Tuesday, May 27 marks the 450th anniversary of the death of Protestant reformer Jean (or John) Calvin (1509-1564). Calvin was born in France and was trained as a lawyer. He was also interested in humanism and studied Greek and Latin classics. Sometime in 1533, he had a religious experience which led him to reject Roman Catholicism and begin preaching reform. He eventually had to flee to Basel, Switzerland to escape persecution.
Calvin’s Institutes of Christian Religion was first published in Basel in 1536. This highly influential work is a systematic and comprehensive explication of Protestant doctrine. Calvin revised it several times over the next two decades – the image shown here is the title page of the fourth edition published in 1559, which is Calvin’s definitive version. Calvin’s Protestantism spread through Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands in the mid-1550s; his disciple John Knox brought Calvinism to Scotland. Several Calvinist theologians settled in England. Their followers became known as Puritans, who would eventually bring Calvinism to North America in the next century.
Special Collections houses a number of early works by Calvin printed in Calvinist Europe, in Latin, French, and English. They can be found by searching the library catalog for the author term “Calvin, Jean.” You can also view selected works by Calvin and other famous Protestant Reformers from our Renaissance and Reformation collection with a visit to the “Works of the Reformation” highlights page on our website.