Margarita philosophica

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Title woodcut of the first edition (1503)

The Margarita philosophica is a general encyclopedia from 1503 . Gregor Reisch wrote it mainly in Latin between 1489 and 1496; It was first printed in 1503 in Freiburg by the Strasbourg printer Johann Schott, a student of Gregor Reisch.

Content and meaning

As Universitas literarum, the work contains the entire human knowledge of the late Middle Ages. The seven liberal arts are dealt with in twelve books, followed by the principles and origins of natural things, physiology, psychology and moral philosophy. The book title is derived from margarita (literally: pearl), which was understood to mean a manual in the linguistic usage at the time; and because philosophy was the epitome of the sciences at that time, the title can be freely translated as Handbuch der (contemporary) sciences or the encyclopedia of sciences , which was also included in the book title in later editions as an “encyclopedia”. The work became the most widely used textbook of philosophy and encyclopedic knowledge for the study of Artes liberales, and was to remain so for more than 100 years. The Margarita philosophica is considered the oldest printed encyclopedia .

Examples of illustrations

The Margarita philosophica also contains woodcut illustrations. These are very unevenly distributed: while the first books on linguistic theory, logic and rhetoric only contain tables and schemes, the books on mathematics have sample calculations (partly set, partly as woodcut) and numerous geometric sketches, with music samples, with the Books on the natural sciences, anatomical and natural history illustrations and at the end of the work one or two world maps. The exact number and assignment of the images differs slightly between the editions.

A special feature of Margarita philosophica are the full-page woodcuts that open up the individual main parts ("books") of the work. Each of these woodcuts allegorically summarizes the basic concepts of the science described in the following part . Some examples:

The first figure, headed Typus gram (m) atic (a) e ("image of grammar"), is before the beginning of the actual teaching text (Book I). In fact, it applies not just to grammar, but to the entire Seven Liberal Arts . The representation gives a picture of hierarchical learning with the topos of the tower: starting with the basic concepts of language ( Donatus ), which are still conveyed with the help of a cane, the ascent of rhetorical efforts goes through the liberal arts ( Aristotle , Cicero , Boëthius ; Pythagoras , Euclid , Ptolemy ) to finally metaphysics and theology , represented by Petrus Lombardus .

The middle figure bears the (full) title Typus logic (a) e ("Image of Logic") and stands in front of the 2nd book, which is entitled De principiis logicae ("On the principles of logic"). In his History of Logic in the West , C. Prantl (1870) comments on this representation:

“A hunter goes hunting; sonus and vox are his hip horn , from which duae praemissae emerge as two roses; the arm holding the horn means argumenta ; conclusio is written on his chest ; syllogism is his hunting knife, quaestio the bow in his right hand; its two legs are praedicabilia and praedicamenta ; Two hunting dogs jump before him, a handsome veritas and an ugly falsitas ; The subject of the hunt is a hare problema ; the hunter's legs step over the fallaciae lying on the ground ; In the foreground on the right the herb of Parva logicalia grows , and there in the middle distance is the undergrowth of Insolubilia and Obligatoria , behind which the silva opinionum rises, represented by four trees (i.e. Occamistae , Scotistae , Thomistae , Albertistae ). "

This picture ironically refers to the two irreconcilably opposed main directions of logic - nominalism and realism .

The third illustration is in front of the 7th book De principiis astronomiae ("On the foundations of astronomy") and represents astronomy: In the foreground Ptolemy with a sextant to observe the height of the stars; behind him is the personified Astronomia , giving him instructions with her right index finger.

The different editions

With the numerous editions and editions of Margarita philosophica, it is difficult to distinguish between those authorized by the author and those that were not authorized (pirated prints, as one would say, which was still not valid at the time). The oldest editions are (according to the directory of German prints of the 16th century , VD 16):

  • 1503 printed in the Freiburg office of the Strasbourg printer Johann Schott, a pupil of Gregor Reisch: 1st edition: Freiburg i. Br .: Johann Schott, approx. Festum Margarethae (around July 12) 1503; VD 16 R 1033 Expl. BSB Res. 4 ° Ph.U.114 (digital edition available, does not contain any Hebrew textbook or grammar);

Chronologically the next editions are:

  • Strasbourg: Johannes Grüninger, in vigilia Mathiae, (23 February) 1504; VD 16 R 1034 (digital edition Regensburg State Library 4 ° Philos. 2770, therein layers f8v-28v Grammatica hebraea by Konrad Pellikan , but without containing his name);
  • 1504 also printed in Freiburg by Johann Schott; according to VD 16 rather: [Strasbourg]: Johann Schott, April 17th (March 16th) 1504; VD 16 R 1035 (digital edition Regensburg State Library 4 ° Philos. 3282, not including Hebraica institutio ); For the first time, this edition also contains woodcuts depicting natural processes, including the first printed image of the city of Freiburg;
  • Basel ( Margarita philosophica cum additionibus novis ; reprint: Whitefish, Montana no year): Michael Furter and Johann Schott, 14th Cal. Martias (February 16) 1508; VD 16 R 1036: digit. Edition BSB Res 4 ° Ph. U. 118, not including Hebraica institutio ;
  • Strasbourg: Johannes Grüninger, pridie Kal. Aprilis (March 31st) 1508; VD 16 R 1037; therein the Institutio hebraica on f. Gh1-8 and J1-6 [14 leaves], between layers F and K.

Relocated in Basel in 1517 and 1519 by Michael Furter. The edition of 1517 is described by Lutz Geldsetzer as the "decisive edition 'last hand'".

After that, posthumous editions appeared in a version expanded by Orontius Finaeus , namely in 1523 in Paris and in 1532, 1535 and 1583 by Heinrich Petri in Basel. It is noteworthy that the edition from 1535 was the first to have - contrary to the previous custom - a continuous page number.

In addition to these legitimate editions, which were printed by Johann Schott and his successors, there were - z. Sometimes even changed - reprints with the title “Margarita Philosophica Nova” by Johann Grüninger (1455–1533) in Strasbourg from 1504, 1508, 1512 and 1515, which Gregor Reisch had designated as not authorized. This Johann Grüninger was actually called Johannes Reinhard, but later called himself Grüninger after his place of birth, what was then Grüningen and now Markgröningen .

Finally published: in 1549 an excerpt from Gulielmus Morelius in Paris and 1594, 1599 and 1600 editions in Italian translation from Jacomo Antonio Somascho in Venice.

Since 2012 Otto Schönberger has been working with his wife Eva on a complete German translation of the 4th edition of the work from 1517. It was published in 2016 by Königshausen & Neumann in Würzburg.

Individual evidence

  1. Cf. Lutz Geldsetzer: "Introduction", in: Margarita Philosophica (see bibliography), SX
  2. Cf. Lutz Geldsetzer: "Introduction", in: Margarita Philosophica (see bibliography), p. IX f.
  3. ^ Carl Prantl: History of Logic in the Occident , Volume 4, Leipzig 1870, pp. 294f., Footnote 744.
  4. Lutz Geldsetzer: "Introduction", in: Margarita philosophica (see bibliography), p. IX.


  • Heinrich Ritter von Srbik : The margarita philosophica of Gregor Reisch († 1525). A contribution to the history of natural science in Germany. In: Memorandum of the Academy of Sciences in Vienna, mathematical and natural science class. Volume 104, 1941, pp. 83-205.
  • Robert Collison: Encyclopaedias. Their history throughout the ages. A bibliographical guide with extensive historical notes to the general encyclopaedias issued throughout the world from 350 BC to the present day. Harper Books, New York, London 1966.
  • Udo Becker (Ed.): The first encyclopedia from Freiburg around 1495. The pictures of the "Margarita Philosophica" by Gregorius Reisch. Prior of the Charterhouse. Herder, Freiburg / B. 1970, p. 12 f. and 48 f.
  • Lutz Geldsetzer (ed.): Margarita philosophica . Sternverlag, Düsseldorf 1973 (reprint of the Basel edition 1517). With “Foreword to the new edition” (pp. I – V) and “Introduction” (pp. VI – XIII) by the editor.
  • Lucia Andreini (ed.): Gregorius Reisch: Margarita philosophica nova. (Analecta Cartusiana; vol. 179). Institute for English and American Studies at the University of Salzburg, Salzburg 2002, ISBN 3-901995-68-4 (reprint of the Grüninger edition of 1508, 3 volumes).
  1. Introduzione . 2002, ISBN 3-901995-71-4 .
  2. Testo. Part I . 2002, 271 pp., ISBN 3-901995-68-4 .
  3. Testo. Part II . 2002, pp. 272-643, ISBN 3-901995-69-2 .
  • Frank Büttner: The illustrations of the "Margarita Philosophica" by Gregor Reisch. In: Frank Büttner, Markus Friedrich, Helmut Zedelmaier (eds.): Collecting - arranging - illustrating. On knowledge compilation in the early modern period (pluralization & authority; Vol. 2). LIT-Verlag, Münster 2003. pp. 269-300, ISBN 3-8258-7164-9 .
  • Gilbert Hess: Reisch, Gregor. In: Neue Deutsche Biographie 21. Duncker and Humblot, Berlin 2003, pp. 384–386, ISBN 3-428-00290-3 . [Online version]; URL: .
  • Steffen Siegel: Architecture of Knowledge. The figurative order of the “artes” in Gregor Reisch's “Margarita Philosophica” . In: Frank Büttner, Gabriele Wimböck (ed.): The image as an authority. The normative power of the image (pluralization & authority; Bs. 4). LIT-Verlag, Münster 2004, pp. 343–362. ISBN 978-3-8258-8425-3 .
  • Otto and Eva Schönberger: Gregor Reisch, Margarita philosophica - pearl (treasure) of philosophy . Translation of the 4th edition Basel 1517. Königshausen & Neumann, Würzburg 2016, ISBN 978-3-8260-5943-8
  • Hans Georg Wehrens: Gregor Reisch, his "Margarita philosophica" and Freiburg im Breisgau . In: Journal of the Breisgau History Association “Schau-ins-Land” , Vol. 123 (2004), pp. 37–57, ISSN  1434-2766 .
  • Lucien Braun : Pictures of Philosophy. ("Iconographie et Philosophy", 1994/96, 2 vols.). Wissenschaftliche Buchgemeinschaft, Darmstadt 2009, pp. 104-108, ISBN 978-3-534-21505-8 (the German translation has been shortened slightly compared to the French original).

Web links

Commons : Margarita Philosophica  - collection of images, videos and audio files