Base de données – Innovating Knowledge: Isidore’s Etymologiae in the Carolingian Period

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The Carolingian renewal (second half of the 8th – end of the 9th century) was the first of three periods of major intellectual flourishing that shaped Europe before the Modern Era. When French historian Jean-Jacques Ampère ventured to call this period of rapid innovation and intellectual flourishing a renaissance in the 1830s, he was led by an idea of a well-conceived programme manufactured by royal advisors and implemented by the political will of Carolingian monarchs. While the imprint on the ‘Carolingian renaissance’ left by the court, the kings and the emperors, and the close-knit circle of court intellectuals cannot be denied, it is now widely recognized that the ninth-century efflorescence was a far more complex affair, one that resulted from an interaction of many agents and interests of distinct parties rather than a top-down imposition of particular vision. For this reason, it is useful to think of the fabric of the Carolingian renewal in terms of networks. If we learn, what were the dynamical properties and the behaviour of these networks, we may uncover some of the surprising factors that stimulated or impeded intellectual growth.


Since 2018, our project team has been collecting data about the surviving early medieval codices transmitting the Etymologiae and their notable innovative features. Up until now, we account for over 450 manuscripts and fragments. We present these manuscripts in an interactive database, hoping that it will serve as a dynamic substitute for a printed catalogue. We are also looking into ways how to transform the database-contained data into a print-friendly e-catalogue in the future.

Digital edition

One of the most important early medieval innovations concerning the Etymologiae was the annotation of this text. Today, about 80 pre-1200 manuscripts attest to the glossing of the Etymologiae in the early Middle Ages, containing together more than 6,000 glosses. These glosses predominantly appear in the first of the twenty books of Isidore’s encyclopaedia dedicated to the grammatica. To study the diffusion patterns of these glosses, the project team decided to digitally edit them and study them further using the principles of network analysis.

Source : Innovating Knowledge

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