Let There Be Page Numbers | Newberry

Let There Be Page Numbers

Print helped fuel the religious debates of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, which in turn fueled major developments in the printing industry. As people were exhorted to read the Bible, new tools emerged to help them navigate its pages: page numbers, indexes, annotations–basically, all the features of the “apparatus of the book” that we take for granted today.

Newberry President David Spadafora and curator of printing history Jill Gage discuss the reciprocal relationship between religion and print in the early modern era.

This episode of “Shelf Life” has been produced in conjunction with Religious Change, 1450 - 1700, a multidisciplinary project exploring how religion and print made the medieval world modern.

Let There Be Page Numbers by Shelf Life, from the Newberry Library

Show Notes

0:35 — What is the significance of mapping the religious debates of the Reformation as interactive maps online?

3:09 — What kind of labor went into printing a Bible?

5:52 — Luther (and the debates he inspired) helped drive the book trade.

8:27 —Why would printers produce Bibles if they could be so arduous to make? There were many different markets for the Bible, because different editions were driving scholarship as well as individuals’ engagement with Scripture.

13:15 — The Bible was one venue in which the Reformation and Counter-Reformation played out. Different editions of the Bible reflected different ideas about religion and who should have direct access to Scripture. Pamphlets were another important medium for waging religious debates, and Luther was a genius when it came to writing them.

19:32 — What kind of blow did Luther’s ideas deal to the authority of the Catholic Church?

21:22 — What kind of access to the Bible did people have before the Reformation?

23:35 — The features that we think of today as inherent to the book (page numbers, indexes, annotations, etc.) emerged at this time. These tools helped people navigate the Bible. But they also abetted censorship by making it easier for censors to zero in on particular passages.

Digital Resources Discussed in This Episode

The Bible in Print

Tracking the Luther Controversy

Religious Change and Print, 1450-1700