Jan Amos KOMENSKÝ - life, work, legacy



Within the history of European science, the effort to encompass all human knowledge has a tradition stretching as far back as Classical Antiquity. Comenius binds it to the Humanist authors, and for him the models for the working up of an encyclopaedia were provided by, amongst others, his teachers at the Herborn Academy, in particular his favourite professor, the author of an extensive encyclopaedia, Johann Heinrich Alsted. For Comenius it must have been tempting to collect into a single work all the knowledge of the world, but alongside this he wanted to provide his nation with a work in its own language that had hitherto been missing (as he himself emphasised in the Latin foreword to his Theatre of Universal Affairs, addressed to Czech intellectuals); in this sense, Comenius appears as a national Humanist. The results of his efforts towards creating an encyclopaedia are known today only in the form of the incomplete Czech works the Theatrum universitatis rerum and the  Amphitheatrum universitatis rerum (the Theatre of Universal Affairs). The review of the world that can be traced in the tow works was also intended to show the relationships between things, and in particular harmony and order, established in the world by the Creator and which Man disturbs. The encyclopaedic teaching was intended, then, to bring Man back into this order, to return the Divine harmony to God from the disharmony of disturbed affairs.

Comenius’ encyclopaedia was not in its character a dictionary, as it was intended to described, in coherent, related discussions, four theatres: the theatre of nature, the theatre of human life, the theatre of the globe of the world and the theatre of ages (the latter two parts being in the modern conception akin to geography and history, respectively). The famous textbook the Janua linguarum (the Gates of Language) is a similar encyclopaedia, which also in its particular organisation provides a view of the world, even though this is somewhat adapted to the teaching of languages. In the encyclopaedic an attempt to bring Man and education to the improvement of human affairs is lacking; Comenius came to this later.




Muzeum Jana Amose Komenského

Přemysla Otakara II. 37
Česká republika, EUROPE
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