I have often claimed Hugh of St. Victor (1096-1141) as my patron Saint on the basis of his injunction

Omnia disce, videbus postea nihil esse superfluum
(Learn everything, you will see later that nothing is superfluous)

His Didascalicon is available as a pdf of Jerome Taylor's masterful translation (1961), and further adumbrated in Ivan Illich's In the Vineyard of the Text: A Commentary to Hugh's Didascalicon (1993). Herewith some especially toothsome extracts from the Taylor translation:

The Didascalicon of Hugh of St. Victor aims to select and define all the areas of knowledge important to man and to demonstrate not only that these areas are essentially integrated among themselves, but that in their integrity they are necessary to man for the attainment of his human perfection and his divine destiny.

...it offered a survey of all they should ultimately read, and of the order, manner, and purpose which should govern their reading... The very title of the work places it squarely in a long antecedent tradition of didascalic, or didactic, literature concerned in various ways with what arts or disciplines a man should study and why he should acquire them...

...A crude index of its influence on its own and subsequent ages can be seen in its survival in nearly a hundred manuscripts of the twelfth through the fifteenth centuries, preserved in some forty-five libraries stretching across Europe from Ireland to Italy, from Poland to Portugal...

Soul has three kinds of power: the first produces growth and nourishment and is found in plants; the second includes the first and adds sense perception—it is found in animals; the third includes the first two and adds reason—it is found exclusively in man, whom it prompts to seek out the natures of things and instruction in morals...

There are three categories of things : eternal, in which existence and the existing individual are identical—such alone is the Begetter and Artificer of nature; perpetual, in which endless existence is conferred upon individuals by an extrinsic principle—such alone is nature, the twofold character of which is exemplified by the ousiai [being, essence, reality, substance] on the one hand and the superlunary bodies [thought to be perfect, incorruptible spheres, of a higher nature than lowly terrestrial] on the other; temporal, in which temporary existence is conferred by nature—such are the corporeal beings, or "works of nature," begotten upon the sublunary earth by an artifacting fire descending from above...

Man, who resembles the divine in his soul, is subject to necessity in his bodily or temporal part, which must be cherished and conserved in proportion to its weakness. The contemplation of truth and the practice of virtue, divine actions because they restore the divine likeness in man, constitute "understanding," higher of the two parts of wisdom. Understanding is theoretical when it concerns truth, practical when it concerns morals. "Knowledge," lower of the two parts of wisdom, is properly called "mechanical," that is, adulterate...

"This, then, is what the arts are concerned with, this is what they intend, namely, to restore within us the divine likeness . . . then there begins to shine forth again in us what has forever existed in the divine Idea or Pattern, coming and going in us but standing changeless in God."

"...Some say that nature alone exists and nothing else, and that God is nothing but the invention of empty fear, and that things were always as they are, from the beginning, before the beginning, without beginning. And the ages roll by, and nature produces and renews itself, and nothing can be different from what it has always been. Others declare the contrary and fight because of such insults to the Creator, and think that they are defending him, when in fact they too are attacking him with their lies. They say that there is an "opifex," [worker, maker, framer, fabricator] who shaped all things out of matter coeternal with himself, giving matter an improved form. These do not know the power of the Creator; they deny that anything has been made from nothing or can fall back into nothingness, and they make the work of the Creator consist only in shifting things about... Seeming to perceive the truth about creation, they fall into countless lies about the subsistence of things. They invent essences and forms and atoms and 'ideas of the principal constitutions' and numerous elements and infinite births and invisible motions and procreative agencies. And in all these things they multiply mere shadows of thought . . . and the truth is in none of them."

...Pagan knowledge he classifies thus:

I. Knowledge of things men have instituted:
A. In cooperation with demons: magic, soothsaying, omens, superstitious practices.
B. Among themselves
1. Unnecessarily and excessively: acting, dancing, painting, sculpture, fiction.
2. Usefully and indispensably: weights, measures, coins, uniforms, written notations, and various arrangements necessary for the management of society.
II. Knowledge of things done through time or divinely instituted
A. Pertaining to the senses
1. History.
2. Natural history.
3. Astronomy.
4. Useful corporeal arts
a. Those producing enduring effects like a house, a bench, or a dish.
b. Those assisting God in his works, like medicine, agriculture, government.
c. Those terminating in an action, like leaping, running, wrestling.
B. Pertaining to the reason:
1. The science of conclusions, definitions, and divisions.
2. Eloquence.
3. The science of number considered in itself or applied to figures, sounds , and motions.

Hugh was born a lord of Blankenburg in the diocese of Halberstadt toward the end of the eleventh century. His parents sent him to the newly founded Augustinian house of St. Pancras, Hamersleben, in the same diocese, to learn letters. There, captivated by love of learning, he chose to become a novice, despite the unwillingness of his parents. His uncle, Reinhard, was bishop of Halberstadt. When he was eighteen years of age, Bishop Reinhard, his diocese about to be devastated by the Emperor Henry V, sent Hugh to Paris accompanied by his uncle and namesake, the Archdeacon Hugh. The two Hughs traveled first to Marseilles, where they obtained relics of St. Victor from the monastery of that name. Subsequently, they went to Paris, where, on June 17 in approximately the year 1115, they offered both the relics and their vows to Gilduin, first abbot of the Paris Abbey of St. Victor. When, after a time, Hugh had confirmed his vows, he was placed in charge of studies in the trivium and quadrivium, and finally made master of the school. After twenty-five years of life at the Abbey, he died on February 11, 1140 or 1141.


"The things by which every man advances in knowledge are principally two—namely, reading and meditation. Of these, reading holds first place in instruction, and it is of reading that this book treats, setting forth rules for it. For there are three things particularly necessary to learn for reading: first, each man should know what he ought to read; second, in what order he ought to read, that is, what first and what afterwards; and third, in what manner he ought to read. These three points are handled one by one in this book. The book, moreover, instructs the reader as well of secular writings as of the Divine Writings....

"While the mind of man, then, so acts that it is always concerned with the apprehension of things before it or the understanding of things not present to it or the investigation and discovery of things unknown, there are two matters upon which the power of the reasoning soul spends every effort: one is that it may know the natures of things by the method of inquiry; but the other is that there may first come to its knowledge those things which moral earnestness will thereafter transform into action."...

Chapter Six: Concerning the Quadrivium
"Since, as we have said, the proper concern of mathematics is abstract quantity, it is necessary to seek the species of mathematics in the parts into which such quantity falls. Now abstract quantity is nothing other than form, visible in its linear dimension, impressed upon the mind, and rooted in the mind's imaginative part. It is of two kinds: the first is continuous quantity, like that of a tree or a stone, and is called magnitude; the second is discrete quantity, like that of a flock or of a people, and is called multitude. Further, in the latter some quantities stand wholly in themselves, for example, "three," "four," or any other whole number; others stand in relation to another quantity, as "double," "half," "once and a half," "once and a third," and the like. One type of magnitude, moreover, is mobile, like the heavenly spheres; another, immobile, like the earth. Now, multitude which stands in itself is the concern of arithmetic, while that which stands in relation to another multitude is the concern of music. Geometry holds forth knowledge of immobile magnitude, while astronomy claims knowledge of the mobile. Mathematics, therefore, is divided into arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy..."

Definition of the Quadrivium
"Arithmetic is therefore the science of numbers. Music is the distinguishing of sounds and the variance of voices. Or again, music or harmony is the concord of a number of dissimilar things blended into one. Geometry is the discipline treating immobile magnitude, and it is the contemplative delineation of forms, by which the limits of every object are shown. Putting it differently, geometry is "a fount of perceptions and a source of utterances." Astronomy is the discipline which examines the spaces, movements, and circuits of the heavenly bodies at determined intervals."

"...physics considers the pure actuality of fire, or earth, or air, or water, and, from a consideration of the nature of each in itself, determines the constitution and operation of something compounded of them. Nor ought we to overlook the fact that physics alone is concerned properly with things, while all the other disciplines are concerned with concepts of things. Logic treats of concepts themselves in their predicamental framework, while mathematics treats of them in their numerical composition."

"...The practical is divided into solitary, private, and public; or, put differently, into ethical, economic, andpolitical; or, still differently,into moral, managerial, and civil. Solitary, ethical, and moral are one; as also are private, economic, and managerial and public, political, and civil. Oeconomus means manager, whence economic science is called managerial. Polis is the Greek word for the Latin civitas, or state, whence politics, the civil science, derives its name. And when we speak of ethics as a subdivision of the practical, we must reserve the word for the moral conduct of the individual, so that ethical science and solitary science are the same."

"...Mechanical science contains seven sciences: fabric making, armament, commerce, agriculture, hunting, medicine, and theatrics. Of these, three pertain to external cover for nature, by which she protects herself from harms, and four to internal, by which she feeds and nourishes herself. In this division we find a likeness to the trivium and quadrivium, for the trivium is concerned with words, which are external things, and the quadrivium with concepts, which are internally conceived."

"...Commerce contains every sort of dealing in the purchase, sale, and exchange of domestic or foreign goods. This art is beyond all doubt a peculiar sort of rhetoric—strictly of its own kind—for eloquence is in the highest degree necessary to it... Commerce penetrates the secret places of the world, approaches shores unseen, explores fearful wildernesses, and in tongues unknown and with barbaric peoples carries on the trade of mankind. The pursuit of commerce reconciles nations, calms wars, strengthens peace, and commutes the private good of individuals into the common benefit of all."

"...Invention and judgment are integral parts running through the whole theory of argument, whereas demonstration, probable argument, and sophistic are its divisive parts, that is, mark distinct and separate subdivisions of it. Demonstration consists of necessary arguments and belongs to philosophers; probable argument belongs to dialecticians and rhetoricians; sophistic to sophists and quibblers. Probable argument is divided into dialectic and rhetoric, both of which contain invention and judgment as integral parts: for since invention and judgment integrally constitute the whole genus, that is, of argumentative logic, they are necessarily found in all of its species at once. Invention teaches the discovery of arguments and the drawing up of lines of argumentation. The science of judgment teaches the judging of such arguments and lines of argumentation."

"...Grammar is the knowledge of how to speak without error; dialectic is clear-sighted argument which separates the true from the false; rhetoric is the discipline of persuading to every suitable thing."

"...Meditation is sustained thought along planned lines: it prudently investigates the cause and the source, the manner and the utility of each thing. Meditation takes its start from reading but is bound by none of reading's rules or precepts. For it delights to range along open ground, where it fixes its free gaze upon the contemplation of truth, drawing together now these, now those causes of things, or now penetrating into profundities, leaving nothing doubtful, nothing obscure. The start of learning, thus, lies in reading, but its consummation lies in meditation; which, if any man will learn to love it very intimately and will desire to be engaged very frequently upon it, renders his life pleasant indeed, and provides the greatest consolation to him in his trials."

"...Now the beginning of discipline is humility. Although the lessons of humility are many, the three which follow are of especial importance for the student: first, that he hold no knowledge and no writing in contempt; second, that he blush to learn from no man; and third, that when he has attained learning himself, he not look down upon everyone else. Many are deceived by the desire to appear wise before their time. They therefore break out in a certain swollen importance and begin to simulate what they are not and to be ashamed of what they are; and they slip all the farther from wisdom in proportion as they think, not of being wise, but of being thought so."

"...There is no one to whom it is given to know all things, no one who has not received his special gift from nature. The wise student, therefore, gladly hears all, reads all, and looks down upon no writing, no person, no teaching. From all indifferently he seeks what he sees he lacks, and he considers not how much he knows, but of how much he is ignorant."

"...Gladly learn from all what you do not know, for humility can make you a sharer in the special gift which natural endowment has given to every man. You will be wiser than all if you are willing to learn from all."

"...You can now see how necessary to you is that humility which will prompt you to hold no knowledge in contempt and to learn gladly from all. Similarly, it is fitting for you that when you have begun to know something, you not look down upon everyone else. For the vice of an inflated ego attacks some men because they pay too much fond attention to their own knowledge, and when they seem to themselves to have become something, they think that others whom they do not even know can neither be nor become as great. So it is that in our days certain peddlers of trifles come fuming forth; glorying in I know not what, they accuse our forefathers of simplicity and suppose that wisdom, having been born with themselves, with themselves will die."

"...as for the remaining part of learning, namely meditation, I omit saying anything about it in the present work because so great a matter requires a special treatise, and it is more worthy to be altogether silent about a matter of this sort than to say anything about it imperfectly. For it is a thing truly subtle and at the same time delightful, one which both educates beginners and exercises the perfect, one which has not yet been treated in writing and which therefore deserves all the more to be followed up."