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Exemplary Tree

The fifteenth Tree of the Tree of Science plays a complementary role in relation to the first fourteen, which set forth the encyclopedic contents proper to the 13th century, in accordance with the Art. The function of the Exemplary Tree (Arbre exemplifical) was to provide science with a literary dimension which might render it suitable for dissemination, in a pleasing and playful way. Llull expressly stated that he sought the friendship of those who read his book. He also plainly connected dissemination with preaching: sermons relating to doctrinal matters might profitably be enriched by didactic material thanks to the ‘exempla’ from the Exemplary Tree. We are not considering a closed compendium of stories, proverbs, images and ‘sententiae’, but rather of an intellectual artifact which ought to teach us how to produce this kind of effect on the basis of the facts of universal knowledge.

The Exemplary Tree, like the other Trees of the Tree of Science, has seven parts: roots, trunk, boughs, branches, flowers, leaves and fruit, each of which is applied selectively to the equivalent parts of the fourteen preceding trees. Thus the roots contain eighteen ‘narratives’ or moral fables relating to the four elements and the general principles of the Art, in which Llull makes great use of personification. The trunk, on the other hand, is made up of fourteen series of proverbs which can be applied to all the trees. In the boughs we find fifteen ‘exempla’ also related to the previous trees, while the branches operate likewise, combining narratives and proverbs. The leaves present fourteen ‘exempla’ relating the Aristotelian accidents to the contents of the previous trees. The flowers offer seventeen series of proverbs, and the fruit, fourteen ‘exempla’. The last one of all explains the purpose of the accumulation of knowledge: to prepare the spirit, so as to raise it to the contemplation of God.

The treatment of these concise literary forms in the Exemplary Tree is the most innovative, surprising and stimulating project in Ramon Llull’s ‘new’ literature.

“And since the material is vast, as a result of this vastness, being as we are very busy with other things, we can make no progress. Moreover, since people shun long-windedness, this is all the more reason why we want to speak briefly concerning this tree. However, as we will explain, we will give a doctrine of how the reader will be able to discover new proverbs and new “recontaments”, and thus increase his understand according to the vast material presented in this tree.” (Prologue of the Exemplary Tree).