1337, as he wrote his treatise on Aristotle's ‘Politics’ at the request of Richard Bentworth, bishop of London (1338-9), who was not consecrated till July 1338.
Burley is credited with having written 130 treatises on Aristotle alone, and great numbers of his manuscripts are still extant in various libraries at Oxford (Bodleian, Balliol, Oriel, New, Magdalen, &c.), Cambridge (Caius and Gonville, Peterhouse, &c.) and London (British Museum and Lambeth). His principal works are treatises on Aristotle’s ‘Ethics’ (dedicated to Richard of Bury) and ‘Politics;’ on Aristotle`s ‘Topica’ (Merton, 295); ‘Problemata’ (Magdalen, 146); ‘Meteora’ (Ball. 93) and ‘The Organon;’ commentaries on Porphyry, Gilbert de la Porée, and many other works of Aristotle. Other treatises of some interest are ‘Expositio super Averroem de substantia orbis,’ and another ‘De fluxu et refluxu maris Anglicani,’ both of which are to be found in Oriel College library. The most interesting of Burley’s writings is a small volume entitled ‘De Vita et Moribus Philosophorum,’ first published by Ulric Zell, probably at Cologne in 1467. This work, the first of its kind, consists of short lives, together with illustrative anecdotes and opinions of some 120 poets and philosophers ranging from Thales, Zoroaster, and Homer to Priscian and Seneca. Though full of errors, as for example where Burley confounds Livius Andronicus with Livy the historian, and Horatius Flaccus with Horatius Pulvillus, this work soon achieved an immense popularity, especially abroad. Graesse reckons up some dozen separate editions in the latter half of the fifteenth century alone. Others of the same and later date may be discovered by comparison with Gandulphus, Kaim, &c. It was translated into Italian in 1475 (Brit. Mus. Addit. MS. 17523) and issued in a German dress by Anthony Sorg at Nuremberg in 1490. A curious history is attached to this work. Despite the number of times it had been reprinted in the fifteenth century, Bernard Grossus reproduced it in 1603 at the instance of a certain lawyer Antonius a Sala, who had the impudence to claim the work as his own (Labbe, Bibliotheca Bibliothecarum, ed. 1682, p. 27).
Hain reckons up nearly twenty separate editions of Burley’s philosophical treatises, all published before the close of the fifteenth century; including eight of the commentary on Porphyry, &c., printed chiefly at Venice; two of that on Aristotle’s ‘Logic;’ five on the ‘Physics;’ one of the ‘De Intentione et remissione formarum;’ one of the ‘Tractatus de materia et forma’ (Oxford, 1500); two of the ‘Ethics’ (Venice), &c. Early in the sixteenth century (1517-18), the two last-mentioned works were among the earliest books printed at Oxford (Wood, Annals, ed. Gutch, i. 625). Voss mentions among the writings of Burley a certain historical work, which may perhaps be the work to which Plot and Caius make reference in their disquisition on the origin of Oxford. But, in any case, it appears now to be lost.
Burley seems to have acquired an immense fame during his own lifetime. Even so far off as in Spain his contemporary Alphonso de Vargas, archbishop of Seville (fl. 1345), quotes from the ‘De Intentione.’ Gandulphus reports that in his old age he dedicated a compendium of his larger work on the ‘Ethics’ to Richard, bishop of Ulm, a statement which goes far towards corroborating Holinshed's account of his residence in Suabia. He had friends and scholars in Paris to whom he dedicated his treatise on Aristotle’s ‘Physics’ (Coxe, Calalogue of All Souls, 86). One copy of Burley’s ‘Ethics,’ still existing, belonged to a Suabian Jew at least as early as the fifteenth century; another was copied by a clerk in Lower Germany in 1424, and a third copy of a different commentary in 1453. Then came the day of his translation into Italian and German; and before the century closed he was cited by Pico della Mirandula in his famous nine hundred conclusions. At Oxford, a few years before the Reformation, his ‘Ethics’ and ‘Tractatus de Materia’ seem to have been text-books in the schools (Wood, Annals, ed. Gutch, i. 625); and, as such, are attacked by the royal injunction of 1535 which bids students substitute Aristotle for ‘the frivolous questions of Scotus, Burleus, &c.’ (Mullinger).
As a philosopher Burley is said to have been in later years a strong opponent of Duns Scotus, whose pupil he had been in earlier days. On the other hand, he is said to have been an antagonist of his once fellow-pupil, William of Ockham (cf. Bale, 411, with Mullinger, History of Cambridge, 197). M. Renan reckons him as an Averroist, and notices a tendency to supplant Aristotle by the Arabian commentator; while M. Hauréau quotes rival authorities for regarding him as a realist or a nominalist, but at the same time distinctly states that on certain points he is a ‘dogmatical realist.’ These conflicting opinions may be due to the fact that Burley did not always hold the same views, as may perhaps be inferred from the common report that he was once the pupil, and later the opponent, of Duns Scotus. M. Hauréau adds that ‘his style is particularly clear. Never proposing anything new, he has no need to make long discourses, and his