An important goal and method of renaissance rhetorical instruction, copia is best understood in terms of the textbook which earned the term its fame, Desiderius Erasmus's De duplici copia verborum ac rerum, "On the twofold abundance of expressions and ideas."

The goal of a renaissance rhetorical education was to render students versatile in the discovery of ideas and in their eloquent, appropriate expression. In the book by Erasmus, students learned how to vary a given idea in manifold ways by putting it into different forms and figures (developing copia, or abundance, of words and expressions). The second portion of the same book taught students how to invent and vary their arguments, developing in them a variety of argumentative strategies. The goal was to create a stock or store of things to say and ways to say them, that the student would be ready for any communicative situation and able to provide the necessary matter and eloquence to accomplish what might be needed
Erasmus provided extended examples of copia in his text, the most famous of which includes several hundred variations upon the same, initially insipid sentence, "Your letter pleased me greatly." See chapter 33 of this work.
Related Figures
All the figures of speech were presented to students as various methods for varying their means of expression in order to build copia. However, especially relevant to copia are the various Figures of Amplification
Related Topics of Invention
All the topics of invention were presented to students as various methods for developing and varying their subject matter.
See Also

  Sources: Erasmus, De Copia

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Gideon O. Burton, Brigham Young University
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