Thursday, January 3, 2013

A short review: Allyson F. Creasman, Censorship and Civic order in Reformation Germany

Allyson F. Creasman. Censorship and Civic Order in Reformation Germany, 1517-1648: 'Printed Poison and Evil Talk.' St. Andrews Studies in Reformation History. Farnham, Surrey, England: Ashgate, 2012. xi + 282 pp. ISBN 978-1409410010.
When I read secondary literature, especially monographs, I'm almost always in search of specific facts or historical context. Usually I'll use the index to find what I need, or at most skim through to find the interesting parts. Censorship and Civic Order in Reformation Germany was one of those rare exceptions where I found myself carefully reading the whole book because it was not only highly relevant to my own research, but also full of compelling, dramatic stories. These are, moreover, stories that we haven't all heard before, as they are based on extensive archival work, principally in the Augsburg city archives. I wish now that I had been able to read Censorship and Civic Order before finishing the manuscript of "Wilhelm Friess," as I constantly found myself mentally comparing events in Augsburg to affairs in Antwerp.

What I most appreciated about Censorship and Civic Order was how it placed censorship in context - legal, historical, social, and economic. We see not just the laws passed by the Augsburg city council, but also the precarious political situation of an Imperial city during the Reformation that motivated the laws, and also the measures taken by printers and others both to resist and to accommodate censorship, and also the religious and economic concerns that motivated them, and also their revisions of those views when under threat of torture. By examining all sides of the phenomenon of censorship, the author proves her point that "censorship was as much a product of public opinion as a force acting upon it" (227).

For a publication based on archival material, I would have liked to have seen transcriptions of the original text provided in the footnotes in addition to the English translations, although that may have increased the book's length beyond the publisher's limit. I also think that a VD16 number should always be provided for sixteenth-century German printed books, as that identifies an edition unambiguously and makes it easier to find further information about a printed edition. But these are minor quibbles that do not detract from the scholarly accomplishment of Censhorship and Civic Order or from my enjoyment of reading it.

No comments:

Post a Comment