ERASMUS. Ratio seu methodus compendio perueniendi ad veram theologiam.

Mainz, [J. Schöffer, 1519].


8vo. pp. [8], 156, [4]. Roman letter, occasional Greek. Decorated initials and ornaments. All edges untrimmed, virtually unpressed, title and edges dusty, very light age browning to some edges. A very good, clean copy, with the original margins, in c1800 paper boards, spine label, the odd contemporary ms marginal note.

A remarkable copy, entirely untrimmed, of this very rare edition of an important work by Erasmus – ‘a major pedagogical textbook marked by its sensitivity to biblical hermeneutics’ (Sider, p.114). Erasmus (1466-1536), the greatest humanist and philologist of the northern Renaissance, was also an influential theologian in the momentous years of the Reformation. First published in 1518, ‘Ratio’ was an expanded version of ‘Methodus’, the second preface to Erasmus’s controversial edition of the Greek New Testament (1516) – the second overall to be printed – which influenced Reformed translations such as the Luther, Tyndale, Geneva and King James bibles. It was used as the second preface to Erasmus’s 1519 New Testament, as it ‘sharpened noticeably the attack on scholasticism and the scholastic theologians’ (Sider, p.114). The work begins with the importance of theological studies and the knowledge required, e.g., of Hebrew and Greek, for a deep understanding of the Scriptures. It also remarks on the importance of the ‘lectio Poëtarum’ (poetry) ‘as the key to unlocking the power of Scripture to engage and move the reader’, citing as an instance the story of Abraham and Isaac, underlined by the early annotator of this copy. The annotator was also interested in subsequent sections on the ‘purpose of theologians’ – i.e., ‘to provide learned accounts of the Holy Scriptures’ whilst ‘effectively planting the seed of piety’, ‘eliciting tears’ and ‘moving souls to celestial things’ – and the life of Christ. The last part is devoted to the knowledge necessary for effective preaching, on virtue and vice, as well as a few pages on the New Testament and best commentaries. A very rare survival in such pristine state.

No copies recorded in the US. USTC 689868; VD16 E3516. The New Testament Scholarship of Erasmus, ed. R. Sider (2019).
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