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Justus Lipsius (Joost Lips)

Justus Lipsius (Joost Lips)

Overijse 1547 - Leuven 1606

Justus Lipsius, Belgian scholar, born on the 18th of October (15th of November, according to Amiel) 1547 at Overyssche, a small village in Brabant, near Brussels. Sent early to the Jesuit college in Cologne, he was removed at the age of sixteen to the university of Louvain by his parents, who feared that he might be induced to become a member of the Society of Jesus. The publication of his Variarum Lectionum Libri Tres (1567), dedicated to Cardinal Granvella, procured him an appointment as Latin secretary and a visit to Rome in the retinue of the cardinal. Here Lipsius remained two years, devoting his spare time to the study of the Latin classics, collecting inscriptions and examining MSS. in the Vatican. A second volume of miscellaneous criticism (Antiquarum Lectionum Libri Quinque, 1575), published after his return from Rome, compared with the Variae Lectiones of eight years earlier, shows that he had advanced from the notion of purely conjectural emendation to that of emending by collation. In 1570 he wandered over Burgundy, Germany, Austria, Bohemia, and was engaged for more than a year as teacher in the university of Jena, a position which implied an outward conformity to the Lutheran Church. On his way back to Louvain, he stopped some time at Cologne, where he must have comported himself as a Catholic. He then returned to Louvian, but was soon driven by the Civil War to take refuge in Antwerp, where he received, in 1579, a call to the newly founded university of Leiden, as professor of history. At Leiden, where he must have passed as a Calvinist, Lipsius remained eleven years, the period of his greatest productivity. It was now that he prepared his Seneca, perfected, in successive editions, his Tacitus and brought out a series of works, some of pure scholarship, others collections from classical authors, others again of general interest. Of this latter class was a treatise on politics (Politicorum Libri Sex, 1589), in which he showed that, though a public teacher in a country which professed toleration, he had not departed from the state maxims of Alva and Philip II. He lays it down that a government should recognize only one religion, and that dissent should be extirpated by fire and sword. From the attacks to which this avowal exposed him, he was saved by the prudence of the authorities of Leiden, who prevailed upon him to publish a declaration that his expression, Ure, seta, was a metaphor for a vigorous treatment. In the spring of 1590, leaving Leiden under pretext of taking the waters at Spa, he went to Mainz, where he was reconciled to the Roman Catholic Church. The event deeply interested the Catholic world, and invitations poured in on Lipsius from the courts and universities of Italy, Austria and Spain. But he preferred to remain in his own country, and finally settled at Louvain, as professor of Latin in the Collegium Buslidianum. He was not expected to teach, and his trifling stipend was eked out by the appointments of privy councillor and historiographer to the king of Spain. He continued to publish dissertations as before, the chief being his De militia romana (Antwerp, 1595) and Lovanium (Antwerp, 1605; 4th ed., Wesel, 1671), intended as an introduction to a general history of Brabant. He died at Louvian on the 23rd of March (some give 24th of April) 1606. Lipsius's knowledge of classical antiquity was extremely limited. He had but slight acquaintance with Greek, and in Latin literature the poets and Cicero lay outside his range. His greatest work was his edition of Tacitus. This author he had so completely made his own that he could repeat the whole, and offered to be tested in any part of the text, with a poniard held to his breast, to be used against him if he should fail. His Tacitus first appeared in 1575, and was five times revised and corrected - the last time in 1606, shortly before his death. His Opera Omnia appeared in 8 vols. at Antwerp (1585, 2nd ed., 1637).
Encyclopædia Britannica, Cambridge University Press, 191111

Main works: Politicorum sive Civilis Doctrinae Libri Sex (Leiden: Plantijn, 1589); De Constantia Libri Duo, Qui alloquium praecipue continent in Publicis malis (Antwerpen: Plantijn, 1584); Manuductionis ad Stoicam Philosophiam Libri Tres, L. Annaeo Senecae, aliisque scriptoribus illustrandis (Antwerpen: Plantijn-Moretus, 1604); Annaei Senecae Philosophi Opera, Quae Existant Omnia, A Iusto Lipsio emendata, et Scholiis illustrata (Antwerpen: Plantijn-Moretus, 1605); Diva Virgo Hallensis(1605).


Bibliography: B. Anderton, A Stoic of Louvain: Justus Lipsius, in Sketches from a Library Window, Cambridge, Heffer 1922, pp. 10-30; A. Gerlo, ed., Juste Lipse (1547-1606), «Travaux de l’Institut Interuniversitaire pour l’étude de la Renaissance et de l’Humanisme», IX, 1988; J. Lagrée, Juste Lipse et la restauration du stoïcisme: Étude et traduction des traités stoïciens De la constance, Manuel de philosophie stoïcienne, Physique des stoïciens, Paris, Vrin 1994; Id., Juste Lipse: destins et Providence, in P.-F, Moreau, ed., Le stoïcisme au XVIe et au XVIIe siècle, Paris, Albin Michel 1999, pp. 77-93; Id., La vertu stoïcienne de constance, in P.-F, Moreau, op. cit., pp. 94-116; M. Laureys, ed., The World of Justus Lipsius: A Contribution Towards his Intellectual Biography, «Bulletin de l’Institut Historique Belge de Rome», LXVIII, 1998; A.H.T. Levi, The Relationship of Stoicism and Scepticism: Justus Lipsius, in J. Kraye and M.W.F. Stone, eds, Humanism and Early Modern Philosophy, London, Routledge 2000, pp. 91-106; M. Marin, L’influence de Sénèque sur Juste Lipse, in A. Gerlo, op. cit., pp. 119-126; M. Morford, Stoics and Neostoics: Rubens and the Circle of Lipsius, Princeton University Press 1991; Id., Towards an Intellectual Biography of Justus Lipsius – Pieter Paul Rubens, «Bulletin de l’Institut Historique Belge de Rome», LXVIII, 1998, pp. 387-403; G. Oestreich, Neostoicism and the Early Modern State, Cambridge University Press 1982; J.L. Saunders, Justus Lipsius: The Philosophy of Renaissance Stoicism, New York, The Liberal Arts Press 1955; L. Zanta, La renaissance du stoïcisme au XVIe siècle, Paris, Champion 1914.


Th. Simar, Notice sur les livres de Juste Lipse conservés à la Bibliothèque de l’université de Leyde, «Revue des Bibliothèques», XVII, 1907, pp. 261-283.

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Bibliothecæ Petaviana et Mansartiana : ou, Catalogue des bibliothèques de feu Messieurs A. Petau ... et François Mansart ... Aux quelles on a ajouté le cabinet considérable des manuscrits du fameux Justus Lipsius. La vente se fera par Abrah. de Hondt, le 23 fevrier & suiv. 1722, La Haye 1722, 454 pp., in-12°.

Biblioteca Angelica, Roma.

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