Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther

By Mark U. Edwards Jr. | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
Evangelical and Catholic
Propaganda in the Early
Decades of the Reformation

In the spring of 1524 the Leipzig city council petitioned its duke on behalf of its printers. The printers, the council explained, were complaining bitterly that they were in danger of losing "house, home, and all their livelihood" because they were not allowed "to print or sell anything new that is made in Wittenberg or elsewhere. For that which one would gladly sell and for which there is demand," the council continued, referring to the torrent of Evangelical pamphlets pouring from the presses in Wittenberg and elsewhere, "they are not allowed to have or sell. But what they have in over abundance," namely Catholic treatises, "is desired by no one and cannot even be given away."1

The Leipzig printers had reason to complain. The empire-wide production of pamphlets had skyrocketed, increasing more than forty-fold since 1517, with the great bulk of this product promoting the Reformation movement.2 Since 1521 the Leipzig printers had to watch from the sidelines because their staunchly Catholic duke, Georg the Bearded, would not allow the printing of Evangelical treatises in his lands. The Leipzig printers had gone from being the leading publishers of the leading publicist, Martin Luther, to being onlookers.3 Instead, they were required to produce Catholic rebuttals that by their own report no one wanted and that could not even be given away. They had been shut out of the West's first full-fledged media campaign and cut off from a financial bonanza.

This chapter investigates what the Leipzig printers were missing out on, the attempt by Evangelical publicists led by Martin Luther to use

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