The Book

Owen Chadwick

in The Early Reformation on the Continent

Published in print December 2001 | ISBN: 9780198269021
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191600470 | DOI:

Series: Oxford History of the Christian Church

 The Book

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The invention of printing in fifteenth‐century Germany transformed the religious and intellectual history of Christendom. Printed books spread information and misinformation rapidly and increased the excitement surrounding new learning. Authors were attracted by the clarity and ease of reproduction of the printed word, and while censorship could be fierce, it was also difficult, and the trade in books across frontiers was impossible to control, which worked to the advantage of Reformed writers. Literacy rates were low, but rose during the sixteenth century, while group reading allowed pamphlet literature with a religious content, vehemently expressed, to pass on knowledge or alleged knowledge to the common people, equalling or surpassing the power of the spoken word as expressed in sermons.

Keywords: censorship; literacy; printing

Chapter.  5210 words. 

Subjects: History of Christianity

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