A spirit of literature - Melville, Baillie, Wodrow and a cast of thousands: the clergy in Scotland's long Renaissance



Mann A (2004) A spirit of literature - Melville, Baillie, Wodrow and a cast of thousands: the clergy in Scotland's long Renaissance. Renaissance Studies, 18 (1), pp. 90-108.

Scotland's ‘long Renaissance' of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries arose in the context of a tumultuous period of Reformation, civil war, revolution and political union. Religion and disputes over church government were at the heart of the political and cultural agendas of the early modern period. Thus Scotland's Renaissance, late, protracted and relatively muted, has been explained by the national preoccupation with religious dogma and factionalism. The Calvinist nature of the Scottish Reformation and Protestant Scotland is depicted as a disincentive to cultural diversity. Central to this, of course, is the role of the clergy both collectively and as literate individuals. This article seeks to explore the interests and needs of the Scottish clergy in the print culture of the ‘long Renaissance'. The public and private faces of book relationships, the engagement between clerics and the book trade of Scotland, England and Europe and the tenacity of bookishness in the face of political discord are all considered. In particular, the article traces changes and continuities in the relationships between church and print through the diaries and letters of three prominent individuals: James Melville, Robert Baillie and Robert Wodrow. It is argued that the historiographical emphasis on revolution and change have been exaggerated and that, as Renaissance Humanism struck a deal with Calvinism, continuity characterises the history of Christian clerics of Protestant faith as they responded to the international culture of print.

Renaissance; Reformation; Scottish clergy; print culture; book trade

Renaissance Studies: Volume 18, Issue 1

Publication date31/03/2004
Publication date online30/03/2004

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Dr Alastair Mann
Dr Alastair Mann

Senior Lecturer, History