Martin Luther in his own words #Reformation500

Today the School of Divinity will mark 500 years since Martin Luther nailed the Ninety Five Theses to the door of Wittemberg Church with a public lecture from Durham University’s Professor Alec Ryrie, a leading scholar of Reformation History, who will speak on ‘Protestants and their Bibles from the Reformation to the Present’.

In New College Library, a display in the Library Hall showcases some of Luther’s early publications. Martin Luther’s prolific publishing output in Latin and German preserves the arguments that shook Catholic Europe.  Much more can be seen at the Incendiary Texts exhibition to be held at the Centre for Research Collections, Main Library, 10 November 2017-8 March 2018.  Continue reading

Psalm singing and the Reformation

New College Library welcomes delegates to The Cultures of the Reformation: A Colloquium in Honour of Professor Jane Dawson on Thursday 1 June 2017. We have updated our current display of early psalm books and Scottish liturgy to include two new items.

The CL. Psalmes of David in meter : for the vse of the Kirk of Scotland : the contents of this buke follovve in the next page after the kalender. Imprinted at London : By Thomas Vautrollier dwelling in the Black-Friers, 1587.  tUR 77 1587

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Psalms in public and private

New College Library welcomes the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland this week with a display of early psalm books.

The psalmes of David in metre : according as they are sung in the Kirk of Scotland … Edinburgh, 1596. tUR 77 1596

During the period 1564-1644, around 70 editions of the Psalme Buik were produced for used in the Church of Scotland. Continue reading

Reading the Reformation : Philipp Melanchthon

Philipp Melanchthon (1497-1560) was born on 16 February 1497, to become a Greek scholar and Protestant theologian, and a powerful force in Reformation debate.

A colleague of Luther’s at the University of Wittenberg, Melanchthon took part in the ‘pamphlet wars’ that spread the debates across Europe. New College Library holds early examples including this 1521 pamphlet:

Melanchthon, Philipp. Aduersus furiosum Parisiensium theologastrorum decretum Philippi Melanchthonis pro Luthero Apologia. Basel, 1521. New College Library B.a.1.15

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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


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Reading the Reformation : Luther

On 14, 15 and 16 February 2017, the Cunningham Lectures at New College will mark the 500th Luther anniversary, with lectures by Professor Kaufmann covering Europe, Reformation and Luther.

New College Library holds outstanding Reformation collections that support the theme of the first lecture, Book, Print and Reformation. This includes examples of Luther’s pamphlets like the one below, from the early part of his career at the University of Wittenberg.

Luther, Martin. Auslegung und Deutung des heylige vater unsers … Leipzig, 1518. New College Library tpGT 2 1518

Each pamphlet, printed using the newly developed printing press technology, was cheaply produced and easily distributed, allowing the ideas they contained to spread quickly. Continue reading

Reformation Revisited

Friends of the Reformation Museum, GenevaWe were pleased to host a recent visit from the Friends of the Reformation Museum in Geneva at New College Library. The Friends were delighted to be able to view a selection of treasures from the Library’s Special Collections in the Funk Reading Room. These included Andrew Melville’s Bible, an early Greek New Testament, a Bassandyne Bible and a Geneva Bible. Their packed programme for the rest of the day included singing a psalm from the Wode Psalter in Greyfriar’s Kirk.

Christine Love-Rodgers – Academic Support Librarian, Divinity

Treasures of New College Library – Andrew Melville’s Bible

Knox 3

Biblia sacra utriusque Testamenti … [1529]. New Collegel Library, Knox 3.

One of the pleasures of being a librarian is the serendipity of discovering something special on the shelves whilst engaged in looking for something completely different. Whilst looking at materials about the Congregational Church in New College Library’s Special Collections recently, I came across this sixteenth-century Bible on an adjacent shelf. Manuscript notes attribute it to be ‘Andrew Melville’s Bible’, and the title page is certainly signed “A. Melville.”

John Knox Loan 3vr

This item is part of a small collection which at one time was housed at John Knox House in Edinburgh, although our provenance documentation records the ownership as being Church of Scotland.

Born on 1 August 1545 Andrew Melville (1545–1622), theologian, Biblical scholar and Presbyterian leader, had a scholarly career as Principal of Glasgow Unviersity and Principal of St Mary’s College, St Andrews University. He followed in the footsteps of John Knox as a defender of Reformation and Presbyterian principles, which at times set him in opposition with King James I of England and VI of Scotland.

James Kirk, ‘Melville, Andrew  (1545–1622)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 24 July 2014]

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

Manuscripts on display for Elizabeth Melville Day

From Monday 16th June to Friday 27th June manuscript work by Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross is on display in New College Library. Two rare examples of early modern women’s writing are displayed together for the first time as part of the events around Elizabeth Melville Day on Saturday 21st June.

Elizabeth Melville, Lady Culross, was the first Scotswoman to see her work in print with the publication of her mini-epic ‘Ane Godlie Dreame’ in 1603.

She was the daughter of Sir James Melville of Halhill (1535/6–1617), the diplomat and autobiographer.  Elizabeth was at the centre of a network supporting the exiled and imprisoned Presbyterian ministers, and her strong Calvinist faith is expressed in her writings.

Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections La.III.347

Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections La.III.347

On display is a volume of original letters,  received by the University of Edinburgh in 1878 as part of the David Laing collection.  It contains two holograph letters by Elizabeth to her son James (dated 1625 and 1629), nine to Reverend John Livingstone (eight holographs and one 19th century transcription, dated 1629-32), and one holograph to the Countess of Wigtoun (1630), and is a unique source of information about the poet.

Mss Bru 2, New College Library Special Collections

Mss Bru 2, New College Library Special Collections

This volume is displayed together with the Bruce Manuscripts, from New College Library Special Collections. The Bruce Manuscripts contains twenty nine sermons on Hebrews XI, preached in 1590-91 by Robert Bruce,  Edinburgh minister. In 2002 Dr Jamie Reid-Baxter uncovered nearly 3500 lines of verse attributed to Elizabeth Melville contained in this manuscript.

Dr Joseph Marshall, Rare Books and Manuscripts Librarian & Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

In the beginning was the word : Bibles at New College Library

Yesterday we were pleased to welcome staff and students on exchange from Dartmouth College, USA to a classroom session viewing items from New College Library’s historic Bibles collection. Examples included a 1478 early Bible Latin manuscript version from our Incunabula Collection and our very earliest printed Bible, a Greek New Testament printed in Strassburg in 1524. The English Reformation was well represented by a Cranmer’s Bible (1541), a Matthew’s Bible (1549), a Bishop’s Bible (1585),  a 1599 Geneva Bible and a 1611 King James version.

Our 1579 Bassandyne Bible has particular Scottish significance. Bassandyne was a Scotsman, who lived in Edinburgh in a house beside John Knox’s. He printed the first Bible published in Scotland, a Geneva version which became the regular pulpit Bible throughout Scotland.

The rich diversity of Bibles at New College Library was also shown by the  Polyglot Bible – The Antwerp (1569), which contains the Bible text in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. This was produced under the patronage of Philip II of Spain, at the suggestion of the famous printer, Christopher Plantin.  Printed in Antwerp, it was sent to Spain by sea  but the ship was wrecked and most of the volumes perished with it, only some 200 being rescued. Of these New College Library possesses one complete copy in excellent condition. The Polyglot Bible relied on the Bomberg Bible for its Hebrew text, which we were also able to have on display. New College Library holds the 1545 or second edition of the Bomberg Bible in its Dalman Christie Collection, which was recently catalogued as part of the Funk Projects.