Hutten’s Final Reckoning With Erasmus - A copy once owned by Hutten’s Friend

Hutten, Ulrich von (1488-1523)

Ulrichi ab Hutten cum Erasmo Roterodamo, presbytero, theologo, expostulatio.

Strasbourg: J. Schott, 1523


Quarto: [70] p. A-I4 (complete with final blank.)


A fine, broad copy in 19th-century marbled boards. With the possession note (partly snipped away) of Hutten’s friend, the Erfurt humanist Petreius Aperbach [Eberbach] (ca. 1480-1531), who was a member of Joachim Vadianus’ circle at Vienna.This is the sole edition with the medallion portraits of Hutten and Erasmus and a third with Melanchthon and Luther (whose faces are both intentionally all but obscured by shadow by the artist.)

In the ‘Expostulatio’, Hutten expressed his indignation at Erasmus’ refusal to receive him in Basel, and to stand by his Lutheran convictions against the hostile Basel City Council. The “Spongia” was Erasmus’ answer to Hutten’s reproaches.

“Their mutual accusations document the breakdown of their friendship as well as the fundamental misunderstandings that governed their relationship from the beginning. They had never assessed correctly one another’s personalities, aims, and motives. Hutten saw only cowardice and hypocrisy in Erasmus’ efforts to remain neutral for the sake of reason and peace, while Erasmus considered Hutten’s determination and ensuing actions as a betrayal of the ideals of humanism. 

"The misunderstanding is not only based on a clash of personalities, however; Hutten’s ‘Expostulatio’ and ‘Spongia’ are valuable documents of intellectual history. With the question of right and wrong no longer of importance, they are significant as the expressions of opposing points of view, of two different directions in the development of humanism that were bound to clash at a certain point in history – the onset of the Reformation.”(Barbara Könneker, Contemporaries of Erasmus)

"The quarrel between Erasmus and Ulrich von Hutten, his erstwhile admirer and devoted disciple, was the tragic culmination of a friendship of some nine years duration and resulted primarily (and one feels compelled to add, inevitably) from the fusion of specific external events and the temperaments and inner dispositions of the two individuals involved. 

"Hutten saw in Erasmus not the scholar and the humanist but rather a polemical spirit and the opponent of the same hated enemies against whom he himself fought. [Whereas] Erasmus eulogized Hutten as a mind great enough to accomplish for his countrymen what the aristocracy there could or would not do because of their penchant for war."(Randolph J. Klawiter, "Polemics of Erasmus of Rotterdam and Ulrich von Hutten")

"Ulrich Von Hutten, German humanist, neo-Latin poet, and political publicist in the service of the Reformation, was born into a family of imperial knights in Steckelberg castle in Franconia. Between 1505 and 1511, Hutten pursued humanistic studies at various Germany universities. In 1512, on his way to Italy to study law he visited Joachim Vadian in Vienna and other humanists in the circle of the Emperor Maximilian. He then turned from personal literary interests to political matters. After studying at the universities of Pavia and Bologna and serving briefly in the army of Maximilian, Hutten returned to Germany in 1514. There he met Erasmus, who expected much of the young poet and who dedicated his epistolary biography of Thomas More to the young aristocrat. During his second stay in Italy (1515-17) he wrote a series of epigrams denouncing not only the enemies of the Emperor Maximilian -the French and the Venetians- but also Pope Julius II. 

"On his return from Italy Hutten was crowned poet laureate by Maximilian and entered the service of Albert of Brandenburg, archbishop of Mainz, as councilor; in four dialogues Hutten nonetheless castigated not only the luxury and moral excess of the papal court and the concept of celibacy but also Rome’s fiscal exploitation of the German nation. With its pointed triplets, Hutten’s "Vadiscus sive trias Romana" (1521) contains the most comprehensive catalogue of German grievances against Rome.

"Despite his antipapal stance, Hutten initially viewed the controversy following Luther’s postings of the Ninety-five Theses in Wittenberg as a monk’s squabble and a welcome rift among his opponents. It was only after two years of virtually ignoring Luther, after the Leipzig Disputation of June-July 1519, that Hutten began to consider himself as an ally. Although Luther’s opposition to Rome was rooted primarily in religious-theological concerns and Hutten’s was prompted by political-national aspirations, the two men exercised considerable influence on each other.

"In 1520 Hutten embarked on a feverish campaign in which he challenged the Emperor, the German nobility, the princes, the cities and the general reader to take up the fight against Rome, if necessary, with arms. During the Diet of Worms he, next to Luther became the most prominent representative of the antipapal party in Germany. Realizing in the wake of the Diet that a general uprising would not occur, Hutten launched the so-called "Priests’ War" in the hope that it would provide the spark that would ignite the German powder keg. In 1522, having lost the protection of Sickingen, Hutten fled to Basel and then, in 1523, to Zurich, where he died on 29 August of Syphilis." (Oxford Encyclopedia of the Reformation)

VD 16 H 6313; Benzing 186