Augustine: The world is a book?

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”–attributed to St. Augustine.

Wikiquote takes care of this one handily:

Attributed to Augustine in “Select Proverbs of All Nations” (1824) by “Thomas Fielding” (John Wade), p. 216, and later in the form “The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page”, as quoted in 20,000 Quips & Quotes (1995) by Evan Esar, p. 822; this has not been located in Augustine’s writings, and may be a variant translation of an expression found in Le Cosmopolite (1753) by Fougeret de Monbron: “The universe is a sort of book, whose first page one has read when one has seen only one’s own country.”

I found it suspect for two reasons (other than that I am congenitally suspicious):

  1. St. Augustine was not terribly well-travelled himself.
  2. It doesn’t sound like him. He didn’t use metaphors much.

Edit in September 2016

I saw this fauxtation used in an airport while I was on vacation, and in trying to locate the exact wording, I found a post that points a finger a little farther back, to John Feltham and his English Enchiridion, which says, “St. Augustine, when he speaks of the great advantages of travelling, says, that the world is a great book, and none study this book so much as a traveler. They that never stir from their home read only one page of this book.”

According to that post, St. Augustine does mention the “book of the world” several times:

Letter 43: Maior liber noster orbis terrarum est; in eo lego completum, quod in libro dei lego promissum: Our great book is the entire world; What I read as promised in the book of God I read fulfilled in it [the world].
= The world is our greater book; what was promised in the book of God, I read in the world as fulfilled.

Enarrationes in Psalmos (Psalm 45):
Liber tibi sit pagina diuina, ut haec audias; liber tibi sit orbis terrarum, ut haec uideas. in istis codicibus non ea legunt, nisi qui litteras nouerunt; in toto mundo legat et idiotaLet the sacred page be a book for you so that you may hear these things; let the world be a book for you so that you may seem them. In the codexes [books] no one can read them except those who have learned their letters, but even an idiot [unlettered person; I don’t think St. Augustine meant this in a modern pejorative sense] reads them in the whole world.

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