TITLE: Etymologiarum sive Originum libri XX
DATE: 1472 (7th century A.D.)
AUTHOR: St. Isidore of Seville, 600 - 636 A.D.
DESCRIPTION: This work was initially compiled in manuscript form on vellum, with drawings in red and black. Measuring about 25.4 X 15.2 cm, the Etymologiarum consists of 20 Books on 175 leaves, including a mappamundi , and was meant to be an encyclopedia that summed up the knowledge accumulated by early 7th century Europe. So significant was its impact that during the following centuries it served as a model of style and composition, as well as a primary source for many medieval writers. While the original manuscript has not survived, many copies of it have, reaching back to the 8th century. The title of Etymologiae , or simply Origines as it is also known, refers to the fact that the author always gives the etymology of everything that he describes or defines. Indeed, the Xth Book contains only the etymological definition of words alphabetically arranged. Of specific interest, however, are the XIIIth and XIVth Books which deal with geographical topics and where Isidore attempts a survey of the world in a brief, definitive and educational manner. The Xlllth Book discusses the earth as a whole - the oceans, the seas, both open and enclosed, the tides, rivers and winds - in other words, physical geography. In the XlVth Book Isidore enumerates and briefly describes the political divisions of the world.
The author, a 7th century Bishop of Seville (Spain), leaned heavily himself on classical writers, as well as the teachings of the Church Fathers. For the Xlllth and XlVth Books specifically, Isidore's sources were primarily the Spanish presbyter Orosius and, secondarily, Solinus, who is quoted some 200 times, and Pomponius Mela. However, this is not to imply that