Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Zsámboky, János (Sambucus)

Born: Trnava, 1 June 1531
Died: Vienna, 13 June 1584
  • Emil HargittayEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_280-1


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.


Latin Language Imperial Court Aristotelian Approach Religious Heritage Diligent Work 
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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.


Primary Literature

  1. (1965) Aus dem Tagebuch des kaiserlichen Hofhistoriographen Johannes Sambucus. Hrsg. Hans Gerstinger, Graz-Wien-KölnGoogle Scholar
  2. (1968) Die Briefe des Johannes Sambucus 1554–1584. Hrsg. Hans Gerstinger, Graz-Wien-KölnGoogle Scholar
  3. 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
  4. Sambucus J (1982) Emblemata, Antverpiae 1564. Facsimile reprint of the 1564 edition: Budapest, Akadémiai Kiadó. Einleitung von August BuckGoogle Scholar
  5. Sambucus J (2002) Emblemata: et aliquot nummi antiqui operis; mit einem Nachwort von Wolfgang Harms und Ulla-Britta Kuechen, Hildesheim, Olms, 2002. Facsimile reprint of the 1566 ednGoogle Scholar
  6. (2013) Humanistes du bassin des Carpates, II, Johannes Sambucus. Eds. Gábor Almási, Gábor Farkas Kiss, Turnhout, BrepolsGoogle Scholar

Secondary Literature

  1. Almási G (2009) The uses of humanism: Andreas Dudith (1533–1589), Johannes Sambucus (1531–1584), and the East Central European Republic of Letters. Brill, Leiden (Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History, 185)Google Scholar
  2. Almási G (2013) Farkas Gábor Kiss, Szöveggondozás és kapcsolatápolás: Zsámboky János életműve a reneszánsz filológia tükrében Translation: [Textology and Networking: János Zsámboky’s Oeuvre in the Context of Renaissance Philology]. Irodalomtörténeti Közlemények 117:627–691Google Scholar
  3. Téglásy I (1988) A nyelv- és irodalomelmélet kezdetei Magyarországon Sylvester Jánostól Zsámboky Jánosig [The origins of the study of language and literature in Hungary from János Sylvester to János Sambucus]. Akadémiai, BudapestGoogle Scholar
  4. Tüskés G (2001) Imitation and adaptation in late humanist emblematic poetry: Zsamboky (Sambucus) and Whitney. Emblematica 11:262–292Google Scholar
  5. Vantuch A (1975) Ján Sambucus. Veda, BratislavaGoogle Scholar
  6. Visser A (2005) Joannes Sambucus and the learned image: the use of the emblem in late-Renaissance Humanism. Brill, LeidenGoogle Scholar
  7. Voet L The Plantin Press, 1555–1589: a bibliography of the works printed and published by Christopher Plantin at Antwerp and Leiden, Amsterdam, Van Hoeve, 1980–1983, vol 5, p. 2168Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pázmány Péter Catholic University, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Institute of Hungarian Language and Literature, Department of Hungarian LiteratureBudapestHungary