Publish or Perish: The Impact of Printing on the Protestant Reformation

Manuscript with Martin Luther
Thompson Library
Thompson Library Gallery
1858 Neil Avenue Mall
Columbus, OH 43210-1286

September 27, 2017 - January 28, 2018
Exhibit Hours: 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
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Publish or Perish highlights the role of printing and publishing during the Protestant Reformation. Curator Eric J. Johnson selected medieval and early Reformation-era printed works that highlight the remarkable collection of OSU’s Rare Books & Manuscripts Library. The library exhibition coincides with a symposium on 'Reformation and Remembrance' that will take place on campus October 20-21, 2017:”.

When Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the church door in Wittenberg in October 1517, he was merely doing what any other professor with a set of statements for debate might do. He drew up his points, had them printed, and posted them to inspire debate. Luther could hardly have known that by the end of the 16th century this simple act of publication would be just the first of 4,790 separate editions of his works printed in Germany alone.

The first three years of the Reformation (15181520) saw total book production in Germany quadruple, with a further doubling of production by 1524. As the years rolled on and more writers entered the fray, the publishing industry expanded to keep up with the ever-increasing demand for books. For the evangelical reformers and the Catholics who opposed them, it truly was a situation of “publish or perish.” Print your ideas, disseminate them as widely and quickly as possible, or else face defeat—and even death—in the struggle for hearts, minds, and souls.


Gallery Hours:

Monday-Friday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday: Noon – 6 p.m.


Photo of Eric Johnson Eric Johnson
Curator, THO Spec Collections