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Notker Labeo


Benedictine scholar, one of the earliest authors to translate Latin works into German, for which he was given the nickname Teutonicus; b. Thurgau, Switzerland, c. 950; d. Abbey of Sankt Gallen, June 29, 1022. Notker Labeo was one of four nephews of Abbot Ekkehard I to enter the community at sankt gallen, which he joined as an oblate. Widely read in all branches of knowledge, he was later chosen to direct the monastic school, where one of his pupils was Ekkehard IV. In a letter (P. H. Piper, 1:85961) to Bp. Hugh of Sion (d. 1017) Notker lists his works; of 11 translations, but only five are extant. His clear poetic style, which made him the earliest master of German prose, appears in his translations of boethius's De consolatione philosophiae, the two extant books of Martianus Capella's De nuptiis Mercurii et philologiae, the Categories and Hermeneutics of aristotle (from an earlier translation into Latin by Boethius), and in the psalter, perhaps Notker's most famous work (an Old High German-Latin interlinear text, MS Sankt Gallen 21, dating from c. 1100). No copies have been found of Notker's translations of Boethius's De trinitate and Elements of Arithmetic (?), Vergil's Bucolica, the disticha catonis, Terence's Andria, and the Homilia in Job of Pope gregory the great, to which Notker devoted his last days.

Notker wrote an original work in German on music, about the measurement of organ pipes, among other subjects. It is the first known German work on music. He is the author of a Latin work, the Computus, about how to determine dates, especially that of Easter. He is credited also with a Latin textbook, De arte rhetorica, composed principally of excerpts from Boethius.

Notker also contributed to the development of German orthography; in the letter to Hugh of Sion he recommended accents for German words (acute for short vowels, circumflex for long). His contribution to the German vernacular may be compared to alfred the great's work in making Anglo-Saxon a literary language. Like Alfred, Notker translated the Latin classics to make them available to a wider audience.

Bibliography: Works. Die Schriften Notkers und seiner Schule, ed. p. h. piper, 3 v. (Freiburg 1895). Notkers des Deutschen Werke, ed. e. h. sehrt and t. starck, 7 v. (Halle 193355). Literature. j. m. clark, The Abbey of St. Gall as a Centre of Literature and Art (Cambridge, Eng. 1926), passim. m. manitius, Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur des Mittelalters (Munich 191131) 2:694699. É. amann, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 11.1:806807. o. a. dieter, The Rhetoric of Notker Labeo (St. Louis 1940). w. von den steinen, Notker, der Dichter und seine geistige Welt, 2 v. (Bern 1948). a. k. dolch, Notker-Studien, 2 v. (Borna-Leipzig 195152). i. schrÖbler, Notker III. von St. Gallen als Übersetzer und Commentator von Boethius (Tübingen 1953). e. h. sehrt, Notker-Wortschatz (Halle 1955). f. l. cross, The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church (London 1957) 967. j. duft, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner (Freiberg 195765) 7:1051.

[b. j. comaskey]

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