SCOT AT TOLEDO

In following the course which Michael Scot held in his voyage to Spain,
we approach what was beyond all doubt the most important epoch in the
life of that scholar. Hitherto we have seen him as the student preparing
at Paris or Bologna for a brilliant future, or as the tutor of a youthful
monarch, essaying some literary ventures, which justified the position
he held in Sicily, and recommended him for future employment. But the
moment was now come which put him at last in possession of an opportunity
suitable to his training and talents. We are to see how he won in Spain
his greatest reputation in connection with the most important literary
enterprise of the age, and one which is indeed not the least remarkable
of all time.

The part which the Arabs took in the intellectual awakening of Europe
is a familiar theme of early mediæval history. That wonderful people,
drawn from what was then an unknown land of the East, and acted on
by the mighty sense of religion and nationality which Mohammed was
able to communicate, fell like a flood upon the weak remains of older
civilisations, and made huge inroads upon the Christian Empire of
the East. Having reached this point in their career of conquest they
became in their turn the conquered, not under force of arms indeed,
but as subdued by the still vital intellectual power possessed by those
whom they had in a material sense overcome. In their new seat by the
streams of the Euphrates they learned from their Syrian subjects, now
become their teachers, the treasures of Greek philosophy which had been
translated into the Aramaic tongue. Led captive as by a spell, the
Caliphs of the Abassid line, especially Al Mansour, Al Rachid, and Al
Mamoun, encouraged with civil honours and rewards the labours of these
learned men. Happy indeed was the Syrian who brought to life another
relic of the mighty dead, or who gave to such works a new immortality by
rendering them into the Arabic language.

Meanwhile the progress of the Ommiad arms, compelled to seek new
conquests by the defeat they had sustained in the East from the
victorious Abbassides, was carrying the Moors west and ever westward
along the northern provinces of Africa. Egypt and Tripoli and Tunis
successively fell before their victorious march; Algiers and Morocco
shared the same fate, and at last, crossing the Straits of Gibraltar, the
Moors overran Spain, making a new Arabia of that western peninsula, which
in position and physical features bore so great a likeness to the ancient
cradle of their race.

It is true indeed that long ere the period of which we write the Moorish
power in the West had received a severe check, and had, for at least a
century, entered on its period of decay. The battle of Tours, fought
in 732, had driven the infidels from France. The Christian kingdoms of
Spain itself had rallied their courage and their forces, and, in a scene
of chivalry, which inspired many a tale and song, had freed at least the
northern provinces of that country from the alien power. But weapons of
war, as we have already seen in the case of the Arabs themselves, are
not the only means of conquest. The surest title of the Moors to glory
lies in the prevailing intellectual influence they were able to exert
over that Christendom which, in a political sense, they had failed to
subdue and dispossess. The scene we have just witnessed in the East was
now repeated in Spain, but was repeated in an exactly opposite sense. The
mental impulse received from the remains of Greek literature at Bagdad
now became in its turn the motive power which not only sufficed to carry
these forgotten treasures westward in the course of Moorish conquest, but
succeeded, through that nation, in rousing the Latin races to a sense of
their excellence, and a generous ambition to become possessed of all the
culture and discipline they were capable of yielding.

The chief centre of this influence, as it was the chief scene of contact
between the two races, naturally lay in Spain. During the ages of Moorish
dominion the Christians of this country had lived in peace and prosperity
under the generous protection of their foreign rulers. To a considerable
extent indeed the Moors and Spaniards amalgamated by intermarriage. The
language of the conquerors was familiarly employed by their Spanish
subjects, and these frequented in numbers the famous schools of science
and literature established by the Moors at Cordova, and in other
cities of the kingdom. Proof of all this remains in the public acts of
the Castiles, which continued to be written in Arabic as late as the
fourteenth century, and were signed by Christian prelates in the same
characters;[78] in the present language of Spain which retains so many
words of eastern origin; but, above all, in the profound influence, now
chiefly engaging our attention, which has left its mark upon almost every
branch of our modern science, literature, and art.

This result was largely owing to a singular enterprise of the twelfth
century with which the learned researches of Jourdain have made us
familiar.[79] Scholars from other lands, such as Constantine, Gerbert,
afterwards Pope Sylvester II., Adelard of Bath, Hermann, and Alfred
and Daniel de Morlay, had indeed visited Spain during that age and
the one which preceded it, and had, as individuals, made a number of
translations from the Arabic, among which were various works in medicine
and mathematics, as well as the first version of the Koran. But in the
earlier half of the twelfth century, and precisely between the years
1130 and 1150, this desultory work was reduced to a system by the
establishment of a regular school of translation in Toledo. The credit
of this foundation, which did so much for mediæval science and letters,
belongs to Don Raymon, Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain. This
enlightened and liberal churchman was by origin a French monk, born at
Agen, whom Bernard, a previous Primate, had brought southward in his
train, as he returned from a journey beyond the Pyrenees. Don Raymon
associated with himself his Archdeacon, Dominicus Gundisalvus, and a
converted Jew commonly known as Johannes Hispalensis or John of Seville,
whom Jourdain has identified with Johannes Avendeath: this latter being
in all probability his proper name. These formed the heads of the
Toledo school in its earliest period, and the enterprise was continued
throughout the latter half of the century by other scholars, of whom
Gherardus Cremonensis the elder was probably the chief. Versions of the
voluminous works of Avicenna, as well as of several treatises by Algazel
and Alpharabius, and of a number of medical writings, were the highly
prized contribution of the Toledo school to the growing library of
foreign authors now accessible in the Latin language.

It is probable that when Michael Scot left Sicily he did so with the
purpose of joining this important enterprise. His movements naturally
suggest such an idea, as he proceeded to Toledo, still the centre of
these studies, and won, during the years of his residence there, the name
by which he is best known in the world of letters, that of the chief
exponent of the Arabo-Aristotelic philosophy in the West.

The name and fame of Aristotle, never quite forgotten even in the darkest
age,[80] and now known and extolled among Moorish scholars, formed indeed
the ground of that immense reputation which Arabian philosophy enjoyed
in Europe. The Latin schools had long been familiar with the logical
writings of Aristotle, but the modern spirit, soon to show itself as it
were precociously in Bacon and Albertus Magnus, was already awake, and
under its influence men had begun to demand more than the mere training
of the mind in abstract reasoning. Even the application of dialectics to
evolve or support systems of doctrine drawn from Holy Scripture could not
content this new curiosity. Men were becoming alive to the larger book
of nature which lay open around them, and, confounded at first by the
complexity of unnumbered facts in sea and sky, in earth and air, they
began to long for help from the great master of philosophy which might
guide their first trembling footsteps in so strange and untrodden a realm
of knowledge. Nor was the hope of such aid denied them. There was still a
tradition concerning the lost works of Aristotle on physics. The Moors,
it was found, boasted their possession, and even claimed to have enriched
these priceless pages by comments which were still more precious than the
original text itself.

The mere hope that it might be so was enough to beget a new crusade,
when western scholars vied with each other in their efforts to recover
these lost treasures and restore to the schools of Europe the impulse
and guidance so eagerly desired. Such had, in fact, been the aim of
Archbishop Raymon and the successive translators of the Toledan school.
The important place they assigned to Avicenna among those whose works
they rendered into Latin was due to the fact that this author had come
to be regarded in the early part of the twelfth century as the chief
exponent of Aristotle, whose spirit he had inherited, and on whose works
he had founded his own.

The part of the Aristotelic writings to which Michael Scot first turned
his attention would seem to have been the history of animals. This, in
the Greek text, consisted of three distinct treatises: first the _De
Historiis Animalium_ in ten books; next the _De Partibus Animalium_ in
four books; and lastly, the _De Generatione Animalium_ in five books.
The Arabian scholars, however, who paid great attention to this part
of natural philosophy and made many curious observations in it, were
accustomed to group these three treatises under the general title _De
Animalibus_, and to number their books or chapters consecutively from one
to nineteen, probably for convenience in referring to them. As Scot’s
work consisted of a translation from Arabic texts it naturally followed
the form which had been sanctioned by the use and wont of the eastern
commentators.

At least two versions of the _De Animalibus_ appeared from the pen of
Scot. These have sometimes been confounded with each other, but are
really quite distinct, representing the labours of two different Arabian
commentators on the text of Aristotle. We may best commence by examining
that of which least is known, the _De Animalibus ad Caesarem_, as it is
commonly called, and this the rather that there is good reason to suppose
it represents the first Arabian work on Natural History which came into
Scot’s hands.

Nothing is known certainly regarding the author of this commentary.
Jourdain and Steinschneider conclude with reason that the text must have
been an Arabic and not a Hebrew one, as Camus[81] and Wüstenfeld[82]
contend. No one, however, has hitherto ventured any suggestion throwing
light on the personality of the writer. The colophon to the copy of
Scot’s version in the _Bibliotheca Angelica_ of Rome contains the word
_Alphagiri_, which would seem to stand for the proper name Al Faquir. But
in all probability, as we shall presently show, this may be merely the
name of the Spanish Jew who aided Michael Scot in the work of translation.

The expression ‘secundum extractionem Michaelis Scoti,’ which is
used in the same colophon, would seem to indicate that this version,
voluminous as it is, was no more than a compend of the original. The
title of the manuscript too: ‘Incipit flos primi libri Aristotelis de
Animalibus’ agrees curiously with this, and with the word _Abbreviatio_
(_Avicennae_), used to describe Scot’s second version of the _De
Animalibus_ of which we are presently to speak. Are we then to suppose
that in each case the translator exercised his faculty of selection, and
that the form of these compends was due, not to Avicenna, nor to the
unknown author of the text called in Scot’s version the _De Animalibus ad
Caesarem_, but to Scot himself? The expressions just cited would seem to
open the way for such a conclusion.

The contents of the _De Animalibus ad Caesarem_ may be inferred from
the Prologue which is as follows: ‘In Nomine Domini Nostri Jesu Christi
Omnipotentis Misericordis et Pii, translatio tractatus primi libri quem
composuit Aristoteles in cognitione naturalium animalium, agrestium
et marinorum, et in illo est conjunctionis animalium modus et modus
generationis illorum cum coitu, cum partitione membrorum interiorum
et apparentium, et cum meditatione comparationum eorum, et actionum
eorum, et juvamentorum et nocumentorum eorum, et qualiter venantur,
et in quibus locis sunt, et quomodo moventur de loco ad locum propter
dispositionem presentis aetatis, aestatis et hiemis, et unde est vita
cuiuslibet eorum, scilicet modorum avium, et luporum, et piscium maris
et qui ambulant in eo.’ It seems tolerably certain that the substance
of this prologue came from the Arabic original, which must have
commenced with the ascription of praise to God so commonly employed by
Mohammedans: ‘Bi-smilláhi-r-rahhmáni-r-rahheém’ (In the Name of God, the
Compassionate; the Merciful).[83] The clumsiness of the Latin, which
here, as in the body of the work, seems to labour heavily in the track
of a foreign text,[84] adds force to this assumption. The hand of Scot
is seen, however, where the name of our Saviour has been substituted for
that of Allah, and also in the closing words, which ring with a strong
reminiscence of the eighth Psalm. The churchman betrays himself here
as in not a few other places which might be quoted from his different
writings.

By far the most interesting matter, however, which offers itself for
our consideration here, lies in the comparison we are now to make
between this book and a former work of Scot, the _De Physionomia_. This
comparison, which has never before been attempted, will throw light on
both these texts, but has a special value as it affords the means of
dating, at least approximately, the composition of Scot’s version of the
_De Animalibus ad Caesarem_.

We have already remarked that the last two chapters of the first book of
the _Physionomia_ suggest that in compiling them the author had before
him an Arabic treatise on Natural History. A natural conjecture leads
us further to suppose that this may have been the original from which
he translated the _De Animalibus ad Caesarem_, and this idea becomes a
certainty when we pursue the comparison a little more closely. Take for
example this curious passage from the _Physionomia_ (Book I. chap, ii.):
‘Incipiunt pili paulatim oriri in pectine unitas quorum dicitur femur
… item sibi vox mutatur.’ Its obscurity disappears when we confront it
with the corresponding words in the _De Animalibus ad Caesarem_, and thus
discover what was no doubt the original source from which Scot derived
it: ‘Incipiunt pili oriri in pectore _Kameon alkaratoki_, et in isto
tempore mutatur vox eius.’[85] There is no need to extend the comparison
any further than this significant passage. Doubt may arise regarding
the depth and accuracy of Scot’s knowledge of the Arabic tongue, the
nature of the text that lay before him, or the reason he may have had
for retaining foreign words in the one version which he translated in
the other; but surely this may be regarded as now clearly established,
that some part of the first book of the _Physionomia_ was derived by
compilation from the same text which appeared in a Latin dress as the _De
Animalibus ad Caesarem_, and that this source was an Arabic one.

This point settled, it becomes possible to establish another. One of the
copies of the _De Animalibus ad Caesarem_[86] has the following colophon:
‘Completus est liber Aristotelis de animalibus, translatus a magistro
michaele in tollecto de arabico in latinum.’ Now if the version was made
in Toledo, it was probably posterior in date to the _Physionomia_. This
indeed is no more than might have been asserted on the ground of common
likelihood; for, when a compilation and a complete version of one of
the sources from which it was derived are both found passing under the
name of the same author, it is but natural to suppose that the first was
made before the other, and that in the interval the author had conceived
the idea of producing in a fuller form a work he had already partially
published.

Resuming then the results we have reached, it appears that Scot had met
with this Arabic commentary on the Natural History of Aristotle while he
was still in Sicily, and had made extracts from it for his _Physionomia_.
Coming to Spain he probably carried the manuscript with him, and as
his version of the _De Animalibus ad Caesarem_ seems to have been the
first complete translation he made from the Arabic, and to have been
published shortly after he came to the Castiles, he may possibly have
begun work upon it even before his arrival there. On every account,
there being no positive evidence to the contrary, we may conjecture that
the _De Animalibus ad Caesarem_, like the _Physionomia_, belongs to the
year 1209. If the latter work appeared at Palermo in time for the royal
marriage, which took place in spring, the former may well have been
completed and published towards the end of the same year, when Scot had
no doubt been already some time settled in Toledo.




The second form in which Michael Scot produced his work upon the Natural
History of Aristotle was that of a version called the _Abbreviatio
Avicennae_. The full title as it appears in the printed copy[87] is:
‘Avicenna de Animalibus per Magistrum Michaelem Scotum de Arabico in
Latinum translatus.’ Like the _De Animalibus ad Caesarem_ it consists of
nineteen books, thus comprehending the three Aristotelic treatises in one
work.

The name of _Ibn Sina_ or Avicenna, the author of the Arabic original, is
significant, as it enables us to connect in a remarkable way the present
labours of Scot’s pen with those which had in a past age proceeded from
the school of translators at Toledo, and to place the _Abbreviatio_ in
its true relation with the system of versions which had been published
there nearly a century before. We have already remarked that Don Raymon
directed the attention of his translators to Avicenna as the best
representative, both of Aristotle himself and of the Arabian wisdom
which had gathered about his writings. A manuscript of great interest
preserved in the library of the Vatican[88] shows what the labours of
Gundisalvus, Avendeath, and their coadjutors had been, and how far they
had proceeded in the task of making this author accessible to Latin
students. From it we learn that the _Logic_, the _Physics_, the _De
Cœlo et Mundo_, the _Metaphysics_; the _De Anima_, called also _Liber
sextus de Naturalibus_; and the _De generatione Lapidum_ of Avicenna,
had come from the school of Toledo during the twelfth century in a
Latin dress. The last-named treatise was apparently a comment on the
_Meteora_ of Aristotle, and the whole belonged to that _Kitab Alchefâ_,
which was called by the Latins the _Assephae_, _Asschiphe_ or _Liber
Sufficientiae_. This collection was said to form but the first and
most common of the three bodies of philosophy composed by Avicenna. It
represented the teaching of Aristotle and the Peripatetics, while the
second expounded the system of Avicenna himself, and the third contained
the more esoteric and occult doctrines of natural philosophy.[89] Of
these the first alone had reached the Western schools.

It is plain then that until Michael Scot took the work in hand Toledo
had not completed the Latin version of Avicenna by translating that part
of the _Alchefâ_ which concerned the Natural History of Animals. The
_Abbreviatio Avicennae_ thus came to supply the defect and to crown the
labours of the ancient college of translators. This place of honour is
actually given to it in the Vatican manuscript just referred to, where
it follows the _De generatione Lapidum_, and forms the fitting close of
that remarkable series and volume. Thus, while the _De Animalibus ad
Caesarem_ connects itself with the _Physionomia_, and with Scot’s past
life in Sicily, the _Abbreviatio Avicennae_ joins him closely and in a
very remarkable way with the whole tradition of the Toledo school, of
which, by this translation, he at once became not the least distinguished
member.

[Illustration: FROM M.S. FONDO VATICANO 4428, p. 158, _recto_]

The authority of this manuscript, now perhaps for the first time
appealed to, is sufficient not only to determine the relation of
Scot’s work to that of the earlier Toledan school, but even, by a most
fortunate circumstance, enables us to feel sure of the exact date when
the translation of the _Abbreviatio_ was made. For the colophon to the
Vatican manuscript, brief as it is, contains in one line a fact of the
utmost interest and importance to all students of the life of Scot.
It is as follows: ‘Explicit anno Domini mºcºcºx.’[90] The researches
of Jourdain had the merit of making public two colophons from the
manuscripts of Paris, containing the date of another and later work of
Scot,[91] but since the days of that savant no further addition of this
valuable kind has been made to our knowledge of the philosopher’s life.
The date just cited from the Vatican copy of the _Abbreviatio_ shows,
however, that further inquiry in this direction need not be abandoned as
useless. We now know accurately the time when this version was completed,
and find the date to be such as accords exactly with our idea that Scot
must have quitted Sicily soon after the marriage of Frederick; for the
year 1210 may be taken as a fixed point determining the time when he
first became definitely connected with the Toledo school. It will be
remembered that we anticipated this result of research so far as to use
it in our attempt to conjecture the date of Scot’s birth.[92]

Like the _De Animalibus ad Caesarem_, the _Abbreviatio Avicennae_
bears a dedication to Frederick conceived in the following terms: ‘_O
Frederick, Lord of the World and Emperor, receive with devotion this
book of Michael Scot, that it may be a grace unto thy head and a chain
about thy neck._’[93] It will always be matter of doubt whether in this
address Scot appealed to a taste for natural history already formed in
his pupil before he left Palermo, or whether the interest subsequently
shown by this monarch in studying the habits of animals was awakened by
the perusal of these two volumes. In any case they must have done not a
little to guide both his interest and his researches. The chroniclers
tell us of Frederick’s elephant, which was sent to Cremona, of the
cameleopard, the camels and dromedaries, the lions, leopards, panthers,
and rare birds which the royal menagerie contained, and of a white bear
which, being very uncommon, formed one of the gifts presented by the
Emperor on an important occasion. We hear too that Frederick, not content
with gathering such rarities under his own observation, entered upon more
than one curious experiment in this branch of science. Desiring to learn
the origin of language he had some children brought up, so Salimbene
tells us, beyond hearing of any spoken tongue. In the course of another
inquiry he caused the surgeon’s knife to be ruthlessly employed upon
living men that he might lay bare the secrets and study the process of
digestion. If these experiments do not present the moral character of the
Emperor in a very attractive light, they may at least serve to show how
keenly he was interested in the study of nature.

This interest indeed went so far as to lead Frederick to join the
number of royal authors by publishing a work on falconry.[94] In it he
ranges over all the species of birds then known, and insists on certain
rarities, such as a white cockatoo, which had been sent to him by the
Sultan from Cairo. He thus appears in his own pages, not merely as a keen
sportsman, but as one who took no narrow interest in natural history.
Clearly the dedication of the _De Animalibus_ and the _Abbreviatio
Avicennae_ was no empty compliment as it flowed from the pen of Scot.
He had directed his first labours from Toledo to one who could highly
appreciate them, and to these works must be ascribed, in no small
measure, the growth of the Emperor’s interest in a subject then very
novel and little understood.

As regards the _Abbreviatio Avicennae_ indeed, we have actual evidence of
the esteem in which Frederick held it. The book remained treasured in the
Imperial closet at Melfi for more than twenty years, and, when at last
the Emperor consented to its publication, so important was the moment
deemed, that a regular writ passed the seals giving warrant for its
transcription.[95] Master Henry of Colonia[96] was the person selected
by favour of Frederick for this work, and, as most of the manuscripts of
the _Abbreviatio_ now extant have a colophon referring in detail to this
transaction, we may assume that Henry’s copy, made from that belonging to
the Emperor, was the source from which all others have been derived.

This Imperial original would seem to be more nearly represented by
the Vatican copy[97] than by any other which remains in the libraries
of Europe. From it we discover that the Arabic names with which the
_Abbreviatio_ abounds were given in Latin in the margin of the original
manuscript, which Scot sent to the Emperor.[98] These hard words and
their explanations were afterwards gathered in a glossary, and inscribed
at the end of the treatise; an improvement which was probably due to
Henry of Colonia. The glossary has, however, been quite neglected
by later copyists, nor does it appear in the printed edition of the
_Abbreviatio Avicennae_. The completeness with which it is found in the
Vatican manuscript shows the close relation which that copy holds to the
one first made by the Emperor’s permission. The Chigi manuscript[99]
seems to be the only other in which the glossary is to be found. It
therefore ranks beside that of the Vatican, but is inferior to it as it
presents the glossary in a less complete form.

The originality of the Vatican text perhaps appears also in the curious
triplet with which it closes: ‘Liber iste inceptus est et expletus cum
adiutorio Jesu Christi qui vivit, etc.

Frenata penna, finito nunc Avicenna
Libro Caesario, gloria summa Deo
Dextera scriptoris careat gravitate doloris.’[100]

Several other copies of the _Abbreviatio_ have the first two lines, but
this alone contains the third. In the Chigi manuscript, the place of
these verses is occupied by a curious feat of language:—

latinum arabicum sclauonicum teutonicum arabicum
Felix el melic dober Friderich salemelich.[101]

To whatever period it belongs, the writer’s purpose was doubtless to
recall to the mind the four nations over which Frederick II. ruled, and
the splendid kingdoms of Sicily, Germany, and Jerusalem which he gathered
in one under his imperial power.

In the Laurentian Library there is a valuable manuscript, written during
the summer and autumn of 1266, for the monks of Santa Croce.[102] It
contains the _De Animalibus ad Caesarem_; the _Abbreviatio Avicennae_,
and, as a third and concluding article, an independent version of the
_Liber de Partibus Animalium_, corresponding, as has been said, to books
xi.-xiv. of the other versions which the volume contains. Bandini, in the
printed catalogue of the library, asserts that this third translation,
unlike the two which precede it, was made from the Greek. This is
probably correct, as it was only the Greek text which treated these
four chapters of the Natural History as a distinct work. He further
ascribes the version to Michael Scot, relying no doubt on the general
composition of the volume, for this particular translation does not seem
to contain any direct evidence of authorship. Thus the doubt expressed
by Jourdain in this matter[103] is not without reason, though the balance
of probability would seem to incline in favour of Bandini’s opinion; for
such a volume can scarcely be assumed to have been a mere miscellany
without clear evidence that the contents come from more than one author.
Taking it for granted then that the _De Partibus Animalium_ came from
Scot’s pen, then this is the third form in which his labours on the
Natural History of Aristotle appeared.

In any case, however, his chief merit in this department of study
belonged to Michael Scot as the exponent of the Arabian naturalists.
It is difficult for any one who has not read the books in question to
form an adequate idea of their contents, and still more of their style;
even from the most careful description. We are made to feel that the
task of the translator must have been a very difficult one. There is a
concentration combined with great wealth of detail, and withal a constant
nimble transition from one subject to another, seemingly remote, under
the suggestion of some subtle connection, which result in a style almost
baffling to one who sought to reproduce it in his comparatively slow and
clumsy Latin.

No greater contrast could be imagined than that which separates such
works from those which are the production of our modern writers on the
same subject. Nor does this difference depend, as one might suppose,
on the fact that a wider field of observation is open to us, and more
adequate collections of facts are at our disposal. Rather is it the case
that between ancients and moderns, between the eastern and western
world, there is an entirely different understanding of the whole subject.
A different principle of arrangement is at work, and results in the
wide diversity of manner which strikes us as soon as we open the _De
Animalibus_ or the _Abbreviatio_. We find ourselves in the presence of a
system of ideas, more or less abstract, which a wealth of facts derived
from keen and wide observation of the world of nature is employed to
illustrate. There is a finer division than with us. The unit in these
works is not the species nor even the individual, but some single
part or passion. This the author follows through all he knew of the
multitudinous maze of nature, comparing and discerning and recording with
a _bizarrerie_ which comes to resemble nothing so much as the fantastic
dance of form and colour in a kaleidoscope.

‘Birds,’ says Avicenna,[104] ‘have a way of life that is peculiar to
themselves. Those that are long-necked drink by the mouth, then lift
their head till the water runs down their neck. The reason of this is
that their neck is long and narrow, so that they cannot satisfy their
thirst by putting beak in water and straightway drinking. There is,
however, a great difference between different birds in their way of
drinking, and the mountain hog loveth roots to which his tusk helpeth,
wherewith he turneth up the ground and breaketh out the roots. Six days
or thereabout are proper for his fattening, wherein he drinketh not for
three, and there are some who feed their hogs and yet will not water them
for perchance seven days on end. And in their fattening all animals are
helped by moderate and gentle exercise, save the hog, who fatteneth lying
in the mud, and that mightily, for thereby his pores are shut upon him so
that he loseth nothing by evaporation. And the hog will fight with the
wolf, and that is his nature, and cows fatten on every windy thing, such
as vetches, beans, and barley, and if their horns be anointed with soft
wax, straightway, even while still upon the living animal, they become
soft, and if the horns of ox or cow be anointed with marrow, oil, or
pitch, this easeth them of the pain in their feet after a journey.’

In another place[105] he continues: ‘Some animals have teeth which serve
them not save for fighting, and not for the mastication of their food.
Such are the hog and the elephant, for the elephant’s tusks are of use
to him in this matter as we have said. And there are animals which make
no use of their teeth save for eating or fighting, nay, I believe that
every animal having teeth will fight with them upon occasion, and some
there are whose teeth are sharp and stand well apart, so that they are
therewith furnished to tear prey: such is the lion. And those animals
that have need to crop their food, as grass and the like, from the
ground, have level and regular teeth, and not long tusks or canines,
which would hinder them from cropping; and since in some kinds the males
are more apt to anger than the females, tusks have been given them that
they may defend the females, because these are weaker in themselves and
of a worse complexion, and this is true in a general way of all animals,
even in those kinds that eat no flesh, and need not their tusks for
eating, but only for defence, such as boars, and this is the reason why
they have the strength of which we have just spoken. It is the same
with the camel, and so we pass to speak of this general truth as it
appears with regard to all other means of defence. Hence hath the stag
his horn and not the hind; the ram and not the ewe; the he-goat and not
his female, and fish which eat not flesh have no need of teeth that are
sharp.’

The city where these strange writings were deciphered and translated into
Latin, being itself so strange and remote from the ways of modern life,
had a certain poetic fitness as the scene where Michael Scot undertook
his labours upon the Arabian authors. No passage of all their texts
was more bizarre and tortuous than the mass of intricate lanes which
formed then, as they form to-day, the thoroughfares of communication in
Toledo. No hidden jewel of knowledge and observation could surprise and
reward the translator in the midst of his tedious labours with a flash
of sudden light and glory more unexpectedly delicious than that felt by
the traveller, when, after long wandering in that maze and labyrinth, he
finds a wider air; a stronger light beats before him, beckoning, and in a
moment he stands in the full sunshine of the _plaza mayor_, with space to
see and light to show the wonders of mind and hand, and all the toil of
past ages in the fabric of the great cathedral.

Such as it now stands, the Cathedral of Toledo had not yet begun to rise
above ground when Michael Scot had his residence there, but enough of
the ancient city remains to show what Toledo must have been like in these
early days. The splendid and commanding site, swept about by the waves of
the Tagus; the famous bridge of Alcantara; the steep slope of approach
crowned by ancient fortifications; and above all the massed and massive
houses of the old town, so closely crowded together as hardly to give
room for streets that should rather be called lanes; all this, beneath
the unchanging sky of the south, recalls sufficiently what must have
been the surroundings of Scot’s life during ten laborious years. Even
yet, where white-wash peels and stucco fails, strange records of that
forgotten past reveal themselves in the walls and on the house fronts:
sculptured stones of every age; bas-reliefs, arabesques; windows in the
delicate Moorish manner of twin arches, and a central shaft with carved
cornices, long built up and forgotten till accident has revealed them.

Here then, perhaps in some house still standing, the scholar come from
Sicily made his home. The quiet courtyard is forgotten; the _azulejos_
have disappeared from walls and pavement; the rich wood-work of the
ceilings, still bearing dim traces of colour and gold, looks down on
the life of another age; even the curious cedar book-chest has crumbled
to dust, for all its delicate defence of ironwork spreading away like a
spider’s web from hinges and from lock. But the name and the fame endure,
and the years which Michael Scot spent in Toledo have left a deep mark
upon that and every succeeding age.

Continue Reading

SCOT AT THE COURT OF SICILY

All tradition assures us that the chief occupation of Scot’s life was
found at the Court of Frederick II., King of Sicily, and afterwards
Emperor of Germany: a Prince deservedly famous, not only for his own
talent, but for the protection and encouragement he afforded to men of
learning. A manuscript in the Laurentian Library,[31] hitherto unnoticed
in this connection, seems to throw some light upon the time and manner
of this employment: points that have always been very obscure. The
volume is a collection of _Occulta_, and at p. 256 we find the following
title, ‘An Experiment of Michael Scot the magician.’ What follows is of
no serious importance: such as it has we shall consider in speaking of
the Master’s legendary fame. The concluding words, however, are of great
interest, especially when we observe that this part of the manuscript,
though written between 1450 and 1500, is said[32] to have been copied
‘from a very ancient book.’ The colophon runs thus: ‘Here endeth the
necromantic experiment of the most illustrious doctor, Master[33] Michael
Scot, who among other scholars is known as the supreme Master; who was
of Scotland, and servant to his most distinguished chief Don Philip,[34]
the King of Sicily’s clerk;[35] which experiment he contrived[36] when he
lay sick in the city of Cordova. Finis.’

Taking the persons here named in the order of their rank, we notice
first the great Emperor Frederick II., the patron of Michael Scot. It is
worth remark that he is styled simply ‘King of Sicily,’ a title which
belongs to the time previous to 1215, when he obtained the Imperial
crown. This is a touch which seems to give high originality and value to
the colophon. We may feel sure that it was not composed by the fifteenth
century scribe, who would certainly have described Frederick in the
usual style as Emperor and Lord of the World. He must have copied it,
and everything leads one to suppose that he was right in describing the
source from which he drew as ‘very ancient.’

Next comes Don Philip, whom we have rightly described as the clerk of
Sicily, for the word _coronatus_ in its mediæval use is derived from
_corona_ in the sense of the priestly tonsure, so that _Philippus
coronatus_ is equivalent to _Philippus clericus_.[37] Of this
distinguished man we find many traces in the historical documents of
the period.[38] Two deeds passed the seals of Sicily in the year 1200
when the King, then a boy of five years old, was living under the care
of his widowed mother the Queen Constantia. These are countersigned by
the royal notary, who is described as ‘Philippus de Salerno, notarius et
fidelis noster scriba.’ His name is found in the same way, apparently
for the last time, in 1213. This date, and the particular designation
of Philip the Notary as ‘of Salerno,’ connect themselves very naturally
with the title of a manuscript belonging to the De Rossi collection.[39]
It is as follows: ‘The Book of the Inspections of Urine according to
the opinion of the Masters, Peter of Berenico, Constantine Damascenus,
and Julius of Salerno; which was composed by command of the Emperor
Frederick, Anno Domini 1212, in the month of February, and was revised
by Master Philip of Tripoli and Master Gerard of Cremona at the orders
of the King of Spain,’ etc. The person designed as Philip of Salerno was
very likely to be put in charge of the revision of a medical treatise,
and as he disappears from his duties as notary for some time after 1213
we may suppose that it was then he passed into the service of the King
of Spain. This conjecture agrees also with the mention of Cordova in
the Florence manuscript, and with other peculiarities it displays, such
as the spelling of the name _Philippus_ like _Felipe_, and the way in
which the title _Dominus_ is repeated, just as _Don_ might be in the
style of a Spaniard. There is, in short, every reason to conclude that
Philip of Salerno and Philip of Tripoli were one and the same person.
We may add that Philip was the author of the first complete version in
Latin of the book called _Secreta Secretorum_, the preface of which
describes him as a _clericus_ of the See of Tripoli. As will presently
appear, Michael Scot drew largely from this work in composing one of
his own;[40] another proof that in confronting with each other these
three names—Philippus coronatus or clericus; Philippus de Salerno, and
Philippus Tripolitanus—and in concluding that they belong to one and the
same person, we have a reasonable amount of evidence in our favour.

From what has just been said it is plain that three distinct periods must
have composed the life of Philip so far as we know it: the first when
he served as an ecclesiastic in Tripoli of Syria or its neighbourhood;
the second when he came westward, and, not without a certain literary
reputation, held the post of Clerk Register in Sicily; the last when
Frederick sent him, in the height of his powers and the fulness of his
fame, to that neighbouring country of Spain, then so full of attraction
for every scholar. In which of these periods then was it that Michael
Scot first came into those relations with Philip of which the Florentine
manuscript speaks? The time of his residence in Spain, likely as it might
seem on other accounts, would appear to be ruled out by the fact that it
was too late for Philip to be then described as servant of the _King of
Sicily_. Nor did he hold this office, so far as we can tell, until he
had left Tripoli for the West. We must pronounce then for the Sicilian
period, and precisely therefore for the years between 1200 and 1213. This
conclusion, however, does not hinder us from supposing that the relation
then first formally begun between Michael and Philip continued to bind
them, in what may have been a friendly co-operation, during the time
spent by both in Spain.

The period thus determined was that of the King’s boyhood, and this opens
up another line of argument which may be trusted not only to confirm
the results we have reached, but to afford a more exact view of Scot’s
occupation in Sicily. Several of his works are dedicated to Frederick,
from which it is natural to conclude that his employment was one which
brought him closely in contact with the person of the King. When we
examine their contents we are struck by the tone which Scot permits
himself to use in addressing his royal master. There is familiarity when
we should expect flattery, and the desire to impart instruction instead
of the wish to display obsequiousness. Scot appears in fact as one
careless to recommend himself for a position at Court, certain rather of
one which must have been already his own. What can this position have
been?

A tradition preserved by one of the commentaries on Dante[41] informs
us that Michael Scot was employed as the Emperor’s tutor, and this
explanation is one which we need feel no hesitation in adopting, as it
clears up in a very convincing way all the difficulties of the case.
His talents, already proved and crowned in Paris and Bologna, may well
have commended him for such a position. The dedication of his books
to Frederick, and the familiar style in which he addresses the young
prince, are precisely what might be expected from the pen of a court
schoolmaster engaged in compiling manuals _in usum Delphini_.[42] Nay
the very title of ‘Master’ which Scot had won at Paris probably owed its
chief confirmation and continued employment to the nature of his new
charge. Since the fifth century there had prevailed in Spain the habit
of committing children of position to the course of an ecclesiastical
education.[43] They were trained by some discreet and grave person
called the _magister disciplinae_, deputed by the Bishop to this office.
Such would seem to have been the manner of Frederick’s studies. His
guardian was the Pope; he lived at Palermo under charge of the Canons
of that Cathedral,[44] and no doubt the ecclesiastical character of
Michael Scot combined with his acknowledged talents to point him out as
a suitable person to fill so important a charge. It was his first piece
of preferment, and we may conceive that he drew salary for his services
under some title given him in the royal registry. This would explain
his connection with Philip, the chief notary, on which the Florentine
manuscript insists. Such fictitious employments have always been a
part of court fashion, and that they were common in Sicily at the time
of which we write may be seen from the case of Werner and Philip de
Bollanden, who, though in reality most trusted and confidential advisers
of the Crown, were known at Court as the chief butler and baker, titles
which they were proud to transmit to their descendants.[45]

It was at Palermo, then, that Michael Scot must have passed the opening
years of the thirteenth century; now more than ever ‘Master,’ since he
was engaged in a work which carried with it no light responsibility:
the early education of a royal youth destined to play the first part on
the European stage. The situation was one not without advantages of an
uncommon kind for a scholar like Scot, eager to acquire knowledge in
every department. Sicily was still, especially in its more remote and
mountainous parts about Entella, Giato, and Platani, the refuge of a
considerable Moorish population, whose language was therefore familiar in
the island, and was heard even at Court; being, we are assured, one of
those in which Frederick received instruction.[46] There can be little
doubt that Scot availed himself of this opportunity, and laid a good
foundation for his later work on Arabic texts by acquiring, in the years
of his residence at Palermo, at least the vernacular language of the
Moors.

The same may be said regarding the Greek tongue: a branch of study
much neglected even by the learned of those times. We shall presently
produce evidence which goes to show that Michael Scot worked upon
Greek as well as Arabic texts,[47] and it was in all probability to
his situation in Sicily that he owed the acquisition of what was then
a very rare accomplishment. Bacon, who deplores the ignorance of
Greek which prevailed in his days, recommends those who would learn
this important language to go to Italy, where, he says, especially
in the south, both clergy and people are still in many places purely
Greek.[48] The reference to _Magna Grecia_ is obvious, and to Sicily,
whose Greek colonies preserved, even to Frederick’s time and beyond it,
their nationality and language. So much was this the case, that it was
thought necessary to make the study of Greek as well as of Arabic part of
Frederick’s education. We can hardly err in supposing that Scot profited
by this as well as by the other opportunity.

In point of general culture too a residence at Palermo offered many and
varied advantages. Rare manuscripts abounded, some lately brought to the
island, like that of the _Secreta Secretorum_, the prize of Philip the
Clerk, which he carried with him when he came from Tripoli to Sicily, and
treasured there, calling it his ‘precious pearl’;[49] others forming part
of collections that had for some time been established in the capital.
As early as the year 1143, George of Antioch, the Sicilian Admiral, had
founded the Church of St. Maria della Martorana in Palermo, and had
enriched it with a valuable library, no doubt brought in great part from
the East.[50] A better opportunity for literary studies could hardly have
been desired than that which the Prince’s Master now enjoyed.

The society and surroundings in which Michael Scot now found himself
were such as must have communicated a powerful impulse to the mind. The
Court was grave rather than gay, as had befitted the circumstances of
a royal widow, and now of an orphan still under canonical protection
and busied in serious study, but this allowed the wit and wisdom of
learned men free scope, and thus invited and encouraged their residence.
Already, probably, had begun that concourse and competition of talents,
for which the Court of Frederick was afterwards so remarkable. Amid
delicious gardens at evening, or by day in the cool shade of courtyards:
those _patios_ which the Moors had built so well and adorned with such
fair arabesques, all that was rarest in learning and brightest in wit,
held daily disputation, while the delicate fountains played and Monte
Pellegrino looked down on the curving beauties of the bay and shore. A
strange contrast truly to the arcades of Bologna, now heaped with winter
snow and now baked by summer sun; to the squalor of mediæval Paris, and
much more to the green hillsides and moist forest-clad vales of southern
Scotland. Here at last the spirit of Michael Scot underwent a powerful
and determining influence which left its mark on all his subsequent life.

As royal tutor, his peculiar duty would seem to have been that of
instructing the young Prince in the different branches of mathematics.
This we should naturally have conjectured from the fact that Scot’s fame
as yet rested entirely upon the honours he had gained at Paris, and
precisely in this department of learning; for ‘Michael the Mathematician’
was not likely to have been called to Palermo with any other purpose.
We have direct evidence of it however in an early work which came from
the Master’s pen, and one which would seem to have been designed for
the use of his illustrious pupil. This was the _Astronomia_, or _Liber
Particularis_, and in the Oxford copy,[51] the colophon of that treatise
runs thus: ‘Here endeth the book of Michael Scot, astrologer to the Lord
Frederick, Emperor of Rome, and ever August; which book he composed in
simple style[52] at the desire of the aforesaid Emperor. And this he did,
not so much considering his own reputation, as desiring to be serviceable
and useful to young scholars, who, of their great love for wisdom, desire
to learn in the Quadrivium the Art of Astronomy.’ The preface says that
this was the second book which Scot composed for Frederick.

The science of Astronomy was so closely joined in those times with the
art of Astrology, that it is difficult to draw a clear distinction
between them as they were then understood. The one was but the practical
application of the other, and in common use their names were often
confused and used interchangeably. We are not surprised then to find the
title of Imperial Astrologer given to Michael Scot in the colophon to his
_Astronomia_; he was sure to be employed in this way, and the fact will
help us to determine with probability what was the _first_ book he wrote
for the Emperor, that to which the _Liber Particularis_ was a sequel.
For there is actually extant under Scot’s name an astrological treatise
bearing the significant name of the _Liber Introductorius_.[53] This
title agrees exceedingly well with the position we are now inclined to
give it, and an examination of the preface confirms our conjecture in a
high degree. It commences thus: ‘Here beginneth the preface of the _Liber
Introductorius_ which was put forth by Michael Scot, Astrologer to the
ever August Frederick, Emperor of the Romans, at whose desire he composed
it concerning astrology,[54] in a simple style[55] for the sake of young
scholars and those of weaker capacity, and this in the days of our Lord
Pope Innocent IV.’[56] One cannot help noticing the close correspondence
between this and the colophon of the _Astronomia_. The two treatises were
the complement each of the other. They must have been composed about the
same time, and were doubtless meant to serve as text-books to guide the
studies of Frederick’s youth. That this royal pupil should have been led
through astrology to the higher and more enduring wonders of astronomy
need cause no surprise, for such a course was quite in accordance with
the intellectual habits of the age. It may be doubted indeed whether the
men of those times would have shown such perseverance in the observations
and discoveries proper to a pure science of the heavens, had it not
been for the practicable and profitable interest which its application
in astrology furnished. Astronomy, such as it then was, formed the last
and highest study in the Quadrivium.[57] It was here that Scot had
carried off honours at Paris, and now in his _Liber Introductorius_ and
_Astronomia_, we see him imparting the ripe fruits of that diligence to
his royal charge, whose education, so far as regarded formal study, was
thereby brought to a close.

In the year 1209, when Frederick was but fourteen years of age, the
quiet study and seclusion in which he still lived with those who taught
him was brought to an abrupt and, one must think, premature conclusion.
The boy was married, and to a lady ten years his senior, Constance,
daughter of the King of Aragon, and already widow of the King of Hungary.
It is not hard to see that such a union must have been purely a matter
of arrangement. The Prince of Palermo, undergrown and delicate as he
was,[58] promised to be, as King of Sicily and possibly Emperor, the
noblest husband of his time. Pope Innocent III., his guardian, foresaw
this, and chose a daughter of Spain as most fit to occupy the proud
position of Frederick’s wife, queen, and perhaps empress. Had the wishes
of Rome prevailed at the Court of Aragon from the first, this marriage
would have taken place even earlier than it did. The delay seems to have
been owing, not to any reluctance on the part of the bride’s parents,
but solely to the doubt which of two sisters, elder or younger, widow or
maid, should accept the coveted honour.

It was in spring, the loveliest season of the year in that climate, that
the fleet of Spain, sent to bear the bride and her suite, rose slowly
over the sea rim and dropped anchor in the Bay of Palermo. Constantia
came with many in her company, the flower of Catalan and Provençal
chivalry, led by her brother, Count Alfonso. The Bishop of Mazara,
too, was among them, bearing a commission to represent the Pope in
these negotiations and festivities. And now the stately Moorish palace,
with its courtyard, its fountains, and its gardens, became once more a
scene of gaiety, as—in the great hall of forty pillars, beneath a roof
such as Arabian artists alone could frame, carved like a snow cave, or
stained with rich and lovely colour like a mass of jewels set in gold—the
officers of the royal household passed solemnly on to offer homage before
their Prince and his bride. In the six great apartments of state the
frescoed forms of Christian art: Patriarchs in their histories, Moses
and David in their exploits, and the last wild charge of Barbarossa’s
Crusade,[59] looked down upon a moving throng of nobles and commons who
came to present their congratulations, while the plaintive music of lute,
of pipe, and tabor, sighed upon the air, and skilful dancers swam before
the delighted guests in all the fascination of the voluptuous East.

What part could Michael Scot, the grave ecclesiastic, and now doubly
the ‘Master’ as Frederick’s trusted tutor, play in the gay scene of his
pupil’s marriage? For many ages it has been the custom among Italian
scholars, the attached dependants of a noble house, to offer on such
occasions their homage to bride and bridegroom in the form of a learned
treatise; any bookseller’s list of _Nozze_ is enough to show that the
habit exists even at the present day. This then was what Scot did; for
there is every reason to think that the _Physionomia_, which he composed
and dedicated to Frederick, was produced and presented at the time of
the royal marriage. No date suits this publication so well as 1209, and
nothing but the urgent desire of Court and people that the marriage
should prove fruitful can explain, one might add excuse, some passages of
almost fescennine licence which it contains.[60] We seem to find in the
advice of the preface that Frederick should study man, encouraging the
learned to dispute in his presence what may well have been the last word
of a master who saw his pupil passing to scenes of larger and more active
life at an unusually early age, and before he could be fully trusted to
take his due place in the great world of European politics.

The _Physionomia_, however, is too important a work to be dismissed in
a paragraph. Both the subject itself, and the sources from which Scot
drew, deserve longer consideration. The science of physiognomy, as its
name imports, was derived from the Greeks. Achinas, a contemporary of the
Hippocratic school, and Philemon, who is mentioned in the introduction
to Scot’s treatise, seem to have been the earliest writers in this
department of philosophy. It was a spiritual medicine,[61] and formed
part of the singular doctrine of _signatures_, teaching as it did that
the inward dispositions of the soul might be read in visible characters
upon the bodily frame. The Alexandrian school made a speciality of
physiognomy. In Egypt it attained a further development, and various
writings in Greek which expounded the system passed current during the
early centuries of our era under the names of Aristotle and Polemon.
Through the common channel of the Syriac schools and language it reached
the Arabs, and in the ninth century had the fortune to be taken up
warmly by Rases and his followers, who made it a characteristic part of
their medical system. From this source then Scot drew largely; chapters
xxiv.-xxv. in Book II. of his _Physionomia_ correspond closely with the
_De Medicina ad Regem Al Mansorem_[62] of Rases.[63]

Among ancient texts on physiognomy, however, perhaps the most famous
was the _Sirr-el-asrar_, or _Secreta Secretorum_, which was ascribed to
Aristotle. Its origin, like that of other pseudo-Aristotelic writings,
seems to have been Egyptian. When the conquests of Alexander the Great
had opened the way for a new relation between East and West, Egypt, and
especially its capital, Alexandria, became the focus of a new philosophic
influence. The sect of the Essenes, transported hither, had given rise
to the school of the Therapeutae, where Greek theories developed in
a startling direction under the power of Oriental speculation. The
Therapeutae were sun-worshippers, and eager students of ancient and
occult writings, as Josephus[64] tells us the Essenes had been. We find
in the _Abraxas_ gems, of which so large a number has been preserved, an
enduring memorial of these people and their system of thought.[65]

The preface to the _Sirr-el-asrar_ affords several matters which agree
admirably with what we know of the Therapeutae. The precious volume was
the prize of a scholar on his travels, who found it in the possession of
an aged recluse dwelling in the _penetralia_ of a sun-temple built by
Æsculapius.[66] All this is characteristic enough, and when we examine
the substance of the treatise it appears distinctly Therapeutic. Much of
it is devoted to bodily disease, to the regimen of the health, and to
that science of physiognomy which professed to reveal, as in a spiritual
diagnosis, the infirmities of the soul. The ascription of the work
to Aristotle, Alexander’s tutor, seems quite in accordance with this
theory; in short, there is no reason to doubt that it first appeared in
Egypt, where it probably formed one of the most cherished texts of the
Therapeutae.

The preface to the _Sirr-el-asrar_ throws light not only upon the origin
of the treatise but also upon its subsequent fortunes. It is said to
have been rendered from the Greek into Chaldee or Syriac,[67] and
thence into Arabic, the usual channel by which the remains of ancient
learning have reached the modern world. The translator’s name is given as
Johannes filius Bitricii, but this can hardly have been the well-known
Ibn-el-Bitriq, the freedman of Mamoun. To this latter author indeed, the
_Fihrist_, composed in 987, ascribes the Arabic version of Aristotle’s
_De Cœlo et Mundo_, and of Plato’s _Timaeus_, so that his literary
faculty would seem to accord very well with the task of translating the
_Sirr-el-asrar_. But Foerster has observed[68] that we find no trace
of this book in Arabian literature before the eleventh century. Now
the famous Ibn-el-Bitriq lived in the ninth, as appears from several
considerations. His works were revised by Honain ibn Ishaq (873), and, if
we believe in the authenticity of the _El Hawi_, where he is mentioned
by name, then he must have belonged to an age at least as early as that
of Rases who wrote it. In these perplexing circumstances, Foerster gives
up the attempt to determine who may have been the translator of the
_Sirr-el-asrar_, contenting himself with the conjecture that some unknown
scholar had assumed the name of El Bitriq to give importance to the
production of his pen. We may be excused, however, if we direct attention
to two manuscripts of the British Museum[69] which do not seem to have
been noticed by those who have devoted attention to this obscure subject.
One of these, which is written in a hand of the thirteenth century,
informs us that the man who transcribed it was a certain Said Ibn Butrus
ibn Mansur, a Maronite priest of Lebanon in the diocese of Tripolis, a
prisoner for twelve years in the place where the royal standards were
kept (? at Cairo), who was released from that confinement in the time of
_al Malik an Nazir_. The other—a mere fragment—contains a notice of the
priest Yahyā, or Yuhannā, ibn Butrus, who died in the year 1217 A.D. It
is not unlikely that some confusion might arise between the names Patrick
and Peter, often used interchangeably. ‘Filius Patricii’ then may have
been no assumed designation, but the equivalent of Ibn Butrus, the real
name of this priest of Tripoli, who was perhaps the translator of the
_Sirr-el-asrar_ at the close of the twelfth century.

Those chapters of the _Sirr-el-asrar_ which relate to regimen were
translated into Latin by Johannes Hispalensis. Jourdain identifies this
author with John Avendeath, who worked for the Archbishop of Toledo
between the years 1130 and 1150.[70] But Foerster shows that caution is
needed here.[71] The Latin version was dedicated to Tarasia, Queen of
Spain. A queen of this name certainly lived contemporaneously with John
Avendeath, but she was Queen of Portugal. Another Tarasia, however, was
Queen of Leon from 1176 to 1180. We may observe that this latter epoch
agrees well enough with the lifetime of Ibn Butrus, who died in 1217,
and we find trace of another Johannes Hispanus, who was a monk of Mount
Tabor in 1175. Such a man, who from his situation in Syria could scarcely
have been ignorant of Arabic, and whose nationality agrees so well with
a dedication to the Queen of Spain, and who was a contemporary of
Tarasia of Leon, may well have translated the _Sirr-el-asrar_ into Latin.
That part of the book thus made public in the West appeared under the
following title: ‘De conservatione corporis humani, ad Alexandrum.’ It is
found in several manuscripts of the Laurentian Library in Florence.[72]

Soon afterwards, and probably in the opening years of the thirteenth
century, the whole book was published in a Latin version by the same
Philippus Clericus, with whom we have already become acquainted. We may
recall the fact that he belonged to the diocese of Tripoli, as Ibn Butrus
also did, and as Johannes Hispanus was also a monk of Syria, these three
scholars are seen to be joined by a link of locality highly increasing
the probability that they actually co-operated in the publication
of this hitherto unknown text. In his preface, Philip speaks of the
Arabic manuscript as a precious pearl, discovered while he was still in
Syria. This leads us to think that his work in translating it was done
after he had left the East, and possibly in the course of his voyage
westward. We know that the Hebrew version of Aristotle’s _Meteora_ was
produced in similar circumstances. Samuel ben Juda ben Tibbun says he
completed that translation in the year 1210, while the ship that bore
him from Alexandria to Spain was passing between the isles of Lampadusa
and Pantellaria.[73] However this may be, Philip of Tripoli dedicated
his version of the _Sirr-el-asrar_, which he called the _Secreta
Secretorum_, to the Bishop under whom he had hitherto lived and laboured:
‘Guidoni vere de Valentia, civitatis Tripolis glorioso pontifici’: a name
and title little understood by the copyists, who have subjected them to
strange corruptions.[74]

It is highly in favour of our identifying, as we have already done,
Philip of Tripoli, the translator of the _Secreta_, with Philip of
Salerno, the Clerk Register of Sicily, that we find Michael Scot, who
stood in an undoubtedly close relation to the Clerk Register, showing an
intimate acquaintance with the _Secreta Secretorum_. Foerster has given
us a careful and exact account of several passages in different parts of
the _Physionomia_ of Scot, which have their correspondences in the works
of Philip, so that it is beyond question that the Latin version of the
_Secreta_ was one of the sources from which Scot drew. Before leaving
this part of the subject, we may notice that translations of Philip’s
version into the vernacular languages of Italy, France, and England were
made at an early date, both in prose and verse.[75] The English version
of the _Secreta_ came from the hand of the poet Lydgate.

Another treatise of the same school, to which Scot was also indebted,
is to be found in the _Physionomia_ ascribed, like the _Secreta_, to
Aristotle. The Latin version of this apocryphal work was made, it is
said, directly from a Greek original, by Bartholomew of Messina. This
author wrote for Manfred of Sicily, and at a time which excludes the
notion that Scot could have seen or employed his work. Yet several
passages in the preface to Book II. of Scot’s _Physionomia_ have
evidently been borrowed from that of the Pseudo-Aristotle. As no
Arabic version of the treatise is known to exist, the fact of this
correspondence is one of the proofs on which we may rely in support of
the conclusion that Scot must have known and used the Greek language in
his studies.

The last two chapters of Book I. in the _Physionomia_ of Scot show
plainly that he had the Arabic version of Aristotle’s _History of
Animals_ before him as he wrote. We shall recur to this matter when we
come to deal with the versions which Scot made expressly from these
books. Meanwhile let us guard against the impression naturally arising
from our analysis of the _Physionomia_, that it was a mere compilation.
Many parts of the work show no correspondence with any other treatise on
the subject that is known to us, and these must be held as the results of
the author’s own observations. The arrangement of the whole is certainly
original, nor can we better conclude our study of the _Physionomia_,
than by giving a comprehensive view of its contents in their order. The
work is divided into three books, each having its own introduction. The
first expounds the mysteries of generation and birth, and reaches, as we
have already remarked, even beyond humanity to a considerable part of
the animal world so much studied by the Arabians. The second expounds
the signs of the different complexions, as these become visible in any
part of the body, or are discovered by dreams. The third examines the
human frame member by member, explaining what signs of the inward nature
may be read in each. The whole forms a very complete and interesting
compendium of the art of physiognomy as then understood, and must have
seemed not unworthy of the author, nor unsuitable as an offering to the
young prince, who by marriage was about to enter on the great world of
affairs, where knowledge of men would henceforth be all-important to his
success and happiness. The book attained a wide popularity in manuscript,
and the invention of printing contributed to increase its circulation in
Europe:[76] no less than eighteen editions are said to have been printed
between 1477 and 1660.[77]

In the copy preserved at Milan, the _Physionomia_ is placed immediately
after the _Astronomia_, or _Liber Particularis_. A similar arrangement
is found in the Oxford manuscript. This fact is certainly in favour
of the view we have adopted, and would seem to fix very plainly
the date and relation of these works. They stand beside the _Liber
Introductorius_, and, together with it, form the only remains we have of
Scot’s first literary activity, being publications that were called out
in the course of his scholastic duty to the King of Sicily. The _Liber
Introductorius_ opens this series. It is closely related by the nature of
its subject-matter to the _Astronomia_, or _Liber Particularis_, while
the _Physionomia_ forms a fitting close to the others with which it is
thus associated. In this last treatise Michael Scot sought to fulfil
his charge by sending forth his pupil to the great world, not wholly
unprovided with a guide to what is far more abstruse and incalculable
than any celestial theorem, the mystery of human character and action.

In presenting the _Physionomia_ to Frederick, Scot took what proved a
long farewell of the Court; for many years passed before he saw the
Emperor again. The great concourse of the Queen’s train, together with
the assembly of Frederick’s subjects at Palermo, bred a pestilence under
the dangerous heats of spring. A sudden horror fell on the masques and
revels of these bright days, with the death of the Queen’s brother,
Count Alfonso of Provence, and several others, so that soon the fair
gardens and pleasant palace were emptied and deserted as a place where
only the plague might dare to linger. The King and Queen, with five
hundred Spanish knights and a great Sicilian following, passed eastward;
to Cefalù first, and then on to Messina and Catania, as if they could
not put too great a distance between themselves and the infected spot.
Meanwhile Michael Scot, whose occupation in Palermo, and indeed about
the King, was now gone, set sail in the opposite direction and sought
the coast of Spain. Whether the idea of this voyage was his own, was
the result of a royal commission, or had been suggested by some of the
learned who came with Queen Constantia from her native land, it is now
impossible to say. It was in any case a fortunate venture, which did
much, not only for Scot’s personal fame, but for the general advantage in
letters and in arts.

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BIRTHPLACE AND EARLY STUDIES OF MICHAEL SCOT

In the Borders of Scotland it is well known that any piece of hill
pasture, if it be fenced in but for a little from the constant cropping
of the sheep, will soon show springing shoots of forest trees indigenous
to the soil, whose roots remain wherever the plough has not passed too
deeply. Centuries ago, when nature had her way and was unrestrained,
the whole south-eastern part of the country was covered with dense
forests and filled with forest-dwellers; the wild creatures that form
the prey of the snare and the quarry of the chase. In the deep valleys,
and by the streams of Tweed and Teviot, and many another river of that
well-watered land, stood the great ranks and masses of the oak and beech
as captains and patriarchs of the forest, mingled with the humbler
whitethorn which made a dense undergrowth wherever the sun could reach.
On the heights grew the sombre firs; their gnarled and ruddy branches
crowned with masses of bluish-green foliage, while the alders followed
the water-courses, and, aided by the shelter of these secret valleys, all
but reached the last summits of the hills, which alone, in many a varied
slope and peak and swelling breast, rose eminent and commanding over
these dark and almost unbroken woodlands.

Such was south-eastern Scotland in the twelfth century: a country fitted
to be the home of men of action rather than of thought; men whose joy
should lie in the chase and the conflict with nature as yet unsubdued,
who could track the savage creatures of the forest to their dens, and
clear the land where it pleased them, and build, and dwell, and beget
children in their own likeness, till by the labours of generations that
country should become pastoral, peaceful, and fit for fertile tillage as
we see it now.

Already, at the early time of which we speak, something of this work
had been begun. There were gaps in the high forest where it lay well
to the sun: little clearings marked by the ridge and furrow of a rude
agriculture. Here and there a baron’s lonely tower raised its grey
horn on high, sheltering a troop of men-at-arms who made it their
business to guard the land in war, and in peace to rid it of the savage
forest-creatures that hindered the hind and herd in their labour and
their hope. In the main valleys more than one great monastery was rising,
or already built, by the waters of Tweed and Teviot. The inmates of these
religious houses took their share in the whole duty of peaceful Scottish
men by following trades at home or superintending the labours of an army
of hinds who broke in and made profitable the wide abbey lands scattered
here and there over many a lowland county. All was energy, action, and
progress: a form of life which left but little room for the enterprises
of the mind, the conflicts and conquests which can alone be known and won
in the world of thought within.

These conditions we know to have reared and trained generations of men
well fitted to follow the pursuits of hardy and active life, yet they
cannot have been so constraining as to hinder the birth of some at least
who possessed an altogether different temper of mind and body. The
lowland Scots were even then of a mixed race: the ancestry which tends
more than any other to the production of life-eddies, where thought
rather than activity naturally forms and dwells, while the current of the
main stream sweeps past in its ordinary course. Grant the appearance of
such natures here and there in these early times, and it is easy to see
much in the only life then possible that was fit to foster their natural
tendencies. The deep woodlands were not only scenes of labour where
sturdy arms found constant employment, they were homes of mystery in
which the young imagination loved to dwell; peopling them with half-human
shapes more graceful than their stateliest trees, and half-brutal
monsters more terrible than the fiercest wolf or bear. The distant sun
and stars were more than a heavenly horologe set to mark the hours for
labour or vigil, they were an unexplored scene of wonder which patient
and brooding thought alone could reach and interpret. The trivial flight
and annual return of birds, tracing like the wild geese a mysterious
wedge against the sky of winter, gave more than a signal for the chase,
which was all that ordinary men saw in it. To these finer natures it
brought the awakening which those know who have learned to ask the mighty
questions—Why? Whence? and Whither? demands which will not be denied till
they have touched the heights and fathomed the depths of human life
itself. _Our life is a bird_, said one in these early ages, _which flies
by night, and, entering lighted hall at one end, swiftly passeth out at
the other. So come we, who knoweth whence, and so pass we, who knoweth
whither? From the darkness we come and to the darkness we go, and the
brief light that is meanwhile ours cannot make the mystery plain._

But though the nature of this primitive life in early Scottish days
could not hinder the appearance of men of thought, and even helped
their development as soon as they began to show the movements of active
intellect, yet on the other hand Scotland had not reached that culture
which affords such natures their due and full opportunity. Centuries were
yet to pass before the foundation of St. Andrews as the first Scottish
university. The grammar-schools of the country[2] were but a step to
the studies of some foreign seat of learning. The churchmen who filled
considerable positions at home were either Italians, or had at least been
trained abroad, so that everything in those days pointed to that path
of foreign study which has since been trodden by so many generations of
Scottish students. The bright example of Scotus Erigena, who had reached
such a high place in France under Charles the Bald, was an incitement to
the northern world of letters. Young men of parts and promise naturally
sought their opportunity to go abroad in the hope of finding like
honourable employment, or, better still, of returning crowned with the
honours of the schools to occupy some distinguished ecclesiastical
position in their native country.

This then was the age, and these were the prevailing conditions, under
which Michael Scot was born. To the necessary and common impulse of
Scottish scholars we are to trace the disposition of the great lines
on which his life ran its remarkable and distinguished course. He is
certainly one of the most notable, as he is among the earliest, examples
of the student Scot abroad.

There can be little doubt regarding the nation where he had his birth.
Disregarding for a moment the varying accounts of those who lived
centuries after the age of Scot himself, let us make a commencement
with one whose testimony is of the very highest value, being that of
a contemporary. Roger Bacon, the famous scientist of the thirteenth
century, introduces the name of Michael Scot in the following manner:
‘Unde, cum per Gerardum Cremonensem, et Michaelem Scotum, et Aluredum
Anglicum, et Heremannum (Alemannum), et Willielmum Flemingum, data sit
nobis copia translationum de omni scientia.’[3] In this passage the
distinctive appellation of each author is plainly derived from that of
his native country. That Bacon believed Michael to be of Scottish descent
is therefore certain, and his opinion is all the more valuable since he
was an Englishman, and not likely therefore to have confused the two
nations of Great Britain as a foreigner might haply have done. To the
same purpose is the testimony of Guido Bonatti, the astrologer, who
also belonged to the age of Bacon and Scot. ‘Illi autem,’ he says,[4]
‘qui fuerunt in tempore meo, sicut fuit Hugo ab Alugant, Beneguardinus
Davidbam, Joannes Papiensis, Dominicus Hispanus, Michael Scotus,
Stephanus Francigena, Girardus de Sabloneta Cremonensis, et multi alii.’
Here also the significance of _Scotus_, as indicating nationality, is one
that hardly admits of question. It was in all probability on these or
similar authorities that Dempster relied when he said of Michael:[5] ‘The
name Scot, however, is not a family one, but national,’ though he seems
to have pressed the matter rather too far, it being plainly possible that
_Scotus_ might combine in itself both significations. In Scotland it
might indicate that Michael belonged to the clan of Scott, as indeed has
been generally supposed, while as employed by men of other nations, it
might declare what they believed to have been this scholar’s native land.

At this point, however, a new difficulty suggests itself. It is well
known that the lowland Scots were emigrants from the north of Ireland,
and that in early times _Scotus_ was used as a racial rather than a local
designation. May not Michael have been an Irishman? Such is the question
actually put by a recent writer,[6] and certainly it deserves a serious
answer. We may commence by remarking that even on this understanding of
it the name is an indefinite one as regards locality, and might therefore
have been applied to one born in Scotland just as well as if he had
first seen the light in the sister isle. So certainly is this the case
that when we recall the name of John Scotus we find it was customary
to add the appellative _Erigena_ to determine his birthplace. At that
time the separation of race was much less marked than it had become in
Michael’s day, and it seems certain therefore that if _Michael Scotus_
was thought a sufficient designation of the man by Bacon and Bonatti,
they must have used it in the sense of indicating that he came of that
part of the common stock which had crossed the sea and made their home
in Scotland. But to find a conclusive answer to this difficulty we need
only anticipate a little the course of our narrative by mentioning here a
highly curious fact which will occupy our attention in its proper place.
When Michael Scot was offered high ecclesiastical preferment in Ireland
he declined it on the ground that he was ignorant of the vernacular
tongue of that country.[7] This seems to supply anything that may have
been wanting in the other arguments we have advanced, and the effect
of the whole should be to assure our conviction that there need be now
no further attempt made to deny Scotland the honour of having been the
native land of so distinguished a scholar.

Nor are we altogether without the means of coming to what seems at
least a probable conclusion regarding the very district of the Scottish
lowlands where Michael Scot was born. Leland the antiquary tells us that
he was informed on good authority that Scot came from the territory of
Durham.[8] Taken literally this statement would make him an Englishman,
but no one would think of quoting it as of sufficient value to disprove
the testimony of Bacon and Bonatti who both believed Michael to have
been born in Scotland. If, however, there should offer itself any way in
which both these apparently contending opinions can be reconciled, we are
surely bound to accept such an explanation of the difficulty, and in fact
the solution we are about to propose not only meets the conditions of
the problem, but will be found to narrow very considerably the limits of
country within which the birthplace of Scot is to be looked for.

The See of Durham in that age, and for long afterwards, had a wide sphere
of influence, extending over much of the south-eastern part of the
Scottish Borders. Many deeds relating to this region of Scotland must
be sought in the archives that belong to the English Cathedral. To be
born in the territory of Durham then, as Leland says Scot had been, was
not necessarily to be a native of England, and the anonymous Florentine
commentator on Dante uses a remarkable expression which seems to confirm
this solution as far as Scot is concerned. ‘This Michael,’ he says, ‘was
of the Province of Scotland’;[9] and his words seem to point to that part
of the Scottish lowlands adjacent to the See of Durham and in a sense its
_province_, as subject to its influence, just as Provence, the analogous
part of France, had its name from the similar relation it bore to Rome.
The most likely opinion therefore that can now be formed on the subject
leads us to believe that Scot was born somewhere in the valley of the
Tweed; if we understand that geographical expression in the wide sense
which makes it equivalent to the whole of the south-eastern borders of
Scotland.

Nor is this so contrary as might at first appear to the tradition which
makes Scot a descendant of the family of Balwearie in Fife. Hector Boëce,
Principal of Marischal College, Aberdeen, who first gave currency to the
story,[10] could hardly have meant to imply that Michael was actually
born at Balwearie. It is to be presumed that he understood _Scotus_ to
have been a family name; and the Scotts, who became of Balwearie by
marriage with the heiress of that estate, did not enter into possession
of it till long after the close of the twelfth century.[11] To call
Michael a son of Balwearie in the genealogical sense, however, is in
perfect agreement with the conclusion regarding his origin which we have
just reached; for the original home of the Scotts who afterwards held
that famous property as their _chef lieu_, lay by the upper streams of
Tweed in the very district which every probability has already indicated
to us as that of Michael’s birthplace. In 1265 we find an entry of money
paid by the Crown ‘to Michael Scot and Richard Rufus who have occupied
the waste lands at Stuth,’ near Peebles.[12] Identification is here
out of the question, as Michael the scholar, of whom we write, was by
this time long in his grave, but the entry we have quoted shows that a
family of this surname, who still used the Christian name of Michael,
was flourishing in this part of Scotland during the second half of the
thirteenth century.

It is to be remarked, too, that the Scottish tales of wonder relating to
Michael Scot have a local colour that accords well with the other signs
we have noticed. The hill which the sorcerer’s familiar spirit cleaves
in sunder is the triple peak of Eildon; the water which he curbs is that
of Tweed; from Oakwood he rides forth to try the witch of Falsehope,
and in Oakwood tower may still be seen the _Jingler’s room_: a curious
anachronism, for Oakwood is a building much more recent than the days of
Michael Scot, yet one which fixes for us in a picturesque and memorable
way the district of country where, according to the greatest number of
converging probabilities, this remarkable man was born.

As to the date of his birth, it is difficult to be very precise.
The probability that he died suddenly, and before he had completed
the measure of an ordinary lifetime, prevents us from founding our
calculations upon the date of his decease, which can be pretty accurately
determined. A more certain argument may be derived from the fact that
Scot had finished his youthful studies, made some figure in the world,
and entered on the great occupation of his life as an author, as early as
the year 1210.[13] Assuming then that thirty was the least age he could
well have attained at the period in question, the year 1180 would be
indicated as that of his birth, or rather as the latest date to which it
can with probability be referred; 1175 being in every way a more likely
approximation to the actual time of this event.

It is unfortunate that we find ourselves in the same position with regard
to the interesting question of Scot’s early education, having only the
suggestions derived from probable conjecture to offer on this subject
also. Du Boulay indeed, in his account of the University of Paris,[14]
pretends to supply a pretty complete account of the schools which Scot
attended, but, as he adds that this was the usual course of study in
those days, we find reason to think that he may have been guided in his
assertions, rather by the probabilities of the case, than by any exact
evidence. Nor is it likely that any more satisfactory assurance can now
be had on this point: the time being too remote and the want of early
material for Scot’s biography defeating in this respect all the care and
attention that can now be given to the subject.

We know, however, that there was a somewhat famous grammar-school at
Roxburgh in the twelfth century,[15] and considering the rarity of such
an opportunity at so early a period, and the proximity of this place to
the district in which Scot was born, we may venture to fancy that here
he may have learned his rudiments, thus laying the foundation of those
deeper studies, which he afterwards carried to such a height.

With regard to Durham, the matter may be considered to stand on firmer
ground. The name of Michael Scot, as we have already seen, has for many
ages been associated with this ancient Cathedral city by the Wear. If
the question of his birthplace be regarded as now determined in favour of
Scotland, no reason remains for this association so convincing as that
which would derive it from the fact that he pursued his education there.
The Cathedral School of Durham was a famous one, which no doubt exerted
a strong attraction upon studious youths throughout the whole of that
province. In Scot’s case the advantages it offered may well have seemed a
desirable step to further advances; his means, as one of a family already
distinguished from the common people, allowing him to plan a complete
course of study, and his ambition prompting him to follow it.

The common tradition asserts that when he left Durham, Scot proceeded to
Oxford. This is not unlikely, considering the fame of that University,
and the number of students drawn from all parts of the land who assembled
there.[16] The only matters, however, which offer themselves in support
of this bare conjecture are not, it must be said, very convincing. Roger
Bacon shows great familiarity with Scot, and Bacon was an Oxford scholar,
though his studies at that University were not begun till long after the
time when Scot could possibly have been a student there. It is quite
possible, however, that the interest shown by Bacon in Scot’s labours and
high reputation—not by any means of a kindly sort—may have been awakened
by traditions that were still current in the Schools of Oxford when
the younger student came there. Near the end of his life, Scot visited
in a public capacity the chief Universities of Europe, and brought
them philosophic treasures that were highly thought of by the learned.
It seems most probable, from the terms in which Bacon speaks of this
journey,[17] that it may have included a visit to Oxford. This might of
course be matter of mere duty and policy, but one cannot help observing
how well it agrees with the tradition that these schools were already
familiar to Scot. As a recognised alumnus of Oxford, he would be highly
acceptable there, being one whose European fame shed no small lustre upon
the scene of his early studies.

As to Paris, the next stage in Scot’s educational progress, the historian
of that University becomes much more convincing when he claims for
_Lutetia_ the honour of having contributed in a special sense to the
formation of this scholar’s mind. For here tradition has preserved one
of those sobriquets which are almost invariably authentic. Scot, it
seems, gained here the name of _Michael the Mathematician_,[18] and this
corresponds, not only with what is known concerning the character of
his studies, but also with the nature of the course for which Paris was
then famous. There is another circumstance which seems to point strongly
in the same direction. Every one must have noticed how invariably the
name of Scot is honoured by the prefix of _Master_. This is the case not
only in his printed works, but also in popular tradition, as may be seen
in the well-known rhyme:—‘Maister Michael Scot’s man.’[19] A Florence
manuscript, to which we shall presently refer more fully, throws some
light upon the meaning of this title, by describing Scot as that scholar,
‘who among the rest is known as the chief Master.’[20] It is matter of
common knowledge, that this degree had special reference to the studies
of the _Trivium_ and _Quadrivium_, being the scholastic crown reserved
for those who had made satisfactory progress in the liberal arts. Scot
then, according to the testimony of early times, was the supreme Master
in this department of knowledge. But it is also certain that Paris was
then recognised as the chief school of the _Trivium_ and _Quadrivium_,
just as Bologna had a like reputation for Law, and Salerno for
Medicine.[21] We are therefore warranted to conclude that Michael Scot
could never have been saluted in European schools as ‘Supreme Master,’
had he not studied long in the French capital, and carried off the highly
esteemed honours of Paris.

Another branch of study which tradition says Scot followed with success
at Paris was that of theology. Du Boulay declares, indeed, that he
reached the dignity of doctor in that faculty, and there is some reason
to think that this may actually have been the case. There can be no
doubt that an ecclesiastical career then offered the surest road to
wealth and fame in the case of all who aspired to literary honours. That
Scot took holy orders[22] seems very probable. He may well have done so
even before he came to Paris, for Bacon makes it one of his reproaches
against the corruption of the times, that men were ordained far too
readily, and before they had reached the canonical age: from their
tenth to their twentieth year, he says.[23] It is difficult to verify
Dempster’s assertion that Scot’s renown as a theologian is referred
to by Baconthorpe the famous Carmelite of the following century.[24]
This author was commonly known as the _Princeps Averroïstarum_. If he
really mentions Michael, and does not mean Duns Scotus, as there is some
reason to suspect, his praise may have been given quite as much on the
ground of profane as of religious philosophy. On the other hand we find
abounding and unmistakable references to Scripture, the Liturgy, and
ascetic counsels in the writings of Scot, from which it may safely be
concluded that he had not merely embraced the ecclesiastical profession
as a means of livelihood or of advancement, but had seriously devoted
himself to sacred studies. It is true that we cannot point to any
instance in which he receives the title of doctor, but this omission
may be explained without seriously shaking our belief in the tradition
that Scot gained this honour at Lutetia. During the twelfth century the
Bishop of Paris forbade the doctors of theology to profess that faculty
in any other University.[25] Scot may well, therefore, have been one of
those philosophical divines who taught _entre les deux ponts_, as the
same statute commanded they should, though in other lands and during
his after-life, he came to be known simply as the ‘Great Master’: the
brightest of all those choice spirits of the schools on which Paris set
her stamp.

At this point we may surely hazard a further conjecture. Bacon tells us
that in those days it was the study of law, ecclesiastical and civil,
rather than of theology, which opened the way to honour and preferment in
the Church.[26] Now Paris was not more eminently and distinctly the seat
of arts than Bologna was the school of laws.[27] May not Michael Scot
have passed from the French to the Italian University? Such a conjecture
would be worth little were it not for the support which it undoubtedly
receives from credible tradition. Boccaccio in one of his tales[28]
mentions Michael Scot, and tells how he used to live in Bologna. Many of
the commentators on the _Divine Comedy_ of Dante dwell on the theme, and
enrich it with superstitious wonders.[29] It would be difficult to find
a period in the scholar’s life which suits better with such a residence
than that we are now considering. On all accounts it seems likely
that he left Paris for Bologna, and found in the latter city a highly
favourable opening, which led directly to the honours and successes of
his after-life.

He was now to leave the schools and enter a wider sphere, not without the
promise of high and enduring fame. A child of the mist and the hill, he
had come from the deep woods and wild outland life of the Scottish Border
to what was already no inconsiderable position. He knew Paris, not, need
it be said, the gay capital of modern days, but Paris of the closing
years of the twelfth century, _Lutetia Parisiorum_: her low-browed houses
of wood and mud; her winding streets, noisome even by day, and by night
still darker and more perilous; her vast Latin Quarter, then far more
preponderant than now—a true cosmopolis, where fur-clad barbarians from
the home of the north wind sharpened wits with the Latin races haply
trained in southern schools by some keen-browed Moor or Jew. And Paris
knew him, watched his course, applauded his success, crowned his fame by
that coveted title of _Master_, which he shared with many others, but
which the world of letters made peculiarly his own by creating for him a
singular and individual propriety in it. From Paris we may follow him in
fancy to Bologna, yet it is not hard to believe he must have left half
his heart behind, enchained in that remarkable devotion which Lutetia
could so well inspire in her children.[30] Bologna might be, as we have
represented it, the gate to a new Eden, that of Scot’s Italian and
Spanish life, yet how could he enter it without casting many a longing
glance behind to the Paradise he had quitted for ever when he left the
banks of the Seine?

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