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Protestant Reformation Printed Works

Date range: 16th century

Number of items: 600 items (dispersed)

The founder of the John Rylands Library, Enriqueta Rylands, was a committed Protestant. She considered the Christian faith key to setting up this cathedral of knowledge, though she was careful not to exclude material on the basis of her own religious beliefs. Her mission is reflected in the extensive collections relating to the Protestant Reformation held by the Library.

The Library holds a fine collection of 16th-century tracts and other publications associated with Martin Luther, Desiderius Erasmus, Ulrich von Hutten, Philipp Melanchthon and Huldrych Zwingli. The collection includes a copy of Luther’s Disputatio or Ninety-five Theses, printed at Basel in 1517. There is also an autograph letter from Luther to Gerhard Vilskamp, Rector of the community of Brethren of the Common Life at Herford in Westphalia (1528).

A fairly recent acquisition is the first edition of Passional Christi und Antichristi (1521), a text once attributed to Luther, with woodcuts by Lucas Cranach the Elder. There is also a unique copy of a later French version, Les Faitz de Jesus Christ et du Pape.

Erasmian texts include a copy of his Encomium Moriae, printed at Basel by Johannes Frobenin 1515, an Aldine edition from the same year, and a copy of the first English edition of The Praise of Folly, translated by Thomas Chaloner in 1549.

Early works of Zwingli include his well-known attack upon the Catholic mass, De Canone Missae Huldrychi Zvinglii Epichiresis (Zurich, 1523).

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