SEVEN CORNERS OF THE WORLD (also, OF THE EARTH)? I always thought that the world had four corners (‘four corners of the world’). However, we in the Flat Earth Society are not necessarily opposed to some extra corners as long as the flatness is preserved. Personally, I think seven is an awkward number of sides for a polygon even if they were all equal (a septagon or heptagon) – but each to his own.<2011 “ . . . and [he] began to recruit students, who come from the seven corners of the world . . .”—A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear, page 18>
A Google search (at my space-time coordinates) produced a couple of hundred thousand hits for the ‘seven’ version versus about 250 million for the ‘four.’
My initial guess as to how the ‘seven’ got in there was that it probably came from a blending of ‘four corners of the earth’ (Isaiah 11.12 - all parts of the world or the farthest points) and the ‘seven seas’(1872 - all the oceans of the world). This would argue for the expression being born in the 19th or 20th century. However, its origin actually goes back to at least the early 17th century where it appeared in Cervantes’ Don Quixote (see 2010 quote below). But I don’t know where the expression was hiding for a couple of centuries (at least as far as I could find) before it surfaced again in the 1800s.
So why seven? The number ‘seven’ is a mystical number in many cultures and has been for thousands of years. There are many theories as to why seven became important including: the Big Dipper contains 7 stars which are visible year round in the northern hemisphere; the Babylonians, Greeks, and Romans each believed there were seven planets with 7 associated gods; seven days of creation; seven days in a week; Seven Sacraments; Seven Deadly Sins; Seven Wonders of the World, Seven-11, 7-Up, . . .
The following quotes are from archived sources:
_____________________<1833 “. . . but no magic or machinery could bring the adventures of The Seven Champions of Christendom in their several seven corners of the world upon the one same stage at the one same time.”—The Albion And The Star (London). 27 December, page 3>
<1903 “We send papers to the seven corners of the earth following residents who wish news of the old home . . .”—Ludington Daily News (Michigan), 29 January, page 6>
<1917 “The characteristics of our ancestors ten thousand years ago are considered determinant to-day—in a world revolutionized by steam and electricity, and knit together by wireless and international trade in all the seven corners of the earth!”—The Class Struggle by R. V. LaMonte and L. Corey, Vol. 1, page 88>
<1936 “The seven corners of the earth / Have I seven times visited.”—The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Volume 66, page 295>
<1968 “The Israelites prostrate, angels supporting them. They see seven heavens, seven abysses, seven corners of the earth but only one God.”—The Exempla of the Rabbis (1968), edited by Moses Gaster, page 142> [[“The Material has been gathered chiefly from ancient Hebrew manuscripts and a few from very rare old prints.”]]
<1977 “Twice they were sent the seven wedding-folks coming from the seven corners of the earth, . . .”—An Anthology of Ugric Folk Literature: Tales and Poems of the Ostyaks, Voguls, and Hungarians, page 38> [[Ugric: A branch of the Uralic family of languages, consisting of Hungarian and two languages, Khanty and Mansi, spoken in western Siberia.]]
<2002 “The sign-in-the-heavens motif is in keeping with the Mesopotamian-Iranian notion of the ruler's cosmic kingship: the king was the lord of ‘the seven corners of the earth,’”—Holy Rulers and Blessed Princesses: Dynastic Cults in Medieval central Europe by G. Klaniczay and I. Halfin, page 26>
<2010 “This I shall do not by resting but by traveling to the seven corners of the earth . . .”— Don Quixote by Cervantes (translated by J. H. Montgomery), first published in in two volumes, in 1605 and 1615, page 544>
<2013 “She is now in the US on a project she calls ‘Climbing for Peace.’ She wants to climb the seven highest peaks in the seven corners of the world---‘7 Summits’ is the term of the trade.”—Stanford Office Of International Affairs, 23 May>
Ken G – August 4, 2013