Calvin and the Book – Essays on the Reformation and the Printed Word

Calvin&book-SpierlingOne of the recent additions to the PRC Seminary library is a collection of essays given at the 2013 Calvin Studies Colloquium held at Princeton Seminary, published under the title Calvin and the Book: The Evolution of the Printed Word in Reformed Protestantism (Vandenhoek & Ruprecht, 2015), part of the series “Refo500 Academic Studies.”

The collection is a fascinating study of the power of the printed page as it was used and developed by the Reformers. To give you a sample of the content, I take a small portion from the first chapter, an essay by Andrew Pettegree titled “Calvin and Luther as Men of the Book.”

Calvin and Luther were both men of the book. The connection between print and the Reformation is so scored into our consciousness that we do not always recognize how profound were the challenges required by the print revolution, on the part of authors, readers, and producers.

…[Luther and Calvin] both showed a profound grasp of how the industry functioned, and what the author could most effectively contribute. Both intervened directly to create the industrial infrastructure necessary to sustain their respective movements. Both adapted their writing style to the requirements of the new book world.

So this paper is about book professionals: the men who printed, published, and distributed the books of Wittenberg and Geneva, but also the two celebrated authors who worked closely with them. It is a story that has not been wholly told, partly because it involves processes that are in some way foreign to us: an attention to artifact and medium, rather than simply context and text. Luther and Calvin did what was necessary to make all this work, rather against the grain of their character in both cases; Luther, a conservative academic in middle years; Calvin, by nature a scholarly aesthetic. They had a pragmatism which matched their inspiration. This adaptability is not to be underestimated, or indeed despised. Luther and Calvin were both consummate professionals (pp.17-19).

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