Luther in Printed Marginalia: Reference Notes, Reading and Representations

In a new article in Reformation & Renaissance Review Kajsa Weber investigates reference notes (what in the 18th century would become the footnote) in Lutheran Swedish print 1570–1630.

By investigating a yet unexplored medium for representing Luther in print it expands on scholarly work regarding how Lutherans at the turn of the sixteenth century chose to represent Luther and his texts. During the last decade, scholars have shown that representations of Luther as the main authority became a significant feature of Lutheran confessionalisation. However, Lutheran devotional culture did not settle there but developed ways to commemorate Luther that made him accessible for them on an individual basis, as with Luther relics or grapho-relics.

At the same time reference notes were, of course, not a sole Lutheran phenomenon but corresponded to established scholarly practices to collect sources, quote and name them explicitly, and have accurate references.

The reference notes in Lutheran Swedish prints, it is argued, combined these different elements. What at first glance seemed to be an established scholarly practice and tool to verify sources was in fact something rather different. The reader, most probably, had no chance to check the notes and the notes themselves were many times (despite their accuracies) too imprecise. Rather than being a scholarly tool, the notes had meaning in themselves for the Lutherans. The reference notes emphasised Luther’s authority, added new ways of presenting and memorialising Luther, and at the same time offered the reader the imagined experience of reading Luther’s original text. In this sense, they were yet another medium for building a Lutheran identity around the German Reformer.

Weber, Kajsa, ”Luther in Printed Marginalia: Reference Notes, Reading and Representations in Swedish Prints 1570–1630”, Reformation & Renaissance Review 24:2 (2022), s. 82–100.


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