Between Scylla and Charybdis

Learned Letter Writers Navigating the Reefs of Religious and Political Controversy in Early Modern Europe


Early Modern letter-writing was often the only way to maintain regular and meaningful contact. Scholars, politicians, printers, and artists wrote to share private or professional news, to test new ideas, to support their friends, or pursue personal interests. Epistolary exchanges thus provide a private lens onto major political, religious, and scholarly events. Sixteenth century’s reform movements created a sense of disorder, if not outright clashes and civil war. Scholars could not shy away from these tensions. The private sphere of letter-writing allowed them to express, or allude to, the conflicts of interest which arose from their studies, social status, and religious beliefs. Scholarly correspondences thus constitute an unparalleled source on the interrelation between broad historical developments and the convictions of a particularly expressive group of individuals.
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Biographical Note

Jeanine De Landtsheer, Ph.D. (1993) in Classical Philology, K.U.Leuven, is Research Fellow at K.U.Leuven. She has published five volumes in the series Iusti Lipsi Epistolae (Brussels, 1991-2006) and is now focusing on a biographical study of Lipsius and his works.

Henk Nellen, Ph.D. (1980) in History, Radboud University, Nijmegen, is Research Fellow at the Huygens Instituut, The Hague, and Professor in the History of Ideas in the Early Modern period at Erasmus University, Rotterdam. He is co-editor of the final five volumes of Hugo Grotius' correspondence (The Hague, 1990-2001) which consequently led to a biography on Grotius (Amsterdam, 2007).

Review Quotes

"One of the precise contributions of this excellent book is to vividly and rigorously render the echoes of sixteenth and early-seventeenth century events in numerous learned letters. At the same time the authors provide some very enlightening analyses on the process of confessionalisation and its relationship to humanism."
Catherine Secretan, BMGN - Low Countries Historical Review, Volume 128-2 (2013), review 35

"This volume of essays provides a timely and valuable addition to scholarship on learned correspondence in the early modern period and is a very useful complement to the significant number of collections of letters now available online."
Chris Joby, De Zeventiende Eeuw 28 (2012) 1,109-110

"Between Scylla and Charybdis offers an impressively learned but lively, readable, and often moving depiction of how confessionalization impacted scholarly individuals, families, networks, and institutions as well as the relations of church and state in Early Modern Europe."
Judith Rice Henderson, The University of Saskatchewan

"The many case studies collected here render the volume interesting to students of humanist culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, especially in the Netherlands, the Holy Roman Empire, England, and France.
Nicolette Mout. In: Church History and Religious Culture, Vol. 92, Nos. 2-3 (2012), pp. 401-403

Table of contents

List of Illustrations
Notes on Contributors


Der neulateinische Bief als Quelle politisch-religiöser Überzeugungen: Theoretische Reflexionen zur Diskursivität einer ambivalenten Gattung, Karl Enenkel

Spiritual Dialogues and Politics in the Correspondance between Marguerite de Navarre and Guillaume Briçonnet (1521-1524), Reinier Leushuis

Erasmus and the Philological Study of the New Testament, Chris L. Heesakkers

Juan Luis Vives and the Spectre of the Inquisition, Charles Fantazzi

Correspondance et stratégie d’auteur: les lettres de François Rabelais, Paul J. Smith


Translation in the Service of Politics and Religion: A Family Tradition for Thomas More, Margaret Roper, and Mary Clarke Basset, Brenda M. Hosington

The Influence of the Protestant Reformation on Philip Melanchthon’s Letters of Recommendation, Milton Kooistra

Georgius Cassander: Searching for Religious Peace in his Correspondence (1557-1565), Rob van de Schoor

Carolus Utenhovius: a Tale of Two Cities, Philip Ford

Andreas Dudith (1533-1589): Conflicts and Strategies of a Religious Individualist in Confessionalising Europe, Gábor Almási

Livres, érudition et irénisme à l’époque des Guerres de religion: Autour de la Satyre Ménippée, Ingrid De Smet

Topical Matters in Dedicatory Letters of Latin Plays in the Early Modern Netherlands, Jan Bloemendal


Between Philip II and William of Orange: the correspondence of Christopher Plantin (c. 1520-1589), Dirk Imhof

New Documents on Benito Arias Montano (1527-1598) and Politics in the Netherlands, Antonio Dávila Pérez

Humanist Friendship, Politics and Religion in Marnix’s Correspondence just before the Fall of Antwerp: Inconstancy or Constancy?, Rudolf De Smet

Living to the Letter: The Correspondence of Dirck Volckertsz. Coornhert, Johan Koppenol

Pius Lipsius or Lipsius Proteus? , Jeanine De Landtsheer


Shifting Orthodoxy in the Republic of Letters: Caspar Schoppius mirroring Justus Lipsius, Jan Papy

The Limits of Transconfessional Contact in the Republic of Letters around 1600: Scaliger, Casaubon, and their Catholic Correspondents, Dirk van Miert

Between Scylla and Charybdis? Evidence on the Conversion of Christoph Besold from his Letters and his Legal and Political Thought, Robert von Friedeburg

Franciscus Junius, F.F.: la question religieuse, Colette Nativel

Breasting the Waves: Grotius’ Letters on Church and State, Harm-Jan van Dam

At the Heart of the Twelve Years’ Truce Controversies: Conrad Vorstius, Gerard Vossius and Hugo Grotius, Cor S.M. Rademaker

A Flaming Row in the Republic of Letters: Claude Saumaise on Hugo Grotius’s Crusade for Church Unity, Henk Nellen

Public Poses Revealed: From Critical Edition to Revision, Jim Dobreff

Index Nominum


An academic readership interested in the history of political and religious ideas in Early Modern Europe, the Republic of Letters, and the history of epistolography.


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