Thomas of Ireland

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Thomas of Ireland (fl. 1295 – before 1338), known as Thomas Hibernicus, not to be confused with the Franciscan friar Thomas de Hibernia (died c. 1270),[1] was an Irish writer. His claim to fame is not as an original author, but as an anthologist and indexer.


Thomas was a Fellow of the College of Sorbonne and a Master of Arts by 1295, and referred to as a former fellow in the first manuscripts of his Manipulus in 1306. He is believed to have died before 1338.


Manipulus florum

Thomas was the author of three short works on theology and biblical exegesis, and the compiler of the Manipulus florum ('A Handful of Flowers'). The latter, a Latin florilegium, has been described as a "collection of some 6,000 extracts from patristic and a few classical authors".[2] Thomas compiled this collection from books in the library of the Sorbonne, "and at his death he bequeathed his books and sixteen pounds Parisian to the college".[3]

The Manipulus florum survives in one hundred and ninety manuscripts, and was first printed in 1483. It was printed twenty-six times in the 16th century, eleven times in the 17th. As late as the 19th century editions were published in Vienna and Turin.

Although Thomas was apparently a member of the secular clergy, his anthology was highly successful because it was "well suited to the needs of the new mendicant preaching orders ... [to] ... locate quotations ... relevant to any subject they might wish to touch on in their sermons."[4] Indeed, Boyer has demonstrated that very soon after the Manipulus was completed a French Dominican used it to compose a series of surviving sermons.[5] However, Nighman has argued that, although it was surely used by preachers, Thomas did not actually intend his anthology as a reference tool for sermon composition, as argued by the Rouses, but rather as a learning aid for university students, especially those intending on a clerical career involving pastoral care.[6]

Thomas was also among the earliest pioneers of medieval information technology that included alphabetical subject indices and cross-references. "In his selection, and in the various indexing techniques he invented or improved on, he revealed true originality and inventiveness."[4] Those finding tools are preserved, and electronically enhanced, in Nighman's online critical edition of the Manipulus florum.

Other works

Thomas was also the author of three other works:

  1. De tribus punctis religionis Christiane ('On the three main points of the Christian religion'), on the duties of secular clergy;[1]
  2. De tribus hierarchiis ('On the three hierarchies'), which develops ideas about hierarchy expressed at the end of De tribus punctis;[1] and
  3. De tribus sensibus sacre scripture ('On the three senses of holy scripture'), on the four senses of Scripture.[1] The last two works survive in three and eight manuscripts respectively.[7]

References and further reading

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Clarke (2004), "Hibernicus, Thomas (c. 1270 – c.1340)", ODNB.
  2. Richard Rouse and Mary Rouse, Preachers, florilegia and sermons: Studies on the Manipulus Florum of Thomas of Ireland, Toronto, 1979.
  3. A New History of Ireland, volume one, p. 958.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Rouses, Preachers
  5. Christine Boyer, "Un témoin précoce de la réception du Manipulus florum au début du XIVème siècle: le recueil de sermons du dominicain Guillaume de Sauqueville," Bibliothèque de l'École de Chartes, 163.1 (2006), pp. 43-70.
  6. Chris L. Nighman, "Commonplaces on preaching among commonplaces for preaching? The topic Predicatio in Thomas of Ireland's Manipulus florum", Medieval Sermon Studies 49 (2005), 37-57.
  7. A recent study on these three minor works is Declan Lawell, "Thomas of Ireland, the Pseudo-Dionysius and the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy: A Study of the Three Opuscula", chp. 5, p. 74-87, in J. McEvoy & M. Dunne (eds), The Irish Contribution to European Scholastic Thought (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2009). See also James McEvoy, "Flowers from Ancient Gardens: The Lemma 'Amicitia' in the Manipulus florum of Thomas of Ireland", chp. 4, p. 60-73 in the same volume.

External links