Liberal Arts and Education

As continues to be the case today, medieval education leaned heavily on texts and books. Both teachers and students used other people’s knowledge and ideas to build up their own intellectual profile and abilities. While many religious manuscripts were educational, as demonstrated in the examples in the section “Religion and Devotion,” this section is filled with a category of manuscripts that were made especially for use in educational settings, including university classrooms. For much of the Middle Ages, the Liberal Arts divided knowledge into logical sections and provided systematic education in a variety of disciplines. The Trivium presented students with knowledge of Rhetoric, Dialectic (reasoning), and Grammar, areas that helped them to understanding knowledge and apply it. The Quadrivium presented more specific content, such as Music, Geometry, Astronomy, and Arithmetic (and later also Medicine). The design of educational manuscripts was driven by what is sometimes called “book fluency,” or the ability to find information quickly and to understand a text in an optimal manner. To this end, scribes added specific tools to the page, such as enlarged margins, which provided users with a notepad or sorts, and reading aids that sped up consultation, like paragraph titles, running titles in the top margin, and enumerations that ran alongside the text. Many of the books in this section reflect their pedagogical context not only in their design, but in the many traces of use left behind by their readers, enabling us to peek over their shoulders to witness how they expanded their knowledge.

  1. Manners of our forefathers (BPL 1015, 1300-1400)
  2. An Artistic Failure (BPL 137 D, 1150-1200)
  3. A medieval book order (BPL 138, 1437)
  4. Testing the Pen (BPL 139 B, 900-1100)
  5. Applied astronomy (BPL 154, 1200-1400)
  6. Cases of conscience (BPL 164, 1300-1500)
  7. A medieval dictionary (BPL 17, c. 1200)
  8. More than words (BPL 1715, 1458)
  9. Books in the Cradle (BPL 1765, 1400-1450)
  10. Advanced grammar (BPL 186, 1100-1300)
  11. Face to Face with Statius (BPL 191 A, 1100-1400)
  12. Finger gestures (BPL 191 BD, 1100-1150)
  13. Miscalculation! (BPL 191 E, 1100-1200)
  14. A helping hand (BPL 194, 1000-1100)
  15. The art of reasoning (BPL 195, 1100-1200)
  16. Medieval encyclopedia (BPL 197, 1100-1300)
  17. Myths and constellations (BPL 225, 1100-1200)
  18. Saints and dates (BPL 226, 1100-1200)
  19. From Catholic to Protestant (BPL 304, 1466)
  20. A real classic (BPL 43, 1100-1200)
  21. Honorable Boys (BPL 91, 1100-1200)
  22. Practical rhetorical exercises (GRO 6, 1300-1400)
  23. A Modern Example (PER Q 85, 1760)
  24. A medieval calculator (SCA 1, 1400)