Omo sanza lettere

At the turn of the 16th century, Leonardo da Vinci described himself as an ‘omo sanza lettere’, a man without letters. He most likely meant that he had, to paraphrase Ben Johnson, little Latin and even less Greek. Leonardo was one of the last men of the Middle Ages and one of the first ofContinue reading “Omo sanza lettere”

In the shadow of the book curse

In 1819 the Harvard Professor Edward Everett (d. 1865) was rummaging through monastic libraries in Greece for ancient manuscripts – as many professors were doing at the time, anyway. At Meteora he found the treasure he sought: “I saw a few MSS in this library, among which was a fine parchment Chrysostom, in several vols. folio.—IContinue reading “In the shadow of the book curse”

The polyglot and poly-alphabetical Middle Ages

An exceptional collection of seven alphabets (two Hebrew, one Greek, one ‘Chaldaean’, one ‘Egyptian’, one runic, and one of obscure origin entitled ‘Norma’) is preserved in a manuscript in the Vatican library ( composed in Northern France or perhaps Germany and dating, probably, from the first half of the 9th century AD.  Written in CarolineContinue reading “The polyglot and poly-alphabetical Middle Ages”

A language learning tip from the 14th century

While I am preparing a post about the work that inspired the name of this blog – the 14th-century Philobiblon (‘The Love of Books’) – here is a lamentation extracted from the same work about the state of scholarship in the first half of the thirteenth century. In chapter 10, the author Richard de Bury criticisesContinue reading “A language learning tip from the 14th century”