Gregor Reisch  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Gregor Reisch (born at Balingen in Wurtemberg, about 1467; died at Freiburg, Baden, 9 May 1525) was a German Carthusian humanist writer. He is best known for his compilation Margarita philosophica. (1504 edition title was Aepitoma omnis phylosophiae, alias, Margarita phylosophica: tractans de omni genere scibili; the epitome of all philosophy, alias, the philosophical pearl, treating all sorts of knowledge.)


In 1487 he became a student at the University of Freiburg, Baden, and received the degree of magister in 1489. He then entered the Carthusian Order. During the years 1500-1502 he was prior at Klein-Basel; from 1503 to shortly before his death he was prior at Freiburg Charterhouse.

He was also visitor for the Rhenish province of his order. As visitor he made strenuous exertions to combat Lutheranism.

He was a friend of the most celebrated Humanists of the era. These included Erasmus, Wimpfeling, Beatus Rhenanus, Udalricus Zasius, and the celebrated preacher, Geiler of Kaisersberg. John Eck was his pupil. Reisch had a reputation for adaptability, and was regarded as an "oracle". He was one of the most conspicuous of the intellectuals at the commencement of the new era who sought to prepare encyclopedic works of knowledge.


His chief work is the Margarita philosophica, which first appeared at Freiburg in 1503. It is an encyclopedia of knowledge intended as a text-book for youthful students, and contains in twelve books Latin grammar, dialectics, rhetoric, arithmetic, music, geometry, astronomy, physics, natural history, physiology, psychology, and ethics. The usefulness of the work was increased by numerous woodcuts and a full index.

The form is catechetical: the scholar questions and the teacher answers. The book was very popular for its comparative brevity and form. It was long a customary textbook of the higher schools. Alexander von Humboldt said of it that it had "for a half-century, aided in a remarkable manner the spread of knowledge".

In 1510 Reisch also published the statutes and privileges of the Carthusian Order, and assisted Erasmus of Rotterdam in his edition of Jerome.


  • Petreius, Bibliotheca Carthusiana (Cologne, 1609), 109-112
  • Hugo von Hurter, Nomenclator, II (3rd ed. Innsbruck, 1906), 1278-79
  • Hartfelder, Gregor Reisch, in Zeitschrift fur die Geschichte des Oberrheins, New Series, V (Freiburg, 1890), 170-200.

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