The Correspondence of Joseph Justus Scaliger (1,669 letters)

Primary Contributors:

Paul Botley and Dirk van Miert

Iosephus Iustus Scaliger, from Illustrium Hollandiae … Ordinum Alma Academia Leidensis (Leiden, 1614), p. 184.

Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540–1609)

Born in Agen, southern France, into the family of an Italian scholar and physician, Joseph Justus Scaliger studied in Bordeaux and Paris before taking a position as companion to the young French nobleman Louis Chasteigner de la Roche-Posay. With generous resources for travel and study at his disposal, he began work on editions of classical authors and his reputation as an acute textual critic grew. Before Scaliger settled in Leiden in 1593, the pair had travelled together through Italy, England, and Scotland, and — following the massacre of St Bartholomew in 1572 — Scaliger had fled to and resided in Geneva for two years.

Feted as a Latin scholar, it was his edition of Manilius (1579) and his publication De emendatione temporum (1583) that distinguished Scaliger in particular, for it was in these works that he demonstrated ancient history was not confined merely to the Romans and the Greeks, but stretched back to encompass the Persian, the Babylonian, the Egyptian, and the Jewish peoples.

Having declined the initial invitation to assume the chair of Justus Lipsius at Leiden, Scaliger accepted the university’s subsesquent offer (with no obligation to lecture attached) and in 1593 moved to Leiden, where he was free to devote his time to research and publication. It was here that he became the focal point for large numbers of scholars with links stretching the length and breadth of Europe, and this network is reflected throughout his correspondence.

Partners and Additional Contributors

In 2012, the eight-volumed edition of The Correspondence of Joseph Justus Scaliger (1540–1609), published by the esteemed Librairie Droz, Geneva, under the direction of Max Engammare, was launched in style at the Divinity School of Oxford’s Bodleian Library at a reception hosted by Cultures of Knowledge. We are delighted now, through our continued collaboration with the Librairie Droz, to be able to make available within EMLO the metadata for this extensive correspondence.

The new edition contains many letters never printed before and it reflects seven extraordinary years of meticulous work conducted at the Warburg Institute, University of London. Funded by Professor Anthony Grafton of Princeton as a result of his award of the 2002 Balzan Prize for History of the Humanities, the Scaliger Project, housed at the Warburg, was home to the edition’s editors Dr Paul Botley and Dr Dirk van Miert. The eight volumes that emerged from this collaboration contain every letter known to have been written by or to Scaliger.

Thanks are due to the following staff at Cultures of Knowledge for their hard work and advice in the preparation for ingest to EMLO of the metadata for this correspondence: editors Miranda Lewis, Kim McLean-Fiander, and Mark Thakkar, Digital Fellow Martha Buckley, and doctoral students and EMLO interns Marc Kolakowski and Charlotte Marique. EMLO is grateful to Paul Botley and Dirk van Miert for their help with the introductory text.

Key Bibliographic Source(s)

The Correspondence of Joseph Justus Scaliger, ed. Paul Botley and Dirk van Miert, 8 vols (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 2012; ISBN-13 978-2-600-01552-3). The edition is available both in hard copy and as a PDF (ISBN-13 978-2-600-11552-0).


During his lifetime, Scaliger was regarded as one of the greatest scholars of his age and throughout his substantial surviving correspondence both the extraordinary range and the spectacular ambition of his interests are documented meticulously.

Scaliger’s surviving correspondence amounts to 1,669 letters, written between 1561 and 1609. About two-thirds of the letters are in Latin, many with substantial Greek and Hebrew components, and almost all of the remainder is written in French.

Scaliger exchanged letters with the most prominent ‘movers and shakers’ of his time. Astronomers Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler wrote to him, as did physicians François Vertunien, and Laurent Joubert. Poets Florent Chrestien, Scévole de Sainte-Marthe, and Dominicus Baudius were among his friends; he corresponded with striking regularity with the classical scholars Justus Lipsius and Denis Lambin, and above all others with the scholar whom he respected most, Isaac Casaubon. His life-long friend and correspondent was the historian and politician Jacques-Auguste de Thou, and he encouraged the talents of a younger generation of scholars, including Daniel Heinsius and Claudius Salmasius.

With the exception of a few prefatory letters, Scaliger did not write letters with a view to publication. Although concerned with his reputation, as the publications on his own ancestry make clear, he did not consider his own correspondence to contribute in any way to this and, as a result, the letters themselves are more interesting, personal, and revealing than many of the more ‘crafted’ letters of his contemporaries that were intended for publication.


Scaliger’s letters survive in multiple locations and in numerous manifestations, whether autograph manuscript, manuscript copy, or printed copy. In all, 637 MS letters survive, and of these 482 are in Scaliger’s own hand.

A large number of MS letters, compiled by Scaliger’s friend Claude Dupuy, passed from the Dupuy brothers (Pierre, Jacques, Augustin, and Christophe) to the French Royal Collection under Louis XIV on the death of Jacques in 1656; these are now in the Bibliothèque nationale de France. The letters that were with Isaac Casaubon on his death in 1614 were given first to the latter’s widow in Paris, then to Scaliger and Casaubon’s friend De Thou, and thence to Meric Casuabon, who arranged and bound them; these volumes are now in the Burney collection in the British Library. There is a significant collection also, collated by Georg Michael Lingelsheim, now in the Hamburg Staats- und Universitätsbibliothek, as well as a number in Det Kongelige Bibliotek, Copenhagen.

Publication of Scaliger’s letters began in 1610, when Isaac Casaubon edited in Paris a selection of 43 Latin letters among other previously unpublished works by his late friend. This edition was reprinted in Frankfurt in 1612 with the addition of thirty-nine new letters from German sources. In 1624, a collection of exactly three-hundred French letters addressed to Scaliger was printed in Harderwijk. The most ambitious edition emerged in Leiden in 1627 under the supervision of Daniel Heinsius. It contains 470 letters from Scaliger’s correspondence, almost all of which are in Latin. This edition was reprinted unchanged the following year in Frankfurt

Scope of Catalogue

Where a post-October 1582 letter has been dated and marked by Scaliger or his correspondent in the Julian calendar, Paul Botley and Dirk van Miert have supplied a Gregorian date in their headnote for the Librairie Droz edition; this is the date given in EMLO and the calendar change has been noted. The calendar for all other dates has not been captured in EMLO, with the exception of those predating the switch from Julian to Gregorian calendars, in which case use of the Julian calendar is recorded. For further information — and cautions — regarding the dating of the letters, please refer to pages lvi–lix in volume one of The Correspondence of Joseph Justus Scaliger, ed. Paul Botley and Dirk van Miert.

The Librairie Droz edition references all previous printed editions of the letters, but this information has not been captured in the metadata presented in EMLO. Manuscript versions have been listed, however.

Further resources

A detailed bibliography containing both primary and secondary literature appears on pp. lx–xciv of volume 1 of The Correspondence of Joseph Justus Scaliger, ed. Paul Botley and Dirk van Miert, 8 vols (Geneva: Librairie Droz, 2012; ISBN-13 978-2-600-01552-3).

Selected Early Printed Editions

Scaliger, Iosephi Scaligeri Iul. Caes. f. opuscula diversa Graeca et Latinia: partim nunquam hactenus edita, partim ab auctore recensita atque aucta. Cum notis in aliquot veteres scriptores (Paris, 1605).

Scaliger, Ios. Iusti Scaligeri Iulii Caesaris a Burden filii opuscula varia antehac non edita (Paris, 1610).

Scaliger, Ios. Iusti Scaligeri Iulii Caesaris a burden filii opuscula varia ante hac non edita. Nunc vero multis partibus aucta (Frankfurt, 1612).

Scaliger, Epistres françoises des personnages illustres et doctes, à Mons. Joseph Juste de La Scala. Mises en lumière par Jacques de Reves (Harderwijk, 1624).

Scaliger, Illustriss. viri Iosephi Scaligeri, Iulii Caes. a Burden f. epistolae omnes quae reperiri potuerunt, nunc primum collectae ac editae (Leiden, 1627).

Scaliger, Illustriss. viri Iosephi Scaligeri, Iulii Caes. a Burden f. epistolae omnes quae reperiri potuerunt, nunc primum collectae ac editae (Frankfurt, 1628).



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