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John of Salisbury and William of Malmesbury: currents in twelfth-century humanism

  • Rodney Thomson (a1)


In their excellent little book Scribes and Scholars Reynolds and Wilson comparejohn of Salisbury and William of Malmesbury as classicists. The fact that the two men have never before been so compared, and the fact that even Reynolds’s and Wilson’s account contains a good many errors, shows how much is yet to be learned about the humanistic scholarship of the twelfth century. William and John are comparable in a number of ways, but most particularly in their interest in Greco-Latin antiquity: it is central to their scholarship, it is a major preoccupation in their works, it provides a key (and if we add biblical and patristic antiquity as well, the key) to their thinking about their contemporary world.



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1 Reynolds, L. D. and Wilson, N. G., Scribes and Scholars (2 ed Oxford 1974) pp 99100.

2 For instance they erroneously credit William with the knowledge of Livy, Plautus and Petronius.

3 Panofsky, E., Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art (2 ed London 1965) pp 6877, 10113, and the literature cited.

4 Liebeschütz, [H.], Mediaeval Humanism [in the Life and Writings of John of Salisbury, Warburg Institute Surveys 17] (London 1950) pp 6673.

5 ‘The Uses of Tradition: Gellius, Petronius and John of Salisbury’, Viator 10 (1979) pp 57-76.

6 Of these ‘Cornificius’ in the Metalogicon is the most notorious; many more examples may be found there, and in the Policraticus and Entheticus.

7 For instance, Lehmann, W., ‘Nachrichten und Gerüchte von der Überlieferung der Libri Sex Ckeronis De Republka ’, Erforschung des Mittelalters (5 vols. Stuttgart 1959-62) 4, pp 98102 ; Liebeschütz, H., ‘John of Salisbury and pseudo-Plutarch’, England and the Mediterranean Tradition (Oxford 1945) pp 339 ; M. Tullii Ckeronis De Divinatione, ed A. S. Pease (Urbana 1920-3 and Darmstadt 1963) pp 34-5 and n 217; Martin, J., report of her dissertation ‘John of Salisbury and the Classics’ in Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 73 (1969) pp 31921 , and her ‘John of Salisbury’s Manuscripts [of Frontinus and Gellius’], Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld In stitutes 40 (1977) pp 1-26; R. H. and Rouse, M. A., ‘The Medieval Circulation of Cicero’s Posterior Academics and the De Finibus Bonorum et Malorum’, Medieval Scribes, Manuscripts and Libraries: Essays presented to N. R. Ker (ed Parkes, y and Watson, A. G., London 1978) pp 3512.

8 Thomson, [R. M.], ‘William of Malmesbury as Historian [and Man of Letters’], JEH 29 (1978) pp 4027.

9 On which see James, M. R., Two Ancient English Scholars (Glasgow 1931) pp 267 . He prints the introduction in his A Descriptive Catalogue of Manuscripts in the Library of St John’s College Cambridge (Cambridge 1913) pp 127-8. Bk 1 was edited as a doctoral dissertation by H. Testroet (Harvard 1971).

10 Reynolds, L. D., [The Medieval Tradition of Seneca’s Letters] (Oxford 1965) pp 11522.

11 These figures are compiled from the tables to Thomson, [R. M.], [‘The] Reading [of William of Malmesbury’], RB 85 (1975) pp 362402 ; [The Reading of William of Malmesbury;] Addenda [et Corrigenda’], RB 86 (1976) pp 327-35; [‘The Reading of William of Malmesbury;] Further Additions [and Reflections’], RB 89 (1979) pp 313-24.

12 Reynolds, pp 117 and n 2, 120-3.

13 Thomson, ‘Reading’, pp 370-1; ‘William of Malmesbury as Historian’, p 389.

14 The exceptions are listed in Thomson, ‘Further Additions’, p 324: Plautus, Pseudolus (known only in a very few German MSS), Livy (not in England until Becket’s time), Petronius (brought there in John’s time).

15 James, Two Ancient English Scholars, p 22. The account is printed in full in Thomson, ‘Reading’, pp 373-4.

16 Ibid, pp 392-3.

17 Thomson, ‘Further Additions’, pp 323 and n 9, 324. Further evidence is presented in Thomson, R. M., ‘William of Malmesbury’s Carolingian Sources’, JMedH 7 (1981) pp 32137 . See also Jeauneau, E., ‘Guillaume de Malmesbury, premier éditeur anglais du Periphyseori, Sapientiae Doctrina (Louvain 1980) pp 15465.

18 Thomson, ‘William of Malmesbury as Historian’, pp 389-90.

19 Ibid, p 396; Thomson, R. M., ‘William of Malmesbury, John of Salisbury and the Nodes Atticae ’, Hommages à André Boutemy, Collection Latomus 145 (Brussels 1976) p 369 n 12.

20 Thomson, ‘William of Malmesbury as Historian’, pp 390-6.

21 Oxford, Lincoln College MS lat. 100 (Frontinus, Vegetius, Eutropius); Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Rawlinson G 139 (Cicero, Partitiones Oratoriae, De Officiis; pseudo-Quintilian, Declamationes Maiores XIX).

22 Thomson, ‘William of Malmesbury as Historian’, pp 408-9; ‘Further Additions’, p 322 and n 1.

23 Thomson, ‘William of Malmesbury as Historian’, p 404.

24 See the works by Lehmann, Pease and Rouse cited in note 7 above.

25 On MSS and knowledge of Cicero’s Epistulae ad familiares see Cicéron, Correspondance (ed L.-A. Constans, Paris 1950) 1, pp 14-26; and Cicero, , Epistulae ad Familiares (ed Bailey, D. R. Shackleton, 2 vols Cambridge 1977) 1, pp 320 . John of Salisbury’s references are given in the testimonia of the edition by U. Moricca (Turin 1950).

26 Thomson, ‘Reading’, pp 372-7, 397-8; ‘Addenda’, p 330; ‘Further Additions’, p. 316.

27 James, Two Ancient English Scholars, p. 22; Thomson, ‘Reading’, pp 373-4.

28 Ibid, p 377 and n 4; ‘Further Additions’, p 316.

29 Policraticus, prologue.

30 Liebeschütz, Mediaeval Humanism, pp 79-84.

31 William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum Anglorum (ed W. Stubbs, 2 vols RS London 1887-9) 1, pp xxxviii-xl. On the propensity of twelfth-century litterati to see themselves in terms of models see Bynum, C. W., ‘Did the Twelfth Century discover the Individual?’, JEH 31 (1980) pp 914.

32 Thomson, ‘William of Malmesbury as Historian’, pp 394-5, 399; William of Malmesbury, Gesta Regum 1, pp 58-67, 69; 2, pp 389, 518, 567.

33 Thomson, ‘William of Malmesbury as Historian,’ p 391.

34 John’s audience can be gauged from his correspondence, and from the circulation of the earliest MSS of his major works; see Linder, A., ‘The Knowledge of John of Salisbury in the Late Middle Ages’, Studi Medievali, ser. 3, 18 (1977) pp 31922.

35 For William’s Kulturkreis see Thomson, ‘William of Malmesbury as Historian’, pp 407-12. Many of William’s works fall under the heading of ‘teaching-material’.

36 Haskins, C. H., The Renaissance of the Twelfth Century (Harvard 1927) caps 1, 2 and 12.

37 Southern, R. W., ‘Humanism and the School of Chartres’, Medieval Humanism and other Studies (Oxford 1970) cap 5; idem, ‘Master Vacarius and the Beginning of an English Academic Tradition’ in Medieval Learning and Literature; Essays presented to R. W. Hunt (ed. J. J. G. Alexander and M. T. Gibson, Oxford 1976) cap 11; Flint, V., ‘The “School of Laon”: A Reconsideration’, RTAM 43 (1976) pp 89110.

38 Luscombe, D., The School of Peter Abelard (Cambridge 1969) cap 3.

39 ’ But see Reynolds and Wilson, pp 99-101. We need a study of Abbot Wibald of Stavelot and Corvey (1130-58) and his Cicero-collection; compare T. Maslowski and R. H. Rouse, ‘Twelfth-Century Extracts from Cicero’s Pro Archia and Pro Cluentio in Paris B.N. MS Lat. 18104’, ItaliaMedioevalee Umanistica22 (Padua 1979) p 101 and n 2.

40 ‘England’s Place [in the Twelfth-Century Renaissance’) in his Medieval Humanism cap 9.

41 On Godfrey see Gerhard, H., Der “Liber Proverbiorum” des Godefrid von Winchester (Würzburg 1974), reviewed in Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch 11 (Kastellaun 1976) pp 327-30; on Robert Haskins, C. H., Studies in the History of Medieval Science (2 ed Harvard 1927) pp 16971 , and Hunt, R. W., ‘English Learning in the Late Twelfth Century’ in Essays in Medieval History (ed Southern, R. W., London 1968) pp 1179 ; on Osbern Hunt, R. W., ‘The Lost Preface to the Liber Derivationum of Osbern of Gloucester’, Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies 4 (1958) pp 26681 . Senatus of Worcester, Godwin of Salisbury and Clement of Llanthony may also belong to this group.

42 I know of twenty-one MSS of Godfrey’s Epigrams, all but three continental, the earliest of the twelfth century. Of twenty-six known MSS of Osbern’s Derivationes or Panormia at least four are English. Of four MSS of Robert of Cricklade’s Abbreviatio Plinii only one is perhaps continental. It is likely that further research will increase these figures.

43 Pellegrin, E., ‘Un manuscrit des Derivationes d’Osbern de Gloucester annoté par Pétrarque (Par. lat. 7492)’, Italia Medioevale e Umanistica 3 (1960) pp 2636.

44 Millor, W. J. and Brooke, C. N. L., The Letters of John of Salisbury, 2 (Oxford 1979) pp 1823 Letter 177, quoting Osbern, Panormia, for the word ‘pus’ (see p 182 n 7). The letter is dated about July 1166 (pp xxviii-ix), and provides the earliest terminus ante quem for Osbern’s work.

45 See Southern, ‘England’s Place’, pp 158-9.

46 Policraticus ii. 28.

47 Martin, ‘John of Salisbury’s Manuscripts, pp 4-5.

48 Metalogicon i. 3.

49 Smalley, B., English Friars and Antiquity in the early Fourteenth Century (Oxford 1960), esp pp 54, 87, 151, 215, 230 ; Linder, ‘The Knowledge’, pp 327-9, 333-9; idem, ‘John of Salisbury’s Policraticus in Thirteenth-Century England, ‘Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 40 (1977) pp 276-82.

John of Salisbury and William of Malmesbury: currents in twelfth-century humanism

  • Rodney Thomson (a1)


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