Louis John Paetow.

The arts course at medieval universities online

. (page 7 of 13)
Online LibraryLouis John PaetowThe arts course at medieval universities → online text (page 7 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

anonymous vocabulary, Sacerdos ad altare accessurus, 4 names
the following books for rhetoric: Cicero's De Inventione, Dc
Oratore, and the pseudo Ciceronian ad Herenniumj <2uintilian's
Institutes and the pseudo Quintilian Declamationes (or ('tut sue). 7 '
This is a rather remarkable program for rhetoric. Even the
course at Chartres, when the schools there were at the height of
their fame, did not offer so much solid rhetorical instruction. 6
Quintilian's Institute* are not often met with in the schools of
the [Middle Ages.

The earliest statute (1215) prescribing work at the Uni-
versity of Paris already indicates that rhetoric would occupy
but an inferior place in the arts course. It was to be read on
festival days and the only books mentioned are the fourth book
of the Topics of Boethius and the Barbarismus. 1 Later statutes

! Giraldus Cambrensis, De rebus a sc gestis, ed. Brewer, I, 23.

8 "Adeo namque vivas legum et canonum rationes introductas rhetoricis per-
suasionibus adjuvabat; adeoque tarn verborum schematibus atque coloribus quam
sententiarum medullis causas adornabat, dictaque philosophorum et auctorum
miro artificio inserta locis congruis adaptabat." Dc rebus a sc gestis, ed. Brewer,
I. 45-

4 See above, p. 15.

""In rethorica educandus legat primam Tulii retboricam et librum ad Herren-
ium et Tullium de oratore et causas Quintiliani et Quintilianum de oratoris in-
stitutione." Gonville and Cains College MS. 385, p. 53. Now printed, Raskins,
Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, XX, 92.

"Clerval, Lcs Ecolcs dc Chartres, 222. The books mentioned are: (1) Cicer-
onis, Dc inventione rhetorica libri 2; (2) Rhetoric orum ad Herennium libri 4;
(3) Ciecronis De partitione oratorio dialogus: (4) J. Severiani Syntoiuata ac
precepta artis rhetoricae; (5) Capellae Dc rhetorica libri 5. See however p. 233.

7 "Non legant in festivis diebus nisi Philosophos et Rhetoricas et Quadruvalia
et Barbarismum, et Ethicam, si placet; et quartum Topicorum." Denifle et Chate-
lain, Chartularium, I, 78. For the Barbarismus see above, p. 33. Since its sub-
ject matter was the figures of speech it was usually classed under rhetoric. In the



add nothing; however it is possible and even probable that in
this, as well as in all subjects, books were read which are not
mentioned in the statutes. In the second half of the fourteenth
century the study of rhetoric was revived as we have learned
from Nicolas of Clemanges. 8 On the whole however it is safe
to say that formal rhetoric was as badly neglected at Paris as was

The same was even more true in other French universities.
At Toulouse, for example, where a good deal of stress was laid on
grammar, not a trace can be found of instruction in old-fash
ioned rhetoric.

At Bologna and in Italy generally it suffered especially in
(he thirteenth century, as we shall see, but began to prosper
again early in the fourteenth. The establishment of a special
chair in rhetoric at Bologna in 1321 has been noted. 9 The in-
formation in the statutes is very meagre but we learn that early
in the fifteenth century there were distinct examinations and
graduations in rhetoric. The books mentioned are the De Xnven-
tione of Cicero, the pseudo Ciceronian ail Herennium and a Com-
pendium by Fra Guidotto of Bologna. 10

At Oxford, at about the same time (1431), the Rhetoric of

Baltic of the Seven Arts the Barbarismus is spoken of as having deserted the
camp of Grammar to fight on the side of Logic :

"dant Barbarime
Qui chevauchoit soi cinquantime.
S'ert il homme lige Gramaire
Des meillors genz dc son aumaire,
Mes il maintenoit cele guerre,
Qu'el pais Logir|ue avoit terre.
Par trahison estoit tornez
Por ce qu'il ert de Poitou nez."
T'enri d'Andeli, Bataille des .I'll. Ars, vv. 232-239. Heron. Oeuvres de Henri
d'Andeli, 51-52.

"See above, p. 62.
"See above, p. 60.

"Malagola, Statuti delle Universitd e dei Coltegi delta Studio Bolognese, 4SS,
and note 3.



Aristotle, the fourth book of the Topics of Boethius and the Nova
Bhetorica of Cicero ( probably ad Herennium) were read. 11

There can remain no doubt that the study of formal rhetoric
did not flourish at the universities even as much as it had done
in the best schools of the early Middle Ages.

But there was one phase of rhetoric which was developed in
a remarkable way at the universities. The art of writing well
and ornately had always constituted a part of rhetoric although
the Roman manuals had naturally subordinated it to the art of
speaking. Although orators did not flourish in the Middle Ages
there were better opportunities for a man skillful iu the use of
the pen, that is, one who could write correctly letters and other
important documents. Now throughout the earlier Middle Ages
the elements of the Roman law were taught as a part of rhetoric
in which a distinction had always been made between the genus
demonstrativum, deliberativum and iudiciale. 12 When law be-
came an independent and important branch of learning at the
universities and thus broke loose entirely from rhetoric, it re-
acted upon and helped to develop the art of writing until that too
became a separate branch of education quite distinct from the
old formal rhetoric. This new art became known as the dicta men
prasaicum or ars dicta minis, and was recognized at some uni-
versities as a distinct branch of instruction. So important did
it become that in some places it usurped the whole field of rhetoric
and often was simply called by that name. 13

In its earliest and widest sense dictamen signified the art of
composition, both in prose and poetry. 14 As a rule, three kinds of
composition were distinguished, metric verse, rhythmic verse,

"Rashdall, Universities, II, 457.

"Fitting, Die Anfange der Rechtsschule at Bologna, 15.

"For bibliographies on the subject see Haskins, "Life of Medieval Students,"
Amer. Hist. Rev. Ill, 204, n. 2; Abelson, The Seven Liberal Arts. 61. n. 1 ; Molinier,
Sources de I'Histoire dc France, II, 204.

"Thurot, Notices ct Extraits, XXII, pt. 2, 91, and note 3.



and prose. 15 At all times such exercises in composition, espe-
cially in verse, had formed a part of grammatical and rhetorical
instruction, 1G but in au age when few could write at all the
practical value of the dicta men prosaicum, which consisted main-
ly iu writing letters and documents, soon asserted itself.

In the early centuries of the Middle Ages numerous collec-
tions of model letters and public documents were in common
use. ]; It is sufficient to mention the Variae of Cassiodorus of
which the sixth and seventh books were actually designed to
present models, and the famous Formulae Marculfi of the seventh
century. The art of drawing up documents with the help of such
collections had been taught in some monastery and cathedral
schools and in the various chanceries. It was not, however, until
the latter half of the eleventh century that this art was regarded
as a distinct discipline.

The ars dicta minis as a separate branch of instruction had
its origin in Italy. There, and especially in Lombardy, the study
of grammar and rhetoric and the schools in which they were taught
bad had a continuous existence, with occasional periods of
bloom. 18 The growing business in the ecclesiastical and lay chan-
ceries helped to develop and support the new art of dictamen. In
Italy the notaries had always been largely laymen and their busi-
ness had been one of profit and honor. 10 Thus a widespread in-
terest was won for the new ars dictaminis which more and more
adapted itself to the practical needs of the professional notary.
The investiture struggle greatly increased the business of the

I! "Dictaminum autetn alia sunt metrics, alia rithmica, alia prosaica," Alberici
cassinensis rationes dictandi. Rockinger, Brief stellcr, I, 9.

During the later Middle Ages and until the rise of humanism, rhythmic
signified rhymed verse whereas metric was blank verse. Zarncke, "Zwei Mittel-
alterliche Abhandlungen iiber den Ban rythmischer Verse," in Berichte . . . der
k Sachsischen Gesellschaft dcr Wissenschaften, Lpz. (1871), XXIII. 35.

"Specht. Geschichte dcs Unterrichtswesens, 113.

"Bresslau, Urkundenlehre, T. 608.

"Rockinger, "Uber die Ars dictandi und die Summae dictaminum in Italien"
in Sitsungsberichte dcr k. k. .Head. Miinchen (1861), I, 103 and Giesebrecht, De
Litterarum Studiis ufud Italos.

"Bresslau, Urkundenlehre, I, 624.



papa) curia, the imperial chancery and those of the great clerics.
The growing autonomy of the Italian city-states also necessitated
much correspondence between city and city and between the
cities and the Emperor and the Pope. To all tliis must be added
the potent influence of the study of Roman law and the rise of
the great law universities. The growing ars dictaminis soon lie-
came the handmaid of law and the hand-books of <!it-t<i mat gave
an increasing amount of space to the rides for drawing up legal
papers and even to the elementary principles of law. Irnerius,
the first famous professor of Roman law at Bologna, wrote a
tract, now lost, for the use of notaries, the Formularius Tabel-
Uonum. 20 It is not surprising, therefore, to find that the ars dic-
taminis originated in Italy and that it reached its fullest develop-
ment at Bologna.

Alberich of Monte-Cassino, who lived in that famous monas-
tery in the second half of the eleventh century, may be consid-
ered as the founder of the new art. Before his time there had
been collections of letters and formularies enough, but they con-
sisted of mere models with scarcely any comments or explana-
tions. 21 The books of Alberich were the first real manuals of
instruction in the art of writing letters and official acts. - His
Rationes <lic/<iiiili taught the famous division of a letter into five
parts, salutatio, benevolentiae capiatio, miiT<ili<>. petitio, con-
clusio. This doctrine was accepted and elaborated by all future
writers and teachers and did much to give f irm and substance to
(lie new art. The books of Alberich also included a mass of
grammatical and rhetorical instruction, always, however, with
due regard to practical needs. Scarcely any complete letters were
as yet given as models for illustration; only brief extracts were
inserted here and there to illustrate particular points. His
books were of value chiefly for private correspondence. The
rules and percepts for drawing up privileges of popes and kings

M Rockinger, "Uber die Ars Dictandi," 120.

"Bresslau, Urkundenlehre, 624.

=! Rockinger, Briefsteller, T, Einlcitung, xxxii and passim. Extracts from two
of Alberich's works, the Rationes dictandi and the Breviarium dc dictaininc arc
here printed, pp. 9-46.



were somewhat faulty, showing thai the author had but a very
.superficial knowledge about such official acts.

After Alberich there came a regular succession of writers
aud teachers of the ars dictaminis in Italy and elsewhere. The
art was modified and adapted to growing needs, in the first
place, the form of the manuals was altered. More attention was
devoted to the illustrative material; every manual now sought to
give a fair number of examples of each form of correspondence
and each official act. Such examples were drawn from earlier
formularies, from archives and chanceries, or were simply in-
vented. Then it became customary to divide a manual into two
parts: first, a discussion of the theory aud rules of the art, and
second, a collection of models, classified according to their con-
tent. There was infinite variety in the form of the various man-
uals, depending on their particular purpose, and on the caprice
of their authors.

Later manuals considered more and more the practical
needs of the lay and ecclesiastical chanceries and thus an in-
creased amount of space was given to purely official acts of all
kinds. The object was to train men for lucrative positions at
the Roman curia, the courts of kings and princes and higher
ecclesiastics or in the chanceries of the cities. Such work re-
quired considerable special training. It was necessary to learn
the charter hand which at all times was different from (lie ordi-
nary book-hand ;'- :i also the rules of the cursus or the rhythmic
cadence of phrases employed in drawing up important acts.'-'
The cursus was revived at the papal curia in the twelfth century
and soon spread from there to the chanceries of cardinals, arch-
bishops, bishops and even to lay courts. All these matters were

"'"alia enim maims requiritur in quaternis scribendis et alia in epistolis. plures
mini scriptores, qui linnam et competentem fnrmant literam in quaternis, nullo
modo vel vix sciunt habilitare manum ail epistolas scribendas." Conrad de Mure,
Summa de uric prosandi; Rockingcr, Briefsteller, 4.19. Quoted by Giry, Manuel de
Diplomatique, 513, n. 2.

J 'Xorden, Die Antike Kunstprosa, IT, 924, gives a good bibliography on the
subject; see especially, Valois, "Etude sur 1e rhythme des bulles pontificates," in
Bibl. de YEcole des Chartes, XLTI (188:) 161, 257; Giry, Manuel de Diplomatique.
455; Bresslau, Urkundenlehre, 5S8; Thurot, Notices ct Extraits, XXI 1, pt. 2, 480.



treated in the textbooks of the ars dictaminis which appeared in
the later twelfth and in the thirteenth century. The art was be-
coming eminently practical. It became even more so when it
adapted itself closely to the rising study of Roman law. Tbe
manuals devoted an increasing amount of attention to the draw-
ing up of legal papers and some even contained chapters on the
theory of law. Thus the Rhetorica novissima of Boncompagno
begins with a chapter on the origin of law. 23 This process of
specialization went on until in the thirteenth century text-books
were written which taughl only such matters as would be es-
sential to a practising notary. These can no longer be classed
under ars dictaminis for they are strictly manuals of the ars
notaria of which more will be said later.

In Italy, its native soil, the ars dictaminis reached its fullest
development at the University of Bologna. Although its study
had been widespread in Italy since the end of the eleventh cen-
tury, its recorded history as a branch of study at Bologna does
not begin until about 1200. 26 At that time the Englishman Geof-
frey of Vinsauf taught the liberal arts there. 27 He is the author
of the famous Ars Poetria which ranks him anion,"' the best poets
of the time. 28 While at Bologna he also wrote an Ars dictaminis
in prose for the use of his students. 29

The most famous of the masters of the ars dictaminis at Bo-
logna, and indeed, of all dictatores anywhere, was Boncompagno

=r 'Rockinger, tiber die Ars dictandi," 138.

"In the Rationes dictandi prosaice of Hugo of Bologna there are indications
that the ars dictaminis was already taught as a separate branch at Bologna at
about this date. Sutter, Aus Lcben und Schriften des M agister Boncompagno, 36:
Roekinger, Brief stcllcr, I, 70.

27 Sarti, Dc Claris Archigymnasii Bononiensis Profcssoribus, I. 599.

M Saintsbury, History of Criticism. I. 412.

5 °Sarti, Dc Claris.. ..Prof essoribus, I, 601, believes this work was written be-
tween 1191-1198. The question is still undecided whether or not there were two
men named Geoffrey, both from England, both professors of the ars dictaminis,
and who both spent part of their life in Italy. Langlois, Notices et Extraits,
XXXV, pt. 2, 409.



(c. 11G5 — c. 1240.1.'" He was born near Florence where he re-
ceived his early training hut he came to Bologna to complete his
education iii grammar, rhetoric and perhaps in the first principles
of law. Early in the thirteenth century he was active as a mas-
ter at the University of Bologna. His position was unique. He
aspired to be something more than a mere master of grammar
and therefore concentrated all his attention on the ars dictaminis
or rhetoric as he called it out and out. No man was ever more
self-reliant or more ready to sound his own praises than Bon-
compagno. In his chosen field he acknowledged no predecessor
claiming that he was the first professor of the art of arts, the
foster-daughter of law, 31 namely the ars dictammis 32 No doubt
he exaggerated somewhat for we know that at least Geoffrey of
Vinsauf had taught the art before Boncompagno wrote the
words quoted; nevertheless to Boncompagno belongs the credit
for having raised the new art to such importance that he and
others after him found it worth while to devote their whole time
to it.

He was a prolific writer and almost all he ever wrote per-
tained to the theory and practice of the ars dictaminis. Modern
scholars came to know him first through his historcal poem on
the siege of Ancona. 33 His numerous works on rhetoric did not
attract attention until recently when it was recognized that Bon-
compagno's real claim to distinction lies in the fact that he was
the most famous among the dictatores. His longest and most im-
portant work is the Rhetorica antiqua which he also called Bon-
compagnus after his own name. 34 How completely this "rhet-

*°The most recent important accounts of his life and writings are : Sutter.
Aus Leben und Schriften des Magister Boncompagno, see bibliography, p. 14 ;
Gaudenzi, "Sulla Cronologia delle Opere dei Dettatori Bolognesi da Buoncompagno
a Bene di Lucca," in Bullettino dell'Istituto Storico Italiano, Xo. 14 (1895), 85-


3, "artium liberalium imperatrix et utriusque iuris alumpna." Boncompagni
boncompagnus. Rockinger, Briefsteller, I, 129.

32 Speaking of himself he says: "Cui Florentia dedit initium, et Bononia, initio
praeeunte doctore, celebre incrementum." De obsid. Ancon., in Muratori, Rer.
ltd. Script., VI, 946.

"Liber dc obsidione Ancona, in Muratori, Rer. Ital. Script.. VI, 919-946.

3 *Extracts of it in Rockinger, Briefsteller, I, 128-174.



uric" is devoted to the ars dictaminis may be seen from the con-
tents of its six books: (ll on student letters, (2) the various
forms issued by the Roman church, (3) letters sent to The Pope.
(4 | letters to and from emperors, kings and queens, (5) letters to
the clergy, (6) letters of noblemen, cities and peoples. 35 This
work, the author tells us, was read and crowned with laurel at
Bologna in 1215 before the professors of canon and civil law ami
a multitude of other doctors and students. In 1226 it was pub-
lished at Padua before a similar august assembly. 30 That was
high distinction for a mere treatise on the art of letter writing.
The tact that it was read and crowned before the faculty of law
shows how truly the new art was a foster-daughter of law.

The writings of Boncompagno show very clearly how the ars
dictaminis became more and more specialized due to the influ-
ence of law. Although he himself never studied law seriously
he gave much attention to legal forms and processes in law.*'
One chapter of his Novissima rhetorica contains a history of the
origin of law. 38 The Mirrltu, which is entirely devoted to the
drawing up of testaments, can scarcely be classed with treatises
on the ars dictaminis for it was written more particularly for the
use of only those notaries whose business it was to draw up such
legal documents." 1 ' The same is true of two other works, the
Oliva and the Cedrus. The first is a compendium on the draw-
ing up of privilegia and confirmationes, the second, of statutes
in general (statuta. generalia) , i0

Boucompaguo never underestimated the importance of his
art or of himself as the exponent of it. He firmly believed that
lie was laying new foundations and that he followed the pre-

K Rockinger, Brief steller, I. 133. See a list of his works in Sutter, Aus Leben
und Schriften, 24, and especially chs. IV and V. Sutter should he supplemented,
especially in regard to chronology, by Gaudenzi, in Bullettino dell'Istituio Storico
Italiano. See criticism of Sutter's book by Gaudenzi, p. 87, note 3.

™Rockinger, Brief steller, I, 174.

"The extracts from the Boneompagnus in Rockinger, Brief steller, I, 128-174,
are mainly such as pertain to law.

3S Rockin.L'er, Brief steller, I, no.

''"Sutter, Aus Leben und Schriften, 66-71.

'"Sutter, Aus Leben und Schriften. 66-71.



eepts of no master. He took delight in the accusation of his ad-
versaries who said thai he considered himself greater than
Cicero. He claimed that in his rhetoric he had not followed
Cicero or any other author and jokingly added that he could not
recall ever having read Cicero. Then in a patronizing tone he
said that he had never depreciated the Rhetoric of Tnllins or ever
dissuaded those who wished to imitate it. 41 The self-assertive-
ness of Boncompagno no doubt often degenerated into arrogance;
at all events he had many enemies who bitterly attacked him.
"Numberless scorpions,*' he says, "were trying to sting him with
their venomous tails and many dogs were barking at his back,
bul when face to face with him the lips of the envious trembled." 42
At the beginning of his large work, the Boncompagtius, lie holds
an imaginary conversation with his new book, telling it to go out
and tight for him against the envy of bis adversaries which lie
describes as a terrible beast witli nine horned heads and three
lails. 43

Such petty squabbles of the schools, although unimportant
in themselves, must have had a marked effect upon the develop-
ment of ths ars dictaminis. The very fact that they were so
sharp and bitter shows what popularity the new art was enjoy-
ing at Bologna. Doubtless many students were attracted to it
by these word battles between the masters. Brisk competition
disclosed the real essentials of the art and rendered it more prac-
tical. In this atmosphere, charged with spite and envy, incrim-
ination and recrimination, the ars dictaminis reached its full

Boncompagno was ever ready to reform. Just as he refused
to follow Cicero as a master, so he also broke with the teachings

""Est preterea liber iste [Palma] mee rethorice prologus, licet in rethorica
Tullium non fuerim imitatus. Nunquam enim memini me Tullium legisse nee
secundum alicuius doctrinam me aliquid in rethoricis traditionibus vel dictamine
fecisse profiteor, nisi quod quandoque causa deridendi emulos me Buchimenonem
appellavi. Verumtamen nunquam Tullii depravavi rethoricam nee earn imitari volen-
tibus dissuasi." Palma, in Sutter, Aus Leben und Schriften, 105. See also p. 4-'.

'""quern infiniti scorpiones venenosis caudis pungere nitebantur, post cuius
dorsum canes plurimi latraverunt. set ante ipsius faciem contremuerunt omnium
laliia invidorum." Boncompagni boncompagmts, Rockinger, Brief steller, I, 174,

"RoeUinger, Brief steller, I, 129



of the older dictatores. Alberich of Monte-Cassino had taught
that there were five essential parts to a letter, which doctrine
Avas generally accepted throughout the Middle Ages. Boncom-
pagno, however, claimed that only three of these, salutatio, mir-
ratio and petitio, were actually essential, and that the rest were
hut secondary just as were numerous other parts of letters. If
any one should argue that this was contrary to the doctrines of the
ancients he answered that the ancients had taught superfluous
and harmful things. 44 He looked with derision upon the meth-
ods of letter writing before his day. The masters, he said, had
produced labored epistles at a great expense of time and had
tried to adorn them with picturesque phrases and citations from
learned books. 4 "' In contrast with this Boncompagno empha-
sized the practical side of the art, the ability to write a correct
letter extemporaneously and to the point. For this, he com-
plained, his opponents accused him of lacking literary taste. 41 ''
The school of Orleans he singled out for special censure. We
shall see that at this seat of classical culture the ars dictaminis al-
so flourished. 47 Boncompagno believed that the masters of Orleans
unduly imitated classic models. He held that for proper models
and good style they should turn to the papal curia, the imperial

*"'Si dixerit: ita ab antiquis fuit institutum, dico, quod ilia institutio inutilis
fuit et damnosa propter multiplicatatem. Ego autem concedo exordium, benevo-
lentie sive malivolentie captationem et conclusionem, generalem sententiam, exor-
tationem, remissionem, blanditionem et alias innumerabiles esse partes epistole non
principales, set secundarias." Palma, in Sutter, Aus Leben und Schriften, in. See
also pp. 52, 109.

""Ante adventum nieum pullalarat in prosatoribus heresis cancerosa, quia

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryLouis John PaetowThe arts course at medieval universities → online text (page 7 of 13)