The devotion of collecting : ministers and the culture of print in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic
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This project is the first to analyze the known corpus of seventeenth-century Dutch ministerial library catalogues, and it asks how these sources inform our understanding of the religious and cultural climate during the Dutch Golden Age. Thousands of ministers served local congregations in the Netherlands. They considered books and pamphlets necessary for a godly life, and they were avid collectors of print. Over 240 catalogues of ministerial libraries survive from the seventeenth century, all of which have been examined for this study. Fifty-five have been transcribed in full. Libraries of a hundred or more books were not uncommon even amongst ministers in small rural townships. Some ministerial libraries reached to multiple thousands of books. Their calling demanded that they pursue greater understanding of the Bible, and they used their books in the pursuit of truth. The ideal minister was one who was diligent in private study as an act of service to the church and the nation. How did Protestant Dutch ministers use print in their efforts to bring the Republic into greater conformity with the biblical ideal? Ministers were central political and cultural figures in their communities, and they turned to books and print for the fulfillment of their pastoral charge. Knowledge of the books these ministers read sheds light on the history of the Netherlands, because it indicates the expectations placed upon them by their congregations and by their colleagues. Professors of theology, regional synods and even local congregations expected their ministers would continue to grow in knowledge and wisdom through the acquisition of books, and ministers in turn took the information they gathered from their libraries and sought to encourage greater godliness in all who would listen to their sermons or read their own printed texts. Protestant ministers worked under two primary assumptions: that Scripture was the final authority of faith and life, and that the Christian faith was an all-encompassing worldview. These assumptions induced many ministers to read books of nearly every variety, from those with whom they agreed and disagreed, and on all manner of topics. Because of their understanding that print was a powerful tool in the life of the godly, ministers devoted precious time and money to acquiring and writing books. They built libraries and they wrote books to fulfill their divine calling to guard the faith as it was entrusted to them and to encourage others in sound doctrine.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2025-05-28
Embargo Reason: Thesis restricted in accordance with University regulations. Print and electronic copy restricted until 28th May 2025
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