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Gisbertus Voetius on the Necessity of Locating, Collecting and Preserving Early Printed Books

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In the revised edition of his manual for students which he published in 1651, the Utrecht Calvinist theologian Gisbertus Voetius (1589-1676) included a discussion of the methodology of bibliographical research. He noted that in many editions, not just of theological works, the texts had been much changed and mutilated by representatives of the Church of Rome. In the period from the invention of printing to the beginning of the Reformation (1571) it was ignorance and blindness that dominated; between 1517 and 1570, the year of the publication of the decisions on censorhip of the Council of Trent, they had started to meddle with texts on purpose, but restrained themselves for fear of being discovered. Since the Council of Trent, however, they had thrown caution to the winds. If one wanted to know the original version of a text, one had to compare all available editions. Especially the increasingly rare works from the earliest period were important, because sometimes they contained editions of classical and medieval authors that were based on reliable manuscripts. The most important reason, however, was that they enabled comparison with later editions and could therefore bring to light manipulations of the text. This brought Voetius to the necessity of locating and collecting early printed books. He ended his argument with a passionate plea for collecting and keeping these rare works in public collections.

Affiliations: 1: Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Netherlands


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