ERASMUS, Desiderius. The Praise of Folie. Moriae Encomium A Book Made In Latine By That Great Clerke Erasmus Roterodame. Englisshed By Sir Thomas Chaloner, Knight. Anno M.D.XLIX. Published: [London: in the house of Thomas Berthelet, 1569 [recte 1549].
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Small quarto (181 x 130 mm). Nineteenth-century brown crushed morocco by Jenkins & Cecil (their stamp to foot of front free endpaper verso), boards ruled in gilt with crowned thistle and floral tools at corners, banded spine with title gilt and rules and tools in six compartments, turn-ins with elaborate tooling in gilt, marbled endpapers, gilt edges. Title printed within elaborate allegorical woodcut frame, two elaborate 10-line woodcut initials, publisher’s device on last leaf verso; black letter text with quotations in italic and proper nouns in Roman types. Outer leaves slightly browned, small paper repairs to inner margin of last leaf, text not affected, an excellent copy.
First edition in English of one of the most notable works of the Renaissance. “The Praise of Folly was written when Erasmus was staying in the house of Thomas More in the winter of 1509–10. Its title is a delicate and complimentary play on the name of his host: its subject matter is a brilliant, biting satire on the folly to be found in all walks of life. The book stemmed from the decision which Erasmus had taken when he left Rome to come to England, that no form of preferment could be obtained at the sacrifice of his freedom to read, think and write what he liked … The work was first secretly printed in Paris, and, as in other cases, its immediate success safeguarded him from the consequences of his audacity … Whenever tyranny or absolute power threatened, The Praise of Folly was re-read and reprinted. It is a sign of what was in the air that Milton found it in every hand at Cambridge in 1628. His inherent scepticism has led people to call Erasmus the father of 18th century rationalism, but his rationalist attitude is that of perfect common sense, to which tyranny and fanaticism were alike abhorrent” (PMM). First published in Paris in 1511, the Moriae Encomium was reprinted in a large number of editions in its original form before any vernacular translation was published. Pforzheimer suggests that, in light of the intended Latinate audience, the free movement of Latin books and unbound sheets, and the contemporary preference (at least in England) for continental printing, a translation was simply not required. Sir Thomas Chaloner (1520–1565), the English translator, was Cambridge-educated and a notable figure, knighted in 1547, whose fame to the Elizabethans rested “on his Latin poetry, his military and diplomatic service of four Tudor monarchs, and his near escape from drowning after shipwreck off the coast of Algeria” (Miller: see pp. xxix–xlv for The Life of Sir Thomas Chaloner). Chaloner contributed to the Mirror of Magistrates and was the author of other works, although only three were printed during his lifetime, all by Thomas Berthelet, the king’s printer who had published three translations of works by Erasmus in the 1520s. Chaloner, whose poetry was praised at the University of Alcala in Spain and knew Vesalius, is also the earliest translator of Ovid and Ariosto into English. The first edition of Chaloner’s translation is genuinely rare: Miller is his 1965 census lists 14 copies in institutions worldwide (two are defective) but makes clear the difficulty of distinguishing the first and second editions (the misdated colophon with 1569 is common to both editions, while the titles can be distinguished only by the y in Latyne, the initials T.P. instead of T.B. etc.) and adds the additional difficulty of the misprint in the original STC entry that has created variants that are really ghosts. It seems probable that there are further institutional holdings of this edition, but apparent absences at the Folger Library, the Getty, and the New York Public Library and the dearth of copies at auction since the 1950s indicate the work’s rarity. Extensive analysis by Miller suggests that Chaloner used a Cologne edition of the Moriae Encomium from 1526 as the source for his translation, while also consulting Antonio Pellegrini’s 1539 edition in Italian. Above all, it appears that Chaloner strove to …
ERASMUS, Desiderius. The Praise of Folie. 1569 [recte 1549]. Peter Harrington Rare Books.