Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Margo Todd


In Reformation studies, the printed Bible has long been regarded as an agent of change. This dissertation interrogates the conditions in which it did not Reform its readers. As recent scholarship has emphasized how Protestant doctrine penetrated culture through alternative media, such as preaching and printed ephemera, the revolutionary role of the scripture-book has become more ambiguous. Historians of reading, nevertheless, continue to focus upon radical, prophetic, and otherwise eccentric modes of interaction with the vernacular Bible, reinforcing the traditional notion that the conversion of revelation to print had a single historical trajectory and that an adversarial relationship between textual and institutional authority was logically necessary. To understand why printed bibles themselves more often did not generate unrest, this study investigates the evidence left by a subset of Bible readers who remained almost entirely unstudied -- that is, early modern Catholics. To the conflict-rich evidence of ecclesiastical prohibitions, court records, and martyrologies often employed in top down narratives of the Counter-Reformation, this project introduces the alternative sources of used books and reading licenses. What these records reveal is that Catholic lay readers were not habituated to automate critical reading practices in the presence of biblical texts; what they demanded from ecclesiastical authorities and publishers instead were books that could provide them with access to their church's sacred rituals and to its public expression of exegesis. The liturgical context of appropriation apparent in these Catholic books became visible in their evangelical counterparts enabling a cross-confessional history of sacred reading. This broader story is situated within the annotated Bible of one Catholic reader, Thomas Marwood (d.1718). The components of his book expose his overlapping reading communities and the disparate social and institutional contexts that structured them. Contextualizing each part illuminates the extent to which the conditions and traditions for reading the scriptures were shared across confessions and contested within them. This dissertation recovers a place for Bibles and their readers not only within early modern Catholicism, but within the Reformation era generally.

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