Online Medieval Sources Bibliography

An Annotated Bibliography of Printed and Online Primary Sources for the Middle Ages

Source Details

Copeland, Rita and Sluiter, Ineke, eds., "Arts of Language, ca. 300 - ca. 950" (Medieval Grammar and Rhetoric: Language Arts and Literary Theory, AD 300-1475, Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 61-310)

Text name(s): 

Number of pages of primary source text: 248


Dates: 300 - 950

Archival Reference: 

Original Language(s): 

  • Latin


  • Translated into English.

Translation Comments: Translations are cited with their specific sources throughout the chapter.

Geopolitical Region(s): 

  • Europe


Record Types: 

  • Commentary / Gloss / Exegesis
  • Treatise - Other
  • Treatise - Instruction/Advice

Subject Headings: 

  • Literature - Didactic
  • Grammar / Rhetoric
  • Education / Universities
  • Classics / Humanism


  • Index
  • Bibliography
  • Introduction


This chapter is part of a larger volume, Medieval Grammar and Rhetoric: Language Arts and Literary Theory, AD 300 – 1475, edited by Rita Copeland and Ineke Sluiter. This volume explores the history of the formulation of grammar and rhetoric as essential subjects taught in medieval schools. For anyone interested in medieval grammar and rhetoric, this is an essential book with detailed introductions, notes, bibliography, and indexes of Latin terms, Ancient and Medieval names, and a general index.

The following excerpts are found in the first chapter, “Arts of Language, ca. 300 – ca. 950”:
  • Terentianus Maurus, De litteris, De syllabis, trans. Cignolo
  • Aelius Donatus, Ars Minor, Ars Maior, Life of Virgil, trans. Keil, ed. Hardie
  • Marius Victorinus, Commentary on the De inventione, ed. Halm
  • Servius, Commentary on the Aeneid, ed. Thilo and Hagen
  • Tiberius Claudius Donatus, Interpretationes Vergilianae, ed. Georges
  • Martianus Capella, De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii, trans. Stahl and Johnson
  • Priscian, Institutiones grammaticae, Institutio de nomine pronomine verbo, ed. Keil
  • Boethius, De topicis differentiis, Book 4, trans. Stump
  • Cassiodorus, Expositio Psalmorum, _Institutiones, trans. Walsh and Jones
  • Isidore of Seville, Etymologiae, ed. and trans. Lindsay and Marshall
  • Virgilius Maro Grammaticus, Epistolae, Epitomae, trans. Law
  • Bede, De arte metrica, De schematibus et tropis, ed. and trans. Kendall
  • Alcuin, Ars grammatica, Disputatio de rhetorica et de virtutibus, trans. Halm
  • Glosses on Priscian by Remigius and his Followers (Ninth and Tenth Centuries), ed. de Marco and Huygens

Introduction Summary: 

The general introduction (60 pages) delves into the history of the study of grammar and rhetoric in the Middle Ages and its contributors. The scientific classification of knowledge and arts is summarized as a way to begin the discussion of the importance of grammar as the “logic of language.” Medieval grammarians and scholars built on the classical foundations of rhetoric and grammar and systematized them into the study of language. Grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric were included in the trivium of the seven languages arts, which were studied at the first universities. The introduction also provides an analysis of figurative language in grammar and rhetoric, poetics, forms of fiction, reading as an invention, and the ethics of grammar and rhetoric.

The short (10-page) introduction discusses the classical roots of medieval grammar and rhetoric from Plato and Aristotle to Cicero. Traditionally, the function of grammar was to teach language and to instruct as well as make judgements about literature, while rhetoric was initially a separate art. However, in early Christian times, the two disciplines became interlocked. Ciceronian rhetoric was highly prevalent through ca. AD 1100, and works by Victorinus and Boethius caused an attachment of rhetoric with dialectic, promoting the use of rhetoric side by side with grammar. Cicero’s De inventione and Rhetorica ad Herennium are summarized along with their enormous impact and influence on medieval scholars and monastic schools in the Middle Ages. Other influential works by Bede, Donatus, Martianus Capella, Cassiodorus, and Isidore of Seville are mentioned as continuing the classical traditions of rhetoric, dialectic, and grammar and combining them into a medieval system of language arts. Each excerpt in the chapter is preceded by a 2-3 page introduction with background information about the author and their work’s impact on the study of grammar and rhetoric.

Cataloger: AKP