Annales Anabaptistici (Monograph)

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Annales Anabaptistici was a scholarly compilation by the Zürich professor of church history Johann Heinrich Ottius (Otte), published in Basel, Switzerland, in 1672, and still today a valuable source of information about the Anabaptists. That such a relatively dispassionate recording could be published and was also read, may be taken as a sign that toward the end of the seventeenth century, with the coming of Pietism, a certain lively interest in the story of the "heretics" and their earnest Christianity had arisen among the Protestants. G. Arnold's Kirchen-und Ketzer-Historie (1699) was a still stronger expression of this trend. Of course, Ottius' intentions did not yet go quite that far. What he wanted to do was a first presentation (as objective as possible) of the things that then were summarily called "Anabaptist" and that today could perhaps better be described by the collective term "the left wing of the Reformation," including not only the different branches of Anabaptism and Mennonitism, but also the Schwenckfeldians, Anti-Trinitarians and all the many marginal sects of the first half of the sixteenth century. (Ottius lists not less than seventy-seven different groups of so-called Anabaptists.) The later parts of the book (after 1550) concentrate more consistently on the Dutch Mennonites, the Swiss Brethren, and the Austrian Hutterites, since the other groups had more or less died out. Ottius presents in his book excerpts from a great number of sources in the form of annals year by year with but little comment of his own. He starts with the year 1521 (Müntzer, Storch, Zwickau Prophets), and ends with 1670-1671, when the Dutch burghers interceded in vain with Swiss authorities on behalf of their persecuted brethren in Switzerland, and when Berne issued new edicts against the Anabaptists. The book is written entirely in Latin except for direct quotations from sources. The full title of the book is Annales Anabaptistici hoc est, Historia Universalis de Anabaptistarum origine, progressu, factionibus & schismatis, paradoxis, tumultibus, colloquiis, pacificationibus, locis & sedibus, scriptis hinc illinc emissis, edictis & judiciis, ac quicquid præterea ad rem facere videtur. His præmissa prolegomena 1. Ad lectorem. 2. de variis Anabaptistarum fectis tractatio duplex, 3. collatio cum veteribus hæreticis. 4. de Donatistis. 5. quomodo tractandi ejusmodi homines; una cum Indice copioso.

To judge the reliability of this book, we have to study the sources used. Naturally only a selection can be presented here, but it will suffice to show that very little was available in print to the learned author that can be called favorable to the Anabaptists, or at least objective. This is part of the list: Bullinger (Zürich, 1530-1560); Guido de Brès and Austro-Sylvius (Netherlands, 1585); Doreslaer (Netherlands, 1637); Chr. Andr. Fischer (the Catholic priest in Moravia, around 1600, archfoe of the Hutterites); Hoornbeek (Netherlands, 1653); Mehrning (Germany, 1647-48); Meshovius (Germany, 1617); Sleidanus (Germany, 1564); F. Spanheim (Netherlands, 1645), (one of the worst opponents of the Mennonites, partly responsible for the acts of the Swiss authorities); Successio Anabaptistica (Cologne, 1603). A few of his sources, however, were of a more positive quality, such as the Ausbund, the Dutch martyr books of 1615 (Haarlem) and of 1617 (Hoorn), and the Colloquium of Frankenthal, 1571. From these and similar sources Ottius extracted a picture of the Anabaptists through a century and a half as objectively as possible. To a certain extent he actually succeeded in this endeavor in spite of his questionable sources. The book has 360 pages and a good index. It must have found quite wide attention, since it was quoted often by later historians in this field.

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Author(s) Robert Friedmann
Date Published 1953

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MLA style

Friedmann, Robert. "Annales Anabaptistici (Monograph)." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1953. Web. 28 Jul 2021.

APA style

Friedmann, Robert. (1953). Annales Anabaptistici (Monograph). Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 July 2021, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 125. All rights reserved.

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