Boethius, De institutione arithmetica Boethius, De institutione arithmetica

c. 845

Staatsbibliothek Bamberg

Staatsbibliothek Bamberg
Bamberg, Germany

This work by Boethius (c. 480–524/25) gives an introduction to the classical Pythagorean theory of numbers. It rests on the assumption that the entire cosmos is based on figures – an idea in full harmony with the Christian view that God created the universe according to numbers, measures and weights.

Of the c. 185 manuscripts which transmit this text or parts of it, this is the oldest. The codex was probably written in Tours for Charlemagne’s grandson, emperor Charles the Bald (died 877). Many painted initials and ornaments decorate the manuscript, making it one of the rare examples of an outstanding book with secular content.

Two full-page miniatures are particularly noteworthy. One of them depicts the four higher liberal arts in the guise of four women: Music, Arithmetic, Geometry and Astronomy (here referred to as ‚Astrologia‘, as usual in the Middle Ages).


  • Title: Boethius, De institutione arithmetica Boethius, De institutione arithmetica
  • Date Created: c. 845, c. 845
  • Physical Location: Tours, Tours
  • Physical Dimensions: 23 x 17 cm
  • Contributor: Text: Dr. Stefan Knoch
  • External Link: Digitalisat
  • Medium: parchment
  • Volume: 139 leaves
  • Shelf mark: Msc.Class.5, Msc.Class.5
  • Photographer: Gerald Raab, Gerald Raab

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