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Anti-Calvin

The Catholic Response to Calvin's Writings in Sixteenth-Century France

Anti-Calvin
The Catholic response to Calvin's writings in sixteenth-century France

Catholic writers were initially slow to respond to the challenge presented by Calvinism in France. Jean Calvin's Institution de la religion chrétienne was first published in French in 1541. This was the fundamental text from which the Calvinist doctrine was built, and over the following years a large variety of texts sprung both from his own quill and of that of other leaders of the Reformed churches. Yet the first Catholic work in the vernacular explicitly to mention Geneva was published only in 1550, and it was not until 1559 that Calvin himself was directly attacked on the title page of a French book. The move to counter Calvin's influence within France had thus got off to a slow start.

In the struggle for the souls and minds of the French people that divided Catholics and evangelicals into two conflicting churches, vernacular print was a vital battleground. Unlike Latin, the language of the learned, books published in French could be read and understood by far larger sections of society and therefore reached out to touch people who would otherwise have been excluded from the debate. Protestant authors had grasped the importance of this wider public from the outset and the production of Genevan presses was predominantly in French. If the Catholic Church wished to preserve its position in France, it was vital to respond to the gauntlet thrown down by the Calvinist leaders. It is this response, the writings of the French Catholic authors against Calvin and his teachings, that are presented here.

After the first tentative exchanges, the early 1560s witnessed a rapid increase in the vernacular output of Catholic authors. What is most striking about this period of increasingly fraught relations between the faiths is the wholehearted involvement in the publication of religious polemic of respected figures of the Catholic hierarchy, men who would have been expected to prefer the learned language of Latin. But whatever their preferences, they loaned their skills to the battle to turn back the Huguenot tide. In this we see a crucial difference from the situation in Germany in the first evangelical generation. Here the reluctance of German opponents of Luther to engage in theological debate in the vernacular ceded a crucial advantage to the evangelicals, a mistake that was not repeated in France. Those involved include some of the most respected theologians of the Faculty of Theology of the Sorbonne, men such as René Benoist and Gentian Hervet, or, later in the century, Arnaud Sorbin. These men contributed serious treatises on complex questions, works that can be contrasted with the more robust and vituperative anti-Calvinist works such as Le double des lettres envoyées à Passevent parisien or Guillaume de Reboul's La cabale des réformez. Both types of text played a vital part in the strategy of rallying French opinion to traditional religion, a strategy clearly approved by the elite of the Church as some of these works were published in Rheims under the aegis of the archbishop's official printers. With works appearing in Bordeaux, Toulouse, and Aix-en-Provence anti-Calvin printing became a nationwide phenomenon.

The selection of works presented here offers a comprehensive range of the theological arguments deployed by Catholic theologians against Calvin and his followers in France. It includes both works attacking the precepts of Calvinism and those defending the Catholic doctrine against the criticism and condemnation of Calvinist authors. Some authors take a different approach, with a robust attack on Calvinist church practice, alleging a wide variety of deviant behaviour in terms that call to mind traditional methods of derogating heretics and deviants. All were important in establishing clear distinctions between the contending faiths. The selection concentrates, however, on issues that divided the church, rather than following particular events of the Wars of Religion. Although events such as the Massacre of St Bartholomew also sparked a vehement exchange of pamphlets, most of these concentrated on the particular circumstances of the events and their political causes and repercussions rather than examining the underlying differences in religious opinion.

The outburst of vernacular anti-Calvin works in the 1560s represents almost half the titles published until the end of the century. With the large numbers of conversions to Protestantism that took place in the years between 1555 and 1562 - some of which were very high profile - the Catholic Church realised the gravity of the situation. Conversely, the smaller production of the late 1560s and subsequent years reflected the dramatic slowing of the previously hectic growth of the Calvinist churches that followed the outbreak of the wars of Religion and the Peace of Amboise in 1563.

Despite this reduction in publications, the presses continued to churn out works attacking Calvinism with great regularity throughout the subsequent decade, before this polemic begins to tail off in the first years of the 1580s. The death of Anjou changed this state of affairs: with a Protestant Henry, king of Navarre, set to inherit the crown, anti-Calvinist books flourished once more. With so much at stake, condemning the heretics and countering their arguments took on renewed importance. This proliferation of Catholic treatises also served as a theoretical underpinning for the movement of religious renewal and political opposition associated with the Catholic League. However, the death of Henry III at the hands of Jacques Clément in 1589 changed this state of affairs. A Protestant was now claiming the throne and the wars that opposed Henry IV to the Catholic League transferred the focus away from the theological debate: preventing Henry from successfully asserting his right was now the prime concern. Catholic printers' therefore engaged primarily in the production of works dealing with contemporary political and military events that would aggrandise the achievements of the League and assist the opposition to Henry, though ultimately unavailingly.

After the fall of Paris and the gradual submission of the main Leaguer figures came peace and a final settlement that gave the Huguenot churches limited but very definite civic freedoms. This settlement sparked a renewal of polemic against the French Reformed Churches. The conversion of the king gave these works new legitimacy and the rights given to Calvinists within the kingdom after the edict of Nantes in 1598 rekindled the theological exchanges that had been so vibrant in the 1560s. The very end of the sixteenth century thus saw the emergence of a new generation of doctors of the Sorbonne engaging the Calvinist enemy, though now the goal was not to prevent the destruction of French Catholicism, as had seemed a real possibility in the earlier generation, but to encourage further defections from what was an increasingly embattled minority church. In this respect the religious writings that emerged at the very tail end of our period prefigured a debate that was to rage through most of the following century.

Malcolm Walsby, University of St Andrews

Titles selected from the Brill bibliography French Vernacular Books.

Related collection: The Huguenots.
Dutch Occasional Poetry of the 16th through 18th Centuries
Part 2

The genre of occasional poetry, verse written to celebrate milestones in the life of private citizens, was introduced into the young Dutch Republic in the late sixteenth century. Starting from Leyden academic circles, it rapidly gained popularity among large sections of Dutch society; a poem written on the occasion of a wedding or a funeral must have been a status symbol for the well-to-do citizen. Publication of these virtually unknown poems ensures their survival, but also their availability to scholars all over the world. Together with Dutch Occasional Poetry of the 16th through 18th Centuries - Part 1 this collection will constitute a firm base for many kinds of research, for historians, art historians, students of genealogy, musicologists, and students of book history.

This collection is also included in the Dutch Occasional Poetry of the 16th through 18th Centuries collection.
Dutch Occasional Poetry of the 16th through 18th Centuries
Part 1

The genre of occasional poetry, verse written to celebrate milestones in the life of private citizens, was introduced into the young Dutch Republic in the late sixteenth century. Starting from Leyden academic circles, it rapidly gained popularity among large sections of Dutch society; a poem written on the occasion of a wedding or a funeral must have been a status symbol for the well-to-do citizen. Publication of these virtually unknown poems ensures their survival, but also their availability to scholars all over the world. Together with Dutch Occasional Poetry of the 16th through 18th Centuries - Part 2 this collection will constitute a firm base for many kinds of research, for historians, art historians, students of genealogy, musicologists, and students of book history.

This collection is also included in the Dutch Occasional Poetry of the 16th through 18th Centuries collection.

Edited by Jan Obrman

Czech/Slovakian Periodicals

5 Titles concerning the Communist party. Includes press organ publications, many published by the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia.

Various Authors & Editors

This collection, based on the extensive holdings of Radio Free Europe in Munich and the Polish Library POSK in London, offers unique primary source materials representing a very wide range of opposition and dissident periodicals up to 1988, the year in which many oppositional publications started to appear more or less openly.

The collection is also included in the Polish Independent Publications, 1976- collection.

Various Authors & Editors

This collection, based on the extensive holdings of Radio Free Europe in Munich and the Polish Library POSK in London, offers unique primary source materials representing a very wide range of opposition and dissident periodicals up to 1988, the year in which many oppositional publications started to appear more or less openly.

The collection is also included in the Polish Independent Publications, 1976- collection.

Various Authors & Editors

This collection, based on the extensive holdings of Radio Free Europe in Munich and the Polish Library POSK in London, offers unique primary source materials representing a very wide range of opposition and dissident periodicals up to 1988, the year in which many oppositional publications started to appear more or less openly.

The collection is also included in the Polish Independent Publications, 1976- collection.

Various Authors & Editors

This collection, based on the extensive holdings of Radio Free Europe in Munich and the Polish Library POSK in London, offers unique primary source materials representing a very wide range of opposition and dissident periodicals up to 1988, the year in which many oppositional publications started to appear more or less openly.

The collection is also included in the Polish Independent Publications, 1976- collection.
The Press of the White Movement
A Collection of Leaflets Issued in Territories under Anti-Bolshevik Governments (1917-1920)

Civil War
The collapse of the Tsarist regime and Provisional Government in 1917 created a power vacuum throughout the former Russian Empire. In the resulting chaos, a number of both real and shadow governments emerged, from the centralist (Bolsheviks, Whites) to the separatist-nationalist (Ukraine, Cossack Hosts, Transcaucasian Republics) to the peasant-anarchist (Makhno). The Bolsheviks were able to seize power easily in November 1917, but they only managed to consolidate their new position after several years of bitter struggle, in a major civil war with the counterrevolutionary forces referred to as the White Movement.

Leaflets and pamphlets
Leaflets and pamphlets of the White Movement are the most widespread, the most influential, and in many cases, the most reliable form of publication during watershed moments of the country's history. They include official documents (orders, laws, decrees) of civil and military authorities, as well as valuable information about the interrelationship between the civil population and military structures, the activity of Zemstvo organizations, philanthropic and co-operative societies, credit and savings institutions, popular libraries, and a great deal of other valuable local historical information. In addition, the leaflets reflect popular tales, soldiers' songs, and even examples of high artistic prose and poetry.

Varying content
Leaflets, pamphlets, and posters containing appeals to the populace make up a significant part of the collection, as do calls to volunteer for the army, and expositions of the goals and tasks of the White Movement. Another part of the collection represents the agitation-propaganda against the Bolshevik regime, its leaders, and the atrocities carried out in Soviet Russia. Of particular interest are the extremely rare prints of leaflets from military and regional publishing houses. In this collection there are no fewer than forty unique leaflets issued by the editors of the army newspaper Sibirskie strelki ("Siberian arrows") and other printing houses of military units.

“Hidden collections”
The first attempts to collect this sort of historical material were made by contemporaries and participants of the Civil War. In November 1918, understanding their value as historical sources, the West-Siberian Division of the Russian Geographical Society created a War Archive of collected materials, which included leaflets. Nevertheless, an enormous number of leaflets were lost to the flames of the Revolution and the Civil War, or were destroyed out of ideological and political considerations in the late 1920s and 30s. Currently, there are very few known collections of non-Soviet leaflets. Even in Russia, for many years they were kept in the files with “restricted access” ( spetskhran). To this day, most of the surviving leaflets remain undisclosed and practically unknown to scholarship. Unlike the Bolsheviks' press, which has been quoted by many researchers, the White Movement's press only recently became accessible to scholars.

Collection of the National Library of Russia
Of particular value is the collection of leaflets issued in territories under anti-Bolshevik governments during 1917-1920. The collection, kept in the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg, numbers around 2,500 leaflets, with a significant portion of them issued in the territory of the Volga basin, Ural, and Siberia. During this period the Committee of Members of the Constituent Assembly ( Komitet chlenov Uchreditel'nogo Sobraniia) was in power, which included: the Provisional Siberian Government of P.IA. Derber, the Western-Siberian Commissariat, the Provisional Siberian Government of P.V. Vologodskii, the Provisional All-Russian Government (Ufa Directorate), and the Supreme Commander A.V. Kolchak.

N.V. Iakovlev
The history of this collection is connected with the name of N.V. Iakovlev (1891-1981), a well-known literary scholar and a participant in S.A. Vengerov's Pushkin Seminar. In 1917 he started to work at the Book Chamber under the leadership of S.A. Vengerov. He represented the Book Chamber in several regions regions of Russia: Moscow, Samara, and Omsk. In 1919 the Russian (Omsk) government of A. Kolchak created a Temporary Bureau of the Book Chamber and appointed Iakovlev as its director. In Omsk, on August 1, 1919, he called for people to collect and preserve any and all printed material, "since the events we are living through have world-wide significance." He continued to collect Siberian press till 1920. Although the collection he had assembled was probably forwarded to Petrograd, it was lost without a trace. It was only found in 1993, in former spetskhran classification, in the National Library of Russia.

Catalogue
In 2000 a catalogue of this collection was completed by Dr. G.V. Mikheeva (NLR). The materials are organized by geographical regions, and within these regions, by corresponding "White" governments of Russia. Ministries, with their various subordinate bodies, and military structures are arranged in hierarchical order. Organs of local self-government, various organizations, and institutions are arranged according to the administrative-territorial division of Russia of that period ( guberniias, uezds, volosts), which significantly facilitates finding local, historical information. Indexes of personal names, titles of publications, corporate bodies, places of publication, geographical names, printing houses and publishing houses, as well as a chronological index, complete the catalogue. The catalogue will be made available together with the microfiche collection.
Rural and Regional Development
Africa
Collection composed primarily of official and semi-official material, published or unpublished issued by governmental agencies on the local and national levels, international and private voluntary organizations and academic institutions. Includes documents such as applications for financing, project appraisals, plans, work programmes and evaluations. These documents, which constitute basic tools for development planners, rarely come under bibliographic control nor can they be readily acquired through conventional commercial channels.

This collection is also included in the Rural and Regional Development collection.