The 1515 Froben “Praise of Folly”

Erasmus, Desiderius (ca. 1466-1536): Piccolomini, Aeneas Sylvius (Pope Pius II) (1405-1464); Wimpfeling, Jakob (1450-1528): Lactantius, Lucius Caecilius Firmianus (ca. 240 – ca. 320): Lactantius, Lucius Caecilius Firmianus (ca. 240 – ca. 320)

[Bound with:] Piccolomini, Aeneas Sylvius (Pope Pius II) (1405-1464); Wimpfeling, Jakob (1450-1528) Germania Enee Silvii: in qua candide lector continentur : gravamina germanice nationis : confutatio eorundem cum replicis ; de concilio Constantiensi & Basiliensi ; describuntur hic urbes, civitates, ecclesie, episcopatus, abbacie, principatus & principatus & nobilissime familie Germanorum… De concordatis principum. De officio pape & suis officialibus. De veritate Christiane religionis Strasbourg: Excusum per Renatu[m] Beck in aedibus zum Thiergarten, 21 June 1515 [Bound with:] Lactantius, Lucius Caecilius Firmianus (ca. 240 – ca. 320) Lepida Lactantij Firmiani opera accurate græco adiuncto castigata: Eiusdem Nephytomon: Carmina de Phoenice. & Christi Resurrectione. Io. Chry. de Eucharistia sermo. Lau. Val. sermo. Phil. ad theo. Adhortatio. Paris: Jean Petit, In vico Sancti Iacobi, 1513

Basel: and Strasbourg: and Paris: Io. Froben, and Excusum per Renatu[m] Beck in aedibus zum Thiergarten, and Jean Petit, In vico Sancti Iacobi, 1515 and 1515 and 1513


Large Quarto: 3 works bound in one volume: I. Piccolomini: i-iv, A-B4, C8, D-E4, F8, G-H4, I8, K-L4, M8, N-O4, P6. II. Lactantius: A6, B4, a-z8/4, A-D8/4, E6, F-N8/4, O6, P4. III. “Praise of Folly”: a-h4, a-z4, A-B4, C6

THIRD FROBEN EDITION of the "Praise of Folly”. The two prior editions also appeared in 1515. Written in 1509 as a visitor

Bound in contemporary, quarter alum-tawed pigskin over wooden boards with working clasps and catches. The pigskin is tooled in blind with repeating vines and floral rolls. The text and binding are beautifully preserved. The contents are fresh and bright, with wide margins and a number of deckled edges. Excellent. The “Germania” has a fine title page, printed in red and black and surrounded by a fine woodcut border. The printer’s beautiful device by Hans Baldung Grien appears on the final leaf. The Lactantius has Jean Petit’s device on the title page. The text is adorned with fine floriated criblé initials. A contemporary reader has annotated the “De Opificio Dei” densely in Latin and added a long Latin poem to the final two leaves. The “Praise of Folly” has a fine Holbein border with the decapitation of John the Baptist in the lower register, and affine woodcut border with a fool by Urs Graf on the contents leaf.

This edition includes the original dedicatory letter to Thomas More, whose name Erasmus plays upon cleverly in the title of the work; and the letter to Martin Dorp in which Erasmus explains his motives for writing the “Moria”: “My aim in the ‘Folly’ was exactly the same as in my other works. Only the presentation was different. In the ‘Enchiridion’ I simply outlined the pattern of a Christian life. In my little book, the ‘Education of a Christian Prince’, I offered plain advice on how to instruct a prince. In my ‘Panegyric’ I did the same under the veil of eulogy as I had done elsewhere explicitly. And in the ‘Folly’ I expressed the same ideas as in the ‘Enchiridion’, but in the form of a joke.” The Froben edition is augmented with a number of other texts (See the final paragraphs of this description.) Praise of Folly: “The ‘Praise of Folly’ is Erasmus’ most famous and controversial work… In Erasmus’ lifetime, the ‘Moria’ was condemned in 1527 by the theologians of Paris for its attacks on faith and morality and again in 1533 by the Franciscans, who found it full of heresies. The officials of the Sorbonne put it on the list of condemned books in 1542 and 1543, a list that was the basis of the Tridentine Index of 1564… “The ‘Moria’ may start as a learned joke to amuse a fellow humanist [Thomas More] but it moves into sharp criticism of contemporary mores, and ends with a plea for a return to the Christianity of the Gospels… Erasmus writes in a Lucianic spirit of irreverent burlesque of the gods of classical mythology and light-hearted amusement at the irrationality of mankind. Folly argues that she is all that is natural, youthful, fecund, and happy, and that life would be intolerable if it were not ruled by civilized conventions, which necessitate a degree of humbug and illusion. By contrast, the Stoic ideal rational man is a ‘kind of marble statue of a man, devoid of sense and any sort of human feeling.’ She [then] shifts her viewpoint and lists the people who enjoy her benefits in so far as they try to preserve their illusions or are happy in their ignorance, self-deception, or self-love. She even adds superstitious piety to alchemy, gambling, and the nobility’s obsession with hunting and extravagant building… “[Next] Erasmus starts to deliver a sharp and often bitter attack on all the victims of blind folly, those who are deaf to the voice of true religion and lacking the gentler Christian virtues, among whom are sycophants, self-seekers, money-makers, pedants, scholastics, lawyers, theologians, superstitious worshippers of images and relics, courtiers and kings, worldly monks, and irreligious pontiffs. This section culminates in a savage thrust at Pope Julius II, the bellicose pope. The keen wit and ingenuity of the satire can be highly entertaining, but there is no note of gaiety now. As Erasmus surveys the gulf between the Church and the ‘true philosophy of Christ’ he moves into the final section, where the alternative offered to barren scholasticism is the vision of reality taken from Plato, and folly in the sense used by Saint Paul, that of receptivity to the Christian message by the ‘fool in Christ.’ All irony is dropped, until the final short epilogue when Folly light-heartedly cuts short her ‘hotch-potch of words’; this is a direct and simply worded account of Erasmus’ personal belief, moving into an exposition of the Neoplatonist concept that the soul’s ascent to beatitude ends in ecstasy, a form of folly which is its supreme fulfillment.”(Betty Radice, CWE Vol. 27, pp. 78 ff.) Piccolomini’s “Germania”: Shortly after 1455, Aeneas Sylvius Piccolomini came into possession of the recently rediscovered manuscript of Tacitus’ “Germania”, the most important ancient account of Germany in the first century. In response to a letter from the Bishop of Mainz lamenting the miserable state of the Holy Roman Empire, Piccolomini wrote his “Germania”, based on Tacitus’ own, in which he demonstrates that the present high level of German culture, as compared with the barbarous past as presented by Tacitus, is an accomplishment of the Church. This edition includes the important response by Jakob Wimpfeling in defense of the ancestors of the Germans. Additional “Moria” texts: The Froben editions of the 'Moria' contain, in addition to Erasmus' main text, two ancient examples of the mock-encomium, Seneca's "Ludus de Morte Claudii Caesaris" and Synesius of Cyrene's "De Laudibus Calvitii" ("In Praise of Baldness"), translated from the Greek by the Englishman John Phreas (d. 1465). In his introductory letter to Thomas More, Erasmus cites both the "Ludus" and the "Praise of Baldness" in a pre-emptive defense against those who will object to his literary frivolity, "levitas et ludicrum argumenti" (pp. 102-104 in this edition). The text of the "Moria" is accompanied by the commentary of Gerard Listrius, with assistance from Erasmus.

I. “Germania”: BM STC German p. 701 = Proctor 10307. Not in Adams. Panzer VI.75.410. Ritter 1878. Muller, Bibliographie Strasbourgeoise II, 228 no. 26. Schmidt (Beck) 21. II. Lactantius: Adams L-14; BSB-Ink L-13; HC 9819; Moreau, Inventaire chronologique II 637. III. “Praise of Folly”: Vander Haeghen I, 122; Kossmann 967; Bezzel 1304; Not in De Reuck; BM STC German p. 282; Adams E 392; VD, 16E 3184