The philosophical writings of Hugh of St Victor abound with references to the natural world and the human contemplation of it. He believed that with the correct understanding of the natural symbolism, man could become more spiritual; in a manner of speaking closer to God and God’s understanding. Until recently, it has been believed that Hugh’s sphere of influence was relatively small. In this paper, however, I will outline how his philosophies are clearly displayed in Chretien de Troyes’ depictions of animals and natural elements.
The manuscript transmission of Thomas of Cantimpré’s De natura rerum (c.1240) is complicated to say the least. It is thought that Thomas himself was responsible for one redaction (Thomas II) of his work, while in Austria c. 1250, an anonymous compiler created yet another version (based on about 40 percent of Thomas’s work; Thomas III). Although Thomas I-II start with the human body and soul, in Thomas III the presence of human beings is nearly obliterated. In this paper I will concentrate on the presence of the human body in Thomas I-II and suggest reasons for its removal from natural history in Thomas III.
The encyclopedist interested in natural history must organize his entries on the various creatures. Although medieval writers were aware of alphabetical order, they preferred organizational paradigms that had some meaning, so that the order of the book somehow reflected the order of the world. This paper will consider the paradigm that Vincent of Beauvais develops in his Speculum naturale. Although Vincent calls this order ‘historical’, for it follows the chronology of creation set out in Genesis 1, I shall show that its exegetical origins compromise its relation to the historical order of the encyclopedia’s later books, particularly the Speculum historiale.