Book of Nature


Das Buch der Natur (Book of nature) is a Medieval Latin compendium of science that was edited and translated into German in the 14th century by Konrad von Megenberg, a German scholar and writer who was probably born at Mainberg (Megenberg), near Schweinfurt, Bavaria, in 1309, and died at Ratisbon (Regensburg) in 1374. He studied at Erfurt and then at the University of Paris, where he taught philosophy and theology from 1334 to 1342. In 1342 he moved to Ratisbon, where he was a parish priest and a preacher. Later he became a cathedral canon, and member of the town council. He wrote at least 30 books, of which Das Buch der Natur is the best known. The book is based on a Latin compendium, Liber de natura rerum, by the 13th-century Dominican priest Thomas of Cantimpré, but Konrad made many revisions to the original work, omitting much material and introducing his own observations and corrections. The result is a survey of all that was known of natural history at that time. The book is in eight parts: (1) On mankind, anatomy, and physiology (50 chapters); (2) Heaven and the seven planets, astronomy, and meteorology (33 chapters); (3) Zoology (69 quadrupeds, 72 birds, 20 sea monsters, 29 fish, 37 snakes, lizards, and reptiles, and 31 worms); (4) Ordinary trees (55 chapters), aromatic trees (29 chapters); (5) Herbs and vegetables (89 chapters); (6) Precious and semiprecious stones (86 chapters); (7) Ten kinds of metals; and (8) Streams and waters. Also included is a section on the monstrous human races found in the east. The choice and arrangement of subjects is typical of many medieval encyclopedias. The book was widely read until the 16th century and exists in numerous manuscript copies. It was first printed in Augsburg in 1475. Presented here is a slightly later edition from Augsburg, printed in 1481.

Last updated: August 7, 2013