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CIÈNCIA.CAT provides the international academic community and the general cultured public with access to a part of the Catalan historical heritage which is yet little known or studied: that built by the scientific and technical works which circulated in the Catalan language —either originals or translations from other languages— during the last centuries of the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance (13th-16th c.). Thus, our choice of the name Sciè is a real declaration of intent —it combines historical heritage with one of today's most useful tools for providing information.


his rich and vast heritage can be explained by a significant new phenomenon that developed in medieval Western Europe as a consequence of deep social and economic changes taking place within feudal society with the rise of the bourgeoisie: the emergence of the languages commonly spoken, known as vernacular or vulgar, as a vehicle for the dissemination of knowledge. This new use of the spoken languages, which was to have radical consequences, grew in tandem with the transition from the spoken to the written word and with Latin surviving as the still undisputed vehicle of scholarly science and culture until well into the modern age. Romance languages, however, were perceived as useful tools by certain professional and social sectors of society, and their areas of diffusion were different from those of Latin. Despite this fact, some interesting intersections existed, yet they have rarely been studied, and even less frequently accorded their proper value.

The cultural and social phenomenon called vernacularization of knowledge, of science and technology in the present case, began in several parts of the western European world during the 13th century, coinciding with a new appreciation for knowledge and for its potential for change. That society became, above all, interested in physical and natural knowledge, and most particularly in health, an especially sensitive area of physical reality that worked as a major driving force behind the aforementioned process. The new appreciation and dissemination of scientific and technical knowledge, which spread across all strata of society, allowed for an unprecedented social penetration of that knowledge, which was greatly fostered by the communicative possibilities of spoken language, by growing literacy and by decisive changes in the production and marketing of books. Hence, many areas of culture, from fine arts to literature, experienced an emergence of topics and motifs ignored until then that enhanced the process even furher.

It should be noted that the phenomenon of the vernacularization of knowledge, seen as a whole and in the field of science in particular, can only partially be put on a level with the concept of vulgarization or dissemination. Light is shed on the historical and cultural dimensions of this phenomenon when the complex motivations of the target audiences are carefully considered. These were mostly non-university trained audiences, but formed both by sectors alien to the various disciplines and involved in their practice.

SCIÈNCIA.CAT's team, directed by Lluís Cifuentes and Antònia Carré, focuses its line of research on the study of this phenomenon within the framework of the Catalan speaking countries, which, by then, had been amalgamated into the political entity created by Catalans and Aragonese that came to be called the Crown of Aragon. The political, economic, military and cultural policies of the Catalan-Aragonese State allowed all sorts of fruitful exchanges in the —Christian and Muslim— Mediterranean world. These contributed to transform a language spoken only by few into a relatively early and widely used instrument for scientific communication, while, on the other hand, many members of the country's Jewish communities took an active part in the process. Our research covers the span of time between the last decades of the 13th century, when the beginning of Catalan as a vehicle for these attainments is detected, and the first decades of the 16th century, when Catalan started showing the signs of political, economic and social changes that were eventually to deprive it from, or largely diminish, its aforementioned vehicular role.


uch a vast amount of factors involved require an interdisciplinary approach in research. In addition to general history, specialised history (the history of science in the present case), the history of literature and language and lexicography, along with all its related and supporting disciplines should be considered.

Methodologically, a decision has been taken to break the barriers between intellectual history and social history, between “internalism” and “externalism” —too much alive in the history of science and the history of literature— and to opt for a comparative study within the western Mediterranean and European framework. In this sense, our work on the Catalan example becomes a real "case study" the results of which should be of use to many other ongoing researches.

SCIÈNCIA.CAT's research line might significantly contribute to several spheres of historical and literary studies —the history of crafts and trades, the history of scientific dissemination, the history of publishing and reading, the history of language and specialised vocabularies, and the history of literature and of the literary writers cultural background— just to mention the more representative ones.


he research line on the dissemination of science and technology in Catalan during the last centuries of the Middle Ages and the early Renaissance took shape upon the SCIÈNCIA.CAT team directors's doctorates, which facilitated their contact with medieval medicine and science. These were history based in one case, and philology based in the other.

In Lluís Cifuentes' case, the European Union support, through what was then called the Human Capital and Mobility Program, afforded him a long stay in Paris (1993-1995), during which the first basic task of cataloguing the preserved manuscript and printed materials was initiated. Subsequently, having returned to Barcelona, the Spanish Ministry of Education and Science (MEC) and the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) facilitated the continuity of the project, complemented by the systematic sifting through all records capable of contributing any information on non-preserved materials (1995-1998). The world of philology soon proved interested in the ongoing research, and it was within this sphere that the first synthesis was published (1997). The basic research developed during those years bore its first substantial fruit with the publication of La ciència en català a l'Edat Mitjana i el Renaixement (Barcelona, 2002; 2nd ed. 2006) under the joint sponsorship of the Universitat de Barcelona and the Universitat de les Illes Balears. The «Arnaldi de Villanova Opera Medica Omnia» (AVOMO) collection, published by the Universitat de Barcelona, has seen the edition of a transcription of the Llibre de simples medecines by Abu-l-Salt of Dénia (Barcelona, 2004). He has also published a dyer's textbook in Catalan from the 15th century (Barcelona, 2011).

In Antònia Carré's case, her research on the Espill, the long poem by the Valencian physician Jaume Roig (1992), culminated, on the one hand, in several works on the interrelationships between medieval academic Galenism and 14th and 15th century Catalan literature and, on the other, in her concern with studying and publishing a medieval medical text written in Catalan that were to be representative of the dissemination of that type of medicine. The chosen work was the Aphorisms by Hippocrates, preserved with the commentary by Galen, and partly edited shortly after (Barcelona, 2000). Her study and edition of the Catalan translation of Il Perché by Girolamo Manfredi provided the first opportunity for direct collaboration among the members of SCIÈNCIA.CAT. The Quesits o perquens by Manfredi in Catalan have been published in the collection Els Nostres Clàssics (Barcelona, 2004). She has also published the 16th century Spanish translation of the Manfredi's work (San Millán de la Cogolla, 2009). After many years of research on Jaume Roig's Espill, she has published an edition of this work, accompanied by a modern Catalan translation and extensive commentary (Barcelona, 2006).

This line of research has received much individual support since its beginning; however, we would like to emphasize that of three researchers whose roles were central to the present achievements: the much missed Luis García Ballester (CSIC, Barcelona), Danielle Jacquart (EPHE, París) and Lola Badia (Univ. de Barcelona); the two former coming from the history of science (medicine), and the latter from the history of (Catalan) literature.

Present time

he line of research has been carried out at the Department of Catalan Philology of the Universitat de Barcelona since 2003. The SCIÈNCIA.CAT team's work is currently made possible by a MEC funded research project located in the same Department. This work is aimed at the implementation of the database and the digital library, the multiplication of case studies through critical editions, the analysis of the translation process, scientific vocabulary, and the didactic and literary expression of social interest for science and technology.

Among the critical editions planned for the next few years are the Catalan translations of the Chirurgia by Teodorico Borgognoni, that of the Isagoge by Johannitius and that of the Regimen sanitatis by Arnau de Vilanova, the Llibre de la menescalia by Manuel Díez and the Espill by Jaume Roig. Among other minor texts due to be edited, it is worth mentioning the preserved fragment of the Lilium medicine by Bernard de Gordon and the Regles per a metges novells by Felip de Soldevila. These works are all in different stages of the editing process. See the Team's publications section.

Specialized teaching taking place in the same Department and the supervision of doctoral theses complement the research efforts and ensure the transmission of the acquired knowledge and experience.

Exchanges at different levels with other researchers and national and international research groups guarantee an adequate update of methods and contents, as well as improve the opportunities for getting acquainted with ongoing work. It is our hope that SCIÈNCIA.CAT, being an open window, will contribute to the deepening and enhancement of these exchanges.


2nd updated edition


« Nosaltres som infants o fadrins en col de gegant, car veure podem tot quant lo gegant fa e algun poch més, ço és, que los mestres antichs passats són dits gegants per altitud de ciència, e grans hòmens, e nós som dits fadrins fort petits a esgordament lur, però en col de gegant, ço és, en altitud de lur ciència, nosaltres podem veure tot ço que ells fan e han fet, e a vegades més »

Guy de Chauliac, Inventari de la cirurgia,
copy from ca. 1484-1487 (Vatican, BAV,
ms. 4804, f. 1r)



Guy de Chauliac, Inventari de la cirurgia,
copy from ca. 1484-1487 (Vatican, BAV,
ms. 4804, f. 1r)



Lluís Cifuentes                       
lluiscifuentes (at)

Antònia Carré
acarrep (at)

Centre de Documentació Ramon Llull
Universitat de Barcelona

Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 585
08007 Barcelona
Telephone: +34 93 403 56 29
Fax: +34 93 403 56 98