Wednesday 24 November 2010

From Quadrivium to... Trivium

New from
Beauty for Truth's Sake was about the four liberal arts known collectively as the Quadrivium. I wanted it to be as practically helpful as possible to people working to reintegrate wisdom and a sense of beauty and the sacred back into education. On this blog and on the main site where the book is listed I continue to place material to supplement what is in the book. One of the resources I recommended is a series of little paperbacks published by Wooden Books on topics such as Harmony, Sacred Geometry, Astronomy, etc. Now the publisher has rolled all these little books into one impressive textbook, the cover of which is reproduced on the right. I thought you'd like to know!

So that is the Quadrivium. But that is only four of the seven liberal arts. Maybe now we should turn our attention to the remaining three, the Trivium of grammar, logic and rhetoric. According to Hugh of Saint Victor, summarizing the tradition in the high Middle Ages, "Grammar is the knowledge of how to speak without error; dialectic is clear-sighted argument which separates the true from the false; rhetoric is the discipline of persuading to every suitable thing." The Quadrivium is about mathematical symbols and geometry (numbers and shapes), while the Trivium is about verbal symbols and the arts of language. The interest of educators in the Trivium and in the Classical Curriculum generally was fuelled by a famous essay of Dorothy Sayers called "The Lost Arts of Learning". (There is also a classic textbook on the subject by Sister Miriam Joseph). It is widely agreed that the skills of speaking, thinking, remembering, communicating and debating are endangered by a culture of instant electronic social networking, images and sound-bites. Yet if we cannot think for ourselves, what becomes of our freedom?


  1. Wooden Books used to be very good but no more.
    A change of style means they are now illegible for my tired old eyes.
    They are smaller than they used to be and they are now printed in brown ink on cream paper which is impossible to read.
    Sorry but this change is a victory for the marketing people - style is more important than substance.
    The four I bought recently remain unread which is a pity because their authors are worth reading.

  2. I understand, although this particular hardback book is printed on larger, whiter pages and combines the text of six of their little paperbacks plus some extra pages, so it may be easier to read.