The Original Liberal Arts Student - An Attack on the Church & A Defense of Humanism

Hutten, Ulrich von (1488-1523)

Outis. Nemo

Strasbourg: Matthias Schurer, 1518


Quarto: 20.5 x 15 cm. [24] pp. A-C4

SECOND PRINTING (1st at Augsburg, also 1518).

20th c. vellum binding using a repurposed manuscript leaf. With a full-page woodcut title page. A nice copy with light toning at the edges, discreet reinforcement in gutter of first few leaves. Contemporary annotations on verso of the final leaf.

The second printing of Hutten's second "Nemo", a substantially re-worked and enlarged version of the 1516 original. This edition has been augmented by 60 verses, mainly on political subjects, an introduction dedicated to Johannes Crotus Rubianus (1480-1545) and a letter to Julius von Pflug (1499-1564). It also marks the first appearance of the celebrated woodcut title page (described in detail below.)

Hutten found the inspiration for his Nemo ("Nobody") in Homer's Odyssey, where Odysseus, calling himself Nobody, outwits the Cyclops Polyphemus. Hutten builds on this wordplay to create a new hero, a humanist reformer capable of speaking out against the Church ("Nobody dares to criticize the luxury of the priests and the idle life of the Pope.") and one who appreciates the value of humanistic learning ("Nobody gives scholarly studies the rewards they deserve.") The title woodcut cleverly illustrates the dual identities of Hutten's satiric hero. Nemo, clad in classical garb, stands upon a beach with the familiar attributes of the humanities student (gaming boards, books, a lute, a drinking flagon) strewn about him. In the background, the Cyclops threatens to hurl a boulder onto Nemo's waiting ship.

The revised "Nemo" is more overtly political than the earlier version. The added distichs reveal Hutten's anger over corruption in the Church and his mounting frustration with German politics. Shortly after he published "Nemo", Hutten assumed a central role in the politics of the nascent Reformation. In the letter to Pflug that concludes this edition, Hutten praised Erasmus, with whom he had maintained a good relationship since 1514, as the "Forger of a new way" and Erasmus spoke approvingly of Hutten's work (Ep 961, 967.) Soon after publication of "Nemo", however, relations between the two men became strained, eventually leading to hostility between them. In 1522, Erasmus would lament that "This whirlwind of Luther" had torn Hutten away from him. (See "Contemporaries of Erasmus" vol. II, p. 218 ff.)

"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)

Proctor 10258; VD16 H 6387; Die Hutten-Sammlung Der Hessischen Landesbibliothek Fulda: 16; STC German: 3905.ccc.107 (1). On the first edition see: Benzing, Hutten, 62. Boecking XV, 1. Goedeke II, 229, 10. Knaake II, 336. Kuczynski 1079. Roettinger, Weiditz 7. Dodgson II, 140; Fairfax Murray 211