Tuesday, September 10, 2019


Burn After Reading

Heiko A. Oberman (1930-2001), The Two Reformations: The Journey from the Last Days to the New World (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003), p. xv:
Among the thousands of letters I have read in the course of my Reformation researches, many contain a simple three-word postscript: "Burn after reading." The injunction conveys the need of sixteenth-century authors to conceal their identity and keep their ideas from falling into unfriendly hands. For similar reasons authors and printers commonly falsified or omitted names, places, and dates of publication in the thousands of pamphlets and tracts that circulated in Germany between 1500 and 1520. Those were dangerous times: dissent was a well-understood risk and public opinion a contested area, anxiously monitored by those who considered themselves the guardians of the public good.

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