Erasmus on Literature: His ‘Ratio’ or ‘System’ of 1518–1519

Edited by Mark Vessey from the Translation and Notes by Robert D. Sider
Foreword by Anthony Grafton

© 2021

Nothing captures Erasmus’ most adventurous thinking about how texts signify in – and thereby make or remake – worlds of thought, feeling, and action more than the Ratio verae theologiae (‘A System of True Theology’). First published separately in 1518 and 1519, it also appears in the preliminaries to the New Testament in Erasmus’ revised 1519 edition.

This handy Ratio or compendious ‘System’ gives advice on how to interpret complex texts and develop persuasive arguments. Its lessons are applied to the canonical Scriptures as source, and to everyday Christian theology as target discourse. They unfold in response to the special difficulties and incitements of the biblical text in Latin and Greek, within a framework provided by classical grammar and rhetoric and adjusted to the examples of the Church Fathers as exemplary interpreters of the Bible. At every turn, the Ratio reveals the instincts and intuitions of an exceptional theorist and practitioner of the cognitive, social, and political arts of written language. This student edition, the first of its kind in any language, is based on the translation and notes by Robert D. Sider in the Collected Works of Erasmus. It is designed to make it easier to estimate the long-term value of this particular work and of Erasmus’ works more generally, and to allow for a multidisciplinary understanding of the lives of human beings as symbol-using creatures in worlds constructed partly by texts.

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Product Details

  • Series: Erasmus Studies
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 376 pages
  • Illustrations: 4
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
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Quick Overview

Written more than half a century before Sir Philip Sidney’s well-known Apology for Poetry, Erasmus’ Ratio or ‘System’ is an almost lost masterpiece of Renaissance literary theory and interpretive practice, now available for the first time in English in a convenient student edition.

Erasmus on Literature: His ‘Ratio’ or ‘System’ of 1518–1519

Edited by Mark Vessey from the Translation and Notes by Robert D. Sider
Foreword by Anthony Grafton

© 2021

Nothing captures Erasmus’ most adventurous thinking about how texts signify in – and thereby make or remake – worlds of thought, feeling, and action more than the Ratio verae theologiae (‘A System of True Theology’). First published separately in 1518 and 1519, it also appears in the preliminaries to the New Testament in Erasmus’ revised 1519 edition.

This handy Ratio or compendious ‘System’ gives advice on how to interpret complex texts and develop persuasive arguments. Its lessons are applied to the canonical Scriptures as source, and to everyday Christian theology as target discourse. They unfold in response to the special difficulties and incitements of the biblical text in Latin and Greek, within a framework provided by classical grammar and rhetoric and adjusted to the examples of the Church Fathers as exemplary interpreters of the Bible. At every turn, the Ratio reveals the instincts and intuitions of an exceptional theorist and practitioner of the cognitive, social, and political arts of written language. This student edition, the first of its kind in any language, is based on the translation and notes by Robert D. Sider in the Collected Works of Erasmus. It is designed to make it easier to estimate the long-term value of this particular work and of Erasmus’ works more generally, and to allow for a multidisciplinary understanding of the lives of human beings as symbol-using creatures in worlds constructed partly by texts.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Erasmus Studies
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 376 pages
  • Illustrations: 4
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
  • Author Information

    Anthony Grafton is Henry Putnam University Professor of History at Princeton University.


    Mark Vessey is Principal of Green College and Professor of English Literature at the University of British Columbia.


    Robert D. Sider is General Editor of the New Testament Scholarship for the Collected Works of Erasmus.
  • Table of contents

    Foreword by Anthony Grafton

    Illustrations
    Notes on Contributors
    Abbreviations and Works Frequently Cited
    Abbreviations of Biblical Books Used in Explanatory Notes

    Editor’s Introduction
    Chronology of Erasmus’ Life and Works
    Approaches to Erasmus’ Ratio or ‘System’ of 1518–1519

    The Ratio in Erasmus’ Life and Work to 1519
    Mark Vessey

    Erasmus, Sacred Literature, and Literary Theory
    Brian Cummings

    Biblical Poetics in Scholasticism and the Ratio
    Christopher Ocker

    The Ratio and Annotations of Erasmus as Theory and Practice of Biblical Interpretation
    Riemer Faber

    The Parable of Sincere and Sophistical Discourse in the Ratio
    Kathy Eden

    Scheme of Contents of the Ratio verae theologiae
    Note on the Text

    The Ratio verae theologiae
    Preface: Purpose of the Ratio
    Elements of a Method for the Study of Scripture
    The Unity in Variety of the Gospel
    ‘The Wonderful Circle and Harmony of the Entire Drama of Christ’
    The Figurative Character of the Language of Sacred Literature
    Elements of a Method for the Study of Scripture (Concluded)

    Explanatory Notes
    Conspectus of Church Fathers Cited in the Ratio
    Bibliography
    Concordance of Editions of the Ratio
    Index

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