Theophilus Presbyter

fl. late eleventh/early twelfth century
German author of the most detailed medieval treatise relating to technology.
The little that is known of Theophilus is what can be inferred from his great work, De diversis artibus. He was a Benedictine monk and priest living in north-west Germany, probably near an important art centre. He was an educated man, conversant with scholastic philosophy and at the same time a skilled, practising craftsman. Even his identity is obscure: Theophilus is a pseudonym, possibly for Roger of Helmarshausen, for the little that is known of both is in agreement.
Evidence in De diversis suggests that it was probably composed during 1110 to 1140. White (see Further Reading) goes on to suggest late 1122 or early 1123, on the grounds that Theophilus only learned of St Bernard of Clairvaulx's diatribe against lavish church ornamentation during the writing of the work, for it is only in the preface to Book 3 that Theophilus seeks to justify his craft. St Bernard's Apologia can be dated late 1122. No other medieval work on art combines the comprehensive range, orderly presentation and attention to detail as does De diversis. It has been described as an encyclopedia of medieval skills and crafts. It also offers the best and often the only description of medieval technology, including the first direct reference to papermaking in the West, the earliest medieval account of bell-founding and the most complete account of organ building. Many metallurgical techniques are described in detail, such as the making of a crucible furnace and bloomery hearth.
The treatise is divided into three books, the first on the materials and art of painting, the second on glassmaking, including stained glass, glass vessels and the blown-cylinder method for flat glass, and the final and longest book on metalwork, including working in iron, copper, gold and silver for church use, such as chalices and censers. The main texts are no mere compilations, but reveal the firsthand knowledge that can only be gained by a skilled craftsman. The prefaces to each book present perhaps the only medieval expression of an artist's ideals and how he sees his art in relation to the general scheme of things. For Theophilus, his art is a gift from God and every skill an act of praise and piety. Theophilus is thus an indispensable source for medieval crafts and technology, but there are indications that the work was also well known at the time of its composition and afterwards.
The Wolfenbuttel and Vienna manuscripts of De diversis are the earliest, both dating from the first half of the twelfth century, while the British Library copy, in an early thirteenth-century hand, is the most complete. Two incomplete copies from the thirteenth century held at Cambridge and Leipzig offer help in arriving at a definitive edition.
There are several references to De diversis in sixteenth-century printed works, such as Cornelius Agrippa (1530) and Josias Simmler (1585). The earliest printed edition of
De diversis was prepared by G.H.Lessing in 1781 with the title, much used since, Diversarium artium schedula.
There are two good recent editions: Theophilus: De diversis artibus. The Various Arts, 1964, trans. with introd. by C.R.Dodwell, London: Thomas Nelson, and On Diverse Arts. The Treatise of Theophilus, 1963, trans. with introd. and notes by J.G.Harthorne and C.S.Smith, Chicago University Press.
Further Reading
Lynn White, 1962, "Theophilus redivivus", Technology and Culture 5:224–33 (a comparative review of Theophilus (op. cit.) and On Diverse Arts (op. cit.)).

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Theophilus Presbyter — (flourished c. 1070–1125) is the pseudonymous author or compiler of a Latin text containing detailed descriptions of various medieval arts, a text commonly known as the Schedula diversarum artium ( List of various arts ) or De diversis artibus (… …   Wikipedia

  • Theophilus Presbyter — (Pseudonym, möglicherweise des Rogerus von Helmarshausen; 12. Jahrhundert) war ein Benediktinermönch und Verfasser einer lateinischen Schrift, in der verschiedene Kunsthandwerkstechniken des Mittelalters ausführlich dargestellt werden.… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Theophilus Presbyter — Théophilus (vers 1070 1125), peut être un moine allemand, vécut probablement à la fin du XIe ou au début du XIIe siècle dans l espace rhénan. Il fut l auteur du traité De diversis artibus ou Diversarum artium Schedula[1], un recueil qui… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Theophilus Presbyter — Theophilus Prẹsbyter,   gelehrtes Pseudonym für Roger von Helmarshausen …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Theophilus (Presbyter) — pseudonym of Roger of Helmarshausen flourished 12th century German monk and writer. He is known for his De Diversis Artibus (с 1110–40), a thorough account of the techniques of almost all the known crafts of the early 12th century. From his… …   Universalium

  • Theophilus — (bzw. griechisch Theophilos, auch Theofilos umschrieben) ist ein Name, dessen Bedeutung aus dem Griechischen kommt. theós bedeutet Gott und philos bedeutet lieb bzw. freundlich, sprich Gottlieb. Bekannte Namensträger sind: Theophilos (Indo… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Theophilus — /thee of euh leuhs/, n. 1. a walled plain in the 4th quadrant of the face of the moon: about 65 mi. (105 km) in diameter. 2. a male given name. * * * (as used in expressions) Painter Theophilus Shickel Theophilus Presbyter Johannes Chrysostomus… …   Universalium

  • THEOPHILUS — I. THEOPHILUS Archon Athenis, Olymp. 108. An. 1. II. THEOPHILUS Caesareae Palaestinae praesul, Severô imperante, librum in Marcionem edidit, tum alia quae ab Hieronymo commemorantur. Item Comicus antiquae comoediae; cuius fabulas enumerat Suidas …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • Theophilus — Various people have been known by the name Theophilus or Theophilos, which means Friend of God in Greek, and is thus similar to the Latin word Amadeus PeopleArts* Teófilo Braga * Theophilus Cibber (1703–1758), English actor, playwright, author,… …   Wikipedia

  • Presbyter, Theophilus — See: Theophilus Presbyter …   Biographical history of technology

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