- Le livre évangélique en français avant Calvin: Études originales, publications d'inédits, catalogues d'éditions anciennes/The French Evangelical Book before Calvin: Original Analyses, Newly Edited Texts, Bibliographic Catalogues
Jean-François Gilmont and William Kemp have assembled a group of specialists in art history, literature, print culture, the history of the book, theology, and religious history for their French Evangelical Book before Calvin (hereafter FEB). The editors seek to study evangelical texts in the vernacular before 1541, the date of the definitive establishment of Calvin's movement in Geneva. The happy, creative chaos of a multivalent approach indirectly validates the FEB's point about the evangelical movement and its texts: the period that preceded the confessionalization and the radicalization of the Reformation is best served when we restore diversity to a movement whose members share an enthusiasm for the propagation of the Gospel and an attitude toward a "reformable" church. The glue that binds the FEB's parts and gives them great coherence comes from a common commitment to exploring the role that the book and its diffusion played in the expression and spread of religious ideas. Although somewhat different from the organizational logic of persons and printers that Kemp underscores in his introduction, I think the thematic implications of the volume mark an emerging critical mass of recent research that merits attention here.
The first combines the question of translation and that of reading. Four contributions touch most directly upon this theme. The article by René Paquin, "Erasme expurgé: L'Exhortation à la lecture des sainctes lettres et le problème nicodémite," offers an analysis of a treatise published by Etienne Dolet in 1542. A target of censure and book-burning by the Sorbonne despite denying any sectarian designs, the treatise is novel in that it translates and adapts Erasmus's introduction to the Paraphrases in Novum Testamentum without divulging its origin, and it encourages its addressee, a literate woman, to read scripture and ask questions. This theme of access to texts and reading begs the question of the reader's judgment, which William Kemp takes up in "L'Epigraphe Lisez et puis jugez: Le libre examen dans la Réforme française avant 1540." Kemp explores its daring ramifications by connecting it to the texts published by Pierre de Vingle and, in particular, those of Guillaume Farel, before comparing them to texts printed in Paris, Basel, Strasbourg, and Antwerp. Kemp's analysis helps us to understand the conditions that surround the waning of the popularity of the more traditional [End Page 902] spiritual reading that Eric H. Reiter, in "The Decline of a Catholic Bestseller: The Stella Clericorum in the Sixteenth Century," analyzes as a case study for a "shift in literary tastes" (276). Reiter argues that these evolving preferences not only affected (and were affected by) the publishing marketplace; they allowed evangelical polemicists to sharpen their blades on such musty titles. In the effort to bring scripture closer to a wider readership, vernacularization was making inroads and, as Gilmont and Kemp point out in "La plus ancienne édition d'un psaume traduit par Clément Marot," singing the psalms in French became a sign of belonging to a community.
Another interesting conjunction that emerges from the FEB is that the book as devotional object and source of teaching is not completely divorced from ideas of courtly patronage. It is refreshing to be reminded of the role that royal patronage and reading could play more generally across the evangelical movement, how the plea for favor can eloquently express the hopes and vision of its most fervent proponents, and how the evangelical message wended its way into the libraries of the aristocracy, where it could lurk behind sumptuous covers with royal monograms. Three contributions suggest these connections...