Central and Eastern Europe

Authored by: Benedek Láng

The Routledge History of Medieval Magic

Print publication date:  February  2019
Online publication date:  February  2019

Print ISBN: 9781472447302
eBook ISBN: 9781315613192
Adobe ISBN:


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The first general statement on the dissemination of magic texts in Central and Eastern Europe was put forward by David Pingree, who claimed that copies of such texts “found an attentive audience only after about… 1400 in Central Europe.” 1 As a matter of fact, scholars did find sporadic traces of learned magic from earlier periods, for example, an illustrated copy of the Secretum secretorum was part of the royal library of Angevin Louis the Great, King of Hungary (1342–82) and Poland (1370–82). 2 However, Pingree’s claim proved to be largely true. This seemingly belated arrival of the genre of learned magic to the Central and Eastern European area relates to several factors, among which three should be emphasized here: the relatively late institutionalization of universities (the first ones funded in the mid-fourteenth century, but reorganized and stabilized only around or after 1400); the late rise of general literacy in the royal courts; and the poor survival rate of earlier medieval codices in the libraries. As a consequence of the phenomenon pointed out by Pingree, this chapter will cover by and large one single century, the period between 1400 and 1500. Nevertheless, some geographical territories will be missing almost altogether from the survey. Bulgaria, Serbia and Russia for example have become favourite fields of magic scholars; their source material, however, almost completely lacks pre-1500 texts.

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