John Owen, Renaissance Man? The Evidence Of Edward Millington’s “Bibliotheca Oweniana” (1684) -- By: Crawford Gribben

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 72:2 (Fall 2010)
Article: John Owen, Renaissance Man? The Evidence Of Edward Millington’s “Bibliotheca Oweniana” (1684)
Author: Crawford Gribben

John Owen, Renaissance Man? The Evidence Of Edward Millington’s “Bibliotheca Oweniana” (1684)

Crawford Gribben

Crawford Gribben is Long Room Hub Senior Lecturer in Early Modern Print Culture at Trinity College Dublin. Ireland.

The recent surge of interest in John Owen (1616-1683)—high Calvinist theologian, Parliamentary preacher, chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and vice-chancellor of Oxford University—has done much to situate its subject within the theological world of the early modern period.1 This scholarship has emphasized Owen’s importance as a receptor of the medieval Catholic tradition, and the extent to which he interacted with and was celebrated by the European Protestant intelligentsia. These discussions of the breadth of Owen’s intellectual interests and the strength of his international reputation have encouraged a number of scholars to move away from identifying in him the stereotypical attributes of “Puritans.” The new John Owen is a much more cosmopolitan figure, who has been described by Sebastian Rehnman as “a typical Renaissance man,” a description which was repeated in the

subtitle and throughout the contents of Carl R. Trueman’s book John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man.2 But these scholars have simultaneously avoided theorizing the “Renaissance man” concept, or discussing its wider implications for the historiography of Puritanism. While their work has concentrated on Owen’s interaction with Medieval and Reformation theological traditions, it has often failed to take into account the evidence of the extent of his engagements with wider aspects of early modern culture. As the reported contents of his library suggest, Owen may have been much more of a “Renaissance man” than many of his students have been prepared to admit.

I. The Form And Content Of Bibliotheca Oweniana

The significance and extent of Owen’s engagement with Renaissance culture is perhaps best illustrated by Bibliotheca Oweniana (1684), an auction catalogue of the contents of Owen’s library which was prepared by the self-styled “Biblio-polam,” Edward Millington (c. 1636-1703).3 Millington—an “auction impresario” who, throughout the 1680s, was becoming “the most energetic and renowned art auctioneer of his day”—had developed his techniques in book sales from the Dutch pioneers of the trade.4 His techniques appear to have been unusually well polished. Almost twent...

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