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The Education of the Princess


Trying at the same to localize the main texts for the second chapter and seizing the main questions that I will address in it is no easy task. As I advance in the note-taking process, I encounter one familiar obstacle. It may seem clear that religious, political, and cultural conclusions can be extracted from any given cultural object. Nevertheless, the Art of Ramon Llull is not exactly a cultural object, but a technique that transforms religious, political, and cultural vocabulary of any present in which it is inserted through its functioning. In this post, I will try to keep all this in mind while exploring the first argumentative line for my second chapter: the first important Spanish translations during the period of Philip II were addressed to the learning of his daughters. Through them, Pedro de Guevara was trying to establish a new model of learning based on the Art.

Image of ladder of knowledge from Proaza's edition of the 'LIber de ascensu et descensu intellectus' (1512) First combinatory wheel for the learning of grammar included in Guevara's 'Nueva y sutil invención' (1581)

There is a shift in the map of map disciplines during the early modern period. This shift is not only a product of a change of perspective in the world outside books; it also shapes this change of perspective. A narrative about shift and conflict has actually determined the main way intellectual history of the early modern period is conceived. Historiography of the early modern period relies heavily on the common place of the birth of new disciplines. Thus, the importance of a narrative of epistemic turns, swerves, revolutions, and light, against continuity, scholasticism, faith, and religious persecutions. Even if I am drawing a caricature of the point here and nobody would push it this far, the point does not suffer because of it. The argument is of great importance since from it a geo-epistemological division can be drawn. A conventional narrative would place the territories of the Austrian monarchy at the periphery of this shift of disciplines, but I will defend a different thesis, which is, that the early modern portability of the Art of Ramon Llull is key in the ascension of a new conceptualization of knowledge and learning that is named entendimiento. From this category, I will speak of the importance of the Art in reshaping the relation between learning and language through its printed portability.

The theory of entendimiento is expressed as a program of learning shaped by the Art of Ramon Llull in Pedro de Guevara’s Nueua y sutil inuencion, en seys instrumentos, intitulada juego y exercicio de letras. Pedro de Guevara was a priest and theologian who had been a preceptor to Philip II’s daughters Isabel (1566-1633) and Catalina (1567-97). Apart from this task, Pedro de Guevara would be chosen to create versions of the works of Ramon Llull in Castilian so they can be printed and used as textbooks by the students of Herrera’s new Real Academia Mathematica (1584). The existence of Guevara’s three main books: Nueva y sutil invención (1581), Arte general y breve (1584), and the Escala del entendimiento (1593) suggests a progressive plan to popularize the works of Ramon Llull in the vernacular so he would become a Spanish philosopher to all effects. Moreover, Guevara’s supervision of the education of the infantas Isabel and Catalina shows that Philip II’s Lullism had both public and private implication that the king assumed as a natural part of his interest in the Art. So, if the Art were something that circulates just among an elite during most of the early modern period, Philip II would try to decidedly break those boundaries by trying to use it to educate his own family and printing several versions meant for a wider public.

Pedro de Guevara was neither the only who had dedicated one of his works to one infanta, or a rare case of Lullist with high connections amongst the royal family. In fact, there are versions of the works of Ramon Llull ordered by disciples of his and dedicated to the French royal family right after his death. In early modern Castile, one of the most salient Castilian versions of the Arbor philosophia amoris is preserved at the library of the monastery of San Lorenzo del Escorial under the title: “Arbol de la filosofía del amor” (MSS. d.III.23). Very little is known today about the author of this translation who calls himself Pedro Aguilon el menor in both the first and last page of the manuscript. The author of the translation established a parallel between Ramon Llull offering the book to the kings of France and his translation to the infanta:

[…] y la señora del amor dixo a Raimundo que presentasse esta filosofia del amor en lenguage latino al mui noble y buen Rey de los Franceses y en lenguage Frances a la mui nobrle, sabia y buena Reyna de Francia, para que la multipliquen y hagan multiplicar en su Reyno. (91r)

The only non-modern vernacular version of this work is the Catalan original, which was presumably not the book that is referred at the end of the escurialense manuscript. Either its existence is apocryphal or it is lost today. Nonetheless, the argument adds an interesting layer to the problematic relation between the history of Lullism and persuasion. If the Art of Ramon Llull is a tool of persuasion, its defense must be operated through mechanisms of persuasion different from the ones that the Art provides itself. In a nutshell, the Art is made to protect Christianity and confirm it as a universal religion, but at the same time the Art must be promoted and defended within Christianity. The natural consequence of this promotion and defense of the Art of Ramon Llull is, among other things, to submit versions to royal families, dividing the interest between readers of Latin and readers of vernacular versions. Of course, the same logic applies for the court of Philip II:

Pedro Aguilon el menor, humilde siervo del supremo amado, imitando la intencion del pio y alumbrado doctor, pone esta traduccion en el amparo de su divina Magestad y la offrece a la Serenissima Señora infanta doña Isabel de Austria, hija del Catholico Rey Nuestro Señor don Felipe segundo, supplicando a su Alteza sea intercessora para que su Magestad haga tambien multiplicar esta santa doctrina doctrina en sus estados, para que haviendo en ellos amigos mas verdaderos y en maior numero, se conserve y augmente su Señorio, y se estienda por toda la tierra la fè de IESU CHRISTO Señor del universo, sumo bien y amado nuestro. 1590. (91v)

In Philip II’s court, the infantas are not simply addressed in texts, but also subject to the way Lullism reshapes the comprehension of language and its acquisition. Pedro de Guevara’s Nueva y sutil invencion (1581) creates a program that repurposes the relations between the three main disciplines of the trivium (grammar, rhetoric, and logic), basis of early modern education. Pedro de Guevara substitutes logic for the Art of Ramon Llull calling it “la universal de todas las ciencias, recopilada de los libros del Doctor Reymundo Lullio.” (3) This affects everything that comes after logic in the process of learning: mathematics, music, astronomy, and every other discipline it is subjected to the Art. Guevara’s idea of learning apparently respects the classic idea of progressive acquisition of disciplines: first, grammar, and then, rhetoric and dialectic. After those, come arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. If the respect of this classic progressive in the separation of the order for the first three disciplines is only apparent, the reason is that substituting traditional logic by the Art has the consequence of activating the basic principle of the Art: absorbing all the concepts of a given discipline and by the functioning of its internal logic turning them in instruments of its own way of functioning.

Guevara devises a process of learning through the Art, the goal of it being a definition of knowledge according to it. The word Guevara uses to describe it is entendimiento. The first consequence of this model of learning through the Art oriented to reaching entendimiento is that the Art of Ramon Llull does not limit itself to being a substitute for logic and affect the way disciplines are studied after the learning of the Art. Learning language should be different to the eyes of Guevara since it should be perfected with the use of the Art, while at the same time the Art should modify the way we think about language. Thus, Pedro de Guevara presents vernacular grammar and rhetoric as drinking from sources such as Elio Antonio de Nebrija (1441-1522) and Francisco Sánchez de las Brozas (1523-1600), but at the same time showing them as a series of mental combinations that allow to the reader operating language according to simple constructive principles. Languages and figures of speech are not only learned by the sake of understanding and producing discourse both oral and written, but also as steps towards the studying of the Art of Ramon Llull, the machine that encompasses everything there is to know. This is the reason the rules of grammar are presented through combinatory circular models similar to the ones the Art uses in order to combine its principles; it is also the reason why the hierarchic principle of grammar are adapted to the division between categories displayed by the Art (subiecta, operationes, etc.).

Ultimately, the intellectual model for both this program of learning structured around the Art progressing towards entendimiento and the idea itself can be found in Ramon Llull’s Liber de ascensu et descensu intellectus (Montpellier, 1305), popularized in Alonso de Proaza’s edition printed in València in 1512. Entendimiento translates the original term of intellectus provides here for a conceptual construction that allows to understand how the soul can ascend from God to the things and descend from God to the things using the Art as the only intellectual principle. Ascending and descending is the ultimate goal of learning as reaching entendimiento is only a product of understanding and becoming proficient on the performance of the Art, on becoming what by then was commonly known as an Artist. The ambition displayed in Guevara’s plan to redesign the process of learning is astonishing when compared to the kind of texts present in Cisneros’s library. While Proaza and Pacs were working in order to teach the Art of Ramon Llull in Latin to an already alphabetized intellectual elite, Guevara is using the vernacular and trying to alphabetize through the Art a potentially much larger group.

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  • Guevara, Pedro de. Escala del entendimiento en la qual se declaran las tres Artes del Licenciado Pedro de Guevara, de Gramatica, Dialectica, Retorica, y la vniuersal, para todas las sciencias del doctor Raymundo Lulio. Madrid: Pedro Madrigal, 1593. Print.
  • —. Arte general y breue, en dos instrumentos, para todas las sciencias : recopilada del Arte magna, y Arbor scientiae, del Doctor Raimundo Lulio. Madrid: Herederos de Alonso Gómez, 1584. Print.
  • —. Nueua y sutil inuencion, en seys instrumentos, intitulada juego y exercicio de letras de la serenissimas Infantas doña Ysabel y doña Catalina de Austria. Madrid: Herederos de Alonso Gómez, 1581. Print.
  • Llull, Ramon. “Traduzida de lengua latina en Española por Pedro Aguilon el menor. Dios por tu amor comiença el árbol de philosophia del AMOR.” San Lorenzo del Escorial, Biblioteca del Real Monasterio, d.III.23 [dated in 1590]. Manuscript.
  • —. Raymundi Lully Doctoris illuminati de nova logica, de correlatiuis nec non et de ascensu et descensu intellectus. Ed. Alfonso de Proaza. València: Georgium Costilla, 1512. Print.



Noel Blanco Mourelle, « The Education of the Princess », Blogs, Columbia University | LAIC, Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures (online), published on February 27, 2015. Full URL for this article

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