Index meliorum Authorum secundum artem. Descriptis per Antonium Morillonum, 1547

The Index meliorum autorum secundum artem[1] which is today hosted at the Municipal Library of Besançon was compiled by Antoine Morillon. We know he wrote the IMA in 1547 because of the added title and date at the first page of it, although there is no salutation or dedication to anybody, not even to Cardinal Granvelle (Morillon & Brooker, 2014, pp. 17). However, as a short indication in a passage on protestants authors reveals Granvelle could be the only recipient (Morillon & Brooker, 2014, pp. 17). Additionally, the IMA is bound with a letter to the Cardinal where Morillon tried to enhance his in-depth knowledge of the Ancient Grammatology. By providing specific examples and with a textual criticism approach,  he also explained the reasons one could encounter inaccuracies, incorrections and discrepancies because of the inattentiveness or ignorance by scribes and/or printers, (Morillon & Brooker, 2014, pp. 8–9).

Unfortunately, because of Antoine’s early death there is not even one publication by him but his correspondence and the IMA unveil his image as an important humanist of his time (Crawford, 1998b). Based on Ann Blair’s research on information management, if this term can be anachronistically used, we could infer that Morillon’s motivation was the publication of this work afterwards (A. M. Blair, 2011, p. 1).

Undoubtedly, based on the selected title for the catalogue, the research concludes that Morillon intended to  compile a recommendation list or catalogue on the best editions and works available at his time for the creation of an ideal library (Morillon & Brooker, 2014). Researchers today recognise that the purpose of the IMA was basically twofold. Firstly, it was certainly the organisation and building of a compendious library but secondly, and most importantly, it could serve as a sine qua non list for future acquisitions of Granvelle’s library (Morillon & Brooker, 2014).

The index was written in Latin and contained the titles of works written in the biblical languages, but mostly in Latin and Greek. It concluded with a list of around 100 Greek manuscripts belonging to the library of Mendoza. Morrilon used plenty of abbreviations of printers’ names and the cities of publication and thus the IMA consists of 8 leaves (11r-18v) (Morillon & Brooker, 2014, pp. 19). It was probably ready at the beginning of the year 1547 since all the publications that the reader finds are printed before this year and only three editions are printed in 1546.[2] The titles are organised under nine subject categories in chronological order based on the authors era. Already during his studying years, Morillon was appraised by his contemporaries on the way he was organizing his readings in loci communes.[3]

Although only 1/8 of Morillon’s recommended titles appeared to be hosted at the library of Cardinal Granvelle based on the inventory of 1607, it is certain that the IMA was a significant catalogue of reference for the building of Granvelle’s library. For the researcher and rare book scholar, T. Kimball Brooker the years 1456-1547 were of great significance for the creation of the surviving library of Granvelle since the acquisition of Italian books in great scale; the way of binding and displaying; and the finalisation of the IMA all happened at that same period (Morillon & Brooker, 2014, p. 24).

Ann Blair notes in her book, Too much to know that the volume of information is too overwhelming and requires some kind of organization to make the best use of it is not a phenomenon of today but rather a phenomenon that goes back to the early centuries of printing. The catalogues of published titles by printers and the indexes of banned books argue in this direction. Although Morillon’s IMA is quite an original compilation and its organization of the works can be a great source of information for knowledge perception at that time, it could not be presented as a unique creation. Indexes, catalogues, and lists of titles were rather than a common practice of the 16th century.


[1] MS Granvelle 90, ff. 11-18v

[2] As Brooker indicated the chronology 1546 appears in the Index four times, but one is a mistake on Morillon’s site heirs (Morillon & Brooker, 2014, pp. 20).

[3] This systematic subject categories by Antoine Morillon are referred by Stephanus Phigius in his work Themis dea.