Word Made Print: Reformation and the History of the Book

Reformation and Power

Reformation, aided by print, transformed power relationships between ecclesiastical and secular authorities – between “church” and “state.” The evangelical movement could not survive without the support of like-minded kings and princes; in most Protestant lands, therefore, sovereign overlords acquired supremacy over the church, resulting in a merger of the two. The alliance was not foreordained: initially, Luther was suspicious of secular authorities and attacked the King of England, Henry VIII, who in 1521 had printed a defense of the seven Catholic sacraments. But the demands of reforming overcame that hesitation; there were institutions to be built, norms and practices to be established – such as Melanchthon’s standard examination (Examen) for ministers in the newly reformed churches. The Booke of Common Prayer codified liturgy for the English church.