Etymologiae. Isidore of Seville, Isidorus Hispalensis.
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Etymologiae.

[Cologne: Conrad Winters de Homborch], not after, 1476.

Price: $180,000.00

Royal folio: 38.4 x 28.5 cm. 125 leaves (of 126, without initial blank). Collation: (unsigned) a-b10, c-k8.10, l-n8, o10. Lacking blank leaf a1

THIRD EDITION (1st ed. Augsburg, 1472; 2nd ed. Strasbourg, about 1473).

An impressive, rubricated and illuminated copy with broad margins. Illuminated with 27 acanthus initials in gold, red, green, and blue with scrolling tendrils extending into the margins; numerous red and blue Lombard initials, and 6 hand-colored woodcut illustrations including the T-O map, and a full-page type-set tree of consanguinity.

Bound in contemporary calf over wooden boards, re-cased, elaborately ruled and tooled in blind (tools not identified), with brass catches, claps, and central bosses. engraved clasps, bosses, old inscription of letters of the alphabet and diphthongs around blindstamped border front free endpaper renewed. Provenance: 1. Monastic inscription dated 1562-1563 on front pastedown: “Frater Mathias conventus Louiciensis (=Lowicz, Poland)”, 2. Elaine and Alexander Rosenberg.

A fine copy, with colored diagrams and beautifully illuminated initials in gold and colors. Minor cosmetic faults as follows: Finger-soiling to margins at the beginning of the volume, light marginal damp-staining in lower, inner margin, not affecting the text, a few other instances of marginal damp-staining in scattered signatures, a few small marginal tears (far from text, no loss), occ. contemporary marginal annotations, title soiled and stained in margins, repair to lower corner with a small bit of restoration to the flourish of the painted initial. One old marginal repair, no loss; erased early inscription at head of first leaf.

The T-O style map (about which see note below), which appears in manuscripts of the “Etymologies” from the 8th century, is a variation on the version used in the 1472 Zainer first edition (the first map in a printed book). For more on the map and descriptions of the other illustrations in this book, see sections I., II., and III. Further down.

This is the third edition of this encyclopedia, a vast repository of human knowledge, written by Isidore, Bishop of Seville (d. 636), one of the most learned men of the period. Composed and edited in the first half of the seventh century and widely used throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, “The ‘Etymologies’ are considered Isidore’s masterwork: his longest work, the one that, as far as we know, most occupied the bishop until his death; the one that was the most appreciated in the Middle Ages; the one that has been the most studied in our time; the one responsible for Isidore’s recent designation as Patron Saint of the Internet…

“In most medieval manuscripts, and in modern editions, the ‘Etymologies’ are divided into twenty books as follows: I. grammar, II. rhetoric, III. mathematics, music, and astronomy, IV. medicine, V. law and chronology, VI. Holy Writ and Church services, VII. God, angels, and saints, VIII. the Church and heresies, IX. languages and social groups, X. an alphabetical list of nouns and adjectives describing human nature and activities, XI. humans and monsters, XII. animals, XIII. the world and its parts, XIV. the earth, XV. cities, XVI. stones and metals, XVII. agriculture, XVIII. war and games, XIX. ships, buildings, and clothing, XX. food, drink, and utensils.”(Jacques Elfassi, Isidore of Seville and the “Etymologies”, in A Companion to Isidore of Seville, Chapter 9)

“Isidore was the first Christian intellectual to attempt to give a full account of the material creation in both its grand architecture and its manifold and diverse contents, and to join, and (in part) integrate this knowledge with the disciplines of the quadrivium. The sheer scope and methodical perseverance of his scientific writing (in his ‘Etymologies’ and his ‘On the Nature of Things’) gave medieval Europe not only a treasury of information about the created world, but a capacious and ambitious way of imagining scientific knowledge as a conversation between mathematics, the world-system, and the inventories of natural history. By his practice of compilation, Isidore also quietly, even surreptitiously, persuaded his readers that Christian truth and classical science could collaborate in shaping a new model of erudition…

“Much of the breadth and detail of the ‘Etymologies’ concern subjects which, for a modern reader, constitute science: mathematics, including astronomy (Book 3); the ‘On the Nature of Things’ constellation of cosmology, meteorology, and geography (Books 13–14); human biology and psychology (Book 11); animals (Book 12); and minerals (Book 16). Plants are subsumed within the techniques of agriculture (Book 17), but the supremely scientific ‘ars’ is medicine, the ‘Second Philosophy’ that, like the first philosophy, deals with the entire human person and draws on all the liberal disciplines (Book 5, esp. 5.13)…

I. The T-O Map:

The map shows a circular world, surrounded by the river of Ocean and divided into three parts by a "T". Asia occupies the top half of the globe, with Africa and Europe below. In the version of the map used in the 1472 edition, the crossbar of the “T” is labeled the “great sea” and the descender is labeled “Mediterranean”. In the map used in this third edition, the labeling of the “T” is more precise: the Mediterranean still appears as the downstroke, while here the “great sea” is broken into its constituents: the River Nile as the right arm of the cross-bar, and the River Tanais (i.e. the Don) as the left arm of the cross-bar. There is an additional, triangular element, the “Meotites Palus”, that is, the Don River Delta.

Following Pliny, Isidore explains in “Etymologies” Book 13 that the River Don, descending from the mountains of Scythia, separates Europe from Asia, running between the two parts of the world and flowing into the Black Sea: “qui ex Riphaeis silvis veniens dirimit Europam ab Asia, inter duas mundi partes medius currens atque in Pontum fluens.”(13.21) The continents are further distinguished by the names of the sons of Noah, indicating over which lands each had dominion: Asia: Shem; Europe: Japheth; Africa: Ham.

II. Isidore’s Rotae:

Isidore of Seville employed a number of diagrams, primarily circular, as didactic and mnemonic devices in both the “Etymologies” and his “Book of Nature.” The author’s proclivity for circular diagrams earned the latter book the name “Liber rotarum” (the Book of Wheels). Six such diagrams appear in this edition of the “Etymologies”.

1. Diagram of the Winds:

“According to Murdoch (Album of Science, illustr. 28o, pp. 343-5), Aristotle introduced the concept of a wind diagram in Meteorology, 11, Chapter 6. This, however, is the first known medieval diagram of the winds. The Latin names of the winds are given as well as the Greek (with many misspellings). In Isidore's description, each of the four major winds is flanked by subsidiary winds. In the diagram Septentrio/Aparctias is flanked on the left by Circius/Thrascias and on the right by Aquilo/Boreas; Subsolanus/Apeliotes by Vulturnus/Caecias (left) and Eurus/Eurus (right); Auster/Notus by Euroauster/Euronotus (left) and Austroafricus/Libonotus (right); and Pauonius/Zephyrus by Africus/Lips (left) and Corus/Argestes (right).”(Klein, Maps of Medieval Thought, Pt. I, p. 14)

2. A “cube” diagram of the four elements: earth, air, water and fire, and their associated “qualities”: hot, cold, dry, and wet. The diagram takes the shape of a reverse Z-shape inscribed by a circle, the whole inscribed within a square.

“Within the circle, four groups of words occur, separated from each other by the zig-zag central pattern: ‘Ignis. Tenuis. Acutus. Mobilis,’ or ‘Fire. Light (Weightless). Sharp. Mobile.’ ‘Aer. Mobilis. Acutus. Crassus,’ or ‘Air. Mobile. Sharp. Dense.’ ‘Aqua. Crassa. Obtunsa (for ‘Obtusa). Mobilis,’ or ‘Water. Dense. Dull. Mobile.’ ‘Terra. Crassus. Obtusas. Immobilis,’ or ‘Earth. Dense. Dull. Immobile.’”(Walters Art Museum)

“While the diagram generally evokes Empedocles's elemental theory of matter, the location of each element and the qualities listed for each seem to point, more specifically, to Plato (d.348/47 BCE) and the ‘Timaeus’.”(Yale University Libraries)

3. A concordance between the Roman (Julian) calendar and the Egyptian calendar:

The Egyptian calendar was composed of twelve thirty-day months with five spare days remaining at year’s end. The diagram shows where the start of a given Egyptian month occurs with respect to the beginning of the corresponding Roman month. For example, the wedge for April shows that that month has xxx days. The ring beneath the word April reads “vi KL” telling us that the corresponding Egyptian month begins five days before Aril 1st. Translation: “six days (inclusive) before the first day (KL= kalends) of the month.”

4. Diagram of the five climatic zones:

“Following ancient writers, medieval scholars identified five climactic zones: the Arctic and Antarctic, or North and South frigid zones; the North and South temperate zones, extending from the Tropic of Cancer to the Arctic Circle and the Tropic of Capricorn to the Antarctic Circle; and the torrid zone between the two tropics. Only the temperate zones were thought to be habitable. In the upper diagram, the five climate zones are shown in an abstract configuration resembling a flower with five circular petals. In his ‘De natura rerum’, Isidore relates the zones to the five fingers of the human hand. As the hand was a fundamental mnemonic tool in the ancient and medieval worlds, Isidore's likening of the petals to fingers makes this diagram an effective memory device.”(Walters Art Museum)

5. Diagram of the seasons:

“The eight intersecting arcs of this diagram show the relationships among the four seasons (hiems, ver, estas, and autumnus), the four qualities of the year, (frigidus, humidus, calidus, siccus) and the four cardinal directions (septentrio, oriens, meridies, occidens). Thus, this diagram illustrates the notion of the unity of time and space as expressed in Isidore’s other scientific work, ‘De natura rerum’ (On the nature of things), book 10.”(Walters Art Museum)

The following combinations appear in the diagram: 1. North (septentrio), winter (hiems), cold (frigida), and humid (humida); 2. East (oriens), spring (ver), humid, and warm (calidum); 3. South (meridies), summer (aestas), warm and dry (sicca); 4. West (occidens), autumn, dry and cold.

6. The Annus-Mundus-Homo rota:

“The ancient Greek cosmology of Empedocles, Pythagoras, and Plato begins with two properties of matter and their oppositions -hotness and coldness, moistness and dryness. When taken in combination, these properties form the four basic elements: earth (terra), air (aer), fire (ignis), and water (aqua) displayed in logical opposition along the cardinal directions. Fire and water are opposites, as are earth and air. These elements are linked by shared properties. For example, fire and air share the property hotness (calidus); water and air share the property moistness (humidus), and so on.

“Two additional sets of relationships are layered upon the diagram. The first set contains the four seasons: aestas (summer), autumnus (autumn), hiems (winter), and ver (spring) displayed as rational opposites around the rota in counterclockwise order. The second set is related to the concept of the four humors of Hippocratic medicine used to describe the human temperament. These are exhibited clockwise within the innermost ring of the rota as colera (bile), sanguis (sanguine), phlegmatic (here incorrectly given as humor instead of pituita), and melancholia (melancholy).

“This rota aligns the cosmic with the human, promulgating both the ancient Greek notion and Isidore's thesis that man is a small scale (microcosm) parallel of the universe (macrocosm). It is also a visual schema for guiding multilevel thought. The rota’s center points to three levels of engagement the observer (homo), the world (mundus), and the year (annus). The concentric rings of information underscore the dynamic relationships therein, such as the mobility of elements from ignis to aer to aqua to terra; the cycles of the seasons; or the transitions in qualities from calidus (hot) to humida (humid) to frigida (cold) to sicca (dry).

III. Tree of Consanguinity:

The “Etymologies” also includes a full-page type-set tree of consanguinity, “a representation of relationships by blood (as opposed to relationships by marriage), which allows one easily to see how many degrees of separation there are between two blood relatives. Marriage within seven degrees of separation was not allowed until 1215, when the number was reduced to four. From the middle of the tree the boxes are labelled Father/Mother, Grandfather/Grandmother, etc. (upwards) and Son/Daughter, Grandson/Granddaughter, etc. (downwards), with paternal and maternal uncles, aunts, etc. spreading sideways.”(British Library) Diagrams of consanguinity also were used to determine inheritance when the deceased left no will.

Medicine & The Human Body:

“Medicine’s privileged status in the ‘Etymologies’, and its position directly following astronomy, may reflect Cassiodorus’ commendation of cosmography and medicine in the part of the ‘Institutions’ devoted to ‘divine letters’ (1.25, 1.31). However, the closing chapter of book 4 goes well beyond Cassiodorus’s praise of medical care as practical piety. Isidore asks why the art of medicine is not included with ‘the other liberal disciplines.’ His unexpected answer is that it is because medicine includes and deploys all the liberal arts: grammar to read its books; rhetoric to compose case histories; dialectic to deduce cures from causes; arithmetic to track the periodicity of fevers; geometry to assess the quality of places; music for therapy; and astronomy to observe the changes of the seasons that affect the human body. ‘Thus medicine is called the Second Philosophy, for each discipline claims for itself the entire human: by philosophy the soul is cured; by medicine, the body.’ This encomium is quoted in a spirited defence of medicine in the 9th-century manuscript compendium known as the ‘Lorscher Arzneibuch’, and finds echoes in the medieval iconography of personified Medicine as the recipient of wisdom at the hands of Philosophy and Mathematics. The exalted position Isidore granted medicine also played a role in its transformation into physica in the 12th century. It also proved difficult for medieval readers to resist supplementing book 4 with additional materials on the history of medicine, and the parts of the human body.

“[Isidore’s] definition of health and illness is grounded in the Hippocratic-Galenic model of the four bodily humors, which are in turn linked to the four elements (4.5). The bulk of book 4, however, is divided between two topics: diseases and remedies. Isidore adopts a broadly Methodist classification of ailments into acute diseases (4.6), chronic diseases (4.7), and skin conditions (4.8), but discussion of disease is dominated by etymology: the name denotes the symptom and the symptom justifies the name. 
Nonetheless, Isidore’s knowledge of medical science should not be underestimated: his sources range from the Latin commentary on Hippocrates’ ‘Aphorisms’ to the compilation on acute diseases called Aurelius, from Vegetius’s work on veterinary medicine ‘Digesta artis mulomedicinalis’, to pseudo-Soranus’ ‘Quaestiones medicinales’, Ambrose’s ‘Hexaemeron’, and the letters of Jerome. His grasp of some specialized topics, like melancholy, is quite sophisticated. His discussion of therapeutic remedies (4.9) conveys the Hippocratic order of resort from regimen, through drugs, to surgery, and briefly discusses curing by opposites and similars, before launching into a catalogue of remedies, forms of medical literature (4.10), and tools (4.11).

“The book on medicine (book 4) was often paired with book 11, ‘On the human being and on portents,’ by medieval (and modern) readers, because book 11 covers human anatomy, physiology, psychology, and embryology… Book 11 begins with the soul (anima), will (animus), mind (mens), memory, reasoning, and sensation (11.1.7–13). These form a hierarchy, with sensation as the link between soul and body. The body in turn is an epitome of the four elements: earth (flesh), air (breath), water (blood), and fire (vital heat) (11.1.16). Hence Isidore treats the senses (11.1.18–24) separately from the organs of sensation, which are lodged in the head (11.1.25).

“The hierarchical principle now becomes structural. Isidore begins with the crown (vertex) of the head, where the hairs grow in a whorl (11.1.26), and inches his way down to the temples, to the eyes, cheeks, and jaw before turning to the ears, nostrils, and mouth. After reaching the feet, he turns to the internal organs: the heart, vessels, lungs, liver, spleen, intestines, uterus, and bladder. Throughout this survey, his etymological method supports a kind of teleological reasoning, mixed with allusions to the exceptional stature of the human being as the pinnacle of creation. The neck (collum), for example, is a like a column (columns) ‘carrying the head and sustaining it as if it were a citadel’; the fingers (digiti) take their name either from the ‘perfect number’ ten (decem) or because their arrangement is seemly (decenter), and so on. By contrast, there is almost no structural description of human anatomy or discussion of physiology: for example, in the chapter on the heart (11.1.118), the two main vessels are mentioned but not given distinctive names. The left one contains ‘more blood’ and the right ‘more air,’ but Isidore does not explain what venous and arterial blood do, or the role that the heart plays in the genesis and regulation of vital heat.

“A short discussion of embryology (11.1.143) ushers in a section on the life cycle (11.2). This is also Isidore’s opportunity to discuss gender differences (11.2.17–28), though gender in fact permeates book 11: there are distinctive terms for men’s and women’s hair (11.1.28) and lips (11.1.50), and the very word femina comes from the thigh (femur), whose structure differentiates the sexes (11.1.106).

“Generation and embryology also cue the second half of book 11, on portents. A portent is an ‘unnatural being’ (portenuosus), though Isidore distinguishes between the ‘normal abnormal’ (such as a person with six fingers), and a ‘being of transformed appearance’ (11.3.6). The latter include humans who are part animal (11.3.9), or who exhibit the attributes of both sexes (11.3.11). However, ‘abnormality’ is problematic when whole races of ‘monstrous’ people presumably reproduce after their kind (11.3.12–27). Finally, there are the purely imaginary monsters of pagan fable, like the Sirens or Cerberus, ‘which do not exist but are concocted to interpret the causes of things.’ But if Isidore is skeptical about the Hydra or the Chimaera, he treats stories about metamorphosis in a more neutral manner, rather as he discusses the monstrous races. He ends with a note on creatures which undergo natural mutation, like bees or beetles that emerge from rotting flesh (11.4.3).”(Faith Wallace, Isidore of Seville and Science, in A Companion to Isidore of Seville, Chapter 7.).

ISTC ii00183000; HC 9271*; BSB-Ink I-629; Campbell(Maps) 79; Klebs 536.3; Goff I-183; See also PMM 9 and Stillwell, Science, II.180, IV.665, and VI.850 for a discussion of the first edition.