[Renaissance Humanism] [Neo-Latin literature] [Satire]


Moriae Encomium [...] una cum aliis aliquot libellis, no[n] minus eruditis quam amoenis
["In Praise of Folly" (Latin)]

Basle: Johannes Froben, [July] 1522.

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A pleasing, wide-margined example of this elegant early edition of ERASMUS' GREATEST AND MOST ENDURING WORK, printed by Johannes Froben, the celebrated Basel printer and publisher and a close friend of Erasmus, who lived in Froben's house when in Basel.

The text of Moriae encomium is here accompanied by his pupil Gerard Listrius's commentary bordering Erasmus' text. This edition also includes: Erasmus's long 1515 letter to Martin Dorp, professor of philosophy at Louvain, in which he defends his Praise of Folly and his famous edition of the New Testament; Calvitii encomium by Synesius of Cyrene (c.370 - c.413), Neo-Platonic philosopher and bishop of Ptolemais, translated by John Phreas, with commentary by Beatus Rhenanus; Apocolocyntosis by Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca, a political satire on the Roman emperor Claudius (which is one of only two extant examples of classical Menippean satire, the other being Petronius' Satyricon), with Rhenanus' commentary.

Erasmus wrote his famous Praise of Folly for the amusement of his learned English friend Thomas More (author of Utopia), while staying at More's house in London during the winter of 1509-1510. It was first printed by de Gourmont in Paris in 1511.

The work remains ONE OF THE GREATEST EXAMPLES OF SATIRE EVER PENNED. "Its title is a delicate and complimentary play on the name of his host: its subject-matter is a brilliant, biting satire on the folly to be found in all walks of life. In it Kings and Popes, Princes of the Church and temporal rulers are alike shown to be ruled by Folly, and it seems almost inconceivable that an age of absolute authority should have allowed him to remain unscathed" (PMM 43).

The Praise of Folly is a biting satire which lampoons all human professions, from monks and theologians to grammarians, poets, and rhetoricians like himself. Erasmus followed classical models of ironical eulogies by Isocrates, Lucian and Seneca, in its composition, and infused it with Christian Platonism. He wrote in the character of Folly, daughter of Money and Youthfulness. Folly declaims on the foibles of mankind - sometimes in a light and humorous vein and sometimes taking careful and deadly aim at beliefs and abuses of the time.

Naturally, Erasmus' satire on the church and its political allies would inspire various figures of the Protestant Reformation.

"Moriae encomium is most certainly Erasmus' greatest and most enduring work, a brilliant paradoxical declamation on two subtly blended themes, that of salutary folly, which is true wisdom, and that of deluded wisdom, which is pure folly." (E. J. Devereux, Renaissance English Translations of Erasmus, p. 134).

Desiderius Erasmus (1466 - 1536) was a prominent Dutch Renaissance humanist, social critic, teacher, and theologian, a brilliant classical scholar and a proponent of religious toleration. Erasmus was perhaps the most brilliant and most important leader of German Humanism. Using humanist techniques, he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament, which became influential in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Although he was critical of the abuses within the Church and called for reform, Erasmus kept his distance from Luther and Melanchthon and continued to recognize the authority of the pope. In 1498 he traveled to England. During his stay he met Colet of Oxford, Thomas More, Latimer, and others, and with each he developed a relationship which led to lifelong friendship.

Physical description:

182 mm x 123 mm. Bound in late 19th-century full vellum, flat spine, manuscript title on paper label.

Pagination: 408, [16] pages (errors in pagination). Signatures: a-z8, A-B8, C4, D8. COMPLETE.

Title within fine historiated woodcut border alegorical female figures labeled Superbia, Iusticia, Avaricia, Spes, Fortuna, and Prudencia. Further decorative woodcut borders to next two pages (a1v, a2r). Woodcut ornamental head-pieces and initials. Froben's large woodcut device designed by Ambrosius Holbein (Hollstein 4) above colophon on D8v.

Main text printed in Roman type, bordered by commentary in italic; printed marginalia in italic. Many passages in Greek type. Index at the end (D1v-8r).


Very Good antiquarian condition. Complete. Vellum binding slightly soiled, spine label rubbed and worn; short superficial crack to foot of front joint, but joints and hinges intact, binding solid. Previous owner name ink-stamp on bottom margin of a2v. Unobtrusive minor repairs to outer (blank) margin of the first four leaves (including title) and one index leaf (text and borders not affected). First quire (including title) with light staining to inner margin (text not affected). Occasional light soiling, mostly marginal. Generally, a clean, pleasing example of this beautifully printed edition, with very wide margins (possibly untrimmed).


Hermann Funke (1938 - 2015), with his mid 20th-century name-stamp to bottom margin of a1v. Funke was a German classical scholar and philologist, who worked at the F. J. Dölger Institute of Bonn University, at the University of Mannheim, and in 1971-2 was a visiting researcher at the Center for Hellenic Studies of Harvard University.

Hans-Georg Bandi, a notable Swiss anthropologist and historian, with his ex-libris plate to front pastedown and his signature to front free endpaper.

Bibliographic references:

VD-16 E3193. Adams E 396. Bib. Belgica ser. 2, XIII, E863; Haeghen, Bibliotheca Erasmiana I, 123; Bezzel, Erasmusdrucke 1313; Gemeentebibliotheek Rotterdam: Cat. of Erasmus Coll. p. 147.

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