Reinventing the Reformation in the Nineteenth Century

It has been a long haul, but the eagerly awaited volume 90 number 1 (Spring 2014) issue of the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, edited by Peter Nockles and Vivienne Westbrook, has now been published.

Entitled Reinventing the Reformation in the Nineteenth Century: A Cultural History, the volume comprises a collection of fifteen original scholarly essays each of which addresses and interprets the theme of a nineteenth-century appropriation of British Reformation texts and issues for a wide range of social, political and religious agendas within a broad range of theological, historical and geographical contexts (separate chapters being devoted to Scotland, Ireland and Wales).

The volume is multidisciplinary in scope, comprising treatments of the volume’s theme from the perspectives of theology, ecclesiastical history, cultural history, literature and literary genres, biblical criticism, book history and print culture and history of illustration, and even music and theatre history. The authors employ an expertise in the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, focusing on the links between the two. The sum can be said to be greater than the parts. Coherence and an overarching interpretative framework are provided by the volume being book-ended by an introduction and after words by three eminent scholars, Richard Rex, Eamon Duffy and Jeremy Morris, while the essays are thematically grouped within the broad categories of ‘invocation’, ‘negotiation’ and ‘reinvention’. What emerges is the contested nature of what was an event of seismic significance in British history and the extent to which the Reformation was, in the words of Richard Rex, an event as much of ‘English mythology’ as ‘of English history’.

Manchester University Press has done a fine job in producing such a handsome and beautifully illustrated volume. The sample illustrations shown here, from a Victorian edition of John Foxe’s hugely influential Book of Martyrs, provide something of the flavour of the riches within.

Peter Nockles

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Coloured images from the 1873 edition of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1563) by the Protestant clergyman, Samuel Potter, illustrating the essay by Elizabethan Evenden’s, ‘John Foxe, Samuel Potter and the Illustration of the Book of Martyrs’.


1 comment on “Reinventing the Reformation in the Nineteenth Century

  1. Pingback: Memorial and history, Part 3: in which Mary Beard sits on a bench | the many-headed monster

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