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Lullus Complutensis


A month without posting in this site does not mean that I have been devoted to a period of intense procrastination. I have been taking notes and organizing the material in order to write the first chapter of my dissertation. This first chapter will address the question of the portability of the Art of Ramon Llull in the context of Cisneros's cultural project. More specifically, I will define a reading process in three steps: 1) how Lullist books are classified in a broader project of knowledge; 2) how an Artist gets to practice the Art in the space of a manuscript; and 3) and how different agents in the portability of Lullism are related through books.

The impact of the books and the Art of Ramon Llull in Castilian 16th century is still poorly known. Many historians have come across the Art while writing about the Cardinal Cisneros, Philip II, or Juan de Herrera, but few have confronted it in a systematic manner.1 More than making a history of Lullism in early modern Castile, I will show in this first chapter the importance that the portability of the works of Ramon Llull has in relation to Cisneros and his project of university, the Colegio de San Ildefonso. In the scheme of the dissertation as a whole, I will show that the uses of the portability of Ramon Llull were different and had different goals in relation to different periods and institutions. This is, Cisneros’s Lullism has different goals than Philip II’s Lullism. I will call portability to all textual manifestations of Lullism, anti-Lullism, and pseudo-Lullism. These three traditions are related but difficult to really separate as they relate differently to a singular source, the life and works of Ramon Llull himself.2 Trying to separate authors or even books as belonging to those three traditions separately can be difficult, so I will take all the books related to Llull as displays of its portability. I will do so even with the books written against the Art.

In the first part of my chapter, I will demonstrate that the portability of Lullism was essential in the construction in Cisneros’s project of university. Through the study of three existing catalogues I will show that there are evidences of different secretaries of Cisneros buying Lullist books. Furthermore, it is possible to trace the position of some of these books in the reading room of the college. The position of the books in the library responds to a program of organization of knowledge. Ramon Llull is not physically far from Plato and Aristotle in the far left of the central bookshelf. Cisneros and his scholars understood that this was one of the most powerful models of comprehension of reality ever produced and therefore it belonged not among the artes predicatoria, but the books of Plato and Aristotle. Nevertheless, in the origin the Art of Ramon Llull did not aim to the construction of a system of interpretation of reality as a whole.

In order to make my point, I will look at three catalogues that establish the place of Ramon Llull in Cisneros’s libraries. The first one is a manuscript belonging to the papers of Spanish bibliophile that is a part of an original incomplete. The remaining manuscript is composed of 15 folia that belonged to a larger book of accounts of the Colegio de San Ildefonso from which the manuscript was detached. The manuscript is preserved today at the BNE under the signature 20056/47 and belonging to the personal collection of the Spanish bibliophile José Amador de los Ríos (1818-78). The manuscripts documents processes of acquisition of books for library of San Ildefonso that go from 1496 to 1509, including two Lullist books. The second piece of archival evidence is a book of belongings for the Colegio de San Ildefonso preserved today in Madrid’s AHN under the signature Universidades L. 1090.3 Between the pages 33r-54v, this manuscript describes the shelves and the books contained in each one of them at the library of the college containing also notice of the presence of two Lullist books. The third piece of archival evidence I will be looking at will be the catalogue of Lullist books in the Cisneros’s personal library. The person in charge of the compilation of this list of books was certainly Nicolas de Pax, a humanist close to Cisneros and the one who taught the Art of Ramon Llull at San Ildefonso. This catalogue is preserved in the Apostolic Library of the Vatican under the signature Ottob. lat. 704, the list is displayed between 112r-113v and it is entitled “Jesus Index librorum illuminati doctoris Raymundi Lulli qui sunt apud reverendissimum dominum meum Hispanie cardinalem anno Domini 1515, mense junii.”

My purpose in the study of these catalogues is twofold. First, I will find the place of the books of Ramon Llull in the cultural project of Cisneros, who is concerned with a political project of evangelization in the Mediterranean as well as with a shift in the field of learning. Second, I will reconstruct portability in terms of not only which books were copied or printed, but also which were the books of other authors that surrounded them. Reconstructing portability through catalogues makes sense since the object of this dissertation is not the works of Llull, but the works of Llull, his followers, and their cultural outcome in a specific context. The catalogues will provide for a context of the early modern readership of Lullist books.

In the second part of my chapter I will analyze a single piece of evidence, a manuscript belonging to the archives of the Biblioteca Histórica Complutense catalogued as BH MS 106. This highly problematic manuscript is listed in the modern catalogue of the library as a copy of Llull’s Ars generalis. The manuscript is so much more than a copy of a single work. The first pages contain a copy of the Tabula artis generalis in neat scripture. After this copy, there are several other treatises, blank pages, and all kinds of marginal notes and comments. I will mainly focus on a treatise that develops the Art in a series of alphabetic figures contained in five pages of the manuscript from f. 159r to f. 162v. The status of this text is uncertain. The incipit (“Incipiunt tunc sapientiae figurae artis demonstrative seu regularum introducarum se sunt triangulares figura”) seems to point that is intended to be read as a proper book that could be listed among Llull’s original opera. Nevertheless, the carelessness of the scripture, the lack of ruling of the page and the erasing of some parts points to the contrary, which is, that this is a kind of practice of the Art, that this is the work of somebody trying to make sense of the Art.4 No other Lullist book known to the days shares this incipit. Probably the scribe who wrote this volume intended to show the Art as it is practiced, particularly since none of the manuscripts preserved in Cisneros’s library displayed the figurae artis.

The fact that the practice of the Art must be shown is counterintuitive since the manipulation of the Art is mostly a mental process. Therefore, there is a contradiction between the conceptual nature of the Art as a mental practice and the fact that in order to become an expert in it, i.e. an Artist,5 young scholars need to see its practice. The construction of a Lullist manuscript has a double goal: it is about the transmission of a text, but the transmission of the text is about the transmission of a practice. The best copies preserved are polished copies, not working ones. Nonetheless, a working copy can reveal something about the formation of an Artist. So, the text contained between f. 159 and f. 162v is not really about the figurae, even though the word is in the title, but about the development of the relations between concepts schematized in the figurae. The letters of the Alphabet signify nine concepts and relations that appear in other parts of the Art, i.e. the basic concepts that Llull extracts from the foundations of medieval Christian virtues and articles of faith. Ultimately, it seems that many scholars hit the same wall, which is, the difficulty of learning the whole logic that Ramon Llull used for his Art. This logic is at the same time so intricate and so exclusive that they felt it was too difficult to learn when it had no use for anything else. The obscurity of the system does not mean that it constitutes something boundless or without clear sources. The problem is that the sources have to be retraced because Ramon Llull makes as much as possible to just erase them.

The point I will prove in this second part is that the set of books and documents constituting the Lullist archive have as a goal the education of the Artist or the defense of the legitimacy of the archive itself. Usually, scholars have drawn examples from the neat copies of the works of Ramon Llull carefully compiled in manuscripts such as the Breviculum or from editions such as the one Ivo Salzinger prepared (1721-42),6 I will prove that the nature of this archive can be unstable as it is intended as an educational tool. Furthermore, this archive is the source of a specific alphabetization, the alphabetization in the Art of Ramon Llull. Hence, the Artist copying and practicing the Art is the treatise contained between f. 159r and 162v in BH MS 106 is performing a kind of use of the archive in which both reading and the constitution of the Lullist archive are inseparable.

The third part of the chapter will be concerned with the relationship between Lullists through books. I will take as the center of this part the importance of Cisneros’s shield as a display of power in the cover of Lullist books. The relationship between the image of the shield and the portability of the Art articulates different spaces of reading. The display of the shield of the Cardinal in the editions of the Ars inventiva veritatis (1515) and Libellus illuminati Raymundi de amico et amato (1517)7 constitutes a public endorsement of the portability at a moment in which the teachings of Lullism were highly controversial.8 Nonetheless, the shield of Cisneros does not just mean legitimacy and protection for the printing of Lullist books; it also means ownership when engraved in gold in the binding of manuscripts. Hence, the shield on a Lullist book has a twofold meaning, at the same time public and private. The public nature of the shield does not only mean that the Cardinal supports financially and politically the printing of at least these Lullist books, but it is also linked to the decision of institute a chair of Lullism at the Colegio de San Ildefonso. The private nature of the shield shows a deeper interest in the Art, that cover a wider range of books and phases of the Art than what the printed books show. The shield is also a sign that will be useful in order to conceptualize the relationship between agents of the portability of Lullism.

The importance of describing portability as an archive of images and practices of reading will help me reframe the perspective on well known biographies of Castilian humanists and the evolution of institutions of learning. In spite of the existence of important secondary sources in the field of early modern Lullism, they are somewhat narrowed because of very traditional historiographical approaches. I intend to go further than recounting biographical data of the lives of important Lullists. Moreover, I will challenge the idea of Lullism as a recognizable intellectual current. Instead, the circulation of books of the works of Ramon Llull and related to him define a variety of intellectual agents whose preoccupation is not entirely reducible to their Lullism. People like Nicholas of Cusa, Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, Philip II, or Giordano Bruno are all Lullists, but they are also more than that. To define them as Lullists would be an overstatement. At the same time, it would be miss a part of the picture to not describe the impact that the works of Ramon Llull had at different points of their intellectual trajectories. Therefore, in order to conceptualize this impact without necessarily framing it inside a series of biographies of different Lullists, I will talk about material marks of reading. Hopefully, these forms will be a way to reframe the debate about Lullism and to put forward practices and objects instead of lives of singular characters.

The aim of this chapter is the conceptualization of material traces that several forms of reading leave in books and the making of the portability of the Ramon Llull through such marks. The diffusion of the works of Ramon Llull suffered a number of religious and political difficulties (misreading, persecution, etc.) that define the phenomenon of portability, but constitute also the reason for its wide popularity during the early modern period.

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Noel Blanco Mourelle, « Lullus Complutensis », Blogs, Columbia University | LAIC, Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures (online), published on December 31, 2014. Full URL for this article

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