Religion

Stephen Penn

Wyclif devoted many years of his life to the intensive study of scripture, beginning formally with exegetical lectures that survive as a sequence of postils (probably written between 1371 and 1376), now collectively known as Postils on the Whole of the Bible, a unique and extensive commentary that won Wyclif considerable respect as an exegete. In these, we witness his meticulous defence of the authority of scripture, and of the literal veracity of all of its parts. This is developed further in On the Truth of Holy Scripture (1377–78), Wyclif’s definitive guide to the interpretation of the Bible. It is in the first book of this latter treatise that he argues that scripture is metaphysically the Book of Life of which we read in St John’s Apocalypse. This book and the truths inscribed within it, he suggests here, are scripture in the truest sense, unlike the material codices that are so often taken to be the scriptural text by contemporary scholars. This conception of the scripture served Wyclif well in his famous claim that no part of scripture could literally be false. It enabled him to challenge the linguistic sophistry which he felt inevitably arose when the nature of the scriptural text was narrowly equated with inscriptions on manuscript pages.

in John Wyclif
Stephen Penn

The doctrine of transubstantiation was presented formally in Canon 1 of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215, which was presided over by Innocent III. Transubstantiation, as explained explicitly in the canon, involved the replacement or transformation of one substance (the bread or the wine) by another (the body or the blood of Christ). This formal record of ‘orthodox’ eucharistic doctrine was the implicit target of much of Wyclif’s criticism of contemporary conceptions of material change in the host. It entailed necessarily for him that the substances of the bread and the wine had to have been annihilated, and that their accidents had therefore to exist without subjects. Many theologians had published versions of this theory, including Thomas Aquinas, but Wyclif’s metaphysical system could admit neither the possibility of annihilation nor the possibility of accidents existing without substantive subjects. He outlined his position in a late philosophical treatise, On the Externally Productive Power of God (1371/2), but its controversial potential ostensibly went unnoticed.

in John Wyclif
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Stephen Penn

Wyclif’s views on sacramental theology are difficult to summarise collectively, but much of what he said on the topic was generally concerned with removing a particular sacrament from its ceremonial or accidental trappings, rather than questioning its necessity. The only sacrament about which he expressed some doubt is confirmation, but, even here, it would seem to be its administration at the hands of bishops that is the true target of the doubts he expresses. His beliefs about the process of sacramental change in the eucharist represent a more radical and controversial departure from orthodox teaching, but, once again, the need of this sacrament is never questioned. Because of the complexity of Wyclif’s ideas about the eucharist, and of the metaphysical principles that inform it, as well as the volume of writing dedicated to this topic, it will be covered separately in Chapter 4.

in John Wyclif
Stephen Penn
in John Wyclif
Stephen Penn

This chapter contains translations of a selection of shorter documents that were edited by Rudolf Buddensieg for the Wyclif Society in Polemical Works (vols 1 and 2, 1883). On the Noonday Devil is generally held to be the earliest of these, and is normally dated within a short period of the death of Edward III’s eldest son, the Black Prince, on 8 June 1376, which is mentioned in this text. The king himself died only a little over a year later. The other two texts, On the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirt and On the Loosing of Satan, whose polemic ranges far beyond the very limited scope of On the Noonday Devil, are generally held to have been written towards the end of Wyclif’s life.

in John Wyclif
Mapping Dutch Identity in the First Dutch Envoy to Ceylon
Danielle Gravon

This article examines the various layered concepts of foreignness constructed by ‘t Historiael Journael, a travel account of the first Dutch envoy to Ceylon from 1602 to 1604. It focuses on a map of Ceylon included in the account and positions it in relation to other cartographic projects commissioned by leaders of the early Dutch Republic. It is argued that the Dutch conceived of religious and cartographic images as opposing types of representation and used the stylistic conventions and ideological concepts underpinning these different modes of picturing to construct divergent religious and political identities. It is also suggested that Johann Theodor De Bry’s popular India Orientalis, in which an abridged version of the travel account appears, smooths out the complex layers of political, religious and geographic difference constructed in the original text.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
An Illustration of Otherness in John Nalson’s An Impartial Collection
Helen Pierce

An Impartial Collection of the Great Affairs of State was published in London, in two volumes, between 1682 and 1683. Its author John Nalson was a fervent believer in the twin pillars of the monarchy and the Anglican Church. In An Impartial Collection he holds up the internecine conflict of the 1640s as an example not to be followed during the 1680s, a period of further religious and political upheaval. Nalson’s text is anything but neutral, and its perspective is neatly summarised in the engraved frontispiece which prefaces the first volume. This article examines how this illustration, depicting a weeping Britannia accosted by a two-faced clergyman and a devil, adapts and revises an established visual vocabulary of ‘otherness’, implying disruption to English lives and liberties with origins both foreign and domestic. Such polemical imagery relies on shock value and provocation, but also contributes to a sophisticated conversation between a range of pictorial sources, reshaping old material to new concerns, and raising important questions regarding the visual literacy and acuity of its viewers.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
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Neighbours, Strangers, Monsters
Anne Dunlop and Cordelia Warr
Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
Debra Higgs Strickland

Hartmann Schedel’s Liber Chronicarum (1493), better known as the Nuremberg Chronicle, pictures and describes world civilisations and illustrious individuals from Creation to 1493. Although its sources and circumstances of production have been extensively explored, the cultural significance of its many woodcut images has received far less attention. This preliminary study highlights relationships between images, audience and the humanist agenda of Schedel and his milieu by examining selected representations of cultural outsiders with reference to external illustrated genres that demonstrated the centrality of Others in German Christian culture. I argue that the Chronicle’s images of ‘foreign bodies’ harnessed their audience’s established fascination with monsters, wonders, witchcraft, Jews and the Ottoman Turks to advance the German humanist goal of elevating the position of Germania on the world historical stage and in so doing, contributed to the emerging idea of a German national identity.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library
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Clothing’s Impact on the Body in Italy and England, 1550–1650
Elizabeth Currie

Studies of early modern dress frequently focus on its connection with status and identity, overlooking clothing’s primary function, namely to protect the body and promote good health. The daily processes of dressing and undressing carried numerous considerations: for example, were vital areas of the body sufficiently covered, in the correct fabrics and colours, in order to maintain an ideal body temperature? The health benefits of clothing were countered by the many dangers it carried, such as toxic dyes, garments that were either too tight or voluminous, or harboured dirt and diseases that could infect the body. This article draws on medical treatises and health manuals printed and read in Italy and England, as well as personal correspondence and diaries, contextualised with visual evidence of the styles described. It builds on the current, wider interest in preventative medicine, humoral theory, health and the body in the early modern period by focusing in depth on the role of clothing within these debates.

Bulletin of the John Rylands Library