Reading the Reformation : John Fisher

New College Library’s collections provide a rich resource for and about Reformation theology and its readers. One of these readers was John Fisher  [St John Fisher] (c.1469–1535), bishop of Rochester, cardinal, and martyr in the time of Henry VII and VIII. Tutored in Greek by Erasmus, Fisher was able to use Erasmus’s edition of the Greek New Testament (1). Like his contemporary, Thomas More, Fisher was an active opponent of Martin Luther in the theological debates of the 1520s.

New College Library holds two editions of Fisher’s response to Luther’s theology, Assertionis Lutheranae confutatio (1523).

—Assertionis Lutheranae confutatio / per Reuerendum Patrem Joannem Roffensem Episcopum, Academiae Cantabrigiensis Cancellarium. Antwerp, 1523. X7/A2


This copy has pasted in manuscript leaves as endpapers, which have handwritten annotations. The decorated leather binding has a GG decoration identifying it as bound by Garret Godfrey, who was bookbinding in Cambridge in the first half of the sixteenth century, and evidence of the original metal clasps. Could it have been part of Fisher’s own library, as he was Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge University?


The second copy also has a finely tooled binding identified as being from Regensburg.  It demonstrates how Luther’s arguments crossed Europe to Britain and were discussed, refuted and returned to Germany, in the great European debate that drove the Reformation.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

Elizabeth Lawrence, Rare Books Librarian

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