"ONE OF THE MOST WIDELY READ BOOKS OF ALL HUMAN HISTORY": FINE 1676 FIRST HOLBEIN-ILLUSTRATED EDITION OF ERASMUS' PRAISE OF FOLLY, WITH 80 DELIGHTFUL ENGRAVED VIGNETTES—SIX FOLDING—AFTER HOLBEIN
ERASMUS [Desiderius] Rotero. (HOLBEIN, Hans, illustrator) (MORE, Thomas). Moriae Encomium. Stultitiae Laus. Basel: Typis Genathianis, 1676. Small octavo, 19th-century full red straight-grain morocco gilt, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. $3500.
First edition of Erasmus' "brilliant, biting satire" on human folly to appear with Hans Holbein's illustrations, with engraved additional title-page, vignette title page, portrait of Erasmus after Holbein, two portraits of Holbein, engraved transcription of Erasmus' memorial stone, and 81 delightful in-text engraved vignettes after designs by Holbein, six mounted and folding.
Praise of Folly, a centerpiece of Western literature, is the masterwork of Erasmus, "one of the most learned men of the entire Renaissance… He did more than any single man of his time to prepare the way for the Reformation" (Seymour-Smith, 150). "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… His inherent skepticism 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). Praise of Folly remains "one of the most widely read books of all human history" (Crompton, 35).
These charming illustrations were engraved by Caspar Merian from drawings by Holbein found in Oswald Myconius' copy of the 1515 Froben edition. Hans Holbein the Younger came to London from Switzerland in 1526, with a letter of introduction from the philosopher Erasmus, who recommended that he meet his close friend Sir Thomas More, and the painter soon took up residence near More in Chelsea. More, in a letter back to Erasmus, spoke of Holbein as "a wonderful artist." Holbein's famous portrait of More is dated 1527. "Les figures d'Holbein sont imprimé dans le texte, dont elles dépassent quelquefois la largeur, ce qui a fait qu'on a été ebligé de les coller sur les pages du livre" [the figures of Holbein are printed in the text, where they sometimes exceeded the width, which meant they were forced to paste them on the pages of the book] (Brunet). Text in Latin. First published in Paris in 1511. This edition includes a life of Erasmus and a life of Holbein, two letters of Erasmus—one to More and one to Martin Daperius—and a letter from More to Daperius. Brunet II, 1037. Graesse II, 495. See PMM 43. Bookplate.
Interior clean, light rubbing to joints and extremities, binding sound and attractive. An excellent copy of this delightfully illustrated edition.