Written between 1228 and 1244 by Thomas de Cantimpré, a Dominican friar and learned naturalist, Albert the Great’s pupil in Cologne, De naturis rerum lies within the tradition of medieval encyclopaedias: on a base that can be dated back to Isidore of Seville, various data are often collected from previous works with edification and moralization purposes where nature is seen in a symbolic and spiritual key. The success of this work was great in the Middle Ages, an evidence thereof being the extant around 200 manuscripts and the fact that it was widely used by other authors, among whom Vincent de Beauvais and Albert the Great himself. The codex, which is nowadays kept in Oxford, was finished in Portogruaro “provincie Foriiulii”, probably in the Minor Friars’ convent, on Friday January 22nd 1311, as it can be read in the colophon. Unlike other De naturis rerum manuscripts, the Canonicianus 356 does not have miniatures of plants and animals; the illumination is here restrained to the small decorated initials, brush-painted and pen-outlined. At the end of the fifteenth century the manuscript was in St. Nazario’s and St. Lazzaro’s Convent in Verona, which belonged to St. Justine congregation of Padua. In 1720 it was purchased by Giovanni Battista of Recanati and subsequently got into Matteo Luigi Canonici’s collection that later ended up into Bodleian Library of Oxford.
- 1311 January 22nd, Portogruaro; parchment; mm 240 × 165; ff. IV, 113, III’
- Oxford, Bodleian Library, Canon. Misc. 356
This exemplar of a work that follows the tradition of great medieval encyclopaedias and had a wide spread in the Middle Ages was written in Portogruaro, “in the province of Friuli”, at the beginning of the fourteenth century.