Back in May, Paul Fields, the theological librarian and curator of the H. Henry Meeter Center for Calvin Studies, rented a truck and drove to Madison, Wisconsin. Waiting for him there was a whole library of volumes of research on John Calvin and the Genevan Reformation: more than 2,500 individual titles. Fields packed up the books and drove them back to the Meeter Center, their new home.
The books were originally the property of Professor Robert Kingdon, a renowned scholar of the social history of the Reformation in Calvin’s Geneva. Educated at Oberlin College, Columbia University and the University of Geneva, Kingdon decided in late 2009 to donate his entire research library to the Meeter Center. “His gift enriches our collection to a great extent,” said Meeter Center director Karin Maag. “Essentially what it’s going to do is increase the amount of high-quality research resources available to students, faculty, researchers and outside scholars about Calvin and Calvinism in the early Reformation.”
Kingdon focused his scholarship on the history of Calvinist ecclesiastical institutions (particularly the Genevan Company of Pastors and the Genevan Consistory), on the history of political thought as developed by Reformation leaders and on the history of printing during the Reformation period. “He is one of North America’s foremost social historians of the Genevan Reformation,” said Fields. “He knew Geneva forwards and backwards.”
Among the volumes Kingdon donated are translations of works originally written in French by Genevans about their own history. “Just to get that … is pretty significant,” said Maag. Many of the books will be integrated into the Meeter Center’s collection, while others will enrich the Hekman Library collection—another boon to researchers of the Reformation: “Scholars love that when they come here, they have a larger library to use,” said Maag.
Kingdon’s many connections to the Meeter Center included receiving a Meeter Center research fellowship back in 1987, serving on the governing board of the Meeter Center (in two stints) for a total of twelve years, and getting support from the Center for his core project of publishing annotated editions and translations of the minutes of the Genevan Consistory meetings during Calvin’s lifetime. In person, he sometimes seems shy, but isn’t really, and has a dry sense of humor, said Fields.
“If you ever see him lecture, he would come alive,” Maag said. “He has raised up a generation—almost two generations—of Reformation scholars who are leading the field now.”