The Devotio Moderna and the Printing Press (ca. 1475-1540)

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Six presses owned by religious houses belonging to the Devotio Moderna were active during the period 14751540, five of them run by Brethren of the Common Life, the sixth by Regular Canons. The question is raised whether the production of these presses can be correlated with the nature of this religious movement. Traditionally, scholarly literature has had high expectations from the printing activities by the adherents of the Devotio Moderna. But motives which have been ascribed to them in the past and which were supposed to have contained incentives for printing, such as ministry to the laity, the involvement with education at Latin School level, and the commercial exploitation of their writing skills, appear to have been misunderstood or exaggerated to a certain degree in the light of insights from recent scholarship. A fourth motive was the wish to procure standardized texts for the liturgy in order to underscore homogeneous monastic observance. The analysis of the output of the six presses (200 editions in total) reveals strong divergences between them. One third of the editions was vernacular - partly devotional and catechetic - for which only three presses were responsible. The Latin production fell into various genres, including theology, humanism and grammar; indulgences were the result of job printing. Five of the six presses were active in the highly demanding branch of printing for the liturgy, and it is here, if anywhere, that a common denominator can be found. So the fourth motive mentioned by the scholarly literature appears to be perhaps the most relevant. © 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)579-606
Number of pages27
JournalChurch History and Religious Culture
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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