Erasmus, Man of Letters

Erasmus, Man of Letters: The Construction of Charisma in Print

Lisa Jardine
Copyright Date: 1993
Edition: REV - Revised
Pages: 304
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt130hjzb
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  • Book Info
    Erasmus, Man of Letters
    Book Description:

    The name Erasmus of Rotterdam conjures up a golden age of scholarly integrity and the disinterested pursuit of knowledge, when learning could command public admiration without the need for authorial self-promotion. Lisa Jardine, however, shows that Erasmus self-consciously created his own reputation as the central figure of the European intellectual world. Erasmus himself-the historical as opposed to the figural individual-was a brilliant, maverick innovator, who achieved little formal academic recognition in his own lifetime. What Jardine offers here is not only a fascinating study of Erasmus but also a bold account of a key moment in Western history, a time when it first became possible to believe in the existence of something that could be designated "European thought."

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6617-5
    Subjects: History, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface to the New Paperback Edition
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Lisa Jardine
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-2)
  7. INTRODUCTION Self-Portrait in Pen and Ink
    (pp. 3-26)

    For anyone whose education has included the cultural history of the sixteenth century, the name of Desiderius Erasmus is virtually synonymous with that of the European intellectual Renaissance. For many people, indeed, whether scholars or amateurs, Erasmus’s name conjures up a whole lost world of learning, belief, and, above all, integrity. His were the golden days, when men thirsted for knowledge, pursued it disinterestedly and without regard for financial reward, when individual achievement was first recognised, and when the humanely learned individual wasvir bonus—a good man.

    Like so many others, I have pursued my scholarly Renaissance studies in...

  8. CHAPTER ONE ‘A better portrait of Erasmus will his writings show’: Fashioning the Figure
    (pp. 27-54)

    Early in 1517, Erasmus wrote from Antwerp to Thomas More in London:¹

    Peter Gilles and I are being painted on the same panel, which we intend shortly to send you as a gift. On my return here, however, I found Peter seriously—indeed, dangerously—ill with some indeterminate sickness, from which even now he has not entirely recovered; as far as the portrait was concerned, this was extremely inconvenient. I myself was in excellent health; but somehow the physician took it into his head to tell me to take some pills to purge my bile, and the advice he foolishly...

  9. CHAPTER TWO The In(de)scribable Aura of the Scholar-Saint in His Study: Erasmus’s Life and Letters of Saint Jerome
    (pp. 55-82)

    In my opening chapter we began to see Erasmus shaping his transmitted graphic image for a contemporary audience, constructing a ‘meaning’ for his self-representation which exploits the multiple resonances available in the images of the Church Fathers, the solitary scholar, and the attentive teacher. In the present chapter I want to pursue that theme further. I start, however, not with Erasmus’s own writings (or, at least, not with writings which can be safely identified as coming from his own rather than his admirers’ pen), but with the early, formative ‘lives’ of Erasmus. I begin by drawing attention to a textual...

  10. CHAPTER THREE Inventing Rudolph Agricola: Recovery and Transmission of the De inventione dialectica
    (pp. 83-98)

    This chapter takes the form of a scholarly detective story. As I indicated in my Introduction, I first noticed many years ago that the fortunes of Agricola’s manual of humanist logic, theDe inventione dialectica, were historically and textually curious, and in some way tied in with Erasmus and Erasmian pedagogy.¹ The pursuit of the story of the recovery and transmission of that work uncovered a sometimes bizarre tale, in which Erasmus and his circle turned out indeed to be crucially involved. The story of Agricola’sDe inventione dialecticaturns out to be the story of a carefully constructed northern...

  11. CHAPTER FOUR Recovered Manuscripts and Second Editions: Staging the Book with the Castigatores
    (pp. 99-128)

    In the last chapter I showed that Rudolph Agricola’s reputation as the intellectual figure bridging Italian and northern European humanism was established for a variety of reasons, which did not include the intrinsic merit of one particular text, nor even its known pedagogic value. In the present chapter I shall take this argument a stage further. I move from the print trace of a gathering movement of Erasmian humanists, who claimed Agricola as their intellectual precursor and ‘type’, and whose common bond was their lack of place in the conventional university system (arts faculty or theology faculty), to another print...

  12. CHAPTER FIVE Reasoning Abundantly: Erasmus, Agricola, and Copia
    (pp. 129-146)

    So far the present work has proceeded in two distinctive ways to retell the story of the rise to unprecedented international prominence of Desiderius Erasmus. In my first two chapters I traced the dedicated ingenuity of the redeployment of long-standing images (verbal and visual) of the great textcastigatorand teacher to promote a vivid and durable Erasmus, whose text-persona circulated in the multiple copies of his editions of the ancient classics, the early Fathers of the Church, and the scriptures. In chapters 3 and 4 I showed how, in a complementary move, Erasmus masterminded the recovery, editing, commentary and...

  13. CHAPTER SIX Concentric Circles: Confected Correspondence and the Opus epistolarum Erasmi
    (pp. 147-174)

    I have argued that comparatively late in Erasmus’s life, his reputation as a translator, editor, and pedagogic theorist was consolidated into a solid international reputation asthefigure of trans-European learning—the quintessential European man of letters. This extraordinary rise to prominence was effected by Erasmus himself, and the tight-knit coterie of scholar-servants, editors, correctors, printers, and publishers, by a combination of more-or-less conscious strategies: self-conscious self-production, on a recognisable patristic model, and assiduous fostering in the publishing houses of publications (by himself and others) which could be promoted as part of a peculiarly northern Renaissance, whose geographical centre was...

  14. CONCLUSION ‘The name of Erasmus will never perish’
    (pp. 175-190)

    One of the most striking features of the reconstructing of Erasmus which has been undertaken in the present study is the way in which the physical book has provided vital clues and crucual evidence in the story. ‘Works’, we have discovered, are not issued as pristine, isolated texts, waiting to be collected into homogeneous modern editions, with standard critical apparatus. The appearance of an Erasmus work, or works was more like an event—a text accompanied by a narrative frame in which to set it, and supported by a variety of pendant pieces of printing, from title-page woodcut to dedicatory...

  15. Appendices
    (pp. 191-206)
  16. Notes
    (pp. 207-278)
  17. Index
    (pp. 279-284)