THOMAS HIBERNICUS. Flores Omnium Fere Doctorum. Venetiis: ad Signum Spei 1550. 16mo. 542 leaves. Roman letter, italic sidenotes, woodcut printer’s device. Later vellum parchment, titled in ink on spine. A very good copy. Extremely rare.
COPAC locates the Cambridge and Edinburgh copies only. WorldCat 4. This edition not located in Sweeney.
This work consists of extracts from classical and patristic literature arranged in alphabetical order according to subject. The most frequently reprinted 16th century title by an author whose Irishness is beyond question. Richard and Mary Rouse in their most detailed bibliographical analysis of Thomas Hibernicus Preachers, Florilegia and Sermons locates twenty-six printings between 1550 and 1596 and suggested that there were probably another seven that could be added to the list. The places of publication are named as Venice, Lyons, Paris, Antwerp and Cologne. They also state that Guillaume Rouillé commissioned a work compiled on the same basis and variously titled Flores Bibliae or Flores Bibliorum, (first published Lyons, 1554). This appeared anonymously and was first attributed to Thomas Hibernicus by John Steele’s widow in Antwerp thirteen years later, even though it lacked any medieval provenance.
The Rouses uncovered a confusion perpetrated by Sir James Ware in which three different individuals were fused into a single writer. The first, a Franciscan, Thomas Hibernicus who died in the convent of Aquila in Abruzzi circa 1270; the second, a secular priest, Thomas Hibernicus, with University of Sorbonne connections, who died between 1329 and 1338; the third a Dominican, Thomas of Palmerstown, who was Prior Provincial of his Order in the closing years of the 14th century and died no earlier than 1415. Tony Sweeney in Ireland and the Printed Word following the Rouses, states that the second of these is the real author and someone who achieved renown throughout Europe as the large number of extant manuscripts indicates. The Rouses show that Thomas drew upon two Cistercian florilegia in compiling the Manipulus Florum, and that his organisation of material helped it to succeed in a crowded market. “This combined” they said, “the advantages of alphabeticised index and of topical arrangement, with the added element of cross-reference or cross-indexing”.
Thomas de Hibernia or Hibernicus flourished between 1306 and 1316. He studied at Paris where he became a Fellow of the Sorbonne, and took the degree of Bachelor of Theology about 1306. He was neither a Franciscan nor Dominican but has been called both. In his will he bequeathed ’16l.’ to the Sorbonne along with copies of his own works and many other books. His name is mentioned seven times in the Sorbonne Catalogue of 1338, and some of his books are now in the Bibliotheque Nationale – DNB.
Since the Rouses’ extensive research in 1979 the importance of this work has been greatly enhanced thanks to the scholarship of Ann Moss in her work: Printed Commonplace-Books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought, published by the Clarendon Press in Oxford. The author reveals that “One Florilegium (and one only) took on a new lease of life in the sixteenth century, developing and expanding and contributing to future generations of commonplace-books. The book which made the successful transition was the ‘Manipulus Florum’ composed by Thomas of Ireland at Paris in 1306 … Of all the medieval Florilegia it was the ‘Manipulus Florum’ which converted most easily to commonplace-book. It was also the one which answered and continued to answer the specific needs of a large community of users