Luther, Libraries and Learning – J.W. Montgomery

Wittenberg-GermanyWhile sorting through some of Prof.D. Engelsma’s library yesterday, I came on the book In Defense of Martin Luther, a wonderful collection of essays by John Warwick Montgomery.

In the third section of the book is an essay that captivated me immediately – “Luther, Libraries, and Learning”, which is a defense of Luther’s (and the Protestant Reformation’s) love for, support of, and call for schools and libraries. After answering several attacks against Luther and the Reformation on these matters, Montgomery launches into a positive defense of Luther’s position on education and books.

I begin to quote from this part of the essay today, hoping to be able to give you at least one more quotation, since this is such a fascinating subject (to me at least!).

…But Luther and his movement did not merely oppose the destruction of already-existing libraries; they engaged actively in the building of new libraries, as can be seen both on the university level and on the level of the lower schools.

The studies of E.G. Schwiebert have shown that a furor of library activity went on at Wittenberg during Luther’s professorship there. His close friend and fellow reformer, George Spalatin, served a librarian of the ducal university library, and made regular trips to Venice to buy Hebrew and Greek manuscripts needed by the Wittenberg faculty. ‘The many casual references in the correspondence of the period indicate that Spalatin, Melanchthon, Chancellor Brueck, and possibly several professors were constantly on the alert for new collections, such as those of Duke George, Aurogallus, and Hassenstein, and that a close supervision was kept over the fairs at Leipzig and Nuernberg in the search for choice volumes.’ The breadth of content in the library belies any criticism of the Wittenberg reformers as narrow Biblicists: ‘The fact that the classics, and the Church Fathers, and the humanists were so well represented seems to point conclusively to the fact that the Reformers valued and employed Renaissance tools in the restoration of early Christianity.’

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  1. […] Last week Thursday we pointed you to an interesting book from Prof.D. Engelsma’s library (which we are working through this summer) – In Defense of Martin Luther, a wonderful collection of essays by John Warwick Montgomery. […]

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