1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Gerard of Cremona

GERARD OF CREMONA (c. 1114–1187), the medieval translator of Ptolemy’s Astronomy, was born at Cremona, Lombardy, in or about 1114. Dissatisfied with the meagre philosophies of his Italian teachers, he went to Toledo to study in Spanish Moslem schools, then so famous as depositories and interpreters of ancient wisdom; and, having thus acquired a knowledge of the Arabic language, he appears to have devoted the remainder of his life to the business of making Latin translations from its literature. The date of his return to his native town is uncertain, but he is known to have died there in 1187. His most celebrated work is the Latin version by which alone Ptolemy’s Almagest was known to Europe until the discovery of the original Μεγάλη Σύνταξις. In addition to this, he translated various other treatises, to the number, it is said, of sixty-six; among these were the Tables of “Arzakhel,” or Al Zarkala of Toledo, Al Farabi On the Sciences (De scientiis), Euclid’s Geometry, Al Farghani’s Elements of Astronomy, and treatises on algebra, arithmetic and astrology. In the last-named latitudes are reckoned from Cremona and Toledo. Some of the works, however, with which he has been credited (including the Theoria or Theorica planetarum, and the versions of Avicenna’s Canon of Medicine—the basis of the numerous subsequent Latin editions of that well-known work—and of the Almansorius of Abu Bakr Razi) are probably due to a later Gerard, of the 13th century, also called Cremonensis but more precisely de Sabloneta (Sabbionetta). This writer undertook the task of interpreting to the Latin world some of the best work of Arabic physicians, and his translation of Avicenna is said to have been made by order of the emperor Frederic II.

See Pipini, “Cronica,” in Muratori, Script. rer. Ital. vol. ix.; Nicol. Antonio, Bibliotheca Hispana vetus, vol. ii.; Tiraboschi, Storia della letteratura Italiana, vols. iii. (333) and iv.; Arisi, Cremona literata; Jourdain, Recherches sur . . . l’origine des traductions latines d’Aristote; Chasles, Aperçu historique des méthodes en géométrie, and in Comptes rendus de l’Académie des Sciences, vol. xiii. p. 506; J. T. Reinaud, Géographie d’Aboulféda, introduction, vol. i. pp. ccxlvi.-ccxlviii.; Boncompagni, Della vita e delle opere di Gherardo Cremonese e di Gherardo da Sabbionetta (Rome, 1851). Much of the work of both the Gerards remains in manuscript, as in Paris, National Library, MSS. Lat. 7400, 7421; MSS. Suppl. Lat. 49; Rome, Vatican library, 4083, and Ottobon, 1826; Oxford, Bodleian library, Digby, 47, 61. The Vatican MS. 2392 is stated to contain a eulogy of “Gerard of Cremona” and a list of “his” translations, apparently confusing the two scholars. The former’s most valuable work was in astronomy; the latter’s in medicine.  (C. R. B.)