November 22, 2021

Now Online: Anthony Scoloker, “Instructions for a New Christian” (1549)

Anthony Scoloker, Instructions for a New Christian (1549)

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This book is one of the most remarkable English works of the 16th century. Richly illustrated with a seemingly endless sea of engravings, it creates an incredibly visual impression upon the reader. That was its intention at publication: to capture the attention of passers by, and inspire them towards growth in their virtue and Christian faithfulness. Whatever the reader’s job might be, this remarkable book likely contained an image of his work, social roles and hierarchies; as well as images of piety and devotion, and key aspects of salvation history. Over sixty engravings illustrate the book’s wide range of topics: whether you’re a son or a parent, a merchant or a craftsman, whether it’s morning prayer, or Christ’s judgment, this book captures these scenes in incredibly striking images, and combines them with powerful Christian instruction.

During the Reformation, a major challenge faced by the reformers was an incredible ignorance of simple Christian teachings. As seen in the period literature, it appears that almost the entirety of the medieval populace knew almost nothing of what Christianity actually professed. One of the key tasks of the Reformation was indeed to help correct this centuries-old pattern. Many of the reformers launched vast projects of fundamental catechesis and instruction, to introduce most people for the first time to the actual principles and doctrines of the Christian religion. This book represents one of those monumental efforts. Sometimes the effort was shared by several scholars, and our text is connected with a catechetical work of Cornelis vander Heyden, named Corte instruccye (1545). Indeed the two share many of the engravings, which seem to have survived only in the English variant. Thus what you see here may be the only specimen of these incredible art-works to have survived. Enjoy!