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The Sixteenth-Century French Religious Book. (Reviews).

Andrew Pettegree, Paul Nelles, and Philip Conner, eds., The Sixteenth-Century French Religious Book

St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2001. xvi + 366 pp. + index. $99.95. ISBN: 0-7546-0278-8.

This collection of seventeen papers read at St. Andrews in 1999 bids fair to change the accepted narrative of the years leading up to the first Wars of Religion, though limitations of space limit me to summarizing some of the more persuasive contributions. Pettegree and his colleagues are assembling an exhaustive catalogue of the 25,000 works in French (wherever published) having to do with the religious struggle. Even at this stage of what promises to be a long project, Pettegree is ready to conclude that the early efflorescence of Huguenot literature was rapidly and definitively eclipsed by the Catholic response.

Graham Runnalls showed that medieval mystery plays remained popular through their prohibition in the middle of the sixteenth century. Over half the surviving texts came from one extended family of printers who specialized in literature inherited from the Middle Ages, and none was found in the inventaires apres deces of any Renaissance humanists. Allison Saunders found that the religious divisions of the middle of the sixteenth century had surprisingly little impact on the flourishing trade in emblem books. Virginia Reinburg explored the increasingly permeable boundaries not only between prayer and knowledge, but even between the visual and tactile pleasures of book ownership among the laity. She suggests that the steep decline in production over the course of the century showed less about the impact of Reformation and Counter-Reformation sensibilities than about the early saturation of the market, as these books continued to be owned and used into the seventeenth century.

Keith Cameron studied the propaganda campaign against Henry III, because he thinks it continues to color twenty-first-century scholarly opinion of him. Henry was welcomed by both sides upon his return from Poland: by Protestants because they thought he would be to be able to stand up to the formidable Queen Mum, and by Catholics because they expected unswerving enforcement of the laws from the champion of Moncontour and Jarnac. The rage of the great nobles at subsequently being supplanted by younger and more obscure men led them to suggest a sexual reason for their replacement, while the collapse of commerce made printers in Paris and Lyons eager to print these attacks.

Olivier Christin studied the arguments advanced for the 1563 Peace of Amboise, and found that the royal edicts published to put it into effect spoke of peace, rest [repos], tranquillity and pacification rather than tolerance, reconciliation, or "liberte de conscience." Ingeborge Jostock found the Genevan Consistory and its Company of Pastors engaged in a long struggle with the political elite over the control of the printing industry in the city. They ended up censuring fewer than 3% of the books printed there, and allowing many of those they had confiscated to be published later with false bibliographical data. Kevin Robbins studied the alterations and deletions forced by Odet de Nort and his fellow pastors in La Popeliniere's Histoire de France, published in La Rochelle in 1581, finding that the pastors were most concerned with defending their own social and political position, and restricting the autonomy of the city's "menu peuple." Paul Nelles found astonishing continuity in the taste for religious books among the Catholic laity, even as their clergy were increasingly forced toward greater professionalism. Philip Conner found that local elites fostered printing industries across the Midi largely as a matter of municipal prestige. There was no lack of Bibles or exegetical materials imported from Geneva or Lyons to support the expansion of Calvinism, so southern printers turned to local histories and polemics. Francis Higman, Yann Morvant, and Marc Vial give us a glimpse of the work involved in making sense of the inventaire apres deces of the book-seller Vincent Real in Bordeaux in 1571, and of the infiltration of Protestant ideas into this most Catholic of cities. Roger Kuin concluded the volume with a narrative of the Catholic attacks on the books in Phillip Duplessis-Mornay's library of 1200 volumes in the Protestant academy in Saumur, first on the occasion of his dismissal as governor of the city by Louis XIII in 1621 then, nine months before the 1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes, by "the mob" in the city. Institutions with advanced programs not only in French history, but also in the history of religions or of the relationship between the trade in and circulation of ideas will want to own this volume.
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Author:Benson, Edward
Publication:Renaissance Quarterly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2002
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