ERASMUS SAMMELBAND – KEY TO THE FOLLY

Paraclesis, id est adhortio ad sanctissimum ac saluberrimum Cristianae philosophiae studium … 

Basel, Johann Froben, February 1520. 

[bound with:]

—.  Ratio seu methodus compendio perveniendi ad veram Theologiam …  Basel, Johann Froben, February 1520.  [and:]

—.  Enchiridion militis Christiani saluberrimis praeceptis refertum.  Strasbourg, Johann Knobloch, October 1521

Three works in one volume, 8vo, Paraclesis: pp. 23, [1], Ratio: pp. 219, [1], Enchiridion: ff. ‘106’ [recte 105], [1], [1 (blank)]; titles printed within elaborate woodcut borders (those for Paraclesis and Ratio monogrammed by Urs Graf), woodcut initials, woodcut printer’s devices at end of the first two works; upper border of second title very slightly shaved, occasional very light marks, but very good copies; bound in contemporary calf over bevelled wooden boards, panels roll-tooled in blind with floral centrepieces, panelled spine with three raised bands, brass catches to fore-edge (straps perished), sewn on 3 double cords; a few chips to spine and endcaps, some superficial abrasion; some contemporary underlining and one or two marginalia to the first work, including a reference to Lactantius; twentieth-century ink ownership stamp of the Capuchin chapel of Rigi-Kloesterli in Switzerland to Paraclesis p. 3 and to titles of other works; paper shelflabel at the foot of the spine.

£5500

Approximately:
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Attractive contemporary Erasmus sammelband, superbly eloquent in its physical union of three treatises without which the humanist’s Praise of Folly would risk gross misinterpretation. 

These three works illuminate Erasmus’s thoughts on the value and purpose of education, modelling ‘docta pietas’ – pursuit of knowledge and respect of the limits of human understanding – in opposition to ‘impia curiositas’, hubristic and empty.  The uniting theme of these three works, all here in early editions, is a full exploration of the supreme virtue of pietas and philosophia Christi.  The earliest attested owner of this volume displays his awareness of this significance in picking out, in the only marginal annotation, the key name of Lactantius, the ‘Christian Cicero’ and first word in the text of the Paraclesis

The Ratio was originally published as one of the prefatory documents of the 1516 New Testament, and first appeared separately in 1518/19, including the Introduction to Theological Studies and Renaissance Biblical interpretation with its vigorous critique of contemporary scholastic methods of theological instruction.  The Paraclesis was also originally an ancillary text conceived to accompany the New Testament.  The Enchiridion, perhaps the most successful compendium of humanistic piety, had appeared to wide success in 1518, but 1520 marked the first appearance, within this text, of four short preliminary poems in Latin by Thomas More: ‘Paraenesis ad veram virtutem’, ‘De mediocritate’, ‘De eadum rursus’, and ‘Libellus loquitur’ – all of which appear in our edition. 

Erasmus himself made the link between the Praise of Folly and the Enchiridion (or Handbook of the Christian Soldier) explicit, ‘in reply to indignant critics of his famous jeu d’esprit: “The Folly is concerned in a playful spirit with the same subject as the Handbook of the Christian Soldier. My purpose was guidance and not satire; to help, not to hurt; to show men how to become better, and not stand in their way…not only to cure them but to amuse them, too. I had often observed that this cheerful and humorous style of putting people right is with many of them most successful”. (Ep. 337: 98–101, 126–8; CWE 3) ...  Praising Christian folly in such extravagant terms, Erasmus seems to align himself with the radical mystics who considered human intelligence worthless and studies futile …  However, education is a central concern for Erasmus, and what seems like a contradiction, is merely a matter of priorities.  Erasmus urges everyone to pursue learning, as long as it plays a supportive role to faith …  Although Erasmus’ curriculum focused on the authors of classical antiquity, the philosophy of Christ required the adaption of pagan ideas to Christian thought and their application to Christian ideals, a process Erasmus called (after Augustine) “spoiling the Egyptians”’ (E. Rummel, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy). 

Paraclesis: VD16 E-3518; Bezzel, Erasmusdrucke 1401.  Ratio: VD16 E-3517; Bezzel 1692.  Enchiridion: VD16 E-2761; Bezzel 861; outside of Contimental Europe OCLC records copies at Bodley, Cambridge, Folger, Illinois, and Penn State only. 

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