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distinguished man we find many traces in the historical documents of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

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

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

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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