Renaissance and Reformation Juan Luis Vives
Charles Fantazzi, Enrique González González, Víctor Gutiérrez Rodríguez
  • LAST REVIEWED: 22 September 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0113


Juan Luis Vives (or Joan Lluís Vives in Catalan) was born into a Jewish converso family in Valencia in 1492, according to the traditional dating as inscribed on his tombstone, and died in 1540. He attended the newly founded University of Valencia and in 1509, after his mother’s death from the plague, set out for Paris to pursue his studies, probably forced into exile to escape persecution by the Inquisition. He studied scholastic logic in Paris, gave private lectures on humanistic subjects, and published some early writings. In 1514, he moved to Flanders, where two years later he met Erasmus at the court of Brussels, a meeting that would change his life. A steady stream of writings issued from his pen during this period, including a huge commentary on Augustine’s City of God, a labor that taxed his strength severely. Through his acquaintance with Thomas More he entered into the good graces of Queen Catherine of Aragon and wrote a treatise on the education of women, dedicated to her. It is an extremely important book, the first systematic study to address, explicitly and exclusively, the universal education of women. Shortly afterward, he wrote the first modern treatise on the relief of the poor and a series of works on pacifism, in the form of letters to monarchs and high-standing prelates, culminating in a long treatise addressed to Charles V, “On Concord and Discord in the Human Race.” In the meantime, his position as the queen’s counselor became perilous as the king’s Great Matter progressed. Returning to Bruges, he produced a huge work in twenty books, De disciplinis, a comprehensive critical review of all learning and the state of the academic disciplines in his time. This was followed by a supplementary work on rhetoric and a penetrating and original treatise on human emotions, which investigated the operations and functions of the soul. His perceptive analysis later earned him the title of father of modern psychology. Vives remained a faithful disciple of Erasmus, with whom he shared views on such matters as the love of the classical languages, pacifism, and the aspiration to a learned personal piety rather than external show. Among Vives’s last works was a handbook of private prayers intended for the laity. Juan Luis Vives was a towering figure of the Renaissance, a man of immense learning, integrity, and originality, yet he still remains very little known, even to the scholarly world.


Since the early 1990s, there have been a good number of bibliographies of Vives, and, as of 2012, professors Enrique González González and Víctor Gutiérrez Rodríguez are engaged in compiling an inventory of all the unknown printed editions of his works, as part of a vast panorama of the reception of Vives through the centuries. The exhibitions and catalogues of Paris in 1941 (Estelrich 1942) and of Leuven in 1993 (Tournoy, et al. 1993) are excellent partial views of Vives’s writings. Except for a brief bibliography, Noreña 1990, there has hardly been anything in English. Five years after Vives’s death and ten years before the publication of his complete works, Gesner 1545 listed an almost complete list of his works. Palau y Dulcet 1976 provides a very copious and detailed listing; Estelrich 1942 and Tournoy 1993, the latter more fully, give an exemplary account of the Vives holdings of the Bibliothèque Nationale and Leuven University Library, respectively. Calero and Sala 2000 is the most complete to date; González y González and Gutiérrez Rodríguez 1999 is a marvelous description, with photographs, of the first editions of Vives, and González y González, et al. 1992 is an exhaustive census of the editions of the popular Linguae latinae exercitatio.

  • Calero, Francisco, and Daniel Sala. Bibliografía sobre Luis Vives. Valencia, Spain: Ajuntament de Valencia, 2000.

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    The most complete bibliography available, with 2,196 entries grouped by subject. This thematic organization results in repeated citations.

  • Estelrich, Joan. Vivès: Exposition organisée à la Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, Janvier–Mars 1941. Dijon, France: Darantière, 1942.

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    Annotated catalogue of an exhibition of about five hundred books, all from the Bibliothèque Nationale and other Parisian libraries, written either by Vives or contemporaries of his.

  • Gesner, Conrad. Bibliotheca universalis. Zurich, Switzerland: Christoph Froschauer, 1545.

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    First catalogue of Vives’s works, which appeared shortly after his death, executed with great accuracy, pp. 430-431.

  • González y González, Enrique, Albiñana, Salvador, and Gutiérrez Rodríguez, Víctor, eds. Edicions princeps. Valencia, Spain: Universitat de València-Generalitat Valenciana, 1992.

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    Inventory and description of all the first editions and revised editions of Vives’s works. It carefully investigates the question of when each work was published for the first time. The book is beautifully produced with reproductions of title pages; some in color, others in black and white.

  • González y González, Enrique, and Víctor Gutiérrez Rodríguez. Los diálogos de Vives y la imprenta: Fortuna de un manual escolar renacentista (1539–1994). Valencia, Spain: Institució Alfons el Magnànim, 1999.

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    A critical census of 601 editions of Vives’s Linguae latinae exercitatio, known popularly as Diálogos, most of which were inspected personally by the authors in libraries throughout Europe, the first of three projected volumes to provide an inventory of all of the editions of Vives.

  • Noreña, Carlos G. A Vives Bibliography. Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen, 1990.

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    Organized by century, good for its repertory of non-Spanish publications, especially from the 1970s and 1980s; numerous errors in the older works. Bibliographical essay, informative but scattered.

  • Palau y Dulcet, Antonio. Manual del librero hispano-americano. Vol. 27. Barcelona: Libreria anticuaria de Antonio Palau, 1976.

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    Contains 416 entries. It is valued for its richness of sources, which, however, are not always reported exactly. Though intended as a manual of and for booksellers, and despite its disorderliness, it is of great interest for the rare items it records. See pp. 392–436.

  • Tournoy, Gilbert, Jan Roegiers, and Christian Coppens. Vives te Leuven. Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 1993.

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    A catalogue with excellent running commentary on an exhibition of the Vives holdings of the Centrale Bibliotheek of the University of Leuven, together with contributions from the faculties of letters and theology and from the library of Kortrijk.

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