Beauty in censorship written in the Renaissance

Beauty in censorship written in the Renaissance

Two books by the quintessential Renaissance humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam, belonging to the University of Toronto, offer drastically different and unusual examples of censorship, one of them carried out in a “normal”, And the other that we can catalog as art.

Erasmus was a Catholic scholar and priest born in Holland around 1466. Although he was critical of clerical excesses, he considered himself a committed Catholic and destined to reform the institution from the inside using reason and scholarship. . But nevertheless, his work had a powerful influence from the Protestant Reformation.

His 1519 edition of the New Testament in Greek was used by Martin Luther for his seminal German translation and Erasmus had a lively correspondence with Luther for years, until the Erasmus's rejection of some of the German priest's arguments and vocal support for doctrines such as Church tradition as a source of the revelation and virginity of Mary, infuriated the clergyman.

Erasmus died of dysentery in 1536. His books remain popular with Catholics and Protestants alike, but ecclesiastical authorities were less in love with them, especially once the Counter-Reformation of the Church took root after the Council of Trent in 1545.

In 1559, Pope Paul IV took a moment between the obligation to kill and put the Jews in ghettos to put all the books of Erasmus in the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. The censors grabbed their tools and went to work.

The 1541 edition of the Adagiorum (that is, "Proverbs"), a collection of Greek and Latin proverbs with Erasmus annotations cataloged only this month in the University of Toronto Library, is replete with crossed out passages. The censor also seems to have written on the cover: «Oh, Erasmus, you were the first to write the Eulogy of Madness, which indicates the madness of your own nature!«. It was a wicked insult since Erasmus's most famous book is precisely that, a satire of the corruption of the Church.

However, the censorship did not stop there. They also tore off some pages and glued another two with quality glue, as evidenced by their endurance over time.

Another censorship took a completely different approach than before. A 1538 edition of the works commented on by Erasmus of St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan, at the Center for Renaissance and Reformation Studies at the University of Toronto, erases the offensive notes with beautiful watercolor paint blocks on the edges decorated with arabesques and even an angel, a small child or cherub.

Perhaps this censor was a book lover who I didn't want to spoil the job with ugly doodles Or perhaps he paid more attention because the book contains the religious writings of a Church father rather than a collection of pagan sayings. Whatever his reasons, he produced something very beautiful, almost making an illuminated manuscript of a printed text. If censorship is inevitable, at least we can rest and enjoy it.

After studying History at the University and after many previous tests, Red Historia was born, a project that emerged as a means of dissemination where you can find the most important news of archeology, history and humanities, as well as articles of interest, curiosities and much more. In short, a meeting point for everyone where they can share information and continue learning.


Video: RENAISSANCE: Andrew Graham-Dixon - Episode 6 of 6 - The End of the Renaissance?