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Les ‘monstres marins’ sont-ils des ‘poissons’ ? Le livre VI du Liber de natura rerum de Thomas de Cantimpré

Abstract : Two of the nineteen (twenty in the 2nd redaction) books of Thomas of Cantimpré’s Liber de natura rerum, i.e. the books VI and VII, are devoted to marine species. Both begin with a preface. Both are based on a compilation of Ancient and Medieval sources. Book VI describes fifty-nine monstra marina, Book VII eighty-nine pisces. It was already noted that never before had a medieval encyclopedist gathered and identified such a rich variety of marine species. Therefore, Thomas of Cantimpré’s work substantially facilitated the work of his successors, Vincent of Beauvais and Albertus Magnus. This article investigates the motivation behind the original distinction between monstra marina and pisces. Three leads are being followed in turn: 1. The study of the terms used to describe the monsters in the prefaces: the general preface indicates the chosen partitio, whereas the prefaces of Books VI and VII give more details about the link between monstra marina and pisces. 2. Several species that are contained within Pliny’s list of beluae (NH XXXII. 144) are classified by Thomas in Book VI and some animals (most of them mythological or imaginary) are added from late antique and medieval sources. 3. Nevertheless, the only way to understand why many species (in particular those coming from Michael Scot’s translation of Aristotle’s De animalibus) are classified as monsters is to carefully compare each description in order to correlate the features. Eventually, Thomas’s classification of some species in Book VI is not so easy to understand, and this is probably the reason why the distinction between pisces and monstra marina was rejected by Albertus Magnus.
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Contributor : Marie-Agnès Lucas-Avenel <>
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Marie-Agnès Lucas-Avenel. Les ‘monstres marins’ sont-ils des ‘poissons’ ? Le livre VI du Liber de natura rerum de Thomas de Cantimpré. Rursus - Poiétique, réception et réécriture des textes antiques, Université Nice-Sophia Antipolis, 2017, ⟨10.4000/rursus.1320⟩. ⟨hal-02139171⟩

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