Zsámboky, János (Sambucus)
János Zsámboky (Samboky), by his humanist name Johannes Sambucus (Trnava, 1 June 1531–Vienna, 13 June 1584), a Hungarian-born scholar, philologist, historian, physician, cartographer, letter-writer, and collector of manuscripts, books, and art treasures. He spent 22 years in various towns of Europe. From 1564 until his death, he lived in Vienna, in imperial court service.
KeywordsLatin Language Imperial Court Aristotelian Approach Religious Heritage Diligent Work
Heritage and Rupture with the Tradition
Sambucus studied at Wittenberg University, but following either the Lutheran or other denominations is not characteristic of him. Of literary tradition, he was mostly interested in antique culture and contemporary humanist literature. He did not break with medieval religious heritage spectacularly, but he preferred philological aspects to anything else. His correspondence contains 340 letters, which show his orientation. He took part in the intellectual movement of European “respublica litteraria”; he was in contact with almost every renowned scholar of his age via correspondence or in person. First these were academic contacts (Vienna, Georg Rithaymer; Ingolstadt, Veit Amerbach and Peter Apian; Strassburg, Johannes Sturm; Paris, Jean Dorat, Adrien Turnèbe, Petrus Ramus, and Pascal Duhamel, contact with the Pleiade; Padova, Andreas Vesalius). He was a passionate collector of books and manuscripts. His library contained 3,327 volumes, mainly Greek and Latin works on rhetoric, philology, and theory of language. He published several pieces of his highly valued collection of Latin and mostly Greek manuscripts (c. 600 volumes) partly himself, partly through other publishers. Thus he came into contact with outstanding philologists, philosophers, and publishers of his age (Paulus Manutius, Christophe Plantin, Piero Vettori, Theodor Zwinger, Fulvio Orsini, Antonius Muretus, Johannes Oporinus, Conrad Gesner, Abraham Ortelius, Joachim Camerarius Jr., Carolus Clusius, Justus Lipsius, Johannes Crato von Krafftheim, Hugo Blotius, Nicasius Ellebodius, and others). As part of his conscious editing program, he published more than 50 works in print, among them important works of humanist writers connected to Hungary (Petrus Ransanus, Antonio Bonfini, Janus Pannonius, István Werbőczy). Twenty-eight unfinished publishing projects of his are known from the time before his death.
Innovative and Original Aspects
In the case of Sambucus, it may not be regarded only as a formula of modesty when he said that his intellect was just enough for diligent work, so he considered the transmission of antique, mainly Greek works and their publication more important than writing original works. As a philologist, he did not favor conjectures worked out from personal ideas, but he tried to find the most authentic manuscripts and make editions based on them. With his editions, he made efforts mostly for the revival of Greek literature and culture, which he, like Dorat, considered more valuable than Latin. He summarized his views in his works titled De imitatione Cireroniana (Paris, 1561). Sambucus wrote only in Greek and Latin, but he held it important to “defend” Hungarian language, and he thought to improve it on the model of the Latin language. He wrote about the art of letter-writing, and he combined Neoplatonic and Aristotelian approach when talking about Horace’s Ars poetica.
Impact and Legacy
The most renowned of his own works is Emblemata, an illustrated volume of Latin poems, which was edited five times. Geoffrey Whitney translated 50 emblems from it into English, which were used by William Shakespeare as source material. Sambucus had a significant impact especially on the science of philology. By publishing the works of Diogenes Laertios, Petronius, Plautus, Vegetius, and others, he created the basis for editing primary sources in later times. In the last two decades of his life, he lived a courtly life in the imperial court in Vienna, but scholarly activity was the most important for him all the time. However, it caused a financial disadvantage for him, so he sold a great part of his valuable collections to Emperor Rudolf II.
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- Sambucus J (1981–1982) De Emblemata van Joannes Sambucus uitgegeven door de Officina Plantiniana: reproductie van de Latijnse editie van 1564 en van de tekst van de Nederlandse vertaling van 1566 en van de Franse vertaling van 1567; uitgave verzorgd door Leon Voet en Guido Persoons, Antwerpen, De Nederlandsche BoekhandelGoogle Scholar
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