Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther

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How effective was this propaganda? How was it experienced by Germans? By persecuted minorities within Germany? What broader lessons about human psychology and group behavior can we learn from this disastrous period? ART Drawing as Inquiry 2 credit hours This course explores drawing as a way of discovering and knowing place. Students will learn how to use drawing and sketching to observe, to record, to question, and to understand the layered realities imbedded in the places they will study and encounter in Germany and Switzerland.

During the first week on campus, students will be introduced to a range of drawing media, approaches, and subject matter. The majority of the course work will consist of daily sketchbook assignments while travelling, supported by lectures and site-visits related to art and architecture. No previous drawing experience is necessary.

Students will also be responsible for:. Read Schuchardt , Associate Professor of Communication. For more information and to apply, visit GoGlobal , Wheaton College's registration system for off-campus study and international travel, research, and internships. I have attempted to preserve the orthography of each source I use.

The unusual diacritical marks of the sixteenth century are reproduced except when modernized in the source I quote. Unless otherwise indicated, all translations are my own. The Reformation saw the first major, self-conscious attempt to use the recently invented printing press to shape and channel a mass movement. The printing press allowed Evangelical publicists to do what had been previously impossible, quickly and effectively reach a large audience with a message intended to change Christianity.

For several crucial years, these Evangelical publicists issued thousands of pamphlets discrediting the old faith and advocating the new. And they managed to accomplish this with little serious opposition from publicists of a Catholic persuasion. This Evangelical mastery of the press, and the feeble Catholic response, provide the framework for this book and will be dealt with in detail in chapter 1, "Evangelical and Catholic Propaganda in the Early Decades of the Reformation.

Not only did the Reformation see the first large-scale "media campaign," it also saw a campaign that was overwhelmingly dominated by one person, Martin Luther. More works by Luther were printed and reprinted than by any other publicist. In fact, the presses of the German-speaking lands produced substantially more vernacular works by Luther in the crucial early years — than the seventeen other major Evangelical publicists combined.

During Luther's lifetime these presses produced nearly five times as many German works by Luther as by all the Catholic controversialists put together. Even if consideration is restricted to polemical works, Luther still outpublished all his Catholic opponents five to three. It is this staggering dominance by one man that justifies the title of this book: Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther. It also explains the book's focus on Luther. Within the larger topic of printing and propaganda in the Reformation and the narrower focus of Martin Luther's dominance of the press, this book develops three interrelated arguments on how the history of the early Reformation should be written in light of this Evangelical propaganda campaign.

First, any future history needs to bear in mind what most people likely knew of Luther and his message and when they likely knew it. Such an approach yields a narrative that differs in significant ways from the conventional account. Second, the message Luther intended in his writings was not always the message that his various reading publics received, and the discrepancy between the two—message sent and message received—has profound implications for the story of the early Reformation.

Third, the medium of printing not only conveyed challenges to traditional authority with particular force but raised in its own right new issues of authority concerning the propriety of public debate on matters of faith, the interpretation of "Scripture alone," and the conferring and deploying of charismatic authority. The medium itself became entangled with its message. Sited at the intersection of two historiographical debates—one over the history of printing and its role in the Reformation, and the other over the nature and appeal of the early Reformation movement—this book is a contribution to both discussions.

Luther and the Protestant Reformation: Crash Course World History #218

The first debate is over the degree to which the Reformation may be fairly characterized as a "print event. Some historians even insist that the Reformation movements them-. The second debate deals with the Reformation message, whether propagated through print or preaching. What was the message or messages that motivated the activists of the various Reformation movements? Was it a form of evangelical theology that resonated with late medieval communalism—either urban [6] or rural or both [7] —or was it a theology that freed laity from the burdens of a monastic form of Christianity [8] or was it simply or largely anticlericalism?

What, in practice, did the slogan "Scripture alone" actually entail? Did Christian freedom extend to secular matters, and, alternatively, did divine law properly have binding force in both spiritual and secular realms? These questions arise out of the debate over the content and reception of the printed and preached word.

Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther - Mark U. Edwards - Google книги

These two debates overlap not only on the issue of printed propaganda, its message and efficacy, but also on the significance and role of Martin Luther, the foremost author of printed propaganda in the early years of the Reformation movement. Many older accounts have treated the German Reformation as something of a one-man show. How important is Martin Luther really in the history of the early Reformation movements? What authority did his name and his message actually enjoy? Did this change over time? And what role did print play in establishing and propagating this authority?

In addressing the issues of "printing, propaganda, and Martin Luther," this book treats these larger questions of the Reformation as a "print event," the nature and appeal of various "Reformation messages," and the role of Martin Luther among other publicists, preachers, and opinion leaders in the early German Reformation. In so. Ironically, most Luther biography and accounts of the German Reformation offer a distorted picture of the attraction and progress of the early Reformation, not because the historian knows too little but because the historian knows too much.

Those contemporaries who followed the progress of the Reformation with engaged interest were undoubtedly a small minority within the population of the German-speaking lands. But as events proved, they were an influential minority made up of many leaders, opinion makers, and activists.

Yet the great preponderance of even this relatively small group never met Luther face-to-face, never heard him preach with any regularity if at all, and had little or no correspondence with him. They learned of him and of his message through the press or through conversation or preaching. And though there could be several steps in the transmission, the ultimate source for that conversation or sermon was printed material. We historians loose sight of this fact in our commendable zeal to ferret out as much information about the past as possible.

We forget that, except perhaps for a few of Luther's students, no contemporary read Luther's works in light of his pre-Reformation lectures on Psalms, Galatians, and Romans. No member of Luther's reading public was privy to all his many letters, and very few corresponded with him at all.

Only a few hundred attended his Reformation lectures at the University of Wittenberg. Merely a handful took their meals at Luther's table and noted down his remarks. Yet modern histories ground much of their presentation and interpretation on these privileged sources of information. There is another source of distortion that comes from knowing too much. Since historians know how things turned out, we tend to structure our narrative around issues and events that have significance for later developments.

But contemporaries did not have such advantage, so they were just as likely to become entranced by historical dead-ends and to be preoccupied by developments or ideas that, as it turned out, had no future.

Propaganda during the Reformation

Just because we know, for example, that Luther's three. They had no way of knowing that these treatises marked a parting of the ways. In fact, these treatises were likely to have been understood initially in ways quite different from the meaning they took on in the light of subsequent events. With these sources of distortion in mind, I attempt in several chapters to reconstruct the progress of the early Reformation as it was likely experienced by the most engaged participants. I attempt to ask what this influential minority could have realistically known of Luther and his message and when they could have known it.

To answer this question, I take my clue from what was printed and reprinted, where it was printed and reprinted, and when. This approach yields a narrative for the early Reformation movement that is in some respects strikingly different from conventional accounts. Martin Luther attempted mightily throughout his life to dictate how his own writings should be understood. Even though he could normally but not always control what was printed under his name, he could not try as he might control how he was interpreted by his readers.

And when readers became preachers or publicists in their own right, Luther had even less control over the message they associated with his name. Opponents took to the press as well to decry Luther's message and explain its fallacies and its dangers. Even Luther's allies often disagreed with each other, and with the Reformer himself, in their understanding of what he had said and what he stood for. So, too, did his opponents.

Each treatise was received differently by different people, interpreted differently by different audiences. It was the press, then, that both connected Luther with his audience and led inevitably to a divorce between Luther's "intent" and the "meaning" appropriated by various readers. As distressing as this diversity was for Luther, and as unsettling as it may be for scholars today, we must recognize that the reader and the representer, that is, the re -presenter, whether a preacher or an author,.

In the dialectic of reader and text, there was born myriad interpretations. There was no one "theology" or one correct understanding of Luther's teaching in the sixteenth century. On the contrary, several what we might term "communities of discourse" each read Luther in a different way, with individuals within these "communities" reinforcing each other's particular reading of Martin Luther. Readers understand what they read from within their own experiences of life.

Knowledge and understanding is a cumulative process, a fitting of ideas and impressions into a mosaic made up of the assumptions and beliefs of the larger society and of one's own subgroups within that society and colored and given final arrangement by the experiences of the individual. The mosaic that constitutes understanding varies from individual to individual and from subgroup to subgroup within society.

A burgher fitted Luther's message into a quite different constellation than a peasant. A Catholic priest saw things differently than a lay person. And for a variety of accidents of life history, even two members of religious orders could differ widely on their reception of Luther's message: the Dominican Martin Bucer, for example, became a passionate Evangelical, the Franciscan Thomas Murner became one of the Reformation's most determined opponents. Different people reading the same text could come to drastically different understandings.

We shall explore this variety and its implications for any account of the early Reformation movement. From Luther's first appearance on the public stage, his critics turned the debate towards questions of authority. And when Luther finally responded in the vernacular press, his critics saw him taking an inherently subversive approach to disseminating his dangerously subversive message.

To defy the authorities of traditional Western Christendom—the papal magisterium, the decisions of councils, the teachings of the Latin and Greek Fathers, the judgments of universities, and the traditional interpretation of Scripture—made Luther a heretic. To do so by addressing a broad public in the vernacular language through the medium of the press made him a rebel. It was appalling enough to the defenders of the old faith that Luther denounced the papacy, cashiered the spiritual estate of the clergy, rejected monasticism and.

But Luther compounded his enormity when he disseminated his program through thousands of vernacular pamphlets spread among the common people. Much of the dispute of these early years swirled around the issue of authority: who governs and on what basis, who decides and on what grounds? Printing not only spread the dispute to the far corners of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and beyond, it inherently favored Luther's side of the argument.

In a crucial way, it not only conveyed Luther's message but also embodied it. It is a recurring theme of this book that the printing press played far more than just an assisting role in this many-sided contest over authority. It broadcast the subversive messages with a rapidity that had been impossible before its invention.

More than that, it allowed the central ideological leader, Martin Luther, to reach the "opinion leaders" of the movement quickly, kept them all in touch with each other and with each other's experience and ideas, and allowed them to "broadcast" their relatively coordinated program to a much larger and more geographically diverse audience than had ever been possible before.

Propaganda during the Reformation

Yet, paradoxically, printing also undermined central authority because it encouraged the recipients of the printed message to think for themselves about the issues in dispute, and it provided the means—printed Bibles especially—by which each person could become his or her own theologian. Under the banner "Scripture alone," Luther and his fellow Evangelicals waged war against the traditional authorities for deciding disputes over doctrine and practice. The propaganda barrage led this charge, dismantling the claims for the papal magisterium, the decisions of councils, and the teachings of scholastics, Fathers, and canon lawyers.

The press also offered to its public thousands of copies of the Evangelical's primary authority, the Scriptures. Yet in an irony that Catholic publicists were quick to seize upon, the press also quickly revealed that the Evangelicals were unable always to agree on the right understanding of their sole authority. The contested authority of Scripture is another recurring subject of the book. Finally, Luther's enormous propaganda successes gradually conferred on him unusual personal authority. Those impressed by his message tended to think highly of the messenger.

Those who fitted his message to biblical prophecies of the Antichrist and the Endtimes were inclined to view Luther himself within biblical categories of prophet. The press, then, allowed Luther to acquire a charismatic authority that could also be brought into play in his publications. Not surprisingly, then, his public authority itself became an object of debate. The development of this personal authority and its deployment are further topics of this book. This book takes advantage of several characteristics of early sixteenth-century printing.

Printers in the sixteenth century were in the business to make money. They might also publish out of conviction and altruism, but they still had to make a profit over time or they would be forced out of business. At the very least, then, we should be able to assume that the printer expected that there would be a market for his product.

If he were correct in his expectation, then the printing of a work is a valid although indirect measure of public interest. If he was wrong, of course, he took a loss. But if the printer reprinted the work several times, and this is often the case with Luther's works, we may safely assume that he did so to meet the demands of his customers. The printing of a work, and especially the reprinting of a work, then, may be taken by historians as an indirect measure of public interest. This assumption is employed in subsequent chapters to identify those works that likely had the most influence in the Evangelical publishing barrage.

The business side of publishing has other significant implications for the study of printing and propaganda in the early Reformation. In an age well before copyright and with shipping over land expensive and printing relatively cheap, a work generally spread through reprinting. If, for example, there was interest in Strasbourg for a work first published in Wittenberg, it was more common for a printer in Strasbourg to reprint the work than it was for the printer in Wittenberg to ship a large number of copies to Strasbourg.

This business fact can also be turned to the use of the historian. Since works were printed with the expectation of sale, the printing or reprinting of a particular work in a particular place may also be an indirect measure of local or regional demand, and not merely demand in general. To be sure, a moment's reflection will suggest problems with this approach. Some types of printed material would have circulated more widely than others. For example, there was more centralized production and wider distribution of particularly expensive items such as.

Yet by concentrating our attention on popular, relatively inexpensive pamphlets, we shall not go too far astray in seeing these works as a rough indication of local interest and demand. In several chapters, the implication of local production is used to make an otherwise overwhelming task manageable. The media campaign of the years to is simply too large for any one scholar to encompass in a reasonable length of time.

His results will be referred to at several points. I myself have chosen to solve the dilemma in a different way and have in four of the chapters limited my consideration to works published in the city of Strasbourg. Admittedly, some treatises reached Strasbourg from outside printing centers, influenced the impressions Strasbourgeois had of Luther and his message, and yet were not reprinted in Strasbourg.

By omitting these treatises, I add some imprecision to my reconstruction. Having conceded this, I would point out that any treatise that had aroused widespread interest within Strasbourg would likely have been reprinted. The Strasbourg printers were not about to pass up a sure chance for profit.

By limiting ourselves to Strasbourg publications, we are in fact unlikely to overlook many treatises that strongly shaped public opinion in Strasbourg. And as it happened, since the vast majority of Luther's early vernacular works were published in Strasbourg, the "outside" publications that might have significantly modified readers' first impressions of Luther would have likely been in Latin.

I doubt that this restriction to Strasbourg publications skews the analysis overmuch. In fact, this focus on vernacular works published in Strasbourg is arguably less artificial than the standard biographical approach that pays little or no attention to evidence that some treatises had much wider readership and impact than others.

It may be well and good in a biography to analyze indiscriminately Latin and German works without concern for the different although overlapping audiences each addressed. But we need to remember that vernacular publications reached a much wider audience. Furthermore, if we are interested in. Some works were simply more significant than others in forming opinion among a significant segment of the population.

Strasbourg, an imperial free city with a population of about twenty thousand, was the third greatest printing center in German-speaking lands, exceeded only by Cologne and Nuremberg. As we shall see in chapter 1, it was a major center during the Reformation for the printing and reprinting of Luther's works, outproduced only by Wittenberg, Augsburg, and Nuremberg. Among the remaining major centers, I chose Strasbourg over Augsburg and Nuremberg because of the fine bibliographies by Miriam Chrisman and Josef Benzing that make the study of the Strasbourg press easier than for any other major city of the Holy Roman Empire.

It should be stressed, however, that it is the pamphlets that are the "heroes" of this account, not Strasbourg or her printers, not even the various authors of the pamphlets. I am using Strasbourg as a filter, not a focus. Similarly with the authors of the various pamphlets, who are identified in the text but rarely described. Most readers would have known little or nothing about the biographies of the various authors. They would have known only what the authors chose to reveal in the pamphlets themselves, itself an important part of the argument I develop in subsequent chapters.

In being faithful to the crucial point of limited information, I do not dwell on the authors or their background. After establishing the dimensions of the Evangelical and Catholic propaganda efforts in chapter 1 and situating Luther's own extraordinary contribution into this larger context, the focus turns to the earliest years of the public discussion and debate.

Chapter 2 examines. While pastoral and devotional for the most part, these early treatises nevertheless offered a serious challenge to traditional clerical authority. They also laid the foundation for the special charisma that Luther later enjoyed, establishing him in the public eye first as an earnest and constructive pastor and man of the Bible concerned above all for the religious well-being of the laity. Luther made his appearance in the vernacular press as the angry critic of the papacy only after this first impression had been well established.

When we speak of the message that readers were likely to have received from Luther's early vernacular publications, the qualification "likely" is crucial. When we deal with the issue of reception—how people understood what the press had to say about Martin Luther and his message—we rarely have access to the final recipients of the message.

Most heard the message, and preaching and conversation are ephemeral. Even of those who read his message as it came from the presses, most never put their reaction into a form that historians today can read, except perhaps in the ambiguity of their action. In this and subsequent chapters we do explore how other publicists at least received and re-presented Luther and his message in their own publications.

Even this limited information about reception can tell us a great deal about Luther's message and the transformations it underwent. In the fall of Strasbourg readers were offered by their presses for the first time a series of polemical writings by Luther attacking the papacy and many traditional beliefs. Strasbourg readers also were able to purchase for the first time locally produced attacks on Luther and defenses of the traditional faith. Chapter 3 explores the ways in which Luther's image and message took on greater, even contradictory valences. Luther was more than an earnest reformer; he was also a rebel, and his rebellion consisted in no little part in his decision to air matters of religion before the "ignorant common people.

The medium of multiple copies of cheap agitatory pamphlets reinforced the message of lay involvement, much to the distress and disadvantage of Catholic publicists. These defenders of the old faith found themselves propagating the very views that they deplored. The trickle of published defenses of Luther became a flood in — As Catholic authors took to the Strasbourg press to de-. Luther was described and redescribed in special terms, drawn from popular tradition and Scripture.

Gradually, he was gaining that special charisma that would so shape the direction of Lutheranism and Protestantism generally. All these authors understood themselves as Luther's defenders and supporters, rallying under the banner of Scripture alone and arrayed against a papal tyranny if not in fact a papal Antichrist. Nevertheless, the message they associated with his name showed surprising variety and even contradiction. Chapter 4 examines this early apologetic literature, explores the growing dimensions of Luther's public persona, and plumbs the depths of the diversity this early literature illustrates.

As we shall see, Luther's early support in the Strasbourg press depended in no small part on a fateful misunderstanding of what he was all about. In September, , Luther published his most influential work, his translation into German of the New Testament. Concerned by what he viewed as misreadings of the sacred text, and alarmed by the misunderstandings found among those who professed to be his supporters, Luther arrayed within his German New Testament a panoply of techniques to guide the reading of this crucial text. Chapter 5 surveys the distribution of this publication and explores the techniques of preface, marginalia, translation, and the like, employed by Luther to guide the reader.

The authority of "Scripture alone" was being subtly subverted by printing itself. Not only was Luther deploying all the guides he could to the right understanding of Scripture, he was unwittingly inviting a greater diversity in how the Scriptures were read and understood by making the New Testament and later the Old Testament available to a large reading public.


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These developments in no way invalidate Luther's theological conviction that Scripture interprets itself, but they do point to a central irony in the Reformation redefinition of doctrinal authority, an irony not lost on its Catholic critics. Propaganda campaigns work best when all the publicists pull together and the audience does not receive a contradictory message. Such is the ideal, but reality often falls short.

In the fall of , Luther's colleague and, as the reading public saw it, collaborator, Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, issued a series of attacks on Luther regarding the proper understanding of the Lord's Supper. Chapter 6 examines this public rupture within the Evangelical ranks and the various propagandistic strategies followed by the different participants. In this internecine battle, Luther's authority within Evangelical circles became itself a matter for debate.

As mentioned, the Catholics were badly outpublished by the Evangelicals during the crucial early years of the Reformation. Nevertheless, they did manage to air some serious charges. Chapter 7 probes one of the most telling accusations lodged by Luther's Catholic opponents: that his writings encouraged disobedience and rebellion and were ultimately responsible for the tragedies of the Peasants' War of This chapter investigates the ways in which Catholic publicists read Luther's writings in ways other than Luther intended but consonant with their own experiences and outlook.

Finally, the concluding chapter attempts a sketch of the revised narrative that results from the "public perspective" on the early years of the Reformation movement advocated by the preceding seven chapters. In the spring of 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. The Leipzig printers had reason to complain. The empire-wide production of pamphlets had skyrocketed, increasing more than forty-fold since , with the great bulk of this product promoting the Reformation movement.

The Leipzig printers had gone from being the leading publishers of the leading publicist, Martin Luther, to being onlookers. 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. It may strike some as anachronistic to speak of a media campaign in the early sixteenth century. But in means, method, and scope, the Evangelical publishing blitz of the early s has all the earmarks of a modern campaign.

Some detailed consideration may persuade. The printing press was invented in the Holy Roman Empire in about , seventy years before the outbreak of the Reformation. By printing presses existed in over two hundred cities throughout Europe. In the Holy Roman Empire and the Swiss confederacy there were some sixty-two presses by and Cologne, Nuremberg, Strasbourg, Basel, Wittenberg, and Augsburg were the leading publishing centers.

With the exception of Cologne, which remained Catholic, the presses of these towns became the nerve centers of the Evangelical media campaign, flooding the cities of the empire with aggressive little pamphlets advocating radical reform. The Reformation perfected the use of the small booklet or pamphlet as a tool of propaganda and agitation. They could be easily transported by itinerant peddlers, hawked on street corners and in taverns, advertised with jingles and intriguing title pages, and swiftly hidden in a pack or under clothing when the authorities made an appearance.

They were ideal for circulating a subversive message right under the noses of the opponents of reform. Their nature is better captured, however, in the German term Flugschriften , which means literally "flying writings. The great majority of these pamphlets were brief. The average was about sixteen leaves—four sheets folded in quarto format to make thirty-two pages.

A scant quarter of the pamphlets were longer than this, although a few could extend to book length. In addition to being short, these pamphlets were generally unpretentious and relatively cheap. Although a few of the pamphlets contained multiple woodcuts, most were unadorned except for the title page, which might display a woodcut border or a single woodcut illustration with, perhaps, some relevance to the content of the pamphlet.

The handy quarto size, perfect for cheap but still legible type, the small number of sheets, and the modest decoration if any meant that these works could be turned out quickly and cheaply by printers.

Printing, Propaganda, and Martin Luther

They did not demand the same heavy investment in paper and multiple sets of type that conventional books did. They also took less time to produce and could therefore be sandwiched between larger print jobs and whipped out quickly to respond to changing events. The small size and ease of production also allowed for relatively inexpensive prices. This is about a third of a day's wage for a journeyman artisan, equal to the price of a hen, or a kilogram of beef, or a pound of wax, or the cost of a wooden pitchfork—not insignificant, but certainly within reach of the "common man," the pamphlets' intended target.

The propaganda pamphlet was not new, of course, nor was its use by publicists who wished to sway a large popular audience. From the beginnings of printing there was occasion for short publications of this size and format. The press was also exploited for its propagandistic potential in the so-called Reuchlin affair, which saw many of Germany's humanists locked in a propaganda struggle with those churchmen, mainly Dominicans, who wished to seize and destroy Jewish writings.

Both before and during the Reformation, the printing press was used quite. Martin Luther alone was responsible for approximately 20 percent of the overall total. From through , the first year of the Reformation movement, there was a percent increase in the production of pamphlets. Production continued to expand rapidly through , increasing nearly eight-fold over this six-year period. Printings of Luther's works also grew rapidly from 87 printings in to a high of printings in followed by a gradual decline into the range.

The peak year for the overall production of pamphlets came in , which saw the publication of more than 16 percent of the pamphlets produced through the whole thirty-year period from to. The crucial early years of the Reformation, to , saw almost three-quarters Over six thousand editions appeared in this seven-year period, representing conservatively over 6.

This outpouring of pamphlets possesses one other characteristic that is decisive for its designation as a media campaign: the drastic turn to the vernacular. Only a small fraction of the population in sixteenth-century Germany could read, and an even smaller fraction could read Latin. So Latin publications were addressed to a relatively tiny learned audience, made up primarily of clerics and members of the learned professions.

Vernacular publications could still be read by clerics and learned professionals, but they were also accessible to laity literate in the vernacular. Accordingly, when learned authors wrote controversial treatises in the vernacular, they had a relatively popular audience as their target. We shall have reason to return to this point when we consider the Evangelical and Catholic publicists and their respective audiences.

Suffice it to note here that the early years of the Reformation movement saw a massive publication effort in the vernacular. Equally telling are the figures for the printing of Luther's publications. In this figure rose to over six in ten, then in and around eight in ten, and for the rest of the decade around nine in ten.

It is the magnitude of the effort, and its overwhelming use of the vernacular, that justifies designating this the West's first large-scale media campaign. In the course of his dissertation on Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, Alejandro Zorzin identified the leading eighteen Evangelicals publishing pamphlets in German during the early years of the Reformation movement to The first thing to note from table 5 is the preponderance of clergy.

Of the eighteen leading publicists only four were laity: Philipp Melanchthon who nevertheless taught theology at Wittenberg , Hans Sachs, Ulrich von Hutten, and Hartmuth von Cronberg. In general the authors of the flood of pamphlets were also members of the learned elite. Even most of the pamphlets that purported to be by a "poor unlearned god-fearing layman" were in fact by learned authors, frequently clerics. As Zorzin's statistics show, Martin Luther dramatically outpublished the other Evangelicals in the vernacular during this crucial period.

The period to saw over eleven times as many printings of Luther's vernacular works as of the next nearest "competitor," Karlstadt. Even the combined production of the other seventeen authors editions is exceeded by Luther almost two to one. Although I strongly suspect that Luther was outnumbered by the combined total of all Evangelical pamphlets published during this period, [17] there can be no doubt that his was still the dominant voice. This dominance justifies, I believe, a closer statistical look at the printing and reprinting of Luther's works.

The most massive printing and reprinting of Luther's works came in the pioneering years of the Reformation movement. Half of the life-time printings appeared by and three-quarters by This is not to minimize the astonishing productivity of the last fifteen years, but only to put it in perspective. Over eighteen hundred printings of works by Luther had flowed from the empire's presses by the end of More than an additional five hundred printings had appeared by the end of the decade.

Eighty-five percent of these publications were in German. It is also worth noting that two of every five printings through and one in three through were sermons, not polemics or theological treatises. The market was seeking out edifying accessible publications. As figure 1 and tables 1 to 4 show, the period of maximum printing and reprinting was the half decade to This fact is also reflected in the ratio of reprints to first editions. The ratio was remarkably strong through , with an average of almost six reprints for every first edition.

It declined fairly dramatically after , suggesting a waning interest in Luther's works among the buying public. The period to averaged only a bit over three reprints for every first edition. The period of maximum reprints coincided with the period of maximum geographic appeal, measured by where works were reprinted. In the pioneering years of the Reformation movement through over a third of the printings occurred in southern cities, especially Augsburg, Strasbourg, and Basel see tables 3 and 4.

After Luther became increasingly a regional author, writing largely for central and northern Germany. The printings in southern cities dropped to between a half and a third of what they had been during the heyday of the Reformation movement.

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The period from to also witnessed the fiercest controversy over the Lord's Supper, when the religious leaders of Strasbourg, Augsburg, and Basel were locked in an often vitriolic quarrel with Luther over the proper understanding of Christ's presence in the Supper. Basel, an early and enthusiastic center for the printing of Luther's works, did not join the Wittenberg Concord in that ended the quarrel between Luther and the south German cities of Strasbourg, Augsburg, and several others.

In fact, Basel ended up sheltering Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, Luther's first opponent in the quarrel over the Lord's Supper, until his death in It is not surprising, then, that after Basel effectively ceased to publish Luther, especially in German. But the period after lies largely outside the ambit of this study. For the crucial early years of the Reformation movement, Luther clearly and decisively dominated the presses of all the German-speaking lands.

Since a successful media campaigned normally requires a fairly consistent message, Luther's dominance within the Evangelical publishing effort may have helped provide this essential coherence. In addition, the other publicists saw themselves in substantial agreement with Luther, and often loudly announced their support for his position. As we shall see in subsequent chapters, they were partly mistaken about this, but their intent is still significant.

They thought that they were all saying much the same thing and attempted as best they could to reinforce each other's message. The divergence only became apparent in late , when splits in the Evangelical ranks were opened by the press to public view, delighting Catholics and distressing Evangelicals throughout the German-speaking lands.

It was after this split became apparent to all that reprints of Luther significantly declined and became increasingly restricted to northern and central cities of the empire see figure 1 and tables 1 through 4. One of the most striking characteristics of the Evangelical media campaign in the early years of the Reformation is the extent to which the.

Evangelical publicists operated almost unopposed. In fact, Catholic publicists were unable to offer a large-scale and credible response to the Evangelical barrage until years if not decades after the Reformation movement got underway. Comparative statistics based on incomplete data can only be suggestive. Nevertheless, a simple comparison between the vernacular editions of the Catholic publicists and the output of one Evangelical, Martin Luther, suggests the wildly unequal battle for the hearts and minds of literate laity in the first decades of the Reformation compare table 2 with tables 6 and 8.

Over the period to , Luther's publications that is, printings and reprintings of his works in German, excluding Bible translations numbered at least For the same period the Catholic publicists produced printings or if all undated printings are to be counted within this time span. In stark terms this translates into about five printings of Luther for every Catholic printing. If consideration is restricted to works by Luther that contained clear anti-Catholic material that is, if nonpolemical works and polemical works directed exclusively against other Evangelicals are excluded , the ratio drops to about five to three for Luther to for the Catholics , a much lower but still striking difference in output.

And of course Luther was seconded by a number of other prolific Evangelical authors. Chapter 3 offers some reasons for the disparity between the publishing effort of Catholics and Evangelicals. The geographic distribution of Catholic printings presents some additional striking patterns on the matter of influence. Since the shipment of books and treatises was costly and could add substantially to the price of a work, treatises often spread geographically by reprinting. It was normally cheaper, especially for vernacular treatises, to reprint a work in a distant town than to send a large shipment from the place of original publication.

This is not a hard and fast rule, and so conclusions based on this assumption must be tentative. Nevertheless, place of publication is not an unreasonable measure of range of influence of a publication. If the data are broken down geographically and then chronologically, we find the following development see tables 7 and 8. During the initial years of the Reformation movement — , Catholic controversial literature was published in a wide variety of centers, including cities such as Strasbourg and Augsburg, which were later to become Evangelical.

Half of these works were in Latin. As the Reformation advanced and Evangelical cities prohibited the publication of. Catholic polemical works, two printing centers came to dominate the production of Catholic controversial literature: the western, Rhenish city of Cologne assisted slightly by its southern neighbor, Mainz and the two eastern printing centers of Ducal Saxony: Leipzig and Dresden. From to , when Ducal Saxony turned Evangelical, these two centers accounted for about half of all Catholic controversial literature in general and half of Catholic controversial literature in German.

Cologne and Mainz, two ecclesiastical centers, continued to produce works largely for a learned audience; less than a sixth of the controversial works they produced were in German. By contrast, Leipzig and Dresden in the lay principality of Ducal Saxony issued more than three German treatises for every two in Latin. Nevertheless, overall production of controversial literature in German steadily declined throughout the period.

In the Catholic Duke Georg of Albertine Saxony died; his principality turned Evangelical and Catholicism lost its eastern printing center. Mainz, a minor center up to this point, began producing works in fairly large numbers with about a quarter of the production in German. Ingolstadt, too, began producing in greater numbers with about a fifth of the production in German. But overall, German production still continued to decline. It was not until mid-century that this trend reversed and Catholic controversial writers increased their production of vernacular works. It is striking that it was a lay principality, Ducal Saxony, and not an ecclesiastical center such as Cologne, that contributed most to the effort to reach a broad, lay audience.

In the decade of the s, while Cologne's presses were producing almost exclusively for a learned elite 85 percent of their production was in Latin , over 50 percent of the total output of controversial literature in the vernacular for all of Germany flowed from the presses of Leipzig and Dresden! This is no statistical fluke. For the whole period, to , Leipzig and Dresden accounted for over a quarter of the vernacular printings, despite the fact that not a single Catholic work in the vernacular was published the fact that not a single Catholic work in the vernacular was published after At least two factors were at work here.

On the one hand, there was the influence both of the patronage of Ducal Saxony's staunch Catholic ruler, Duke Georg, and of the individual efforts of several publicists, especially Johann Cochlaeus. On the other, there was the indifference or even hostility in Catholic eccelesiastical circles towards addressing the laity on religious issues. Duke Georg of Saxony appears to have understood and exploited the press in the Catholic cause more than any other Catholic ruler, including the various ecclesiastical princes.

An author of several controversial treatises himself, he also supported the efforts of other publicists. Not only did one lay principality dominate the Catholic controversial effort in the vernacular, a handful of authors, most of them patronized by Duke Georg, accounted for nearly half of the printings from to In all this Witzel and Cochlaeus, both supported by Duke Georg, were the most significant actors. Witzel's out-. Cochlaeus was second with one printing of every ten.

For the period to , when Duke Georg died and Albertine Saxony turned Evangelical, Cochlaeus was the leading publicist with one out of eight printings. For this same period he accounted for over 20 percent of the literature issuing from Leipzig and Dresden. As already mentioned, Cochlaeus also subsidized the printing of a number of other authors' works. Were it not for the efforts of Duke Georg of Albertine Saxony and his stable of publicists, the Evangelical media campaign would have been almost unopposed in the vernacular.

As it was, the Evangelicals still dominated the presses for several decades. This dominance helps explain the rapid and successful spread of the Reformation. Dickens, summing up a wealth of recent scholarship. About 10 percent of the population of the Holy Roman Empire lived in cities that ranged in size from about fifty thousand inhabitants for a city such as Nuremberg to around two thousand inhabitants, a more typical size for the great majority of towns and cities. These were obviously not the great metropolises we are familiar with today.

As is often the case even in major shifts in Western history, the great bulk of the population did not—at least at first—participate actively in the change. It was activists, first of all in the city but also, as recent scholarship has shown, [26] in the countryside, who propagated or opposed the Reformation. More than an urban event, the Reformation was an oral event.

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Even within the cities, where the literacy rate of perhaps 30 percent greatly exceeded the overall literacy rate of perhaps 5 percent, most urban inhabitants learned of the Evangelical message from sermons and conversation rather than from books, pamphlets, or even pictorial propaganda. So what does it mean with literacy rates so low to speak of the "first Western mass media campaign"?

Obviously only the literate could read these pamphlets for themselves. Although literacy rates were higher in the cities, perhaps in the area of 30 percent for men, cities themselves enclosed no more than 10 percent of the empire's population. In other words, those learned in Latin were a minority among the literate; the literate were a minority within the cities; and the cities enclosed a minority among the empire.

These simple statistics have gone a long way to debunking the romantic or confessional myth that Reformation theology galvanized a whole nation. Much to the good, they have also induced some historians to seek other forms by which the ideas of the learned might have been transmitted, such as sermons and other means of oral transmission, and pictures, rituals, and other forms of nonverbal communication. While we must recognize that the theological concerns of the learned reached the general population through intermediaries and that the message could be transformed in the process of transmission and reception; nevertheless, we should not make the mistake of thinking that a printed message could reach only those who were able to read.


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  • One reader could share the fruits of his or her reading with hundreds and even thousands of other people. Miriam Chrisman has shown in the case of Strasbourg that during the crucial period to , the learned wrote large numbers of vernacular treatises aimed at a more popular audience. These and other pamphlets of the early Reformation are replete with suggestions that the reader share his reading with the illiterate.

    For example, in the dialogue Karsthans , examined in some detail in chapter 4, the characters of Murner and Luther both urge Karsthans to have their books read to him, and the character of Karsthans himself speaks of having his son read the books to him. In his Christian Apology of , in which he.

    But one preacher, such as Mattheus Zell, who read this treatise and incorporated its message into his sermons, could multiply its influence many times over. Even with this, too much may have been conceded to the skeptics. If we assume conservatively that each printing of a work by Luther numbered one thousand copies, we are talking about an output for Luther alone of 3.

    And this total does not include the numerous whole and partial editions of Luther's Bible translation, which, as we shall see in a later chapter, conveyed Luther's central convictions with particular force. Moreover, Luther was only one Evangelical author, albeit by far the most prolific, producing fully 20 percent of the pamphlet literature of the first three decades of the century. Although Catholics were badly outpublished by the Evangelicals in the vernacular—printers produced about five vernacular treatises by Luther to every one Catholic treatise—Catholic authors still contributed at least another , copies.



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