Volume 34, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 2542-6583
  • E-ISSN: 2590-3268



The ‘autograph letter’ of Desiderius Erasmus auctioned by Sotheby in London on 8 November 1977 cannot be a letter from Erasmus. It alludes to the discord between the adherents of Melanchthon at Wittenberg, especially the professor of medicine Caspar Peucer, and the rigidly Lutheran theologian Flacius Illyricus. The letter must date, therefore, from the time after Flacius had left Wittenberg University in 1549. The sender, who signed with his initials E.R., had recently asked medical advice from Peucer. Hence he will have to be looked for in Peucer’s entourage at Wittenberg. The only candidate who can seriously be considered is Esrom Rüdinger, professor of physics since 1557. That it is indeed he who wrote the letter is confirmed by another letter of his, signed ‘Esr(om)’ and addressed to his (first) father-in-law Joachim Camerarius in Leipzig; this letter is preserved in the University Library at Leiden (Pap. 2). The handwriting of this Leiden letter is identical with that of the letter auctioned by Sotheby and the subject matter is partly the same.

Esrom Rüdinger’s letter edited and discussed here can also be dated precisely. In it, Rüdinger sends his father-in-law greetings from Peucer. Now Peucer had a cordial relation with Rüdinger’s first father-in-law Camerarius, but is not known to have had any relations with his second father-in-law Weseneck. So the addressee of the letter must have been Joachim Camerarius at Leipzig. If so, the letter which is dated ‘Nonis Aprilibus’ can only have been written on the 5th of April 1558, 1558 being the only year in which, after Rüdinger and his wife Anna had moved to Wittenberg (1557), Anna lived to see the month of April. In short, we have here a letter from Esrom Rydinger at Wittenberg to his father-in-law Camerarius at Leipzig, informing the latter about the gravity of his daughter’s illness. She was to die five months later.

It is very pleasant to record that the firm of Sotheby, after being informed of the results of this research into the document concerned, has generously declared itself to be willing to take back the letter and to return the purchase-money to the buyer.


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