs springing in different directions and the flying buttresses which enabled the insertion of large clerestory windows " (Wikipedia article on Gothic architecture, accessed 11-24-2010).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

King Roger Bans the Use of Paper 1145

At Martorana in Palermo, Italy, a mural depicting the divine coronation of Roger II. (View Larger)

King Roger II of Sicily banned the use of paper for official documents, believing it to be less permanent than parchment. (Tsien Tsuen-Hsuin 5). Europeans were initially distrustful of paper, which was introduced to Europe from the Arab world during the period of the Crusades.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The Leading Translator from the Arabic Circa 1150 – 1175

Book X Chapters 6-7 of Gerard de Cremona's thirteenth century translation of Ptolemy's Almagest. (View Larger)

Between 1150 and 1175 Gerard of Cremona, in Toledo, Spain, translated Ptolemy's Almagest from Arabic into Latin. He also edited for Latin readers the Tables of Toledo, the most accurate compilation of astronomical data available in Europe at the time. The Tables were partly the work of Al-Zargali, known to the West as Arzachel, a mathematician and astronomer who flourished in Córdoba in the eleventh century.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The Madrid Skylitzes: the Only Surviving Illustrated Manuscript of a Greek Chronicle Circa 1150

An illustration of a naval battle in the Madrid Skylitzes, showing Greek marine flamethrower technology. (View Larger)

A heavily illustrated illuminated manuscript of the Synopsis of Histories (Σύνοψις Ἱστοριῶν), by John Skylitzes, covering the reigns of the Byzantine emperors from the death of Nicephorus I in 811 to the deposition of Michael IV in 1057, the Madrid Skylitzes is the only surviving illustrated manuscript of a Greek chronicle. The manuscript was produced in Sicily in the 12th century, and is now at the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid, where it is known as the Madrid SkylitzesCodex Græcus Matritensis Ioannis Skyllitzes, or Skyllitzes Matritensis. It includes 574 miniature paintings. Vasiliki Tsamakda attributed the paintings to 7 artists: 4 Italians, an Englishman or Frenchman and two Byzantines. If those attributions are correct, the manuscript represents a very unusual collaboration of artists from different nations. It is unclear whether the miniatures are copies of Byzantine images or original to the manuscript.

Vasiliki Tsamakda, The Illustrated Chronicles of Ioannes Skylitzes in Madrid (2002).

(This entry was last revised on 06-05-2015.)

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Twelfth Century Images of the Processes in Book Production Circa 1150

(See Larger)

A twelfth century manuscript of the Opera varia of St. Ambrose in the Staatliche Bibliothek of Bamberg contains a full-page miniature containing 10 circular medallion-type images depicting the processes of making a book from preparing parchment to binding. The binder is shown using a sewing frame. Bamberg Msc. Patr. (Alt B II 5).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The Design and Operation of Medieval Libraries Circa 1150

"Once libraries had outgrown the cupboards or chests of earlier times, a separate library room became a common feature from the 12th century onward. The arrangement of a typical later medieval library is known from some surviving examples, although the fittings in all of them have been altered over the centuries. In general the room would be long and fairly narrow, built on the second floor to protect against damp and give adequate light. Ranged along the walls between the windows and projecting at right angles from them would be long lecterns for reading the books. The books themselves would lie flat on shelves underneath the lecterns, to which the reader (standing up) would bring them on chains. There was often a written shelf list affixed to the end of each lectern to show what books were on the shelves. This would be, in effect, an extract of the catalog, which continued to reflect the actual physical grouping of the codices. The common libraries of convents and colleges would usually be kept locked, the key in possession of the librarian, who could variously be called the armarius, cantor or precentor, librarius, custos librorum, or bibliothecarius. The position and duties of the librarius were laid down in some detail by Humbert of Romans, general of the Dominicans, in his Instructiones officialium from around 1260. and these were often adapted and expanded in later library regulations. Not all the books in an institution were chained; It was the custom in colleges and friaries, as it was earlier and continued to be in monasteries, to make an annual distribution of books to fellows, brothers, or monks for their learned or edifying reading. These loans could on occasion stretch out over many years, or even a lifetime" (M. Davies, "Medieval Libraries" in D. Stam (ed.) International Dictionary of Library Histories [2001] 107).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Filed under: Libraries

Originator of the Concept of Mathematical Function Circa 1150

About 1150 Persian mathematician and astronomer of the Islamic Golden Age Sharaf al-Dīn al-Muẓaffar ibn Muḥammad ibn al-Muẓaffar al-Ṭūsī, who taught in Aleppo and Mosul, originated the concept of mathematical function. 

"In his analysis of the equation x3 + d = bx2 for example, he begins by changing the equation's form to x2(b − x) = d. He then states that the question of whether the equation has a solution depends on whether or not the 'function' on the left side reaches the value d. To determine this, he finds a maximum value for the function. Sharaf al-Din then states that if this value is less than d, there are no positive solutions; if it is equal to d, then there is one solution; and if it is greater than d, then there are two solutions" (Wikipedia article on Function (mathematics), accessed 03-26-2009)

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The First Paper Mill in Al-Andalus 1150

About 1150 Andalusian geographer, cartographer and Egyptologist Abu Abd Allah Muhammad al-Idrisi al-Qurtubi al-Hasani al-Sabti or simply Al Idrisi (Arabic: أبو عبد الله محمد الإدريسي‎; Latin: Dreses) wrote "of the Spanish city of Xátiva (now Játiva or S. Felipe de Játiva):

'Paper is there manufactured, such as cannot be found anywhere else in the cilvilized world, and is sent to the East and to the West" (Hunter, Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, 2nd ed [1947] 473).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

"Ancestor of the Modern Scholarly Apparatus of Footnotes" Circa 1150

A heavily glossed manuscript of Libri Quattuor Sententiarum by Peter Lombard, whose usage of margin notes for citations is considered by some to be the direct antecedent of modern scholarly footnotes. (View Larger)

About 1150 Scholastic theologian Petrus Lombardus (Peter Lombard) of Notre Dame de Paris wrote Libri Quattuor Sententiarum (The Four Books of Sentences).

"The margins of manuscripts and early printed texts in theology, law, and medicine swarm with glosses which, like the historian's footnote, enable the reader to work backward from the finished argument to the texts it rests on. Peter Lombard, the theologian whose commentaries on the Psalms and the Letters of Paul 'are probably the most highly developed of glossed books,' systematically named his sources in marginal glosses, creating what Malcolm Parkes has called, 'the ancestor of the modern scholarly apparatus of footnotes.' Peter certainly deserves credit for one typically modern feat: provoking the first controversy over a wrong reference in a note. One of his glosses mentioned St. Jerome as a source for the story, a popular one in the twelfth century, that the Salome mentioned in the Gospel of Mark was not a woman but the third husband of St. Anne. His student Herbert of Bosham, who attacked this thesis, argued fiercely that Peter's gloss was wrong. As a good pupil, though he preferred to ascribe the mistake to an ignorant scribe rather than his learned teacher. Experimentation with new and safer forms of reference began early: the thirteenth century encyclopedist Vincent of Beauvais tried to avoid scribal errors by incorporating his source references into his texts, presumably on the theory that glosses were more vulnerable than the text proper to errors in copying" (Grafton, The Footnote: A Curious History [1997] 30-31).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

An Illuminated Medieval Travel Guide and Music Compendium Circa 1150

Detail of page from the Codex Calixtinus–or Liber Sancti Jacobi / Book of Saint James Calixtinus–or Liber Sancti Jacobi / Book of Saint JamesCodex Calixtinus–or Liber Sancti Jacobi / Book of Saint James.

Formerly attributed to Pope Callixtus II, but now believed to have been arranged by the French scholar, monk and pilgrim Aymeric Picaud, the Codex Calixtinus was intended as an anthology of background detail and advice for pilgrims following the Way of St. James to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great, located in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain.

The codex is alternatively known as the Liber Sancti Jacobi, or the Book of Saint James. It includes sermons, reports of miracles and liturgical texts associated with Saint James, and a most interesting set of polyphonic musical pìeces. The Codex Calixtinus was intended to be chanted aloud, and contains the first known composition for three voices, the conductus Congaudeant catholici (Let all Catholics rejoice together); however, the extreme dissonance encountered when performing all three voices together has led some scholars to suggest that this was not the original intention. The popularity of the music has continued to the present day with modern recordings commercially available. It also contains descriptions of the pilgrimage route, works of art to be seen along the way, and the customs of the local people.

"The origins and authorship of the Codex Calixtinus have been the subject of much debate amongst scholars. It is generally believed to have been written by a number of different authors and then compiled as a single volume, possibly between 1135 and 1139 by the French scholar Aymeric Picaud. It is thought that in order to lend authority to their work, the authors prefaced the book with a forged letter purportedly signed by Pope Callixtus II, who had already died in 1124.

"The earliest known edition of the codex is that held in the archives of the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela,[2] and dates from about 1150. It was lost and forgotten for many years until rediscovered in 1886 by the Jesuit scholar Padre Fidel Fita. A copy of the Santiago edition was made in 1173 by the monk Arnaldo de Monte,[3] and is known as The Ripoll (after the monastery of Santa Maria de Ripoll in Catalonia). It is now kept in Barcelona. The book was well-received by the Church of Rome, and copies of it were to be found from Rome to Jerusalem, but it was particularly popular at the Abbey of Cluny.

"The first full transcription of the Codex was done in 1932 by Walter Muir Whitehill, and published in 1944 in Madrid by the Spanish Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, together with a musicological study by Silos's Dom Germán Prado O.S.B., and another on the miniature illustrations by Jesús Carro García" (Wikipedia article on Codex Calixtinus, accessed 07-07-2011).

The manuscript was preserved in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. On July 5, 2011 it disappeared from a safe in the archives of the Cathedral. The theft was under investigation when I wrote this entry on July 7, 2011.

♦ On July 8, 2011 an article appeared on theolivepress.es concerning the left: http://www.theolivepress.es/spain-news/2011/07/07/codex-calixtinus-stolen-from-santiago-de-compostela-cathedral/, accessed 07-07-2011.

On July 11, 2011 an article concerning the codex and the theft appeared in time.com: "Codex Caper: Medieval Guidebook Stolen from a Spanish Church: http://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,2082071,00.html

♦ On July 4, 2012, one day less than a year from the day it was announced stolen, the Codex Calustinus was recovered from a garage in Santiago. A former caretaker and his wife, son, and another women were arrested by Spanish police in connection with the theft.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Perhaps the Oldest Complete Torah Scroll Circa 1150

In May 2013 the University of Bologna announced that it had identified in its library a complete Torah scroll which carbon dating proved to more than 850 years old. This would make it the oldest complete surviving text of the Torah. Written in the oriental Babylonian tradition, the text of this Torah contains many features forbidden in later copies under rules laid down by Maimonides in the 12th century.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Jewish Bodies Found in Medieval Well in Norwich, England Circa 1150 – 1250

In 2004 the skeletons of 17 bodies were found at the bottom of a medieval well during the excavation of a site in the center of Norwich, England ahead of the construction of a shopping center. The remains were put into storage and investigated in 2011 by a team led by Scottish forensic anthropologist Sue Black.

Using DNA sequencing, molecular palaeobiologist Ian Barnes determined that the skeletons, which date to the 12th or 13th century, were probably remains of Jews. Eleven of the 17 skeletons were those of children aged between two and 15. The remaining six were adult men and women. It is likely that they were murdered or forced to commit suicide.

"Pictures taken at the time of excavation suggested the bodies were thrown down the well together, head first.

"A close examination of the adult bones showed fractures caused by the impact of hitting the bottom of the well. But the same damage was not seen on the children's bones, suggesting they were thrown in after the adults who cushioned the fall of their bodies.

"The team had earlier considered the possibility of death by disease but the bone examination also showed no evidence of diseases such as leprosy or tuberculosis.

"Giles Emery, the archaeologist who led the original excavation, said at first he thought it might have been a plague burial, but carbon dating had shown that to be impossible as the plague came much later.

"And historians pointed out that even during times of plague when mass graves were used, bodies were buried in an ordered way with respect and religious rites.

"Norwich had been home to a thriving Jewish community since 1135 and many lived near the well site. But there are records of persecution of Jews in medieval England including in Norwich.

"Sophie Cabot, an archaeologist and expert on Norwich's Jewish history, said the Jewish people had been invited to England by the King to lend money because at the time, the Christian interpretation of the bible did not allow Christians to lend money and charge interest. It was regarded as a sin.

"So cash finance for big projects came from the Jewish community and some became very wealthy - which in turn, caused friction" (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-13855238, accessed 01-07-2014). This article contains a dramatic image of the way the skeletons were found in the well.

In June and July 2011 the BBC televised a one hour episode of the series History Cold Case, Series 2, entitled The Bodies in the Well. In January 2014 this show was downloadable from iTunes for a fee. 

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The First Use of Paper in Italy 1154

"First use of paper in Italy, in the form of a register written by Giovanni Scriba, dated 1154-1166. It is thought that this particular paper had been imported from the East. No other specimens of paper are found in Italy until 1276, the date of the first mention of the Fabriano paper mills" (Hunter, Papermaking: The History and Technique of an Ancient Craft, 2nd ed [1947] 473).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The Eadwine Psalter, Masterpiece of Book Production in the Twelfth Century Renaissance Circa 1155 – 1170

The Eadwine Psalter (Cambridge, Trinity College Library, MS R.17.1), previously known as the Canterbury Psalter, has been called the most ambitious manuscript produced in England in the twelfth century. It was written on calf vellum, and illustrated at Canterbury circa 1155-60, with additions circa 1160-70, and was kept at the Cathedral Priory of Christ Church, Canterbury through most of the Middle Ages. Its leaves measure approximately 460 x 330 mm.

It is a "trilingual, glossed psalterium triplex," containing 

"a calendar, triple Metrical Psalms 90:15-95:2, canticles, two continuous commentaries, two prognostications, a marginal image of Halley's Comet (recorded in 1147), a diagrammatic representation of Christ Church's waterworks, and a full page visual memorialisation of Eadwine. At least 13 scribes appear to have been employed in the construction of this manuscript. Many of these scribes are part of a cohesive programme of matched, or near-matched, hands, making some sections difficult to attribute to one particular scribe" (http://www.le.ac.uk/english/em1060to1220/mss/EM.CTC.R.17.1.htm, accessed 02-16-2014).

The book contains five different versions of the text of the Psalms, three in Latin, one in Old English, and one in Anglo-Norman, with a prologue, a commentary, and a concluding prayer to each Psalm.

During the period of production of the Eadwin Psalter the Utrecht Psalter was in Canterbury, and its complex set of illustrations were copied and adapted for the project. The largest known cycle of prefatory biblical pictorial narrratives of the period was devised and appended as a pictorial preface, and every Psalm, prayer, and Canticle was embellished with fully illuminated initials as well as gold and silver minor initials. The portrait of the monk Eadwine as scribe on folio 283 verso of the Psalter has been called "perhaps the most famous portrait of its kind from medieval Europe." (Gibson et al, 178).

The manuscript was published in black & white facsimile by M. R. James as The Canterbury Psalter (London: Friends of Canterbury Cathedral, 1935). The best overall study of the manuscript is Gibson, Heslop & Pfaff (eds.) The Eadwine Psalter. Text, Image, and Monastic Culture in Twelfth Century Canterbury (1992). (In February 2014 I was pleased to acquire a beautiful copy of this rather splendid small folio volume for only $46.22.) 

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Henry II Forbids English Students to Study at Paris 1167

A 16th century portrait of King Henry II of England, by an unknown artist.

In 1167 Henry II of England forbade English students to study at the University of Paris, causing the University of Oxford to grow very quickly.


View Map + Bookmark Entry

Written and Illuminated by the Nun Herrad of Landsberg 1167 – 1185

Plate 8 of the Englehardt facsimile of the Hortus delicarum. In the centermost circle, Philosophy rests upon a queenly throne, holding a banner that says 'All wisdom comes from God, only the wise can do what they want.' Directly below sit Socrates and Plato, at abutting desks. In the surrounding orbs stand the Seven Liberal arts: grammar, rhetoric, dialectics, music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy. (View Larger)

The Hortus deliciarum (Garden of Delights), a medieval manuscript compiled by and illuminated by the nun, Herrad of Landsberg, at the Hohenburg Abbey in Alsace from 1167 to 1185, was an illuminated encyclopedia, written as a pedagogical tool for young novices at the convent.

"Most of the manuscript was not original, but was a compendium of 12th century knowledge. The manuscript contained poems, illustrations, and music, and drew from texts by classical and Arab writers. Interspersed with writings from other sources were poems by Herrad, addressed to the nuns, almost all of which were set to music. The most famous portion of the manuscript is the illustrations, of which there were 336, which symbolised various themes, including theosophical, philosophical, and literary themes."

Having been preserved for centuries at the Hohenburg Abbey, the Hortus Deliciarum passed into the municipal Library of Strasbourg about the time of the French Revolution. There the minatures were copied in 1818 by Christian Moritz (or Maurice) Engelhardt; the text was copied and published by Straub and Keller, 1879-1899. Thus, although the original perished in the burning of the Library of Strasbourg during the Siege of Strasbourg in the Franco-Prussian War, we can still appreciate the artistic and literary value of Herrad's work.

"Hortus deliciarum is one of the first sources of polyphony originating from a nunnery. The manuscript contained at least 20 song texts, all of which were originally notated with music. Those which can be recognized now are from the conductus repertory, and are mainly note against note in texture. The notation was in semi-quadratic neumes with pairs of four-line staves.Two songs survive with music intact: Primus parens hominum, a monophonic song, and a two part work, Sol oritur occasus" (Wikipedia article on Hortus deliciarum, accessed 12-25-2008).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Origins of the Paris Book Trade Circa 1170

"It is generally accepted that by c. 1170 at latest there were many glossed books of the Bible being made in Paris, and the surviving manuscripts display characteristics indicative of commercial production.

"The characteristics include simple matters of method and routine; the regularization (after two or three decades' experimentation) of the juxtaposition of gloss and text. It is not just the fact that these conventions emerged but also their rapid diffusion that, together, suggest centralized production in quantity—the concentrated and repetitive output associated with urban commercial production. There is even an informal and quite early (c. 1170?) accounting, jotted down on the back pastedown of a Parisian glossed Book of Numbers owned by Ralph of Reims, recording payment for books completed and the purchase of parchment for books yet to be written: 'Pentateuch, Job, Twelve Prophets, Matthew, and Luke, with parchment for the Psalter and the Epistles and note (?): 28 livres and 10 sous'; this is a direct indication of commercial production.

"If in the twelfth century there was no booktrade in the way it developed later in Paris; nevertheless there was clearly a structure of some sort, capable of producing a significant number of large books with complex layouts. We find most attractive the hypothesis that the large urban abbeys of Paris, and specifically the abbey of St-Victor, fostered the growth of the city's commercial booktrade by engaging lay scribes and illuminators to make manuscripts, when necessary. St-Victor's growth among Parisian abbeys to the first rank in importance in the middle of the twelfth century is well documented. By providing work for lay artisans, the abbey would in effect have encouraged the development of independent métiers. In this context, a well-known passage from the Liber ordinis of St-Victor (c. 1139) deserves to be cited once again: 'All writing,whether done inside the abbey or out, pertains to the office of the armarius [librarian]; he should provide the scribes with parchment and whatever else is necessary for writing, and he is responsible for hiring those who write for pay'. The implication is double: there were scribes for hire in Paris before the middle of the twelfth century, and St-Victor hired them (R. Rouse & M. Rouse, Manuscripts and their Makers. Commercial Book Producers in Medieval Paris 1200-1500 I [2000] 26).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The Hunterian Psalter Circa 1170

Folio 7v of the Hungarian Psalter: a miniature depicting, on top, the creation of Adam, and, on bottom, the temptation of Adam by Eve. (View Larger)


The Hunterian Psalter, a striking example of Romanesque book art, was produced in England in the latter part of the twelfth century.

"It is uncertain where or when, exactly, the manuscript was produced, or for whom. It has been suggested that it was produced for Roger de Mowbray (d. 1188), a prominent 12th century crusader and religious benefactor known to have founded a number of Augustinian and Cistercian monasteries and nunneries. The book also contains three commemorations to Augustine of Hippo, which has led some scholars to conclude that the manuscript might have been created for a house of Augustinian Canons, or by someone with a connection to the Augustinian order.

"The fact that there is no mention of the 29 December feast of Thomas Becket on the page for December is thought to indicate that the book was produced before Becket's canonization in 1173. For most of its history, it was thought to have been the product of a scriptorium in the north of England, owing to its inclusion of a number of

Folio 22r of the Hungarian Psalter, a miniature which incorporates the Beatus Initial. (View Larger)northern saints such as Oswald of Northumbria and John of Beverley (who very seldom occur outside northern manuscripts), although modern scholarly consensus puts its likely origin in the southwest of England.

"There is no definite consensus about the number of artists who worked on the book. It has been suggested that a single master oversaw the work of several assistants, and it has also been put forth that it is the work of an artist working alone, copying and adapting templates from other illuminated manuscripts. It is thought to have been the work of skilled tradesmen, not monks" (Wikipedia article on Hunterian Psalter, accessed 03-27-2010).

Today the manuscript is considered the finest book in the library of 10,000 printed books and 650 manuscripts formed by the physician and connoisseur collector, William Hunter, who bequeathed all his collections to the University of Glasgow. It is preserved in the University of Glasgow Library (Sp Coll MS Hunter U.3.2) (229). In addition to manuscripts and books Hunter made important collections of coins, paintings, minerals, shells, anatomical and natural history specimens.

Hunter acquired this volume at the auction sale conducted by Guillaume-François de Bure of the library of Louis-Jean Gaignat in Paris on April 10, 1769, along with several other books. His French agent, Jean B. Dessain, bought it at the auction on Hunter's behalf for fifty livres and one sou. It was described in the sale catalogue as a "codex pervetustus" (a very old codex), and the price was considerably lower than many of the printed books in the sale, reflecting the tastes and market prices of the time. (The Gaignat library included such treasures as the Gutenberg Bible printed on vellum in the British Library.)

Young & Aitken, A Catalogue of the Manuscripts in the Library of the Hunterian Museum in the University of Glasgow (1908) no. 229.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Mishneh Torah, Signed by Maimonides 1170 – 1180

Between 1170 and 1180 CE Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Maimonides, RaMBaM or Rambam), working in Cairo, Egypt, compiled the Mishneh Torah (Repetition of the Law), the first comprehensive code of Jewish religious law (Halakha). Remarkably the Bodleian Library, Oxford, preserves a copy the first two books of  the Mishneh Torah (MS. Huntington 80) copied by Japhet son of Solomon, in which Maimonides wrote personally on folio 165r, "It has been corrected from my own book. I am Moses son of Rabbi Maimon of blessed memory," followed by his signature.

The manuscript came to the Bodleian Library through the generosity of Robert Huntingon, an English churchman, orientalist and manuscript collector, who was Provost of Trinity College, Dublin and Bishop of Raphoe. In 1670 Huntington became chaplain to the Levant Company at Aleppo. He remained in the Eastern Mediterranean for more than ten years, visiting Palestine, Cyprus, and Egypt. During his travels he  collected large number of Hebrew manuscripts. In 1678, 1680 and 1838 he donated manuscripts to the Bodleian, and Oxford University bought more than 200 of his manuscripts in 1692.

In December 2013 a digital facsimile of Maimonides' Code of Jewish Law was available from the Bodleian Library at this link.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Norman Crusaders Take Manuscripts as Spoils of War 1175

In 1175 Norman Crusaders overan the Greek peninsula and took manuscripts as spoils of war. "When Michael Acominatus became Archibshop of Athens in 1275 he noted that the city had no libraries at all, and that his two chests of books constituted the largest collection of literature in the city" (Harris, History of Libraries in the Western World 4th ed [1999] 75).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Simultaneous Appearance in Medieval Europe of the College, the Recursive Argument Method, Translations of Scientific Works from the Arabic, & Translations of Aristotle's Works Circa 1175 – 1250

"Late twelfth-to early thirteenth-century Western Europe thus saw the more or less simultaneous appearance of the college, the recursive argument method, and translations of independent Greek and Classic Arabic scientific-philosophical works as well as translation of many of Aristotle's works from Greek and from Arabic, along with Arabic commentaries on them.

'Traveling clerics, French prelates posted in Spanish cities, and others kept scholars in France, England, and elsewhere in Europe in constant contact with the scholars working on translation of Arabic texts in Spain. Translations of Aristotle, Avicenna, and related works seem to have been in circulation in Paris within a decade or two after their translation. Because the translators focused on the one hand on works by classical Greek authors, especially Aristotle and his Arabic commentators, and, on the other, on Arabic scientific works, including the magisterial works of Avicenna on medicine and natural philosophy, the translations instantly acquired extremely high prestige in Europe. Western Europeans welcomed with open arms what became a flood of literature by philosopher scientists with the exotic Latin names Alfarabius, Agorithmus, Alhazen, Akindius, Avicenna, Averroës, and many others. The result was the 'intellectual revolution' of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Medieval Latin Europe.

"The newly translated texts became so popular so quickly that study of many of them by students of the University of Paris was banned in 1210 by a Church decree. As similar decree issued in 1215, also considered to be the charter of the university, was promulgated by Robert of Cuzon (Robert de Courçon, d. 1218), an English cleric who studied and taught in Paris, but that decree was apparently also ignored. By 1255 all of Aristotle's works were being taught at the University of Paris. The new translations were officially approved (with the exception of a few specific arguments considered heretical), and were assigned as the new 'liberal arts' curriculum—most of which consisted of logic and 'natural philosophy'—that was required of all bachelor's level university students in Western Europe" (Christopher Beckwith, Warriors of the Cloisters. The Central Asian Origins of Science in the Medieval World [2012] 107-08).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Factors Influencing the Development of the French Language, Literature, and Book Production 1180 – 1575

"Many factors influenced the shift from Latin to the 'mother tongue.' The change from an agrarian economy based on the land to a commercial economy in the towns and cities imposed a need for the middle classes to understand each other in written as well as oral forms. The centralization of French government and the rise of a nation state with the reign of King Philip Augustus (reigned 1180-1223) dictated a need for a language through which the court and the nobles could wield power far and wide. And, not least of all, women played a major role in the rise and evolution of medieval French as women readers, writers, and collectors. By the fifteenth century, vernacular language was well established as the language of literature, historical record, and personal expression" (Hindman & Bergeron-Foote, Flowering of Medieval French Literature “Au parler que m’aprist ma mere” [2014] 5).

"Quickly, the technology of the press provided greater access to the mother tongue and contributed to its standardization. Statistics of publications in French are indeed astonishing. Whereas in 1501 only 10% of books published in Paris were in French, by 1575, 55% of all books published in Paris were in French. The triumph of the French vernacular was also promoted by King Francis I, who in 1539, deemed French the official language of his kingdom. Then, in 1635, Cardinal Richelieu founded the Académie française whose mission was 'to codify the French language, to give it rules, to make it pure and comprehensible to everyone.' . . ." (Hindman & Bergeron-Foote, op. cit., 14).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The First College Founded in Western Europe 1180

In 1180 Jocius of London, a wealthy English merchant, who had just returned from Jerusalem, founded the first college known in Western Europe. Limted to eighteen fellows or scholars, this college, founded near Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, became known the Collège des Dix-Huit. It eventually became one of the founding units of the Université de Paris.

The founding charter of the college read as follows:

"Nous, Barbedor, doyen de l'église de Paris et tout le chapitre de la même église, nous voulons que soit connu de tous, tant présents qu'à venir, que, lorsque messire Josse de Londres est revenu de Jérusalem, ayant considéré avec la plus soigneuse dévotion l'assistance qui est portée aux pauvres et aux malades dans l'hôpital de la bienheureuse Marie de Paris, il vit là une chambre dans laquelle selon un vieil usage étaient hébergés les pauvres clercs et, sur notre conseil et celui de maître Hilduin, chancelier de Paris, alors procureur du même lieu, il en fit l'acquisition à perpétuité pour le prix de 52 livres auprès des procureurs de la même maison pour l'usage desdits clercs, sous cette condition que les procureurs de celle-ci fourniraient à titre perpétuel à 18 clercs écoliers des lits convenables et chaque mois douze deniers pris sur les aumônes qui sont recueillies dans le coffre. En contrepartie, lesdits clercs devront à tour de rôle porter la croix et l'eau bénite devant les corps des personnes décédées dans la même maison et célébrer chaque nuit sept psaumes de pénitence et les prières dues et instituées anciennement. Afin que ces dispositions demeurent fermes et stables, ledit Josse a obtenu que cette charte de notre institution soit faite par lesdits clercs et a demandé qu'elle soit confirmée par l'impression au bas de notre sceau. Fait publiquement à Paris, en notre chapitre, l'an de l'Incarnation du Seigneur 1180" (Wikipedia article on Collège des Dix-Huit, accessed 07-06-2014). 

In Warriors of the Cloisters. The Central Origins of Science in the Medieval World (2012) Christopher Beckwith argued that this earliest European college was modeled on the Central Asian madrasa:

"By the period of Jocius's visit to the Near East, madrasas were very common there. Like the madrasa, the college is an all-inclusive academic institution with a permanent endowment recognized by the government. The endowment, in both the Islamic and Western European traditions, covered the expenses of the physical property and living support for the scholars—the students and their teacher or teachers—all of whom lived together in the same structure. Based on the brief description in the founding charter and what is known about other early colleges from the following decades, including the Sorbonne, the college founded by Jocius is identical in all particulars to the typical madrasa then widespread in Syria and its vicinity. They were endowed institutions, generally quite small, which housed a small number of students, typically less than two dozen; exactly like the Collège des Dix-huit and most of the other early colleges. Because Jerusalem is located inland, Jocius had necessarily spent time in the Islamic Near East—undoubtedly in Syria, which was one of the main destinations of merchants and pilgrims alike. There he must have encountered the local small tpe of madrasa on which he modeled the identicial institution he founded in Paris, Europe's first college. The Near Eastern origin of the Western European college could hardly be clearer" (Beckwith pp. 39-40).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Early Autograph Draft of Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed Circa 1185 – 1190

T-S_10Ka4.1,r: a page from an early autograph draft of Maimonides's 'Guide for the Perplexed.' (View Larger)

About 1185-1190 Moses Maimonides, rabbi, physician, and philosopher in Spain, Morocco and Egypt, wrote the Guide for the Perplexed, of which an early autograph draft is preserved in the Taylor-Schechter Cairo Genizah collection at Cambridge University Library, gathered from the Genizah of the Ben Ezra Synagogue Old Cairo, along with several other autograph manuscripts and fragments by Maimonides.

Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed, thought to have been completed by 1190,

"is the main source of the Rambam's philosophical views, as opposed to his opinions on Jewish law. Since many of the philosophical concepts, such as his view of theodicy and the relationship between philosophy and religion, are relevant beyond strictly Jewish theology, it has been the work most commonly associated with Maimonides in the non-Jewish world and it is known to have influenced several major non-Jewish philosophers. . . . Within Judaism, the Guide became widely popular and controversial, with many Jewish communities requesting copies of the manuscript."

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Limoges Enamel Book Cover Plaque Circa 1185 – 1210

The earliest known textual reference to the enamels produced in the city of Limoges, France, from the twelfth through fourteenth centuries concerns a book cover seen in the Abbey of Saint Victor in Paris in the 1160s and intended for an English abbot.

Though this book cover seems not to have survived, it might have been similar in some ways to a cover preserved in the Metropolitan Museum which dates from circa 1185 to 1210.

"Plaques showing Christ in majesty surrounded by symbols of the evangelists, usually paired with a plaque showing the Crucifixion, were produced in large numbers by Limoges enamelers. The variety of textures and patterns created through the masterful engraving and stippling of the five appliqué figures make this a particularly noteworthy example of a product for which Limoges artists were widely recognized and admired" (http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/17.190.757, accessed 10-25-2011).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

The Emergence of Concordances and Subject Indexes Circa 1190 – 1290

"In the course of the thirteenth century a flood of texts appeared that belonged to a genre virtually unknown before, works such as the alphabetical collections of biblical distinctiones, the great verbal concordances to the scriptures, alphabetical subject indexes to the writings of Aristotle and the Fathers, and location lists of books. These are works designed to be used, rather than read. Moreover, in many cases -- for example, the concordance, or subject index to the works of Augustine -- these new tools helped one to use, rather than to read, the texts to which they were devoted. Tools such as these are unknown in classical antiquity. They are alien to the Hebrew and Byzantine traditions until imported from the Latins. And they emerge with striking suddenness in the West, to the point that one may say that before the 1190s such tools did not exist, and that by 1290 the dissemination and new creation of such tools were commonplace. . . .The development of the concordance should be examined in the context of the methods used to 'distinguish' words found in the text of the Bible. The collections of biblical distinctiones that abound in western Europe from the end of the twelfth century are the earliest of alphabetical tools save the dictionaries. Distinction collections provide one with the various figurative and symbolic means of a noun that is found in Scripture, illustrating each meaning with a scriptural passage" (M. Rouse & R. Rouse, "The Development of Research Tools in the Thirteenth Century," Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts [1991] , 221-23).

From 1230 to 1239 the first concordance of the Bible was compiled in Paris under the guidance of Dominican Hugo, or Hugues, de Saint-Cher (Hugo de Sancto Charo). In this project Hugo was assisted by as many as 500 Dominican friars. Because Dominicans were required to preach they had need for a reference that correlated a word or subject with specific books and chapters in the Bible.

The first concordance contained no quotations, and was purely an index to passages where a word was found. These were indicated by book and chapter. The division into chapters had recently been invented by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury. Verses were introduced much later, by Robert Estienne in 1545. In lieu of verses, Hugo divided the chapters into seven almost equal parts, indicated by the first seven letters of the alphabet A-G. The first concordance gave only a list of passages, and no idea of what the passages contained. Thus was of little service to preachers. In order to make it more useful three English Dominicans added around 1250-1252 the complete quotations of the passages indicated. The work was somewhat abridged, by retaining only the essential words of a quotation, in the concordance of Conrad of Halberstadt, a Dominican (1310), which obtained great success on account of its more convenient form. 

"The production of this major work over a period time required an impressive organization of man-power. There survive, in the fifteenth-century bindings of manuscripts from Saint Jacques, four quires of what must be the penultimate draft of this concordance, revealing something of their methods: each quire was written by a different copyist responsible only for a fixed portion of the alphabet, as one can see from the blank space each left when he had finished his assigned task. Corrections were then noted, so that it would be ready for the final copy. A drawback of Saint Jacques I is the fact that its words are not cited in context. This version survives in eighteen manuscripts, thirteen of which date from the thirteenth century" (Rouse & Rouse, op. cit., 224-25.)

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Layamon's "Brut", the Earliest Source of the Legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table 1190 – 1215

Brut, a Middle English poem compiled and recast by the English priest Layamon (Laȝamon or Laȝamonn; occasionally written Lawman), was the first historigraphy written in English after the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and the first work in the English language to discuss the legends of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. It survived in two manuscripts both preserved in the Cottonian Library in the British Library: MS. Cotton Caligula A ix, dating from the third quarter of the 13th century, and the Cotton Otho C xiii, copied about fifty years later.

Layamon who lived at Areley Kings in Worcestershire, and wrote at a time in English history when most prose and poetry was composed in French, chose to write in English for his illiterate, impoverished religious audience. His poem is considered one of the best examples of early Middle English.

The work was first published in print as Laȝamon's Brut, or Chronicle of Britain, a Poetical Semi-Saxon Parapharase of the Brut of Wace. Now First published from the Cottonian Manuscripts in the British Museum accompanied by a Literal Translation, Notes and a Grammatical Glossary by Sir Frederick Madden (3 vols., London: The Society of Antiquaries, 1847.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Massacre of the Jewish Community of York, England Reflected in the Survival of a Single Hebrew Manuscript March 16, 1190

Clifford's Tower. (View Larger)

"The site of Clifford's Tower, the keep of York's medieval castle, still bears witness to the most horrifying event in the history of English Jewry. On the night of 16 March 1190, the feast of Shabbat ha-Gadol, the small Jewish community of York was gathered together for protection inside the tower. Rather than perish at the hands of the violent mob that awaited them outside, many of the Jews took their own lives; others died in the flames they had lit, and those who finally surrendered were massacred and murdered. "Understandably, this appalling event has become the most notorious example of antisemitism in medieval England. Yet, it was by no means an isolated incident, but rather the culmination of a tide of violent feeling which swept the country in the early part of 1190" (Clifford's Tower and the Jews of Medieval York [English Heritage, 1995], quoted by http://ddickerson.igc.org/cliffords-tower.html, accessed 02-11-2009).

The Valmadonna English Pentateuch, the supreme treasure of the Valmadonna Trust Library, was written during the first half of 1489. It is the only extant Hebrew book that can be dated to before the expulsion of the Jews by Edward I (Longshanks) in 1290.  "The survival of this manuscript is remarkably fortuitous, as it was completed by its scribe on the eve of a tumultuous period in the history of English Jewry. At the coronation of Richard I in September 1189, a riot began which resulted in an attack on the Jewish community of London and the murder of many of its members. Similar assaults were launched on Jews throughout England during the following year, culminating in a massacre at York in spring 1190. A contemporary chronicler, Ephraim of Bonn, reported that 'The mob which killed the Jews of York then looted the houses of the slain, took away gold and silver and the beautiful books they wrote, more precious than gold . . . and brought them to Cologne and to other places, where they sold them to the Jews.' Ironically, then, the Valmadonna English Pentateuch may have been saved for posterity largely as a result of its having been plundered" (Sotheby's brochure on the Valadonna Trust Library, accessed 02-13-2009).

See also an article in The New York Times online published on February 11, 2009 concerning the offering en bloc of the Valmadonna Trust Library of about 13,000 volumes collected over his lifetime by Jack V. Lunzer: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/12/books/12hebr.html.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Foundation of the Trésor des Chartes July 3, 1194

At a battle on July 3, 1194 with Richard I of England (Richard Coeur de Lion, Richard the Lion Heart) on the edge of the Fréteval forest (near Vendome) Philip II Augustus (Philippe Auguste) of France suffered a crushing defeat, and lost the treasure and the fiscal records that he carried on his campaigns. As a result of this loss Philippe Auguste was forced to reconstruct his records, and he decided to establish a greffe (registry) for his public acts. He entrusted the project to Gauthier de Nemours, his grand chambellan (grand chamberlain). From 1195 official records were stored in the Trésor des ChartesAfter Gauthier's death in 1220 the soldier-monk Guérin (Garin, Guarinus, Garinus) garde des sceaux (Keeper of the Seals) directed the project. 

In 1204 Philippe Auguste had the archive moved to the Louvre. At the end of the reign of Louis IX (St. Louis) in 1270 the Trésor des Chartes was moved to a building adjoining the Sainte-Chapelle within easy reach of the advocates of the Le palais de la cité. The archive grew as rapidly as the monarchy itself, and by the fourteenth century there was already a well-established archivist tradition in France. 

Dessalles, Le Trésor des chartes (1844) 91-92. Kelley, Foundations of Modern Historical Scholarship: Language, Law, and History in the French Renaissance (1969) 217. Moore, Restoring Order. The Ecole des Chartes and the Organization of Archives and Libraries in France, 1820-1870 (2008) 3.

View Map + Bookmark Entry

A Graphic Portrayal of 12th Century Life in Italy and Sicily 1196

The Coronation of Henry IV of Liber ad honorem Augusi sive de rebus Siculis, folio 105r of MS. 120 II, Berne Municipal Library. (View Larger)


In 1196 Peter of Eboli (Petrus Eburensis, Petrus de Ebulo), monk and court poet to Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Sicily, wrote Liber ad honorem Augusti sive de rebus Siculis ("Book in honour of the Emperor, or on Sicilian affairs"; also called Carmen de motibus Siculis, "Poem on the Sicilian revolt"). This illustrated narrative he wrote in Latin elegiac couplets probably in Palermo. The presentation copy, ordered by chancelor Konrad of Querfurt, is now MS. 120 II of the Berne Municipal Library.

The manuscript

"tells the story of Tancred of Lecce's attempt to take control of Sicily, an attempt thwarted by the successful military campaign of Henry VI, Holy Roman Emperor. Composed in honour of Henry VI and intended for presentation to him, the poem, distributed into three books, the last one being an encomiom [encomium] of Henry VI, and 52 continuously numbered particulae, is written in a mannered and sophisticated style. It is often mocking and extremely biased (see for example part. 4; 7-9; 25f. and the illustrations), but, once allowance has been made for this, is a useful and detailed historical source. It contains much information about Constanze of Sicily, the wife of Henry VI (part. 20ff.), and the birth of her son Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor (part. 43).

"At every page opening a column of Latin text is faced by a full page illustration with brief captions. This beautiful volume gives a rich picture of 12th century life in Italy and Sicily; it may be compared with the 11th century Bayeux Tapestry. The fierce caricatures of Tancred, who is depicted as almost ape-like in stature and features, match the propagandistic bias of the text" (Wikipedia article on Liber ad honorem Augusti, accessed 07-25-2009).

"Female nurses existed in Salerno from ancient times. Of this we have evident proof from two miniatures in a manuscript of the Carmen in honorem Augusti of Peter of Eboli in the municipal library of Berne . . . . In the first miniature we have a representation of Count Richard of Acerra lying wounded on the walls of a town he has been defending; we can see the doctor trying to extract an arrow which has pierced the jaw while two nurses carry medicaments and dressings. . . In the second an illustration of the death of William II is given; a nurse by the bed is trying to cool the heated air of the sick room by waving a fan" (Capparoni, "Magistri Salernitani Nondum Cogniti". A Contribution to the History of the Medical School of Salerno [1923] 17, frontispiece, and plate II).

View Map + Bookmark Entry

Foundation of the Vatican Registers 1198

From one of the registers of Innocent III for the period between 1198 and 1120. ASV, Reg. Vat. 5, f. 84v (detail). (View Larger)

In 1198 Pope Innocent III initiated a regularized system of record keeping at the Lateran Palace Library in which copies of letters sent were entered by hand in great registers. These were called the Vatican Registers.

"This series is one of the principal sources for documents on the papacy between the years 850 and the reorganization of the papacy in 1588. From the perspective of the history of the nature of documentation, the Vatican Registers are important in that they were regular in format and durable" (Blouin, Jr. Vatican Archives: An Inventory and Guide to Historical Documents of the Holy See [1998] xviii). 

View Map + Bookmark Entry