Liber de natura rerum - Codex C-67

Liber de natura rerum - Codex C-67 – Universidad de Granada – C-67 – Biblioteca Universitaria de Granada (Granada, Spain)

Vienna (Austria) or Bavaria (Germany) — Ca. 1440

A medieval “Encyclopedia Britannica” concerning nature: the comprehensive work of Thomas of Cantimpré illuminated in hundreds of miniatures by the Regensburg illuminator Martinus Opifex

  1. Thomas of Cantimpré (1201–72) was a Flemish writer, preacher, theologian and Dominican friar

  2. He spent nearly twenty years creating an exhaustive compendium of scientific history

  3. His popular work was reproduced and plagiarized in numerous manuscripts for centuries

Liber de natura rerum - Codex C-67

C-67 Biblioteca Universitaria de Granada (Granada, Spain)
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Liber de natura rerum - Codex C-67

Thomas of Cantimpré was a leading philosopher and theologian in 13th century Europe and the author of numerous works on various subjects but is most famous for writing Liber de natura rerum. It is a comprehensive encyclopedia that enjoyed great popularity during the Late Middle Ages and has been reproduced in many manuscripts. The work draws on numerous sources both pagan and Christian, ancient and contemporary, and divides knowledge about the natural world into twenty chapters. This manuscript originated ca. 1440 and is adorned by 611 miniatures by Martinus Opifex, who was active at the court of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III. Aside from the text by Thomas of Cantimpré, it also contains the medical treatise Tacuinum Sanitatis by Ibn Buṭlān.

Liber de natura rerum - Codex C-67

The encyclopedic text Liber de natura rerum is the most significant work by Thomas of Cantimpré (1201–72), who dedicated almost twenty years of his life to writing it between 1225 and 1244. This genre of literature was popular during the Late Middle Ages and the work presents itself as a complete and exhaustive compendium of the previous scientific history, which is intended for use by clergymen. The work draws on various ancient and medieval sources, and

A Life of Contemplation and Edification

Thomas of Cantimpré was a medieval writer, preacher, theologian and Dominican friar from Flanders. Born into a noble family, his father fought alongside Richard the Lionheart (1157–99) in Palestine during the Third Crusade before fathering his son, whom he sent to Liege in 1206 for education at the age of five. In 1217, Thomas entered the Canons Regular of St. Augustine in the Abbey of Cantimpré near Cambrai, where he attained the priesthood and spent the next 15 years of his life. After entering the Domincan Order in Leuven in 1232, he was sent by the Order to Cologne the following year. There he studied theology under Albertus Magnus (ca. 1200–80). After four years in Cologne, he briefly went to Paris before returning to Leuven, where he rose to Magister of philosophy and theology before becoming a sub-prior and lector in 1246. He then seems to have grown tired of academic life and spent most of the last period of his life preaching in Brabant, Germany, Belgium, and France. Thomas was honored with the title of “General Preacher” in recognition of his contributions.

A Medieval Encyclopedia

The text is divided into twenty chapters covering topics such as the human body and soul (separate chapters) various animals, plants, stones, metals, and finishes by discussing cosmography and the four elements. Thomas of Cantimpré’s primary source was the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who was regarded as authoritative in medieval Europe, but also drew heavily from Pliny the Elder and Gaius Julius Solinus. Other sources include St. Ambrose and contemporaries like Jacques de Vitry and William of Conches, as well as numerous others that are either unnamed or difficult to recognize. Liber de natura rerumenjoyed great popularity as evidenced by the many manuscripts of it that have survived to the present and was often plagiarized during the Renaissance for catalogs of animals, stones, and monsters.

Miniatures from an Imperial Court Painter

The manuscript, which is now stored in the Biblioteca Universitaria de Granada, is generously adorned with 611 magnificent miniatures by Martinus Opifex (ca. 1400–56), who was active at the court of Holy Roman Emperor Frederick III (1415–93). It also features the famous medical treatise Tacuinum Sanitatis by Ibn Buṭlān (1001–64), making this one of the most comprehensive manuscripts of the work. This is a true synthesis of the arts combining the “current” state of knowledge with some of the finest illumination of the period.


Alternative Titles
Tomas de Cantimpré: Tacuinum Sanitatis Lib. IV-XII
Liber de natura rerum
Buch über die Natur der Dinge
Size / Format
232 pages / 45.5 × 34.5 cm
Ca. 1440
611 larger and smaller miniatures, numerous initials
De natura rerum of Thomas of Cantimpré
Compilation from Tacuinum sanitatis and De natura rerum
Possibly Frederick III (1415–1493)
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Jesuit College in Graz
College of San Pablo de los Padres de la Compania de Jesus in Granada

Available facsimile editions:
Liber de natura rerum - Codex C-67 – Universidad de Granada – C-67 – Biblioteca Universitaria de Granada (Granada, Spain)
Limited Edition: 1,500 copies
Detail Picture

Liber de natura rerum - Codex C-67


The poppy plant has been used medicinally for thousands of years. It was first used by the Sumerians and doctors in ancient Egypt gave their patients suffering in pain poppy seeds, which contain small quantities of both morphine and codeine. This miniature presents a man and woman with childlike features tending their patch of red poppies. The wattle fence that protects it cannot keep the birds out, some of which are depicted perched on the pods and eating seeds.

Liber de natura rerum
Single Page

Liber de natura rerum - Codex C-67

Deer, Camel, and Wild Goat

Connected by a bright red frame, these three miniatures come from the bestiary section of the manuscript and are accompanied by their moralizing texts. In the upper register, two men armed with spears are cornering a deer in front of a beautiful purple background patterned with golden tendrils as another deer watches helplessly from the across a stream.

The middle miniature shows a camel being presented to a group of clergymen, the foremost of which appears to wear a bishop’s miter, who are standing in front of a building on a hilltop. In the lower register, one goat climbs up a mountain while another eats leaves from a tree. The marvelous background of this scene is very similar to the one found in the upper register.

Liber de natura rerum
Facsimile Editions

#1 Liber de natura rerum

Limited Edition: 1,500 copies
Binding: Embossed calfskin; comes in half-linen slipcase
Commentary: 1 volume (330 pages)
Languages: English, Spanish
1 volume: This facsimile is not complete. De natura rerum lib. IV-XII (fols. 2v-116r) Reproduction of a part of original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding. De natura rerum lib. IV-XII (fols. 2v-116r)
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
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