Academic journal article The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History

An Early Sixteenth-Century Lutheran Dialogue and Its Wycliffite Excerpt

Academic journal article The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History

An Early Sixteenth-Century Lutheran Dialogue and Its Wycliffite Excerpt

Article excerpt

1.

In her seminal work on Wycliffism and the Reformation, Margaret Aston afforded heresy a central role "in moulding or preparing the minds of new reformers," a judgment both enriched and complicated by recent scholarship on the history of the book. (1) As a result, questions about the dissemination of Wycliffite thought and its affiliation with other reform movements now routinely extend to the networks of production and use in which Wycliffite writing was embedded. Nevertheless, these questions are rarely pursued in transcultural and transhistorical contexts, my interest here. (2) The case I will address concerning an early sixteenth-century Lutheran dialogue and its Wycliffite excerpt offers a vantage point for considering affiliation across the temporal, geographic, and material boundaries separating a medieval sermon tract from its fragmentary redeployment in a printed document.

My discussion will center on Lambeth Palace Library MS 551. (3) A variant version of a longer sermon on Matthew 15:13 (omnis plantatio quam non plantavit Pater mens caelestis eradicabitur) found in British Library MS Egerton 2820, the Lambeth tract first appeared in F. D. Matthew's 1880 EETS edition ofWycliffite texts. (4) Since that time, and despite Anne Hudsons authoritative 2001 edition of these and a third text by the same (anonymous) Wycliffite author, critical and historical focus has remained squarely on the version found in Egerton. (5) This imbalance seems at least in part due to the nature of their respective references. Allusions to Arundel's Constitutions attest to the obvious topicality of the Egerton sermon, while also dating it to sometime after 1409, when the archbishop's restrictions on vernacular preaching and religious instruction were promulgated; references in Lambeth, by contrast, are more difficult to trace, though Hudson suggests a terminus ad quern of about 1410, making it the earlier of the two. (6)

These are not the only differences between them, however. Although the two advance similar (though not identical) arguments against mendicant spirituality, secular lordship of the clergy, and clerical possessions, they diverge in some important formal respects. Lambeth consists of many fewer folios and has the qualities of a tract rather than a sermon, lacking as it does the pervasive first-person voice that makes Egerton so distinctive, including several moments when the sermon writer draws attention to his own signifying practices. (7) Lambeth also includes two appendices not found in Egerton, one of which is a catalogue of Latin authorities buttressing the tract's argument "a3ens ]ae seculer lordeschip of prestis" (11.1053-1054). (8) Despite indications that it was intended for use in pedagogical or instructional settings, a copy of the tract caught the eye (if not necessarily the ear) of early evangelical reformers in the Low Countries, who included an excerpt from it in an anticlerical text known as A proper dyaloge betwene a Gentillman and an Husbandman (Fig. 1). (9)

A proper dyaloge, as I refer to it here, first appeared in 1529 as part of a compilation of Lutheran materials associated by its typographical characteristics with the work of one Hans Lufit, a printer working in Marburg. (10) Like many other reformist texts printed in the Low Countries during this period, it is anonymous. (11) Nor do we know much about the circumstances of its printing. In her pioneering work on early Reformation publications in Dutch and English, M. E. Kronenberg argued that "Hans Luff of Marlborow" was one of two false ascriptions regularly employed by the Antwerp printer Johannes Hoochstraten, the other being "Adam Anonymous of Basel." (12) Kronenberg's conclusions have been challenged in recent years on the grounds that Hoochstraten's press used implements and typographical ornaments from a stock traced to signed works by Martin de Keyser, Tyndale's publisher in Antwerp, strongly suggesting it was in fact the latter who employed the pseudonyms--and whose press was therefore responsible for a large number of early Protestant publications, including A proper dyaloge, a second edition of which appeared in (1530) with the Marburg ascription. …

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