Priscilla Throop and the two translations of Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies

The Etymologies of the last writer of antiquity (in the west), the 7th century Isidore of Seville, seem really rather interesting.  I’ve been browsing through book 6 at Lacus Curtius, and it has brief but useful notes on all sorts of things.  So I began wondering if I could get hold of a translation.  It’s much easier to skim read for interesting stuff in English, after all!

Rather to my surprise I find not one but two translations.

First, there is Priscilla Throop’s two volume hardcover version (at Amazon, vol. 1, vol.2,  at Amazon.co.uk: vol.1vol.2), from January 2006, at $28 per volume.  It turns out that Mrs Throop self-publishes her translations through Lulu.com, and she has made quite a number of translations of medieval texts, as may be seen on Lulu.  There is an Amazon preview of the Isidore, and the opening pages all look very good and professional.

Then there is the single volume by Stephen A. Barney plus a team of translators (Amazon here, at Amazon.co.uk here), published in hardcover by Cambridge University Press for the enormous price of $205 in June 2006, and published in paperback at 20% of the hardcover price — just below the combined price of the two Throop volumes, which is rather mean of CUP —  in 2010.  It also has an Amazon preview, also looks good.  Curiously it advertises itself as the first English translation in the preface.  Did the translators not know of the Throop version?  Did CUP not know?

There is a Google Books preview of the CUP version here.   BMCR seem only to have reviewed the CUP version, here.

Naturally one feels for the underdog, the little guy up against the mighty combine and marketing machine of CUP.  But which to choose?  If one or the other had offered a download version, I might go for that.  But neither does, as far as I could tell, although possibly an electronic version of the CUP one exists through one of their university-online book access schemes.

The Non Defixi blog comments on the two here, and Way of the Fathers also has a post on it.  Sadly the CUP version is likely to be quoted by other scholars.

I suspect that the Throop version has been rather more widely purchased by real people spending their own money.  Let’s hear it for the little guy!

6 Responses to “Priscilla Throop and the two translations of Isidore of Seville’s Etymologies”


  1. Maureen

    They probably didn’t know. I’ve noticed that a lot of academics don’t know that a book exists, unless it shows up in a university library card catalog or Worldcat, or unless it’s reviewed in an academic journal.

    Once you know that Throop is around, she’s hard to miss. When you don’t know to look, you don’t find.

  2. Roger Pearse

    You’re probably right.

  3. Liz Henderson

    There is now a downloadable version of Throop’s translation on LULU, as well as a one volume hardback edition.

  4. Roger Pearse

    Thank you Liz. I hope people buy it! She’s doing useful work.

  5. Maureen

    There’s a downloadable (readable, anyway) version of the Cambridge translation available through Google Play/Google Books.

  6. Roger Pearse

    It’s good in a way, but one wonders whether this is all anti-Throop; the same way that supermarkets that move into an area do cut-price promotions to drive the local butcher out of business, and then raise the price once he’s gone.



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