"The Word they still shall let remain": a Reformation pop-up exhibit

"The Word they still shall let remain", a Reformation-themed pop-up exhibition at the Folger, took place on Wednesday, November 15, 2017 from 1-4 pm in the Deck B Seminar Room. It was curated by Rachel B. Dankert and Emily Wahl.

This exhibit marked the 500th anniversary of the start of the Protestant Reformation in Europe. The exhibit explored different perspectives on the Reformation, including the impact of print in producing the German, Swiss, radical, and English reform movements, as well as the response from the Catholic Church and the political ramifications of reform.

View the exhibition flyer and annotated bibliography.

Items included


1) Indulgences granted by several Popes of Rome in the several churches of Rome collected by William Crashaw in Fiscus Papalis, 1621. Folger: V.a.510(8), fol. 1-2v.

In 1095, Pope Urban II first introduced indulgences as pardons for sin to entice fighters to join the crusades. Later, these ephemeral sheets of forgiveness were granted for completed pilgrimages, for purchase to release souls from purgatory (the doctrine itself authorized in 1439), and were sold to cover sins during life out of the “Treasury of Merits,” a spiritual coffer that contained redemption through the deaths of martyrs and Christ. Rome officially announced the sale of indulgences in exchange for pardon of sin in 1476, 41 years before the 95 Theses. Pope Leo X provided the bishopric of Mainz to Albrecht of Brandenburg and then allowed him to sell indulgences to pay back personal debts. Indulgences are granted to this day for receiving Holy Communion, reciting the rosary, the exercise of the Stations of the Cross and reading scripture, among other acts. Here we see a manuscript account of the various indulgences offered and received, copied from Crashaw’s Fiscus Papalis and provides information on the amount of time remitted from purgatory.

2) Biblia integra, summata, distincta, sup[er]eme[n]data, vtriusq[ue], Testame[n]ti [con]corda[n]tijs illustrata. Basilee ..., [1491]. Folger: INC B526.

The Vulgate Bible, completed primarily by St. Jerome in the late 4th century, was originally commissioned by Pope Damasus I as a revision of the Vetus Latina Gospels. St. Jerome's Vulgate Old Testament is credited as being the first biblical translation into Latin from Hebrew rather than from Greek; St. Jerome refers to his preference for the "hebraica veritas" in his biblical prologues. For many centuries, the Vulgate is the version of the Bible that would have been most familiar to western Christians, and the 1598 edition of the Clementine Vulgate remained the official Bible of the Roman Rite of the Catholic church until 1979.

Continental Reformation

3) Luther, Martin (1483-1546). Resolutiones disputationum de indulge[n]tiarum virtute. Johann Rhau-Grunenberg, 1518. Folger: 218- 367q.

31 October 1517, Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk and professor at the University of Wittenberg engaged in the common practice of asking for debate on a topic. He wrote a series of theses, 95 of them, and posted his document on the church door, inviting comment from his peers. In this instance, Luther took issue with the unclear theology behind the sale of indulgences—or pardon from sin through financial or sacrificial offerings. Luther found the methods of securing funds by a certain indulgence seller, Johann Tetzel, especially upsetting. Tetzel was well-known for his saying: “When the coin in the coffer rings/the soul from purgatory springs.” Luther initially wrote the 95 Theses as protection for the Catholic Church against such indulgence sellers, but to no avail—Pope Leo X took issue with 41 of the 95 points. This edition of the 95 Theses specifically addresses Pope Leo X and provides an explanation for each point, intending to reassure the Pope of Luther’s orthodoxy. We now traditionally mark the posting of the 95 Theses as the beginning of the Protestant Reformation in Germany, because it began conversations and raised questions about the teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church.

4) Das new Testament, yetzund recht grüntlich teutscht : Welchs allein Christum vnser seligkeit, recht vnd klärlich leret : Mit gantz gelerten vnd richtigen vorreden, vnd der schweristen örteren kurtz, aber güt, ausslegung. Translated by Martin Luther. Adam Petri, im Christmond, December 1522. Folger: 218- 036.1f and blog post on The Collation.

This is the second edition German New Testament, translated by Luther while he hid in Wartburg Castle from December 1521 until March 1522. After he was declared a heretic and outlaw at the Diet of Worms in April 1521, Luther disguised himself as a nobleman named Junker Jörg (Knight George), and grew a fantastic beard and longer hair to change his appearance from his famous tonsured portrait while in hiding. His translation effort took a mere 11 weeks, but Luther spent a lot of his time listening to the way that everyday people spoke so that the translation would be accurate but clear. This translation consolidated the German vernacular for the first time. Amazingly, 5,000 copies of this book sold out in 2 months, filling the growing desire for vernacular scripture.

5) Luther, Martin (1483-1546). Grosse Katechismus. Georgen Rhaw, 1529. Folger: 171- 257q

“What does this mean?” “This is most certainly true.” With these two simple phrases, Martin Luther walks contemporary and future believers through major doctrines of faith, using questions and affirmations to build understanding of complex ideas. Luther’s Large Catechism is a didactic manual and a faith workbook, which encourages old and young alike to instruct each other and grow in their understanding of their personal faith. In this copy, we see much evidence that the early readers of the catechism used it exactly how Luther intended.

6) Anzeigung vnd bekantnus des Glaubens vnnd der lere, so die adpellierenden Stende Key. Maiestet auff yetzigen tag zü Augspurg öberantwurt habend. Christoph Froschauer, 1530. Folger: 218- 015q

Christian Beyer, standing before Charles V, read aloud a version of these articles of confession in the German language on 25 June 1530 at the Diet of Augsburg. This act and its subsequent publication codified many Protestant doctrinal stances including, among others, justification by faith (Article IIII), the use of the sacraments (Article XIII), and support for clerical marriage (Article XXIII). The articles derived from the earlier Articles of Schwabach (1529), written by Philip Melanchthon, Justus Jonas, and Martin Luther. After the presentation of the articles at the Diet, Melanchthon compiled and edited the Augsburg Confession for print. This first German edition of the Confession was printed for wide dissemination to individuals and the various Protestant churches to provide grounds for agreement among the church bodies. To this day, acknowledgment of the Augsburg Confession establishes each synod as a “confessional” Lutheran church body.

7) Exsurge Domine, or Bulla decimi Leonis, contra errores Martini Lutheri, & sequacium. Johann Schott, 1520. Folger: BR334.A2 C3 1520 Cage.

This edition of the papal bull Exsurge Domine is the first printing of the first edition by Ulrich von Hutten, editor and commentator, which condemns as heretical 41 statements by Martin Luther and offers Luther 60 days to recant. Initially, Luther did not believe the veracity of the bull—burning a copy in public—until he received one with the papal seals in October 1520. The majority of the bull was written by Luther’s primary Catholic combatant, Johann Eck. Hutten issued the bull with the papal coat of arms on the title page, and offers his own glosses, introduction, and call to Pope Leo X to keep his bulls to himself, and not to bother the German Protestants any longer.

8) Zwingli, Ulrich (1484-1531). Ad Fridolinum Lindouerum Bremgartensium Concionatorem super publica de gratia per Christum hallucinatione expostulatio Huldrychi Zuinglij. Christoph Froschouer, 1524. Folger: 218- 806q.

Signifies or is? Zwingli and Luther first clashed over the consubstantiation (often called “real presence”) of Christ’s body and blood in the sacrament of Holy Communion, or Eucharist, in 1525. This tract belongs to the print conversation that led to a meeting at the 2-4 October 1530 Marburg Colloquy, in which both men, along with other reformers—Philip Melanchthon and Johann Oecolampadius among them—discussed and agreed on fourteen points of doctrine. The fifteenth point, regarding the meaning and constitution of this sacrament, ended in a stalemate. All agreed to reject the Catholic Church’s practice of transubstantiation. While Zwingli insisted on interpreting the words of institution (Matt. 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20, 1Cor. 11:23-25) as a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice rather than the actual receipt of forgiveness, Luther wrote his scriptural argument on the table with a piece of chalk: hoc est corpus meum (“This is my body”).

9) Calvin, Jean (1509-1564). A short instruction for to arme all good Christian people agaynst the pestiferous errours of the common secte of Anabaptistes. Compyled by mayster Iohn Caluine. John Day and William Seres, 1549. Folger: STC 4463

In this English translation of Calvin’s tract against the Anabaptists, the Swiss reformer first addresses the sect’s eponymous radical doctrine. Also known as “re-baptizers,” the Anabaptists believed that baptism should only be administered to adults who ask for the rite, strictly adhering to the designated order found in Mark 16:16, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” Here, Calvin takes this radical teaching to task ultimately deciding that ignoring infant baptism is perilous for young souls and adult re-baptism “is a noughtie conclusion” (B1r).

10) A treuue nyeuu tydynges of the wo[n]derfull worckes of the rebaptisers of Mu[n]ster in Westuaell : how the cete haethe bene wo[n]ne and in what mannar the kinge is taeken, and all their deades and intencyons haethe taeken an ende [et]c. Iohu[n] of Ley a kinge of nyew Iherusalem and of the hoole vniuerall worlde beynghe in the aege of. xxvi. years. Aetatis Z6 [sic]. Martin de Keyser, 1535?. Folger: STC 564 and cover-to-cover images.

Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into a vernacular language allowed more people not only to read the Bible for themselves, but also to interpret it for themselves. The Anabaptists were a group of radical reformers who believed in adult baptism. Though Münster was ruled by a Catholic Prince-Bishop, its primarily Lutheran town council made the city a safe and attractive space for Anabaptists, and thousands moved there to live communally and wait for Judgment Day. Jan Matthys identified the city as the “New Jerusalem,” and on January 5, 1534, some of his followers entered Münster and proceeded to baptize over 1000 adults. On February 8, Jan Beukelszoon, also known as Jan von Leiden, and Bernhard Knipperdolling, a member of the town council, announced in the market square that the end times were nigh; this sent the city of Münster into a fervor. The town council responded by legally recognizing the Anabaptists, and many of the Lutherans remaining in the city fled. Soon after, many of the remaining Catholics and Lutherans were forced out of the city, and the Prince-Bishop put the city under siege. Jan Matthys ordered all books with the exception of Bibles to be burned, banned and seized private property, and abolished all debt. He executed those who questioned him, and threatened to execute those who had not converted early enough. On Easter Sunday of 1534, Jan Matthys and a very small group of followers left the city to attack the Prince-Bishop; they were quickly killed.

The siege of Münster continued, with Beukelszoon leading the Anabaptists. He disbanded the town council and installed his own council of elders, and instituted a new system of laws based on Old Testament rules with death as punishment for lawbreakers. All doors were required to be left open, remaining property was seized, polygamy was instituted, and residents of Münster were organized into military companies. Those who would not follow Beukelszoon were executed. Meanwhile, most of the city was starving.

Finally, in June of 1535, the Prince-Bishop took back the city. The Anabaptist leaders were imprisoned, and in January of 1536, Beukelszoon, Knipperdolling, and one other Anabaptist were publicly tortured and executed. This English-language account of the Anabaptist rebellion was written and printed in 1535, after the siege was ended and the city returned to the Prince-Bishop, but before the leaders of the rebellion had been executed.

11) Oecolampadius, Johann (1482-1531). Declamatio[n]es Io. Icolampadij de Passione & vltimo sermone, hoc est sacro sanctis septe[m] dictis Domini Nostri Iesu Christi in cruce, sub typo co[n]cionatoris migraturi, [qui]bus titulus est [Diathēkē ton Archagorēton], hoc est Testame[n]tum principis co[n]cionatorum. Matthias Schurerius, 1512. Folger: 190- 083q.

Johann Oecolampadius was a priest, humanist scholar, and Protestant reformer based in Basel. He became a priest in 1510, but soon after he took orders, he began to read and interact with humanists and reformers. In 1515, he assisted Erasmus with the publication of his Greek New Testament. He had already met Philip Melanchthon during his studies at the University of Tubingen and had encountered Martin Luther’s writings while he was preaching in Augsburg (1518). In Basel, Oecolampadius preached a sermon series on Isaiah, which is said to have begun the Reformation in that city (1522). Later in his career, he moved to Zurich, where he, as a sympathizer of the symbolic nature of Holy Communion, established a new liturgy that only included quarterly observances of that sacrament. Ulrich Zwingli was one of his dearest pupils—his “right arm.” When Zwingli died in the 1531 Battle of Knappel, Oecolampadius went into shock and died soon after. This tract is Oecolampadius’ early and arguably most famous sermon on the final seven words of Jesus Christ on the cross, where each word embodies the seven sentences recorded in the Bible. They include:

  1. Forgiveness: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
  2. Salvation: “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
  3. Relationship: When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” (John 19:26-27)
  4. Abandonment: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34)
  5. Distress: “I am thirsty.” (John 19:28)
  6. Triumph: “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
  7. Reunion: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

English Reformation

12) The Byble : which is all the holy Scripture: in whych are contayned the Olde and Newe Testament truly and purely translated into Englysh by Thomas Matthew. M,D,XXXVII, Set forth with the Kinges most gracyous lyce[n]ce. Matthew Crom, 1537. Folger: STC 2066 and selected images.

William Tyndale was unable to get permission in England to translate the New Testament into English, so he left for Germany. Peter Quentell began to print his English New Testament in Cologne, but the print shop was raided before the printing was completed; only a fragment, up to Matthew 22, survives. Tyndale fled to Worms, and his full English New Testament was printed there in 1526 by Peter Schoeffer. Copies of the Worms New Testament were smuggled into England and Scotland. These copies were circulated quickly, but were condemned and burned by the authorities. Tyndale then began to translate the Pentateuch into English directly from the Hebrew; these came to England in 1530. He revised his Worms New Testament and had it printed by Martin de Keyser in Antwerp in 1534. In spring of the following year, Tyndale was arrested and his property seized, though his Old Testament translations were saved by John Rogers. He was imprisoned for sixteen months, and then degraded from the priesthood and executed for heresy.

Miles Coverdale’s Bible, printed in 1535 in Antwerp, also by Martin de Keyser, was the first complete printed English Bible. Coverdale relied heavily on Tyndale’s work for the New Testament and the Pentateuch; in his dedication to King Henry, he lists his source texts as Tyndale, Luther, the Vulgate, the Zürich Bible, and Pagninus’s Latin translation of the Hebrew.

After Tyndale’s arrest, John Rogers began to assemble a complete English Bible, taking Tyndale’s 1534 New Testament and what he had completed of the Old Testament, and revising Coverdale’s work for the rest of the Old Testament. Rogers translated the Prayer of Manasses, part of the Apocrypha, himself. This, known as Matthew’s Bible, was licensed by the King. Fifteen hundred copies were printed by Matthew Crom in Antwerp and sent to England. Rogers later became the first Protestant martyr to be executed under the rule of Queen Mary. Matthew’s Bible was revised by Coverdale to create the Great Bible, and was the basis for both the Geneva and the King James Bibles.

13) Church of England. The booke of common prayer : and administration of the sacraments, and other rites and ceremonies of the Church of England. Robert Barker, 1632. Folger: STC 16385.7 copy 1.

Thomas Cranmer’s Litany, England’s first officially authorized vernacular service, was printed in 1544 during the rule of Henry VIII. His English prayer book was first printed during the rule of Edward VI in 1549, and then revised and reprinted in 1552; both were officially authorized by Edward VI by the Acts of Uniformity. The Book of Common Prayer was abandoned and Cranmer executed during the rule of Mary I. Elizabeth I had a barely-modified version of Cranmer’s 1552 prayer book printed in 1559; this remains, in substance, the Book of Common Prayer still used today by the Church of England and by other members of the greater Anglican communion.

14) W. B. A seasonable discourse: shewing how that the oaths of allegiance & supremacy, (as our laws interpret them) contain nothing which any good Christian ought to boggle at. By W.B. London, 1679. Folger: 149- 086q.

The Oath of Allegiance is simply an oath of loyalty to the English monarch; it has its origins in the Magna Carta and is still in use today. The Oath of Supremacy was instituted by the Acts of Supremacy, which establish the English monarch as the Supreme Head of the Church of England. The first Act of Supremacy was passed under Henry VIII in 1534, and repealed under Mary I in 1554; the second Act of Supremacy was passed under Elizabeth I in 1559. Under the Acts of Supremacy, any person taking public or church office in England was required to take the Oath of Supremacy. Failure to do so was considered treason, and is the reason that Sir Thomas More was convicted and executed. A seasonable discourse, printed during the reign of Charles II, argues that these oaths are not in conflict with protestant belief.

15) Names of popish recusants convict, and papists who have register’d their estates [manuscript] : together with most of their titles, additions and places of abode, or the parishes, or townships, where their lands lye, and the names of the tenants in possession, and an abstract or totall of each persons estate ..., 1717?. Folger: W.b.660

The Popish Recusants Acts were passed under Elizabeth and James I in 1593 and 1606, respectively. Under Elizabeth, Catholics were not permitted to travel more than five miles from their homes, and could be made to forfeit property. James I increased restrictions on his Catholic subjects in response to the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605; under the second Popish Recusants Act, Catholics could not practice law or serve as military officers, and fines against them for not taking communion at a Church of England church were increased. This 1717 manuscript, written during the rule of George I, is a survey of the Catholic recusants of England and Wales, and notes the locations and values of their estates.

16) Norton, Thomas. Copy of letter from Thomas Norton, Sharpenhoe, Bedfordshire, to Francis Mylles, 1581 August 31, 1580s?. Folger: X.c.62, digital image, and transcription.

The dissolution of the monasteries took place during the late 1530s, under the rule of Henry VIII. In 1534, Cromwell took an inventory of the religious houses in England and Wales, including their endowments, liabilities, and income, and received reports of impropriety in the monasteries. Henry VIII, under the authority given to him by the Act of Supremacy, and claiming monastic reform, dissolved religious houses through the Suppression of Religious Houses Acts of 1535 and 1539. Some of these religious houses survived intact as Church of England parish churches or Cathedrals; others were turned into mansions or were burned for their lead, or had their tombs and relics looted and ransacked and their libraries destroyed. This manuscript, a contemporary copy of a 1581 letter, discusses Cromwell’s role in the dissolution.

17) Henry VIII, King of England. A glasse of the truthe. Thomas Berthelet, 1532?. Folger: STC 11918

Henry VIII's quest for a male heir was known as the King's "Great Matter." His only surviving child with Katherine of Aragon was a daughter, Mary I, and it seemed unlikely that he would be able to produce a legitimate male heir unless he was able to remarry. A glasse of the truthe, written partly by Henry, argues that his marriage to Katherine should be annulled. His main argument is that Leviticus 20:21 forbids a man to marry his brother's wife; because Katherine was first married to Henry's brother Arthur, her subsequent marriage to Henry could not be considered valid. In 1533, Thomas Cranmer annulled Henry's marriage to Katherine and allowed his marriage to Anne Boleyn. Both Cranmer and the king were excommunicated from the Catholic Church as a result, and the Act of Supremacy in 1534 established Henry as the Supreme Head of the Church of England.

Supplemental material

Timeline of displayed materials