Defining ‘Europe’ in Medieval European Geographical Discourse: the Image of the World and its Legacy, 1110-1500


The project will investigate how the concept of Europe was formed in one of the most influential families of encyclopaedic texts surviving from medieval Europe: the texts, known as ‘image’ or ‘mirror of the world’ based on the twelfth-century Latin treatise Imago mundi ‘Image of the World’. The project will also map the text’s transmission in Western Europe and assess the (sometimes considerable) changes undergone by the idea of ‘Europe’ in the course of the text’s translation into other languages.
The collective influence of this multilingual tradition on European history is astounding: it was used by Columbus, cited by numerous Western thinkers (Henry of Huntington, Thomas Aquinas, Vincent de Beauvais, to name but a few), copies were owned by major collectors (e.g. the Duc du Berry). It informed discourses relating to individual parts of the inhabited world over a span of hundreds of years (from the thirteenth-century Henry of Huntington to the seventeenth-century Sir James Ware). Its significance goes beyond text and into form as it became the first English-language illustrated printed book. The list of accomplishments continues.
The individual vernacular versions and their impact in their own countries have been the subject of extensive examination, yet no single study has examined these texts as a single multilingual international, pan-European scholarly tradition. Furthermore, no study hitherto has examined the definition of ‘Europe’ in this enormously influential family of geographical encyclopedias.


Chapter in book

Scientific article

Publications for the general public


Project number


Main applicant

Dr. N.I. Petrovskaia

Affiliated with

Universiteit Utrecht, Faculteit Geesteswetenschappen, Letteren

Team members

Dr. N.I. Petrovskaia


30/01/2017 to 31/08/2019