In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Guillaume Budé

  • Introduction
  • Biographies and Reference Works
  • On Budé’s Work and Its Reception
  • Budé in Context
  • Classical Scholarship
  • Legal Humanism
  • Budé’s Sources, His Books, and His Role in the Classical Tradition
  • On Single Ancient Authors

Renaissance and Reformation Guillaume Budé
Luigi-Alberto Sanchi
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0529


Guillaume Budé (b. 1467–d. 1540) is one of the most relevant French contemporaries of Erasmus, and a friend of his. As a scholar, Budé improved several fields of research, such as studies on Roman law and Ancient Greek lexicography. A high civil servant and not a professor, Guillaume Budé is also credited with the creation of the first chairs (1530) of Collège de France. Budé received a traditional education in law before starting humanistic studies around 1491 and entering the circle of intellectuals gathered by Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples. He then learned Ancient Greek and became one of the first modern Frenchmen to master this language to a level comparable to that of contemporary Italians. Not only did he start as a humanist by publishing some short translations from Greek into Latin (1505–1506), but he culminated his career with the Commentaries on the Greek Tongue in 1529, his most celebrated work (Commentarii Graecae linguae; posthumous, revised edition,1548). Between these two achievements, Budé ensured considerable results with other massive scholarly works. He first studied in a new way—which will later be called the Mos Gallicus Jura docendi—the texts of Corpus Juris, combining Greek and Latin philology, encyclopedic and legal knowledge, theoretical skills in his 1508 Annotations on the Digest (Annotationes in XXIV Pandectarum libros, followed by Annotationes reliquae in Pandectas in 1526). He then uncovered a vast portion of Antiquity, and resolved some textual enigmas, with The Roman As and Its Fractions (De Asse and Partibus eius Libri V, 1515, followed by six revised editions), a five-book tentacular monograph often simply called De Asse. It focuses on the vocabulary of quantities, their literary expressions, in words and abbreviations, and the resulting textual corruption or misunderstanding, thus allowing a more precise interpretation of Greek and Latin classics in general. Besides his international correspondence, Budé’s production includes moral essays and exhortations to humanistic studies. It ends in 1535 with From Hellenism to Christianism (De Transitu Hellenismi ad Christianismum), a meditation on the importance of religious devotion for a learned man, and a political answer to the Affaire des Placards, an anti-Catholic scandal that occurred in 1534 and endangered the Parisian and French humanist current. While 19th- and early 20th-century scholarship has rediscovered Budé’s original contribution to European humanism, recent research has focused on his literary production and his philological achievements.

Biographies and Reference Works

The best English introduction to Guillaume Budé is McNeil 1975. Also in English, but in a few pages, La Garanderie 1985 will be of some use. In French, La Garanderie 1997 is a short, very accurate directory for a first glance on Budé’s biography and bibliography, whereas Delaruelle 2012 (reprint of a 1907 work) is still to be recommended, and is regularly cited, for its generous approach, yet covering only a part of Budé’s life; for the years following 1515 and for some important complements to Delaruelle’s seminal study, see La Garanderie 1995, but with a slightly different method, less erudite and more literary, and Gueudet 1969.

  • Delaruelle, Louis. Guillaume Budé: Les origines, les débuts, les idées maîtresses. Geneva, Switzerland: Slatkine Reprints, 2012.

    Published in 1907, this accurate biography covers Budé’s life up to 1515 and is still useful and quoted, even though recent research has improved some specific points. It opens with a panoramic overview of the wake of humanism in France and ends with three important appendices, the last one introducing the seven Budé’s autograph notebooks located in Geneva. It also analyzes in detail the 1508 Annotationes and 1515 De Asse.

  • Gueudet, Guy. “État présent des recherches sur Guillaume Budé.” In Actes du VIII Congrès de l’Association G. Budé, 597–608. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 1969.

    A detailed paper concerning several specific points of Budé’s biography and works. It is a supplement to Delaruelle 2012.

  • La Garanderie, Marie-Madeleine de. “Budé, Guillaume.” In Contemporaries of Erasmus: A Biographical Register of the Renaissance and Reformation. Vol. 1. Edited by Peter G. Bietenholz and Thomas B. Deutscher, 212–217. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985.

    A short, English introduction with bibliography written by the author of several editions, French translations, essays, and papers on Guillaume Budé.

  • La Garanderie, Marie-Madeleine de. Christianisme et Lettres profanes: Essai sur l’Humanisme français (1515–1535) et sur la pensée de Guillaume Budé. Paris: Honoré Champion, 1995.

    First written in 1976 and then revised and published with the actual title, this essay aims to cover Budé’s maturity years up to 1535 as well as interpret their context in France, specifically Paris, center of theological studies where humanism had a major impact on medieval religious traditions.

  • La Garanderie, Marie-Madeleine de. “Budé (Guillaume).” In Centuriae Latinae: Cent une figures humanistes de la Renaissance aux Lumières offertes à Jacques Chomarat. Edited by Colette Nativel, 227–231. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1997.

    This paper summarizes Budé’s life and works, and offers an extensive list of ancient and modern editions and translations as well as a useful bibliographical survey; quite exhaustive for its date.

  • McNeil, David O. Guillaume Budé and Humanism in the Reign of Francis I. Geneva, Switzerland: Librairie Droz, 1975.

    An excellent and thoroughly documented, if not quite recent, English introduction to Budé’s life, times, and major points of interest, like his political and religious views, his relations with local and European humanists—the main contents of his research.

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