ERASMUS, Desiderius.


ERASMUS, Desiderius. De duplici copia verborum.

Cologne, J. Gymnich, 1535


8vo. pp. (xvi) 398. Italic letter, little Roman, occasional Greek. Decorated white-on-black initials. Title and edges a trifle dusty, uniform light age yellowing, two small faint water stains to outer edge of first few ll. A very good, clean copy in late C16 English sheep, front ffep made of an English vellum ms. fragment in Gothica Textualis c.1300 (Boethius, De differentiis topicis, Book II), quadruple and triple blind ruled, bordered with very fine ropework roll in blind, blind-stamped centrepiece with hand holding three lilies, raised bands, head and foot of spine, and lower and upper edges adjacent to spine hatched in blind, compartments single blind ruled, small loss to first compartment and towards foot, covers a bit scuffed, corners and outer edge of lower cover worn. Copious ms. pen trials, annotations and autographs in black-brown ink to endpapers and text in several early English hands.

The early provenance, spanning the mid-C16 and the mid-C17, is doubtless Oxonian. The copious pen trials and autographs belong to early owners present in the registers of Oxford University. The earliest (unidentified and contemporary) had his name rubbed off the title; his are the occasional notes in elegant cursive. There followed Robert Rolle, New College 1551-60, Thomas Denner, BA 1559 at Christ Church to 1562, and the unidentified G.M. Thomas Stafford probably BA Magdalen College 1624. A Thomas Hallet – probably the Hallet to whom Stafford lent this book – took his BA in 1623-24 from Broadgates Hall (later Pembroke). Three Hallets from Devon, probably related, are recorded at Oxford in the C17; our Hallet was, according to Stafford’s dedication, at or from Dartmouth. In the 1630s, this copy passed to Richard Rolle, at New Inn Hall in 1634, and at Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1638. Francis Rolle, presumably a relative, was at Emmanuel, Cambridge, 1646-7. A contemporary owner glossed the odd passage, with an interest in ‘brevitas’. A late C16 annotator glossed sections on metonymy and synecdoche, and probably copied a few lines by Sir Thomas Elyot, praising ‘De copia’ as ‘the lytle booke made by the famous Erasmus’. In the 1620s, Stafford jotted down anonymous ownership verse: ‘Whose booke is this if youe will know / In letters to youe I wil show / The one is T in all mens sight / The other is S I tell youe right / And if youe chance to (?) amiss / Looke underneathe and there it is / Thomas Stafford’. Richard Rolle copied down a few anonymous Latin poems, from early modern commonplace books.


This unusual English binding was probably produced c.1580-1600. We have not traced the floral centrepiece – a variation on a common floral motif used c.1560-1620, e.g., numerous examples on books owned by Edmund Geste (e.g., 22.8, 22.12, 22.16, 23.31, 22.48). The manufacture points to a provincial English bindery. This was probably the second binding; the current endpapers and flyleaves preserved from a contemporary binding. The endpaper construction, with a leaf of waste ms. vellum and two conjugate endpapers at front, and two conjugate endpapers at rear with a vellum stub beneath, may point to Oxford; 4 Boethius mss are recorded as being used for pastedowns, one from a ms. of ‘De differentiis topicis’, as here (see Ker 1671).


One of the most popular Renaissance rhetoric textbooks in Europe, first published in 1512, Erasmus’s (1466-1536) ‘De copia verborum’ – here in a very good copy of a scarce German edition – was imported into England from the 1520s onwards, for use first at Cambridge, then Oxford and, from the second half of the C16, at major grammar schools. It provided students with manifold ways of expressing the same concept, with a view to amplifying and embellishing Latin texts. ‘Although the [university] statutes stipulate[d] no modern textbooks of rhetoric, some are included in the university booklists. Some of these (for example, Lorichius’s version of Aphthonius and Erasmus’s “De copia” and “De conscribendis epistolis”) represent a continuation of grammar school rhetoric into the university course’ (Mack, p.54).

Only Iowa and Harvard copies recorded in the US. VD16 E 2675; USTC 635410. Not in BM STC Ger. P. Mack, Elizabethan Rhetoric (1992); Alumni Oxonienses (1891); A. Venn, Alumni Cantabrigienses (1922-54). Edmund Geste’s books <>.