[K:NWTS 21/2 (Sep 2006) 45-46]

Calvin on DVD1

James T. Dennison, Jr.

My apologies to our readers if my title is somewhat misleading. No, this DVD does not bring us John Calvin redivivus. It does not preserve his voice (impossible!), nor does it give us live video of Calvin preaching at St. Pierre (also impossible!). It does not contain all of his works in English (certainly a worthy project), nor even those works which have been translated into English over the past four and one-half centuries. And yet, this DVD does contain the Calvin corpus, i.e., the whole body of his works from the edition printed in the Corpus Reformatorum. All 59 volumes of that particular compilation of Calvin's collected works have been scanned into pdf files and are fully searchable, retrievable and printable.

Calvin scholars cannot but rejoice at the release of this tool. It allows searches, Boolean and otherwise, of the entire works of the Geneva Reformer in seconds. Granted, the languages are Latin, French and a smidgen of German. This means that the user must have some facility in Calvin's original tongues. But the availability of this tool will greatly advance research into the Calvini Opera ("Works of Calvin").

The "Browse" mode allows the user to select any title from the 59-volume corpus in order to search it in particular. Alternatively, the entire 59-volume corpus may be searched, thus permitting the user to locate every use of a term in Calvin's Opera. Biblical texts may also be located so that the entire range of comment by Calvin on a passage is available. If desired, searches may be exported to word processors (i.e., Microsoft Word, etc.) and saved.

Navigation through searches is accomplished by clicking/highlighting the next document on the "Hits" list. Navigation within a document is performed by using the dark black right and left arrows at the top of each page (one is viewing the actual page of the Corpus Reformatorum edition on screen). In other words, the user is able to page forward and backward from within each document; or he may go to the next occurrence of his search criterion using the "Hits" list.

Clarity of output is very good. Anyone who has sat before the hardcopy of the Corpus Reformatorum knows that the pages are sometimes dark and yellowed, and the typeface fuzzy in places. This digitalized version is quite clean. Even where greater definition is necessary, the page may be "blown up" by using the + icon in pdf mode. NB: the DVD permits adjustments for "fuzziness" in the original. However, the user should be aware that increasing and/or decreasing the "fuzziness index" often alters the number of hits. Each user will need to experiment with this feature in order to insure the maximum number of hits for his specific criteria.

Computer system requirements are: Windows 98 or above; 256 Mb of memory; 5 gigs of free hard disk space; Adobe Acrobat reader. Transfer of the DVD to your computer hard disk is automatic—simply load the DVD and follow the on-screen directions. The process takes about two hours.

The Instituut is to be congratulated for making this tool available. It will aid Calvin research considerably. And though the cost is somewhat pricey (249 Euros or about $320 for individuals; 799 Euros or about $1025 for libraries), how much would you pay to search Calvin page by page by hand and the naked eye? This DVD becomes a great bargain as well as an immense time saver, given that prospect.


1 Herman J. Selderhuis, ed., Calvini Opera Database 1.0 (2005). Instituut voor Reformatienonderzoek, Wilhelminapark 4, 7316 BT Apeldoorn, The Netherlands.