Thursday, March 19, 2009

Banner of Truth celebrates Calvin 500

The Banner of Truth Trust has been consistently the best British publisher of Reformed reprints since its establishment in 1957. Thanks to the efforts of the Trust, many excellent gems of Reformed theology have been brought back into print over the last half-century. These books range from the era of the Reformation to the earlier part of the twentieth century, with authors from all sorts of places and backgrounds. John Calvin is well represented, as he ought to be, of course. His sermons predominate, as they ought to for a man who was first and foremost a preacher, with seven different titles listed on the Banner website. Second come Biblical commentaries, which again is as it should be, as Calvin remains one of the greatest of Biblical commentators. There are four volumes stocked, commentaries on Genesis, Jeremiah and Lamentations, Daniel and the Minor Prophets. Until this year there were only two other Calvin titles published by the Banner, Truth for all Time, Calvin's short summary of Biblical doctrine, and a selection of Letters of John Calvin. But for this Calvin 500 year the Trust has produced a real treasure, the seven-volume set of Tracts and Letters by Calvin. This set brings together what were originally two separate publications, the three-volume set of Tracts published by the Calvin Translation Society in the mid-nineteenth century (1844-51), and the four-volume set of Letters of John Calvin, first published in America by the Presbyterian Board of Publication in 1858. For this year only, the Trust is offering the set for £45, which adds up to less than £6.50 pervolume. Given that these are cloth-bound volumes, this is quite a bargain!
The first three volumes of Tracts contain shorter writings of Calvin. The first volume begins with Beza's Life of John Calvin, giving a good introduction to Calvin himself. It is chiefly concerned with the Reformation of the Church, including his Letter to Cardinal Sadoleto, and The Necessity of Reforming the Church. Volume two contains a more miscellaneous selection of writings, including the Catechism of the Church of Geneva, Calvin's Geneva liturgy, and his writings on the Sacraments, particularly on the Lord's Supper. The final volume opens with Canons and Decrees of the Council of Trent, with the Antidote. This particular writing is extremely important, as Trent still forms the foundation of the modern Roman Catholic Church. This work shows where the dividing line between Rome and the Reformation still lies.
The four volumes of Letters are proably the closest we can get to Calvin the man, they show him as he was. Time and again, reading biographies of Calvin, I have come across writers saying "read the letters". Now, thanks to the Banner of Truth, we can.


Evangelical books said...

Hi Gervase,

I have been eyeing this set for more than 2 years now. Col. Don does not seem to have it whenever I ask him.

I am glad BT has republished this set, and am looking forward to receiving them as my birthday present next week.

Yours in Christ,

Kent said...

Have you seen the new resources posted at Among other things, you’ll find links to a 97-volume collection of material written by or about Calvin, including all of his commentaries, the Institutes, 10 biographies, and 20 volumes on the history of Calvinism, among other things. I thought you might be interested: