Hoby’s expertise in foreign languages came about not just through travel and conversation, but also through concerted activity as a reader of foreign-language literature. The survival of several of his books provides us with an important insight into his work as a scholar and translator.
These books are particularly informative because Hoby often noted down where and when he bought them. From this information, we can see that while he was travelling in continental Europe he was in the habit of buying works of literature in their original languages and across a range of genres.
Hoby marked many of his books with the Latin motto ‘Tendit in ardua virtus’ (‘Virtue strives for what is difficult’). This phrase, which derives from Ovid’s Epistulae ex Ponto (II.2.111), could have held a number of meanings for him. It may have been an expression of his desire to challenge himself intellectually, but it could also have been an expression of the religious persecution which he felt following the accession of Mary I.
Based on the books which have so far come to light, it does not seem that Hoby was a prolific annotator. However, as some of the items in this section will demonstrate, the brief annotations which he did write sometimes provide us with valuable insights into his reading practices.