This arrived from Brill for review a while back:
The Swiss theologian Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531) was one of the most prominent reformers and the founder of the Reformed Protestant Church in the Swiss Confederation. During the last hundred years more than 200 titles from his private library have been discovered. They give an interesting insight into his interests and sources. The present book contains not only an extensive introduction and a catalogue of these books and manuscripts, but also an inventory of the lost works possessed by Zwingli. They open the door to Zwingli’s study and to the intellectual world of an important reformer.
The book is comprised of three parts. In part one, Leu and Weidmann put Zwingli in the context of books and libraries in general and in the context of his own library in particular. As they state it
… investigating someone’s private library is just as crucial in tracing his spiritual life and intellectual conflicts, as is the scrutiny of other personal documents.
They go on to say a bit further on
Zwingli loved the secluded life of study. It is no coincidence that he underlined the quotation by Horace: “Beatus ille, qui procul negotiis” (Happy the man who is far away from the business) in his copy of the Orationes praelectiones et praefationes by Philipp Beroaldus.
So the aim here is clearly stated: which books did Zwingli own and what did he think of them? To that end, then, we are informed that
… a maximum of a few thousand titles would have been available to scholars during Zwingli’s lifetime. It can thus be inferred that they had to purchase many of the books they wanted themselves, due to the difficulty, at times sheer impossibility, of accessing the material otherwise.
And books were expensive!
One of his most expensive books was probably his edition of the works of Augustine (no. 13). The edition printed later in 1529 by Johannes Froben (about 1460–1527) had cost 18 guilders.
I had to do a little research, but I discovered this bit of information about the value of the guilder:
An outdoor laborer earned 6.50 guilders per week or just over 300 guilders per year.
A master carpenter earned 9 guilders per week or just over 450 guilders per year.
Wages did not change for 150 years.
A pastor earned 500 guilders per year. Rent free. We have an antique Dutch book and it describes the detailed living expenses of a pastor and his wife on a 500 guilders a year salary. They could not make ends meet.
Today, economists find it difficult to express a meaningful correlation factor of cost of living between two very different cities e.g. Miami, Oklahoma and Miami, Florida, let alone find a factor for correlating cost of living between two countries over some 400 years. However, research on inflation and CPI over the period of 1600 to 2000, -as well as rate of exchange and purchasing power- gives us a workable factor of 60. That means that for the rest of this report we’ll use: 100 guilders in the 1600s equals US $6,000 in today’s money. (Cf- http://vanosnabrugge.org/docs/dutchmoney.htm).
That’s approximately the valuation of the guilder used in Switzerland during Zwingli’s lifetime. I.e., 1 guilder = $60. That means that Zwingli’s copy of Augustine’s works cost him $1080.
Zwingli paid off this work in at least two installments because on 8th March 1521 he wrote to Beatus Rhenanus that he had sent four guilders to the bookseller Mathias Biermann to settle the debts for his Augustine.
If we calculate Zwingli’s income, it becomes evident that the Reformer spent a comparatively large amount of his money on his library which numbered several hundred titles. He was prepared to spend substantial sums on books and on education. We do not know how much he earned in Glarus, his financial situation in Einsiedeln is better documented. As well as a papal pension of 50 guilders per year for his military services in northern Italy, he also had a sinecure from Glarus and received an annual salary of twenty guilders from the monastery in Einsiedeln. There, he was also entitled to part of the so-called Beichtschilling (confessional shilling), to the fees for reading Masses (Oblations) and to a quarter of the donations at a funeral (mortuaries). Furthermore, he held the parish of Glarus de jure and had a locum vicar, thus securing for him self an additional income. Zwingli certainly earned over 100 guilders annually in Einsiedeln, which was not the case during his early days in Zürich.
These fascinating details fill this volume’s first chapter and no fuller picture of Zwingli’s book acquisitions has ever been composed.
When our authors get to the second part of their work they examine in brilliant detail the works in Zwingli’s library (of three chief sorts, Theological, Historical, and Miscellaneous). They provide many examples of marginal notations along with many historical details about the works Zwingli used. For instance, and remarkably
Astonishingly enough, not one single German Bible has survived from Zwingli’s Bible collection, although he certainly knew the so-called Wormser Propheten (no. A 17) as well as Luther’s New Testament (no. A 18). He used both of these works in preparing his translation for the Zürich Bible. Unlike the private collection of Zwingli’s successor, Heinrich Bullinger, no copy of the Zürich Bible has come down to us from Zwingli’s library, although he himself contributed greatly to its translation. We do however have a complete Greek Bible which, in a way, can be seen as Zwingli’s family Bible (no. 26). He would not have read aloud from it in the family circle, but he recorded the births of his children on the back inside cover. This list of births was continued by his son, recording his children with Anna Bullinger proving that the Bible remained in the Zwingli family after his death and was not transferred to the abbey library of the Grossmünster.
They also provide numerous illustrative plates throughout the volume.
Zwingli’s library was comprised of just over 400 volumes. 197 of them are held in the Zurich Central Library and they are available online, as we are here informed:
Finally it should be noted that all titles held by the ZBZ are available in digitized form at the following internet address: http://www.e-rara.ch/pbhzwingli/nav/classification/17174539
There is a wealth of material in those volumes in the form of Zwingli’s marginal notations.
The third part of the volume is the catalogue itself. And, unsurprisingly, it is simply a listing of those volumes held by Zwingli in his personal library.
The volume concludes with a bibliography. It also concludes with a series of indices of printer’s locations, a list of contributors to Zwingli’s library, and finally, dedicators.
This is an exceptionally interesting book. The historical details it shares and the massive amount of material it so carefully sifts is astonishing. Readers of this volume will learn more about Zwingli and his world than from most other volumes on the great Reformer. I cannot recommend it highly enough. And so I recommend it to you, to your library, and to your research institution.