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Desiderius Erasmus; Hans Holbein (illustrator); White Kennett (translator).
Moriae Encomium: Or, A Panegyrick Upon Folly. . . . Illustrated with Above
Fifty Curious Cuts, Design’d and Drawn by Hans Holbeine. To which is prefix’d,
Erasmus’s Epistle to Sir Thomas More, and an Account of Hans Holbeine’s
Pictures, &c. and where to be seen.
London: J. Woodward, in Threadneedle-Street,
1709. Octavo, full nineteenth-century vellum. Engraved frontispiece portrait of Erasmus,
46 copper engravings after drawings by Hans Holbein. $2500.
Illustrated English edition of Erasmus’s
The Praise of Folly
, a high spot of Renaissance
humanism, first published as
Moriae Encomium
in 1511. Erasmus wrote the essay
during a visit to his friend Thomas More in England: the punning title suggests
praise for More as well as Folly. This parody of a classical
, in which the
goddess Folly makes the case for herself as mankind’s great benefactor, remains
Erasmus’s most influential work: in his opening letter, he writes, “I am apt to
believe I have praised Folly in such a Manner as not to have deserved the Name
of a Fool for my Pains.” Erasmus’s long view of human nature, opposed to the
extremes of both the Catholic Church and Martin Luther’s Reformation, made
his name a byword for intellectual freedom. Painter Hans Holbein, who would
produce the defining portrait of Erasmus as Renaissance man, decorated the
margins of Erasmus’s own copy of
The Praise of Folly
with a series of grotesque pen
and ink sketches. Those original drawings were reproduced as engravings, serving
as illustrations in dozens of future editions, including this one, the first English
edition to feature them.
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