Friday, March 09, 2007

The Library of Leander van Ess and American Collections of the Earliest Reformation Pamphlets
by Milton McC. Gatch
BSA Occasional Publications
Oakknoll Press
, February 2007

Reformation pamphlets were among the first rare book acquisitions of American libraries. Gatch traces the remarkable history of the Leander van Ess collection purchased by the Union Theological Seminary in 1838, the first and largest collection of these religious tracts to arrive in America. He notes how they were originally obtained by van Ess, a Catholic priest, translator of the Bible, and a former Benedictine monk, who built an impressive personal collection of books and manuscripts when monastic libraries were being dispersed during the Napoleonic wars. He has also identified a significant group of pamphlets assembled at Wittenberg during the 1520s, Luther’s most creative period. Never before accurately described, the surviving pamphlets from this collection are listed here in the order of van Ess’s own catalogue, with a set of indexes to authors and printers, and with concordances to major bibliographical resources. Gatch reviews the history of Reformation pamphlet collecting in the United States from these earliest efforts up to the beginning of the twentieth century, and reflects on how these primary resources were used (or neglected) by American church historians. An extensive bibliography and a detailed index of the introductory essays are included.

This is the first of the Bibliographical Society of America Occasional Publications. The next volume in this series will be: Melissa Conway & Lisa Fagin Davis, Directory of North American Institutions Holding Pre-1600 Manuscripts.