In 1552, when the Supreme Council of the Spanish Inquisition ordered its various branches to collect all copies of the Bible printed abroad in order to correct them, it took its first major step towards systematic book censorship. Although there was as yet no Index of prohibited Books, Spain’s Holy Office had begun to prohibit and burn works by Luther and other known Protestants since 1521, and had also condemned many of Erasmus’ works. By 1552 foreign Biblical scholarship seemed a preserve of the Erasmian movement; but there were still only a few dark hints on the horizon that any native Spaniards had been influenced by Erasmian or Protestant Bibles. Some traces of Protestant influences had appeared in Spain, but they occur red overwhelmingly among resident foreigners. Frenchmen were particularly suspect.

In 1546, reporting on its recent public auto de fe, the Saragossa tribunal informed the Suprema that “of this Lutheran heresy is something which we feel touches the French nation”. Most of the men condemned by the Inquisition as Protestants between 1545 and 1555, including the handful who were executed at public autos de fe, were immigrants from France, arrested by tribunals of the crown of Aragon. When the Inquisitors actually began collecting foreign Bibles in 1552, they discovered that, in books as well as people, the Protestant heresy was indeed something touching the French. The most thorough job was done by the tribunal of Seville, which reported more than four hundred Bibles confiscated, and even named the owners who had surrendered these Bibles. The detailed list, published in 1962 by J.I. Tellechea Idigoras, demonstrated that almost three-fourths of the confiscated Bibles had been printed at Lyon; adding in Parisian editions, over 90% of these foreign Bibles had come from France.

William Monter, “French Bibles and the Spanish Inquisition, 1552” (1989)


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