Skip to content

Charlotte Appel & Morten Fink-Jensen

Religious Reading

Presentation at the 4th seminar of the Nordic Forum for Book History
18.3.2011, University of Copenhagen

Dr Charlotte Appel is Associate Professor of Early Modern History at Roskilde University and is presently working as Chief Editor of a multi-volume history of elementary schools in Denmark, a project based at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University.

Dr Morten Fink-Jensen is Associate Professor of History at the Danish School of Education, Aarhus University, currently working on the aforementioned history of Danish schools. He is also an affiliated research fellow at the Royal Library in Copenhagen.

The following text is a presentation of the book Religious Reading in the Lutheran North. Studies in Early Modern Scandinavian Book Culture, (eds.) Charlotte Appel and Morten Fink-Jensen (2011).


Religious reading is a phenomenon that can be studied in many contexts and cultures across the world and for different historical periods. One area where it is not only possible but also important to investigate the characteristics and patterns of religious reading is the Nordic region. Throughout the early modern period religious books dominated the Nordic book markets, and reading was almost exclusively taught to children in a religious or, more precisely, a Lutheran Protestant setting, whether at home, through instruction by a local clergyman or at a proper school. Furthermore, it looks as if the vast majority of the Nordic populations, men as well as women, had reached a basic level of literacy – that is, had acquired enough skill to read printed texts in the vernacular – by the end of the eighteenth century, if not before. It could thus be argued that, relatively speaking, religious reading had an even greater significance in the North than in many other parts of early modern Europe.

Religious Reading in the Lutheran North. Studies in Early Modern Scandinavian Book Culture contains eight articles discussing this significance. The contributions cover developments spanning close to three hundred years (from the mid-sixteenth to the early nineteenth centuries) in different parts of the region: Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Greenland. They all relate to the world of religious reading, but with varying emphasis. Some articles concentrate on the acts and considerations of (clerical) authors, publishers, teachers, and censoring authorities, while others investigate the practical uses and interpretations of religious literature among different groups of readers.

When read together, the contributions will no doubt underline that “religious reading” was a complex phenomenon, and that it will often be appropriate to speak about reading cultures in the plural. At the same time certain common features and continuities will also become apparent, especially when comparing developments in the Nordic region with those elsewhere in Europe. The legacy of the Lutheran reformations seems to have created a communal frame of reference across the region and, to some extent, across social groups, promoting a specific curriculum of Protestant texts and specific methods of disseminating, deciphering and understanding them. It may be meaningful after all to speak – though not unreservedly so – of a particular approach to religious reading in the Lutheran North.
List of contents

Introduction: Books, Literacy, and Religious Reading in the Lutheran North (Charlotte Appel, Roskilde, and Morten Fink-Jensen, Copenhagen)

1. Printing and Preaching after the Reformation: A Danish Pastor and his Audiences (Morten Fink-Jensen, Copenhagen)

2. Earways to Heaven: Singing the Catechism in Denmark-Norway, 1569–1756 (Jon Haarberg, Oslo)

3. Printed in Books, Imprinted on Minds: Catechisms and Religious Reading in Denmark during the Seventeenth and Early Eighteenth Centuries (Charlotte Appel, Roskilde)

4. Much More than Luther: Religious Reading among the Norwegian Clergy, 1650–1800 (Gina Dahl, Bergen)

5. “A Threat to Civic Coexistence”: Forbidden Religious Literature and Censorship in Eighteenth-Century Sweden (Ann Öhrberg, Uppsala)

6. Genesis in the Longhouse: Religious Reading in Greenland in the Eighteenth Century (Thorkild Kjærgaard, Nuuk)

7. Memory and Meaning: The Haugean Revival (1796–1804) and its Place in the History of Reading (Trygve Riiser Gundersen, Oslo)

8. Popular Education and Religious Reading in Early Nineteenth-Century Sweden (Daniel Lindmark, Umeå)

For further information please visit–Studies-in-Early-Modern-Scandinavian-Book-Culture1-4438-2643-X.htm

Charlotte Appel
Institut for kultur og identitet, Roskilde Universitet


Morten Fink-Jensen
The Royal Library


To cite this text:
Charlotte Appel & Morten Fink-Jensen: »Religious Reading«, presentation at the 4th seminar of the Nordic Forum for Book History 18.3.2011, University of Copenhagen, University of Copenhagen. URL =
[View date: ]


No comments yet

Skriv et svar

Udfyld dine oplysninger nedenfor eller klik på et ikon for at logge ind: Logo

Du kommenterer med din konto. Log Out /  Skift )

Google+ photo

Du kommenterer med din Google+ konto. Log Out /  Skift )

Twitter picture

Du kommenterer med din Twitter konto. Log Out /  Skift )

Facebook photo

Du kommenterer med din Facebook konto. Log Out /  Skift )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: