In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Bartholomaeus Anglicus

  • Introduction
  • Biography
  • Contents of DPR
  • Overview of Major Studies and Collections of Essays, Latin and Vernacular Versions
  • De Proprietatibus Rerum in Sermons and in Literature
  • De Proprietatibus Rerum as “Shakespeare’s Encyclopedia”

Medieval Studies Bartholomaeus Anglicus
Michael Twomey
  • LAST REVIEWED: 30 March 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 March 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195396584-0225


Bartholomaeus Anglicus (Bartholomew the Englishman, Bartholomäus Anglicus, Barthélemy l’Anglais, Bartolomeo Anglico, Bartolomé Ánglico; henceforth BA) was the compiler of the encyclopedia De proprietatibus rerum (“On the properties of things,” henceforth DPR), the most widely copied, adapted, and translated medieval encyclopedia. In his Prohemium, Epilogue, and prologues to individual books in DPR, BA declares his encyclopedia’s purpose as a guide to the world aimed specifically at students of the Bible. In these statements, BA repeatedly emphasizes the importance of understanding the Creator through creation; the spiritual ascesis achievable by the contemplation of the things of this world; and the usefulness of his book for studying Scripture, the Glossa ordinaria, and the philosophers. After three books about God, angels, and the soul, DPR concentrates on the natural world, reiterating the subject matter of earlier encyclopedias such as Isidore of Seville’s Etymologiae (completed in 636), a major source throughout DPR, and Pliny’s Naturalis historia. A program of marginal glosses in the Latin manuscripts fulfills DPR’s announced theological aims via allegorizations and moralizations of the subject matter. At first serving as a resource from which preachers drew exempla (moralized examples from the natural world), from the 14th through 17th centuries DPR served as a repository of natural philosophy and natural history. Medieval translations of all or part of DPR were made into Anglo-Norman French, Continental French, Provençal, Italian, Spanish, English, and Dutch, for most of which there are premodern printed editions. The absence of the marginal glosses from later Latin manuscripts, from all vernacular translations, and from all early printed editions suggests that readers of DPR came to favor its practical and “scientific” content over religious interpretation of its material. In England, DPR was popular among late medieval and early modern writers as a source of traditional knowledge regarding the natural world; and indeed, to many modern scholars DPR is still “Shakespeare’s encyclopedia.”


Scholarly consensus holds that during the 1220s Bartholomaeus Anglicus (BA) belonged to the English “nation” at the University of Paris, where he lectured on the Bible; and that after becoming a Franciscan (Order of Friars Minor), he was appointed lector in theology in Magdeburg, Saxony, a newly established Franciscan province, in 1230. His life after his removal to Magdeburg can only be conjectured on the basis of ambiguous evidence, but reference to him in the Continuatio Saxonica attached to Giordano of Giano’s chronicle about the Franciscans in Germany suggests that he died in 1272. The Seymour 1992 conjecture (p. 10) that after teaching in Magdeburg, BA became provincial (head of a Franciscan province) for Austria and then Bohemia, papal legate to various Eastern European regions, and bishop of Lukow, Poland, has been neither accepted nor rejected. The mistaken belief that BA was Bartholomew Glanville (or de Glanvilla), a 14th-century Franciscan from a noble Suffolk family, apparently originated with Henry VIII’s antiquary, John Leland. This belief survived into the 19th century (e.g., Douce 1807), but although it was discredited in Se Boyar 1920 and Plassmann 1919, it still survives on the Internet and even in some library catalogues.

  • Douce, Francis. Illustrations of Shakespeare. 2 vols. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, and Orme, 1807.

    Second edition, London: Thomas Tegg, 1839. In his eagerness to promote BA as an English Pliny whose encyclopedia profoundly influenced Shakespeare’s natural imagery, Douce perpetuated the erroneous belief that BA was Bartholomew de Glanville (de Glanvilla), 2:279.

  • Lidaka, Juris. “Bartholomaeus Anglicus in the Thirteenth Century.” In Pre-modern Encyclopaedic Texts: Proceedings of the Second COMERS Congress, Groningen, 1–4 July 1996. Edited by Peter Binkley, 393–406. Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History 79. Leiden, The Netherlands, New York, and Cologne: Brill, 1997.

    Lidaka offers a brief biographical account based on a judicious consideration of evidence presented in earlier studies, pp. 393–395.

  • Meyer, Heinz. Die Enzyklopädie des Bartholomäus Anglicus: Untersuchungen zur Überlieferungs- und Rezeptionsgeschichte von “De proprietatibus rerum.” Münstersche Mittelalter-Schriften 77. Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2000.

    Meyer does not alter the biography outlined in Lidaka 1997, but his careful consideration of evidence presented in earlier studies, pp. 13–14, complements his exhaustive study of manuscript reception, such that one may consult Meyer 2000 first on the biography.

  • Plassmann, P. Thomas. “Bartholomaeus Anglicus.” Archivum Franciscanum Historicum 12 (1919): 68–109.

    Surveys the origin and dissemination of the belief that BA was Bartholomew Glanville (or de Glanvilla) and dispels it.

  • Schönbach, Anton E. “Des Bartholomaeus Anglicus Beschreibung Deutschlands gegen 1240.” Mitteilungen des Instituts für Oesterreichische Geschichtsforschung 27 (1906): 54–90.

    Thorough review of 19th-century scholarship; discredits belief that BA was Bartholomew de Glanville (de Glanvilla); establishes the basic details of BA’s life and work.

  • Se Boyar, Gerald E. “Bartholomaeus Anglicus and His Encyclopaedia.” JEGP: Journal of English and Germanic Philology 19 (1920): 168–189.

    First modern, accurate biographical account, based on research in Franciscan records; valuable for its corrections of pre-20th-century errors about BA’s name, identity, and works, some of which are still occasionally in circulation online, pp. 168–177.

  • Seymour, Michael C. Bartholomaeus Anglicus and His Encyclopedia. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate, 1992.

    Surveys all known documentary evidence for the biography; speculates about Bartholomaeus’s career after 1231 and his identification with other contemporary figures; indicates DPR’s medieval use as a resource for Scriptural study, composing sermons, and studying natural science, pp. 1–13; however, as this is given to speculation, it must be used with caution and weighed against Lidaka 1997 and Meyer 2000.

  • Seymour, Michael C. “Bartholomaeus Anglicus (b. before 1203, d. 1272).” In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Vol. 4. Edited by Henry C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison, 161–162. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

    Summary of Seymour 1992, which is cited as its only source despite the addition of new material not in Seymour 1992.

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