Reformation Exhibition at Watkinson


Martin Luther’s New Testament (1524)


The Watkinson Library is currently hosting Catalysts for Religious Change: Monuments of Reformation Printing, a remarkable exhibition that introduces some important aspects of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation by displaying a variety of printed materials, mostly from the 16th century. According to Watkinson Head Librarian Jeffrey Kaimowitz, the Reformation is perhaps the first great historical event in which printing played an essential role. “We are very fortunate at Trinity to have rich holdings of original works from the period of the Reformation.  The majority of the items on display are over 450 years old.  Seeing the exhibition, I hope, visitors will come away with an understanding of the range and character of printed materials that proved so influential in their day.  Like today, religious issues in the Reformation stirred deep and powerful emotions, and more often than not the views one espoused could be a matter of life and death.”

The show is arranged chronologically, and begins with pre-Reformation criticism of the Catholic Church, in particular that of Savonarola, Sebastian Brant, and Erasmus.  There follow display cases on Luther and Luther’s followers, Swiss Protestantism, especially Zwingli and Calvin, free thinkers and dissenters, the Catholic Counter-Reformation, the Reformation in England, and the show ends with two cases on the development of the English Bible from Tyndale to the Authorized Version.

The 70 books and pamphlets on display include an impressive series of publications from the late 15th to the early 17th century.  Four Luther pamphlets are exhibited, among them his Sermon on the New Testament, that is, the Holy Mass (1520) as well as a 1524 edition of his German translation of the New Testament, which first appeared in 1522.  Other notable texts on display include a pamphlet by Zwingli (1525) and an important Geneva printing of John Calvin’s Institutes (1553), the most influential of all Protestant Reformation theological works.  Also on view are an early printing of the Catholic Index (1570), a magnificent copy of the Sixto-Clementine edition of the Latin Vulgate Bible (1603), and a broad range of materials relating to the English Reformation capped by a first edition, first issue of the King James Bible (1611). 

As Kaimowitz points out, “The chance to see these materials displayed together is a unique opportunity, and I hope many on campus will take advantage of it.”

In conjunction with the exhibition, Kelton Cobb, professor of theology and ethics at Hartford Seminary, will present an illustrated lecture, “The Aesthetics of the Printed Page: Mechanical Reproduction and the Protestant Reformation,” on Wednesday, April 5, at 4:30 p.m. The Cobb lecture, which will explore popular culture during the Reformation, will take place in the 1823 Room of the Raether Library and Information Technology Center. Cobb has written extensively on the reciprocity between theological ideas and material culture, most recently in his book, The Blackwell Guide to Theology and Popular Culture (2005).

The Watkinson Library, housed in the Raether Center, is open Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  The exhibit runs through May, 2006. 

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