The Medieval Encyclopaedia: Science and Practice
At the University Library
|Imagination, memory, and other mental powers, from an account
of the human head, one of many treatises gathered in a one-volume
encyclopaedic Library. England, West Midlands, c. 1330.
CUL MS Gg.1.1, f. 490v.
The story of the Creation, Temptation, and Fall lamented the loss
of harmony between God, nature, and man. Medieval science sought
to restore this harmony by encouraging a wholistic view of the world.
The all-embracing knowledge of physical and spiritual realities
was advocated in encyclopaedic volumes as well as in highly specialised
Bestiaries presented information about animals, real and imaginary,
in the light of Christian moralisation. Treatises on music and arithmetic
focused on the harmony of creation. History inspired prognostication.
Maps combined geography with mythology. Medicine drew on astrology
and alchemy. Scientific manuscripts reveal the multifaceted use
of images as text markers, paedagogical illustrations, incentives
for careful reading, mnemonic aids, and visual interpretations.