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Reviewed by:
  • Epistolae.
  • Terence O. O.Tunberg
Justus Lipsius . Epistolae. Ed. Jeanine De Landtsheer. Part 8: 1595. Brussels: Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en schone Kunsten, 2004. 664 pp. index. bibl. n.p. ISBN: 90-6569-932-5.

Of tomes that will contain the complete correspondence of the great Flemish humanist and scholar Justus Lipsius (1547–1606), this volume will be the eighth in the complete series (the volumes that will precede the eighth are as yet incomplete, because the fourth volume is still expected). Iusti Lipsi Epistolae, or ILE, is the title of the project to edit the entire corpus of Lipsius's letters, which has been underway in Belgium since the publication of the inventory of Lipsius's letters in 1968 by Aloïs Gerlo. ILE, produced under the auspices of the Koninklijke Vlaamse Academie van België voor Wetenschappen en schone Kunsten, is making a vast contribution to our understanding not merely of humanism in the Low Countries at the end of the sixteenth century, but also of Neo-Latin literature and the history of classical scholarship in general.

Lipsius, we should remind ourselves, was a moral and political philosopher of considerable stature, the producer of editions of classical texts that remained standard for many years, the creator of new stylistic trends in Neo-Latin writing, a professor who had contacts with other important humanists and scholars all over Europe. Our insights into the thought of this important figure, our knowledge of his activities, and the complexities of his relations with other intellectuals rests on an ever more secure basis, as these reliable texts of his letters, equipped with learned and informative commentaries, are published. ILE 8 is almost exclusively made up of Lipsius's correspondence for the year 1595, a period in which Lipsius wrote even more letters than usual: hence the magnitude of this volume, which comprises nearly 300 letters. The year 1595 was indeed eventful for Lipsius, and the letters [End Page 591] draw the reader into these events on quite a personal level: Lipsius, as usual, is preoccupied with his publications, especially his treatise on ancient warfare, entitled De militia romana dedicated to the Spanish crown prince, the future Philip III, a work which had a very positive reception among Lipsius's humanist peers all over Europe, and its sequel, the Poliorcetica, an analysis of ancient siegecraft largely written during 1595; Lipsius is tempted by the offer of a post at the University of Bologna, but is finally dissuaded by counteroffers from his compatriots, who want to keep him in Leuven. Many letters concern Lipsius's contubernium, the group of students who lived with him (which was increased by two new individuals in September of 1595), and we see clearly how this group remained the source of important contacts that lasted throughout Lipsius's life.

This volume of ILE, like the previous ones, is furnished with an extensive index and an extremely detailed commentary. The Latin text of the letters is meticulously edited, clearly laid-out, and its apparatus keeps the reader apprised of all variants and problems of interpretation. In one respect ILE 8 marks an important departure from the previously published volumes in the ILE series, in which the commentaries and introductions are always in Dutch. In ILE 8, however, this material is, for the first time, written in English. The use of Dutch for the commentaries in ILE was a natural choice, given the nationality of the scholars involved in ILE, the Belgian sources of its funding, and the Flemish background of Lipsius himself. But the use of English may well, as the directors of the project hope, make the volumes of ILE more accessible to an international readership. The editor of ILE 8, Jeanine De Landtsheer, deserves the highest acclaim for her production of this superb edition.

Terence O. O.Tunberg
University of Kentucky


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pp. 591-592
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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