Friday, December 2, 2011

By way of comparison

When discussing an early modern pamphlet, I'll often refer to the work's "popularity," but the question always has to be: Popular compared to what? In Printing and Prophecy, I usually focused on the most popular prophetic pamphlets - that is, compared to other prophecies. But how popular were prophecies, relatively speaking?

It might be useful to compare a few quick searches in VD16 for works of acknowledged cultural significance. (These are quick searches, so I'm undoubtedly missing some editions, particularly later editions that compile shorter works.)
Martin Luther, Ein Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen: 6 editions (1530)
Martin Luther, Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen: 8 editions (1520-64)
Martin Luther, De captivitate Babylonica ecclesiae praeludium: 12 editions (1520-24)
This is not at all to say that Johann Carion (30 editions of the Bedeutnus und Offenbarung between 1526 and 1548) or Johannes Lichtenberger (31 editions of the Prognosticatio in Germany from 1521 to 1587) were as influential as Luther. Far from it - there are hundreds of editions of Luther's catechisms, for example. But some prophetic tracts were reprinted in enough editions that one has to consider more than just their relative popularity.

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