Word Made Print: Reformation and the History of the Book

Globalizing Christianity

Through print, Catholic authors could reach audiences and win converts all around the world. Caspar Plautius, an Austrian Benedictine monk, never journeyed to the New World, and his account of Catholic voyages to the Americas is largely fictional, beginning with an account of supposed Atlantic voyages of St. Brendan, a 5th century Irish monk, and continuing with an equally fanciful account of the Benedictine Bernardo Buil, who accompanied Columbus on his second voyage to the New World. The dramatic images and the use of allegory, however, offer a powerful vision of Catholic exploration and conversion. Athanasius Kircher, a member of the newly founded Society of Jesus, was able to draw on more reliable sources through the global network of Catholic missionaries, as in this account of China. He did so from Rome, where he produced a landmark style of florid, encyclopedic works rich in images, read and imitated around the world.