Henry Totting of Oyta †1397

Auswahlbibliographie zu Heinrich Totting von Oyta (†1397 zu Wien),

von Harald Berger, Graz

Henry Totting of Oyta. Marienkirche, Friesoythe


Bernadette Preben-Hansen


Henry Totting of Oyta †1397. From Ockhamist, Nominalist, Thomist, Buridanist to influenced by Thomas Maulvelt (Manlevelt)

One of the German philosophers in Prague and Vienna in the 14C, Henry Totting of Oyta, was renowned in the late scholastic and early modern periods. Henry is associated with Friesoythe in Ost-Friesland near Oldenburg and Bremen in Niedersachsen. As for most schoolmen of the medieval schools and universities, nothing is known about Henry’s early life, and his origins remain unknown. We don’t know where Henry was educated, but in 1365 he was mentioned as a master of arts and student of theology at the University of Prague.

On Sunday, September 14, 1360, Henry lectured on Aristotle’s Meteora in Erfurt. This is the earliest known source of Henry. He was then a regent master of the Marienstift in Erfurt and probably a man in his 20's. Henry spent his entire career as a regent master in the schools of Erfurt and the faculties of Prague, Paris and Vienna, lecturing on the works of Aristotle, and as a theologian teaching in Prague and Vienna. He was producing Questions on Porphyry’s Isagoge, on Aristotle’s Categories, on Aristotle’s On Interpretation and abbreviations of Aristotle’s works: the “translations”. (Inaccurate ‘pronunciation’ of famous masters’ views in philosophy were banned by the university authorities in Prague in 1367). Henrys most famous work is his commentary on the Sentences, composed in Prague in the 1370's (William Duba), and his abbreviation of Adam Wodeham’s Ordinatio, produced between 1373 and 1378 (Courtenay 1978, 147).

Henry was active as a regent master in Prague from 1365. Here he produced most of his works in philosophy, commentaries and abbreviations on Aristotle. These years Henry was the teacher of John of Holland to become known in the history of medieval logic. In 1371-1373, Henry was in Avignon, where he was tried and cleared of heresy, before returning to Prague. He was teaching in Paris in 1377. In 1381, Henry left Paris - with the exodus of German scholars - to return to Prague. He was now a master of theology in Prague. From 1386 until his death in 1397, Henry was preaching and teaching in Vienna.

Today, it is in their capacity as prominent reorganisers of the University of Vienna that the two schoolmen, Henry of Langenstein and Henry Totting of Oyta, are remembered. In 1397 both schoolmen died and were buried in the St. Stephen's Cathedral (Stephansdom). But the two Henrys’ achievements - if any - as schoolmen have been almost forgotten.

This article will investigate the various claims made in the history of medieval philosophy in the 20th and 21st centuries about Oyta’s doctrinal positions, from Ockhamist, Nominalist, Thomist, Buridanist ("a pupil of Jean Buridan") to influenced by Thomas Maulvelt. Almost all claims are based on speculation, since none of Henry’s works were edited before the late 20C and the 21C. Based on the surviving manuscripts the article will investigate the doctrinal milieu at the arts faculties of Prague and Vienna in Henry’s lifetime, the influence of Oxford Logic and Sophismata, and the interaction between the Universities of Oxford and Prague.

We will look into the discussions and teaching logic at the schools of Erfurt and at the arts faculties of Prague and Vienna. The article will discuss what Henry was not - as a schoolman and a philosopher, and his milieu may turn out be even more interesting than Oyta himself. I am interested in the Faculty of Arts, in the reading and teaching of logic.