The Early Reformation on the Continent

The Early Reformation on the Continent

The Early Reformation on the Continent

The Early Reformation on the Continent


The Early Reformation on the Continent offers a fresh look at the formative years of the European Reformation and the origins of Protestant faith and practice. Taking into account recent work on Erasmus and Luther, Owen Chadwick handles these and numerous other figures and with sensitivity andunderstanding. Emphasis on the context provides a balanced view of the raison d'etre for the changes which the reforming communities sought to introduce and the difficulties and disagreements concerning these. The structure of the book is distinctively original. Rather than following a conventionalchronological progression, Owen Chadwick takes a much broader perspective and arranges his material thematically. Whatever the topic - the Bible, clerical celibacy, moral questions of adultery and divorce, purgatory, hymns, excommunication, the role of the State in worship and pastoral activity,education, the Eucharist - the reader is taken back to its origins and development through the history of the western Church and given an authoritative, accessible, and informative account.


During the fifteenth century Germans improved the use of metals, with startling results. Guns that destroyed less inefficiently, clocks that more or less kept the time, organs that played in tune, and a new way of making books easy for readers.

Johann Gutenberg was an enterprising trader who made money out of pilgrims by selling them looking-glasses and polished stones. For several years he experimented with metal types to make books. He kept borrowing money from friends or kin and seldom repaid his debts. in 1456 he printed the Bible at Mainz; 1,282 pages in two columns to each page, with spaces left for the illuminations that used to be inserted into the old manuscript Bibles, and sometimes known as Mazarin's Bible because the copy belonging to Cardinal Mazarin was important in the study of early printing. Creditors were after him even before he published, and after the Bible was printed he had to sell all his equipment to meet the debts and died in debt despite a pension from the archbishop of Mainz. the invention, so disastrous for its maker, changed the religious and intellectual history of Christendom.

By 1500 we know of some 27,000 printed titles, nearly three-quarters Latin books, but also vernacular books of piety and prayer and works of entertainment. They were carried by traders in wooden trunks or casks and sold at markets, usually unbound. the printers' chief object was the Bible—94 Latin Bibles by 1500, 16 German Bibles by 1522. Usually it was printed with a commentary.

Convenience was with print. the compositor could experiment with chapter headings, indexes, tables of contents, footnotes. For the first time everyone who wished to read had to master the order of the alphabet—the word alphabet is hardly found in the English language until the second half of the sixteenth century and its earliest use was to mean an index; so late as 1604 an English dictionary needed to tell readers that to use the book they must learn the alphabet. Printers could add lists of misprints or errata, and then lists of books, first of catalogues of books for sale, and then be helped by persons with a new passion or hobby, the bibliophiles; until the Zurich Protestant polymath Conrad Gesner was able to publish (1545) the Bibliotheca Universalis, which listed every book and author in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew since

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