John Peckham

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John Peckham (or Pecham) (c. 1230 – 1292) was a native of Sussex who was educated at Lewes Priory and became a Franciscan friar about 1250. He studied under Bonaventure at the University of Paris and became regent master (official lecturer) in theology. He was a conservative theologian who debated Thomas Aquinas with some success. He also taught at Oxford University and then traveled to Rome via France, to study law. In Rome he received a papal appointment to the position of Lector Sacri Palatii (theological lecturer) in the papal palace schools, where his lectures were attended by large audiences, including many bishops and cardinals. After one or two years in Rome, he was appointed by Pope Nicholas III as Archbishop of Canterbury (1279–1292), where he became known as one of the three earliest champions of English clerical reform.

Peckham's views on experimental science were guided by Robert Grosseteste and Roger Bacon. His work on optics, Perspectiva Communis, was a standard reference through the seventeenth-century. In it, he describes experiments and expounds upon a variety of topics including reflection, concave mirrors, eye anatomy and theories of vision, refraction and theories of the rainbow. He also produced works on mathematics and natural philosophy, to include discussions on astronomy, astrology and cosmology.


  • And therefore, Sire, altho' I am ready, so far as is in me, to dedicate the place for the Cistercian monks at Meynan, yet I could not do it without the full assent of the bishop and of his chapter, and of the parson of the place, who, with plenty of other people, have a very great horror of the approach of the forsaid monks. For though they may be good men, if God please, still they are the hardest neighbours that prelates and parsons could have. For where they plant their foot, they destroy towns, take away tithes, and curtail by their privileges all the power of prelacy.
    • Footnote: Mr. Martin [editor] remarks upon this letter: "The avarice of the Cistercians had already been noticed by Richard I., who, when accused of having at home three daughters whom he loved more than the grace of God, viz., Pride, Luxury, and Avarice, replied: 'No, they are no longer at home. My daughter Pride I have married to the Templars, Luxury to the Black Monks, and Avarice to the White Monks.'" (Pref. to Vol. II., Peckham's Register p. lviii.)
    • Letter DLIV (June 14, 1284) Archbishop Peckham to King Edward I., from (Charles Trice Martin, ed.) Registrum epistolarum fratris Johannis Peckham: Archiepiscopi Cantuariensis quoted in Georg Herzfeld (ed.) An Old English Martyrology (1900)
  • As you see double if you push the eye out of its place with your finger; so prelates, through evil counsel, judge a priest to be worthy of two benefices, when he ought to be contented with one.
    • De Oculo Morali quoted in Georg Herzfeld (ed.) An Old English Martyrology (1900)
  • Formerly the Church with its prelates of old time, was golden in wisdom, silver in cleanness of life, brazen in eloquence, which are three things needful to a preacher; that is, brightness of wisdom, cleanness of life, and sonorousness of eloquence. But of the feet, the last, that is the modern prelates, part is iron through their hardness of heart, and part is clay by their carnal luxury.
    • De Oculo Morali quoted in Georg Herzfeld (ed.) An Old English Martyrology (1900)
  • [Perspectiva communis was written to] compress into concise summaries the teachings of perspective, which [in existing treatises] are presented with great obscurity.
    • as quoted by John Freely, Before Gaileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe (2012)
  • Light from a concave luminous body is received most powerfully at the centre. The reason for this is that, for every point of a concave body, perpendicular rays, which are stronger than others, converge in the centre. Therefore the virtues of celestial bodies are incident most powerfully in and near the centre of the world.
    • Note the assumption that the heavenly sphere is concave with respect to the earth.
    • Perspectiva communis as quoted in J. D. North, Stars, Mind and Fate: Essays in Ancient and Mediaeval Cosmology (1989) citing D.C. Lindberg, John Pecham and the Science of Optics: Perspectiva communis (1970) p.99
  • Among all the studies of natural causes and reasons, light most delights the contemplators; among the great things of mathematics, the certainty of its demonstrations most illustriously elevates the minds of its investigators; perspective must therefore be preferred to all human discourses and disciplines, in the study in which radiant lines are expounded by means of demonstrations and in which the glory is found not only of mathematics, but also physics: it is adorned with the flowers of one and the other.
    • Perspectiva communis, translated by, and appearing in the notebooks (C.A.543r) of Leonardo da Vinci, as quoted by Martin Kemp, Leonardo Da Vinci: The Marvellous Works of Nature and Man (2006) p. 112.

Quotes about Peckham

  • Another Oxford writer who appreciated experimental science was John Pecham... In his Perspectiva Communis Pecham gave a very clear and concise summary of contemporary optics, based largely on Alhazen, Witelo, and pseudo-Euclid's De Speculis. His book contained nothing original but it remained a popular text book until the seventeenth century.
    • A.C. Crombie, Robert Grosssteste and the Origins of Experimental Science (1953)
  • In the study of light, he said, the argument proceeded both from the effect to the cause and from the cause to the effect, and he prayed God, the light of all, to help him. He arranged his work as a structure of theory built up from a set of empirical facts and the rules of geometry, with the argument sometimes ascending inductively to a 'common nature' and the grasping of a universal, and sometimes descending deductively by 'composition' to consequences by means of which a theory could be verified or falsified by experiment.
    • A.C. Crombie, ibid.
  • Giambattista della Porta, who seems to have been the first to try combinations of lenses to form a microscope, based his optical work almost entirely on that of Roger Bacon, Witelo, and Pecham.
    • Footnote: della Porta made extensive use also of Alhazen.
    • A.C. Crombie, ibid.
  • Pecham's Perspectiva was published in as many as nine editions, one in Italian, between 1482 and 1627.
    • A.C. Crombie, ibid.
  • In the realm of psychology (in the medieval sense), Pecham's writings are extensive. ...each soul is created singly and "daily" by God. The soul... is everywhere in its little world as God is everywhere in the the bigger world. The soul is united to the body as a form is to matter. ...The human will is free and cannot be coerced by anything else. ...The will is free to the extent that it can withhold consent to the dictates of practical reason.
    • Girard Etzkorn, "John Pecham" in Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy: Philosophy Between 500 and 1500 Henrik Lagerlund ed., (2011) Vol.1
  • The Perspectiva is a clear and concise summary of the science of light at the time... a popular text on optics until the seventeenth century... used and cited by many medieval and Renaissance scholars, including Leonardo da Vinci and Johannes Kepler.
    • John Freely, Before Gaileo: The Birth of Modern Science in Medieval Europe (2012)
  • The difference between Pecham's Tractatus de perspectiva and his Perspectiva communis is striking. The former has significant religious content and was apparently intended as a devotional aid. The latter deals exclusively with optics, and reveals neither biblical nor theological influence.
    • Thomas F. Glick, Steven John Livesey, Faith Wallis, Medieval Science, Technology, and Medicine: An Encyclopedia (2005)
  • Following Ibn-Haytham [ and his Book of Optics with regard to the Moon illusioin ] Pecham supports the intervening objects theory. However, the interposition of vapours is also thought to produce enlargement by refraction. This work probably predates Pecham's Perspectiva communis (1275).
    • Maurice Hershenson, The Moon Illusion (2013) citing John Pecham (ca. 1270). Tractatus deperspectiva D.C. Lindberg ed., (1972) Ch.12
  • There were many natural philosophers, particularly in the West, who looked to al-Kindi for support in their defense of a combined intromission-extramission theory. Grosseteste, an early defender of such a combined theory, was in all likelihood familiar with al-Kindi's De aspectibus and probably had al-Kindi in mind when he wrote: "However, mathematicians and physicists, whose concerns is with those things that are above nature, ...maintain that vision is produced by extramission." Later in the thirteenth century Roger Bacon and John Pecham also appealed to the authority of al-Kindi to support their contention that rays issue from, as well as enter, the observer's eye.
  • Bacon's scientific interests were also shared by John Pecham, future Archbishop of Canterbury, who may have been among his students in his days as a secular master, and who certainly lived with him in Paris in the 1260s and 1270s. Pecham's later work on optics, astrology and astronomy was influenced by Bacon.
    • Amanda Power (ed.) Roger Bacon and the Defence of Christendom (2012) citing B. Thompson, 'John Pecham', John Pecham and the Science of Optics: Perspectiva communis ed., D.C. Lindberg (1970)
  • The marked superiority of Ibn al-Haytham's treatise did not necessarily cause interested readers, even those of intelligence, to reject the Optics out of hand. On the contrary, it was precisely among the most avid disciples of Ibn al-Haytham in the West—the so-called Perspectivists, whose members included Roger Bacon, Witelo, and John Pecham—that Ptolemy's Optics found the most eager audience.
    • A. Mark Smith (Tr.) Ptolemy's Theory of Visual Perception: An English Translation of the Optics with Introduction and Commentary (1996)
  • Witelo seems to have used the Optics more sparingly than Bacon, and this trend continues with John Pecham, whose Perspetiva communis reveals no unequivocal borrowings and has only a handful of possible ones.
    • Footnote: Perhaps the likeliest instance of borrowing occurs in Perspectiva communis III, prop. 12, for which Pecham may have drawn from Ptolemy's account of atmospheric refraction in V, 24-31; but even in this case the evidential support is slim. See David C. Lindberg, ed., and trans., John Pecham and the Science of Optics: Perspectiva Communis (1970) pp. 222-225
    • A. Mark Smith (Tr.) Ptolemy's Theory of Visual Perception: An English Translation of the Optics with Introduction and Commentary (1996)

Georg Herzfeld, ed., An Old English Martyrology (1900)


Issue 116; Issue 118

  • In the four mediaeval documents which form the text of this volume, we have an interesting survival of the efforts of three of the earliest of the English Reformers. For John de Thoresby and John Peckham, the Northern and the Southern Primates, no less than John de Wyclif, the Oxford scholar and leader, deserved that title. All three men were anxious, before everything else, to amend the carelessness and the inconsistency of the clergy, and the consequent ignorance and corruption of the laity of their day.
    • Introduction §1. Three of the Earliest English Reformers
  • In 1278 he was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury by Nicholas III., in spite of the attempts made by Edward I. to gain the preferment for his chancellor, Robert Burnell, Bishop of Bath and Wells; but was not consecrated till the spring of the following year. He was well received by the king and showed himself a strong prelate, a determined foe of pluralists, and quite ready to champion the cause of ecclesiastical reform against the king himself, when need arose.
    • Georg Herzfeld, ed., An Old English Martyrology (1900) Issue 116; Issue 118
    • Introduction §1.1 John Peckham
  • Like Thoresby in the following century, he was most assiduous in his endeavours to improve the education and the discipline of the clergy of his province; and to this end mainly, summoned the Council which sat at Lambeth, from the 7th to 10th of October 1281.
    • Introduction §1.1 John Peckham
  • It has been observed that as Wycliffe displays a bias against prelates and friars, so does Peckham against the secular clergy, and this is shown by his Lambeth Canons. But that monks came equally under his lash when they deserved it, is proved...
    • Introduction §1.1 John Peckham
  • Follow the Constitutions... which consists of the Lambeth Canons, ix—xiii. They run in the name of the Archbishop, who begins by stating his desire to remedy present evils, and his hope to make progress in that direction, by the favour of Christ, and with the assistance of his brethren and bishops. Ignorance on the part of the clergy is the source of error in the people whom they are bound to guide. Therefore he directs that every priest shall explain to his people simply and clearly, four limes a year, the Creed, the ten commandments, the two precepts of the Gospel, viz., love to God and man, the seven works of mercy, the seven deadly sins, the seven cardinal virtues, and the seven sacraments of grace. Furthermore, lest any priest should put forward the excuse of ignorance, he (the Archbishop) will explain briefly in what these things consist. And a short and simple exposition of the elements of faith and practice, completes this division of the Canons of the Council of Lambeth.
    • Introduction §1.1 John Peckham
  • [There was a] long standing contention between the sees of York and Canterbury as to the right of either metropolitan to bear his cross erect in the province of the other. ...Peckham, on hearing that his brother [ William of Wickwane, Archbishop] of York had returned from abroad, and was intending to pass through his province with his cross erect, wrote a letter forbidding the clergy to show him any mark of respect, ordering them to shut the church-doors in his face, and threatening all persons, clerical and lay, with excommunication, who ventured to supply him with food, or render him the slightest service.
    • Introduction §1.2 Archbishop Thoresby

Walter Farquhar Hook, Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury (1865)

Vol.3, Ch.6 "John Peckham"
  • Peckham was a stern man; intolerant of those, who differed from him in opinion, or who ventured to disobey his orders. But, if he was harsh to others, he was, at the same time, severe to himself. If he was rigid in exacting, from others, a strict observance of their vows, he himself was an example of the obedience which he enforced.
  • The Minorites [ Franciscan Order of Friars Minor] went forth, in their long grey coats and hooded cloaks, with their rope girdles and bare feet, to preach the gospel, with more sincerity, perhaps, in their humble days when Peckham was their provincial minister, than ever afterwards.
  • Peckham, with Roger Bacon, contended against the narrow views of certain of the superiors of the order, who dreaded learning, and forbade the formation of a library. A library was eventually formed, in spite of their opposition, and the room to contain it was erected at the expense of the far-famed Whittington.
  • On his going to Rome, he received an appointment from the pope, being made Causarum Auditor, or Lector Palatii. The two titles describe one office. Being now both a theologian and a lawyer, he was well qualified to dispute with those heretics, who were summoned to Rome; and this, for the two years that he held the office just described, appears to have been his duty.
  • The whole conduct of the monks of Canterbury, from the time of Becket's death, had in fact been directed to two objects: to emancipate themselves from the abbatial authority, as well as from the archiepiscopal jurisdiction of the primate, and in the case of elections, to force a monk into the primatial see. They were a set of turbulent, unprincipled men, always ready to side with the pope, against the king, and against the suffragans. one could object to the appointment of Friar John. In the parishes, in the universities, among the nobles, as well as among the masses of the people, the mendicants were at this time popular; and the pope was willing to show his impartiality, in nominating a Franciscan as the successor of a Dominican. We can easily understand the unwillingness of Friar John to accept the office. He was a sectarian, who loved his order more than he loved the Church; and he did not consider an archbishopric superior to the high offices among the Franciscans, to which he aspired. But he was obliged to yield, and was consecrated by the pope himself, on the 19th of February, 1279.
  • Although Peckham affected much humility, discharging for himself many acts, which his predecessors had hired servants to perform; and although, to mark his humility, he still called himself Friar John; he was, nevertheless, a pompous little man, both in his gait, and in his manner of expressing himself.
    • citing Nicolas Trivet Annales Sex Begum Angliae p.300 & noting Trivet, himself a Dominican, gives the best account of the archbishop, though probably not all original.
  • The king, indeed, soon found cause to regret the consent that he had given, to the appointment of a friar to the primatial see of his realm. Peckham was not a true hearted Englishman, and was, invariably, engaged in furthering the interests of the pope, in opposition to those of the king of England and the Country.
  • The archbishop, on the 2d of November, 1281, addressed a letter to the king, which, still further, proved the impolicy of permitting a friar to occupy the archiepiscopal throne of Canterbury. He affirmed that Catholic emperors had submitted to the laws of the papacy, and abolished any local laws which were contrary to the same. Peckham... openly declared that whatever oaths he may have taken, he should feel himself absolved from them, if they interfered with his duty to the pope.
  • We have a more pleasant scene presented to us, when the archbishop revisited the place of his early education, and showed his affectionate respect to the aged men, once his superiors, now placed under his jurisdiction. The archbishop arrived at Lewes. The chapter of the priory went out to meet him. They experienced the strange feeling, which old men often experience, when they pay obeisance to one, whom they have whipped when a boy. The Archbishop of Canterbury, arrayed in his pontificals, and in great state, joined the procession as it perambulated the town of Lewes. He preached in the great church; he granted indulgences; he sang the mass at the high altar. Having thus done all that he could do for the honour of the priory; having kept a high festival and feasted the poor; Brother John, as he is called in the "Diary," put off his splendid attire, and in his grey coat, rope-girdle, bare of foot, he entered the refectory, and partook, with his usual moderation, of the simple fare of the delighted monks. To receive such a mark of respect from a friar, usually the opponent of the monks, was an honour highly appreciated.
  • A heavy charge may be brought against Friar John himself, in so far that he did not oppose, though we have no reason to believe that he instigated, the severe measures which were adopted in this reign against the Jews. ...Occasionally a prelate would take part against them, urged, by religious motives, to act against those who, in their unbelief, crucified the Son of God afresh. Such was the case with Peckham, and even with the more enlightened Stephen Langton. But the prelates, who were statesmen and lawyers, were generally on the side of Government, whose policy it was to extend protection to that great class, which formed a considerable part of the monied interest of the country.
  • The feeling of the country had... become fanatical in its hatred of the Jews; and the House of Commons, in 1290, demanded that the whole race should be banished the kingdom. Edward I was one of the greatest of our sovereigns, but he was not sufficiently great to resist the spirit of the age, when it accorded with his own religious convictions, and, at the same time, with his worldly interests. Human nature is always the same. Fools are always numerous, and sometimes powerful, and wise men are not infrequently weak. We are not required to enter into a description of the measures which were adopted; for though Peckham, harsh, severe, and intolerant, was sure to be on the side of what are called strong measures, he did not take a prominent part in the proceedings against the Jews. We need only, therefore, mention, that the king, probably for their protection, first directed that they should be imprisoned; then made them pay for their liberation; and finally, banished them from the kingdom. Edward was enriched, at the time, by the confiscation of the property of the Jews; but... the country suffered more by their expulsion, than the Jews themselves, and the court itself eventually suffered, as the annual tax, which they had hitherto paid for protection, was now withdrawn.
  • When the General of the Franciscans [ Nicolas IV ] ascended the papal throne, one of the first things he did, was to name as cardinal, Matthew Aquasparta, General of the Dominicans. No advantage of a personal character accrued to brother John from this event. But Matthew of Westminster sarcastically remarked, that the brothers of the Franciscan or Minorite order, regarded the pope as the sun, and the Archbishop of Canterbury as their moon. They thus set up their horn on high, and spared no order or rank in the Church of England.
  • On the 4th of April, 1292, died Pope Nicolas IV.; and shortly after, brother John was released by death from the anomalous position, in which he had endeavoured to reconcile the poverty of the mendicant with the splendour of the primacy; his oath of allegiance to the King of England, with his vow of subservience to the will of the Roman pontiff. John Peckham died on the 8th of December, 1292. Matthew of Westminster remarks, that the sun of the Minorite brothers being obscured by the death of Nicolas, the moon soon suffered an eclipse. We gather from this author, that, before his death, Peckham had sunk into dotage; and he asserts that, having in his prosperity insulted many of his superiors, especially the Benedictines, he died unlamented,—at least by the monks.

Sidney Lee (ed.) Dictionary of National Biography (1895)

C.L. Kingsford, "Peckham, John" Vol.44 Paston-Percy
  • As a friar Peckham was naturally inclined to favour the pretensions of the papal see, and his tenure of office was marked by several bold though ineffectual attempts to magnify ecclesiastical authority at the expense of the temporal power. Almost his first act on landing [in England as the new Archbishop] was to summon a council to meet at Reading on 29 July [1279]. Among other acts at this council Peckham ordered his clergy to explain the sentences of excommunication against the impugners of Magna Charta, against those who obtained royal writs to obstruct ecclesiastical suits, and against all, whether royal officers or not, who neglected to carry out the sentences of the royal courts. Edward took offence at Peckham's attitude and... not only compelled him to withdraw the objectionable articles, but also made the archbishop's action the occasion for passing Statute of Mortmain or De Religiosis.
  • The chief political question in which Peckham was concerned was the Welsh war. The archbishop was anxious to put down the abuses in the Welsh church, and to bring it into greater harmony with English customs. ...he wrote to Llywelyn rebuking him for his infringements of the liberties of the church. In July 1280 he visited Wales, and made a friendly arrangement with Llywelyn... But a month later a letter of Peckham's, in which he asserted the reasonableness of Edward's claim to settle disputes on the marches by English customs, roused Llywelvn's wrath. The archbishop's ill-considered action led to the trouble which precipitated the end of Llywelyn's power. By the spring of 1282 the Welsh had broken out into open rebellion, and on 1 April Peckham ordered their excommunication. Towards the end of October Peckham joined the king at Rhuddlan, with the intention of endeavouring to mediate in person. On 31 Oct. he set out, against Edward's will, to meet Llywelyn... But prolonged discussion and negotiations between the archbishop and the Welsh prince failed to produce any terms to which Edward could give his consent.
  • After Llywelyn's death Peckham appealed to the king on behalf of the Welsh clergy, and after the completion of the conquest, took various measures intended to bring the church in Wales into conformity with English customs, and also induced the king to adopt some measures for remedying the damage which had been done to the Welsh churches through the war.
  • Peckham's ecclesiastical policy, like his political action, was marked by good intentions, but marred by blundering zeal and an inclination to lay undue stress on the rights and duties of his office.
  • In his ecclesiastical administration Peckham applied himself with much zeal to the correction of abuses in the church. ...statutes were passed ...forbidding the holding of livings in plurality or in commendam. ...Much of Peckham's episcopate was taken up with systematic and searching visitations of various dioceses of his province, for the most part conducted by himself in person. ...His insistence on his visitatorial rights had involved him in 1280 in a dispute with the king, and two years later the suffragans of Canterbury presented him with twenty-one articles complaining of his procedure and of the conduct of his officials.
  • Nor were Peckham's relations with individual bishops [of England] always satisfactory.
  • Peckham was especially anxious to check the abuses of plurality, and his zeal involved him in several sharp disputes. ...A more serious case was that of Richard de la More, whose election as bishop of Winchester in 1281 Peckham refused to confirm, on the ground that he held two benefices with cure of souls without dispensation. The bishop-elect appealed to Rome, but, despite the opposition of some cardinals... Peckham won his case.
  • Peckham's visitations naturally included the monastic houses, and his 'Register' contains a considerable number of injunctions and ordinances for the correction of abuses. ...The charge that he was actuated by enmity to the monks had perhaps no better ground than the fact that he was a friar.
  • While he sometimes associated the Dominicans in advantages sought for his own order, he denied their claim to superiority, and asserted that the Franciscans, following the example of the apostles in their poverty, led a holier life than any other order in the church.
  • Peckham's visitation of Lincoln diocese brought him to Oxford on 30 Oct, 1284, when he condemned certain erroneous opinions in grammar, logic, and natural philosophy, which, though censured by his Dominican predecessor, Kilwardby, had now [been] revived. ...Chief among them was the vexed question of the 'form' of the body of Christ, which involved the received doctrine of the Eucharist. The doctrines in question were maintained by the Dominican rivals of Peckham's own order, and their condemnation appeared to impugn the reputation of the Dominican doctor St. Thomas Aquinas. ...The prior [of the Dominicans], he said, had misrepresented him; he was actuated by no hostility to the Dominicans, nor to the honoured memory of St. Thomas; he had no intention to unduly favour his own order, and his censure was supported by the action of his predecessor.
  • Peckham's other relations with Oxford were friendly. ...he wrote to the chancellor confirming the privileges of the university. ...he remonstrated with the bishop of Lincoln on his interference with the of the privileges of the university, but he was unable to support the masters entirely, and on 27 Jan. 1281 advised them to submit. As archbishop, Peckham was patron of Merton College, and on several occasions intervened in matters concerning its government.
  • Peckham's health, both bodily, and mental, began to fail some time before his death. On 20 March 1292 the bishop of Hereford had license to confer orders in his place. Peckham died at Mortlake, after a long illness, on 8 Dec. 1292. In the previous September Henry of Eastry had written to the archbishop, reminding him of his promise to be buried in the cathedral, and Peckham was buried accordingly on 19 Dec. in the north cross aisle near the place of Becket's martyrdom. ...Peckham's heart was buried in the choir behind the high altar at the Grey Friars of London.
    • Alternate description: According to Weever, Funeral Mon. 221, his heart was buried in Christchurch, London, behind the high altar. As per Charles Trice Martin (ed.) "Registrum epistolarum fratris Johannis Peckham" (1882-85) below.
  • Trivet well describes him [ in Annales sex Regum Angliæ] as 'a zealous promoter of the interests of his order, an excellent writer of poetry, pompous in manner and speech, but kind and thoroughly liberal at heart.'
  • Even when archbishop, he confined to style himself 'frater Johannes humilis,' was assiduous in prayer and fasting, and wore only the poorest clothing. When, as provincial prior, he attended a general council at Padua, he travelled all the way on foot rather than break the rule which forbade friars to ride. When... he visited Lewes priory, he showed his affection for the monks and his own humility by sharing their simple fare in the refectory. The Franciscans styled him moon of their order, Pope Nicholas IV being the sun; both died in the same year, and the Worcester chronicler commemorates the event in verses:

    Sol obscuratur, sub terra luna moratur,
    Ordo turbatur, stellarum lux hebetatur.

    The sun darkens, below earth moon abides judgement,
    The order is disturbed, starlight dims.
  • Peckham's 'Register' is the oldest of the Canterbury Registers now preserved at Lambeth. The earlier records of the see were removed by Archbishop Kilwardby.
    • Noted: The main facts of Peckham's archiepiscopate are to be drawn from his Register; an account of his life is given in Mr. [Charles Trice] Martin's three valuable prefaces; a detailed account of most of his writings is given on pp. lvi-cxliv of the preface to the third volume.

Charles Trice Martin (ed.) "Registrum epistolarum fratris Johannis Peckham" (1882-85)

Vol.3 (1885)
  • Where the rights of the Welsh church did not interfere with his own authority, Peckham was not severe. He begged the king to respect their ancient rights and privileges, and protested against the suppression of customs which differed from those in use in England, reminding the king how easily an embittered clergy might rouse the people to rebellion.
    • Martin's Vol.3 Preface
  • For some years the discipline at Christchurch had been in a very bad state, and some of the obedientiaries had been guilty of
    "Converting public trusts
    "To very private uses,"
    and thus incurred the penalty of excommunication. The convent indeed was almost in a state of mutiny. In order to escape from claustral discipline, the monks were in the habit of staying at the convent manors, on the pretext of looking after the tenants, and while there ventured to keep purses of their own and live like ordinary men of the world. At the last election of a prior, the convent had forced Ringmer to take an oath which hampered his action as a reformer. When the archbishop tried to put down these abuses, some of the monks, "certain sons of Belial," tried to make a bargain and drew up articles on which they insisted for a time. But the majority was too strong. They were obliged to renounce them, and the paper was publicly burnt by the archbishop. Some monks who were opposed to the prior fled, but were recaptured about the end of 1284. The king, why we know not, was angry about this...
    • Martin's Vol.3 Preface
  • The book which Peckham wrote in the defence of his order against William of St. Amour was probably written before he became archbishop... but the unpopularity of the friars among the clergy had extended to England, and he was obliged to defend them... They are accused by one of our chroniclers of gaining a temporary shelter on the lands of an abbey, just to rest... then, hastily building a wooden altar and covering it with the consecrated stone they carried, they celebrated mass, and it was impossible to eject them. He complains too of their poaching... by hearing the confessions of those who were ashamed to confess to the parson whom they saw every day, or who scorned to do so because he was as vicious as themselves or were afraid of his blabbing their secrets when drunk. The clergy of England... attempted to stop this abuse... and asserted that it was an unlawful... In this they were technically wrong, for pope Martin IV... had confirmed... the power of committing to "friars of the said order... the office of preaching, of hearing confessions and absolving penitents..." with a strict prohibition of any interference. The pope, however, stipulated that the faithful must confess to their parish priest once a year. But this was not observed... for the theological faculty at the university of Paris in the same year gave it as their opinion that no one was bound to confess the same sins specifically to two persons. This would be, says Peckham, to straiten the way of eternal life which the Holy Father intended by this privilege to widen.
    • Martin's Vol.3 Preface
  • Peckham jealously watched over any encroachment of his rights on the part of the temporal power, and was especially careful not to allow clerks to be tried by secular judges. We find him interfering in this way in the case of a murder which shocked the city of London even in that age of violence.
    • Martin's Vol.3 Preface
  • Prospectiva communis domini Johannis Archiepiscopi Cantuariensis, . . Fratris ordinis minorum dicti psau ♃ ad unguem castigata per eximium artium et medicine ac juris utriusque doctorem ac mathematicum peritissimum D. Facium Cardanum Mediolanensem in venerabili colegio juris peritorum Mediolani residentem. The subject of the treatise is not what is now called perspective... but it is principally concerned with elementary propositions of optics, such as the incidence of rays of light, reflexion and refraction, the non-existence of colour without light, the construction of the eye, the appearance of objects at a distance (viz., spheres as planes, and squares as oblongs); and spherical, cylindrical, and concave mirrors, whose property of conveying heat is described. The work is divided into three parts... The third treats of the stars, the rainbow, and the milky way.
    • Martin's Vol.3 Preface
  • There is an illumination of the "Spera secundum fratrem J. de Pecham archiepiscopum," executed not long after the archbishop's death. In the centre is the Mouth of Hell, inscribed "Infernus." Round it are concentric circles, and on the top God sitting in an attitude of benediction. The circles are thus named Spera terre, coloured green, Spera aque, blue with white waves, Spera aerie, yellow Spera ignis, red, Celum Lune, Celum Mercurii, Celum Veneris, Celum Solis, Celum Martie, Celum Jovis, Celum Saturni, Celum Sidereum, sive Stellarum, Celum Crystallinum, sive Applanes, Celum Medium inter empireum et cristallinum motum motu simplicissimo, Celum empireum fixum et in motum, in quo est tronus Salomonis et locus Dei et Spirituum ...The Celum Medium is white. The Celum Empireum of a purplish colour, wider than the others, with 10 circles on it alternately red and yellow. The cusped circle, in which is placed the throne of God, cuts into this sphere and rests on the Celum Medium. The Deity has long hair and beard... The throne is ornamented with round headed apertures like windows. The background is blue. The description, whether written by the archbishop or not, no doubt contains his views on astronomy in a few words.
    • Reference to Arundel MS. 83, f, 123 b.
    • Martin's Vol.3 Preface
Wikipedia has an article about:
  • John Foxe, The Church Historians of England: Reformation (1854) Period, Vol.2, Part 2
  • Georg Herzfeld, ed., An Old English Martyrology (1900) Issue 116; Issue 118
  • Walter Farquhar Hook, Lives of the Archbishops of Canterbury (1865) Vol.3
  • Johannis Peckham (Charles Trice Martin ed.) Registrum epistolarum fratris Johannis Peckham: Archiepiscopi Cantuariensis, Vol.1 (1882); Vol.2 (1883?); Vol.3 (1885)
  • C.L. Kingsford, "Peckham, John" in Sir Sidney Lee (ed.) Dictionary of National Biography (1895) Vol.44 Paston-Percy