Department of Greek & Latin


Baroque Latinity




an AHRC-funded research network

May 2019 – February 2021





Principal Investigator

Prof. Gesine Manuwald, Dept of Greek & Latin, UCL

Gesine Manuwald is Professor of Latin in the Department of Greek and Latin at University College London (UCL). Her main research interests are Roman drama, oratory and epic as well as Neo-Latin literature. She has co-edited Neo-Latin Poetry in the British Isles (2012), is one of the editors of the Bloomsbury Neo-Latin Series and the main editor of Brill’s Research Perspectives in Latinity and Classical Reception in the Early Modern Period; she is the President of the Society for Neo-Latin Studies (SNLS).



Dr Jacqueline Glomski, Centre for Editing Lives & Letters (CELL), UCL

Jacqueline Glomski is Honorary Senior Research Associate in the Centre for Editing Lives & Letters at University College London. Her present work focuses on Baroque Neo-Latin prose writing, especially seventeenth-century treatises on libraries and book collecting. She is the co-editor of, and contributor to Seventeenth-Century Fiction: Text & Transmission (2016) and Acta Conventus Neo-Latini Monasteriensis: Proceedings of the Fifteenth International Congress of Neo-Latin Studies (2015). She has also contributed to A Guide to Neo-Latin Literature (2017) and Der neulateinische Roman als Medium seiner Zeit / The Neo-Latin Novel in its Time (2013). Dr Glomski is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society; she is Vice-President of the Society for Neo-Latin Studies.



    Prof. Jan Bloemendal, Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam NETHERLANDS / Ruhr University, Bochum GERMANY 

    Jan Bloemendal studied Classics, Dutch Studies, and Theology. Currently, he is a senior researcher at the Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences), and Privatdozent at Ruhr University-Bochum, and specializes in Neo-Latin drama and Erasmus studies. He is the Secretary to the Amsterdam edition of the Erasmi Opera Omnia (ASD) and general editor of the Brill series 'Drama and Theatre in Early Modern Europe'. He co-edited Brill's Encyclopaedia of the Neo-Latin World (2014).



    Prof. Paul Gwyne, Interdisciplinary Studies, American University of Rome ITALY

    Paul Gwynne is Professor of Medieval and Renaissance Studies at The American University of Rome. His areas of research focus on fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Europe, the rise and diffusion of Italian Humanism and the reception of the classical tradition. These subjects are reflected in a number of articles and chapters in books as well as a trilogy of monographs which review the production of neo-Latin poetry in Rome from 1480-1600: Poets and Princes: The Panegyric Poetry of Johannes Michael Nagonius (Turnhout: Brepols, 2013); Patterns of Patronage in Renaissance Rome: Francesco Sperulo: Poet, Prelate, Soldier, Spy (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2015); Francesco Benci: Quinque martyres (Leiden: Brill, 2017).  With Bernhard Schirg he is the editor of the collection of essays: The Economics of Poetry: Efficient Production of Neo-Latin Poetry 1400-1720 (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2018).


    Dr Jason Harris, Centre for Neo-Latin Studies, University College Cork IRELAND

    Jason Harris is a Lecturer in History and the Director of the Centre for Neo-Latin Studies in University College Cork, Ireland. He is also the founder and director of the Schola Latina and Conventiculum Corcagiense in Cork, promoting active use of Latin as a research tool. His own research is focused on the intellectual culture of early-modern Europe, drawing upon philological and anthropological approaches to history in order to illuminate Neo-Latin Latin texts. He is particularly interested in Irish Latin writers and in the intellectual circle surrounding Abraham Ortelius. Currently, he is writing a book about the practical impact of Neo-Latin stylistic debates upon the prose style of Irish Latin writers.



    Prof. Yasmin Haskell, Faculty of Arts, University of Western Australia

    Yasmin Haskell FAHA (PhD Sydney, 1996) is Cassamarca Foundation Chair in Latin Humanism at the University of Western Australia, Perth. She has published on Renaissance and later Neo-Latin literature, especially by Jesuits, and its connections with the history of science, medicine and emotions. From 2010-18 she was Foundation Chief Investigator, then Partner Investigator, of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions: 1100-1800, and from 2017-2018, Chair of Latin and Director of the Institute of Greece, Rome and the Classical Tradition at the University of Bristol. She is author of Loyola’s Bees: Ideology and Industry in Jesuit Latin Didactic Poetry (OUP, 2003) and Prescribing Ovid: The Latin Works and Networks of the Enlightened Dr Heerkens (Bloomsbury, 2013), and editor (with Christopher Allen and Frances Muecke) of Charles-Alphonse De Arte Graphica (1664) (Droz, 2005), Diseases of the Imagination and Imaginary Disease in the Early Modern Period (Brepols, 2011), Latinity and Alterity in the Early Modern Period (Brepols, 2011) (with Juanita Ruys), and most recently, with Raphaele Garrod, of Changing Hearts: Performing Jesuit Emotions Bewteen Europe, Asia and the Americas (Brill, 2019). Professor Haskell serves on several editorial and advisory boards, including ‘Bibliotheca Latinitatis Novae’ (Leuven) and the Journal of Jesuit Studies (Brill) and its associated book series ‘Jesuit Studies’ and ‘Jesuit Latin Library’. Her current research interests include Latin in the Enlightenment and Latin written by Jesuits/ ex-Jesuits during the Suppression of the Society of Jesus. She is writing a synoptic monograph about Jesuit Latin poetry and education.


    Dr Luke Houghton, Dept of Greek & Latin, UCL

    Luke Houghton is an Honorary Research Fellow of the Department of Greek and Latin at University College London. He also teaches Classics and is Keeper of the Scholars at Rugby School. He previously taught at a number of UK universities (including Glasgow, Reading, UCL and Birkbeck), and has held visiting fellowships at the British School at Rome, the Warburg Institute in London, and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies in Innsbruck. He is the author of Virgil's Fourth Eclogue in the Italian Renaissance (CUP, 2019), and has edited Perceptions of Horace (with Maria Wyke; CUP, 2009), Neo-Latin Poetry in the British Isles (with Gesine Manuwald; Bloomsbury, 2012), and Virgil and Renaissance Culture (with Marco Sgarbi; ACMRS/Brepols, 2018). A new Anthology of British Neo-Latin Literature, edited with Gesine Manuwald and Lucy R. Nicholas, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury Academic. His main interests are Neo-Latin poetry and the reception of Roman authors (especially Virgil, Horace, Ovid and the elegists) in later art and literature.


    Prof. Sarah Knight, School of Arts, University of Leicester

    Sarah Knight teaches, edits, translates and writes about sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature, especially English and Latin works. Professor Knight is particularly interested in early modern student life across Europe, and has published widely on the associations between poetic and rhetorical composition, and educational experience. She has a related interest in the impact of multilingualism on early modern writing, especially how authors represent linguistic difference in English, French, Italian and Latin, and other languages. She has edited and translated works ranging from the mid-fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries, including Leon Battista Alberti's Momus and the accounts of Elizabeth I's visits to Oxford in 1566 and 1592, and is currently editing John Milton's student speeches (the Prolusiones) and his Epistolae Familiares, and Fulke Greville's two English tragedies Alaham and Mustapha.


    Dr David McOmish, Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Edinburgh / School of Humanities, University of Glasgow

    David McOmish is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities at the University of Edinburgh and an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Humanities at the University of Glasgow. A former engineer and classicist, he has spent the last ten years researching the institutional and literary settings of the new sciences in the early modern period, especially within European and Scottish universities. He has recently published several articles on the Scientific Revolution in Scotland, Italian intellectual culture and its transformative impact on pre-Enlightenment Scotland, and more generally on the role of scientific poetry and Aristotelian literature in the classrooms of Europe and Scotland. His current project at Edinburgh is producing a comprehensive bibliography of all texts used for instruction in mathematics and cosmology at the University of Edinburgh across the 17th century


    Dr Victoria Moul, Dept of Greek & Latin, UCL

    Victoria Moul is a Reader in Early Modern Latin & English at UCL. She works on the Latin-vernacular bilingualism of literary culture in early modern Europe, with a particular focus upon poetry between c. 1550 and 1720. She has published widely on both English and neo-Latin poetry, as well as classical translation and imitation in this period. Recent publications include the Cambridge Guide to Neo-Latin Literature (2017) and a series of articles on Cromwell’s forgotten poet laureate, Payne Fisher. She is currently running a large Leverhulme Trust-funded project surveying for the first time post-medieval Latin verse in English manuscript sources dating from between 1550 and 1720. Her next book, English and Latin Poetry in Early Modern England, will be published by CUP, probably in 2021.


    Dr Lucy Nicholas, Dept of Classics, King's College London / Warburg Institute, University of London

    Dr Lucy Rachel Nicholas teaches classical and post-classical Latin and Greek at King’s College London and the Warburg Institute. She is especially interested in projects which bridge the fields of Neo-Latin and Reformation History. Her doctoral thesis comprised a translation and contextual analysis of a Latin treatise on the Eucharist by the sixteenth century English humanist and Cambridge classical scholar, Roger Ascham. Aspects of this have been published as ‘Roger Ascham’s Defence of the Lord’s Supper’, Reformation, vol. 20 (2015) and Roger Ascham’s ‘A Defence of the Lord’s Supper’: Latin Text and English Translation (Brill, 2017). She is currently in the final stages of assembling an edited volume entitled Roger Ascham and his Sixteenth-Century World (Brill, forthcoming) and co-editing two Neo-Latin Anthologies on Britain and Europe (Bloomsbury, forthcoming). She has also written on Thomas More, and her chapter on the Latin Utopias of the early modern period will soon be available in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Thomas More’s Utopia (OUP, eds. C. Shrank and P. Withington). Her role as Latin Editor on the Thomas Nashe Project and her participation in the Baroque Latinity Network have brought her into close contact with the writing of Thomas Nashe and Gabriel Harvey. Her current research focuses on the Latin works of Johannes Sturm and Walter Haddon.


    Prof. Jan Papy, Seminarium Philologiae Humanisticae, KU Leuven BELGIUM

    Jan Papy, PhD Classics (1992) and MPhil (1996), is Professor Ordinarius of Latin and Neo-Latin Literature at the University of Leuven. His research focuses on Renaissance Humanism and Neo-Latin literature, with special attention to Renaissance philosophy, the cultural history of the Low Countries, and the history of universities and history of science. In 2003 he was Laureate of the Belgian Royal Academy of Sciences. He has published numerous articles on Justus Lipsius, Erasmus, Vives, and Petrarch. Together with Karl Enenkel he edited Petrarch and his Readers in the Renaissance (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2006). Last year, he coordinated an exhibition and edited a collection of studies on the Louvain Collegium Trilingue (Louvain: Peeters, 2017). For his exhibition ‘Erasmus' Dream’, he was awarded the Year Price 2018 of Science Communication by the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts. He equally received the Martin Burr Award by the Henry Sweet Society for the History of Linguistic Ideas.

    He has been co-editor of Humanistica Lovaniensia: Journal of Neo-Latin Studies (Leuven University Press) (2004–2017) and of Lias: Journal of Early Modern Intellectual Culture and its Sources (Peeters Publishers, Leuven-Paris) (2009–2019). He is currently co-editor of the series Supplementa Humanistica Lovaniensia (Leuven University Press) and member of the editorial board of ‘Erasmus Studies’ (Brill Publishers Leiden).

    A full list of his publications is available on:


    University Website: https://www.kuleuven.be/wieiswie/en/person/00016670

    Website of the Leuven Seminarium Philologiae Humanisticae:


    Dr Paul White, Dept of Classics, University of Leeds

    I work on Neo-Latin poetry, commentaries and print culture, with a primary focus on the French sixteenth century. In relation to baroque Latinity, there are two strands to my current research: one concerns the vogue for adoxographical works in praise of ‘nothing’ written in response to Jean Passerat’s De nihilo; the other is a larger project on Neo-Latin love elegy collections, part of which focuses on the relation between this genre and mannerism and baroque in vernacular lyric.I have published articles on poetry, education, authorship and print culture in Latin and French vernacular contexts, and am the author of books on the early modern reception of Ovid’s Heroides (Ohio State University Press, 2009), on the classical editions and commentaries of the Paris-based printer and author Jodocus Badius Ascensius (OUP, 2013), and on the reception of the elegist Gaius Cornelius Gallus in the Renaissance (Routledge, 2019).


    Prof. Florian Schaffenrath, Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Neo-Latin Studies, Innsbruck AUSTRIA

    In the field of Neo-Latin studies, Florian Schaffenrath is especially interested in epic poetry. For his PhD thesis, he published an edition of the poem Columbus of Father Ubertino Carrara SJ (Rome 1715), an epic poem in twelve books about the first voyage of Christopher Columbus to the New World. He has published shorter articles that deal inter alia with Petrarch’s Africa and Sannazaro’s De partu Virginis. As a member of the research group ‘Geschichte der lateinischen Literatur in Tirol’ (published in 2012), Schaffenrath is also interested in the regional history of Neo-Latin literature. He has edited several texts and published numerous articles on the subject of the Tirol. Schaffenrath is a member of the ‘International Association of Neo-Latin Studies’ (IANLS) and of the ‘Die Neulateinische Gesellschaft’ (DNG). At the LBI for Neo-Latin Studies he was a key researcher in the ‘Politics’ line, before he went to Freiburg University with a Alexander-von-Humboldt fellowship. In August 2014 he finished his Habilitation, on Cicero's Philippics, and in September 2014 Schaffenrath succeeded Stefan Tilg as director of the LBI for Neolatin Studies.


    Advisory Board

    Nicolas Bell (Trinity College Library, Cambridge)

    Elma Brenner (Wellcome Collection Library, London)

    Stephen J. Harrison (Faculty of Classics, University of Oxford)

    Alison Shell (Department of English, UCL)

    Allison Stielau (Department of Art History, UCL)

    Andrew Taylor (Faculty of English, University of Cambridge)

    Julia Walworth (Merton College Library, Oxford)

      Project Partners

      Merton College Library (Oxford)

      Trinity College Library (Cambridge)

      Wellcome Collection Library (London)


      Alex Balčiūnas (Department of Greek & Latin, UCL)

        Research Themes

        Baroque (c. 1580–c. 1720) is important as the earliest aesthetic – and cultural – movement to have global impact since it was spread through dynastic ambition, mercantilism, and missionary fervour. Latin, as a supranational language, played a major role in propagating this style. In literature, Baroque was characterized by rhetorical devices, especially through exaggerated forms such as paradoxes, anachronisms, antitheses, and oxymora that roused the emotions and engaged the senses. Interfacing with vernacular literature, the Neo-Latin literature of the seventeenth century contributed not only to the development of drama, but to the rise of the novel, as well as to the evolution of more traditional forms such as the epic and the epigram. Beyond belles lettres, Latin supplied lyrics to musical compositions of the time and was employed in the visual arts. In politics, Latin served as the language of treatises and contracts; in religion, it furthered the Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation. It became the language of international scientific communication, used to announce and explain new discoveries. The ability to write in the common European language of scholarship was an indicator of educational achievement in an age when rhetorical and grammatical competence was demanded.

        Our network, Boroque Latinity, aims to engage with the current revival of Baroque studies by addressing Baroque both as a literary style, one that distorted the norms based on the Greeks and Romans that had been systematized in the Renaissance, and as an artistic period, a complex stage in the development of post-Renaissance classicism.

        During our workshops, we will address the following major questions:

        1. How does writing in Latin relate to the concept of the Baroque?
        2. Is there a unity to be found in the corpus of Neo-Latin texts that spans the close of the Renaissance and the emergence of the Neo-Classical age?
        3. How can we describe the technical and aesthetic sophistication of Baroque Latinity?
        4. How is Latin used to express the new ideas of the Baroque era – in politics, commerce, science, and art; and, what role does Latin play in the functioning of the new international intellectual movements of the time?
        5. How successful is Latin at maintaining its dominance as an international language during the Baroque period – both within and outside of Europe?

        Baroque Latinity Blogs

        'Baroque' Latin Tragedies - March 2020

        [Willem van Swanenburg (c 1581-1612), Portrait of Daniel Heinsius, librarian and professor of Poetry, Greek and History at Leiden University, at the age of 26]

        by Jan Bloemendal

        Huygens Institute for the History of the Netherlands (Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) / Ruhr University-Bochum

        Many of the Latin tragedies of the early modern period have a ‘rich’ language. Unusual words, succinct expressions in alternation with longwinded sentences, surprising metaphors, expected and unexpected similes, they are all to be found in these tragedies – as they were in the ten tragedies written by or ascribed to the Roman philosopher Seneca. It was precisely Seneca’s ten tragedies that were best known in the centuries during which Neo-Latin tragedy was written, and that were creatively imitated. The expressions described are part of an Asiatic rhetorical style that was in vogue in the Silver Latinity of the first two centuries of the Christian Era, in late Antiquity, and in the early modern Latinity of Europe and beyond. For many literary critics of drama and playwrights of the time, these were rhetorical means to rouse emotions and ‘purge’ the audiences of their passions, in line with Aristotle’s concept of tragedy, whatever interpretation was given to his idea of catharsis. The critics and authors of the sixteenth and, especially, the seventeenth centuries were engaged in ‘form’ and ‘affect’, in which the latter indicates a kind of relationship between the literary (or artistic) work and the readers, listeners, or observers, where the object ‘affects’ the recipients, changing their state of mind. We could call that style baroque. However, what is Baroque?

        Many discussions have undermined the uncomplicated use of the term. Several definitions have been given, pointing to a kind of style – as I have above – to a certain period between Renaissance and Classicism, to a part of Roman Catholic Counter-Reformation, or to a kind of world view. Let us consider these possibilities. In the history of the word “‘Baroque’ became the name for the style of an era that was either the achievement of the new religious susceptibility related to a Roman Catholic Reform movement, or an artistic degeneration from the Renaissance classicizing ideals.” In the 1960s and the 1970s the term went out of fashion, but now it is in use again. Let us consider the several aspects of ‘Baroque’:

        First of all, ‘Baroque’ as a literary style: this style was adopted by the universities and, from 1553 onwards, the Jesuit colleges. At the secondary schools where Latin was taught, Roman comedy was a source of inspiration, since it could bring the pupils closer to Latin conversation. Here, the ‘Baroque’ style of tragedy was very complex. For daring metaphors, for instance, we could turn to the Leiden student Daniel Heinsius, who, in his Latin tragedy on William of Orange Auriacus, sive Libertas saucia (‘Orange, or Liberty Wounded’, 1602), called sleep ‘the mimic of the day’ (mimus diei) and ‘playful actor’, expressions that he himself, however, rejected in 1611 in his De tragica constitutione (‘On Writing Tragedy’). Perhaps this has to do with his own development from a 22-year old schoolboy to a 31-year old Professor of Greek. However, there is another aspect that is important: Heinsius, just like his younger friend, the scholar, playwright and jurist, Hugo Grotius, was a staunch Protestant author. And another author in this Leiden circle, Rochus Honerdus, who wrote a Thamara (1611), was as ‘baroque’ as they were. We tend to connect Baroque to the Counter-Reformation and the royal courts, but this has recently been challenged by Frans-Willem Korsten in his A Dutch Republican Baroque (2017), who could gain some support for his view of these tragedies. If we look at the form, the south-Netherlandish playwright Jacobus Cornelius Lummenaeus a Marca brought the form of tragedy to its extreme, by reducing the action in his Latin tragedies to extend the parts of the chorus, which make up more than half of the play.

        Secondly, Baroque as a kind of world view: here, we can think of life as a dream, as Calderón called his moral and philosophical play La vida es sueño (Life is a Dream, 1636):


        ¿Qué es la vida? Un frenesí.

        ¿Qué es la vida? Una ilusión,

        una sombra, una ficción,

        y el mayor bien es pequeño.

        ¡Que toda la vida es sueño,

        y los sueños, sueños son!

        La vida es sueña, ll. 2182–2187


        (What is life? A frenzy.

        What is life? An illusion,

        a shadow, a fiction,

        and the greatest good is small.

        For all of life is a dream,

        and dreams, are merely dreams.)


        In Neo-Latin tragedy, too, dreams can play an important part. Thus, in Marc-Antoine Muret’s Iulius Caesar (1552), it is Caesar’s wife Calpurnia, who has a terrifying dream, and in Heinsius’ Auriacus Orange’s wife Louisa (Louise de Coligny) has such a dream, as the murderer has, in which he sees the three Furies and a fourth one, the Spanish Inquisition. One could call these elements part of a baroque world-view; at the same time they are also rhetorical means to express horror and awe, and were already used in Seneca’s tragedies.

        The connection between ‘Baroque’ and Roman Catholicism in Neo-Latin tragedy is not to be abandoned entirely. Many Jesuit Latin tragedies are baroque in their themes and the elaboration of those themes. They often take as their subject the lives of saints who are tortured and die for their faith, and whose lives are depicted as almost theatrical. This ‘overtheatricality’, which is part of the baroque world view that life is a kind of play, a performance, is a means to ‘change the hearts’ of the audience, to convert them to a Christian life and to make them join in the Society as new priests by showing these examples of Christian piety. Thus, the chiaroscuro that is associated with Baroque in the visual arts – think of the paintings by Caravaggio – also features in Neo-Latin tragedy.

        In the Latin tragedies of the early modern period, which were diverse in form, subject matter, style and world view, and which were written by both Protestant and Roman Catholic authors, especially Jesuits, but also by members from other religious orders, ‘baroque’ elements can be discerned. Neo-Latin drama also evolved in time, and played a role in the societies and the literary vogues of the times and reflected them, becoming ‘baroque’ as well as ‘neo-classicist’. In this sense, we can agree with Victoria Moul in her blog, that the term ‘Neo-Latin’ is actually too broad to cover a period from the fourteenth-century humanist Petrarch to Pascoli, who lived in the twentieth century. ‘Baroque’ may in this context be a means to indicate a kind of style or a period of Latin literature, including tragedy. But, in certain ways it remains problematic to call such Latin tragedies ‘baroque’.

        These are thoughts that were aroused by the Baroque Latinity Network set up by Gesine Manuwald and Jacqueline Glomski. It is thanks to them and the group, that we have a discussion platform for the periodisation of Neo-Latin and its style. We are grateful to the two organisers, also for being invited to this network, and to the participants.

        I wrote this in a period of self-quarantine during the Coronavirus (00 COVID-19) crisis, March 2020. The challenges we meet in this pandemic resemble those of the Black Death of the Middle Ages (even though these were far worse than this crisis, due to the lack of medical expertise) and other crises in the early modern period. Perhaps the baroque world view might help us to cope with them. Or should we rather keep our stoic calm, and say, with Virgil: ‘dabit deus his quoque finem’?


        In this blog, I refer to: Daniel Heinsius, Auriacus, sive Libertas Saucia (Leiden: Maire, 1602); Daniel Heinsius, De tragica constitutione (Leiden, Elzevier, 1611) Rochus Honerdus, Thamara (Leiden: Johannes Patius, 1611); Frans-Willem Korsten, A Dutch Republican Baroque: Theatricality, Dramatization, Moment, and Event (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017); Yasmin Haskell and Raphaële Garrod (eds), Changing Hearts: Performing Jesuit Emotions between Europe, Asia, and the Americas (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2019); Jan Bloemendal and Nigel Smith (eds), Politics and Aesthetics in European Baroque and Classicist Tragedy (Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2016).

        Latin Love Elegy: A Baroque Genre? - January 2020


        [Giovanni Ghisolfi (1623–1683), Figures conversing among ruins, a pyramid in the distance (detail)]


        by Paul White

        Associate Professor of Classics

        University of Leeds


        To seek out the baroque in Latin love elegy (or indeed to look for Latin love elegy in the baroque) might seem to be a perverse undertaking. Neo-Latin love elegy is not generally seen as a baroque genre. It is associated more readily with the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries than with the seventeenth; it was a self-consciously classical and classicizing genre, practised by the great names of humanist erudition, grounded in and defined by learned and measured imitatio of the elegiac books of Tibullus, Propertius and Ovid.

        That said, the Augustan elegists have often been seen by Classicists as somehow an exception to the supposed orderly classicism of their age; they have been called ‘mannerist’, ‘baroque’ and even ‘rococco’ (more often than not in a tone of mild disapproval at their more ill-judged moments). Recent work has begun to take more seriously the fundamental and constitutive presence in Roman love elegy of what might otherwise be called features of baroque style and sensibility. From the early modern end, a good amount of work has been done on the presence of classical love elegy in vernacular neo-Petrarchan, mannerist and baroque love lyric (from Pierre de Ronsard in French, to Martin Opitz in German, to John Donne in English).

        What has not been done so far, I think, is to look at the Neo-Latin genre itself through the lens of mannerism and baroque, to ask how it evolves during the course of the sixteenth century and, indeed, to ask whether it is meaningful to talk of a baroque Latin love elegy. I’m starting from a hypothesis that the genre of Neo-Latin love elegy progressively develops, during the course of the sixteenth century, and in the hands of mainly northern European poets (who are mainly Protestants), a style and aesthetic divergeant from the classical and Quattrocento models: this is partly to be understood as a development of the classical genre’s own tendencies, an elaboration of features already present in the ancient models, and partly also as a conscious attempt on the part of some poets to realign this Neo-Latin genre with verncular mannerism, and the vernacular baroque.

        The latter part of the sixteenth century sees a shift in terms of elegiac style, with mainly Dutch and German poets/theorists like Janus Dousa (elder and younger), Janus Lernutius, and Valens Acidalius, and later Daniel Heinsius. They saw themselves as turning away from the smoothness and fluency that had been the preoccupation of earlier humanist poets and theorists of elegy, and towards a conception of love elegy marked by sudden movement, violent emotion, distortion, unrestraint, excess (a conception largely based on Propertius rather than Ovid or Tibullus).

        The love elegies of the Dutch poet Janus Dousa (Cupidinum libri duo, first published in two-book form 1609), offer an example of how love elegy is reimagined in the later sixteenth century. Dousa is primarily a devotee of Johannes Secundus, but his elegies mark something of a departure from that model. Dousa extends the conventional metaphors, images, and themes of love elegy as far as they will go, elaborating them in extreme and graphic detail. In some ways this is a characteristically elegiac move (one might think of Ovid’s taking the casual metaphor of love’s soldiery to elaborate extremes in Amores 1.9); but Dousa’s tone and the approach are quite different. In Dousa, the violence implicit in the elegiac themes of servitium amoris and militia amoris is brought to an extreme pitch: the metaphors of the soldiery and servitude of love explode into images of pillage, execution, murder... Love’s suffering is physical violence on bodies. These are blood-soaked love elegies: tears are blood that drenches the body, love is not a sweet death but a kind of bloody slaughter, a carnage – this is all much more graphic than Propertius’s own death fixation. We know that love burns, but Dousa’s persona rips out his scorched heart and presents it to Cupid as a burnt offering from which he may re-light his torch in order to ignite the unyielding domina.

        These are baroque extravagances worthy of d’Aubigné, but they are rooted in Latin love elegy itself, or in how these later sixteenth-century elegists viewed the genre. The later sixteenth-century theorists stressed the fact that love elegy, and the elegiac metre itself, were particularly suited to express effects of dynamism, force of emotion, and unresolved tension. In this they were reacting against earlier humanist theorists who prized fluency and smoothness in the elegiac metre (the dominant metaphor was that of the free-flowing river).

        The German theorist Valens Acidalius, in his treatise on the true nature and definition of elegiac poetry (written in the late sixteenth century and published posthumously in 1606), wrote :

        Ut si quis affectus describere conetur amatorios (sumamus enim hoc exemplum, ut Elegiae maxime proprium) de ipsis primo affectibus erit cogitandum. Eos ut vehementes, ita mobiles et inconstantes, uti turbidos, sic praecipites, saepe sibiipsis adversantes contrariosque deprehendet. Quid iam? Poteritne Poeta istam affectuum varietatem et inconstantiam ipso Euripo aestuosiorem uniformi versuum tractu, aequali numerorum serie, pari syllabarum dimensione, quasi in pictura, ut oportebat, repraesentare? Profecto non poterit, si rei naturae parem velit (quod omnino velle et efficere posse debet) orationis naturam et esse et videri.

        Valens Acidalius, ‘Oratio de vera carminis Elegiaci natura et constitutione’, in Valentis Acidali epistolarum centuria I (Hanau, 1606), p. 386

        So that if one tries to describe love’s passions (let us take this example, since it is especially relevant to Elegy) it will first be necessary to think carefully about the passions themselves. He will observe that they are so violent, so unstable and inconstant, so disordered, so sudden, and often at odds with themselves and self-contradictory. What then? Could a poet represent, as if in a picture (as he should), that variety and inconstancy of the passions, more agitated than the very strait of Euripus, in a uniform passage of verse, in an even metrical sequence, in an equal measure of syllables? Clearly he could not, if he would like the nature of the language to be and to appear equal to the nature of the thing itself (something that he absolutely must want and be able to achieve).

        This is a passage about decorum and imitative harmony, such as one might find in any number of humanist treatises on poetics, but what is distinctive about it is its take on the ‘true nature’ of love elegy, which does not resemble the earlier theorists’ view. It is important to note that Acidalius is not merely talking here about the limping, uneven effect of the elegiac couplet: he is arguing for something more specific. The particular obsession of these later sixteenth-century theorists and practitioners of Latin elegy was the frequent use of polysyllabic pentameter endings, a metrical feature associated with early Propertius but eschewed by Tibullus and Ovid. In earlier sixteenth-century criticism on elegiac style, Ovidian smoothness and fluency was usually preferred to the disruptive or clashing effects of polysyllabic pentameter endings (which tended to inhibit the coincidence of word-accent and ictus); the earlier humanist versification manuals prescribed bisyllabic endings only. Acidalius argues at length against the dominant view that elegiacs should flow like a river: he wants to dethrone Ovid and crown Propertius as the proper model for elegiac style.

        Acidalius figures the elegiac style in strikingly visual terms, and he takes the classical ‘ut pictura poesis’ further in a later passage, which looks to contemporary painting for an example of an aesthetic of disharmony and even ugliness:

        Videmus proinde pictores non elegantes semper et venustas imagines, neque colore semper uno depingere: sed apponere etiam aliquando exesas rupes, diruta palatia, columnas dimidiatas, nutantia fastigia, pyramides truncas, et alia tum opetae [operae?] levioris, tum minoris artis, tum formae etiam impolitioris. Ad istum modum in Elegiis non unus semper rei color, non una rei facies, semper oculis lectorum debet obiici: sed aliquando formosam decet, aliquando deformem imaginem ostentare [...].

                    Acidalius, ‘Oratio de vera carminis Elegiaci natura’, p. 414

        Equally, we see artists painting images that are not always elegant and pleasant, or in a uniform colour, sometimes even adding corroded rocks, destroyed palaces, columns cut in half, tottering pediments, truncated pyramids, and other things done with less care, or less artfully, or even rather inelegant in form. In this way, in Elegies the eye of the reader should not be presented with ideas of one constant colour, or one constant aspect: rather, it is proper sometimes to present a beautiful image, sometimes an ill-formed one.

        Acidalius borrows part of this description from the Poetics of Julius Caesar Scaliger, where it relates not to love elegy, or to the elegiac metre at all, but to the hexameter epic of Vida: Scaliger criticizes the excess of such defects in painting and poetry. In Acidalius these supposed defects have become an example of something desirable, and indeed there should be a place for deformity itself, the ‘imaginem deformem’.

        Acidalius in his discussion of the desirability of this disorderliness and even deformity in elegiac style was heavily indebted to Janus Dousa, who already in his Praecidanea pro Tibullo had attacked those who prefered Ovid’s artifice and fluency to Propertius, and had championed the polysyllabic pentameter ending.

        The point is not that there is anything inherently ‘baroque’ about polysyllabic pentameter endings. It is that the later sixteenth-century elegists saw this metrical feature as being uniquely capable of expressing the preoccupations, moods, and themes that we have come to associate with the baroque. These poets saw love elegy as the poetic genre that was uniquely capable in Latin of expressing effects of movement and contradiction, tension, disorder and extremes of emotion.

        The 16th Century's Knock on the Baroque - December 2019


        [A history of Cicero owned by Gabriel Harvey, held at Trinity College Cambridge Library]


        By Lucy Nicholas


        The Warburg Institute / King’s College London


        The Neo-Latin I normally look at belongs to the sixteenth century. ‘Baroque’, on the other hand, is a term associated with the seventeenth century. Thus, the invitation to join the Baroque Latinity Network came as somewhat of a surprise. Delighted and a little daunted, I started to mull over what my experience of sixteenth-century Latin productions could bring to the Baroque banquet. It struck me that in order to assess the character of Baroque Latinity (accepting, of course, that such a term may be validly used), we need to engage with the wellsprings of its formation. That means giving thought to the progression of Neo-Latin through the sixteenth century, and asking whether any discernible modifications in style that occurred during that period might be witnessed in the Latin of the century that followed. It would, of course, be facile to suggest that there could be such a thing as a ‘zeitgeist moment’ in Latin aesthetics, but it might be possible to trace certain alterations in approach and values.


        Where might one locate such a shift in Latin style? One place is the realm of rhetoric and the writings of those most exercised by outward form and modes of expression -  in short, the trendsetters and gatekeepers of early modern oratory. One hotly contested topic in the sixteenth century was eloquentia and the degree to which this should entail the imitation of Cicero. Although the matter was squabbled over by many, Desiderius Erasmus’s landmark text, the Ciceronianus of 1528, comprised an important distillation of the contours of that debate. Many humanists of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries had, it seems, come to view the pagan author Cicero as an exclusive model for all Latin composition (including goliaths like Pietro Bembo and Jacopo Sadoleto). Erasmus was highly critical of such strict devotion, even casting this sort of Ciceronianism as a disease. While Erasmus himself was profoundly interested in the improvement of Latin, he deemed an excessive adherence to Cicero as a form of verbal idolatry. He did not believe that style should be the ultimate goal, and he was more concerned with how Latin might be used to improve Christian manners and morals.


        But the discussion did not stop with Erasmus. Half a century on, in 1577, Gabriel Harvey published a work also under the title Ciceronianus. Harvey was a fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge, and just before he penned this tract, had been appointed University praelector of rhetoric, lecturing at least four days a week to halls which were always packed owing, in no small part, to his dash and charisma. His Ciceronianus had, in fact, initially been delivered as an inaugural oration that launched a series of electrifying lectures on Cicero. As Erasmus’s treatise had done, this tract too centred on the question of the best Latin style. Harvey’s Ciceronianus immediately established Cicero as the ‘perfectus magister’ - to deny as much would have been almost akin to heresy - and early in the tract he set forth an extravagant panegyric of Cicero. Yet conscious of the long tradition of Ciceronian sparring, Harvey also drew a distinction between the zealous adherence to Cicero caricatured by Erasmus, and his own notion of true Ciceronianism, which he attributed unreservedly to the French humanist Peter Ramus. Indeed, much of Harvey’s Ciceronianus is an account of why he favoured the teaching of Ramus.


        Ramus had also written in 1557 a tract with the name Ciceronianus (yes, they’re all at it in a form of early modern blog-like system of statement and response). In this, Ramus had vigorously tried to simplify the traditional methods of dialectic and rhetoric. He recommended a move from the condensing flask of verbal and syntactical pedantry to the encouragement of a rhetorical practice that embraced the broader field of human knowledge. And it was this tract’s principles that Harvey now advanced in Cambridge, namely a radical curtailment of Aristotelian logic and a simplification of the rhetorical method, one emancipated from the shackles of too much theory. Harvey was essentially recommending a Ciceronian approach in spirit, but, in practice, a more fluid, natural, independent and eclectic modus operandi. A true Ciceronian style, he argued, did not need to be limited to one stylistic model or restricted to the diction actually used by Cicero. The floodgates had been opened, young minds had been sparked, and the whiff of cordite now hung over the realm of Latin style.


        My investigations into this text and its Ramist implications remain a work in progress, but I am keen to consider whether Harvey’s programme for Latinity represents one particular stimulus for the more iconoclastic and individualist linguistic approaches of the seventeenth century in England. Certainly, in one of the paratextual letters to Harvey’s Ciceronianus written by William Lewin, dedicatee of the tract and Cambridge Public Orator, Harvey’s Latin text is described as follows:


        ‘If you ask me of its quality, it is silver indeed, and that double gilt. I even add, set with jewels and adorned with various inlays. Silver is the lustre of the oration, and pure and brilliant the texture of its diction. Then too, not only do the beauty and the amplitude arising from the choice of words and the embellishment of thoughts appear golden to me, but also in the very structure and in the variety of every kind of elegance I seem to catch again and again as a gleam of pearls (quasi margaritarum).


        ‘As a gleam of pearls’ was a noteworthy description since the very term ‘baroque’ comes from the Romance language word meaning ‘pearl of an irregular shape’ (directly from the French and probably adapted from Portuguese barroco, Spanish barrueco, or Italian barocco).


        It may be that Harvey’s novel approaches to Latin style, which drew inspiration from the Ramist school, had an important role in the development of Baroque Latinity, and indeed of the Baroque vernacular. The rivulet I have identified in Harvey’s Ciceronianus has the potential to become a river when we take into account other writers operating within this intellectual framework. Harvey enjoyed a long and intimate friendship with the poet Edmund Spenser. Letters they exchanged point to a shared interest in language and classical and vernacular poetry, and also tell of their devotion to the court poet Philip Sidney, who also supported Ramism; both Spenser and Sidney have been associated with the transition from ‘Renaissance’ style to Baroque.


        All of the above may be a red herring, a blind alley, no true rockface of baroque. That’s the risk of new research into untilled terrain. But what I am most grateful for in this Baroque Latinity project is the opportunity to contemplate in a collaborative way how we can meaningfully start to delineate and bring some semblance of order to the vast body of Neo-Latin literature, much of which still remains virgin territory. It has certainly pricked me into re-evaluating more critically the labels we use in the field. I teach ‘Renaissance Latin’ at the Warburg Institute, but I recently began to ask myself what this assignment even means. I have myself never confined the texts we read to those of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries only. ‘Renaissance Latin’ is in many ways defined by what it reacts against, namely medieval or scholastic Latin, and the vast majority of Latin composed from the fourteenth up to the eighteenth centuries can legitimately be called ‘Renaissance’, in so far as the authors in question largely rejected medieval forms and took classical texts as their prime models (in addition, it’s vital to stress, to much more, not least Scripture and vernacular literature).


        It may be that, within this immense umbrella term ‘Renaissance’, it is possible to trace, in a more scientific and focused way, different phases and fashions across the centuries. Seventeenth-century Latin, even if it does not reject the principles of Renaissance Latin, might be regarded as a sui generis phenomenon which took ‘Renaissance’ ideas about language in innovative and different directions – perhaps above all by unlocking the Baroque with a shock, as it were. But in order to apprehend the change, what preceded it must also be understood, namely the Latinity of the sixteenth century, the exchanges and discussions about best practice, and the model/s that those immersed in a deeply imitative literary culture looked to. At the same time, we cannot discount the fact that seventeenth-century Latinity might just have been a little bit richer, more encyclopaedic, more colourful because it was responding not just to something old, but also to something new. It is never easy to map one art form on to another, but it is possible that seventeenth-century Latin was also shaped by the rococo architecture of the age, the decadent intensity its artwork, the experimentation in musical composition, and the dynamic growth in Enlightenment knowledge. One must also accept that periodisation is always vulnerable to reproof: just as any reader of medieval Latin will find abundant tracts which exemplify a Renaissance ebullience and sophistication, so the literature of the sixteenth century will produce examples of a sort of dissident Baroque-ness. It may yet be, however, that the presence of a distinctive Baroque accent becomes evident if enough of the Latin texts of the era can be examined together. Naturally, that can only be achieved if scholars working in the field of Neo-Latin team up in sufficient numbers. And then, whatever the outcome, labor ipse voluptas.

        What is 'Baroque Latinity' - November 2019



        by Dr Victoria Moul

        Associate Professor (Reader) in Early Modern Latin & English, University College London


        I was pleased to be asked to be a member of the this research network on Baroque Latinity since the usually understood timeframe of ‘the baroque’ (which is somewhat variable, but always centred on the seventeenth century) corresponds closely to the chronological focus of my work: I work on the relationship between Latin and vernacular (mainly English) poetry between c. 1550 and 1720.

        The longer I have worked on this material the more obvious it is to me that early modern Latin poetry, just like early modern English or French poetry, experienced quite closely packed waves of changing literary fashions between the mid-sixteenth and early eighteenth century: by literary fashion, I mean changes in the style and diction of the most popular Latin poetry, and also changes in the fashionable forms and genres. Such changes include the emergence of quite new forms – such as the trend polymetric sequences in the later sixteenth century, or for Latin free verse in the mid-late seventeenth century – but also the revival of types of poetry which had been fashionable in previous periods, but are not particularly classical: this includes, for instance, lyric metres borrowed from late antique and medieval poets, and the fashion for medium-long allegorical Latin verse which is particularly noticeable as a trend in the mid-seventeenth century in England, and was widely used to treat politically and religiously contentious topics at a period of great political upheaval.

        Frustratingly, ‘neo-Latin studies’ has not yet really developed any widely used and accepted categories covering a smaller chronological range than ‘neo-Latin’ itself, which is usually taken to start with the earliest Italian Renaissance authors, such as Petrarch in the fourteenth century, and continue through to cover Latin authors writing at least until the eighteenth century, if not (by some definitions) the present day. Such limited terminology, having a single phrase for so many centuries of literary production, flattens how we think about the material. In particular, it tends to reinforce the widespread assumption that ‘neo-Latin’ poetry is just ‘fake classical’, and that the success or otherwise of a neo-Latin poem resides purely in how effectively it mimics classical style and form – with ‘classical’ here usually referring only to Augustan and perhaps ‘Silver Latin’ authors, such as Statius and Lucan, but not the poets of late antiquity who were of great importance in early modernity.

        Such assumptions are damaging to the field for so many reasons: because they are straightforwardly wrong – early modern Latin poetry was a living literary language, and was as such constantly evolving stylistically and generically, in conversation primarily with other contemporary voices, not only or even mostly antiquity – but also because they make neo-Latin sound so static, boring, and, in scholarly terms, a sort of closed shop of interest only to people who have read lots of classical poetry and are good at and excited by spotting parallels with it. Of course much early modern Latin verse is intensely intertextual, and anyone working on it seriously needs to be interested in how poetry makes use of previous poems, but seventeenth-century Latin poetry is just as likely to be engaging with, for instance, Biblical texts or previous neo-Latin material as with Virgil or Cicero. Discussing it only in relation to classical material is a bit as if all our teaching, reading, discussion and understanding of T. S. Eliot concerned only the use he made of Shakespeare. Not an uninteresting or irrelevant topic, of course – but hopeless as the only perspective.

        Finally, the assumption that ‘neo-Latin literature’ is about the imitation purely of (narrowly) classical literature has also shaped the work that has been done in quite basic ways because it has influenced which genres or forms scholars can “see” in early modern Latin, and which they ignore or can’t make sense of. Since classicists are typically interested, for instance, in epic and love elegy, two very high profile genres among classical Latinists, there has been a relatively large amount of work on neo-Latin epic and love elegy even though both these genres, though composed by Italian humanist poets, are found only rarely in, for instance, the Latin verse written in early modern England. Meanwhile genres which were of huge importance, and examples of which are absolutely ubiquitous in a given period – such as scriptural verse paraphrase or contemporary panegyric epic in the style of Claudian – have gone almost unremarked even as genres because they do not map closely onto a canonical classical form.

        So we really need some terminology with which to distinguish between different phases of Latin poetic (and more widely literary) style and form in the long period between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries. Of course within this time frame some trends or fashions are either very shortlived or very local: specific only to a single European country, perhaps. But many of the literary vogues are traceable across Europe: in the seventeenth century people right across Europe read and imitated, for instance, both the Welsh epigrammatist John Owen and the Polish Jesuit poet Casimir Sarbiewski. This network on ‘baroque Latinity’  is I hope a chance for some joined-up thinking about how we could begin to describe and label one particular phase in this literary history.

        There are some challenges, however, with using the word ‘baroque’: despite Peter Davidson’s impressive and persuasive attempt to rehabilitate the term, and extend its literary use beyond denominational associations in his monograph The international baroque (Manchester, 2007), ‘baroque’ continues to have some negative or at least very specific connotations in English when applied to literature. For most native English speakers, it suggests a mannered style with continental associations, and is frequently linked in particular with the Catholic Counter-Reformation. This seems a not-inappropriate register with which to describe the fashion for Sarbiewski’s verse, or perhaps also the many examples of English Latin verse, by Protestants such as Andrew Marvell and Abraham Cowley and even dissenters such as Isaac Watts as much as English Catholic converts like Richard Crashaw, which were directly influenced by Sarbiewski. But it is less obvious that it is the right term with which to capture, for instance, the undoubted revolution in Latin poetic style that took place between the mid and late sixteenth century. Both George Buchanan (1506-1582) and Theodore de Bèze (1519-1605), for instance, wrote enormously popular and influential Latin verse paraphrases of the psalms in the second half of the sixteenth century. Both were highly influential in England – without them, we would have neither the Sidney Psalter nor Herbert’s Temple - but they wrote in totally different Latin styles characteristic of their different generations. Whereas Buchanan’s Latin is much more classicising, Bèza makes much greater use of alliteration, metrical variety and innovation, and even rhyme. It’s not clear to me that ‘baroque’ can really be the right word to pinpoint what distinguishes de Bèze, the successor of Calvin at Geneva, from that of Buchanan, one of the most prominent early converts to Protestantism. Testing out the phrase ‘Protestant baroque’, on a few colleagues, one – a European historian but of a later period – thought the phrase sounded simply absurd and assumed it was intended as a joke!

        Perhaps we need several interlinked terms corresponding to different phases of the ‘early modern’ period – ‘mannerist’ has sometimes been used in relation to the late sixteenth century in particular, though also has some negative connotations in English – or perhaps we could imagine a more neutral overarching term to capture in some way the various phases of the working out of Latin literary style in Europe and beyond in the aftermath of Reformation, from the mid-sixteenth century through to, perhaps, the late eighteenth century and the age of Revolution. “Post-Reformation Latin” is perhaps still too bland and temporal, though it points at least towards the relationship between religious upheaval and evolving literary style, without strongly suggesting one denomination over another. A phrase like “early modernism”, would – by analogy with literary ‘modernism’ – at least suggest a cultural and literary rather than purely historical focus, though is probably too open to misinterpretation as a kind of ‘pre-modernism’.

        I don’t have a solution to this problem, but I do think it is a wonderful marker of the maturity of “neo-Latin” as a field that we are starting to think in this nuanced and historically-informed way about the different phases and fashions in Latin literary style over the centuries between the dawn of the Renaissance and the modern era. All scholarly work – and the kind of increased wider awareness that hopefully follows from it – has to begin by defining its terms, and while most professional Latinists remain unaware that “neo-Latin” can mean anything other than the painstaking replication of Augustan style, precise stylistic terminology is I believe urgently needed.

        Daniel Georg Morhof, Polyhistor - October 2019

        Daniel Georg Morhof


        (1st edition, Lübeck 1688)


        by Jacqueline Glomski, Centre for Editing Lives & Letters (CELL), UCL

        The desire for encyclopedism and universalism was typical of the Baroque period, and Daniel Georg Morhof’s Polyhistor marks the last point in the Western intellectual tradition when encyclopedism and bibliography coincided. Morhof’s Polyhistor was what would now be called an ‘encyclopedia’. It consisted of a summary of the knowledge and learning of his time, in a bibliographical format. Each chapter of Polyhistor provided a brief summary of the topic at hand and then a list of books that Morhof considered indispensable for gaining knowledge of the topic. Morhof’s work represented the pinnacle of the polyhistor movement, which embraced traditional humanistic study and an encyclopedism that aspired to the attainment of universal knowledge through the reading of books. Morhof wrote at a time when the organization of printed materials, access to information, and exchange of knowlege were evolving as ideals in society.

        Who was Morhof?

        Daniel Georg Morhof, the son of a lawyer, was born at Wismar on the Baltic Sea coast in 1639. He studied at Rostock, specializing in law and literature, and took the chair of Latin poetry at the age of twenty-one, in 1660. Morhof moved to the new University of Kiel in 1665 as professor of rhetoric and poetics, to which was added in 1673 the professorship of history. From 1680 until his death in 1691, he was the director of the university library.

        Morhof authored more than 160 works in both German and Latin, but his monumental and extremely influential Polyhistor is his best-known book. It was published first at Lübeck in 1688 and was expanded – based, firstly, on Morhof’s own notes and then on the work of his disciples – and reissued after its author’s death in further editions into the middle of the eighteenth century. In Polyhistor, Morhof made a plea for polymathy and inserted notions of historia literaria, which was the attempt to write a complete history of scholarship, including criticism of texts, biographies of authors, and descriptions of libraries and academic institutions. Morhof’s aim was to present a selection of the best books available on every topic imaginable.

        What happened to Polyhistor after Morhof died?

        The first volume (tomus) of Polyhistor is titled ‘Polyhistor literarius’ (‘Literary Polymath’) and its very first book (liber), ‘Bibliothecarius’, covers topics relating to libraries and deals, in twenty-five chapters, with the setting up of a library, the books to be contained in a library and their arrangement, and the history of libraries. The second book of ‘Polyhistor literarius’ is ‘Methodicus’, on scholarship and rhetoric, which details methods of study, learning, and writing. It was only these two sections that Morhof published hastily in 1688, as he was concerned that notes from his university lectures were circulating, and that his material would be usurped and published by someone else.

        After Morhof’s death in 1691, two Kiel University professors Heinrich Mühle and Johann Burchard May took charge of editing and expanding Polyhistor. Mühle managed to publish the third book of ‘Polyhistor literarius’, titled ‘Paraskeuastikos’ (‘Preparatory’), at Lübeck in 1692. This section had been left ready for publication by Morhof himself and dealt with note-taking, excerpting, the collecting of common-places, indexing, lexicon preparation, and poetic composition. May then published books one and two (‘Bibliothecarius’ and ‘Methodicus’) in a ‘second, enlarged edition’ in 1695, with book three (‘Paraskeuastikos’) following in 1698.

        But the remainder of ‘Polyhistor literarius’ – consisting of ‘Grammaticus’ (on languages, especially Greek and Latin), ‘Criticus’ (textual criticism and editing), ‘Oratorius’ (rhetoric and public speaking) and ‘Poeticus’ (poetics and poetry, and drama) – was left abandoned as the aim to complete Polyhistor flagged. Only the intervention of Friedrich Benedict Carpzov (1649–1699), a prominent Leipzig lawyer, revived the project. Carpzov entrusted a young scholar at Leipzig, Johann Frick (1670–1739), with finishing the work on these four final books of ‘Polyhistor literarius’, from Morhof’s notes. After Carpzov’s death in 1699, Johann Möller (1661–1725), a Danish theologian and historian who taught at the gymnasium in Flensburg, now on the German-Danish border, took over the project and brought Polyhistor to completion in 1708 with his edition of the opus integrum in two physical volumes. Besides all the books of ‘Polyhistor literarius’, Möller published – ‘Polyhistor philosophicus’ (which deals, broadly, with the natural sciences, mathematics, and metaphysics) and ‘Polyhistor practicus’ (which treats ethics, politics, economics, history, theology, law, and medicine) – that he had worked on by himself. A second edition of this version appeared in 1714. Two new editions, now edited by Johann Albert Fabricius (1668 –1736), the professor of rhetoric and ethics at the Akademisches Gymnasium in Hamburg, and incorporating Frick’s and Möller’s work, came out in 1732 and 1747.

        Can Morhof’s Latin be considered ‘Baroque’?

        Morhof wrote according to accepted, erudite standards, in a correct Latin. Naturally, as fitting an encyclopedic treatise, his prose was, overall, succint. Yet, we find in his style elements of the ‘Baroque’: he could write in a rather flowery language, full of vivid comparisons and exaggerations, that admitted the use of neologisms as part of a descriptive and colourful vocabulary. That we should detect Baroque characteristics in the writing of a Lutheran is, perhaps, no surprise, given that Lutheranism was similar to Roman Catholicism in its aesthetics.

        For example, Morhof demonstrates some common traits of Baroque Latinity – and the adaptability of Latin to the expression of new technology – in his remarks on the state of printing in Germany:

        In his Germania olim nostra curiosissima, quae cum typos prima invenisset, eos dedit quam ornatissimos; cum hodie multis in locis adeo sordida excudat volumina, ut, si ad chartam spectes, sterquilinio videantur effossa; si typos, non impressa, sed atro colore oblita credas.

        In these matters, our Germany in former times was most diligent, who, since it had first discovered printing types, presented them as ornate as possible; whereas today in many places it prints such shabby volumes that, if you should look at the paper, they would seem like they’d been dug out of a dung heap; if you should look at the type faces, you would think they were not printed, but smeared with black colour.

        [Polyhistor, Tom. I, Lib. I, Cap. IV, § 29]

        Note how the vocabulary that Morhof uses for printing differs from classical vocabulary: typus – for ‘printing type’ – in classical Latin meant a bas-relief, or a figure or image on a wall; and excudoexcudere – for ‘to print’ – literally means ‘to hammer out’, while imprimo, imprimere means ‘to press’ or ‘imprint’; charta – for ‘paper’ – was in classical times a sheet made from the papyrus plant. Here, his use of superlatives (‘curiosissima’, ‘ornatissimos’) and his vivid comparison of low-quality printing to matter from a dung heap (‘sterquilinio’) are marks of the Baroque.

        Why is Morhof’s Polyhistor interesting today?

        Morhof’s Polyhistor is especially interesting because of his remarks on library formation and book collecting. In fact, Morhof has been called a precursor of modern library science. Since Morhof considered the questions of acquiring, ordering, and passing on universal knowledge, the establishing of libraries was of utmost concern for him. He equated libraries with scholarship and tied his vision of the ideal library to his programme of polymathy, in which knowledge was acquired most efficiently through books, and which insisted on a familiarity with libraries, their organization and working methods.

                    Morhof demanded that libraries – even private ones – be open to everyone who was qualified to use them. Morhof’s comments on the waste of book collections that remain closed up and unavailable to scholars transmit clearly the emotion he feels at the thought of a shut-up library, with its books hidden away.

        At amplas aliqui possident bibliothecas, publicae quoque institutae sunt, sed non in aliorum usum. Nimirum quasi scaenae tot libri inserviunt, oculos tantum moraturi, non animos saturaturi. Cui bono thesaurus absconditus? Ergo in tinearum et blattarum gratiam tot opes impenduntur, tot libri colliguntur. Galli in eo liberales, apud quos vel privatae bibliothecae ad publicos usus conceduntur. Bodleiana Oxoniensis singulis diebus patet.

        Yet, some people possess great libraries, even established as public, but not for the use of others. No wonder so many books serve as theatre stages, only entertaining the eyes, while not satisfying the mind. What good is a treasure hidden away? In consequence, so much wealth is spent, so many books are gathered together for the sake of moths and book worms. The French are more liberal in this matter, with whom even private libraries are given over to public uses. The Bodleian Library at Oxford is open every day.

        [Polyhistor, Tom. I, Lib. I, Cap. III, § 26]

        The comparison of a library to a theatre – which holds the attention of the eyes but does not satisfy the mind, the pointed question ‘What good is a treasure hidden away?’, and the image of a book collection serving as food for moths and book worms communicate Morhof’s anger. Morhof’s examples of the French libraries, even private ones, open for public benefit and the Bodleian Library at Oxford, open daily, serve as a stark contrast to those of collectors who keep their libraries locked up.

        Although the Polyhistor continued to serve as a reference well into the eighteenth century, Morhof’s push for polymathy was soon outmoded by the rise of scholarly specialization, as was his emphasis on book learning by the importance placed on knowledge acquired by experimentation. Polyhistory and encyclopedism would survive in the German historia litteraria, but this approach to scholarship would actually freeze the the old, humanist philology by historicizing it. And, the French République des lettres would foster an ideal of the cultivated, but clearly unscholarly honnête homme, who would prefer to read in the vernacular.

        Further Reading

        ·Bergholz, H. ‘Daniel Georg Morhof: Overlooked Precursor of Library Science’. Libri 14 (1964).

        ·Blair, Ann. ‘The Practices of Erudition according to Morhof’. In Mapping the World of Learning: The Polyhistor of Daniel Georg Morhof, ed. Françoise Waquet (Wiesbaden: Harrossowitz Verlag, 2000).

        ·Bloemendal, Jan and Nigel Smith. ‘Introduction’. In Politics and Aesthetics in European Baroque and Classicist Tragedy, eds. J. Bloemendal and N. Smith. Leiden: Brill, 2016.

        ·Grafton, Anthony. ‘The World of the Polyhistors: Humanism and Encyclopedism’. Central European History 18 (1985).

        ·Jaumann, Herbert. ‘Was ist ein Polyhistor? Gehversuche auf einem verlassenen Terrain’, Studia Leibnitiana 22 (1990).

        ·Nelles, Paul. ‘Historia litteraria and Morhof: Private Teaching and Professorial Libraries at the University of Kiel’. In Mapping the World of Learning: The Polyhistor of Daniel Georg Morhof, ed. Françoise Waquet (Wiesbaden: Harrossowitz Verlag, 2000).

        ·Risbjerg Eskildsen, Kasper. ‘How Germany Left the Republic of Letters’. Journal of the History of Ideas 65 (2004).

        ·Waquet, Françoise. ‘Le Polyhistor de Daniel Georg Morhof, lieu de mémoire de la République des Lettres’. In Les Lieux de mémoire et la fabrique de l’oeuvre, edited by Volker Knapp (Paris: Papers on Seventeenth-Century French Literature, 1993).

        ·Westerhoff, Jan C. ‘A World of Signs: Baroque Pansemioticism, the Polyhistor and the Early Modern Wunderkammer’. Journal of the History of Ideas 62 (2001).

        Poems upon various subjects - September 2019

        Poems upon various subjects, Latin and English is the (rather descriptive) title of a volume in the Wellcome Library: looking at the book more closely reveals that it is an anthology of writings by Isaac Hawkins Browne, published by his son in 1768.

        This book is an interesting example of the use of a mixture of Latin and English by educated men in literary contexts in the eighteenth century and also shows that poetry in Latin was written not only by established ‘poets’ at the time. It thus exemplifies the wide range of material that makes up Latin Baroque literature and might add another facet to the activities of English politicians of the eighteenth century.


        Isaac Hawkins Browne (1706–1760) was an English politician and writer. He was educated in Lichfield, at Westminster School and Trinity College Cambridge (memorial in Trinity College Chapel). He was called to the bar in 1728 and was MP for Much Wenlock, Shropshire, from 1744 to 1754; he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1750. Towards the end of his life he lived in London in Great Russell Street, Bloomsbury Square (portrait: line engraving by S.F. Ravenet after J. Highmore).

        His only son of the same name (1745–1818) was educated at Westminster School and Hertford College, Oxford, and was later also elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (in 1770). He was a successful early industrialist and an MP for Bridgnorth, Shropshire, from 1784 to 1812, and also a philanthropist in his local area. He published several essays of his own, in addition to the anthology of his father’s poems.


        About this collection of his father’s poetry the son says in the address ‘To the Reader’: ‘these Poems will be an ample, and, I hope, a lasting testimony, not only of an extensive and improved Genius, but of a Reason employed upon the noblest Subjects, and a Heart anxious for the Publick Good’.

        The volume includes the following pieces (in this order): De Animi Immortalitate (with an English translation by Soame Jenyns), in two books; On Design and Beauty, an Epistle; A Letter from a Captain in Country Quarters, to his Corinna in Town; An Epitaph, in Imitation of Dryden; A Pipe of Tobacco, in Imitation of six several Authors; The Fire-Side, a Pastoral Soliloquy; Horace, Ode XIV. Book I. Imitated in 1746; A Latin Ode, addressed to Mr. Highmore; On Phoebe; On the same; To some Ladies, who said the Author loved Chicken; On the Author’s Birth-Day; On a Fit of the Gout; An Ode, addressed to the Hon. Charles Yorke; An Epode, written in the Year 1756; A Translation of a Fragment of Solon; Fragmentum.

        This wide-ranging mixture of items demonstrates that the title ‘poems upon various subjects’ is appropriate since there is not an obvious common denominator with regard to language, genre or theme. The pieces are all poems in the sense that they are written in metrical lines (of different types), while they range from shorter epitaphs or odes to pieces aspiring to epic length (De Animi Immortalitate has two books of 371 and 383 lines respectively, and the Fragmentum has 165 lines and is unfinished).

        The titles indicate that the author is well read and engages with classical Greek and Latin literature as well as contemporary literature in English, both in the same language (by reminiscences and parodies) and across languages, for instance by translating a passage by Solon into English, by imitating a Horatian ode in English or by alluding to motifs from Latin literature in the English poetry. The allusions to other authors in the titles demonstrate that the author would like to be seen as writer engaging intertextually with the canon and contemporary developments. Since he was not a professional poet, he might have been particularly keen to demonstrate his literary credentials.


        While De Animi Immortalitate has epic-like or rather epyllion-like dimensions, it is not a narrative epic, but rather a didactic epic or a philosophical / theological treatise in verse. By looking at some more down-to-earth and several more complex philosophical and theological aspects of the question, the work discusses the role of humans in relation to other animals, the importance of striving for a good life and fame in life on earth, the value of enduring pain, burial rites in different societies and their significance for inferring the respective beliefs on the afterlife, reasons for evil and lack of justice in the world, the views of philosophical schools like the Stoics and the role of god in creating the present world and ensuring justice and proper rewards.

        The work is dedicated to Thomas, Archbishop of Canterbury (presumably Thomas Herring, Archbishop of Canterbury 1747–1757), and defined in this dedication as ‘hoc qualecumque de Re gravissima Poema’ in mock-modesty. The link to an official of the Anglican church suggests that the work is placed in the context of theological debates; it ends with the confident expression that god will ensure justice, but it also describes more pagan and philosophical views along the way and engages with scientific research.


        For instance, about a third of the way into book 1 of De Animi Immortalitate (p. 11) there is a passage on great minds of the past (1.103–122):


        Vulgi igitur studiis noli altae mentis acumen

        Metiri; ast illos, etiam nunc laude recentes,

        Contemplare viros tellus quos Attica, vel quos

        Roma, nec alterutri cedens tulit Anglia, nutrix

        Heroum, dum tempus erat, melioribus annis.

               Quid tibi tot memorem divino pectore vates,

        Totve repertores legum, fandive potentes?

        Quid, per quos venit spectanda scientia; dudum

        Informi cooperta situ, lucemque perosa?

        Ante alios verò Baconus, ut aetherius sol,

        Effulgens, artes aditum patefecit ad omnes.

        Hic à figmentis Sophiam revocavit ineptis

        Primus; quaque regit fida Experientia gressus,

        Securum per ita, Newtono scilicet idem

        Designatque viam, et praecursor lampada tradit.

               Illustres animae! Si quid mortalia tangent

        Coelicolas, si gentis adhuc cura ulla Britannae;

        Vos precor, antiquum Vos instaurate vigorem;

        Ut tandem excusso nitamur ad ardua somno,

        Virtutis verae memores, et laudis avitae.


        This passage provides a praise of outstanding figures from Attica (Greece), Rome and Britain, with the latter emphatically placed on the same level as the two former. These great minds include poets, law-makers and orators, but also, importantly, scientists. Examples are only given for the last category, and these representatives are exclusively British, namely Francis Bacon (1561–1626) and Isaac Newton (1642–1727), who both had also been to Trinity College Cambridge, with Bacon regarded as the trailblazer for Newton.

        The two men are singled out for having shown a way to present science based on experience and evidence. Thus, despite the admiration for the ancients, more recent ways of scientific discovery are preferred while it is hoped that this tradition could now be continued and invigorated again. Interestingly, this wish is phrased as a prayer to the gods: thus, scientific enquiry is linked to a religious activity, with the gods in the plural suggesting a pagan context. Therefore, the format could just be recourse to the literary tradition, but it is still significant that this form of expression is used at this point.


        The second book of De Animi Immortalitate and thus the work as whole (pp. 47–48) ends with the following conclusion (2.376–383):


        Hoc nisi credideris, dic, qua ratione probetur

        Omnino esse Deum summo qui consilio Res

        Justitiaque regit; Num caetera scilicet apte

        Dirigit, hac quae praecipua est in parte laborat?

        Haud ita; Tempus erit, noli quo quaerere more,

        Hoc satis est, hoc constat, erit post funera Tempus;

        Cum Deus, ut par est, aequos excernet iniquis,

        Sontibus insontes, et idonea cuique rependet.


        Despite the multifaceted discussion in between, which at least alludes to a number of different points of view, such a reassuring statement provides an encouraging ending, opening up the hope that a time will come when justice will be ensured and deserved rewards will be given. This is presented as a firm statement of faith, without any argument or evidence at this stage.


        This collection of poems is as an example of how educated men who were not primarily literary people tried their hand at writing poetry in both English and Latin and thought the products good and important enough to be published and dedicated to prominent individuals. The pieces also show how the style is influenced by major literary models, while the topics are determined by contemporary debates. Since in this case the exposition of ideas seems to be the foremost aim (with the intellectual challenge of doing it in Latin verse), the style is not particularly flamboyant. The poetry thus might not seem very ‘baroque’ in the colloquial use of the term, but the underlying self-confidence, the realistic approach to major issues and the eclectic mixture of items can be associated with the notion of the ‘baroque’ in a wider sense.

        Network Events



        19–20 Sept 2019 – UCL & Wellcome Collection Library: ‘Hidden Baroque’

        2–3 April 2020 – Merton College Library, Oxford: ‘Learned Baroque’

        10 Sept 2020 – Trinity College Library, Cambridge: ‘Baroque Borderlands’


        Conference presentations

        15th Conference of the Fédération internationale des associations d’études classiques (FIEC) / 2019 Classical Association Annual Conference, London, 4–8 July 2019. Panel on ‘Learned Baroque Latinity’ – Speakers: J. Glomski, D. McOmish, F. Schaffenrath, and P. White; Chair: Gesine Manuwald – http://www.fiec2019.org/

        BAROQUE LATINITY - conference organized by The Society for Neo-Latin Studies & The Cambridge Society for Neo-Latin Studies - Cambridge, Friday & Saturday Sept 11th – 12th 2020. Convenors: Jacqueline Glomski, Gesine Manuwald, Andrew Taylor. Speakers include:  Jan Bloemendal, Paul Gwynne, Stephen Harrison, Lucy Nicholas, Alison Shell. For the full programme, see: https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/ren/snls/news/snls-csnls-conference2020/


        Public Events

        SNLS Philip Ford Annual Postgraduate Day (20 March 2020, Warburg Institute)

        SNLS Postgraduate and Early Career 'Baroque Latinity' Workshop (6 February 2020, Warburg Institute)

        Being Human 2019 (15 November 2019, UCL)

        UCL Rare-Books Club - Latin in the 17th Century (10 September, 2019 UCL)