Title

Theophrastus onLyngurium– Medieval and renaissance lore from the classical lapidary tradition

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

11-5-2010

Abstract

The ancient philosopher Theophrastus (c. 371-285 BC) described a gemstone called lyngurium, purported to be solidified lynx urine, in his work De lapidibus ('On Stones'). Knowledge of the stone passed from him to other classical authors and into the medieval lapidary tradition, but there it was almost always linked to the 'learned master Theophrastus'. Although no physical example of the stone appears to have been seen or touched in ancient, medieval, or early modern times, its physical and medicinal properties were continually reiterated and elaborated as if it did 'exist'. By the seventeenth century, it began to disappear from lapidaries, but with no attempt to explain previous authors' errors since it had never 'existed' anyway. In tracing the career of lyngurium, this study sheds some light on the transmission of knowledge from the classical world to the Renaissance and the changing criteria by which such knowledge was judged.

Publisher's Statement

© 2001 Taylor & Francis Ltd. Publisher's version of record: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/000337900110041371

Publication Title

Annals of Science