Books and Their Makers during the Middle Ages: A Study of the Conditions of the Production and Distribution of Literature from the Fall of the Roman Empire to the Close of the Seventeenth Century - Vol. 2

By George Haven Putnam | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX.
ERASMUS AND HIS BOOKS. 1467-1536.

IT is convenient to make in this place such further reference as is pertinent to my subject to the literary undertakings of Erasmus, of whom I have before spoken as perhaps the most typical author of his time. In popularity, as far as popularity is to be gauged by extent of circulation, his books were excelled only by the writings of Luther, while the range of their distribution--that is, the extent of the territory reached and the variety of the circles of readers by whom they were welcomed--must have been much in advance of anything attained by the writings of Luther. The direct influence of these last was, for a long time at least, limited to Germany and to the Low Countries, while their principal sale was in the common tongue and among the masses of the people. The writings of Erasmus, in their original Latin form, found their way in the first place to the educated circles of the upper classes, and to the more liberal minded of the ecclesiastics, while the versions in the vernacular which speedily followed, in both authorised and unauthorised editions, were taken up with cordial appreciation by all classes of readers throughout Europe.

It is undoubtedly the case that, while Erasmus always refused to take sides with the Protestants and held himself to be a dutiful son of the Catholic Church, the in

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