P. S. Allen (ed.), Opus Epistolarum Des. Erasmi Roterodami, Vol. 1: 1484–1514

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This work, which had its origin in an attempt to use the correspondence of Erasmus for an Oxford prize essay, was undertaken with the encouragement of the late Professor Froude, at the time when he was lecturing here on Erasmus. It has occupied my leisure for the last thirteen years, and has been carried on under the gloom of Indian summers and in high valleys in Kashmir.

That I have been able to bring this first instalment of the task to a conclusion is due, firstly, to the generosity of the Delegates of the Clarendon Press in publishing a work of such magnitude; and, secondly, to the toil of many predecessors, whose years have failed in preliminary preparations and into whose labours I have been permitted to enter. So much unprinted material has been brought to light during the last two centuries that a new edition of Erasmus' letters has been frequently desired and essayed; and to pass over earlier pioneers, the undertaking has been projected within recent years by Dr. Horawitz and Dr. Hartfelder, whose indefatigable exertions have given to the world great numbers of the letters of the humanists, including an edition of the correspondence of Beatus Rhenanus; by Dr. Knaake, the editor of Luther's works, who had planned a scheme of equal magnitude for the works of Erasmus; by Dr. Max Reich, the author of a careful thesis on Erasmus, whose far-reaching inquiries received the support of the Berlin Academy of Sciences; and by the Dutch Historical Commission: whilst the new century has seen two volumes of translations, similar in plan to the present work though with an ampler commentary, from the scholarly pen of my friend, Mr. Francis Morgan Nichols, Honorary Fellow of Wadham College, and there is hope that a third may follow. The fruits of Dr. Horawitz' researches appeared in many occasional publications during his lifetime; the great framework of Dr. Knaake's edition has been placed at my disposal by the pg vicourtesy of his executors; Madame Reich has kindly enabled me to acquire the valuable collections of notes formed by her husband; and Mr. Nichols has from the first given me the full benefit of his ripe judgement and detailed study of the ground in which I have been allowed to glean after him.

The requirements under which a new edition should be carried out have long been clearly indicated. The arrangement which Erasmus rejected whilst his letters could be regarded mainly as literature, has become necessary now that they are recognized as one of the best sources for the history of his age. Amongst them it was his own wish that the prefaces should be included which he wrote for his numerous works; and there is further reason for doing so, inasmuch as the dates appended to them sometimes supply valuable indications as to his movements, and also since it was the practice of the early Renaissance to insert in prefaces personal details which make them often sources of considerable importance for information about the persons concerned. The commentary is intended to explain the dates assigned to the letters and incidentally to trace the course of Erasmus' life; whilst biographical notes are added which vary in inverse proportion to the fame of the persons mentioned and to their treatment in dictionaries of biography, some regard also being paid to the closeness of their relation to Erasmus. But even with many well-known names I have inserted some fullness of detail to illustrate their position at the particular time; and also with the idea that the correspondence of a man to whom letters came from homes princely and obscure in every part of Europe, may serve some purpose as a convenient work of reference for this period. In naming Erasmus' correspondents I have found myself in a continual difficulty, and have arrived at no satisfactory conclusion. To use the Latin forms of names would have made uniformity attainable; but in a book so much of which is in English it would have been impossible to speak of Ioannes Coletus, Gulielmus Latimerus, Morus, &c. On the other hand, in treating of an age which freely discarded the vernacular it would not have been humane to let Beatus Rhenanus appear as Beat Rynower. I have adopted the principle, therefore, of giving the name of a correspondent in the vernacular, when it first occurs at the head of a letter, and afterwards pg viiof using the Latinized form when it seems to be established by contemporary or modern usage. For the simpler Christian names I use the English forms.

In dealing with the text it has been impossible to attempt any uniformity of orthography. The sources for the correspondence are various, with very different degrees of authority: original letters in the handwriting of Erasmus and his friends; letters copied by his servant-pupils; letters copied by contemporaries or by later hands; books printed in his lifetime, where the orthography varies considerably according to the practice of the printer; and books printed under the direction of later scholars, whose critical standards unhappily allowed them to adopt the orthography deemed correct in their own day in preference to that of the originals. To construct from these various sources some attempt at a standard orthography for Erasmus himself might have been possible, though laborious; for his multitudinous correspondents it was entirely out of the question. I have contented myself with the endeavour to reproduce with fidelity the earliest source available in each case, whether manuscript or printed book, except where obvious depravation of the text has rendered correction necessary; or where on rare occasions too close adherence to the original, especially in the use of the termination -e for -ae, would have caused obscurity. Contractions and abbreviations I have not attempted to preserve; and in the forms of letters the long s is discarded, for j (usually only in capitals or ij) i is printed, and for u I have adopted the form v as initial, u as medial or final, according to the practice of Erasmus himself and most of his friends. In punctuation, whilst adhering as far as possible to the earliest text, I have allowed myself a free hand; and in the use of capital letters only modern requirements have been considered. The practice of the Renaissance in writing Greek differed so widely from our own that I have made no attempt to reproduce it.

In the case of Erasmus' letters published during his lifetime, the text here printed has been constructed by collating the London volume with the earliest authorized edition. The former was printed from one of the final Basle editions, either of 1538 or 1541, and as the successive Froben volumes were printed from one another more or less closely, it has not been pg viiinecessary to do more than trace the variants through the sequence of editions; for experiment has shown that it is only very rarely that a change is introduced into an intermediate edition and removed in a later one, and such changes are either obvious errors or entirely negligible. The present text is therefore not an exact reproduction of any one edition but a conflation from all. In the matter of headings to letters I have usually given that of the earliest edition, with occasional exceptions where an amplification was made later; but as the variations of headings in different editions are often considerable but unimportant, I have allowed myself more freedom to neglect them in the critical notes than I have used in dealing with the letters themselves. Of the numerous variations in the spelling of words I have not attempted to preserve any record, except in the case of proper names, where differences of form are sometimes noted. Variations in order also are discarded except on rare occasions where the sense of the passage is affected. The dates are reproduced from the earliest form with a minuteness which may perhaps seem somewhat scrupulous; but I have wished the reader to feel that in scrutinizing them he has before him the precise details of the original.

In preparing this volume I have met with abundant and most ready help. To many institutions I am indebted for the loan of manuscripts. The Bodleian Library has sheltered for me the great Deventer codex, which the kindness of Dr. van Slee and the Curators of the Athenaeum Library at Deventer has enabled me to examine at leisure undisturbed; some manuscripts of Cornelius Gerard, lent from the University Library at Leiden through the friendship of Dr. de Vries and Dr. Molhuysen; and the important manuscripts from the Town Library of Gouda, whose value Dr. Kesper, Archivar to the town, enabled me to recognize, and of which his influence and that of Dr. van Ysendyk, the Town Librarian, obtained for me the use. To Dr. Hippe and the Curators of the Town Library of Breslau I owe the permission to decipher and copy with my wife's aid the 167 letters of the Codex Rehdigeranus 254 in a busy month among Beatus Rhenanus' books at Schlettstadt; and to the authorities of Trinity College, Dublin, I owe the opportunity to examine here in the Library of Corpus Christi College pg ixtheir copy of the rare printed edition of the letter to Servatius.

Amongst individuals, in addition to those already mentioned, my thanks are due primarily to Mr. Ingram Bywater, Regius Professor of Greek in this University, who has given me most generous support and guidance, and who in reading through all my proofs has allowed me to profit continually by his large store of learning; to Mr. Robinson Ellis, Corpus Professor of Latin, who has frequently aided me in tracing quotations and determining readings; to Mr. C. Cannan, Secretary to the Clarendon Press, and Mr. H. S. Milford, Assistant Secretary, for the most valuable practical assistance; to Mr. R. L. Poole, Fellow of Magdalen College, for advice in technical matters and for many useful suggestions; nor would I fail to mention the encouragement afforded by the late Bishop of Oxford, Dr. Stubbs, sometime Regius Professor of Modern History, and by the late Dr. Fowler, President of my own college. To Mr. Frederic Seebohm of Hitchin, the author of The Oxford Reformers, I am indebted for the loan of books from his rich collection. My kind friends, MM. Ferdinand Vander Haeghen and R. Vanden Berghe of the Ghent University Library, have from the first given me invaluable assistance, and besides lending me books have allowed me the freest use of the unpublished materials and register of letters prepared for their great Bibliotheca Erasmiana; without which work this undertaking would have been infinitely more difficult to carry through, and indeed scarcely possible. Dr. P. C. Molhuysen of the University Library at Leiden, himself a student of this period, has repeatedly rendered me laborious service, and has shown himself untiring in his efforts to contribute anything that might further my researches. It is a matter of great regret to me that I can only offer a tribute to the memory of my friend Joseph Gény, the devoted curator of Beatus Rhenanus' library at Schlettstadt, who on many visits was unsparing of his time in laying its treasures before me, and of his palaeographical skill in aiding me to interpret them. Dr. Bernoulli, Librarian of the University Library at Basle, has been most courteous in enabling me to explore the splendid store of Erasmiana and Amerbachiana under his care. M. Louis Thuasne, the learned editor of Burchard and Gaguin, and M. Joseph Delcourt have rendered me frepg xquent services in the libraries of Paris; to Signor B. Nogara of Rome I owe the collation of some letters in the Vatican; to M. Jules Finet, Archiviste of the Département du Nord, the copy of a document under his care at Lille; and to Mr. W. F. R. Shilleto, reader to the Clarendon Press, most diligent supervision of my proofs and constant benefit from his knowledge of Latin literature. To these and many others for help generously given I desire to express my cordial thanks; and above all should I make grateful mention of the assistance that has been rendered to me within my own family. My sister, Miss A. M. Allen, has often laid aside her own work on Verona to copy or collate for me; and my wife, besides executing many tedious tasks, has continually aided me in every way, and by reading through all the proofs with unfailing care has saved the book from numerous blunders, till even she can hardly be conscious of how much it owes to her.

In conclusion, I would appeal for further aid in the gathering of unprinted letters to and from Erasmus. I have printed below a list of manuscript letters which are known to have been in existence recently, but of which I am unable to trace the originals. Any information which will enable me to find them or which will bring to my notice letters not known to me, or autographs of letters already printed, I shall always most gratefully acknowledge.


Longwall Cottage, Oxford.

26 May 1906.

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