Mandonnet, The Speculum Astronomiae and the Condemnation of 1277

  • Paola Zambelli
Part of the Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science book series (BSPS, volume 135)


Lynn Thorndike could not understand why “Dominicans seem so anxious to prove that the Speculum astronomiae was not by Albert the Great, or to saddle it on Roger Bacon, a Franciscan. It is a very valuable treatise, shows remarkable bibliographical information, and would be a credit to either Albert or Roger”.1 It is true that recently one scholar seemed proud not “to have paid much attention to it [...] because it is a rather trivial compilation interesting only inasmuch as it tells us what was being read at the time it was written”.2 This judgment by an “internalist” historian of medieval science, however, is not confirmed by the fully sympathetic reception the Speculum astronomiae enjoyed from the end of the thirteenth century up to and throughout the sixteenth, nor by the persistent historiographical discussion on the authorship and the importance of this work. The Speculum is in itself a precious bibliographical guide. It surveys all the information on Greek and Arab astronomy and astrology recently acquired by the Medieval Latin world. The greatest number of translations listed in the Speculum are in fact the product of the century which preceded the writing of this work, which I propose to place in the 1260s. The Speculum is even more important as an accurate and clear methodological introduction to the various parts and the fundamental problems of astrology, at a time when the discipline, being still a recent acquisition, was at the center of scientific, philosophical, and theological concerns. At the same time, no one denied that astrology had greatly superseded high Medieval divination, as a simple comparison with a Latin text of the twelfth century — for instance, the Libellus de efficacia antis astrologiae by Eudes de Champagne — would easily prove.3


Thirteenth Century Twelfth Century Valuable Treatise Latin Text Catholic Faith 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. 1.
    Further consideration of the Experimenta, Speculum astronomiae and De secretis mulierum ascribed to Albertus Magnus’, Speculum,XXX, 1955, p. 427.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. D. North, Horoscopes and History, London, 1986, p. 172. On the “complacency towards astrology, or positive acceptance it” from the times of Hildegard of Bingen to those of Bartholomeus Anglicus, Vincent of Beauvais, Roger Bacon, and Etienne Tempier, cf. Richard of Wallingford, An edition of his Writings with Introductions, English Translations and commentary by John D. North, Oxford, at the Clarendon Press, II, 1976, p. 84 ff.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    M. H. Malevicz, ed., `Libellus de efficacia artis astrologiae’, Mediaevalia philosophica polonorum, XX, 1974, pp. 3–95; cf pp. 47, 53, 92. Among the arabs Abu Ma’shar is the more certain of the sources for the Libellus (possibly together with al-Farghani and al-Qabisi).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    P. Glorieux, Répertoire, Paris 1933, I, p. 75, on Albert; I, p. 392 on Philippe de Thory; II, p. 73, on Roger Bacon. See below, for full citation of the works by Mandonnet and Geyer here quoted. Cf. Albertus Magnus, Speculum astronomaie, ed. S. Caroti, M.Pereira, S. Zamponi, P. Zambelli, Pisa, Domus Galileana, 1977, Appendix II, which lists its mss., the codexes Bodleian, Digby 81, (13`h Cent.) and Digby 228 (14`h Cent.). This ed. will be quoted hereafter as Speculum and reproduced below p. 203 ff.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    P. Mandonnet, `Roger Bacon et le Speculum astronomiae’ (1277), Revue néoscolastique de philosophie, XVII, 1910, pp. 313–335: cf further comments by Mandonnet in the second edition of his classic study Siger de Brabant et l’Averroisme latin au XIIIe siècle, Louvain 1911, I, pp. 244–248 and in the Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, I, Paris 1930, col. 673, s. v. Albert-le-Grand. See also P. Mandonnet, `Roger Bacon et la composition des trois Opus’, Revue néoscolastique de philosophie, XX, 1913, pp. 52–68, 164–180. Before Mandonnet, few had approached the problem: amongst others, see L. Choulant, `Albertus Magnus in seiner Bedeutung für die Naturwissenschaften’, Janus. Zeitschrift für Geschichte und Literatur der Medizin, I, 1846, p. 138 (“nicht in der gewöhnlichen Schreibart Alberts verfasst, vielleicht unecht”); M. Steinschneider, ‘Zur Geschichte der Übersetzungen aus dem Indischen ins Arabische’, Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft, XXV, 1871, p. 386 registered this doubt concerning the attribution to Albert, but confirmed the dating of the Speculum to Albert’s time; Steinschneider did however abandon all reservation in his study ‘Zum Speculum astronomiae des Albertus Magnus, über die darin angeführten Schriftsteller und Schriften’, Zeitschriftfür Mathematik und Physik, XVI, 1871, pp. 357–396, where the identification of the eastern sources and of their Latin translators offered the first philological contribution for the study of this treatise; the research had been undertaken at the request of Jessen, the editor of the Albertinian text De vegetalibus. Jessen was then preparing a critical edition of the Speculum, and had sent a ms. copy of the work to Steinschneider, who in the article quoted above listed some of the manuscripts. J. Sighart, Albertus Magnus, Regensburg 1857, p. 343 did not doubt the authenticity (“So zeigt sich Albertus auch in dieser Schrift als Forscher, der selbst geprüft und sich über den Wogen des Aberglaubens seiner Vorgänger hierin glücklich zu erhalten gewusst hat”), contrary to what is reported by F. von Bezold, Aus Mittelalter und Renaissance, Berlin 1918, p. 403 n. 351. Ch. Jourdain too did not doubt the authenticity of the work in his `N. Oresme et les astrologues’, Revue des questions historiques, XVIII, 1875, p. 139.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    A. Birkenmajer, Études d’histoire des sciences et de la philosophie du Moyen Age,WroclawWarszawa-Krakow 1970, pp. 143–145; cf. Ch. H. Haskins, Studies in the History of Mediaeval Science,Cambridge, Mass. 1924, p. 69n., 164, 288, 338n., in which is reprinted a study written in 1911 (immediately after the article by Mandonnet) quoting Albert as the author of the Speculum.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    See Speculum, Prooemium/1–5: “apud quos non est radix scientiae, […] verae sapientiae inimici, h. e. D. N. Iesu Christi […] catholicae fidei amatoribus merito sunt suspecti”.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    L. Thorndike, A History of Magic and experimental Science,II, New York 1923 [hereafter TH, II] pp. 11, 55–56 and passim; see also some distinctions I deployed in my essay 11 problema della magia naturale nel Rinascimento’, Rivista critica di storia della filosofia,XXV, 1973, pp. 271 ff. An interesting discussion about whether it was right to “class astrology with the occult sciences” has recently been published by J.V. Field, `Astrology in Kepler’s Cosmology’, in Astrology, Science and Society. Historical Essays,ed. by P. Curry, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 1987, p. 143 ff.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Speculum, Prooemium/6: “placuit aliquibus magnis vins, ut libros quosdam alios et fortasse innoxios accusarent”.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Speculum, Prooemium/7–8: “quia plures ante dictorum librorum necromantiam palliant professionem astronomiae mentientes”. Cf Thomas Aquinas, De sortibus [1268–1272],in Opuscola theologica,ed. R. Averardo, I Torino-Roma 1954, pp. 161–162 and 642–650; Opera omnia,Roma 1976, vol.XLIII (Opuscula,IV),pp. 229–238, 239–241: according to Thomas “patet quod sors proprie in rebus humanis locum habeat” and he put forward a classification of all forms of divination in order to distinguish the natural, legitimate ones from those considered to be supernatural or evil.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    In a critical discussion which appeared separately from Mandonnet’s preoccupation with the connection between Tempier and the Speculum astronomiae,R. Hissette, `Etienne Tempier et ses condamnations’, Recherches de théologie ancienne et médievale,48, 1980, p. 265, thought it was “certain que la seconde condamnation de Tempier fut bien davantage prise au sérieux que la première [du 1270]. D’aucuns l’ont critiqué. Ainsi Gilles de Rome et un maître qui pourrait être Jacques de Douai; ceux-ci ne cesserent pourtant de s’y soumettre”.Google Scholar
  12. E. Grant, `The condemnation of 1277, God’s absolute power, and physical thought in the late Middle Ages’, Viator,10, 1979, p. 239 Taking up again the important critical remarks Koyrè deployed against Duhem (pp. 212–213), Grant focused on articles 34 e 49 (cf. pp. 139–141), the ones which provoked the physical discussions on the concept of emptiness, of center, of weight and of natural places, of celestial bodies’ rectilinear or circular motion, and on the consequences of such discussions — that continued up to Suarez, Campanella, Hobbes, Gassendi, and Locke — for the re-definition of the power of God (“The God of the Middle Ages, who could do anything he pleased short of a logical contradiction, was replaced by a God of constraint, who, having created a perfect clock-like universe, rested content merely to contemplate his handiwork ever thereafter”, p. 244). In Grant there are interesting remarks on Tempier’s articles 204 and 219 referring to the problem of intelligences —where even Thomas Aquinas was censored— and concerning article 6, on the subject of the great year (pp. 235 ff., 238). To the bibliography he listed (p. 211, n. 1), one should add the summary of his own article Grant offered in Cambridge History of Later Mediaeval Philosophy,Cambridge 1982, pp. 537–539; R. Hissette, Enquête sur les 219 articles condannés à Paris le 7 mars 1277,Louvain-Paris 1977; J.P. Wippel, `The Condemnations of 1270 and 1277 at Paris’, The Journal of Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies,VII, 1977, pp.169–202; R. Wielockx, `Le ms. Paris. lat. 16096 et la condemnation du 7 mars 1277’, Recherches de théologie ancienne et médievale,XLVIII, 1981, pp. 227–232; K. Flasch, Aufklärung im Mittelalter? Die Verurteilung von 1277, Das Dokument des Bischofs von Paris übersetzt und erklärt v. K. Flasch, Mainz, DVB, 1989; L. Bianchi, Il vescovo e i fdosofa. La condanna parigina del 1277 e l’evoluzione dell’aristotelismo scolastico,Bergamo, Lubrina, 1990.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    M.-Th. d’Alverny, `Un témoin muet des luttes doctrinales du XIIIe siècle’, Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Age,XXIV, 1949, p. 226; cf. Godefroid de Fontaines, Quatuordecim Quodlibeta,ed. M.De Wulff- A.Pelzer- J.Hoffmans, Louvain-Paris 1904–1935, Quodl. XII, q. 5, where articles 96, 124, 36, 215, 204, 219, 129, 130, 160, and 163 of the condemnation of 1277 are re-examined.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Raymundus Lullus, Declaratio per modum dialogi edita,hrsg. v. O. Keicher, Münster 1909 (= Beiträge z. Geschichte d. Philosophie und u. Theologie d. Mittelalters, VII, 4–5), p. 95 ff., cf. J. N. Hillgarth, Ramon Lull and Lullism in fourteenth century France,Oxford 1971, pp. 230–31, 251.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Aegidius Romanus, Errores philosophorum. Critical Text with notes and introduction by J. Koch, English Translation by J. O. Riedl, Milwaukee 1944, pp. XXIX-XL, LV-LIX, 3–67; cf also the first ed. (as an anonimal text) in Mandonnet, Siger cit.,II, 2nd. ed. 1911, pp. 3–25.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Speculum, III/28–30 “universi ordinationem nulla scientia humana perfecte attingit, sicut scientia iudiciorum astrorum”; cf. XIII/54–60: “Quod si propter hoc condemnetur ista scientia, eo quod liberum arbitrium destruere videatur hoc modo, certe eadem ratione non stabit magisterium medicinae: numquid enim ex eius magisterio iudicatur quis secundum causas inferiores aptus ad huiusmodi vel ineptus? Quod si magisterium medicinae destruatur multum erit utilitati reipublicae derogatum, eo vero stante non videntur habere quid contra partem nativitatum allegent”.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Speculum,II/76–84: “non est lumen geometriae cum evacuata fuerit astronomia”. The tone is not unusual for Albert: see for instance “quidam qui nesciunt omnibus modis volunt impugnare usum philosophiae… blasphemantes in fis quae ignorant”, a passage taken from his commentary In Epistolas Dionysii,a text which dates back to the first period in Cologne (1248–1249). This passage, already quoted by Mandonnet, in Siger cit.,I, pp. 35–36n, now is also to be found in Van Steenberghen, La Philosophie au XIIIe siècle,Louvain-Paris 1963, p. 275 n. Further, highly polemical passages by Albert are to be found in De somno et vigilia, I, i, 1 e III, ii, 5, ed. Jammy, V, pp. 65a, 106 and are quoted in TH, II, 585.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Speculum,XII/1–8. “Quoniam autem occasione eorum, ut dictum est, multi libri praenominati et fortassis innoxii accusantur, licet accusatores eorum amici nostri sint, veritatem tamen oportet, sicut inquit Philosophus, honorare, protestor tamen quod si aliquid dicam quo velim uti in defensione eorum, quoniam determinando non dico, sed potius opponendo vel excipiendo et ad determinationis animadversionem determinatoris ingenium provocando”. The expression “veritas salvari” is usual for Albert, and for him carried epistemological implications, see De caelo,ed. P. Hossfeld, Opera omnia,t. V, I, Münster 1971, p. 129/10; bk. II, tr. 2, ch. 2, and especially p. 168/31, where an importat discussion of the various astronomical systems ended with a remark and an hypothesis “salvantes Aristotelem et veritatem, quam invenimus diligenti astrorum inspectione”. The use of the “quoniam” instead of the “quod” was not unusual in the Speculum,XIV/61, 71–71, and reflected an imitation of the patristic style.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    R. Lemay, Abu Ma’shar and Latin Aristotelianism in the Twelfth Century. The Recovery of Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy through Arabic Astrology,Beirut 1962; T. Gregory, `L’idea di natura nella filosofia medievale prima dell’ingresso della fisica di Aristotele’, in La filosofia della natura nel Medioevo. Atti del III Congresso Internazionale di Filosofia Medievale [La Mendola 1964], Milano 1966, pp. 27–65; M.-Th. d’Alverny, introduction to ‘Al-Kindi De Radiis’,Archives d’histoire doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Age,XLI, 1974, p. 139 ff. Mandonnet, `Roger Bacon’, p. 329 believed that only one of the propositions condemned in 1277 and analysed in the next paragraph (namely nr. 167, numbered by Mandonnet 178) concerned the divinatory sciences, an assumption he took as confirmation of the hypothesis that the teaching of Aristotle in Paris was developed independently of Arabic influences in this field. TH, II, 709–713 listed, but did not analyze, several propositions. In his analysis of the condemned theses, E. Gilson, La philosophie au Moyen Age,Paris 1952, 2nd ed., pp. 560–561, did not discuss astrology, but saw in the tendency to necessitarianism the decisive element that provoked Bishop Tempier’s decree.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    H. Denifle and E. Chatelain, Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis,I, Paris 1899, p. 552, art. 156: “Quod si celum staret, ignis in stupam non ageret, quia Deus non esset”; R. Hissette, Enquéte sur les 219 articles cit.,p. 142 (followed by L. Bianchi, Il vescovo e i filosofi cit.,but not by K. Flasch, Aufklärung im Mittelalter? cit.) has proposed an interesting emendation to the last words of this article, namely: “quia natura deesset”. Two mss. give this reading, but the traditional form cannot be so easily dismissed being not only printed by Du Plessis d’Argentré or Mandonnet, but also being the subject of discussion by contemporaries such as Ramon Llull and John of Naples. Hissette, pp. 70 ff., 117 ff. has fully commented on the nature and role of intelligences and their influence on inferior substances. He traces the sources of the theses condemned mainly to Siger. Bianchi does not consider intelligences, but makes interesting comments on Mandonnet’s historical method. See also in Denifle, art. 21: “…quod nichil fit contingenter considerando omnes causas”; art. 38: “Quod Deus non potuit fecisse primam materiam nisi mediante corpore celesti”; art. 59: “Quod Deus est causa necessaria motus corporum superiorum et coniunctionis et divisionis continentis in stellis”; art. 92: “Quod corpora celestia moventur a principio intrinseco, quod est anima; et quod moventur per animam et per virtutem appetitivam, sicut animal; sicut enim animal appetens movetur, ita et celum”.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paola Zambelli
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di FilosofiaUniversitá di FirenzeItaly

Personalised recommendations