Skip to main content

Richard Lemay papers

Identifier: SCU-RBSC-2004-9

This collection documents the work of Richard Joseph Lemay (1916-2009), who was a scholar of medieval and Arabic philosophy and science. Lemay’s academic career spanned seven decades in three countries on two continents. His last appointment was as Professor Emeritus at the City University of New York (CUNY). He was a preeminent authority on the twelfth-century transmission of Arabic knowledge to the Western world. His 1962 historical narrative Abu Ma‘Shar and Latin Aristotelianism in the Twelfth Century: the Recovery of Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy through Arabic Astrology argued the larger role of astrology in philosophical thought during the early Medieval period and made him a pioneer in his field. In addition to the two book manuscripts, Lemay published a number of scholarly articles. A full bibliographical sketch is included at the end of this finding aid.

Arabic manuscripts were translated into Latin by several philosophers, resulting in numerous variants. The invention of the printing press in the late Medieval period facilitated the dispersal of these variant translations across Europe. Lemay attempted to track and reconcile the various translations by researching Europe’s medieval archives. He also translated many original Arabic texts and their Medieval Latin translations into French. Every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy in documenting these various translations in the collection.

A note about names, spellings, and titles within this collection. Many Arabic names have spelling variants throughout the collection. The Arabic philosopher Abu Ma‘Shar for instance may appear as Albu Mashar, Abou Ma‘Shar, Abu Masaar, Albu Masaar or Albunasar. Additionally, many original Arabic manuscripts are referred to either their Arabic title or their translated Latin title variously throughout the collection. For instance, Centiloquium, which Lemay argues is actually the work of Abu Ja‘far Ahmad ibn Yusuf and not the Greek Ptolemy, is known in Arabic as the Kitāb aṯ-Ṯamara and in Greek as the Karpos. Every attempt has been made to retain Lemay’s original spelling and usage, even in cases where Lemay moves between the various spellings within common and related files.

Lastly, Lemay often reused paper by printing on the back of old notes. Every attempt has been made to ensure the proper description of his records, disregarding old notes. However because Lemay did not always cross out old notes when he reused paper, this may cause some difficulty in researching the collection. In most cases Lemay’s files should be read as single-sided print and any printing on the reverse side should be considered old obsolete notes.


  • 1962 - 2004


Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research.

Publication Rights

All rights reside with the creator/repository. For permission to reproduce or publish, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections.


23 boxes (30.68 cubic feet)


June 30, 1916 - Born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

1936 - University of Montreal (B.A.)

1940 - University of Montreal (Licence of Theology [B.A.])

1940-1941 - Teacher, Religious Education, Jacques Cartier Normal School, Montreal

1943 - University of Montreal (Doctorate of Theology – completed, no degree)

1946 - Institute Albert-le-Grand (France) (Licence of Philosophy [B.A.])

1947-1949 - Foreign Correspondent (UN), Le Devoir, Montreal

1956 - Lecturer, Columbia University

1957 - Petri Pomponatii Mantuani Libri quingue de Fato, de Libero Arbitrio et de Praedestinatione

1958 - Columbia University (Ph.D. History)

1958-1965 - Assistant Professor, American University of Beirut (promoted to Associate professor during appointment)

1962 - Abu Ma ‘Shar and Latin Aristotelianism in the Twelfth Century: the Recovery of Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy through Arabic Astrology

1963 - Associate Director of Studies, Sorbonne High School of Practical Studies, France

1965-1968 - Researcher, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (National Center for Scientific Research), Paris

1968-1970 - Officer of Research, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris

1970-1975 - Associate Professor, Graduate School of the City University of New York (CUNY)

1973 - Lecturer, Center for Higher Studies of Medieval Civilization, University of Poitiers, France

1975-1986 - Professor, Graduate School of the CUNY

1986-1989 - Professor Emeritus, CUNY

May 11, 2004 - Death in New York


Gift of Dr. Helen Rodnite Lemay, 2004

Related Materials

The Richard Lemay Collection of Medieval and Arabic Philosophy and Science (500 titles). See library catalog.

The Robert B. Ariail Collection of Historical Astronomy. See library catalog.

Repository Details

Part of the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections Repository

Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library
1322 Greene Street
Columbia SC 29208 USA
(803) 777-3847

Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script