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The encyclopaedia, its innovators, and the intellectual networks in the Carolingian world

Steinová, Evina

When Isidore of Seville (d. 636) wrote his Etymologiae, he hardly foresaw that his encyclopaedia will become a bestseller. More than 1500 medieval manuscripts of this work survive, a testament to its popularity. Moreover, we observe what may be termed the ‘wikipedization’ of the Etymologiae: before the 12th century, Isidore’s work was the only encyclopaedia on the market, and its users, in a characteristic medieval fashion, preferred to edit it rather than to write new works. By studying these medieval ‘edits’, we can understand how innovation occurred in the Middle Ages, asses the changes in medieval knowledge landscape, and above all, we can trace their spreading to understand the diffusion of innovation in the medieval world. The Innovating Knowledge project focuses on the first three centuries of the circulation of the Etymologiae. Its aim is to unearth the specific contribution of Carolingian innovators and thus to provide new insights into the first European period of major intellectual flourishing known as the Carolingian renaissance.

This talk was originally presented at the monthly webinar of the Huygens Institute on November 25, 2020.

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