BUDE, Guillaume

A contemporary of Desiderius Erasmus,* Guillaume Bude, one of France's leading humanists, served at the court of Francois I* and was instrumental in founding the College de France, a center for humanist teaching. Bude, who belonged to a family of government functionaries, began training for a career at court by studying the arts in Paris and the law in Orleans. However, he never finished his law degree, and around 1491 he began to study the classics inten­sively. Although he received some tutoring from various Hellenists, Bude was mainly self-taught.
At the behest of the chancellor, Charles VIII appointed Bude secretary of the king in 1497; however, he resigned sometime between 1502 and 1506, probably because the job interfered with his studies. He began to translate works of Greek literature into French; the study of ancient languages was becoming more pop­ular, and Bude's reputation grew.
In 1508 Bude published his Annotationes in Pandectas (Annotations on the Pandects), a commentary on the first twenty-four books of Justinian, which also contained a severe attack on the legal profession and its methods. Although the work was poorly organized and difficult to follow, it was well received, and in 1515 he published De asse, a work on classical weights, measures, and coinage. In both works Bude included many useful annotations and quotations from the classics, as well as political, social, and economic commentary on French affairs.
At this point, Bude began to reenter public life. Francois I, who had assumed the throne in 1515, wanted to cultivate the cultural reputation of his court. Accordingly, he preferred appointing educated men to important positions; the time was auspicious for a humanist to succeed in courtly affairs. In 1519 Bude presented Francois with his work Institution du prince, which belonged to the "mirror of princes" genre, describing the duties and proper behavior of a ruler. Bude published several other works in his lifetime, including a Greek lexicon titled Commentarii linguae graecae (Commentary on the Greek Language) and a book on philology, De philologia. In addition, he continued his letters to other humanists, such as Erasmus and Thomas More.*
Throughout his life Bude wavered between the active and contemplative life. However, he continued to serve Francois, attending him at court and acting as a foreign envoy. Although Bude became disgusted at his lack of progress in courtly life and withdrew from court for a time, he returned and received the prestigious office of master of the king's library. In addition, he was appointed master of requests, a magisterial position, and provost of the merchants of Paris. However, these positions were largely honorary in nature, and he did little actual work at them.
More importantly, during this period, Bude, with the help of Marguerite de Navarre,* the king's sister, was instrumental in persuading Francois to endow royal lectureships in humanist topics such as Greek, Hebrew, and mathematics. He also convinced Francois to commit himself further and establish a royal college that would focus on these subject areas and oppose the strictly conser­vative Sorbonne. With Francois's permission and Marguerite's support, the in­stitution in time became the College de France, a center of humanist learning.
Bude died in August 1540, but he left behind a rich legacy of humanist studies. His influence inspired much of the resurgence of classical languages in France, and it was he who helped develop France's growing literary and cultural reputation. His translations and compendia of classical works became widely used as textbooks in various fields of learning, and scholars throughout Europe celebrated his achievements. Above all, his fame ultimately enabled him to per­suade Francois to support the foundation of the College de France, which has enriched the culture and learning of France for centuries.
D. McNeil, Guillaume Bude and Humanism in the Reign of Francis I, 1975.
Erin Sadlack

Renaissance and Reformation 1500-1620: A Biographical Dictionary. . 2001.

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