Friends Hold All Things in Common: Tradition, Intellectual Property, and the Adages of Erasmus. (Reviews).
New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2001. ix + 194 pp. $35. ISBN: 0-300-08757-8.
In constantly expanding editions of the Adagia, Erasmus (c. 1467-1536) traced the transmission of 4151 proverbs through classical, biblical, and patristic texts to those of his own age. The once standard edition of Opera Omnia II (Leiden, 1704) is being replaced by a critical edition of the new II/1-9 (Amsterdam, 198 1981ff) and a well-annotated English translation, Collected Works of Erasmus 30-36 (Toronto, 1982ff). While there is communication between the two projects, they do not work in tandem. This monograph cites Latin from Leiden and English from Toronto, supplemented by Margaret Mann Phillips, The 'Adages' of Erasmus: A Study with Translations (Cambridge, 1964). Kathy Eden asserts that a leading theme of the Adages is Erasmus' desire to share his literary inheritance because "Between friends all is common" (#1).
In chapter one, Eden notes that Erasmus feels authorized to seize cultural goods from enemies by the patristic interpretation of key passages from the Pentateuch (Exod. 3.22; Deut. 21.12). Yet, in the Enchiridion, inspired by I Corinthians, Erasmus urges his lay readers to perform the corporal and spiritual works of mercy because all Christians are members of the Mystical Body of Christ. Eden then claims that Erasmus draws inspiration to share intellectual goods with friends from Plato. She studies competing disciplines, such as rhetoric, politics, and philosophy, in the Symposium in chapter two and in the Protagoras, Gorgias, and Phaedrus in chapter three. In the Institutio principis christiani, however, Erasmus eloquently advises the future Charles V how to rule with both honor and wisdom.
In chapter four, Eden contrasts the communism of material goods in Pythagoras and Plato's Republic with the communal ownership of only intellectual goods in Plato's Laws, Aristotle, and Cicero. In chapter five, Eden demonstrates that Pythagoras and Plato both influenced Basil and Augustine, and thus Erasmus. Indeed, in his will the former Augustinian Canon left his fortune, not to a subsidy for his Opera omnia, but to scholarships for poor young men, dowries for poor young women, and relief for the sick and the elderly.
Out of eleven editions authorized by Erasmus, Eden concentrates on three: the preliminary Collectanea with 818 adages (Paris, 1500), the first Adagia with about 3260 (Venice, 1508), and the second Adagia with about 3400 (Basel, 1515). In chapter six, her most illuminating analysis, Eden examines why Erasmus moved three adages of 1500 to the head of their thousand in 1508ff. Each adage is concerned with the new medium of print. Erasmus publishes the sayings of Pythagoras and Socrates because "Amicorum communia omnia" (#1). Aldo Manuzio and his colleagues "Festina[nt] lente. Make haste slowly" and so produce accurate texts (#1001). In editing the Letters of Jerome, Erasmus has completed "Herculei labores. The labours of Hercules" (#2001). Also in chapter six, Eden deals explicitly with the emergence of copyright, first granted by the Venetian Council in 1486. Although his labors were repaid chiefly by gifts from his patrons, Erasmus and his publishers suffered loss when his books were pirated. Yet, if friends h old all things in common, may not readers reprint, photocopy, or download material freely? In the Conclusion, Eden shows why Erasmus moved an adage of 1508 forward in 1515ff. Princes should buy books rather than seize land because "Duke bellum inexpertis. War is sweet to those who have not tried it" (#300 1). As at the wedding feast of Cana, the best wine comes last.
This book legitimately focuses on the classical tradition, so Eden mentions only in passing specifically Christian texts such as De contemptu mundi, Enchiridion, Institutio principis christiani, and Paraclesis. For a full portrait of Erasmus, the reader must remember the humanist's biblical scholarship (Latin and Greek New Testament, Annotations, Paraphrases) and dozen patristic editions (Jerome, Augustine, Cyprian, Arnobius, Hilary, Chrysostom, Athanasius, Irenaeus, Ambrose, Gregory Nazianzen, Basil, Origen). Arguably, Plato meant much to Erasmus, but Paul and Jerome meant more.
Kathy Eden does not discuss Erasmus' brief note on the adage at the head of the last group of proverbs, "Tu in legione, ego in culina" (#4001). The author approaches Erasmus from classical philosophy; this reviewer from Christian literature. "You may be a warrior in the army, but I in the kitchen" (Plautus, Truculentus, Act 2, scene 7, line 615).
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|Author:||O'Donnell, Anne M.|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Dec 22, 2002|
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