Harvard Studies in Medieval Latin

De nobilitati animi
de Aragonia, Guillelmus. 2012. De nobilitati animi. Edited by William D Paden and Mario Trovato. Cambridge, MA: Department of the Classics, Harvard University, 2006. Publisher's Version Abstract

Guillelmus de Aragonia was known as a philosopher for his commentary on Boethius and his works on physiognomy, oneirology, and astronomy; he was also a physician, perhaps a personal physician to the king of Aragon. In a time of intellectual upheaval and civil strife, when nobility was on the verge of being defined with legal precision as it had not been since antiquity, Guillelmus taught that true nobility is an acquired habit, not an inborn quality. Guillelmus wrote De nobilitate animi, “On Nobility of Mind,” around 1280–1290. Working in the recently renewed Aristotelian tradition, he took an independent and original approach, quoting from philosophers, astronomers, physicians, historians, naturalists, orators, poets, and rustics pronouncing proverbs.

This edition presents the Latin text, based on six manuscripts, three of them hitherto unknown, along with an English translation. An introduction reviews Guillelmus’s life and work, considering his theory of nobility in the contexts of history, philosophy, and rhetoric, and studies the authorities he quotes with particular attention to the troubadours, lyric poets from the area known today as the south of France. An appendix of sources and analogues is also included.

Solomon and Marcolf
Ziolkowski, Jan M. 2008. Solomon and Marcolf. Cambridge, MA: Department of the Classics, Harvard University, 470. Publisher's Version Abstract

Solomon and Marcolf enjoyed an extraordinary heyday in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Its first half constitutes a dialogue, mostly of one-liners, between King Solomon and a wily, earthy, and irreverent rustic named Marcolf, while its second recounts tricks that the peasant plays upon the ruler. Although less known than Till EulenspiegelSolomon and Marcolf was printed not only in Latin but also in German, English, Italian, and other European languages. Marcolf was associated closely with Aesop as well as with practical jokers and clowns in vogue in early modern literature. Today Solomon and Marcolf has notoriety from its mention in Gargantua and its analysis by Mikhail Bakhtin in Rabelais and His World.

Traditions about Solomon and Marcolf became widespread at the very latest by 1000, but perhaps centuries earlier. The Latin prose as it has been preserved is likely to have taken shape around 1200, but the earliest extant manuscript dates from 1410. Tantalizing bits of evidence point to connections between Marcolf and the Near East. Thus the contest with Marcolf was related to riddle competitions between King Solomon on the one hand and King Hiram of Tyre or the Queen of Sheba on the other.

Solomon and Marcolf, not put into English since 1492, is here presented with the Latin and a facing translation. In addition to a substantial introduction, the text comes with a detailed commentary that clarifies difficulties in language and identifies proverbial material and narrative motifs. The commentary is illustrated with reproductions of the woodcut illustrations from the 1514 printing of the Latin. The volume contains appendices with supplementary materials, especially sources, analogues, and testimonia; a bibliography; and indices.

Jan M. Ziolkowski is Director of Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington and Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Medieval Latin at Harvard University.

Jacket illustration: Frontispiece of Collationes quas dicuntur fecisse mutuo rex Salomon sapientissimus et Marcolphus …, printed by Johann Weissenburger in Landshut, Germany, on May 14, 1514 (Munich, Staatsbibliothek, L.eleg.m.250, 9)