Institute of the Christian Religion now first arranged in four books and divided by definite headings in a very convenient way; also enlarged by so much added matter that it can be regarded as a new work. The edition bore the olive branch, Calvin’s symbol of his work. Gradually the institutes began to be translated into other languages. The 1536 text was translated into Spanish by Francisco Enzinas, a friend of Melanchthon, one of Cranmer’s proteges and a correspondent of Calvin who was a New Testament translator and scholar. In 1557 an Italian translation was produced by Giulio Cesari Pascali for the use of the Italian refugee church in Geneva.
The first English translation was produced in 1561 and was followed by two more. The preface to the third English edition is appended with the name Thomas Norton. Thomas Norton was a law student who together with one of his fellow students had produced a gory play entitled “The Tragedy of Gorbuduc” He was an advocate of Puritan measures within the church and had spent time in prison for criticising the bishops. He married the daughter of Thomas Cranmer and participated in the trails of Roman Catholics, especially those implicated in the rebellion of 1569.
Norton tackled the translation with great fidelity although he is sometimes criticised for preserving Latin forms and idiom with too much zeal. The last edition of Norton’s translation was produced in 1634 and each translation was an effort to keep up to date with changes in the language of the time.
After 1634 there were no new English translations until the one produced by John Allen in 1813. This was followed in 1845 by Henry Bevereidge’s version.
Think about the stages in the publication of the Institutes and in their translation into other languages. Is there a modern day comparison that would be valid or are most publications just produced and reproduced without adjustment or modification? What would have happened to a text like the Institutes in our pluralistic age today? Would it be a best seller? Or a text book? Would it be regarded as a dangerous volume promoting radical thought amongst its readers?