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The ‘De generatione et corruptione’ in the ‘golden century’ of medieval encyclopaedias

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Abstract

The encyclopaedias from 1210 to 1260 were the first works to use Aristote’s translations. In this period, knowledge of De generatione ranged from silence in Alexander Nequam and Thomas de Cantimpré to marginal use in Barthélemy l’English and highly controlled, and literal use in Arnold de Saxony, the most aristolician of them. Vincent de Beauvais takes various forms: direct quotes contracted, new classifications of natural philosophy, philosophical allusions by Albert the Grand. Encyclopaedists have also transmitted Treaty concepts, consciously or otherwise, via intermediaries. In most cases, through the Canon of Avicenne, about the mixture of elements that forms the complexion specific to the specific shape of the bodies. In the trifaria version of the speculum maius of Vincent de Beauvais, extracts also arrive in the trifaria version, using Arab science classifications which made it possible to remain on the surface of the Treaty, or via the De homine d’Albert le Grand. However, there is still an aristotelism counterbalanced by ancient and medieval Latin naturalist texts, Arab medical treaties, and even patristic quotations. It is not a question of philosophical questioning, but rather of a presentation in a naturalist view that is more medical than speculative. In all these cases, the text is always represented in the literal Greek-Latin version of Burgundio de Pisa. In somewhat later encyclopaedias, aristotelism and triomphent philosophical thinking are accompanied by explicit, literal and intensive quotations. This is the case of the Compendium Philosophiae, where real questions correspond to the debates on contemporary comments on De generatione. This shows how the function of natural encyclopaedia or naturalist philosophical commentary — where Albert the Grand already excel — changes between around 1230 and 1250.

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