Universität Erfurt

Projekt von Łukasz Marek Tomanek M.A.

Commentaries on De substantia orbis of Averroes in Bibliotheca Amploniana and their connection with a tradition of Latin Averroism in XIVth and XVth centuries

It seems to be generally well acknowledged among scholars that the intellectual circles of Studium Erfordiense Artium and, later, of the University of Erfurt constituted one of the most influencing academic centres in the late Middle Ages. Moreover, these scholar and academic circles are well recognised as being strongly influenced by Averroes and his Latin followers. The Averroistic influence seems to be clearly discernible in natural philosophy known in Erfurt, especially in commentaries on works of Aristotle - De coelo, Physics and Metaphysics, and on Averroes’ treatise De substantial orbis, whose commentary tradition still appears to be hardly elaborated.

De substantia orbis is a collection of treatises concerning the nature of the heavens and their relation to the earth. The Arabic original, yet unknown, became popular in its Latin and Hebrew translation. It has been widely considered among Latin scholars as a supplementary work to the Aristotelean corpus, that covers a broad spectrum of issues left uncommented by the Philosopher, but related strictly to the problems moved in De coelo, Physics and Metaphysics.

It is relevant though that Averroes' text was not frequently commented on, what could have resulted from the absence of the work on the reading list at medieval universities. Yet a number of commentaries on De substantia orbis (most of which not yet identified or worked out) is known. They were written by such famous and significant authors as Walter Burley, Jean de Jandun, Randulf Brito, Henry Totting of Oyta, Theodoricus of Magdeburg, or, later by Pietro Pomponazzi. The aim and doctrinal content of these works remain still understudied, since we do not have many critical editions provided, and thus most of the commentaries appear not to be examined.

The University of Erfurt and Studium Erfordiense Artium were commonly regarded as the intellectual milieu, where in XIVth cent. Averroistic sources gained remarkable popularity, which is reflected on the one hand, by several mediaeval Latin manuscripts with Averroes commentaries, and on the other hand, by doctrinal inclinations of its masters, like, e.g. Theodoricus of Magdeburg, who also commented on Averroes’ treatise.

According to Mieczysław Markowski’s repertory, there are four copies of De substantia orbis in Bibliotheca Amploniana, and four commentaries preserved . Thanks to the further research of Ivana Zimmermann we know, that among listed commentaries, there is one anonymous glossa and three identified works of Ferrandus of Spain, John of Jandun, Henry Totting of Oyta . All of them are contained in two manuscripts listed by Amplonius in his catalogue written in 1410.

Fernandus of Spain and John of Jandun are commonly considered as Averroists. Both were educated at the University of Paris. The former started to study in at University in the late seventies of XIII cent. He is known as an author of Commentary on Metaphysics preserved in two manuscripts from Oxford and Cambridge, which indicates clearly averroistic statements on the relation between faith and reason and on the theory of the intellect.

For my project, it will be crucial to compare Fernandus’ commentary with later Jandun’s work, because both were composed at the University of Paris shortly after the 1277 Condemnations. The latter, comprising of exposition and questiones, is well acknowledged as the most complex and extensive commentary on Averroes’ work. It is also  John of Jandun’s works were crucial for the shaping of the Padovian Aristotelism and Renaissance Averroism as a whole. Commentaries on De substantia orbis of such renowned thinkers as Pietro Pomponazzi, Marcus Antonius Zimara or Agostino Nifo were directly influenced by the work of John of Jandun. It seems to be important, that in Italy, in Venice especially, the commentary was reprinted eleven times which remains a quite considerable number for that period. What is more, despite the condemnation of the philosopher's works, at least six manuscripts are known of, most of which is in Italian libraries' (Vatican, Venice and Bologne) possession and one remains in Biblioteca Colombina in Seville. His works were also well known in Erfurt milieu. A manuscript testimony preserved in Bibliotheca Amploniana, which is the shortened version of the commentary, that comprises only questiones, forms one manuscript family with MS Barb. lat. 340, preserved in the Vatican Library.

The third of the authors mentioned above, Henry Totting of Oyta, is considered as one of the most respected authors of XIVth century. He is known as representing nominalist views in philosophy and theology. Moreover, it is well attested, that after having graduated in Prague, he became a teacher in Studium Generale Artium in the sixties and had a significant influence on intellectual milieu here. Given the fact, that non-averroistic philosopher commented on Averroes’ treatise, we could see, how heterogeneous the De substantia orbis commentary tradition was. This fact is also reflected by the other XIVth century De substantia orbis commentaries of Erfurt provenance, which are preserved in Jagiellonian Library in Poland - MS BJ 735 and MS BJ 739. Both were written probably in the sixties, and they were later bought by cracovian scholars to enrich the library of the University of Cracow. The content of these manuscripts is also well attested as non-averroistic, and moreover, these commentaries were composed during Henry’s residency in Erfurt, or shortly afterwards.

Given the very complex nature of the above-mentioned doctrinal content, this project aims to provide the preliminary comparison of the relationship between commentaries of Ferrandus of Spain, John of Jandun and Henry Totting of Oyta. Thus, the principal material for my research comprises MSS 2o 297 and 2o 346, which I would like to take into closer consideration. Although the research project focuses on unedited works, the edited work connected with Erfurt De substantia orbis tradition will also be brought into the project’s scope. This will be the case especially with the commentary of Theodoric of Magdeburg. The elaboration of the material would also be presented in its correspondence with anonymous Erfurt commentaries on De substantia orbis MS 2o 297 (187r-193r), BJ 735 and BJ 739. 

While preparing my PhD dissertation, which is a critical edition of John of Jandun commentary on Averroes’ De substantia orbis, I had an opportunity to research various topics reflected in De substantia orbis commentary tradition. Recently, I have also been granted with the opportunity to investigate manuscripts mentioned above from Jagiellonian Library, whose manuscript testimonies will be of great importance for my research project in Gotha Research Center. Thus, the Herzog-Ernst-Scholarship would enable me to continue my present research and to present my recent findings from a broader perspective, that would be substantially enriched by research in Bibliotheca Amploniana.


Łukasz M. Tomanek graduated in Philosophy (MA) and Classical Philology (MA) at the University of Silesia in Katowice, where currently he is a PhD student at the Department of Philosophy and prepares a critical edition of John of Jandun’s commentary on Averroes’ „De substantia orbis”. He also continues to be a student of a diploma program in Manuscript Studies at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies in Toronto. In his research, he is focused primarily on the history of Latin Averroism in the XIVth century.



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