What We Are Reading Today: Erasmus, Man of Letters by Lisa Jardine

Updated 23 October 2018

What We Are Reading Today: Erasmus, Man of Letters by Lisa Jardine

The name Erasmus of Rotterdam conjures up a golden age of scholarly integrity and the disinterested pursuit of knowledge, when learning could command public admiration without the need for authorial self-promotion. Lisa Jardine, however, shows that Erasmus self-consciously created his own reputation as the central figure of the European intellectual world. Erasmus himself—the historical as opposed to the figural individual—was a brilliant, maverick innovator, who achieved little formal academic recognition in his own lifetime. What Jardine offers here is not only a fascinating study of Erasmus but also a bold account of a key moment in Western history, a time when it first became possible to believe in the existence of something that could be designated “European thought.”

Lisa Jardine is professor of Renaissance studies at University College London, where she is also director of the UCL Centre for Humanities Interdisciplinary Research Projects and the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters.


What We Are Reading Today: A Wonder to Behold

Updated 11 December 2019

What We Are Reading Today: A Wonder to Behold

Authors: Anastasia Amrhein, Clare Fitzgerald, and Elizabeth Knott

In the ancient Near East, expert craftspeople were more than technicians: They numbered among those special members of society who could access the divine. 

While the artisans’ names are largely unknown today, their legacy remains in the form of spectacular artworks and monuments. One of the most celebrated works of antiquity — Babylon’s Ishtar Gate and its affiliated Processional Way — featured a dazzling array of colorful beasts assembled from molded, baked, and glazed bricks. 

Such an awe-inspiring structure demanded the highest level of craft; each animal was created from dozens of bricks that interlocked like a jigsaw. Yet this display of technical and artistic skill also served a ritual purpose, since the gate provided a divinely protected entrance to the sacred inner city of Babylon.

A Wonder to Behold explores ancient Near Eastern ideas about the transformative power of materials and craftsmanship as they relate to the Ishtar Gate, says a review on the Princeton University Press website. This beautifully illustrated catalogue accompanies an exhibition at New York University’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.