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William of Conches, 'Tract on Philosophy and Man', in an Astronomical Miscellany f.119r

William of Conches, 'Tract on Philosophy and Man', in an Astronomical Miscellany f.119r

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1210

Shelfmark: Arundel MS 377

Item number: f.119r

Length: 20

Width: 13.8

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

It was not uncommon in the Middle Ages for a variety of short texts on related themes to be written as separate booklets, and later bound together, or else to be collected up and written out as a group. Sometimes, as in the present case, separate groups of texts are bound together to form a larger group. This volume contains several features pointing to the fact that it was used in Ely in the Middle Ages.

William of Conches (1080-1154) studied at the cathedral school of Chartres and taught in Paris where John of Salisbury was one of his students. In his 'On Philosophy and Man', he wrote about the philosophy of Plato and how it can be read as a view of Christian mysteries. William used the idea of the world soul or demiurge, from Plato's 'Timaeus', to understand ways in which God's presence can be seen in the world, citing Acts 17:23-30, where St Paul explains the pagan idea of an anonymous divine presence as a glimpse of God's omnipresence. Here he deals with the kinks which arose from the theory that the planets revolve around the earth in perfectly circular orbits. He explores the various theories, including ones that place the sun at the centre, as shown in the diagrams.

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