Rabanus Maurus: De Universo - De Rerum Naturis

Rabanus Maurus: De Universo - De Rerum Naturis

Montecassino Abbey (Italy) — 1022–1035

The first encyclopedia of the Middle Ages, created in the Montecassino Monastery: treatises on all aspects of life by a bishop and universal scholar

  1. This is an abridged version of the 22-volume encyclopedia created by Rabanus Maurus (ca. 780–856) in the year 847

  2. No facet of life is neglected: church, books, culture, the natural world, the body and the soul, monsters…

  3. A mirror to the social life of its time and is thereby an inestimably valuable and reliable historical source!

Rabanus Maurus: De Universo - De Rerum Naturis

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Rabanus Maurus: De Universo - De Rerum Naturis

The comprehensive encyclopedia by Rabanus Maurus titled De Universo - De Rerum Naturis was published in the year 847.Here we have an abridged version of the work, which was in the possession of the famous Montecassino Abbey for centuries. The codex provides information about every facet of people’s lives during the Middle Ages. Its fascinating miniatures illustrate the information outlined in the text in an outstanding way.

Rabanus Maurus: De Universo - De Rerum Naturis

The Montecassino Abbey was one of the most important and wealthy monasteries of the medieval world. The Benedictine abbey was in the possession of arguably the most comprehensive collection of handwritten texts and books. Among these literary treasures was an abridged version of the encyclopedia by Rabanaus Maurus titled De Universo - De Rerum Naturis. This large-format codex contains 530 pages of the finest calligraphy, as was typical for the scriptoria of the Benedictines. The work is outstandingly illustrated with over 360 vivid and headily colored miniatures. Not only the artistic, but also the scientific worth of these illustrations is astounding. It is the most comprehensive and widely disseminated textbook manufactured during the entire Middle Ages.

A Noble Goal

The “teacher of Germany” published a comprehensive, 22-volume encyclopedia in the year 847. Rabanus dedicated it to the Bishop Haimo von Halberstadt. The work is supposed to have originated “with the express aim of giving him and his pastorate in a book-poor region an aide for the fulfillment of their pastoral responsibilities, in particular with regard to evangelization.” With his encyclopedia, Rabanus set a goal for himself to “depict the entire reality of the visible and invisible world”. He dealt not only with the meaning of words and the properties of things, but furthermore, their mystic significance in the frame of the allegorical interpretation of the Bible. Thus, the work became a handbook on biblical hermeneutics. Rabanus extracted the allegorical interpretations of authors from late antiquity like Jerome, Augustine, and Gregory the Great and made them readily available under their respective keyword.

Experience Medieval Society

Rabanus’ encyclopedia unites various aspects of the knowledge of the Middle Ages. It concerns the historical and biblical traditions of the church, books and culture, the world of animals and plants, the lives of people, the nature of the body and the soul, monsters and wondrous events, music, medicine, agriculture, weather phenomena, and the calculation of time…no facet of life in the Middle Ages is left out. The work represents a mirror to the social life of its time and is thereby an inestimably valuable and reliable historical source. The universal character of the text is also mirrored in its enthralling illustrations. The razor-sharp miniatures illustrate each thematic area in thrilling image scenes. The gorgeous pictures do not merely serve as ornamentation, but instead make the facts outlined in the text clearly perceptible.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
De Universo o De Rerum Naturis de Rabano Mauro
Hrabanus Maurus: De universo oder De rerum naturis
Size / Format
530 pages / 49.0 × 35.0 cm
Origin
Italy
Date
1022–1035
Style
Language
Script
Beneventan script
Illustrations
335 miniatures, numerous decorated initials e.g. animals, plants, buildings and weapons
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Rabanus Maurus: De Universo - De Rerum Naturis – Cod. Casin. 132 – Archivio dell'Abbazia di Montecassino (Montecassino, Italy)
Priuli & Verlucca, editori – Scarmagno, 1994
Limited Edition: 500 copies
Detail Picture

Rabanus Maurus: De Universo - De Rerum Naturis

Seraph

A seraph is a six-winged angel and according to Isaiah 6.1-8, the seraphim fly continuously around the Throne of God chanting “holy, holy, holy”. As such, the seraphim occupy the highest choir of the angelic hierarchy in Christian theology. Seraph means “the burning one”, meaning one who is burning with love for the Creator, and this seraph is depicted holding two swords that are wrapped in flame. The fiery nature of the seraphim was firmly entrenched in the medieval imagination and art.

De Universo De Rerum Naturis Rabano Mauro
Single Page

Rabanus Maurus: De Universo - De Rerum Naturis

Beasts, Monsters, and Grotesques

Here we have a page from the bestiary section of this 11th century encyclopedia, which is filled with images of various creatures, all of whom were likely believed to be real at the time. The modern observer will immediately recognize that some of these animals are real, such as lions or other large cats, even if they are not always correctly colored, like the blue elephant.

Two of the large cats are depicted with multi-colored spots, possibly an unsuccessful attempt to portray a leopard or cheetah. At the top of the page, we see a large griffin with a pink body and blue wings. A small green grotesque can be seen at the bottom of the page, it has an uncolored human face and a body resembling that of a dog or possibly a lynx.

De Universo De Rerum Naturis Rabano Mauro
Facsimile Editions

#1 De Universo De Rerum Naturis Rabano Mauro

Priuli & Verlucca, editori – Scarmagno, 1994

Publisher: Priuli & Verlucca, editori – Scarmagno, 1994
Limited Edition: 500 copies
Binding: Brown calfskin spine with wooden boards and tie-strings. Brown calfskin slipcase with blind toolings on the boards.
Commentary: 1 volume (216 pages) by Guglielmo Cavallo
Languages: Italian, English
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€€€ (7,000€ - 10,000€)
Edition available
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