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Religious Debates and the Fear of Print

Print made possible the circulation of ideas, and introduced a new world of debate and discussion. People were able to express their ideas through print. The printed word was also used to influence people and to make them think differently.

The fear of the printed word

  • Everyone did not welcome the printed book
  • Many feared the influence printed books had on the public, as books were now easily available and circulated widely.
  • Those opposed to books feared that if there was no control over what was printed and read, then rebellious and irreligious thoughts might spread.
  • Martin Luther was a religious reformer. In 1517 he wrote the ‘Ninety Five Theses’ criticising many of the practices and rituals of the Roman Catholic Church. A printed copy of this was pasted on a church door in Wittenberg. The Church was prompted to discuss his ideas.

    Soon Martin Luther’s Ninety Five Theses’ was printed in vast numbers and read widely. This lead to a division within the Church and was the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

    Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament sold 5,000 copies within a few weeks and a second edition appeared within three months.

    Several scholars felt print brought about a new intellectual atmosphere and helped spread the new ideas that led to the Reformation.

    Martin Luther

    ‘Ninety Five Theses’

    Luther Nails his Ninety-Five Theses

    Manocchio, a miller in Italy, reinterpreted the message of the Bible and formulated a view of God and Creation that enraged the Roman Catholic Church.

    The Roman Church was troubled by the questionings of religious faith. They felt that the new reading culture was the cause of this disbelief and imposed severe controls over publishers and booksellers and began to maintain an Index of Prohibited Books from 1558.

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