With a little help from our Friends II: Geometria Speculative

The Library holds significant numbers of works that were written by Archbishops of Canterbury, many of whom have been distinguished scholars. Earlier Archbishops tend to be under-represented: one such is Thomas Bradwardine, c.1290-1349, who was Archbishop for only 38 days. Bradwardine, nicknamed the Doctor profundus, was one of the prominent thinkers of the fourteenth century, and his influence remained strong after his death, as witness Chaucer’s mention of him alongside Augustine and Boethius.

Line 422 of Chaucer, Nun's Priest's Tale

Chaucer, line 422 of Nun’s Priest’s Tale, from a copy of his works which belonged to Archbishop Whitgift

Bradwardine’s work, following a tradition established by his predecessors at Oxford, combined theology with mathematics and science. He was almost as well-known for his work on mathematics as for his theology, and was concerned to relate the two fields, emphasising the philosophical relevance of mathematical concepts. While at Oxford, Bradwardine wrote Geometria Speculative: this was published in 1495 in Paris by Guy Marchant. It was the first mathematical work by any Englishman to appear in print.

A page from Geometria Spectulative

A page from Geometria Speculative

A copy of the work became available in 2006 and was purchased for Lambeth Palace Library using generous grants from various bodies including the Friends of Lambeth Palace Library, Trustees of Lambeth Palace Library, Friends of the National Libraries, and the Lambeth Diploma Association.

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