early modern history

The Historian Rudolf Hospinian

by guest contributor William Theiss

The 1517 book On Gems by Erasmus Stella, a doctor and mythologist from Leipzig, never enjoyed a wide readership—though two hundred years later it was enough in demand to merit a reprint. It takes its reader on a brisk journey through the world of precious stones, their distinguishing features, and their most famous uses. It was first printed together with the passage on stones from Pliny the Elder’s Natural History, on which Stella’s book is largely based.

The passage on smaragdus, or emerald, contains commonplace allusions to famous emerald structures: an emerald spear in a temple to Hercules in Tyre, an emerald Seraphim in a mythological Egyptian labyrinth (p. 17). Stella lingers on one object the longest: an emerald cup in a church in Genoa said to be the one used by Jesus at the Last Supper. We then hear a genealogy of this cup, cobbled together from accounts by medieval romancers: it had first belonged to a set of dinnerware owned by Herod, who had sent it from Galilee to Jerusalem in time for Passover; it was diverted by “divine providence” into the hands of Jesus. Stella, who might well have seen the cup during one of his many travels to Italy, waxes poetic: “Nobody ever saw a more precious cup, a more dignified stone, or more marvelous craftsmanship!” This is not an idle argument: if Jesus at the Last Supper drank from one of the most valuable gems known to the entire West, a gem now residing in an Italian church, controversial things are implied about what kind of man Jesus was, and about which countries could claim the correct worship of him.

Of a different view about the cup’s provenance was Jean Brodeau, a French courtier known, if at all, for his interpretations of Greek poetry. In a chapter of his 1555 Miscellanea (c. 5.19, pp. 193-194) he tried to set straight what he knew about the kinds of vessels used in ancient sacrifices. From Ovid he gathered that the oldest Romans were too poor to use anything other than earthenware or beech. And Porphyrius and Dionysius of Halicarnassus convinced him that even when the wealth of the empire grew, the pious Romans never graduated to fancier equipment. All of this, plus some passages from Apuleius and Cicero, was enough evidence for Brodeau to reject Erasmus Stella’s genealogy of the Genoan cup. Since Jesus lived in the ancient world, his Passover sacrifice must have proceeded by ancient rules, and those called for fictilia, or humble earthenware.

Rudolf Hospinian related this minor scuffle over an Italian cup in his two-part Historia Sacramentaria (1598 and 1602, p. 7). Hospinian adds his own erudition to the mix: according to him, the word for the cup in the Luther translation, Kelch, misleads, since a Kelch is a particular kind of cup. But a poterion, as the Greek New Testament has it, means any old cup, and indeed the Latin word calix should be interpreted the same way. After all, Plautus once wrote the line, “Aulas calicesque confregit”—“He shattered all the pots and cups [of any kind]”—and Erasmus recorded the saying, “Multa cadunt inter calicem supremaque labra”—“Lots of things fall out between the cup and the lips.” Plautus and Erasmus knew the exact weight of each word they used. Ipso facto, Jesus drank from an ordinary cup.

Lucas Cranach the Elder's Wittenberg Altarpiece with a Last Supper. A close friend of Martin Luther, Cranach here represented the administration of the sacrament directly into the mouth of the participant. Whereas some of Luther's Protestant opponents suggested that the minister might simply hand over the body of Christ to the congregation for them to break and eat, Luther always maintained the propriety of the old practice.

Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Wittenberg Altarpiece with a Last Supper. A close friend of Martin Luther, Cranach here represented the administration of the sacrament directly into the mouth of the participant. Whereas some of Luther’s Protestant opponents suggested that the minister might simply hand over the body of Christ to the congregation for them to break and eat, Luther always maintained the propriety of the old practice.

This Rudolf Hospinian was born as Rudolf Wirt in Fehraltorf, near Zurich, on November 7, 1547. His biographer points out that this made Hospinian only nineteen days younger than the far more famous Justus Lipsius. But “if not in genius, then certainly in piety, theological erudition, and even constancy—for that man wrote and professed many things, rather prettily, de Constantia, but never matched his words with deeds—our Hospinian was leagues ahead of Lipsius.”

If the subjects that historians choose are predetermined by their upbringing, then it is telling that as a child Hospinian watched his father imprisoned and tortured, and his uncle executed, for heresy. He was educated in nearby Zurich, and quickly ascended academic and ecclesiastical ladders. For a time, he taught in Heidelberg. Already as a young man, says his biographer, Hospinian conceived of a way of doing history that would put ecclesiastical truths in an “immovable citadel,” far from the reach of the crowd of everyday pamphleteers: “Our Hospinian believed that the false dye of antiquity could be shaken off [of the arguments of others] if the first origins of their errors, the incunabula themselves, as if tiny fibers placed beneath the sun and so shining through more clearly, could be distinguished from all the rest.”

Each of Hospinian’s works told the story of the Church from its prehistory in paganism and Judaism, through its foundation, up until its perversion in Rome and its pristine restoration in Germany. These themes tie together his book On Temples, his book On the sacred days of the Jews and Gentiles (encompassing also the Greeks, Romans, Turks, and Indians), his Historia Sacramentaria, the magnum opus, and even his works on the history of monasteries and on the strange, new Society of Jesus.

Hospinian makes no secret about which side he is on. The only segment of his work to appear in English describes how the Jesuits train their students to assassinate Protestant kings. The Historia Sacramentaria helped Hospinian come to be regarded as the most qualified Protestant writing ecclesiastical history—which meant, in the first decade of the seventeenth century, the most qualified to refute the history written by Cesare Baronio. Thomas Holland, the Oxford scholar who helped make the King James Bible, tried to recruit Hospinian for just that task. But he was already over sixty, and, as he wrote in a letter to England, “I am alone in this study, having nobody to converse with about such dark and difficult matters, nor am I so outfitted with libraries here as you are there in Oxford, not to mention other things I would need for such a work.” This was for the better: trying to refute Baronio made quick work of Isaac Casaubon, Hospinian’s junior by twelve years, if one accepts the popular account that Casaubon’s body (that is, his bladder) failed under the strain of his work.

Hospinian wrote the Historia Sacramentaria after he had been given a post in Zurich that was, his biographer admits, largely ceremonial, and so admitting of a lot of free time. His reputation hangs on this work more than any other. The first volume narrates the history of the Eucharist from the night of the Last Supper up through the Middle Ages. In the second, published four years after the first, two characters loom the largest: Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. We read, year by year, as they retreat into separate camps and send missiles back and forth.

The history of Eucharist doctrine in the early sixteenth century—the structural center of Hospinian’s diptych—can be a rebarbative subject. It is the story of theologians closing their minds, of talented thinkers expending huge energy on behalf of unbelievably subtle dogmas that seem unworthy of them. But Hospinian’s history is capacious, and it has room for other portraits than this one. Because the chronology of the history places Luther and Zwingli into the unbroken tradition of the early Church, these characters assume the aura and drama of antiquity. The arguments they propose, change, and propose again take on a humanity that other histories of the period do not offer. Jean Brodeau and Erasmus Stella are not the only ones in Hospinian’s history to think with creativity and imagination.

Hospinian humanizes the history of dogma, above all, by including humanists: the personalities whose friendships, rivalries, and passions enliven the march of escalating pamphlets and futile colloquies. He writes piercingly on the symbiosis between Luther and Philip Melanchthon—how the irascible Luther needed the melancholy, slow-thinking Melanchthon to endear him to the authorities. Or, to answer the charge that these theologians lacked self-awareness to a laughable degree, one could supply the passage Hospinian drew from a dinner conversation in Nuremberg in 1526:

That year Philip Melanchthon was in Nuremberg. In those days he was still of the same mind as Martin Luther, on whose behalf nobody fought more strongly than Pirckheimer, a senator in Nuremberg, whose sharpness of mind, force of character, and wide-ranging erudition Melanchthon noticed at every turn of the conversation. And at the same drinking table sat Albrecht Dürer, the artist and learned man… again and again, disputes about the recent Eucharist controversy broke out between Pirckheimer and Dürer. The painter, since he excelled in his mind too, faced off fiercely against Pirckheimer; what the latter proposed, the former rebutted, fully up to the task; Pirckheimer grew heated; indeed he was quick to anger, not to mention his severe case of gout. At last Pirckheimer exploded: “What you’re saying, that couldn’t be painted!” “Ah,” responded Dürer, “but your views can’t be clearly said, or even imagined.” And Dürer went on to recall the stupidity of a certain Doctor Lempius, at Tübingen, who used to attempt, in the course of his lectures, to draw the transsubstantiation on a white canvas.

So goes the Reformation, as it unfolds in Hospinian: heated, yes, but softened somewhat by the ironic humor of those in the very center of it. That is the lesson to draw from the Historia Sacramentaria. To approach the Sacrament, one needs fine distinctions and a nose for metaphysics; to approach the history, one needs people and their stories.

William Theiss is an M.Phil. student in history at the University of Cambridge, where he is a Gates Cambridge Scholar. His dissertation examines aspects of the Eucharist controversy in the Reformation.

(Prison) Note(book)s Toward a History of Boredom

by guest contributor Spencer J. Weinreich

Act III, scene iii of William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice (c.1596) sees the imprisoned Antonio following his creditor, Shylock, through the streets, in hopes of mercy. Unmoved, Shylock expostulates, “I do wonder, / Thou naughty gaoler, that thou art so fond / To come abroad with him at his request” (III.iii.8–10).

But sixteenth-century English audiences would not have been surprised at Antonio’s freedom, for early-modern prisons “were not hermetically sealed sites of discipline; they were instead physically and socially enmeshed with the surrounding city” (Freeman, “The Rise of Prison Literature,” 135–36). Friends, relatives, and servants could come and go with relative ease. Moreover, prisoners might purchase from their jailors whatever luxuries they could afford: the Catholic printer Stephen Vallenger’s cell contained, inter alia, “a feather bed, silver and pewter spoons, money, jewelry, and a library of 101 books” (141). Texts circulated within and through prison walls—even into printing presses.

Faced with such evidence, it is understandable that the abundant recent scholarship on early-modern prisons sees these institutions as defined by contact, both personal and textual. Peter Lake and Michael C. Questier regard the prison as “the venue for the most exciting and imaginative battles” between Catholics and Protestants, whether in interrogation, proselytization, or disputation (196). Molly Murray and Thomas S. Freeman have both gone so far as to call it “a site of culture, one that ought to be considered alongside the court and the university as a place of significant textual, and literary, production” (150).

If we regard the prison as characterized by contact, we are predisposed to regard prison writings as the products of contact, and as fundamentally discursive. That is to say, as communicating something to someone, some audience beyond the author’s cell. Thus, scholars have concentrated on letters, life-writing and other forms of self-presentation, and polemics or apologetics. Even ostensibly private or non-discursive forms of writing, such as personal poetry or graffiti, are interpreted along these lines, as directed (if obliquely) to jailers, future inmates, or God.

Yet to normalize the prison as a site of cultural production risks glossing over a critical feature of its intellectual landscape: constraint. Rivkah Zim identifies constraint as the commonality unifying “prison writings” as a category: “though the experience of different centuries and regimes varies greatly and there is no single category of space implied […] being a prisoner or captive in any period means being cut off and kept apart from the continuities of normal life” (2). Even the most lenient carceral regimes included controls on communication and the movement of texts and persons, circumstances absent at court or within the universities. But if we take seriously the isolation Zim places at the heart of the carceral experience and look for its presence in the early modern English prison, new approaches to literary history, and the history of ideas more generally, become possible.

My case study is Stephen Gardiner, Tudor bishop of Winchester. In the reign of Edward VI, Gardiner was twice imprisoned for resisting the radical Protestant agenda of the young king’s regents. In September 1547, he was confined to the Fleet, probably to prevent him attending the coming parliamentary session. Released in January 1548, Gardiner was not to enjoy his freedom for long: in June, after months of more or less open defiance, he was again arrested and sent to the Tower,

“a dankish and uncomfortable house,” as his servant Wingfield called it, for one ‘much given to rheums’—and lodged for the first month “in a place called the Garden Tower… fast locked in, without coming abroad in all that space.” Then […] he was removed to “a place in the same Tower called the King’s Lodging.” Here he was kept no less closely, not even being permitted to exercise in the gardens. For eleven months more he saw no one save the Lieutenant of the Tower, the jailors, a physician who came when he was sick of a fever, his chaplain, William Medowe, who was permitted to visit him once in his fever and again on Easter Day, and two servants of his household, who waited on him and who were not allowed to leave the Tower confines. (James Arthur Muller, Stephen Gardiner and the Tudor Reaction, 183)

As we have seen, this was severity entirely out of keeping with sixteenth-century English norms. In October 1549, Gardiner protested to the Privy Council,

[I] have continued heere in this miserable prison now one yeere, one quarter, and one moneth, this same day that I write these my letters, with want of aire to relieve my bodie, want of books to releeve my minde, want of good company, the onely solace of this world, and finally, want of a just cause, why I should have come hither at all. (442)

Although eventually permitted occasional walks in the gardens, Gardiner’s systemic isolation continued. He was to be denied books, paper, and writing implements, but this stricture, at least, was not observed—as evidenced by the six treatises and numerous letters produced during his captivity. Gardiner also kept notebooks, two of which survive as Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, Parker MS 127, fols. 167–342. He filled page after page with quotations from Desiderius Erasmus’s Adages, Plautus, Martial, Juvenal, and Virgil, as well as his own Latin elegiac verses (mostly biblical paraphrases).

These notebooks are not easily read as the product of interpersonal contact and or as a medium of communication—they do not cohere into a message or reveal an intended audience. To take the pages of Plautus as an example, to all appearances Gardiner is simply copying out lines from the playwright’s collected works, as edited by the French humanist Robert Estienne and published in Paris in 1530 (identifiable by textual variants). The quotations are ordered according to their appearance in each play, the plays according to the arrangement of the edition. As a result, adjacent verses seem to bear little relation to one another. An excerpt from folio 177, drawn from Pseudolus (191 BCE), gives a sense of the organizational incoherence:

“Imbrem in cribrum gerere” (“pouring water into a sieve,” l. 102)
“supercilium salit (“my eyebrow is twitching,” l. 107)
“dictis facta suppetant” (“your deeds support the words you speak,” l. 108) (all translations by Wolfgang de Melo).

Some lines could be interpreted as responses to Gardiner’s situation (“Animus equus optimum est arumne condimentum” [“That’s why self-possession is the best seasoning for sorrow,” Rudens, l. 402]), but others seem irrelevant at best (“meas opplebit aures sua vaniloquentia” [“she’ll fill my ears with her idle chatter,” Rudens, l. 905]) (fols. 172, 185). Some quotations are abbreviated past the point of potential relevance: from the line “so that I’d be treated a little bit more neatly at last” (Pseudolus, l. 774), Gardiner has copied only the word “gnitiudscule” (“a little bit more neatly”) (fol. 179).

Perhaps the apparent absence of a message simply is the absence of a message; perhaps the content of these pages was of no more than incidental interest to Gardiner. Instead, I suggest the key to understanding these compilations lies in the prisoner’s own words: his continued “want of books to releeve my minde, want of good company, the onely solace of this world.” Gardiner was a celebrated scholar of canon and civil law, the master of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, a distinguished diplomat, and, until his deposition in 1551, a prominent bishop. He was a man at the center of English intellectual and political life. And, locked away in the Tower, he was bored. Copying out quotations occupied his eyes, hands, and mind, at once ameliorating the tedium of endless hours alone and distracting him from the frustrations and anxieties of his isolation. In this instance—and in many others as yet unidentified—the act of writing was more important than what was written.

Apart from renewed attention to the isolation that did exist in early-modern English prisons, Gardiner’s notebooks beckon toward the possibilities of a history of boredom. Scholars are not unnaturally attracted to the firmly-held conviction, the engrossing passion, the fascinating and the fascinated. But these are often exceptional cases, and their more ordinary fellows are no less deserving of our attention. What of the listless student alongside the prodigy, the listless churchgoer alongside the zealot? Disinterest, tedium, and rote are the mirror images of intellectual history’s more usual fare, and offer a very different way of thinking about the production, dissemination, and uses of knowledge.

Spencer J. Weinreich is an M.Phil. student in ecclesiastical history at the University of Oxford, where he is an Ertegun Scholar. His dissertation examines the prison writings of Stephen Gardiner in the context of early modern intellectual history. His work has appeared in Early Science and Medicine, Names, and The Journal of Ecclesiastical History.

Antonin Scalia’s Originalism and the Rhetoric of Judicial Office in Early Modern England

by guest contributor David Kearns

Since his death on 13 February 2016, much has been written on Antonin Scalia’s legacy as a Supreme Court justice. A significant strand within this literature has focused on Scalia’s enduring fascination—both in his judgments and in his statements outside the court—with the relationship between law and morality. Scalia famously remarked that lawyers were “not moral philosophers“; and that judges were not tasked with determining what rights should exist, but rather with what rights exist according to accurate Constitutional interpretation, a doctrine he described as “originalism.” A judge reasoning not through such interpretation but rather through the application of moral philosophy was, in Scalia’s words, a “charlatan.”

Commentators interested in this aspect of Scalia’s work have alleged that this supposed amorality was either a cover for actual immorality—his discussions of homosexuality, in one account, “reflect ugly, stubborn, unevolved beliefs”—or in fact was itself immoral. For Laurence H. Tribe, Scalia’s dedication to originalism precluded him from embracing the “just and inclusive society” that laws “should be interpreted to advance.”

This essay will focus on this latter response, and will show that Scalia’s rhetoric about the importance of accurate interpretation and application of existing law over moral concerns is a modern contribution to a judicial rhetoric that emerged in late seventeenth-century England in response to the British Civil Wars. In particular, it will explicate how Sir Matthew Hale—King’s Bench Chief Justice from 1671 to 1675—justified an amoral legal system rooted in accurate interpretation and application of past law as the only means to protect England against future civil conflict.

Hale was born in 1609, and after briefly attempting to join the priesthood, took up a career in law. He studied at Lincoln’s Inn before working as a barrister, and was appointed to judicial office under Oliver Cromwell, as Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas. Under the restored monarchy of Charles II, Hale served as Chief Baron of the Exchequer from 1660 to 1671, and as Chief Justice of King’s Bench—the highest common law court—from 1671 to his retirement in 1675. As well as his work as a judge, Hale wrote extensively on the common law, though published little in his lifetime.

In these works, Hale articulated his understanding of the common law and the role of the judges working in it. In his History of the Common Law in England, written in the 1670s, Hale explained that the common law consisted of the lex non scripta, the laws which existed from “before Time of Memory”: a legal term referring to the period before 1189, even if such laws still existed in written form (Hale, History, 3-4). The laws that made up the lex non scripta had three different origins: customs, practices of governance that survived “from Age to Age”; statutes; and previous judicial decisions, not laws as such but precedents which could aid in interpretation (44-5). Judges were bound to dispense judgments in line with these laws and with the lex scripta, statutes made post-1189 (166).

Hale expanded on this in his manuscript Reflections by the L[o]rd. Chiefe Justice Hale on Mr. Hobbes his Dialogue of the Lawe, written roughly simultaneous to his History. Hobbes’s A Dialogue between a Philosopher and a Student of the Common Laws of England comprised a lengthy attack on common lawyers: particularly Edward Coke, King’s Bench Chief Justice from 1613 to 1616 and one of Hale’s mentors. In the initial exchange between the Philosopher and Lawyer, Hobbes’s Lawyer claimed that, according to Coke, common law judges possessed a form of legal reason distinct from men’s natural reason. This was the “Summa Ratio“—the highest reason—an artificial form of reason constituted through “many successions of Ages,” through which it had been steadily refined by common lawyers (Hobbes, Dialogue, 9, 18).

Hobbes’s Philosopher rejected this argument, insisting instead that lawyers and judges possess no special form of reason, as “all Men… when they have applied their Reason to the Laws… may be as fit for, and capable of Judicature as Sir Edward Coke himself” (18). Judges should not rely on earlier judgments, as these were often contradictory (55). Instead, the king’s judgment, as expressed particularly in statute, should ground judicial work. Furthermore, the Philosopher asserted, the laws that constituted the common law had been made by kings—kings were “Legislator both of Statute-Law, and of Common-Law”—and it was thus the reason of these kings that guided the law (26).

Writing against this, Hale contested Hobbes’s conception of legal reason, arguing that those trained in the common law possessed a form of reason specialized to their discipline. By applying their natural “Facultie of Reason” to the law through “readeing, Study and observation,” men “habituated” their “reasonable facultie” to the law, preparing them to serve as lawyer or judge (Hale, Reflections, 287-8, 292). No natural nor royal reason could thus adequately perform the duties of a judge, which involved interpreting the breadth of existing law—the lex non scripta and lex scripta—and accurately applying it to the present case.

Hale went on to extol the virtue of this method against those who would seek to root law in moral philosophy, deploying a vocabulary very similar to that later used by Scalia. Judges attempting to adjudicate through reference to “Casuists, Schoolmen, Morall Philosophers, and Treatises touching Moralls in the Theory” are “Co[m]monly the worst Judges” (289). Moreover, the accurate application of existing law was preferable to the deployment of any personally formulated legal principle “tho’ I am better acquainted w[i]th the reasonableness of my own theory” (291). Hale acknowledged that this process of interpreting and applying past law without concern for moral questions may indeed result in “some mischief,” but that “more must Suffer by the inconvenience of an Arbitrary and uncertaine law” resulting from a resort to moral theory.

The preservation of peace over legal innovation was particularly pertinent for Hale given his context. Hale had lived through the British Civil Wars and the Interregnum period following Charles I’s execution in 1649. He had witnessed the instability and violence of this period, as well as the threats to the common law that arose in the monarchy’s absence. Hale had chaired Cromwell’s Hale Commission, charged with developing law reforms, none of which were ultimately accepted by Cromwell’s government. As Commission chair, Hale was brought into contact with an array of opponents of the common law, including those who proposed dismantling the common law in favor of a scripture-based legal system (such as Hugh Peters in his Good Work for a Good Magistrate).

Writing in his History after the Civil Wars and Interregnum, Hale described this period as characterized by “Errors, Distemppers or Iniquities,” and claimed that it was only the common law that had “wasted and wrought out those distempers” (History, 30). Hale’s certainty that the common law protected the English state and that threats to his judicial method constituted threats to the state is palpable throughout his Reflections, as he warned of the “Instability, uncertantie, and varietie” threatened by a law grounded in moral theory. Such a grounding would risk “the happiness and Peace of the Kingdome”; it was instead preferable that judges apply “a Lawe by w[hi]ch a Kingdome hath been happily governed four or five hundr[e]d yeares” (Reflections, 291). For Hale, then, the amoral process of accurately interpreting and applying past law was to be preferred to any attempt to reconcile law with moral theory, which he saw as threatening to plunge England back into a state of violence.

Hale’s theories of law have remained central to modern jurisprudence on both sides of the Atlantic. As well as being cited heavily by William Blackstone, who himself remains regularly cited in modern law (see, for example, Lord Fraser’s citation of Blackstone in the immensely influential Gillick v West Norlk and Wisbech AHA), Hale’s judgments have been cited as precedent as recently as 1991, where his 1675 conviction of John Taylor for claiming that Christ was a “whore-master” and “bastard” formed part of the basis of Salman Rushdie’s acquittal for blasphemous libel (R v Chief Metropolitan Stipendiary Magistrate). This early modern English jurisprudence has also had a continuing influence on American law. This appraisal of Hale’s treatment of the law-morality relationship thus ought to give us pause in our criticism of Scalia. Whether Scalia lived up to his own challenge to accurately apply existing law, and whether such a practice continues to constitute a valid judicial method given its now-remote origins, remain questions for current legal commentators. We cannot, though, simply dismiss Scalia’s concern with the primacy of precedent as a personal moral failing, but must contend with it as a contemporary engagement with an enduring and powerfully justified tradition within the law.

David Kearns is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney. His research focuses on English common law from 1660 to 1688, and in particular, the relationship between the common law and religious thought.

Education in Excess: The Folger Institute’s “Theatres of Learning”

by guest contributor Timothy Lundy

When Erasmus began to compose his authoritative textbook on style, De copia, during the last decade of the fifteenth century, it’s highly unlikely that he envisioned a gathering of twenty-first century scholars in a reconstructed Elizabethan theater in North America taking great pleasure in parodying his virtuosic ability to generate playfully excessive forms of simple expressions, such as his 195 variations on the Latin sentence “Tuae litterae me magnopere delectarunt [Your letter pleased me greatly].” The astonishing ability of educational forms to exceed the expectations and intentions of their creators is, of course, one of the great delights of education: teachers never know for certain how students might make use of the lessons they learn and the abilities they develop in the classroom. The excesses of education, however, also pose a problem for historians seeking to understand how educational theories and intentions became pedagogical practices; and, in turn, how these practices engendered social and cultural effects.

Between affectionate jokes about Erasmus, historians of education and literary scholars took up precisely this set of problems at the Folger Institute’s recent conference “Theatres of Learning: Education in Early Modern England (1500-1600).” Scholars from throughout the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada gathered to reexamine, in the words of the conference program, “the transmission of knowledge and expertise in formal and informal settings, between and among institutions and pedagogical practices, and across a wide range of intellectual communities.” This broad conception of education allowed attendees to grapple both with the formal constraints of early modern education and with the constant flow of ideas and practices beyond those constraints.

The tone for the weekend was set by a sweeping overview of “the ends of education in early modern England” in a lecture delivered by Keith Thomas. Thomas’s talk examined a number of the more or less explicit goals of early modern education while also calling attention to the sheer range of subject matter that discussions of early modern education have addressed: from the grammar schools to the Inns of Court, from Cambridge and Oxford to the London guilds, and from the Republic of Letters to the private household, the transmission of knowledge at all levels of English society held some aspects of that society in place while greatly transforming others.

In the conference’s second plenary lecture, Peter Mack pursued a complementary examination of the means of education in the humanist grammar school, a theater of learning that has long been a privileged site of engagement between historians and literary scholars. Mack argued that the rhetorical skills grammar-school students were taught allowed them to elaborate and reformulate conventional wisdom, enabling them to think in new ways, not merely recycle old ideas. By teaching students how to read as “fellow-practitioners” of the art of writing, the grammar schools trained men who were conscious of how the material they read could be reused and revised in new arguments and for new audiences.

The capacity of old rhetorical forms to engender new creative effects was also an important theme for Lorna Hutson, whose book Circumstantial Shakespeare was released on the conference’s opening day. Drawing on her new research, Hutson argued that the imaginative evocations of reality for which Elizabethan popular drama has long been praised owe their existence not to a break with the neoclassical tradition, as is commonly suggested, but to the curriculum of forensic rhetoric taught in English schools. Emphasizing the effects of more ephemeral modes of rhetorical education, Ursula Potter turned to the performance of Terentian drama as a central practice of grammar school education, with a significant role in the creation of a London audience for popular drama. Similarly, Heidi Hackel took up a discussion of gestural literacy in rhetorical education, highlighting the irony that gesture is the most visible form of rhetorical eloquence in person, but nearly invisible in the textual record. Turning to the universities, Richard Serjeantson argued that the performance of disputations has been unjustifiably neglected as the central practice of university education and began to reconstruct these performances by examining university notebooks, one of the few sites where written traces of the practice can be found.

Though the institutions of early modern education demand attention and study, Keith Thomas was careful to emphasize at the conference’s opening that scholars miss out on a great deal if they focus only on formal institutions and their explicit theories and practices. Elizabeth Hanson illustrated this point brilliantly in a close examination of the register of students in attendance at Merchant Taylors’ School at the start of the seventeenth century. The register, Hanson observed, can be read as a record of institutional ambitions, mapping a trajectory in which students advanced through the school’s curriculum year by year, reading new Latin authors along the way. However, a quite different story emerges when one attempts to follow an individual student’s annual progress and notices how few students actually remained in the school for more than a handful of years. Our understanding of early modern education, Hanson suggested, must account for both the form that institutions give to education as well as the practices and contingencies that exceed it.

Marking a decisive turn away from school education, Ian W. Archer attempted to outline a new account of the transfer and production of knowledge in relation to apprenticeship and the guilds of early modern London. Like Hanson, Archer emphasized the informal features of apprenticeship as a flexible educational system, calling into question the significance of the guilds’ regulatory framework to the way knowledge transfer occurred through apprenticeship. Likewise turning to the practical applications of education, Nicholas Popper’s examination of the production of minutely-detailed and politically expedient European travel guides and Jean-Louis Quantin’s account of the evolution of ecclesiastical histories over the course of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries both suggested the varied political ends to which early modern learning and scholarship could contribute.

Still further beyond the reach of most institutional records, education that occurred in private households or local communities left very few traces. Thus, the exclusion of girls and women from grammar schools, universities, and educated professions makes their learning particularly difficult for scholars to characterize—although many are up to the challenge. Elizabeth Mazzola drew a contrast between our increasing knowledge of the circles and communities of female learning that existed in early modern England and the way that female learners chose to portray themselves in their own writings: as isolated and entirely self-taught individuals. She then considered the productive function of this sort of intellectual biography for writers from Marie de France and Hildegard of Bingen to Martha Moulsworth and Margaret Cavendish. Carol Pal also examined the intellectual lives of early modern women, delivering an incandescent talk on the place of women within the seventeenth century Republic of Letters, the subject of her 2012 book Republic of Women. In particular, Pal traced the remarkable intellectual influence of an “ephemeral academy” of female scholars that formed around Princess Elisabeth of Bohemia at the English court in exile in the Netherlands. The fact that later scholars have forgotten this intellectual network is not only a problem of gender, Pal suggested, but also one of institutional memory. The decentralized, polyglot environment at the exile court that made such intense intellectual exchange among women possible also, by its nature, left few traces in any formal institution.

By pursuing the history of early modern education from the perspective of both institutions and individuals, the Folger Institute’s “Theatres of Learning” conference investigated the complex intellectual traditions of education in the period as they were refracted by practical concerns and produced new, and sometimes unexpected, thought. As a final complication, conference organizer Nicholas Tyacke raised the question in the conference’s last session of how scholars should account historically for the sheer pleasure of learning and education in addition to its other, more utilitarian, ends. For an audience of scholars who still take great pleasure themselves in understanding the intellectual exchanges of the early modern period and their cultural effects, this was no small question indeed.

Timothy Lundy is a PhD student in English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He studies early modern English literature and culture, and is particularly interested in theories and practices of translation.

The Jewish Musical Pioneers: Salamone de Rossi and Rabbi Leon of Modena

by guest contributor Elad Uzan

One of the ways in which the history of the Jewish people reveals itself is through music. The Torah, Writings [Ketuvim], and the Psalms contain over eight hundred references to the spiritual and religious usages of music. Yet the Great Revolt against the Roman emperor Vespasianus also led to the termination of the use of music for religious practices in the Temple, defining the Jewish musical reality for centuries to come.

We know of Jewish musicians before the Renaissance; however, most of their works have been lost, and information regarding Jewish musicians living before the sixteenth century is very scarce. The greatest Jewish composer of the late Renaissance—in fact, until the beginning of the nineteenth century—was Salamone de Rossi. Rossi was an innovative composer and a virtuoso violinist who was active from the late Renaissance to the early Baroque. He was a contemporary of Monteverdi, and served with him in the court of Duchess Isabella d’Este Gonzaga in Mantua, North Italy.

In 1589, at only nineteen years old, Rossi published his first work, a collection of canzonets, followed by a collection of more serious madrigals for two voices and basso-continuo. Later, he published five volumes of madrigals for five voices, and an additional volume for four voices. His further accomplishments included four collections of symphonies (instrumental introductions), canzonets, sonatas, trio-sonatas, and a variety of additional melodies, as well as music for theater and comedy productions. His instrumental compositions for chamber ensembles, among the first to be published in print, truly display his greatness as a revolutionary composer.

The young and ambitious Rossi marketed his work to a primarily non-Jewish audience and faced the limitations resulting from the divisions between the Jewish and Gentile worlds. But his creations also benefited from being influenced by both worlds, as different compositions were intended for different audiences, with fundamentally different tastes and demands, which enriched the texture and shaped his style.

The title page of Rossi's 'Songs of Solomon'

The title page of Rossi’s ‘Songs of Solomon’

Rossi made the first forays into liturgical Jewish music, which he initially introduced with his work The Songs of Solomon. This work is the cornerstone of liturgical Jewish music: the first of its kind, written by a Jewish composer, with the text written in Hebrew and taken from the original Hebrew sources. This composition provoked community opposition from the traditional Jewish establishment, which was against the use of music in liturgy. The Songs of Solomon (Ha’Shirím ashér Li’Shlomó) is a collection of thirty-three songs, most of which contain texts from the Book of Psalms. One song was taken from the book of Leviticus, another from Isaiah, five from Jewish non-Biblical sacred and secular literary sources, and one from a wedding ode. Recently, these compositions have been performed by Profeti Della Quinta, a male vocal ensemble of Israeli musicians specializing in Renaissance and Baroque music, currently based in Basel.

Rossi named his composition The Songs of Solomon, presumably to link it to the legacy of the Song of Songs, traditionally believed to have been written by King Solomon. Alternatively, the title also might make the reader assume that Rossi dedicated his work to King Solomon (in fact, however, he dedicated this collection of songs to himself). The choice of the Psalms also links the work to king David, traditionally believed to be their author, who was known in Jewish tradition to possess great musical talent: the “pleasant singer of Israel” (Ne’im Ze’mirot Israel).

Rossi faced three obstacles in composing his songs. The first was the opposition of the rabbinical community in Mantua to changes—especially to significant change, such as Rossi’s songs—concerning anything related to the liturgy of the synagogue. The second was the absence of a Jewish compositional tradition of polyphonic music. The third was the problematic technical issue of printing music with a Hebrew text.

A number of introductions precede the musical scores. These serve as a preemptive apologia against possible critics. They survey various historical, sociological, artistic, and religious issues that concerned the Jewish community of that time, questions would later be reflected in the texts used by Rossi in his polyphonic composition. The title page includes a long dedication by Rossi to Moses Sullam, his patron and benefactor.

The first piece from Rossi's liturgical cycle: the kadish prayer arranged for three voices.

The first piece from Rossi’s liturgical cycle: the kadish prayer arranged for three voices.

Following the title page is an introduction by the most important figure involved in the compilation and organization of The Songs of Solomon, who later helped Rossi to publicize his creations: Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh (Leone) Modena. A rabbi, sermonizer, adjudicator of Halacha, poet, musician, and sharp debater, Modena declared that at age ten, he had learned enough to “play an instrument, sing [and also] dance” (Daniel Carpi, R. Yehuda Aryeh Mi-Modena’s “Chayye’ Yehuda” (Hebrew; Tel Aviv, 1985), 41). In 1605, at the age of 34, Modena involved himself in the controversy that took place in northern Italy’s city of Ferrara regarding the presentation of Jewish music in synagogue and later published two sermons arguing for the legitimacy of using artistic music in Jewish liturgy.

The manuscript starts with an oration by Rabbi Modena that praises Rossi’s work. From there on, it deals solely with questions of religion and music. The next page includes a sermon by Rabbi Modena in which he presents the Halachic foundations of his position on a question, addressed to him in the year 1605, regarding the appropriateness of music as a component of holy activities in the synagogue. He makes use of Ketuvim, the Talmud, and additional sources in order to prove that the Halacha does not forbid—nor is there proof that there was ever a prohibition upon—the liturgical use of music: “Is it conceivable that those whom God has bestowed [the musical] wisdom and strive to honor the almighty be considered as sinners? God forbids! We would sooner condemn the shaliach tzibbur [Chazzan, Cantor] to bray like an ass rather than pleasantly sing: should they sing, it will be said about them ‘she has lifted up her voice against me’ (Jeremiah 12:8). And we, who are musicians in our prayers and praises, will now be a mockery to other nations who will claim wisdom has abandoned us, and we shall cry out to the Lord of our fathers as a dog and a raven […]”. (Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Modena, She’elot u-Teshuvot Ziqnei Yehudah [Questions and Answers the Elders of Judea], indicator 101, 36, (Shelomo Simonson edition, 1955), 18).

All this shows that the introduction of artistic music in prayer, which changed the customary liturgical tradition in synagogue, presented the biggest challenge Rossi had to face in his career. Music was associated with Christian liturgy—or, at least, with forbidden secular music. The only way in which Rossi and Modena could promote tolerance of music in synagogue was by connecting its essence to the ancient musical practice of the Levites during the time of the Temple, as Rossi did by referring back to the founders of that tradition: David the Psalmist, and Solomon the builder of the Temple and the author of the Song of Songs. Thus, Rossi could characterize The Songs of Solomon as a return to Jewish origins, defined as “to return the crown to the glory of old” (le’hahzir atara l’yoshna), rather than as a suspicious incorporation of music which has no Jewish affiliation.

Elad Uzan is a Ph.D. candidate in international law & philosophy at Tel-Aviv University’s Faculty of Law, a doctoral fellow at the ERC-funded GlobalTrust – Sovereigns as Trustees of Humanity project at Tel Aviv University, and the classical music critic of Yedioth Ahronoth.

Two Editors and their Theophrastus

by guest contributor Richard Calis

In an earlier post I reported on the philological endeavors of Pieter Fontein and his strong interest in the marginalia of Isaac Casaubon. As I would like to underline here, this was much more than a story about one individual and his—rather personal—engagement with the scholarship of a previous generation. For Fontein as well as for Casaubon, Theophrastus was one of those learned authors from antiquity with whom early modern scholars were wont to converse in their studies. Machiavelli dressed up for his Livy, Petrarch admired his Cicero, Casaubon and Fontein shared their Theophrastus. A closer look at their lives illustrates this point neatly.

Fontein’s orderly transcription of Casaubon’s annotations. By permission of the Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam. Shelf mark: OTM: Hs VII D19.

Fontein’s orderly transcription of Casaubon’s annotations. By permission of the Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam. Shelf mark: OTM: Hs VII D19.

Let us first consider Fontein again, who was reading Casaubon’s marginalia when he was editing Theophrastus’ Characters. As he went through the book and copied out Casaubon’s notes, he ordered them neatly, one below the other: almost more of a copyist than a reader. Casaubon, by contrast, had scrawled out his notes all over the place in his characteristically hieroglyphic handwriting—reflecting the practice of an annotator reading with pen in hand. In decoding this handwriting, Fontein made a selection of notes that he deemed worthy of copying out. Although his exact selection criteria are still somewhat of a mystery to me—the legibility of Casaubon’s annotations is a serious possibility—many notes reveal a certain philological or lexical orientation, explicating phrases and suggesting emendations.

Casaubon’s scattered marginal notes. By permission of the Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam. Shelf mark: OTM: Hs VII D17.

Casaubon’s scattered marginal notes. By permission of the Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam. Shelf mark: OTM: Hs VII D17.

In many ways this made sense, considering that Fontein, like Casaubon, was making an edition of an author whose textual tradition was puzzling at best and whose oeuvre included complicated works of science and philosophy. Any lexical information that could unlock the text’s philological mysteries—especially coming from one of the period’s leading authorities—must have been invaluable. But as Fontein read on and on he must have grown more and more frustrated as well. When he finally reached the Characters, found on seven pages towards the end of the book, he discovered that his sixteenth-century champion had annotated the entire book, but sadly left the treatise that Fontein was editing untouched.

Final page of Casaubon’s commentary. Bodleian Library, Oxford. Shelf mark: MS Casaubon 7.

Final page of Casaubon’s commentary. Bodleian Library, Oxford. Shelf mark: MS Casaubon 7.

Yet the fact that Casaubon left those pages blank makes sense, too, when we realize that Casaubon was not using this book only when he had set himself the task of editing Theophrastus. In fact, the book in question is part of a larger web of paper and parchment that once filled Casaubon’s study. The first thread that we can unravel is a manuscript that is now in the Bodleian Library (MS Casaubon 7). Casaubon filled this notebook in the 1580s with what would become the draft of the edition of the Characters that he published in 1592. Furthermore, a copy of this first edition in the British Library (525.a.10.)

Title page of the 1592 edition with marginal notes by Casaubon. British Library, London. Shelf mark: 525.a.10

Title page of the 1592 edition with marginal notes by Casaubon. British Library, London. Shelf mark: 525.a.10

bears a set of handwritten corrections and additions that Casaubon himself put in the margins. Many of these marginalia, in turn, were incorporated in the second edition that Casaubon had published in 1599. And the story does not end here. The British Library also holds a copy of this second edition (1089.h.7.(2.)), containing another set of corrections and additions in Casaubon’s hand, which (not surprisingly) ended up in the third edition of the work, published in 1612.

These books thus reveal how for over twenty years Casaubon kept coming back to his Theophrastus. The work grew almost organically as he continued reading, revising, and expanding. In the 1599 edition, for instance, he included a new set of character sketches recently discovered in a manuscript in the Palatine Library at Heidelberg, while also correcting numerous mistakes from the first edition.

But this, admittedly rather technical, story of early modern scholarship is not just one about marginalia and printed editions. Intriguingly, entries from Casaubon’s diary give us a first glimpse of how the boundaries of the personal and the professional sphere blurred. In this invaluable document, Casaubon recorded his prayers, lamented the death of his friends, complained that he could not get any work done, but also listed which authors he had been reading—including, repeatedly, Theophrastus. On December 4, 1598, for instance, Casaubon lost valuable time at lunch, but decided to tackle Theophrastus’ De Causis Plantarum in the evening—”a rather precise work.” As always, this was reading with pen in hand: the emendations, suggestions, and other scribbles that he left in the margins of this text happened to be the exact same ones that Fontein so carefully transcribed some two hundred years later.

Yet what the diary does not tell us is that Casaubon also scrutinized the detailed commentary that Julius Caesar Scaliger (1484-1558), a notorious scholar of a previous generation, had written on the treatise. As he was reading the 1541 opera omnia Casaubon referenced Scaliger more than a few times in his marginal notes. These marginalia, in turn, talk to the ones that he left in his personal copy of Scaliger’s commentary (British Library C.109.p.22(1)).

Title page of Scaliger’s 1566 commentary on Theophratus’ De causis plantarum, annotated by Casaubon. British Library, London. Shelf mark: C.109.p.22(1).

Title page of Scaliger’s 1566 commentary on Theophratus’ De causis plantarum, annotated by Casaubon. British Library, London. Shelf mark: C.109.p.22(1).

Casaubon’s diary thus opens a world that the marginalia with their fragmented nature could only hint at. But it is only when read in tandem that these documents start fleshing out in considerable detail some of the laborious days and nights that Casaubon spent on Theophrastus’ works. What is more, they reveal the intimate bond that Casaubon, I believe, had forged with his ancient philosopher over the years. The physician who attended Casaubon at his deathbed recalls how Casaubon, seriously ill after having been taken on a trip to Greenwich on June 24, 1614, uttered his last words. Before a final prayer to God Casaubon remarked, with a sense of great cynicism, that Theophrastus had managed to live almost a hundred years in assiduous study, but fell ill and died after attending the marriage of a cousin. The implications were not lost on his audience.

Theophrastus thus stayed with Casaubon until the very end—as he did with Fontein, who, when his last days were nearing, kept the Theophrastiana that he collected close. And so the lives of two scholars—who were separated by centuries, but connected by a shared interest in an obscure Greek philosopher—mirrored each other in intricate ways. As they read more and more of Theophrastus’ works and of the scholarship of a previous generation, they discovered their own world and found, I would suggest, even themselves.

Richard Calis is a second-year Ph.D. student in history at Princeton University. He has worked for Annotated Books Online (@AboBooks)—which provides online access to three of Fontein’s books—and is predominantly interested in book history, marginalia, news, and the various cultures of the Medieval and Early Modern Mediterranean.