- Reformation Sources: The Letters of Wolfgang Capito and His Fellow Reformers in Alsace and Switzerland
This collection of essays and sources is a wonderful resource for readers interested in both the interrelations among leaders of the Protestant reform and the mechanics of compiling, transcribing, and editing sources. There are three parts, which complement one another well.
Part 1, 'Historical Context,' consists of three essays, each devoted to a specific aspect of Capito's life. James S. Hirstein describes the period of Capito's residency in Basel, specifically his involvement with Froben's publishing house, where from 1515 to 1520 he moved from peripheral involvement to the status of a major advisor in the publication of theological books. Erika Rummel outlines Capito's struggle to gain and retain the provostship of St Thomas in Strasbourg, for which he had to compete against the pluralist Jacob Abel. Thomas Brady's essay on the relationship between Capito and the magistracy in Reformation Strasbourg begins with a historiographical discussion, establishing the significance of scholarship that has revealed the Reformation as an urban phenomenon that was 'permanently unfinished, permanently contested.'
Part 2, 'Problems of Editing Texts,' enlists those working directly with major editions of reformers' correspondence. Johannes Trapman describes the origin of the Amsterdam edition of Erasmus's complete works and the principles by which it was organized and edited; of special interest is the story of the 1989 reissue of the Lingua in volume IV-1A. Reinhold Friedrich writes of the challenges of deciphering [End Page 357] Bucer's handwriting, including illustrations, while Wolfgang Simon demonstrates some of the problems in determining the chronology for Bucer's correspondence with the example of an exchange with Simon Grynaeus concerning King Henry VIII's divorce from Queen Catherine. Alexandra Kess, after giving an overview of the vast correspondence of Heinrich Bullinger, describes the approach taken by those working on the project, featuring an illuminating example of the problem of determining just what constitutes a letter in the face of the numerous supplements and attachments that accompany many of them. Finally, Irena Backus's essay establishes the scope and vital importance of the correspondence of Theodore Beza for achieving an understanding of the sixteenth century. It is all too easy for readers benefiting from the painstaking labours of those who contribute to critical editions to fall under the pleasant illusion that the clear and legible pages before them simply sprang directly from their authors. This section is the perfect antidote to such illusions.
In Part 3, 'Source Texts,' Gavin Hammel provides six documents - five in Latin and one in German - relating to Capito's struggle against Johannes Abel for the provostship of St Thomas, which serves as a fine counterpoint to Rummel's essay. BrentMiles presents Capito's 1524 German tract against Konrad Treger, provincial of the Augustinian Order in Rhineland-Swabia and former prior of Strasbourg's Augustinian house, who had issued a challenge to debate the reformers in March of that year; this piece represents their answer. Milton Kooistra's transcription of Capito's 1525 Concerning Three Strasbourg Priests and the Removal of the Goods from the Churches reveals a point in a controversy between the reformers and a group of Catholic canons who prepared to leave the city rather than accommodate the city's new requirement that all clergy assume the responsibilities of citizenship.
The variety of material in this volume, which originated from a 2005 workshop at the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies at Victoria College, University of Toronto, offers its readers a sampling rather than a synthesis. In their introduction, the editors express their aim 'to highlight the problems inherent in transcribing and editing the correspondence of the reformers and to suggest solutions; to consider ways of making the sources available to scholars; to show the importance of disseminating source texts and to make a practical contribution to that cause.' Working on critical editions is often viewed as drudge work, less rewarding and glamorous than...