THE AUGUSTINIANS AND HUMANISM (5)
Humanists read the Classics of Greek and pre-Christian Roman culture, and compiled and printed collections of quotations.
By no means the first to do this was Jacques Legrand O.S.A., a preacher of national fame in France.
With considerable justification, he is usually described as a humanist - although he would have challenged that assertion as in itself being an inadequate and too-facile description.
A graduate of the Augustinian studium generale in Paris, he died in in 1422 or 1425, and because of his fame received the honour of being buried in front of the high altar of the Augustinian church in Paris; other manuscripts say Poitiers.
In the year 1400 Legrand produced his main work called Sophilogium, his "collection on wisdom."
He wrote it in Latin, and his name became known throughout the Christian world of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.
For the next two hundred years the Sophiologium was one of the most widely distributed ascetical tracts in the Christian world, and undoubtedly excerted a great influence on the minds of many people.
It was a storehouse of quotations by both ancient Classical authors and Christian writers. He copied many of the quotes from previous books of this type.
These were obviously quotations that appealed to him personally, and he would have used them in preaching.
Indeed, one purpose of such a book was to provide preachers with a ready reference source to quotations they could include in their sermons.
The Sophilogium is divided into ten books ("chapters"). The first two give a short introduction to classical knowledge. Books 3-6 develop the Christian teaching on virtue and vice, and a treatise on the seven deadly sins. Book 7 is a contemplation of death and judgment. Books 8-10 develop the special duties of each state in life - the clergy, the temporal rulers, and the "common people."
The number of manuscript copies is very large, and it was printed as a book at least twenty times before the year 1500.
Legrand himself translated the Sophilogium into the French language. It is not completely identical with the previous Latin edition, and is a better work. Parts of it were printed in Lyon in 1513 and in Paris in 1513.
William Caxton translated it into English, and re-titled it the Boke of Good Manners ("Book of Good Manners"). Caxton printed it in 1487 and again in 1500. Other published did likewise in English in 1494 (seven editions), 1500, 1507 and 1515.
Another popular genre in which Legrand participated was akin to what would be called "self help" books today.
There were many books on the social formation of children, and on social customs and etiquette.
Members of this genre include the book by Vincent of Beauvais, De Eruditione Filiorum Nobilium (1245: "The Education of the Daughters of Nobles"), and the mirrors for princes, such as the book by William Perrault, De Eruditione Principium (circa 1265: "The Education of Princes") and the book by Aegidius Colonna, De Regimine Principium (circa 1281).