Erasmus and Lorenzo Valla

Steven Avery

What Tree is This?: In Praise of Europe’s Renaissance Printers, Publishers and Philologists.....................39-82
Chaninah Maschler (1931-2014)

Here is an extract that helps give a sense of Erasmus and Valla:

Erasmus apprenticed himself to the notorious philologist Valla (1406-1457), whose notes to the New Testament he had discovered a decade or so earlier. By quoting from Erasmus's letter to the man to whom he dedicated his edition of Valla's Notes on the New Testament, I may convey why I believe we do wrong in looking down our noses at philological labors as mere dry-as-dust scholarship, a scholarship for which only men who have the soul of someone raised by maiden aunts would have the patience. Erasmus writes:

As I was hunting last summer in an ancient library...luck brought me a prey of no ordinary importance, Lorenzo Valla’s notes on the New Testament. At once I was eager to share it with the world of scholarship, for it seemed...ungenerous to devour the prize of my chase in solitude and silence. But I was a little put the entrenched unpopularity of Valla’s name....26

..theologians .. grammarians ..
....Tell me what is so shocking about Valla’s action in making a few annotations on the New Testament after comparing several old and good Greek manuscripts. After all, it is from Greek sources that our text undoubtedly comes; and Valla’s notes had to do with internal disagreements, or a nodding translator’s plainly inadequate rendering of the meaning, or things that are more intelligibly expressed in Greek, or, finally, anything that is clearly corrupt in our text. Will they maintain that Valla, the grammarian, has not the same privileges as Nicholas the theologian?...I do not believe that theology herself, the queen of all the sciences, will be offended if some share is claimed in her humble attendant grammar; for though grammar is of less consequence in some men’s eyes, no help is more indispensable than hers. ... 27

26 Valla’s reputation as an enemy of the Catholic Church derived in large measure from his having employed his philological expertise to debunk the genuineness of the so-called Donation of Constantine. In this document, “the emperor Constantine, in gratitude for his conversion by Pope Silvester, supposedly granted to that pope and his successors for ever, not only spiritual supremacy over the other great patriarchates and over all matters of faith and worship, but also temporal dominion over Rome, Italy, and ‘the provinces, places, and civitates of the western regions.’” I have not read Valla’s De falso credita et emendita Constantini donatione declamatio, though there is an English translation by Christopher B. Coleman. All my information about Valla derives from Cassirer et al., The Renaissance Philosophy of Man, (University of Chicago, 1948), and the 11th ed. of the Encyclopedia Brittanica.

27 Letter to Christopher Fisher of 1505, Correspondence, vol. 2, pp. 89-96.
The Renaissance Philosophy of Man: Petrarca, … (Paperback)
by Randall, John Herman, Kristeller, Paul Oskar
Lorenzo Valla on Free Will to Garsia, Bishop of Lerida
Translated by Charles Edward Trinkaus, Jr. (1911-1999)

Biblical Humanism and Scholasticism in the Age of Erasmus (2008)
edited by Erika Rummel
Criticism of Biblical Humanists in Quattrocento Italy .................. 15-38
John Monfasani (b. 1943)

Lots of good stuff in this last book.