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Johannes Reuchlin's Correspondence: A Mirror of the Clash between Inquisition and Humanism

6 February 2007

Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities and the City of Pforzheim present Volume 3 of the Correspondence — "This body of writing is one of the most important testimonies of European humanism"

On 15 February the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, in conjunction with the City of Pforzheim, will be presenting Volume 3 of Johannes Reuchlin's Correspondence to the public at the Reuchlin House in Pforzheim. The volume contains about 90 letters from the period 1514 to 1517. "This body of writing is quite definitely one of the most important testimonies of European humanism," says Dr. Gerald Dörner of the Pforzheim Research Centre. "The letters supply excellent insights into the thinking of the time and the power struggles between thinkers still upholding their allegiance to mediaeval scholasticism and the German humanist camp."

As a humanist, Reuchlin was at the zenith of his renown when his Augenspiegel triggered the so-called Jewish Book Dispute in 1511. The book contains the defence of an expertise written in October 1510 at the behest of Emperor Maximilian I, in which Reuchlin speaks out vehemently against the confiscation and imminent destruction of Jewish literature. This expertise earned Reutlin the vitriolic hatred of the convert Johannes Pfefferkorn and the enmity of the theologians of the University of Cologne. Failing in his attempt to have the Augenspiegel officially branded as heretical in 1513, the Cologne Dominican prior and inquisitor Jakob Hoogstraeten contrived one year later to have the legal proceedings on the matter transferred to the Roman curia, where the final verdict was only passed in 1520. Unlike his adversary Hoogstraeten, Reuchlin felt unable to travel to Rome for reasons of age and was forced to have himself represented there by lawyers, middle-men and influential advocates. This historical background indicates why a large number of the letters written by Reuchlin between 1514 and 1517 are addressed to theologians living in Rome, among them such illustrious figures as Egidio da Viterbo or Pope Leo X. The 16 extant letters received by Reuchlin from Rome in this period paint a vivid picture of the conditions prevailing in the curia on the eve of the Reformation. But the new volume also contains numerous writings by northern European humanists like Erasmus of Rotterdam, Jacques Lefèvre d'Etaples or Richard Croke. The broad spectrum of topics addressed ranges from elevated subjects like the Jewish Kabala and Greek philosophy to more mundane matters like underhand legal tricks and town gossip in Cologne.

The City of Pforzheim has been committed for many years to the dissemination of, and the scholarly engagement with, the thought and impact of its most famous son, Johannes Reuchlin. Alongside the Reuchlin Prize awarded every two years for outstanding achievement in the humanities and the regular Reuchlin Congress, the city is centrally involved in the edition of Reuchlin's correspondence. The edition is targeted at a transdisciplinary audience and is of equal interest for classical studies experts, Hebrew scholars, German studies scholars, specialists in cultural, local and legal history, theologians and philosophers.

Johnannes Reuchlin: Correspondence. Vol. 3 : 1514-1517 [in German], issued by the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities in conjunction with the City of Pforzheim, ed. Matthias Dall'Asta and Gerald Dörner, Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt: Frommann-Holzboog 2007. € 128. ISBN 978-3-7728-1985-8.

Please address any inquiries to:
Dr. Johannes Schnurr
Public Relations Officer
Heidelberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities
phone: 06221/543400, fax: 543355

Dr. Isabel Greschat
Department of Culture
City of Pforzheim
phone: 07231/392334, fax: 393364

General inquiries from journalists can also be addressed to:
Dr. Michael Schwarz
Press Officer of the University of Heidelberg
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 54317

Irene Thewalt
phone: 06221/542310, fax: 542317


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