The Correspondence of Benito Arias Montano

Primary Contributors:

Antonio Dávila Pérez

Peter Paul Rubens, Portrait of Benito Arias Montano. 1633. Oil on panel, 64.5 by 49.8 cm. (Collectie Stad Antwerpen, Museum Plantin-Moretus, MPM V.IV.056; source of image: Museum Plantin-Moretus Online Collection)

Benito Arias Montano (c. 1525/27–1598)

Benito Arias Montano was born in Fregenal de la Sierra (Badajoz, Spain) sometime between 1525 and 1527. He studied at the universities of Seville and Alcalá, where he finished his theological studies in 1552. He entered the aristocratic Order of Santiago in 1560 and two years later was selected by the Bishop of Segovia, Martín Pérez de Ayala, to join the Spanish delegation at the Council of Trent. The consequence of his brilliant participation brought him an appointment as chaplain to Philip [Felipe] II.

Undoubtedly Arias Montano’s most important achievement was the direction of the Biblia Regia (also known as the Antwerp Polyglot) commissioned by Philip II from the printer Christopher Plantin. In 1568 he moved to the Low Counties where he devoted himself to the editing and supervision of this colossal work. His activities were not confined to the Polyglot Bible, however: between 1569 and 1571 he coordinated the preparation of the catalogues of forbidden and expurgated books that came under the auspices of the Duke of Alba; throughout the seven-year period away from his homeland, he acquired by royal order books and manuscripts for the newly founded library of the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial; and from 1571 he supervised the administration and printing of the prayer books (breviaries, missals, diurnals, and hours) that Plantin published for the Spanish Crown under a contract signed with Philip II. Montano was even involved actively in a number of important political decisions made by the Spanish king, who valued greatly the advice of his chaplain.

In July 1576, Arias Montano returned to Spain and in March of the following year he arrived at El Escorial to organize and catalogue the Royal Library. This task extended until 1592 and involved four stays in the monastery interrupted by periods during which he retired to La Peña de Aracena, as well as by work on several official commissions. In 1592 he returned to Seville and remained in Andalusia until his death on 6 July 1598.

Arias Montano represents the ideal type of humanist of the sixteenth century. His interests were varied and included botany, geology, physics, medicine, architecture, and painting. He wrote prose and verse, and as a theologian and a biblical scholar he produced in prose a series of exegetical works, Latin translations of the Bible, and theological treatises; but an amazingly fertile poetic impulse also impelled him to compose great lyrical works, didactic poems in hexameters, and translations in verse. He was an inveterate bibliophile and used his contacts with the Plantinian press to provide costly book orders to a humanist circle to which prominent figures of Spanish Golden Age, such as Francisco Pacheco and Fernando de Herrera, belonged. He was a gifted linguist and—in addition to Latin, Greek, and Hebrew—he mastered several modern languages (including Italian and French, in which he wrote a number documents). The talents of this prestigious scholar were brought to bear in his most important work, the literal text of the Bible.

Partners and Additional Contributors

The metadata for Benito Arias Montano’s correspondence was supplied to EMLO by Antonio Dávila Pérez of the University of Cádiz (Spain).

The research project ‘Benito Arias Montano: Epistolario’ was launched in 1995 by Professors J. Gil and J. M. Maestre Maestre and has been developed within the Research Group ‘Elio Antonio de Nebrija’ of the University of Cádiz, the Instituto de Estudios Humanísticos (Alcañiz) and the International Scientific Network Europa Renascens.

Key Bibliographic Source(s)

A. Dávila Pérez, ‘El epistolario de Benito Arias Montano. Catalogo provisional’, De Gulden Passer, 80 (2002), pp. 63–129.

B. Rekers, ‘Epistolario de Benito Arias Montano (1527–1598)’, Hispanófila, 9 (1960), pp. 25–37.

B. Rekers, Arias Montano (Madrid, 1973), pp. 201–20.


The correspondence of Benito Arias Montano is a rich source of data for the European cultural, political, and religious history of the sixteenth century. The 533 letters contained in this catalogue at present (most of them written in Latin and Spanish) range in date from the 1550s to 1598. Among Arias Montano’s correspondents we find such key figures of late humanism as Justus Lipsius, Christopher Plantin, Carolus Clusius, Laevinus Torrentius, and Adrianus Junius, as well as many of the great patrons of his time, including Cardinal Granvela, the Duke of Alba, and Philip II. This catalogue will be augmented and expanded as scattered letters are located and published over the coming years.


The main repositories of Arias Montano’s letters are three archives whose geographical axis extends across Europe from the north to the south: the Royal Library in Stockholm, the Museum Plantin-Moretus in Antwerp, and the Archivo General de Simancas (Valladolid, Spain). Within these three collections roughly sixty percent of Arias Montano’s known letters is preserved, but to access the rest of the letters it is necessary to visit archives scattered throughout Spain, as well as a number of Portuguese, Italian, Dutch, Belgian, Polish, British, and American libraries and archives. It is a challenging task to gather all possible manifestations (either manuscript or printed) of each letter.

Further resources


B. Arias Montano, In XXXI Dauidis psalmos priores commentarii (Antwerpiae, 1605).

B. Arias Montano, ed., Biblia Sacra Hebraice, Chaldaice, Graece, et Latine, Philippi II Reg[is] Cathol[ici] pietate et studio ad Sacrosanctae Ecclesiae usum (Antwerpiae, 1569–1573).

J. L. Barona and X. Gómez Font, La correspondencia de Carolus Clusius con los científicos españoles (Valencia, 1998).

V. Bécares Botas, Arias Montano y Plantino. El libro flamenco en la España de Felipe II (León, 1999).

R. Caso Amador, ‘Carta autógrafa de Arias Montano en el Ayuntamiento de Fregenal’, in El frescor de los montes. Arias Montano y sus orígenes (Fregenal de la Sierra, 2001), pp. 255–8.

L. Charlo Brea, ‘Una nueva carta de Torrencio a Arias Montano’, Revista Agustiniana, 120 (1998), pp. 1084–115.

L. Charlo Brea, Levino Torrencio. Correspondencia con Benito Arias Montano (Alcañiz-Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Humanísticos-CSIC, 2007).

L. Charlo Brea, ‘Carta inédita de B. Arias Montano a Levino Torrencio en Ms. Estoc. A 902’, Humanistica Lovaniensia, 53 (2004), pp. 251–62.

A. Dávila Pérez, Benito Arias Montano. Correspondencia de Arias Montano conservada en el Museo Plantin-Moretus de Amberes (Alcañiz-Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Humanísticos – Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2002).

A. Dávila Pérez, ‘Regnavit a ligno Deus. Affirmat Arias Montanus; negat Lindanus. Revisión de la polémica Benito Arias Montano-Wilhelmus Lindanus a la luz de nuevos documentos’, Humanistica Lovaniensia, 58 (2009), pp. 125–89.

A. Dávila Pérez, ‘Primeros advertimientos de Arias Montano a Felipe II sobre la rebelión de Flandes’, Calamus renascens, 11 (2010), pp. 21–35.

A. Dávila Pérez, ‘Correspondencia latina inédita entre Benito Arias Montano y Juan Rethio’, Humanistica Lovaniensia. Journal of Neo-Latin Studies, 64 (2015), pp. 113–65.

M. Delcourt and J. Hoyoux, Laeuinus Torrentius: Correspondance, 3 vols (Paris, 1950–54).

D. Domenichini, ‘Ragioni della política e politica “secondo ragione”. Una lettera di Benito Arias Montano a Johann Rethius’, Studi Ispanici, 10 (1985), pp. 191–8.

D. Domenichini, ‘Benito Arias Montano e Italia. Dos cartas inéditas’, Revista de Estudios Extremeños, 44–3 (1988), pp. 567–72.

D. Domenichini, ‘Una nota escurialense di Benito Arias Montano (Esc., ms.H.I.15, f. 5)’, Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance, 49 (1987), pp. 607–10.

D. Domenichini, ‘Quattro inediti di Benito Arias Montano sulla questione sacromontana (1596-1598)’, Anales de literatura española, 5 (1986–1987), pp. 51–66.

J. F. Domínguez Domínguez, ‘Carta de Arias Montano a Fray Luis de León’, Cuadernos de Pensamiento, 12 (1998), pp. 285–312.

J. F. Domínguez Domínguez, ‘Apuntes sobre la estancia de Arias Montano en Venecia (1559) y sobre el Nuevo Testamento siríaco: Carta a Daniel van Bomberghen (1570)’, in Marqués de la Encomienda, et alii, eds, El Humanismo extremeño. II Jornadas. Trujillo 1997 (Trujillo, 1998), pp. 67–87.

J. F. Domínguez Domínguez, Benito Arias Montano. Correspondencia. Tomo I (156–1570) (Madrid: Ediciones Clásicas, 2017).

T. González Carvajal, ‘Elogio histórico del doctor Benito Arias Montano’, Memorias de la Real Academia de la Historia, 7 (Madrid, 1832), pp. 1–199.

J. H. Hessels, ed., Abrahami Ortelii (geographi Antuerpiensis) et uirorum eruditorum ad eundem et ad Iacobum ColiumOrtelianum (Abrahami Ortelii sororis filium) epistulae […], 3 vols, Ecclesiae Londino-Batauae Archiuum (Cambridge, 1887).

M. Jiménez de la Espada, ‘Correspondencia del Dr. Benito Arias Montano con el licenciado Juan de Ovando, Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia, 19 (1891), pp. 476–98.

J. De Landtsheer and J. Kluyskens, eds, Iusti Lipsi Epistolae, pars V: 1592 (Brussels, 1991).

J. De Landtsheer, ed., Iusti Lipsi Epistolae, pars VI: 1593 (Brussels, 1994).

J. De Landtsheer, ed., Iusti Lipsi Epistolae, pars VII (Brussels, 1997).

I. Lerner, ‘Dos cartas inéditas de Benito Arias Montano en la Morgan Library and Museum’, Voz y letra, 20–1 (2009), pp. 129–40.

B. Macías Rosendo, La Biblia Políglota de Amberes en la correspondencia de Benito Arias Montano (MS. Estoc. A 902) (Huelva: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Huelva, 1998).

B. Macías Rosendo, La correspondencia de Benito Arias Montano con el presidente de Indias Juan de Ovando (Huelva: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Huelva, 2008).

B. Macías Rosendo, ‘El ocaso del reinado de Felipe II visto por un confidente de Arias Montano’, Estudios humanísticos. Historia, 9 (2010), pp. 51–72.

B. Macías Rosendo, ‘Arias Montano y sus relaciones con Italia: una carta de Hércules Ciofano’, in R. Carande Herrero and D. López Cañete Quiles, eds, Pro tantis redditur. Homenaje a Juan Gil en Sevilla (Sevilla, 2011), pp. 377–91.

Marqueses de Pidal y de Miraflores and M. Salvá, eds, Colección de documentos inéditos para la Historia de España, 113 vols (Madrid, 1842–1914), vol. 41, pp. 127–418.

M. A. Sánchez Manzano, Comentarios a los treinta y un primeros salmos de David, 2 vols. (León, 1999).

E. Morales Lara, ‘Las cartas de Benito Arias Montano a Abraham Ortels: edición crítica y traducción a español’, Humanistica Lovaniensia, 51 (2002), pp. 153–206.

E. Morales Lara, ‘Otras tres cartas de Benito Arias Montano a Abraham Ortels: edición crítica y traducción a español’, Humanistica Lovaniensia, 53 (2004), pp. 153–206.

L. Morales Oliver, Arias Montano y la política de Felipe II en Flandes (Madrid, 1927).

J. Paniagua Pérez, ‘Burócratas e intelectuales en la Corte de Felipe II. La amistad de Juan de Ovando y Benito Arias Montano’, La Ciudad de Dios, 211, no. 3 (1998), pp. 919–53.

M. de Ram, ‘Lettres de Laevinus Torrentius a Arias Montanus sur le fâcheut état des affaires publiques aux Pays-Bas pendant les annes 1584–1595’, in Compte rendu des séances de la Commission Royale d’Histoire, 2 serie, VII–2 (Brussels, 1855).

P. F. X. De Ram, Caroli Clusii Atrebatis ad Thomam Redigerum et Ioannem Cratonem epistolae. Accedunt Remberti Dodonaei, Abrahami Ortelii, Gerardi Mercatoris et Ariae Montani ad eundem Cratonem epistolae (Brussels: M. Hayez, 1847).

M. Rooses and J. Denucé, Correspondance de Christophe Plantin, 8 vols. (Antwerpen, 1883–1918, Reimpr. Nendeln, Liechtenstein, 1968).

J. I. Tellechea Idígoras, ‘Benito Arias Montano y San Carlos Borromeo’, in L. Gómez Canseco, ed., Anatomía del Humanismo: Benito Arias Montano, 1598–1998, Homenaje al profesor Melquíades Andrés Martín (Universidad de Huelva: Servicio de Publicaciones de la Universidad de Huelva, 1998), pp. 63–84.

F. de Zabálburu and J. Sancho Rayón, Nueva colección de documentos inéditos para la Historia de España y de sus Indias, 6 vols (Madrid, 1892–1896).

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