Historian Donates Reformation Pamphlets to Columbia’s Burke Library

NEW YORK, April 11, 2007 Columbia University’s Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary recently received two rare reformation pamphlets from collector and scholar Milton (Mac) Gatch.

Pamphlet cover with monogram Pamphlet cover with a unique MK W monogram.
Pamphlet title page illustrating the sale of indulgences Pamphlet title page illustrating the sale of indulgences.

Dr. Gatch, former director of Burke Library, donated the pamphlets in conjunction with a talk he gave on March 7 entitled “Reformation Pamphlets and Reformation Research: Union's First Church Historians.” The lecture was recorded and will soon be available as an audio download from the Libraries’ website.

Reformation pamphlets are relatively short printed works, usually quarto in format, written by the Reformers and their opponents and published in the Sixteenth Century (mostly before 1550). In German, these pamphlets are called Flugschriften (literally, "flying writings", i.e. quickly distributed propagandist publications).

The two pamphlets donated by Gatch are rare examples from his personal collection. The first, “Von dem pfrundt marckt der Cutisanen und Tampelknechten,” dating from 1521, is one of at least four copies in the US. The cover is inscribed with a personal monogram and inscription that make it unique from the other three.

The second pamphlet, “Beclagung aines leyens genant Hanns schwalb über vil missbreüch Christliches lebens, vnd darinn begriffen kürzlicn von Johannes Hußen,” dates from 1521 as well. The title page’s woodcut vignette depicts the sale of indulgences, a principle cause of Martin Luther’s Reformation. This pamphlet may be one of only two copies of this imprint in the US.

“Reformation pamphlets were among the first rare acquisitions of American libraries,” said Jim Neal, Columbia’s Vice President for Information Services and University Librarian. “We are grateful to Mac Gatch for donating these two important primary sources to Burke Library.”

Columbia University Libraries is one of the top ten academic library systems in the nation, with 9.2 million volumes, over 65,650 serials, as well as extensive collections of electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, and other nonprint formats. The collections and services are organized into 25 libraries, supporting specific academic or professional disciplines. Columbia Libraries employs more than 400 professional and support staff to assist faculty, students, and researchers in their academic endeavors. The Libraries’ website at http://www.columbia.edu/cu/lweb/ is a gateway to its print and electronic collections and to its services.

The Burke Library, which is the largest theological library in the western hemisphere, contains rich collections for theological study and research. With holdings of over 700,000 items, the Library is recognized as one of the premier libraries in its field and includes extensive holdings of unique and special materials. Throughout its long history, the Library has maintained its commitment to the needs of both teaching and research, serving not only the faculty, staff and students of Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University, but also a wide spectrum of national and international scholars and researchers. The Library is named in honor of Walter Burke, a generous benefactor to the Library who served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Seminary from 1976 to 1982.

04/11/07 LMK