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Erasmus as a Serious Game

What would you do? How would you react if a friend were bullied on social media? Or if you heard that your Box Switch.jpgfriend’s mother were seriously ill? No matter how old you are, deciding how to respond can be hard. By playing SWITCH you’ll experience how you and your fellow players would respond to challenging situations.

In 2016, it’s been 550 years since Erasmus was born in Rotterdam and 500 years since he published his most important book. Good reasons for celebrating Erasmus and particularly his ideas. This is exactly what SWITCH does. Erasmus writes about language, behaviour and religion. His books are about people. He wants to educate people, ideally through play and humour. How can people live together without violence and be happy? According to Erasmus, it is essential that people start, and keep, talking to each other in order to gain empathy, understanding and respect. SWITCH wants to put this into practice. It is a (non-digital) game you play together. SWITCH gives you the chance to see things from other people’s perspective and imagine what you would do if you were in their shoes. Every time you play, the outcome will be different, interesting and surprising.

SWITCH was realised by Rotterdam Public Library and Erasmus University Rotterdam. It is intended for children at the age of 10–15. SWITCH was developed and produced by Playspace Rotterdam. Initial game concepts were designed by second-year students Gamification at Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam (WDKA/HR) supervised by Bruno Setola and Kimberley Spreeuwenberg. All concepts were tested for several weeks at two primary schools (De Kralingsche School in Rotterdam and Het College Vos in Vlaardingen) and a high school (OSG Hugo de Groot in Rotterdam). Winning game concept by students Amy Marks, Nikki de Pree, Myrthe van der Kleij, and Matej Moravec.

Want to buy SWITCH? E-mail us at: erasmusexperience [at] bibliotheek [dot] rotterdam [dot] nl

New Acquisitions

In 2015, Rotterdam Public Library acquired several interesting additions to its already special collection of books by, or about, Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536). Here are some examples:

I ragionamenti, overo colloqvi famigliari di Desiderio Erasmo : Di Latino in uolgare già tradotti, ma hora in tanti luoghi racconci, non solo intorno la lingua, ma etiandio intorno i sensi, che piu tosto ritradotti, che racconci si possono dire. (Venice: Vincenzo Valgrisi, 1549)

The second edition of Erasmus’s literary conversations translated into Italian by the humanist scholar Pietro Lauro da Modena (the first was published in 1544). Erasmus Online no. 788. This specific copy also contains an engraved portrait of Erasmus which at some stage was added as a frontispiece. Vincenzo Valgrisi (active 1540–1572) was French by birth. He used the imprints ex officina Erasmiana and al segno di Erasmo and (as in this case) nella bottega d’Erasmo—not due to some particular reverence for Erasmus, but because in 1532 he had bought the shop which had over its door a head of Erasmus.

This translation was printed in Italy at a time when use or promotion of the Colloquies was strongly discouraged and politically perilous. The Sorbonne had censured the book in 1526 and in 1528 banned its use in the university curriculum. In 1535 Emperor Charles V made it a capital offense to use the Colloquies in schools. In Italy, Pope Paul IV pronounced the Colloquies to be injurious to youthful minds and strongly advocated that the book be prohibited. This pressure culminated with the book being placed on the Index of Prohibited Books. The translator Lauro thus put himself in personal peril.

This particular copy was bound royally in the atelier of René Simier (1772–1843), relieur du roi, and his son Alphonse (1823–1848). From the two ex-libris in this copy, it is clear that two of its previous owners were Joachim Gomez de la Cortina, marqués de Morante (1808–1868), and then Giovanni Marchetti (1817–1876). His library was sold in 1876 in London by Alexander Day.


Colloquia aliquot noua, mire et urbana, et erudita, quorum nomina haec sunt, Amicitia. Opulentia sordida. Concio. Exequiae seraphicae. Philodoxus. (Louvain: Germanus Fiscus, April 11, 1532)

The book’s imprint is a fake in order to protect its publisher from the powers that be at Paris, where the Sorbonne had censured this work by Erasmus in 1526 and in 1528 banned it from the university. This edition was probably printed in 1532 in Paris by Antoine Augereau. Very few copies survive, this being one of three known worldwide. Erasmus Online no. 952.


Jacopo Sadoleto, In psalmum XCIII interpretatio. (Lyon: Sebastianus Gryphius, 1530)

The first edition of this work which Erasmus himself praises in a letter to its author (Allen, Opus epistolarum Erasmi, ep. 2315). In this letter, Erasmus hails it as at once an exemplary exegetical exercise and a lesson for the times. The commentary provides a speculum of what Sadoleto calls ‘historical method’—an interpretation based on the analysis of the language, on the superior authority of the Greek Septuagint against the Vulgate, on the relegation of Latin and Hebrew to the rank of ancillary disciplines in Christian scholarship. This commentary first set out the author’s supreme belief in the dignity of the human intellect applied to biblical exegesis (to the detriment of the role played by grace)—an outlook which Sadoleto began formulating in theoretical terms since the 1520s while working on his De laudibus philosophiae, and which became more explicit in his successive exegetic works, culminating in the 1535 commentary on Romans which was banned by the Vatican pending correction.

This particular binding also contains Sadoleto’s De laudibus philosophiae libri duo (Lyon: Gryphius, 1543), a work in which the author distils in philosophical terms the principle which he applied in his biblical exegesis, i.e. the dignity of human intellect over the power of grace, in an attempt to restore the authority and wisdom of ancient philosophy. The first part casts the character of Phaedrus (overtly inspired by the papal archivist and poet Tommaso Inghirami, called Fedra) as a gross philistine who mocks philosophy and the pursuit of speculative thought, while the second half annuls and vindicates Fedra’s vulgar contempt with a brilliant work of reconstruction of the lost Hortensius of Cicero.


Compendiosa epitome commentariorum Francisci Patritii ... in duas partes secta : quarum prior, novem librorum de Reipublicae institutione ... Summam complectitur; posterior, novem item aliorum de Regno et Regis institutione anacephalaeosin exhibet. Accedit his, De institutione Principis Christiani ex lib. Des. Erasmi brevis collectio, et insuper ex Stobaeo, quod optima sit monarchia. (Paris: Jérome de Marnef & Guillaume Cavellat, 1570)

Very few copies survive of this compendium by Francesco Patrizi (1529–1597), a Croatian humanist working in Venice. Erasmus’s contribution is found on pages 359–378. Erasmus Online no. 2239.


Discours en forme de sermon de Didier Erasme, sur la grande etendue de la misericorde de Dieu : traduit du latin. (Amsterdam: De l'imprimerie des héritiers de H. Aaltsz, 1763)

French translation of Erasmus’s elaborate sermon which was first printed in 1524. Erasmus wrote it for Christoffel von Utenheim, Bishop of Basel, at the occasion of the consacration of a chapel in the bishop’s residence of Porrentruy. Shortly before, Erasmus had been a guest there. He uses examples from the Bible as well as Greek and Roman literature to argue that God’s compassion constitutes man’s sole hope for salvation. In close collaboration with the bishop, Erasmus omitted anything that might have seemed the least bit controversial. He exposes complacency and despair as man’s two main moral defects. This book, too, became a bestseller both in latin and in the vernacular. Erasmus Online no. 1604.


Erasmus, De contemptu mundi epistola, quam conscripsit in gratiam ac nomine Theodorici Harlemei Canonici ordinis diui Augustini. (Antwerp: Michiel Hillen van Hoochstraten, 1525)

Rubricated at the beginning. Modern vellum. Very rare Antwerp edition—one of four known copies worldwide—of this plea for a strict monastic life by the young Erasmus. Title within elaborate woodcut border. Some manuscript notes in a contemporary hand. Erasmus Online no. 1411.


Erasmus, Enchiridion militis Christiani, saluberrimis praeceptis refertum ... Cui accessit nova mireque utilis Praefatio. (Strasbourg: Johann Knoblouch, April 1523)

Modern boards covered with incunable leaf. Title within elaborate woodcut border. Woodcut mark at end. Early edition of Erasmus’s popular Handbook of a Christian Knight which was first printed in 1503 and appeared in a revised edition by Erasmus in 1518. Sole copy of this particular edition in the Netherlands which includes four Latin poems by Thomas More that first appeared in the 1520 Mainz edition of this book by Erasmus. Erasmus Online no. 1725.


Alberto Pio, Ad Erasmi Roterodami expostulationem responsio accurata & parenetica, Martini Lutheri & asseclarum eius heresim vesanam (...) confutans. (Paris: Pierre Vidoué, May 9, 1529)

Modern sheep on five bands, gilt gauffered edges. Second edition of this text, the first was published in Paris by Josse Bade four months earlier, in January 1529. No other copies in the Netherlands. Alberto Pio (1475–1531), prince of Carpi (near Modena, Northern Italy), for years attacked Erasmus on his relationship with Luther. Erasmus confronted him by writing a letter denying that he defended Luther. Alberto drafted this Responsio which was soon followed by a Responsio by Erasmus.