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  • Identifying the Literary Genre of the De reductione artium ad theologiamBonaventure's Inaugural Lecture at Paris
  • Joshua C. Benson


In 1974 at a gathering celebrating the seventh centenary of Bonaventure's death, Ignatius Brady reviewed the Quaracchi edition of Bonaventure's works. He noted various problems with the edition and considered the authenticity of a number of works discovered since the edition's completion in 1902.2 He argued against the attribution of all the texts then newly ascribed to Bonaventure, but pointed forward to texts that might still be looked for, "either by identifying them in pieces already published or by searching for them in manuscripts."3

Brady singled out two texts in particular: a text he referred to as a principium biblicum, and defined as the opening discourse of a baccalaurius biblicus; and a principium magisteriale or aulicum, which Brady defined as a "recommendatio s. scripturae or recommendatio sacrae doctrinae given in brief form by the doctorandus in the aula/hall of [End Page 149] the bishop and repeated at length soon after his promotion."4 He went on to lament that we possess lectures pertaining to these forms from great medieval theologians like John of La Rochelle and Thomas Aquinas, but none for Bonaventure. According to Brady, two primary reasons explained this gap in Bonaventure's corpus: 1) the Quaracchi editors really had no clear conception of the genre of principium and hence never looked for Bonaventure's; 2) some scholars reasoned that Bonaventure's well-known sermon "Christ the one teacher of all" functioned as his principium and hence looked no further.5 As Brady noted, however, "Christ the one teacher of all" could never function as Bonaventure's principium without doing extreme violence to the literary parameters set for that academic exercise.6 Bonaventure's principium thus remained at large and has continued to elude scholars since Brady's reflections thirty-four years ago. Until now.

Though Brady's terminology requires modification in the light of more recent studies, the thesis I will argue for in this article is that the text we know as the De reductione is in fact the second half of Bonaventure's two part inaugural lecture (or principium) as a master at Paris.7 The first half of the lecture (and the De reductione's essential companion piece) I have identified and provisionally edited: an overlooked sermon beginning with the verse, Omnium artifex docuit me sapientia (Wisdom 7:21).

In order to demonstrate my thesis that the De reductione is part of Bonaventure's inaugural lecture as a master or his [End Page 150] principium, I will first review the specific terminology required to understand this literary genre. Second, I will focus on the form and subject matter of the De reductione itself in order to establish that it may be understood as sermon and that its subject matter fits within the genre of principia. Third, I will highlight known principia that share concerns and style similar to the De reductione thus further demonstrating that the text is Bonaventure's principium. Fourth, I will discuss two manuscripts that present the De reductione as a principium.8 In connection, I will also indicate how these two manuscripts present the relationship between Bonaventure's overlooked sermon Omnium artifex docuit me sapientia and the De reductione. Fifth, I will show how Omnium artifex forms an essential prologue to the De reductione.

I. Clarifying the literary genre of the principium

The term principium can cause confusion since the term takes on different meanings in accordance with the variety of meanings and associations the term possessed in the middle ages. Clarity regarding this term is crucial if the present thesis is to be proved and so I must review the basic ways the term could be used.

In a broad sense, the term principium refers simply to "the inaugural lecture of a course,"9 which in turn belongs to the much broader category of sermon.10 In this sense of inaugural lecture or sermon, Bonaventure's prologues to each of [End Page 151] the four books of Peter Lombard's Sentences, the prologues to his biblical commentaries, and even to some degree...