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Erasmi Opera Omnia, V-6: Christiani Matrimonii Institutio, Vidua Christiana: Volume 6
He gave lectures on Greek and theology at the University of Cambridge28 where his friend, John Fisher,29 the Bishop of Rochester, was now chancellor. Warham,30 the Archbishop of Canterbury, provided him with a benefice in Kent which was quickly converted to an annuity. He began with an edition of the works of Saint Jerome, the Father of the Church, to whom Erasmus felt closest and of whom he was to write a biography. In the same way that he had appreciated the company of scholars who frequented the workshop of Aldus Manutius in Venice, in this dynamic Rhine city, which had justacquired a large university and was a major economic centre, he not only made friends—among them the Frobens, the Amerbachs, the painter Holbein, the Alsatian Beatus Rhenanus—but also established very useful professional relationships often with the same people.
They could be the young people, famuli,32 who transcribed his texts and ran errands in search of manuscripts for him in exchange for board and lodging and a few lessons from the master, or scholars of Hebrew such as Capiton, who introduced him to that language. The years and —which witnessed the accession to the French throne of the young Francis I and to that of Spain of the Duke Charles, to whom Erasmus had just been appointed counsellor—marked an improvement in the political situation in Europe. Erasmus took advantage of this situation, on his return to Brabant, to write pacifist works that were not merely in tune with the times but had universal significance.
Outstanding among them is the Institutio principis Christiani [The education of the Christian prince] ,33 a subject which had been suggested to him by the chancellor of Brabant, Jean Le Sauvage, who wanted to encourage peace between the two nations. Ina dozen or so chapters, Erasmus produced a veritable manual for the all-round education of the Christian prince, encompassing intellectual, moral and political instruction, without forgetting religion, which was at the very heart of this treatise.
At first Erasmus and Luther, the formerAugustine monk, were on very good terms: they both wanted a return to the teaching of the Gospel; they both criticized sterile scholasticism; they both ardently desired a radical reform of the Church; and they both opposed the sale of indulgences. This was done, reluctantly, by the peace-loving Erasmus, for whom the love of Christ and Christian fellowship took precedence over even the most venerable dogmas, including that of the eucharist and of original sin, and who would not allow himself to persecute a heretic.
Theoretically intended for students, these texts deal frankly and forthrightly with the most controversial social, political, economic, educational, religious, and even medical, issues of the day. The works of Erasmus are so wide-ranging and varied in both content and form, and often the first edition published in his lifetime is so different from the last—the first edition of his Opera omnia, published by Froben in Basel in , comprises ten large folio volumes, while the Amsterdam critical edition, now being published, will comprise over fifty volumes—that it is not easy to identify a focal point or guiding principle for his work.
One could, of course, consult the catalogue that Erasmus himself compiled of his works in for the benefit of his friend Jean Botzheim,42 or the one which hecompleted seven years later for Hector Boece. It is on this aspect of his work that his considerable reputation rests today. One could put into this same category his dialogue on the Ciceronian Ciceronianus ,56 a dialogue on literary style and imitation and, at a deeper level, a very profound reflection on culture and the adaptation of a given cultural tradition to a new type of civilization.
For him education was all-encompassing. One ofhis books had the title De pueris statim ac liberaliter instituendis [Children should be given a liberal education from a very early age], immediately followed by the programme proposed: ad virtutem etbonas litteras instituendi so that they can acquire virtue and a literary education. These titles alone would seem to indicate that Erasmus saw himself, or indeed was, the tutor of Europe. There is, however, a paradox here which occurs quite often where education is concerned: this European schoolmaster,who on several occasions was given responsibility for the education of young people—in Paris and in Cambridge, in Italy, and notably Siena, not to mention the education of his god son in Basel, the son ofhis friend John Froben, and in Louvain—was not overly fond of this occupation and does not seem to have been a very gifted teacher.
This would have been difficult to understand if Erasmus had beendealing with intelligent and industrious young people. But when he came up against persistent stubbornness—and such was the case with his godson, to whom he none the less dedicated an edition of his Colloquia 58—he felt he was wasting his time and thought he could do more for the education of young people by writing works which would be rapidly circulated throughout Europe rather than byspending precious hours endeavouring to raise the moral and intellectual level of a few recalcitrant individuals.
One might add that he made little effort to win over his average pupil. In England, he refused, even when not giving lessons, to speak English, a language which he never had any desire to learn. Times have changed since the sixteenth century, and the conditions and objectives of education have changed too. Erasmus shares the view of all his contemporaries, educationists included such as the Spaniard Juan Luis Vives 60 and the Englishman Thomas Elyot 61 which was that girls had no need of advanced intellectual education since their lot was either to marry, have children and keep house, or to enter a convent.
None the less, he admires Magdalena, the educated woman in one of his Colloquia, 62 who comes upwith lively rejoinders to Antronius, a stupid anti-feminist abbot. One final point concerns what in modern parlance would be called the democratization of education—the access of every child to instruction and education. Erasmus preferred education at home under the guidance of a tutor carefully chosen by the parents. For Erasmus, to educate young people was to educate adults, in as much as—and this he deeply believed—the future of individuals and the quality of their lives depended, in large measure, on the education they had received in their youth.
A dog remains a dog and an oak, an oak, because they are no more than that with which nature has endowed them, once and for always.
The Prince ofHumanism was truly the tutor of Europe. A teacher and educational adviser to the schoolmasters of his time, Erasmus became, by vocation and also because circumstances required it of him, the theoretician at one and the same time of a political philosophy based on peace and the protection of the people by their prince; of a code of religious ethics concerning the status of women; and of a renovated theology based on scrupulous interpretation of the Gospels and on rhetoric which is used by the preacher in the exercise of his function.
We shall now examine these three aspects of the educational vocation of Erasmus. In the tormented period in which he lived—even if he always managed to flee regions threatened by or embroiled in war—he found many situations to support his views. These were simple—politicians inspired by Machiavelli might say they were simplistic. They can be summed up the few points made in the Institutio principis Christiani. Erasmus could envisage none but a prince who was a Christian in a Europe that had not as yet adopted the name, or if it had, gave it no political significance.
Even the Empire of the Hapsburgs was not in aposition to impose federative unity, although it occupied a large part of the European Continent and took precedence over all the kingdoms of Europe. For Erasmus and his contemporaries, Europe was, above all, Christendom. Even when it was torn apart by the Lutheran schism and the transfer of whole territories to the Reformation camp, it would still be Christendom as opposed to the Ottoman Empire, whose extension in eastern and central Europe was posing a great threat to Christianity.
Although a pacifist, Erasmus was aware of the limitations of pacifism. But, at the same time, he made an exception for self-defence. This was the gist of the reply he gave in to the German jurist Rinck who had consulted him on whether or not war should be waged on the Turks, who already controlled a large part of Hungary and were encamped outside Vienna. This implies that, for Erasmus the Christian, the nature of the problem of war and peace is, first and foremost, religious and, more particularly, Christian, and only secondarily political.
It is indeed his duty, as he must protect his subjects in the same way as he must defend their spiritual and material goods. Thus, civilian populations should be respected, prisoners treated humanely, and all barbarous and degrading acts avoided. Some will think that this is utopian, given the atrocities perpetrated in the course of our own twentieth century, and particularly at its closing, which clearly flout the Erasmian desire to humanize war. Not so! The causes which he identifies are various and, in general, of a psychological nature: the ambition of a sovereign avidly seeking military glory and wishing to extend his territory; the weakness of a prince who is incapable of disregarding unscrupulous, greedy and ambitious councillors who vie with one another to flatter him; an old injustice never forgotten, for which one craves crushing revenge.
In addition to these psychological factors, which Erasmus attributed to diabolical passions and instincts uncontrolled by reason or Christian piety, there is the weight of historical tradition: for instance, dynastic marriages. But this is quite the opposite of good policy; peoples do not easily conclude alliances with men and women who do not speak their language, who dress differently or have a different diet, and do not share their beliefs.
In short, the prince—which means all the princes of Europe—must follow the teaching of the Gospel, whose many precepts, he tells us, come down to two, and perhaps even one: peace and concord.
Erasmus, Desiderius (1467?–1536)
These same theologians asserted that a widow could not remarry, despite the fact that canon law was not absolutely opposed to it, as she could not belong to two men. This was certainly not the opinion of enlightened individuals like Erasmus who could think of examples, including that of Thomas More, whose second marriage was with a widow. He was much occupied with the question of marriage and how to prepare for it. In a personal interpretation of the First Epistle of Saint Paul to the Corinthians,78 he also develops interesting ideas on the relationship between marriage and sexuality which, unlike the Fathers of the Church who were often ferocious misogynists, he holds to be natural and innocent.
Erasmus was also to write as a matrimonial adviser, producing, for example, an Encomium matrimonii 79 that his adversaries immediately interpreted as a challenge to the monastic institution andan attack on celibacy. Defend himself as he might, claiming that this Encomium was merely an exercise in rhetoric and argumentation and that he had composed it at the same time as an Epistola dehortatoria [Epistle against marriage]80 which contains the opposite case, the reader is not so easily fooled.
Not only does the praise of marriage take up much more space than the criticism, but there is a persuasiveness in the former that is absent in the latter exercise.
mudywehy.tk: anastasia opera omnia volume
An educator of women and the family, in lieu of establishing one of his own, Erasmus also saw himself as a teacher of theology for future preachers. Having himself wrested a doctorate from the University of Turin with doubtful dispatch, he did not feel that theology was the preserve of specialists.
But, above all, Erasmus thought—and it is in this that he is a revolutionary—that ordinary believers could become theologians of a kind if they were thoroughlyversed in the Gospels and put their precepts into practice. The credo of good Christians was, above all, based on their faith, on their love of God and humankind, and their belief in the eternal life towards which all their efforts in this world should be directed.
This is the idea Erasmus develops in his Confabulatio pia [Pious conversation],83 in which he makes the little Erasmius, his godson, converse with another child called Gaspar. GASPAR: First of all, to feel devotion to God and the Holy Scriptures; not to fear Him as one would a master but rather to love from deep within the heart the most benevolent of fathers. Second, to protect innocence with extreme solicitude. Third, to practise charity, which means helping everyone as circumstances require.
But, despite the fundamental importance of these precepts within the context of the Gospel, they are not sufficient for the training of preachers, priests and teachers of theology. This is why Erasmus constantly advocated the study of languages—meaning the three basic languages, Latin, Greek and Hebrew—which would make the trainee theologian an experienced philologist. But, unlike the commentator or translator of profane authors whose texts do not bear the mark of divine inspiration, the commentator of sacred texts must be aware of the rich multiplicity of meanings of Holy Scripture.
Erasmus, a born pedagogue, always kept to essentials and very often reduced these four senses to two: the literal or historic sense, and the allegorical or spiritual sense. Erasmus wrote an enormous work on the training of preachers, who played a very significant role at the time, with the mass of the faithful thronging around their pulpits, in the Ecclesiastes or Deratione concionandi [The sacred orator or the method of preaching]85 which dates from He was convinced that truth needed to be communicated and transformed into belief in the hearts and minds of the faithful,86 and he gives the future preacher all the advice he could need, including individual and crowd psychology, as well as the rules of rhetoric, to be effective: the art of argumentation, the controlled use of metaphor and allegory, clarity and simplicity, the appropriate use of examples, use of pathos, indignation, pity, etc.
Having briefly outlined the life and thought of the obscure Dutch child who was for so long roughly treated by life before becoming, at age 40 to 45, the cynosure of Europe, I should like to emphasize particularly his unwavering fidelity to the principles he had set himself. Although he could change his attitude or language to suit the occasion or the people he was dealing with, he never gave ground on essential points.
A lover of truth, he never wished to belong to any faction, sect or school that only observed one aspect of this truth. Far from being a token of pride, I see it rather as the motto of a courageous and dignified man who was incapable of straying from the straight and narrow path. His great friend, Thomas More, carried this principle to the point of martyrdom. Erasmus was not called upon to show how far resoluteness in word and thought would have led him if he had found himself in the same situation as his friend. What we do know about him through his writings and the testimony of those who knew him well makes us reject the image of a dry academic or chilly scholar reluctant to take a stand or commit himself.
This is what the author ofthe Antibarbari 88 did, at all times, in an endless variety of ways. Jean-Claude Margolin France. A specialist on Erasmus, the European Renaissance and the history of thought in the sixteenth century. Corresponding member of the Lisbon Academy of Sciences. A member of several international scientific committees. The reader is referred to a number of fairly recent monographs: J. Mesnard, Erasme ou le christianisme critique, Paris, Seghers, ; L.
Beck, original version in Dutch, Baarn, First edition there were to be five, each one with many changes : Novum instrumentum, Basel, Froben, Chomarat ed. See J. Chomarat, A. Godin and J. Margolin, Geneva, Droz, , p. Concerning this personality, as with all the contemporaries of Erasmus who left their mark on history, see: P. Bietenholz ed. On William Blount, Lord Mountjoy, see vol. In addition to their correspondences, much has been written on the relations between Erasmus and More.
A profile of More appears in the third volume of the present series. For a bibliography of the works of Erasmus, see F. II, col. Published by Jean Philippi in June Published by Thierry Martens in French translation by A. Allen et al. On Erasmus and Valla, see J.
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See also: S. See G. Lorenzo Valla, Oper omnia, 2 vols. See P. Bietenholz, op. II, p. See also: J.
See, inter alia: A. Text in W. Ferguson, Erasmi opuscula. A supplement to the Opera omnia, The Hague, Nijhoff, , p. See the critical edition by C. See D. Thomson and H. Porter eds. The literature on Luther is immense. Godin in Erasme, Paris, Robert Laffont, This amount is subject to change until you make payment. For additional information, see the Global Shipping Program terms and conditions - opens in a new window or tab This amount includes applicable customs duties, taxes, brokerage and other fees.
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