Luther, Libraries, and Learning (2) – John W. Montgomery

Wittenberg, Germany

Wittenberg, Germany

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.

In the third section of the book I discovered an essay that grabbed my interest – “Luther, Libraries, and Learning”  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 proceeds to a positive defense of Luther’s position on education and books.

Today we follow-up on our post from last week with another significant quote from this essay, which I believe worthy of your attention too. This is from that section that follows the previous one from which we quoted:

In the educational efforts of the early Lutheran reformers, schools and libraries went hand in hand. The concern for establishing suitable book collections is evident not only in many of the visitation articles and agenda drawn up during the period, but also and especially in the formal Kirchenordnungen [church ordinances or church order], drafted chiefly under the influence of Melanchthon (for central and southern Germany) and Johannes Bugenhagen (for northern Germany). In the work of Bugenhagen – like Melanchthon a colleague of Luther at Wittenberg – bibliothecal concern is particularly evident. The following typical Kirchenordnungen regulations are the product of his influence:

A library shall be erected not far from the school and the lecture hall, wherein all books, good and bad, which shall be acquired for this purpose in this city, shall be assembled; they shall be arranged in orderly manner, especially the best, each near others of its kind [this must have been the early classification system]; keys thereto, one or four, should be in the hands of some, viz., the rector and sub-rector and superintendent, that no damage may be done.

The old useful books should be brought together in the cities and kept safely in a library. The deacon of the treasury shall, as much as possible, increase the library every year, especially with German Bibles and volumes of Luther’s works. The parish clergy shall pray and exhort the people to increase the libraries through legacies [A great idea!]. The pastor and deacons shall see to it that an inventory is made and the library assiduously guarded.

The result of such regulations was the establishment of numerous church and school libraries… (p.127-28).

Fascinating, is it not?!

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