Ramon Llull: literary work

Prologue of Ramon Llull’s works Blanquerna (1283-1285). Edition published in Valencia by Joan Joffre in 1521. Photoaisa.
First page of a 15th century edition of Llibre de la contemplació de Déu (‘Book of contemplation of God’), written by Ramon Llull between 1271 and 1274. Iberfoto. Photoaisa.
First page of the prologue of Libre del Orde de Cavaylería (‘Book of the Order of Chivalry’). Facsimile manuscript from the 15th century. Iberfoto. Photoaisa.
Cover of the Codex De Laudibus Beatissimae Virginis Mariae, by Ramon Llull. Edition published in Paris by Gui Marchand in 1499. Miniature. Barcelona. Biblioteca de Cataluña. M.C.Esteban/Iberfoto. Photoaisa.

There have been recorded up to 265 titles by Ramon Llull, of which only 30 original manuscripts still exist. Here are some of his major works, in chronological order:

  1. Ars compendiosa inveniendi veritatem (1274). ‘Art abbreviated to find the truth’. It is the first version of Art, inspired by the epiphany he had on the Mallorca mountain of Randa and written in the Monastery of La Real (Palma).
  2. Llibre de contemplació en Déu (1273-1274). ‘Book of Contemplation in God’. It is his first book. It has been described as “systematic encyclopaedia of God and nature” and “bibliographic cathedra” for its conceptual ambition and its size (over a thousand pages in its more compact version). It is a constant call to piety by a Llull that has just experienced conversion and cries for his sins.
  3. Llibre del Gentil e dels tres savis (1274-1276). ‘Book of the Gentile and the Three Wise Men’. Presents a religious controversy in tolerant terms between a Gentile who has no knowledge of God, a Jew, a Muslim and a Chistian. Llull demonstrates a high degree of knowledge of Islam and Judaism. The fiction shows an emotional and elegant debate based on binary combinations.
  4. Llibre de l’orde de cavalleria (1274-1276). ‘Book of Knighthood’. Short treatise on moral and religious values in the army.
  5. Doctrina pueril (1274-1276). ‘Childish Doctrine’. Catechism for secular public,
  6. Llibre d’Evast e Blanquerna (1283). ‘Book of Esvast and Blanquerna’. It is Ramon Llull’s great novel, frequently known as Blanquerna, and written in Montpellier. Blanquerna is the name of the main character a young monk, son of Esvast, who leaves his family and goes through a series of tests in the search of spiritual perfection. In his journey, he gets to the Abbot and the Pope and makes important decisions, always in a “correct” way. It contains the works Llibre d’Amic e Amat and Art de contemplació and it is the result of the maturity of his spiritual experience in Miramar.
  7. Llibre d’Amic e Amat (1283). ‘Book of Friend and Beloved’. It is a gem of mystical literature and presents the contemplative experience of Blanquerna de monk. Subtly evokes the Muslim Sufi tradition.
  8. Art demostrativa (1283). ‘Art demonstrative’. Written in Montpellier and it is a second version of the Art of 1274. It is accompanied by the Figures and Alphabet that make visible the structural components of the Art and facilitate the handling of the combinatory and calculus mechanisms.
  9. Llibre de meravelles (1287-1289). ‘Book of Marvels’. This book, also known as Felix is an ambitious didactic novel and was written during his first stay in Paris. The main character, Fèlix, is a pilgrim that observes surprised (in medieval Catalan “meravellat”, amazed) the reality of his time. Combines narrative and dialogues with didactic aspects. Contains the Llibre de les bèsties.
  10. Llibre de les bèsties (1288-1289). ‘Book of Beasts’. It has in Llibre de meravelles, the place that corresponds to a treatise in zoology, but in reality is a serious reflection on politics and corruption in a fable manner. In the character Renard (fox), Llull portrays some of the darkest sides of the human condition.
  11. Taula general (1293-1294). New version of Art that he writes between Tunis and Naples.
  12. Desconhort (1295 – 1305?). ‘Grief’. It is an elaborated debate between Ramon (ie, himself) and a hermit reticent about his cause. In the book he expresses his own disappointment, after thirty years of fighting for the Art. In this poem he incorporates literary devices from the troubadour poetry.
  13. Arbre de ciència (1295-1296). ‘Tree of Science’. Written in Rome, it is a version of the Art in the form of an encyclopaedia, intended to a non university public. It is not a traditional medieval-style catalogue; with sixteen arboreal symbols (corresponding to as many chapters), he shows the articulation between all sciences, according to the principles of Art. It is considered the most beautiful and complete of the lullian Art.
  14. Arbre exemplifical (1295-1296). ‘Tree exemplifier’. Is the fifteenth tree or chapter of Arbre de ciència. Offers examples of the fourteen previous trees, with a mainly thematic aspect; it has a literary, didactic and recreational dimension.
  15. Cant de Ramon (1300). ‘Ramon’s song’. This is an autobiography in verse, written in Mallorca that seeks the complicity of the reader to the author’s cause. In this poem, that resembles the troubadour’s poetry, he moans about the limited success of his venture with some emotional pieces.
  16. Retòrica nova (1301). ‘New Rhetoric’. This book gives rules and tips to make speeches, which must contain four elements; order, beauty, science and charity. Llull is aware of the power of rhetoric and he formulates it again.
  17. Lògica nova (1303). ‘New Logic’. He writes this book in Genoa. In this logic, that he calls “nova” (new) because is based on the Art, he pretends to make rules for the conception of reality more than to language, as it would be in a traditional logic treatise.
  18. Liber de fine (1305). Properly, Liber de maiore fine intellectus amoris et honoris (‘Book on the major purpose of intelligence: love an honour’. It is his most important political book and was written in Montpellier. It speaks of preaching to the “infidels” and of an eventual military crusade to the Holy Land as a geostrategic project that includes specific issues such as hierarchy and the itinerary.
  19. Art breu (1308). ‘Brief Art’. This book written in Pisa, was drafted with wish to simplify and thus as been the most widespread and read version of Art. It includes the Figures and Alphabet.
  20. Vita coetanea (1311). ‘Contemporary Life’. Autobiographic book that Llull dictated to a monk of the Charterhouse of Vauvert in Paris. Contains a number of details about his own life. It is considered one of the best medieval biographies.
  21. Fantàstic (1313). ‘Fantastic’. Treatise written durin the journey from Paris to Vienne, where the Ecumenical Council was to take place. It presents a dialogue between the priest Pere and Ramon (himself). He calls himself fantastic (“fantastic”) i.e. boig (“crazy”) in medieval Catalan.
  22. Art abreujada de predicació (1312-1313). ‘Short Art of Preaching’. Written during a stay in Mallorca. It is a collection of sermons and constitutes in fact an exposition of his idea of preaching, which way the most effective way of communication in the Middle Ages.

Ramon Llull quotations

«The arrogant man does not know himself or others»

Messages about Ramon Llull

Ramon Llull went on a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1265, aged thirty three.

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