Brit, Walter (DNB00)

BRIT, BRYTTE, or BRITHUS, WALTER (fl. 1390), was a fellow of Merton College, Oxford, and the reputed author of several works on astronomy and mathematics, as well as of a treatise on surgery. He has also been described as a follower of Wycliffe, and as author of a book, 'De auferendis clero possessionibus' (see Bale, Script. Brit. Cat. vi. 94, p. 503 ; J. Simler's epitome of C. Gesner's Bibliotheca, 248 b, Zurich, 1574, folio ; Wood, Antiquities of Oxford, i. 475). If this description be correct, Brit is no doubt identical with the Walter Brute, a layman of the diocese of Hereford, whose trial before Bishop John Trevenant of Hereford in 1391 is related at great length by Foxe (Acts and Monuments, i. 620-54, 8th ed. 1641). Foxe prints the articles of heresy with which Brute was charged, the speech in which he defended himself, and his ultimate submission of his opinions to the determination of the church. Thirty-seven articles were then drawn up and sent to the university of Cambridge to be confuted. Brute, however, appears to have escaped further molestation. With respect to Brit's scientific writings considerable confusion prevails, and it seems probable that not one of the extant works ascribed to him is really his. The work most frequently cited is the 'Theorica Planetarum' (Leland, Comm. de Script. Brit. p. 397), which bears his name in two manuscripts in the Bodleian Library (Digby, xv. ff. 58 b-92, and Wood, 8 d, f. 93) ; but it is claimed for Simon of Bredon, also fellow of Merton, in the verses subjoined to another copy in the same collection (Digby, xlviii. f. 112 b), which, to judge from their contents, have a distinctly stronger presumption in favour of their accuracy. The work in question, which begins with the words 'Circulus ecentricus, circulus egresse cuspidis, et circulus egredientis centri idem sunt,' is further to be distinguished from another treatise with the same title, of which the opening words are 'Circulus ecentricus, vel egresse cuspidis, vel egredientis centri, dicitur,' and of which the authorship is shown by the notices collected by Baldassare Boncompagno (Della Vita e delle Opere di Gherardo Cremonese e di Gherardo di Sabbionetta, pp. 76-100, Rome, 1851, 4to) to be really due to the younger Gerard of Cremona (Gerardus de Sabloneto) in the thirteenth century. The latter has been repeatedly confounded with the 'Theorica' indifferently assigned by the bibliographers to Brit and Bredon. Another treatise mentioned by Bale as the composition of Brit is the 'Theoremata Planetarum,' which Tanner cites as that existing in the Digby MS. exc. f. 190 b (now f. 169 b) ; but this manuscript dates from about the year 1300, and the work is by John Halifax (J. de Sacro Bosco). Finally, the 'Cirurgia Walteri Brit' named in the ancient table of contents in another Digby MS. (xcviii. f. 1 b) has nothing corresponding to it in the volume itself but a set of English medical receipts whose author is not stated (f. 257).

[Authorities cited in text, and Leland's Collectanea, v. 55; Tanner's Bibl. Brit. 127.]

R. L. P.