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.

[London: in the house of Thomas Berthelet, 1569 [recte 1549] Stock Code: 108395

One of the most notable works of the Renaissance

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Rare first edition in English of one of the most notable works of the Renaissance, a work written in England, 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 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. Thomas Chaloner (1520-1565), the Cambridge-educated English translator, strove to remain faithful to Erasmus's tight, lean style, resulting in a work of lasting importance that had a very considerable influence on English literature in general and more particularly on Shakespeare. Chaloner's text appears the direct source for monologues in As You Like It and The Tempest, and analysis of Shakespeare's verbal usage has identified several instances where a word from Chaloner is used in Hamlet and in few, if any, other instances.

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 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.

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Small quarto (181 x 130 mm). 19th-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. Housed in a dark brown quarter morocco solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.


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.


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