ERASMUS. Apophthegmatum opus.

Paris, apud Ioannem Roigny, 1533. [with]

PLUTARCH. Regum & Imperatorum Apophthegmata.

[Paris], Iehan Petit, [after 1507].


Small 4to. 2 works in 1, pp. (x), 496, (xxx); ff. 28, (i). Printer’s device to t-p of both, and last leaf of first, decorated initials. A few lower or outer margins uncut, I: first four ll. a little finger-soiled, slight mainly marginal foxing, II: intermittent browning, light marginal water stain to e 3-7 . Good copies in C19 tree sheep, marbled eps, raised bands, spine double gilt ruled, gilt-lettered morocco label, a.e.r., a little rubbed. I: c,1800 price (?) to ffep, ‘Vidania mal’ (?) on title in C16 hand, 6-line censorship note c.1600, and C19 ‘418’ to t-p, C16 marginalia to first 10 ll., occasional underlinings elsewhere, Letter from Brigitte Moreau of the BNF describing the Plutarch as ‘fort rare’ and known in only one another copy.

Interesting, annotated, very scarce Parisian editions of Erasmus’s and Plutarch’s collections of maxims—the second unrecorded in major bibliographies. Erasmus (1466-1536), the greatest humanist and philologist of the northern Renaissance, wrote some of the most important ‘mirrors for princes’ (‘Institutio principis Christianis’, 1516) and educational works for the elites (‘Adagia’, 1500). Like the latter, ‘Apophthegmata’ was a collection of sayings gathered from Greek and Latin lives of great personalities including Plutarch, Suetonius and Xenophon, grouped according to the virtue they epitomise. First published in 1531, it is here in a new, revised and enlarged edition. This copy was also marked by a near contemporary censor, as shown by his note on the t-p, stating that ‘Erasmus’s works should be read with caution’ and expunged due to his ‘corruption’. Several passages (e.g., one called ‘Deus insepultus’) were highlighted by the censor, and one was erased with the gloss ‘vox Erasmi’ (‘the voice of Erasmus’). From the Index of 1564, Erasmus was included as an author permitted but in need of expurgation; however, this work and the similar ‘Adagia’ were never mentioned specifically or especially targeted (Pabel, 146). The C16 annotator of this copy glossed extensively the dedicatory epistle and the first sections on Agasicles and Agesilaus, kings of Sparta. He was especially interested in material derived from Plutarch’s ‘Apophthegmata Regum et Imperatorum’ (of kings and emperors) and ‘Apophthegmata Laconica’ (of Spartans), a very scarce Parisian edition of which, printed in 1507 by Jehan Petit, was bound together with Erasmus’s work by an early owner. Plutarch (46-120AD) was a Roman magistrate and ambassador, and one of the most influential authors in the Renaissance for his biographies of the lives of the emperors and great ancient personalities, and wise maxims derived from them. Each is contextualised within a short anecdote from the lives of personalities including Silla, Diogenes, Lycurgus and Periander. ‘Apophthegmata regum’, in the Latin translations by Francesco Filelfo and Raffaele Regio, and ‘Apophthegmata Laconica’, together with ‘Moralia’ in Greek, were Erasmus’s models.

I: No copies recorded in the US.
Moreau-Renouard 668; BM STC Fr., p.153. Not in Brunet.
II: No copies recorded in the US.
Not in BM STC Fr., Moreau-Renouard, Hoffmann, Pettigree or Brunet. H.M. Pabel, ‘Praise and Blame: Peter Canisius’s Ambivalent Assessment of Erasmus’, in The Reception of Erasmus in the Early Modern Period, ed. K. Enenkel (Leiden, 2013), 129-62.


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