“When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left I buy food and clothes” - Erasmus
The humanist Desiderius Erasmus was born in either 1466 or 1469 in Rotterdam. It is believed that he was the illegitimate son of a priest and was born with the name Gerrit Gerritszoon (Gerard son of Gerard); his mother is believed to have been named Margaret, the daughter of a physician. It was fashionable at the time for scholars to take on Greek names, hence at some point he became known as Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (desiderium meaning longing or desire; erasmios meaning beloved, Roterodamus - of Rotterdam).
After his parents died of the plague he was left in the care of three guardians who whished him to become a monk, so at 18-years-old he reluctantly took vows and spent the next five or six years at the monastery, after which he became private secretary to the Bishop of Cambrai, and became a priest in 1492.
Soon after becoming a priest, the Bishop enabled him to go to Paris University to study classical literature. His health suffered in cheap, damp accommodation, so he moved to rented rooms and worked as a tutor to help fund his studies. While in Paris he gained a reputation as a fine scholar and one of his pupils, Lord Mountjoy, became his patron, setting him up with an income of 100 crowns a year. Soon after this Erasmus visited England and, through Lord Mountjoy, met many influential people including the future Henry VIII, Thomas More and John Colet. Over the next ten years he divided his time between France, the Netherlands, Italy and England before settling for five years in Cambridge. It was during this time that he wrote his satire Encomium moriae (1509, In Praise of Folly).
After 1514 he lived alternately in Basel and England, then in Louvain (1517–21). In 1521 he left Louvain, and lived mainly in Basel, where he was engaged in continual controversy, but enjoyed great fame and respect in his later years. He died in 1536.