I’ve just started James Turner’s Philology: The Forgotten Origins of the Modern Humanities (thanks, bulbul!), and I’ve stumbled right out of the blocks. The very first words of the Prologue are: “In his Adages (1500) the great humanist Erasmus of Rottersdam quipped, ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog one big thing.'” Now, in the effete intellectual circles to which I belong, that’s a very familiar quotation, but in my mind — and, I had thought, in the collective mind of those to whom it is familiar — it is associated with two names, those of Archilochus, who wrote the original line in Greek (πόλλ’ οἶδ’ ἀλώπηξ, ἀλλ’ ἐχῖνος ἓν μέγα: ‘the fox knows many [things], but the hedgehog [knows] one big [thing]’), and Isaiah Berlin, who used it as the title of probably his most famous essay in 1953 and brought it into late-twentieth-century discourse. Berlin’s essay begins “There is a line among the fragments of the Greek poet Archilochus which says: ‘The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing'”; he has a footnote quoting the Greek, but there is not a mention of Erasmus. I was, therefore, astonished that Turner would cite this as a “quip” of Erasmus; I turned to the attached footnote and found:
“Multa novit vulpes verum echinus unum magnum.” Erasmus was translating a fragment attributed to the ancient Greek poet Archilochus, but Erasmus’s version seems to have stuck. The proverb owes its modern fame to Isaiah Berlin’s 1953 essay The Hedgehog and the Fox.
I ask the Varied Reader: with whom do you associate the hedgehog/fox meme? Am I an outlier in considering “Erasmus’s version seems to have stuck” a blatant error?