The Quest for the Early Modern Bible Reader: The Dutch Vorsterman Bible (1533–1534), its Readers and Users

Bert Tops*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    This article investigates a book-archeological approach to early modern Bible reading that maps the complex interactions between the substantive elements of a book (text, paratext, illustrations) on the one hand, and its historical readers and the traces they left on the other. That method is applied to all 43 extant copies of the Dutch Vorsterman Bible of 1533–1534. The editions printed by Willem Vorsterman were for a long time regarded as Protestant. However, the Bibles had the approval of the secular and ecclesiastic authorities and were intended for a Catholic public. The edition of 1533–1534 is a glossed Bible with many historicizing, chronological, linguistic and typological paratextual elements. The former owners of the 43 Bibles and their confessional background are examined. Intended and unintended traces of use give clues to the actual use of the Bible. The article turns at the end to a heavily annotated copy, examining the religious ideas of the annotator and the way in which he used the Bible.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)185-222
    Number of pages38
    JournalJournal of Early Modern Christianity
    Issue number2
    Early online date7-Dec-2019
    Publication statusPublished - 18-Dec-2019


    • the Low Countries in the Reformation Era
    • sixteenth-century Dutch Bibles
    • Willem Vorsterman
    • literacy
    • reading and reader markings
    • Catholic readers
    • book-archeology

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