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Reviewed by:
  • Adages III iv 1 to IV ii 100. Vol. 35 of Collected Works of Erasmus, and: Expositions of the Psalms. Vol. 64 of Collected Works of Erasmus
  • Albert Rabil Jr.
Desiderius Erasmus . Adages III iv 1 to IV ii 100. Vol. 35 of Collected Works of Erasmus. Ed. John N. Grant. Trans. Denis L. Drysdall. Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 2005. xii + 592 pp. tbls. bibl. $150. ISBN: 0-8020-3643-0.
Desiderius Erasmus . Expositions of the Psalms. Vol. 64 of Collected Works of Erasmus. Ed. Dominic Baker-Smith. Trans. Emily Kearns, Caroline White, and Michael J. Heath. Toronto and Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 2005. xv + 416 pp. index. illus. bibl. $150. ISBN: 0-8020-3584-1.

Both these volumes are continuations of works in a series. Adages III iv 1 to IV ii 100 (CWE 35) is the fifth of seven volumes to be published in a critical English translation based largely on the work of Sir Roger Mynors before his untimely death in 1989. I have reviewed in these pages three of the four volumes published earlier: CWE 32 (RQ 43, no. 2, 1990: 396-97), CWE 33 (RQ 46, no. 2, 1993: 394-95), and CWE 34 (RQ 47, no. 4, 1994: 992-93). Expositions of the Psalms (CWE 64) is the second of three volumes to be published in that project. The first I discussed in an earlier review that also included other volumes: CWE 63 (RQ 54, no. 1, 2001: 246-51 at 249-50). Both these volumes come to us as finely crafted as others in the CWE, and both have had the advantage of the publication of the corresponding volumes in the Amsterdam (ASD) Opera Omnia: for the Adages, 2.7-8 (also discussed in my review in RQ 54, no. 1, 2001: 246-51); and for the Exposition of the Psalms, V.3.

In the volumes under review we see the two critically important sides of Erasmus, the educator in the Adages and the preacher-reformer in the Expositions of the Psalms. The first presents the classical, the other the Christian tradition. In Erasmus, as in Renaissance humanism preceding him, the two were brought together for the last time in Western history. His conviction that they belonged together and his vast project to bring this about led to his vilification in his own time and later; the long path to his rehabilitation began in earnest only in the [End Page 211] twentieth century, perhaps in part out of nostalgia for his project, long since (and perhaps permanently) abandoned.

Erasmus published the Adages in three major editions (1500, 1508, 1515). Though he added comments in subsequent editions, the augmentation from 818 to 3,260 to 4,251 adages was achieved by 1515. The difference between the 1500 and 1508 editions is the inclusion of Greek writers (Erasmus had just begun the study of Greek in 1500); the 1515 edition includes nine long essays that have often been published separately and that deal with questions of political and social reform. We could say, in contemporary terms, that the 1500 edition was his tenure book, the 1508 edition his full professor book, and the 1515 edition his distinguished chair book, for by then he had become the most famous intellectual in Europe. Throughout, Erasmus is the educator, but his outreach becomes increasingly extensive. This volume reflects the features of all three editions. Most of his explanations-commentaries are brief, as in the 1500 edition. One extended section in this volume, added in 1508, consists of phrases from Homer that Erasmus says may be regarded as proverbs and were probably treated as such in the ancient world, though they are no longer so regarded. These fill more than a hundred pages (281-383). And two of the longer essays fall in the section of the Adages covered by this volume: "A dung-beetle hunting an eagle" (178-214) and "War is a treat for those who have not tried it" (399-440). In the first of these, present in the 1508 edition but significantly augmented in 1515, Erasmus describes the eagle (rulers, 178-99) and the beetle (the weak but cunning...


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