Seeing Faith, Printing Pictures: Religious Identity during the English Reformation


Scholarship on religious printed images during the English Reformation (1535-1603) has generally focused on a few illustrated works and has portrayed this period in England as a predominantly non-visual religious culture. The combination of iconoclasm and Calvinist doctrine have led to a misunderstanding as to the unique ways that English Protestants used religious printed images. Building on recent work in the history of the book and print studies, this book analyzes the widespread body of religious illustration, such as images of God the Father and Christ, in Reformation England, assessing what religious beliefs they communicated and how their use evolved during the period. The result is a unique analysis of how the Reformation in England both destroyed certain aspects of traditional imagery as well as embraced and reformulated others into expressions of its own character and identity.
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Biographical Note

David J. Davis, Ph.D. (2009) in History, University of Exeter, is Assistant Professor in History at Houston Baptist University. He has published several articles and reviews on the English Reformation and early modern print culture.

Review Quote

Seeing Faith … presents a well-constructed and well-illustrated survey which draws on a wide range of contemporary sources. It … successfully probes a sizeable subject which should be enjoyed by readers in a number of fields.” Margaret Aston. In: Print Quarterly, Vol. 32, No. 3 (2015), pp. 315-317. “Davis has written an excellent book, dealing with a subject full of pitfalls with care and obvious academic integrity.” Andrew A. Chibi, England. In: Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 44, No. 4 (2013), pp. 1078-1080. "this book brings together important evidence that the desire for visual images continued into the Reformation." James A. Knapp, Loyola University Chicago. In: Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 67, No. 1 (Spring 2014), pp. 300-301. “The monograph is well written and throws numerous shafts of light on specific cases and on wider issues such as the debate on ‘iconophobia’.” Ian Green, University of Edinburgh. In: Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 100, No. 1 (2014), pp. 148-149.

Table of contents

List of Illustrations Acknowledgements List of Abbreviations Introduction: Images and Early Modern Religious Identity Religious Identity and the English Reformation(s) Studying Early Modern Printed Images Seeing Faith, Reading Images Sources and Chapters Chapter 1: Material Religion: The Image in Early Modern Print The Public Sphere and Commodification Censorship and Religious Identity English Printed Images: A European Tradition Moving Images in the Marketplace Conclusion Chapter 2: Printed Images and the Reformation in England Iconoclasm and Protestant Adiaphora Reformed Theology and Boundaries of Acceptability Theodore Beze and Peter Martyr Vermigli William Perkins The Catholic Opposition Translation and Mistranslations Protestant Hypocrisy Conclusion Chapter 3: Christ, the Virgin, and the Catholic Tradition of Printed Images Catholic Primers and English Protestantism Catholic Printers in Reformation England Images of the Virgin Images of Christ and the Catholic Community Conclusion Chapter 4: Representations of Christ: Reforming the Imitatio Christi Protestants and the God-Man From Corpus Christi to Christ Displayed Protestant Identity and the Imitatio Christi The Suffering Christ: Meditation and Imitation Seeing the End: Resurrection and Judgment Conclusion Chapter 5: Seeing God: Protestant Visions of the Father Traditional Images and Recycled Prints God in Illustrated Bibles The Exception of Divine Visions God at Creation Conclusion Chapter 6: Reforming the Deity: Symbolic Pictures of God Continuity and Change A Reformed Icon?: Symbols of God The Devotional Image Conclusion Conclusion Appendix Bibliography


All those interested in early modern history, the Reformation in Britain, visual culture, and the history of the book, as well as literary scholars and others interested in identity studies.