Printer's device of Thomas Berthelet
Moriae Encomium (In Praise of Folly) is Erasmus' literary masterpiece and most famous work. Conceived on his second journey to England, the book was written in London and dedicated to his friend Thomas More (with a pun, therefore, in the title; ‘moriae’ being Latin for ‘of folly’). First published in 1511, by the time of Erasmus’ death, thirty-six Latin editions had already been issued. In this deeply satirical work Erasmus pokes fun at academic pedantry, theological hair-splitting, and monkish superstitions: not surprisingly, it provoked violent hostility. The term ‘encomium’ in the title (which in classical literature referred to a speech of praise) indicates, once again, an ancient antecedent to Erasmus’ approach. Here, however, Erasmus applies a satirical twist as Folly herself praises folly.
Queens’ much read copy has been extensively annotated in the margins with a note in Latin at the beginning of the volume stating that all the notes had been copied in November and December 1731.
Author: Desiderius Erasmus
Title: Moriae Encomium [Praise of folly] (Basel: Johann Froben, 1522)