ALBERTUS MAGNUS (1193 - 1280). De Mineralibus Libri Quinque. Augsburg: Sigmund Grim[m] and Marx Wirsung, 1519.

Albertus was the most influential medieval educator of the Aristotelian philosophies. He was born to a wealthy and powerful family, which provided him with a good classical education. He studied liberal arts at Padua, and after serving as Master of Theology at the University of Paris, he was called to establish in Cologne an education center, which was to occupy Albertus for the remainder of his life; among his illustrious students was Thomas Aquinas (1227 - 1274). Albertus introduced Greek teachings to the curriculum - a practice soon copied at other education centers.

Albertus Magnus set as his life's work to place all of the extant writings of Aristotle (384 B. C. - 322 B. C.) into a coherent system and to reconcile the Greek philosophies with those of the Christian world. To attain this outcome, he scoured the libraries of every monastery he visited for any writings of the ancients. However, Albertus's diligence did not locate any copy of what he thought was Aristotle's Lapidary, and he was therefore forced to write his own work dealing with minerals. The result is of remarkable interest as it shows not only what the state of mineralogy was in the 13th century, but what Albertus thought the science should be.

Albertus drew heavily upon his own observations and less so on other medieval and classical sources. Along the literally thousands of miles he traveled on foot, Albertus had many encounters with mines, miners, and minerals. These impressions he retained in his memory until they were later recorded in this work. He frequently used the phrase "Fui et vidi experiri" (I was there and observed it) to support his claims.

The De Mineralibus is divided into five books, dealing with stones (Books I-II), metals (Books III-IV), "intermediates" (Book V), which are neither stones nor metals, but have characteristics of both. In books, I, III, and V the author followed classical philosophy by discussing minerals based upon their Aristotelian causes: material (the matter from which minerals are made), efficient (the process by which minerals are made), formal (the form which minerals take), and final (the reason the mineral exists). In books, II, IV, and V, Albertus completed his plan by individually naming stones, metals, and "intermediates," and describing each in considerable detail.

Schuh, Curtis P. Mineralogy & Crystallography: An Annotated Bibliography of Books Published 1469 through 1919. Tucson: privately published, 2005, p35.

Photo of Title page, image 2

List of books in exhibit (links go to author information and references)