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Perceptions of the role of the book in the Reformation are shaped by our knowledge of the German print world during the first decades of Protestant expansion. All indications point to evangelical domination of the press in the years when Luther first became a public figure, when the printed book undoubtedly played a crucial role in the dissemination of the evangelical message, and printing enjoyed a period of exuberant growth. But it is by no means certain that assumptions derived from this German model hold good for other parts of Europe. This article re-examines the German paradigm of book and Reformation in the light of two recent bibliographical projects. The first, a trial survey of publishing outputs throughout Europe, demonstrates that the different regional print cultures that made up the European book world were organized in radically contrasting ways. These structural differences were highly significant from the point of view of assisting or impeding the output of controversial literature. The lessons from this survey are then applied to an individual case study, France, which, it emerges, deviated from the German model in almost every particular. Together these two sets of data force us to call into question the natural affinity between print and Protestantism suggested by the German paradigm.

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The Historical Journal
  • ISSN: 0018-246X
  • EISSN: 1469-5103
  • URL: /core/journals/historical-journal
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