Medieval Studies Richard Knapwell
M.V. Dougherty
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 August 2019
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2019
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0146


The English Dominican friar and theologian Richard Knapwell (Clapwell) (fl. 1284–1286) is best known as an early defender of Thomas Aquinas. He was the first to respond to William de la Mare’s Correctorium fratris Thomae (Correction of Brother Thomas), a Franciscan attack consisting of 117 articles identifying purported errors drawn from several of Aquinas’s major writings. Knapwell’s detailed riposte, composed in the early 1280s, was the earliest and most extensive of a series of polemical Correctoria corruptorii fratris Thomae (Corrections of the Corruptor of Brother Thomas) that would appear, and Knapwell’s contribution is known as the CorrectoriumQuare.” Knapwell’s commitment to Aquinas’s writings, however, was not fully evident in his earlier work, as Knapwell had lectured on the Sententiae of Peter Lombard at Oxford sometime between 1269 and 1277, and his surviving notes or Notabilia exhibit an admixture of views taken from Aquinas and Augustine. After writing the CorrectoriumQuare,” Knapwell incepted as a master in theology at Oxford in 1284–1285, and not long afterward he produced the De unitate formae (On the unity of form), a disputed question that brought about his condemnation. In that work, Knapwell asserted the theological neutrality of the Aristotelian metaphysical thesis that there is a single substantial form in human beings. The unity of form thesis was opposed by those who posited a plurality of forms, believing that the unity of form thesis was incompatible with a host of theological issues such as whether Christ’s body in the tomb was numerically identical with the body of the living Christ. In October 1284 the Franciscan archbishop of Canterbury John Pecham had renewed the prohibitions of 1277 concerning the unity of form thesis previously set by his Dominican predecessor, Robert Kilwardby. On the basis of Knapwell’s defense of the unity of form in De unitate formae, Pecham excommunicated Knapwell in April 1286. Knapwell traveled to Rome to argue his case before the pope, but the newly elected Franciscan pontiff Nicholas IV responded by silencing him in 1288. Nothing definite is known about his later activities. The extant works of Knapwell (beyond the abovementioned Notabilia, CorrectoriumQuare,” and De unitate formae) include six additional disputed questions that pertain mostly to issues of human and divine cognition, and one short Quodlibet of twenty-nine questions on a variety of topics.

Edited Works

There is no complete edition of Knapwell’s writings. The major works exist in critical editions, but some minor works exist only in manuscript. Short selections of Knapwell’s early Notabilia are transcribed throughout Chenu 1928 and as an appendix in Boyle 1951. Glorieux 1927 offers a critical edition of the CorrectoriumQuare” as well as the work to which it responds, William de la Mare’s Correctorium fratris Thomae. Of Knapwell’s seven disputed questions, De unitate formae is edited in Kelley 1982 and the remaining six are edited in Pajda 2011. Most of the twenty-nine questions of Knapwell’s Quodlibet are transcribed in Boyle 1951. Dougherty 2013 presents a text for question XXIV of the Quodibet, one of the questions omitted in Boyle 1951. Bruni 1942 presents the text of a defense of Aquinas against Giles of Rome that has been attributed to Knapwell, and Knapwell’s authorship is considered probable.

  • Boyle, Leonard. “The Quaestiones Disputatae and the Quodlibet of Richard Knapwell, O. P.” Thesis ad gradum lectoratus, PhD diss., University of Oxford, 1951.

    Transcribes five disputed questions preserved in Cambridge, Peterhouse, MS 128 (cited under Manuscripts), registering variations with Assisi, Biblioteca Comunale, MS 158 (cited under Manuscripts). Also transcribes most of Knapwell’s Quodlibet from Cambridge, Peterhouse, MS 128 (cited under Manuscripts), omitting ten questions. Includes a detailed study of Knapwell’s views on knowledge, the beatific vision, the Trinity, and being and essence.

  • Bruni, Gerardus, ed. Incerti auctoris impugnationes contra Aegidium Romanum contradicentem Thomae super primum sententiarum. Vol. 1. By Richard Knapwell. Bibliotheca Augustiniana medii aevi, Series 1. Rome: Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis, 1942.

    Knapwell has been proposed as a probable author of this text based on similarities with the CorrectoriumQuare,” but the matter has not been definitively resolved. The edited text was first published serially in Analecta Augustiniana 17–18 (1939–1941).

  • Chenu, Marie-Dominique. “La première diffusion du Thomism à Oxford: Klapwell et ses ‘Notes’ sur les Sentences.” Archives d’Histoire Doctrinale et Littéraire du Moyen Âge 3 (1928): 185–200.

    Important article on Knapwell’s early thought with excerpts from Knapwell’s Notabilia, a work consisting of notes for a commentary on the first book of Lombard’s Sententiae. Chenu highlights the Augustinian elements in Knapwell’s early thought prior to Knapwell’s fuller commitment to Aquinas’s views.

  • Dougherty, M. V. “Richard Knapwell and Medieval Moral Dilemma Theory.” Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie Médiévales 80.2 (2013): 225–258.

    A brief appendix (pp. 257–258) presents a Latin text of Quodlibet, Quaestio XXIV: Vtrum homo possit esse perplexus.

  • Glorieux, Palémon, ed. Les premières polémiques Thomistes. Vol. 1, Le Correctorium CorruptoriiQuare.” By Richard Knapwell. Bibliothéque Thomiste 9. Le Saulchoir, France: Revue des Sciences Philosophiques et Théologiques, 1927.

    Presents a critical edition of William de la Mare’s Correctorium fratris Thomae and Knapwell’s reply, the CorrectoriumQuare.”

  • Kelley, Francis E., ed. Quaestio disputata de unitate formae: A Critical Edition. By Richard Knapwell. Medieval & Renaissance Texts and Studies 15. Binghamton, NY: Center for Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1982.

    Critical edition of the disputed question in which Knapwell argues for the theological neutrality of the doctrine of the unity of form. Contains a valuable introduction that identifies the historical events and doctrinal issues that led Pecham to condemn Knapwell. Also published as Vol. 44, Bibliothéque Thomiste (Paris: Libraire Philosophique J. Vrin, 1982).

  • Pajda, Zbigniew O. P., ed. Quaestiones disputatae de verbo. By Richard Knapwell. Warsaw, Poland: Instytut Tomistyczny, 2011.

    Critical edition of Knapwell’s five disputed questions common to Assisi, Biblioteca Comunale, MS 158 and Cambridge, Peterhouse, MS 128, and the text of a sixth question preserved only in Assisi, Biblioteca Comunale, MS 158 (all cited under Manuscripts).

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