Bagster’s Bibles: for Norwich and the world

Last weekend, I happened upon a melancholy Twitter thread that captured the closing of a two-hundred-year-old church in Norwich: Princes Street United Reformed Church. The author, Jay Hulme (@JayHulmePoet), had gone to photograph the building as a record for posterity, a day before the pews and fittings were due to be stripped out. (You can read and see Jay’s account here.)

One of the outcomes of this visit is that a small collection of books, mostly bibles, found piled on a windowsill has now gone to the Norfolk Heritage Centre for safe-keeping. Looking carefully, with input from friends and the local church minister, Jay had identified several books belonging to the Colman family—famed for their mustard. One of these was a copy of Samuel Bagster’s “English Version of the Polyglot Bible”, heavily annotated by its owner—Ethel Mary Colman Continue reading Bagster’s Bibles: for Norwich and the world

Hine’s Cassirer

As of autumn 2019, I am postdoctoral research associate for the Sheffield Cassirer project, leading the digitisation and republication of the works of Heinrich Walter (“Heinz”) Cassirer.

Born in Starnberg in 1903, Heinz Cassirer completed a PhD in classical philology at Heidelberg University before being forced into economic exile: As a Jewish academic, he was ruled out of employment Continue reading Hine’s Cassirer

How to govern differently

It seems that caring for other websites led me to neglect this personal one. So I’m belatedly documenting some of the intervening time, and–as I sometimes do–preparing a backdated post to keep things in some kind of chronological sequence.

When I first began work with the Jam and Justice team, the post was a 9-month filler, with a view to obtaining follow-on funding to develop some of the Linguistic DNA resources for use with schools. Continue reading How to govern differently

Luther’s bibles: a question of church?

I have previously written about Germanic bibles before Luther. But we might as well ask “before what Luther?”

As I’ve written previouslyMartin Luther began translating the Bible programmatically in 1522, with two versions of the New Testament appearing in quick succession. Another portion appeared in 1523, covering what Luther referred to as the “Five Books of Moses”. A complete Luther bible did not arrive until 1534 (or 1533 if we include the Low German bible prepared by Luther’s associate Joannes Bugenhagen which carried Luther’s endorsement).1 In the meantime, Luther had already begun to revise his work, and he would continue making changes until his death in 1546.

I often frame my explanations with reference to the book of Ruth.2 In this case though, prompted by an enquiry, I’m going to illustrate some of the steps in tracing Luther’s translation (and, allied with that, his thinking) with attention to Genesis. Continue reading Luther’s bibles: a question of church?

What did Luther ever do for philosophy?

Back in February, amidst striking and snow, I pondered the question “What would Luther do…?” in relation to some problematic picket lines. As things worked out, it proved possible to renegotiate the setting for the talk and I was able to meet Diarmaid MacCulloch and subsequently get his insight on some of my research. (It happened to tie in rather closely with the direction of his new Cromwell biography, so it is a pity I’d not felt bold enough to share my work sooner–but then I’m not sure it was ready.)

Continue reading What did Luther ever do for philosophy?

A matter of impact

Towards the end of July 2018, I took on the role of Impact Officer for an action research project called Jam and Justice. My post is funded by three partner universities (Sheffield, Manchester, and Birmingham) each channeling funding received from the UK Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to accelerate the societal consequences of research. Continue reading A matter of impact

Embracing Early Modern Biblical Studies

Last year, I wrote about the prospects of a new network in Early Modern Biblical Studies. Two weeks today, scholars from a range of disciplinary backgrounds will gather in Sheffield for a workshop to think about ways to take that vision forward.

In advance of that workshop, I’ve invited those with an interest in the field to fill out a survey to help determine our priorities. This is proving a really useful way to capture ideas and think about how best to direct our collective energies. Continue reading Embracing Early Modern Biblical Studies

Here I stand: can I do other?

It must be six months or more since I first heard that Oxford church historian Diarmaid MacCulloch was coming to Sheffield as a Prokhorov lecturer. I immediately emailed the colleague responsible to reserve a place at the masterclass. Though I doubt he recalls it, MacCulloch was approached as a possible examiner for my PhD thesis and I remain a little bit fanatical about his work on Reformations—so marvellously complex. It is therefore with real sadness that I find myself on the outside of that event.

Masterclass day is day 2 of UCU strikes. Pensions are the official issue, but there’s a wider anger afoot. Zero-hour teaching contracts, a culture of publish or perish, constant criticism from public figures who think they have an idea how we spend our summers.

All this comes as a project I’ve been curating for (coincidentally) at least 6 months felt like it was taking off. And with permission from an organising colleague, we had advertised MacCulloch’s evening lecture under that 500 Reformations umbrella. 500 Reformations had itself revealed to me an unexpected direction of collegiate interest in Luther. I found myself added into a collaborative bid to consider the great reformer’s philosophical legacy. The first event for that collaboration is also taking place on day 2 of the strikes.

As it happens I know through private networks that I’m far from the only person who queried the intention to go ahead with the scheduled events as planned. However, for some colleagues it is apparently less obvious that this kind of collaborative enterprise–whether masterclass or explorative meeting–is part of the labour our union has asked us to withdraw, part of the work the University finds valuable, part of what I’m–we’re–paid to get involved in. (Yes, I know there’s luxury in that.) I wish I were able to reconcile my priorities with such personal convenience, or that we were able to find a workable compromise—to postpone or cancel the planned events and perhaps do something informal, off-campus in their place.

Sadly, that kind of resolution looks increasingly unlikely. So I’ve ploughed my energies into a creative protest, one that harnesses a little of Luther’s language and hopefully achieves a level of provocative kindness.

To the picket line, good people… okay, sinners.


–Inviting others to #jointheconversation.

–And a question for debate, “What would Luther do?”
–And some provocative kindness for those who wish to carry on in and enjoy the Masterclass!

Luther & Language (video)

The past few weeks have been busy with preparations for the launch of 500 Reformations. This week, I received links to videos of two of the three public talks I gave earlier in the year. I’ve just found the necessary ten minutes to watch myself back. Ignoring the note of mild stress in the voice (I have to get through all this in 10 minutes!) I was pleased to find I could watch it through without cringing. Continue reading Luther & Language (video)