De historia animalium translatio Guillelmi de Morbeka. Pars prima: libri I–V

Review of Metaphysics 57 (1):137-138 (2003)


Anyone making even a cursory study of the intellectual life of medieval Europe will notice everywhere evident a lively interest in animals. The literary manifestation of this interest best known today is the tradition of the bestiary and the closely associated encyclopedia tradition. Such treatments of animals, however, are notable for their less than accurate descriptions wherein the factual was often mixed with the fabulous and preference often shown for the exotic, mythical, and imaginative over the scientific. This changed radically with the scientific revolution of the early thirteenth century and the recovery in the Latin West of the zoological treatises of Aristotle. By 1220 all of Aristotle’s De animalibus was available in a Latin translation made from the Arabic by Michael Scotus at Toledo, and the commentators began to take notice. By mid-century, Albertus Magnus had made the libri de animalibus the centerpiece of his massive literary production introducing Aristotelian natural science to readers of Latin. This was followed in the 1260s by the notable effort of William of Moerbeke to produce a corrected version of the zoology directly from the Greek.

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Michael W. Tkacz
Gonzaga University

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