The sudden surge in English translations of Erasmus’ Apophthegmata during the later years of Henry VIII’s reign can be partly attributed to the gradual introduction of the new standards set by the humanist educational agenda and partly to the profound political and religious changes brought about by the English Reformation that was codified in the Act of Supremacy in 1534. Richard Taverner’s The garden of wysdom and The second booke of the Garden of wysedome (1539) and Nicholas Udall’s Apophthegmes (1542) reveal a pronounced shift towards a more widely conceived education of the English public. While Taverner’s translation, with its overt political commentary, provided a morally instructive commonplace book, marked by a Protestant overtone and influenced by Luther’s and Melanchthon’s views, Udall’s extensive pedagogical notes were meant to disseminate new methods of instruction modelled on Erasmus’ De ratione studii. Albeit in notably different ways, Udall’s and Taverner’s promotion of classical culture through apophthegms reflected their humanist zeal to reshape existing moral and cultural ideals and to expand the codes of conduct of the reformed Christian commonwealth in England.
For a survey see DevereuxRenaissance English Translations23–35 188–205. See also Renaissance Cultural Crossroads database of University of Warwick Centre for the Study of the Renaissance (http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/ren/projects/culturalcrossroads/). Mary Thomas Crane treats the use of proverb collections in instruction in Framing Authority. Sayings Self and Society in Sixteenth-Century England (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press 1993) 53–92.
Cf. John K. Yost“Taverner’s Use of Erasmus and the Protestantization of English Humanism,”Renaissance Quarterly23 (1970): 266–276; “Protestant Reformers and the Humanist via media in the Early English Reformation” Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 5 (1975): 187–202; “German Protestant Humanism and the Early English Reformation” Bibliothèque d’ Humanisme et Renaissance 32 (1970): 613–625.