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  • Reformation Sources: The Letters of Wolfgang Capito and His Fellow Reformers in Alsace and Switzerland
  • R. Gerald Hobbs
Erika Rummel and Milton Kooistra, eds. Reformation Sources: The Letters of Wolfgang Capito and His Fellow Reformers in Alsace and Switzerland. Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies Essays and Studies 10. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007. 246 pp. index. illus. tbls. bibl. $17. ISBN: 978–0–7727–2032–0.

The eight papers and three source-text publications in this volume are the consequence of a Toronto conference in 2005 that focused upon issues in the publication of sixteenth-century correspondence, that of Wolfgang Capito in particular. Despite his seniority and superior academic credentials, as evangelical Reformer in Strasbourg over most of the last two decades of his life, Capito was overshadowed by his younger colleague Martin Bucer. Despite the late James Kittelson's 1975 biography (Brill), recent scholarship has reinforced this neglect. It is therefore a matter of some satisfaction to many students of the early evangelical Reformation in upper German lands, and of the corpus of Strasbourg studies in particular, that Erika Rummel has turned her skills and wisdom to the Capito correspondence, which is being published by University of Toronto Press (2005–).

This volume divides into three parts. Complementing Rummel's activity on the Capito correspondence, five papers in the middle section discuss various dimensions of the editing of primary texts, notably the correspondence of Bucer, Heinrich Bullinger, and Theodore de Bè ze. Of particular interest for Capito, of course, is the Bucer project, the least advanced, moreover, of the three. Two papers [End Page 939] explore some of the issues raised by Bucer's notorious handwriting, and the chronological ordering of his 1531 correspondence with Grynaeus on Henry VIII's marital troubles. The fifth paper, in reporting on the Amsterdam Erasmus edition, underlines the importance—through the unhappy case of the 1974 Lingua, which had to be redone in 1989 —of scrupulous care with the text editing itself, alongside the writing of introductions and annotations.

The remaining papers deal directly with Capito. The first three look with some depth into hitherto underexamined dimensions of his career, in Basel, Mainz, and Strasbourg. Brady's paper returns, with a particular Capito lens, to the complex relationship of clergy and magistrates in Strasbourg; he argues convincingly that the decline of Capito's influence in Strasbourg (to Bucer's benefit) should be attributed to his tardy and reluctant, albeit ultimately firm, conversion to a magisterial rather than gathered church. How complex was his web of relationships, how deceptive the application of the label Catholic or evangelical put on Capito in the early twenties, is nicely illustrated by Rummel's study of Capito's maneuvers to obtain and hold onto the lucrative provostship of St.Thomas, Strasbourg. The first paper, by Hirstein, explores in close detail the even earlier web of relationships inhabited by Capito in the world of Basel humanist printing around Froben, in association with Beatus Rhenanus, in particular, and his slow emergence as a learned patron of humanist reform in the church. These three historical studies are complemented by the editing, in the final section, of Capito sources hitherto available only in manuscript or initial imprint. All come from Capito's first Strasbourg years. Miles edits Capito's contribution to proposed debate with Conrad Treger, Augustinian provincial; the popular heat generated by the literary exchanges caused the Strasbourg magistrates to forbid the actual encounter. Hammel helpfully presents the principal documents that shed light on the conflict over the St. Thomas provostship (the subject of Rummel's paper). Lastly, Kooistra edits another rare early Capito publication, his attack on the Strasbourg pro-papal canons who fled the city in 1525 together with a significant part of their chapters' treasures.

We need to know more concerning the second-rank figures of the opening generation of the evangelical reform movement in German lands, and in particular of their journey to the break with Rome. In giving us this volume, Rummel and Kooistra have contributed to the nuancing of that canvass, and our understanding of the intriguing and ambivalent figure of Wolfgang Capito himself. [End Page 940]

R. Gerald Hobbs
Vancouver School...


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pp. 939-940
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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Archived 2009
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