Monday, July 5, 2010

A Brief LHP Review

D'Aubingne, J. H. Merle. History of the Reformation in the Sixteeth Century (Facsimile Edition). Powder Springs, GA: Powder Springs Press, 2008. 724 Pages. Cloth with pdf CD-Rom. $49.99, on sale for $29.99.  (LHP)

It is a great time to be alive if you love old (formerly) out-of-print books. Reproductions like this one from Powder Springs Press and available through American Vision are a treat to behold.

Scanning technology makes rare books available to a wider audience when they are digitized and republished. The cover also makes use of modern publishing technology to give a photo-realistic reproduction of the original cover.

"Originally published in 1872, by G.P. Putnam & Sons in New York, this beautiful 800-page edition features 20 books, twelve steel engravings, and 200 wood illustrations including portraits of the most eminent Reformers.

"When the idea of writing this historical account first occurred to D'Aubigne, he stated that he was young, and felt strongly impelled to give a narrative of the wonderful works that God had wrought for Christendom in the Sixteenth Century. He earnestly desired that it should glorify God and he felt that the Holy Spirit, which then worked in so many hearts, might again manifest His power, and bring to God some souls as yet unacquainted with His saving strength.

"In addition to the spiritual significance of his work, D'Aubigne was deeply concerned about historical accuracy. He researched both public and private libraries and deciphered many manuscripts of the Sixteenth Century (many of which were unknown until he made use of them).

"The History of the Reformation is an essential volume in the Christian's library because it provides the historical detail and reflects the living power of the doctrines of the Reformation like no other work in history.

"The author found pleasure in telling the story of the acts of the Reformers; but he wanted this monumental work to be remembered in the words of John Calvin, 'Let us ascribe honor to those men who have excelled in the fear of God; but on condition that God should remain above all, and that Christ should triumph'" (American Vision website).

Although writing from the perspective of a Swiss Protestant, I have found the sections dealing with Martin Luther and the Lutheran Reformation to be largely fair and readable. The major bias I saw was in the reporting of the Marburg Colloquy (329-339), where "different views" on the Lord's Supper are sadly seen as a good thing! And, the author tries to show all of the "reformers" at their best, celebrating what we would call "diversity." There is much to appreciate here, but be aware of the author's theological worldview.

The list of illustrations is extensive (xxv).  Many show the persons under discussion or the places where history happened. The twelve major full-page engravings (on steel) are all of Martin Luther and his life and reforming efforts. Luther is respected as a magesterial Reformer.

One may even read the book on a computer as a pdf file thanks to the enclosed digital copy.
Such a tome is a joy to read, for this historian knows how to write in an engaging, entertaining, and edifying way. The original edition was an heirloom. I hope this new reprint is as well.

The Rev. Paul J Cain is Pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming, Headmaster of Martin Luther Grammar School, a member of the Board of Directors of The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education, Wyoming District Worship Chairman, and Editor of QBR.