Etymology
Etymologiae (Etymology) is the best known work by Saint Isidore of Seville (circa 560–636), a scholar and theologian considered the last of the great Latin Church Fathers. It takes its name from a method of teaching that proceeds by explaining the origins and meaning of each word related to a topic. Saint Isidore drew on many different sources in his attempt to summarize all ancient knowledge and save it for posterity. The fame of the work led to it being widely copied and disseminated, and its popularity lasted even ...
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National Library of Spain
Qur'anic Verses
This calligraphic fragment includes verses 10-11 of the 48th chapter of the Qur'an, entitled Surat al-Fath (Victory). This surah dates from the Medinan period and contains 29 verses. It describes how triumph comes from courage, faith, and patience if the believer stays true to God: anyone who violates His [God's] oath, does so to the harm of his own soul, and anyone who fulfils what he has convenanted with God, God will soon grant him a reward (48:10). The text is executed in Kufi script with black ...
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Library of Congress
Qur'anic Verses
This calligraphic fragment includes verses 85-88 of the 6th chapter of the Qur'an entitled Surat al-An'am (The Cattle). This late Meccan surah describes the nature of God and how He reveals Himself. Verses 85-88 in particular describe a number of prophets such as Jesus, Elias, and Jonah as capable of guiding believers to the "straight path" (al-sirat al-mustaqim). The text is executed in Kufi script in black ink, at six lines per page, surrounded by a gold painted frame. Verses on the fragment's recto have worn off ...
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Library of Congress
The Book on the Properties of Precious Gems
The title page identifies this manuscript as a copy of Kitab khawas al-jawāhir (The book on the properties of precious gems), written by Yaqūb ibn Ishāq al-Kindī in the ninth century. The work has 25 chapters, which are titled “On the knowledge of gems in general,” “On knowledge of rubies,” “On knowledge of emeralds,” “On knowledge of lapis,” and so forth. Each of these chapters gives basic information about these precious stones and their properties, as understood at the time. Information on the pricing of gems and the location of ...
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National Library and Archives of Egypt
Stele of the Army of Inspired Strategy
This rubbing of a stone stele records the inspection of the Army of Inspired Strategy by the Tang emperor Wuzong (Li Yan). The text was composed by Cui Xuan and written by Liu Gongquan, both of the Tang dynasty. The stele was erected in the third year of the Huichang era (843 A.D.), but within a century was damaged by soldiers and soon disappeared. Because the stele was erected within the Imperial Palace, rubbings were not easily taken, even when it was still intact. These Song dynasty rubbings, also ...
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National Library of China
Heliand
The Heliand is an epic poem in Old Saxon that was first written down in around 830–840. The poem, whose title means “savior,” recounts the life of Jesus in the alliterative verse style of a Germanic saga. At about 6,000 lines, the Heliand is the largest known work written in Old Saxon, the precursor of modern Low German. The name of the poet is unknown, but some information about him and the origins of the poem can be gleaned from a Latin preface printed by Matthias Flacius Illyricus ...
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Bavarian State Library
The Drogo Sacramentary
The sacramentary was a liturgical book used for prayer during the High Middle Ages, containing the prayers, prefaces, and canons for mass. Drogo (801–55), bishop of Metz, son of Charlemagne, and famous patron of his era, had a gorgeous copy of the sacramentary made in Metz around 845–55. The manuscript, which is on vellum, is the work of several artists employed by the imperial court. It is written in a clear Latin script and includes some of the most beautiful fleurons ever produced in Metz. The illumination is ...
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National Library of France
Denier
Charlemagne (742–814) was crowned emperor of the Romans in 800. Yet coins bearing his imperial title are so rare that it is believed that he had them minted only after 812, when he received recognition as emperor of the West by the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire. This denier silver coin is typical of those produced during the Carolingian Renaissance, a period in which art, culture, and religion flourished under the influence of Charlemagne. Such coins include a classical imperial bust and a reverse side often inspired by ...
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National Library of France
Qur'anic Verses
This calligraphic fragment includes verses 13–18 of the 81st chapter of the Qur'an entitled Al-Takwir (The folding up). The text continues with verses 18–21 on the fragment's verso. This surah (chapter) provides a series of graphic images of the Day of Judgment, when the world shatters and souls are weighed in the balance: “And when the Garden is brought near, / Then each soul will know what it has done.” (81:13–14). The style of the script is close to the Kufi D.I. category of ...
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Library of Congress
Freising Gospel Book
This Carolingian gospel exemplifies the position of Bavaria as a meeting point of different artistic traditions. The text and the choice of prologues correspond with those in older Salzburg manuscripts and can be traced back to an Italian prototype. The marvelous manuscript, written during the episcopate of Anno of Freising (854–75), has in the margins of its leaves numerous critical notes on the text, including a series of Greek variants. Other influences can be observed in the decoration, which consists of interlace initials, an 18-page canon sequence, and four ...
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Bavarian State Library
Gospel Book
This famous and impressive Carolingian gospel probably was written in the scriptorium of Mainz in the first quarter of the ninth century. Its decoration comprises canon tables in the form of arcades painted in red, green, greyish blue, violet, yellow, and ochre, with their architectural frames decorated with floral and geometrical patterns. The portraits of all four of the evangelists, probably executed by two different painters, are preserved. The canon tables and two of the portraits (those of Matthew and John) apparently were modeled after the so-called Ada Gospels, now ...
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Bavarian State Library
Early Bavarian Law
The Lex Baiuvariorum (Bavarian law) is the oldest surviving Latin document of any extent composed in Bavaria and the most important source for the early history of Bavaria. Containing the text of the first Bavarian statute book, it reflects, besides the history of the law, the economic, social, and cultural history of Bavaria under Agilolfingian rule in the sixth–eighth centuries. It focuses on criminal law, prescribing fiscal penalties for various infringements, and also deals with constitutional, civil, and procedural law. The preface reveals the high sources from which the ...
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Bavarian State Library