From Bell 1400oBaFrom Bell 1400oBa Livres des Propriétés Choses [in English, On the nature of things] is an early encyclopedia created by a Franciscan monk named Bartholomeus Anglicus or Bartholomew the Englishman (ca. 1203-ca. 1272). The Bell Library copy of this marvelous medieval manuscript, translated from its original Latin into Old French, dates to ca. 1400 and is believed to have been created in the Low Countries. It is dedicated to Charles V of France, who died in 1380. Little is known of Bartholomeus' early life. The first documented record of him is as a teacher at the University of Paris in 1224, however some scholars believe he studied at Oxford University under the great Robert Grosseteste (c. 1175 – 9 October 1253), one of the founders of English Scholastic thought. Bartholomeus' joined the newly established Franciscan Order also in 1224 or 1225, but continued to teach at Paris. In 1231 he traveled to Magdeburg in Germany to lecture at the school there and it was there that he wrote his great encyclopedia, De proprietatibus rerum [Latin title], sometime between 1242 and 1247.

Bartholomeus2On the nature of things covers all of the sciences known at that time, including theology, philosophy, medicine, chronology, zoology, botany, geography, astronomy, and mineralogy. It was intended for the instruction of his fellow Franciscans, who were expected to be educated but whose mission often prevented them from studying each discipline individually. The work is in 19 books, a number chosen for its symbolism: 12 for the signs of the zodiac + 7 for the number of planets, thus meaning "universality".

One of the reasons for this work's importance is that it is perhaps the first encyclopedia of the period to use both Jewish and Arab sources, particularly those writing about nature and medicine, as well as ancient Greek materials. Bartholomeus cites Aristotle, Pliny, Rabanus Maurus, Solinus, Hippocrates, and Isidore of Seville (author of an earlier encyclopedia), among others. On the nature of things was influential at the time it was created and its influence continued into the Renaissance. It was translated into several languages, including Spanish, French, Dutch, and English. More than 200 manuscripts survive as well as several early printed editions.

Chapter Titles

1. De deo (On God)
2. De angelis (On angels)
3. De anima (On the soul)
4. De elementis (On the elements: the 4 elements and the humors of the body)
5. De hominis corpore (On the human body)
6. De etate hominis (On the states of humans)
7. De informitatibus (On illness)
8. De mundo et celo (On the earth and the heavens)
9. De temporibus (On time)
10. De materia et forma (On matter and form)
11. De aere (On the air)
12. De avibus (On birds)
13. De aqua (On water)
14. De montibus (On mountains)
15. De regionibus (On the regions [of the world])
16. De De lapidibus (On stones and metals)
17. De herbis plantis (On herbs and plants)
18. De animalibus (On animals)
19. De accidentalibus (On accidentals)