Rare Book Room



by Francis Barrett
London, 1801

Biographia Antiqua


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ALBERTUS MAGNUS, a Dominican, bishop of Ratisbon, and one of the most famous doctors of the XIII century, was born at Lawingen, on the Danube, in Suabia, in the year 1193, or 1205. Moreri's dictionary gives us an account of the several employs which were conferred upon him, and the success of his lectures in several towns. It is likewise said, that he practised midwifery, and that he was in search of the Philosopher's Stone: that he was a famous Magician , and that he had formed a machine in the shape of a man, which served him for an oracle, and explained all the difficulties which he proposed to it. I can easily be induced to believe that, as he understood the mathematics, &c. he made a head, which, by the help of some spirits, might certain articulate sounds. Though he was well qualified to be the inventor of artillery, there is reason to believe, that they who ascribed the invention of it to him are mistaken. It is said that he had naturally a very dull wit, and that he was upon the point of leaving the cloister, because he despaired of attaining what his friar's habit required of him, but that the Holy Virgin appeared to him, and asked him in which he would chuse to excel, in philosophy or divinity; that he made choice of philosophy, and that the Holy Virgin told him he should surpass all men of his time in that science, but that, as a punishment for not chusing divinity, he should before his death, relapse into his former stupidity. They add, that, after this apparition, he shewed a prodigious deal of sense, and so improved in all the sciences, that he quickly surpassed his preceptors; but that, three years before his death, he forgot in an instant all that he knew: and that, being at a stand in the middle of a lecture on divinity at Cologne, and endeavouring in vain to recal his ideas, he was sensible that it was the accomplishment of the prediction. Whence arose the saying, that he was miraculously converted from an ass into a philosopher, and, afterwards, from a philosopher into an ass. Our Albertus was a very little man 1, and, after living eighty-seven years, died in the year of our redemption, 1280, at Cologne, on the 15th of November; his body was laid in the middle quire of the convent of the Dominicans, and his entrails were carried to Ratisbon; his body was yet entire in the time of the Emperor Charles V . and was taken up by his command, and afterwards replaced in its first monument. He wrote such a vast number of books, that they amount to twenty-one volumes in folio, in the edition of Lyons, 1651. 
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