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2 A Gem in its Setting

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Chapter Summary

In the dedicatory epistle which he wrote for the very first edition of his adages, the Adagiorum Collectanea of 1500, addressing his pupil and patron William Blount Lord Mountjoy, Erasmus anticipates a series of possible, and often antithetical objections to his new work including the complaint: "Frigere quaepiam videbuntur" or some will seem dull and lifeless. One of the guiding principles of classical epistolography is reciprocity or equal exchange, and this principle itself receives proverbial expression in Cicero's letters to Atticus. In editing his collection of letters, Angelo Poliziano was eager to advertise Erasmus reputation as a humanist as well as to pursue scholarly polemics begun much earlier. Erasmus returns to the metaphor of the gem in its setting in the adage Herculei labores where he deplores the many hardships of collecting adages that make his task as daunting as the labors of Hercules.

Keywords: Angelo Poliziano; Cicero's letters; Erasmus; humanist epistolography



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