Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Reading Augustine in the Reformation: The Flexibility of Intellectual Authority in Europe, 1500-1620

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Reading Augustine in the Reformation: The Flexibility of Intellectual Authority in Europe, 1500-1620

Article excerpt

Early Modern European

Reading Augustine in the Reformation: The Flexibility of Intellectual Authority in Europe, 1500-1620. By Arnoud S. Q. Visser. [Oxford Studies in Historical Theology.] (New York: Oxford University Press. 201 1. Pp. xiv, 240. $74.00. ISBN 978-0-199-76593-5.)

In a brief 139 pages (with an additional 100 pages of textual apparatus) that belie their extensive and innovative scholarship, Arnoud Visser sets out to investigate the production, circulation, and consumption of St. Augustine's works from 1500 to 1620 in a study aimed "to delineate how the material infrastructure of reading in Reformation Europe enabled readers of various backgrounds to appropriate Augustine in radically different ways" (p. 7). In the section on production Visser examines the three sixteenth-century editions of Augustine's opera omnia: the Amerbach (1505-06), the Froben (1528-29, edited by Desiderius Erasmus), and the Plantin (1576-77, edited by theologians from the Catholic University of Leuven). In the section on circulation the focus is on how confessional considerations prompted the way Augustine was presented in bibliographies, indexes, and the patristic anthologies that "came to play a dominant role" in the dissemination of his texts (p. 91). The section on consumption, finally, focuses on reading practices, including the provenance of Augustine's oeuvre (including spurious works) in Protestant England and Catholic Italy, individual case studies of the different responses of three influential theologians within English Protestantism (Thomas Cranmer, Peter Martyr Vermigli, and William Laud), and a discussion of the public debates centering on Augustine's anti-Pelagian writings in Catholic Leuven and Protestant Leiden.

This is an invaluable study of how the Church Father was read in Reformation Europe, but it also usefully explores the complex interrelationship among the scholarly, confessional, and mercantile interests by which an authority like Augustine is mediated through both printed and oral media. …

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