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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/748

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

Here and there among men who were free from church control we have work of a better sort. In the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Abd Allatif made observations upon the natural history of Egypt which showed a truly scientific spirit, and the Emperor Frederick II attempted to promote a more fruitful study of Nature; but one of these men was abhorred as a Mussulman and the other as an infidel. Far more in accordance with the spirit of the time was the ecclesiastic Giraldus Cambrensis, whose book on the topography of Ireland bestows much attention upon the animals of the island, and rarely fails to make each contribute an appropriate moral. For example, he says that in Ireland "eagles live for so many ages that they seem to contend with eternity itself; so also, the saints, having put off the old man and put on the new, obtain the blessed fruit of everlasting life." Again, he tells us, "Eagles often fly so high that their wings are scorched by the sun; so those who in the Holy Scriptures strive to unravel the deep and hidden secrets of the heavenly mysteries, beyond what is allowed, fall below as if the wings of the presumptuous imaginations on which they are borne were scorched."

In one of the great men of the following century began to appear a slight gleam of healthful criticism: Albert the Great, in his work on the animals, dissents from the widespread belief that certain birds spring from trees and are nourished by the sap, and also from the theory that some are also generated in the sea from decaying wood.

But it required many generations for such skepticism to produce much effect, since we find among the illustrations in the edition of Mandeville published about the time of the Reformation not only careful accounts but a pictured representation of birds produced in the fruit of trees.[1]

This general employment of natural science for biblical illustration and the edification of the faithful went on after the Reformation. Luther frequently made this use of it, and his example controlled his followers. In 1612 Wolfgang Franz, Professor of Theology at Luther's university, gave to the world his sacred history of animals, which went through many editions. It contained a very ingenious classification, describing "natural drag-


    lecture vi; for an exhaustive discussion of the subject, see, Das Thierbuch des wormannischen Dichters Guillaume le Clerc, herausgegeben von Reinisch, Leipsic, 1890; and, for an Italian example, Goldstaub und Wendriner, Ein Tosco-Venezianischer Bestiarius, Halle, 1892, where is given, on pp. 369-371, a very pious but very comical tradition regarding the beaver, hardly more than mentionable to ears polite.

  1. For Giraldus Cambrensis, see the edition in the Bohn Library, London, 1863, p. 30; for Abd Allatif and Frederick II, see Hoefer, as above; for Albertus Magnus, see the De Animalibus, lib. xxiii; for the illustrations in Mandeville, see the Strasburg edition, 1484.