Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2006


Guide to an exhibit held by Watkinson Library, 2006.

The Reformation is perhaps the first great historical event where printing played an essential role. Indeed, as British historian Euan Cameron has pointed out, though printing did not cause the Reformation, it “was a catalyst, a precondition,” for it made possible swift, cheap, and widespread dissemination of information.

This exhibition introduces some important aspects of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter-Reformation by displaying a variety of printed materials. On a topic so wide ranging and complex, this can only be a sketch, but it will allow the viewer to perceive something of the energy and clash of ideas that this crucial period of history generated. For the sake of simplicity, the focus is upon the religious side of the Reformation, but one must always keep in mind the profound influence that it also had on the political and social history of the times.

The show is arranged in the following manner. It begins with pre-Reformation criticism of the Catholic Church, in particular that of Savonarola, Sebastian Brant, and Erasmus. There follow cases on Luther and Lutheranism, Swiss Protestantism, especially Zwingli and Calvin, free thinkers and dissenters, the Catholic Counter-Reformation, the Reformation in England, and the English Bible from Tyndale to the Authorized Version.