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James le Palmer Compiles "Omne Bonum," the First Encyclopedia Arranged in Alphabetical Order

Circa 1375
<p>Detail of a miniature of the Fall. British Library Royal 6 E VII f.2.</p>

Detail of a miniature of the Fall. British Library Royal 6 E VII f.2.

Folio 1v of Omne Bonum upon which is drawn the four scenes of creation: God creating fish; God creating animals; the Creation of Adam; the Creation of Eve. (View Larger)

About 1375 English clerk of the Exchequer, James le Palmer, compiled and wrote out Omne bonum, an encylopedia of universal knowledge, on 1100 folio leaves, with roughly 1,000,000 words. Le Palmer also commissioned over 800 illustrations from various manuscript illuminators. The manuscript (British Library MS Royal 6.E VI-VII) is the earliest encyclopedia with its entries arranged in alphabetical order.  Its illustrations, covering the widest range of subjects, are a major iconographical source for the time. 

Attribution of authorship and analysis of the text and images of this manuscript was done by Lucy Freeman Sandler and published as Omne Bonum. A Fourteenth-Century Encyclopedia of Universal Knowledge (2 vols., 1996.) Sandler's two volumes contain almost 900 illustrations. Sandler also traced the sources of Le Palmer's information for the many articles in his encyclopedia.

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