Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/655

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Let us attempt, in a few closing paragraphs, to sum up the results of an investigation which has covered, however incompletely, a wide range both in space and in time. We have seen reason to place the first symptoms of a revival of Christian learning as far back as the thirteenth century, and to connect the beginnings of the movement with England. In the fourteenth century the scene of activity is shifted to Italy, where the impulse given to classical studies reacts upon theology. Not until late in the fifteenth century are the effects of this awakening visible to much purpose in France or in Germany, in the Low Countries or in Switzerland; but throughout the succeeding centuries these countries continue to produce indefatigable workers and noble monuments of learning, while Italy, and more evidently Spain, gradually lose the predominance they had once held. The rapidity with which the light spread in Germany has been the subject of comment already: France's achievements are not less noteworthy. Lefèvre d'Etaples, François Vatable the Hebraist, Gentien Hervet the translator, the Estiennes, who cover the whole field of Greek and Latin literature, de la Bigne, Rigault, Dachery, Fronton le Duc, Combefis—all strenuous workers in the patristic and medieval departments—these form an imposing list, and one that might be largely increased without difficulty. Nor does the succession of scholars cease with them: it continues throughout the seventeenth century, and culminates in the noble erudition of the Congregation of St Maur.

It is dangerous to attempt to characterise the work of whole centuries in single phrases; but there are cases, and this seems to be one of them, where the progress of a movement can be marked out with approximate accuracy, and its stages defined, in such a way. The three centuries, from the fifteenth to the seventeenth, with which we have been principally occupied, had each its special form of contribution to the movement which we have called the Christian Renaissance. The fifteenth century was the age of collection: the documents were brought together, and the great libraries formed. The sixteenth century was the age of publication. What had been recovered was given to the world by the great scholar-printers. And the seventeenth century was the age of criticism: with the documents now before them, men settled themselves down to the improvement of texts and the elucidation of subject-matter, to an extent which had been impossible for their predecessors.

The names of Niccoli and Poggio, of Erasmus and de la Bigne, of Ussher and Valois, give a fair indication of the several activities which seem to us to have characterised the periods we have passed under review.