Defining ‘Europe’ in Medieval European Geographical Discourse

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Medieval ‘Encyclopedias’

In the course of this project, the question of the genre of Honorius Augustodunensis’s Imago mundi often arose. Can we describe this text as an “encyclopedia” if the term was not used when this text was composed? Can a medieval text be termed an “encyclopedia” at all? The question of terminology has occupied scholars studying medieval scholarly and scientific texts for a long time. Many publications and research projects have approached the question (a short bibliography can be found below, in the present post).

Useful to medievalists are also general discussions of what encyclopedias are. One such project investigating the history of encyclopedic writings is the Project »Allgemeinwissen und Gesellschaft«, URL: (accessed 30 April 2019). The project website contains a number of useful discussions  and links (the material is primarily in German, but some is available in English). It also provides summaries and, where available, links, to project-related publications.

Particularly useful and composed in a very accessible manner, is the discussion “Characteristics of the Genre” on the linked project website at the University of Heidelberg, which also makes available a List of Western Encyclopedias which provides a list of the names of the authors of encyclopaedic texts, which, when clicked, expands to show useful bibliographic references to editions. The list includes Honorius Augustodunensis.

Further reading on the genre question of medieval encyclopedias:

Isabelle Draelants, ‘Le « siècle de l’encyclopédisme » : conditions et critères de définition d’un genre’, in Arnaud Zucker, ed., Encyclopédire: Formes de l’ambition encyclopédique dans l’Antiquité et au Moyen Âge, Collection d’études médiévales de Nice 14 (Tunrhout: Brepos, 2013), pp. 81-106

Jacques Le Goff, ‘Pourquoi le XIIIe siècle a-t-il été plus particulièrement un siècle d’encyclopédisme?’, L’enciclopedismo medievale, ed. by Michelangelo Picone (Ravenna: Longo, 1994), pp. 23-40

Bernard Ribémont, ‘On the Definition of an Encyclopaedic Genre in the Middle Ages’, in Pre-Modern Encyclopaedic Texts. Proceedings of the Second COMERS Congress, Groningen, 1-4 July 1996 (Leiden: Brill, 1997), pp. 47-61

Post by NP