R. J. SCHOECK : Erasmus of Europe The Prince of Humanists 1501 – 1536

Publication Information : Book Title : Erasmus of Europe. Contributors : R. J. Schoeck – author. Publisher : Edinburgh University Press. Place of Publication : Edinburgh. Publication Year : 1990.


In the first volume of this biography we followed Erasmus of Rotterdam from his earliest years in Holland to his maturer years in Paris ; and we witnessed the publication in 1500 of his first book, Adagiorum Collectanea. That little book of 152 pages may not now seem like a great achievement for an ambitious humanistic scholar of thirty-three, but a good deal of growth can be marked as we moved from the early letters and poems to this stage of his development. Further, while there is some Greek among the 818 adages of the 1500 Collectanea it is fundamentally a work of Latin scholarship, drawing from the poets of the Latin canon, dramatists and a range of prose writers. Among the Fathers of the Church use was made especially of Jerome and Augustine. And we found that Erasmus also drew from such ‘moderns’ as Politian, Hermolaus Barbarus, and Filelfo. Except for a few Romans who were omitted or slighted, perhaps simply because they did not readily yield up adages for Erasmus’ net — Ovid and Lucretius notably — Erasmus made use of the major authors of the renaissance canon, and he had established his remarkable familiarity with their texts. That range of authors will be extended much more widely, especially after 1508, to include more Greek writers. Along with Erasmus’ rapidly developing style, everywhere remarked upon and everywhere imitated (but rarely with complete success) for its great ease and grace, the 1500 Collectanea indeed marked Erasmus’ growth as a humanist.

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