Duraclusius on Trithemius: English translation
Abbot Johann Trithemius was born in the town of Tritenheim, in the diocese of Trier, on the banks of the river Mosel, at eleven hours and thirteen minutes after noon on the first of February in the year of our Lord 1462, in the tenth Roman indiction. His father was Johann of Heidelberg and his mother was called Elizabeth of Longuich. This was the year in which the city of Mainz was caught up in the feud between the two bishops and lost its freedom, and many citizens were forced into exile; the fourth year of Pope Pius II and the twenty second year of Emperor Frederick III. On the first of February in the year of our Lord 1482, his birthday, he was clothed as a monk according to the rule of our father St Benedict of the newly introduced observance in the monastery of Sponheim in the diocese of Mainz. The next year, 1483, Abbot Johannes Kolenhausen was translated to Selgenstadt in accordance with canon law and Johann Trithemius was promoted to abbot of the monastery of Sponheim by a vote of all the brethren on 28 June at the age of 23 years, one month and 19 days. After all this he had many troubles with envious rivals provoking him and resigned of his own accord to take the office of abbot of St James at Würzburg which had been offered him, leaving the pointless troubles of Sponheim behind him. In both places he wrote a great many books and latterly sent me the list below which he wrote in his own hand. Since you asked for their titles, I am happy to oblige a friend with them, to retain sharper memories of our mutual friend and teacher from the reminder of the work he put into them. First I list the titles which he wrote in Sponheim, working on them in his time as abbot.
Firstly, he wrote the constitutions of his order issued at the provincial
chapters by order of the presidents: one book.
On the visitation of monks: one book.
On the manner of holding a provincial chapter: one book.
On the rule of St Benedict: two books.
Homilies and motivating sermons to monks: two books which he dedicated to his predecessor.
On the temptations of the cloistered and their remedies: two books.
To Nicholas the priest of Mernix on the priestly life: one book.
Against fraud amongst monks: one book.
On the vanity and poverty of this life: one book.
A penthic, that is a lament on the downfall of his order: one book.
On the distinguished men of his order: four books.
In praise of the Carmelite order: two books.
In praise of scribes, to Gerlac, Abbot of Deutz: one book.
On ecclesiastical writers, to Johann Dalburg, Bishop of Worms: one book.
In praise of St Anne the grandmother of our Lord: one book.
In response to Rutger Sicamber, canon of Deutz: one book.
A chronicle of his monastery of Sponheim (a hefty volume): one book.
A chronicle or annals of the monastery of Hirsgau, two large volumes.
A chronicle of the succession of the dukes of Bavaria and counts Palatine,
to Count Philip the Prince Elector: one book.
A life of St Hirmina the nun and first abbess in ??? of Trier: one book.
On the misery of monastic prelates: two books.
In praise of St Andrew the apostle: one book.
In praise of St Joseph, foster father of our Lord: one book.
In praise of St Benedict the abbot: one book.
In praise of the monastic life: one book.
In praise of true repentance: one book.
In praise of the study of holy scripture: one book.
A monologue with himself of a man devoted to God: one book.
On the miracles of mother St Anne: one book.
Response to Udalrich canon of Cologne on the gospel of John: one book.
Response to the same on the Psalms: one book.
To the presidents of the annual chapters of the Bursfeld observance, abbreviating the statutes of that union: one book.
A spiritual exercise for monks: one book.
An epitome or abbreviation of the same: one book.
On the calculation of Easter: one book.
On the great writers of Germany, to Jakob Wimpfeling of Rhedapolis: one book.
Sponheim letters to various people: four books.
Talks given at chapters and elsewhere, 24 in number: making one book.
Excellent sermons to his brethren at the monastery of Sponheim, 40 in number: one book.
Sermons to the people on feast days: one book.
Many prayers to God and more intercessions to the saints: one book.
He translated a sermon of Abbot Maximus on the incarnation of the Lord from Greek into Latin: one book.
Also the anathema promulgated by St Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria, against the heretics at the third council of Ephesus: and some letters from the same council.
He wrote a remarkable work for the edification of monks which he called the triple region of religious people: three books.
He wrote other minor books whose titles he did not send me. So these, Nicholas, are the works of Trithemius which he wrote to the glory of God over 23 years at Sponheim. Amidst responsibilites and his continuing ordinary work, he would read and write day and night whenever he could snatch the leisure for it. He built up a great treasury of books on all subjects at the Sponheim library over the years when he was in charge, not just printed books but handwritten ones too. When I was with him for a year to learn Greek and Hebrew, I counted 2000 volumes in the library, at least 800 of them beautifully written in pen and ink on parchment and paper. I often heard him say that he had laid out more than 2000 florins on books, paid for not out of the abbey’s endowment, which was often in the red, but being popular with the princes, he spent the gifts with which they honoured him as much as possible on books. He is the greatest lover and admirer of books I ever knew in my life. It is widely said that his successor, the present abbot of Sponheim, sold a good many of them; whether truly or falsely I do not know. In the year of our Lord 1504 a terrible war broke out between the kingdom and Philip the Count Palatine, and from fear of the enemy, Trithemius moved with his library and the abbey property to the nearby town of Kreutznach, and I likewise went back home. In October 1506 Trithemius was goaded by the envy of certain individuals to accept the abbey of St Jakob at Würzburg, resigning from Sponheim. There he quietly wrote a variety of things, and when I recently asked him for a list he sent me one.
He drew up a remarkable work for Emperor Maximilian which he entitled Polygraphia: six books.
A key to the same Polygraphia: one book.
Responses to eight questions from the same emperor: one book.
To the same, on the seven intelligences which move the spheres: one book.
To Joachim Marquess of Brandenburg, prince elector, various questions, talks and theses: twenty books.
To the same on ideas permissible and not permissible for Christians: two books.
To the same he wrote that remarkable and heavygoing book Steganographia: eight books, which the insolent Bovillus misunderstood and subjected to intemperate and untrue criticism.
Letters to the same prince: one book.
Against evildoers and all arts and superstitions forbidden by the church: five books.
On the causes and remedy for fleeting illness and evildoers: three books.
An outline of his life, to Jakob Trithemius his brother: two books.
To Burghard of Horneck, physician, on the property of nuns: one book.
He wrote a history or the annals of the origins, kings and deeds of the Frankish and German people in three great volumes. The story begins with King Marcomer who led his people from Scythia to Germany in 433 BC, reaching the mouths of the Rhine, and ends with the twenty eighth and ninth years of Emperor Maximilian.
An epitome or abbreviation of the same three volumes for Lorenz, Bishop of Würzburg and Duke of eastern Francia: three books.
On the dukes and bishops of the Würzburg Franks to the same: one book.
On the miracles shown in memory of Our Lady at Dittelsbach: two books.
On the miracles of the same shown in ??? at Helprunn: six books.
An apology against Carolus Bouillus who slandered what he did not understand: one book.
On the origins and kings of the Franks: one book.
A chronicle of the monastery where he now presides, St Jakob at Würzburg: one book.
A life of holy Rabanus the superior to Albert, joint Margrave of Brandenburg, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg: three books.
On the translation of the same from Mainz to Saxony: one book.
A life of the bishop St Maximus: one book.
On the origins, kings and dukes of Bavaria and of the counts palatine and counts of Sponheim, to Johann Count Palatine, Duke of Bavaria and Count in Sponheim, of Symern: four books.
He is working on a serious work on demons and profane, harmful and superstitious arts: to consist of twelve volumes in which he explodes, confounds and overturns all the sleights of devilry.
The Würzburg letters, which he wrote in the abbey there: four books.
He wrote many other minor books suitable for his devotions and those of his friends: being a breviary, rosary, office missal and various prayers, also essays or sequences on St Anne the grandmother of our saviour.
He also wrote praises, prayers and a rosary of St Mary Magdalene.
A rosary of St Joseph, foster father of the Lord.
A rosary of St Peter the apostle.
A rosary of St John the evangelist.
A sequence on St Anne, at the request of Johann, Archbishop of Trier, begining Jesus king of heaven to the melody Hail the glorious.
Another to be sung on her feast, beginning Let them exult on this day.
A third to the provincial of the Carmelites of Augsburg, beginning Let us rejoice in honour.
A fourth on St Hildegard the virgin, beginning Praise to Thee Lord, king of eternal glory.
A fifth on St Rupert, Duke of Bingen, beginning Let them exult in this day.
A sixth on St Joseph, foster father of the Lord, beginning: Let us praise the famous.
A seventh on St Rabanus the archbishop.
An eighth on the wounds of Christ, beginning Let us adore Jesus Christ, let us weep with the crucified.
A ninth on the compassion of blessed Mary ever virgin, beginning Let us weep with pious mind, suffering with the blessed virgin Mary, to the tune Hail the glorious.
A tenth on St Joachim the father of our Lady, beginning Let us praise the Trinity, let us laud the Unity.
An eleventh on the special good angel of each human.
A twelfth on the proper of the mass for each priest.
A thirteenth on St Maximus, bishop of Mainz.
A fourteenth on St Martha the virgin, hostess of Christ.
A fifteenth on St Mary Magdalen.
A sixteenth on St Mary of Egypt.
A seventeenth on St James the Great, apostle.
An eighteenth on St Andrew the apostle.
A nineteenth on St Benedict the abbot.
A twentieth on All Saints.
And he composed new individual offices of the mass for individual memorials and saints, in conformity with holy scripture.
He also wrote meditations and prayers on the incarnation, birth, life, passion and death of our Lord for use in devotions: two books.
A handbook of heavenly doctrine, no mean aid to mental compunction, beginning The start of human salvation.
He also composed many devout meditations and prayers on our Lord Jesus Christ, his most holy virgin mother Mary, and various saints with beautiful variety: together with other great works which posterity shall see and wonder at.
These, dear Nicholas, are the works of our abbot Trithemius, written over nearly thirty years of study, not including ones which are still in progress and as yet unknown to me.
Good wishes from my home at Duraclusanum
5 October 1515
Here ends the list of works of Johann Trithemius, abbot of St Jakob at Würzburg, from a letter of his pupil Johann Duraclusius to Nicolaus Hamer of Emelanum.