The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Epistolæ Obscurorum Virorum

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EPISTOLÆ OBSCURORUM VIRORUM, ē-pĭs'tō-lē ŏb-skŭ-rō'rŭm vĭrō'rŭm (Lat. “Letters of obscure men”), a collection of satirical letters which appeared in Hagenau, Germany, in 1515-19, and professed to be the composition of certain ecclesiastics and professors in Cologne and other German towns. They were addressed to Ortunius Gatius at Deventer, who had gained the ill will of the liberals on account of his open hostility to them. They are considered one of the most masterly sarcasms in the history of literature, and their importance is enhanced by the effect they had in promoting the cause of the Reformation through their attacks upon scholastics and monks. The first issue consisted of 41 letters; but others were subsequently added. The authorship of this satire has been a fertile subject of controversy, but the major portion has been attributed to Reuchlin, Ulrich von Hutten and Erasmus, and also to Crotius Rubianus, the great humanist, who is said to have originated the idea of the letters and the title. The best edition is that of Böcking, supplementing his edition of the works of von Hutten (Leipzig 1864-70).