Archive for September, 2011

Martin Luther and the Printing Press

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

When Johannes Gutenberg began working on the printing press in 1436, he created what can be considered one of the most ingenious inventions of all time.  It would lead the way for a massive wave of printed books to be sold all across Europe.[1]  This revolutionary invention paved the future for many great writers.  It also paved the way for the rise in fame of one German priest in particular.  That man was Martin Luther.

Martin Luther was not only a priest, but a professor of theology who started the
Protestant Reformation.[2]  For him to be credited with this, he needed
something to help spread his preaching out across Europe.  That ended up being Gutenberg’s invention, the printing press.  In 1517, Martin Luther wrote to his bishop, Albert of Mainz, protesting his dislike of buying indulgences.  He added something in the letter, which would later become the famous Ninety-Five Thesis.  Luther would argue that the sale of indulgences was a violation of the original intention of confession, and that Christians were being lied to by their own church.[3]

In January 1518, Christoph von Scheurl and other friends of Luther translated the Ninety Five Theses into German, since it was originally written in Latin.  They then printed and copied it, making it one of the first documents to be done with the help of the printing press.[4]  Within two weeks, copies of the Theses had spread throughout Germany.  Within six weeks of that, the Theses had been copied across Europe.  Luther’s writings reached France, England and Italy by 1519.[5]  This greatly increased the notoriety of
Martin Luther, and it also made many other people across Europe protest the ecclesiastical structure of the Catholic Church.

Another huge impact the printing press had on Martin Luther was the Luther Bible.  Luther went through many different areas of Germany in the 1520’s and picked up on many of the different dialects.  Luther then combined all of these dialects when he wrote the Luther Bible.  It was not the first German translation by any means, but it did standardize the German language and bring up a strong surge of nationalism in Germany.[6]  Luther was quoted as saying “I have so far read no book or letter in which the German
language is properly handled. Nobody seems to care sufficiently for it; and every preacher thinks he has a right to change it at pleasure and to invent new terms.”[7]  Above all though, the Luther Bible did what Luther needed it to do: spread Protestantism.

“…For I see what benefit it has brought to the churches, that men have begun to collect many books and great libraries, outside and alongside of the Holy scriptures…”[8]  Luther was referring to the benefits of his spread works, but also how men needed to fully respect their religion.  The printing press allowed for Martin Luther to become one of the most famous priests this world has ever known.  It also allowed for Luther to push the Protestant Reformation and standardize the German language.  Without Gutenberg’s invention, Luther’s successes would have been very limited compared to what they were.



[1]
Albert Kapr, Johannes Gutenberg: The Man and his Invention (Aldershot: Scolar Press, 1996), 172.

[2]
Edward M. Plass, What Luther Says: An Anthology (St. Loius: Concordia Publishing House, 1959), 2.

[3]
Martin Treu, Martin Luther in Wittenberg: a Biographical Tour (Wittenberg: Luther Memorial Foundation, 2003), 15.

[4] Martin Brecht, Martin Luther, trans. James L. Schaaf (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985-93), 203-206.

[5]
Walter Kramer and Gotz Trenkler, “Luther,” Lexicon van Hardnekkige Misverstanden (Nederlands: Bert Bakker, 1997), 214-216.

[6]
Mark Antliff, The Legacy of Martin Luther (Ottawa: McGill University Press, 1983), 11.

[7]
Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1910), 12.

[8] Martin Luther, Works of Martin Luther with Introduction and Notes (Philadelphia: A.J. Holden Company, 1915), 7.

Week 4 Project Blog

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

For this week, I would like to start out by saying that I actually like how different both groups were who co-lead discussions were.  I think that it is not an easy task at all.  Although I am a bit nervous about it myself, I must say that I like how the groups have responded to the task.  I hope that each week is a different approach, as it certainly makes everything that much more interesting.

The project itself was ok, but I have realized that teamwork is beyond important.  Staying on the same page is critical.  For the next group assignment, everybody needs to be much more involved.  I am not just speaking on behalf of myself.  I think that getting everything laid out is a must in order for us to be successful.

As for my work on next week’s project, I am beyond happy with the progress I made today on it.  Solid primary sources are beyond hard to find, and I believe that I have found some great ones that I can use.  I have also found many secondary sources that I have checked are credible.  Like with the timeline, I think it is important that we all check to make sure that the information that we gather is correct.  Otherwise, there was no point in doing the project at all.

Week 3 Project Blog

Friday, September 16th, 2011

When I first starting looking up the details on the very first printing press by Johannes Gutenberg, I found out a great deal of information.  According to James Burke’s Connections, the printing press became Gutenberg’s life.  Gutenberg’s bible was made over time, with a page being printed every few hours.  It had 290 different characters to use, which did not make the task any easier.

Gutenberg’s invention had a huge impact upon Martin Luther, a German Priest who lived during the Protestant Reformation.  According to Martin Brecht, Martin Luther’s 95 Theses that was displayed at the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, was translated from Latin to German and spread across Germany.  Even though the 95 Theses did decline feudalism and increase commercialism, the impact of printed copies around Germany was undiscribable.  Luther’s sermons were printed and spread all across Europe, which lead to the rise in his popularity.

Nowadays, we have television, internet, magazines, newspapers, radio, and serveral other sources that can be used to popularize or condemn anything that is heard or seen.  However, 500 years ago, this was not the case.  Martin Luther is known for being a very strong preacher, but he is also known for being one of the first non-political leaders to gain a strong following.  His popularity reached unimaginable limits while he was alive, which was unprecedented in the 1500’s.  His emotion had the ability to jump out of its pages, and with the help of the printing press, his words spoke volumes across the continent.

The funny thing is that it was Luther’s friends who recopied the 95 Theses.  Had they not, who knows when the printing press would have shown its true potential…

Hello world!

Thursday, September 1st, 2011

Hi guys.  My name is Patrick Kramer and I am in my last semester here at Mary Washington.  I have grown up here in Virginia, and over the last several years I have spent much time playing hockey, working and going to school.

I took this course because I have always been interested in technology, even if I have struggled with some of the advancements.  I also took Professor McClurken’s American Technology and Culture course, which flows right into this one.  The course seemed like it was something different, which is what caught my attention.