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Liber Floridus, a Medieval Encyclopedia


This book was compiled between 1090 and 1120, it sought to gather chronologically the entire knowledge of the time.

Originally written in Latin and later translated into French as the Livre fleurissant en fleurs, the Liber Floridus is a compilation of events and several types of knowledge. It was made by a man who identifies himself as Lambert, the deacon at the church of Our Lady of Saint-Omer, and a character of whom –besides his name and title– we know nothing about. The original manuscript still survives and is located in the University of Ghent in Belgium. Some other copies are kept in museums and libraries throughout Europe.

This compilation is an encyclopedia, but it is important to point out that in the Middle Ages this format represented a slightly different idea: they were books and collections that were mainly used for didactic monasteries and abbeys. For Lambert, this encyclopedia was a celestial prairie where the “flowers of literature” grow and attract readers who are full of faith because of its sweetness; this is why the book is called the Blooming Book.

In addition to recording historical events, the Liber Floridus contains illustrations, diagrams and several maps (drawn, according to some experts, by Lambert himself), including a mapamundi. His sources are roughly 190 different books, among which we find the Bible, different historical chronicles and Astronomy, Botany, Geography, and Natural History collections.

In the index, Lambert enlists 161 different sections about cosmological, historical and biblical subjects. The book is full of lists, among them those containing the names of popes, kings, countries and inventors. It also contains an account of the apocalypse, which resembles a modern comic book, and it also mentions the Crusades on several occasions.

Beyond a stimulating account of the thoughts and knowledge of a medieval monk, Liber Floridus is a work of art in and of itself: written and illustrated by hand, as they did with books of the time. This is a splendid compendium that reflects that streak of human will-power. Impressed on uncountable records, bestiaries, catalogues, miscellanies and encyclopedias, it seeks to gather all that is known, with the essential purpose of sharing it. A precious gift.

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