My wife and I were reading Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, translated into English in 1845 by Henry Beveridge, and we came across this phrase in the first book, chapter 5, section 4:

"a magazine stored with treasures of inestimable value"

Obviously, the context implies that a magazine is some kind of container, or perhaps a location, in which things are stored. Our questions are: What kinds of things were normally stored in a magazine? Who would have owned one? Was it a small container or a large warehouse? We tried to find some information online, but we couldn't.

Anybody have any ideas?

  • Great book! Keep it up. I found it hard to get past the first book, but it's got some great stuff, if sometimes hidden among the polemic. Commented May 23, 2011 at 19:27

4 Answers 4


it probably has the long-lost meaning of "warehouse" or a military storehouse:

1580s, "place for storing goods, especially military ammunition," from M.Fr. magasin "warehouse, depot, store," from It. magazzino, from Arabic makhazin, pl. of makhzan "storehouse" (cf. Sp. almacén "warehouse, magazine"), from khazana "to store up." The original sense is almost obsolete; meaning "periodical journal" dates from the publication of the first one, "Gentleman's Magazine," in 1731, from earlier use of the word for a printed list of military stores and information, or in a figurative sense, from the publication being a "storehouse" of information.

I think John Calvin had this usage in mind if you actually look at the full quote:

"But herein appears the shameful ingratitude of men. Though they have in their own persons a factory where innumerable operations of God are carried on, and a magazine stored with treasures of inestimable value, instead of bursting forth in his praise, as they are bound to do, they, on the contrary, are the more inflated and swelled with pride."

To clarify as requested by OP - the Institutes was written originally in Latin and translated into English by Beveridge. The full quote above seemingly lends itself to the use of "magazine" in it's old usage as we can safely eliminate the use of a gun magazine or a journal.

  • 3
    +1 In Dutch, magazijn still means storage room. Commented May 23, 2011 at 1:14
  • 1
    In Russian "magazine" sounds exactly like "store" or "warehouse". And we call what english-speakers call "magazine" a "Journal" or "Gazette".
    – Nemoden
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 1:55
  • 1
    Thanks for the helpful answer! You might consider clarifying it a little: Calvin wrote the Institutes in Latin; Beveridge was the translator for this edition, and so he chose "magazine" here. I wonder if the phrasing in the Latin (found here) implies any sort of military usage or if Beveridge simply preferred "magazine" to "storehouse" here.
    – awmckinley
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 4:51
  • I've always associated it as having a military cache meaning, with the meaning of general warehouse being assigned to various other nouns. Such as warehouse or storehouse or stores, etc.
    – jcolebrand
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 4:53
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    @awmckinley looks like Beveridge's choice to me. The words translated as "factory" and "magazine" are "officinam" and "tabernum". Both have some range of meaning, but wiktionary has a usage note that seems relevant: "a taberna can be a shop where goods are sold. An officina is a shop where goods are manufactured. It is possible for a single shop to be both a taberna and an officina." Factory corresponds to the one, so we should look for magazine to correspond to the other.
    – hobbs
    Commented May 31, 2016 at 4:03

As reported from the NOAD, magazine can also mean

  • [A] a chamber for holding a supply of cartridges to be fed automatically to the breech of a gun
  • [B] a store for arms, ammunition, explosives, and provisions for use in military operations

As per the origin, the dictionary reports that it's from French magasin, from Italian magazzino, from Arabic maḵzin, maḵzan ("storehouse"), from ḵazana ("store up").
It has also the following note:

The term originally meant store and was often used from the mid 17th century in the title of books providing information useful to particular groups of people. Sense [A], a contemporary specialization of the original meaning, gave rise to sense [B] in the middle 18th century.

  • The bullet cartridge usage is totally contemporary. If you think about it, a magazine that you read is also a collection of articles, so preserves some of that meaning. Also, in Russian (or Russian in Kazakhstan), magazine is apparently borrowed from English and still used in the sense of a small shop with many different items in it.
    – Wayne
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 16:13

The Latin word used in that particular passage is taberna, which has no military connotation at all. It means inn, shop, booth, cubicle, hut. I don't think magazine is a very exact translation; in its sense of storage room, it usually has a military connotation. The great dictionary by Lewis & Short gives the following on taberna:

tăberna, ae, f. [root ta (tan); Gr. tei/nw, perf. te/taka; cf.: tabula, tenus]

Hut, shed, booth, stall, shop constructed of boards.

I. Hence, in gen., any slight structure used for a dwelling, a hut or cottage (very rare): "tabernae appellatio declarat omne utile ad habitandum aedificium, non ex eo, quod tabulis cluditur", Dig. 50, 16, 183: "pauperum tabernae", Hor. C. 1, 4, 13; so, "obscurae", id. A. P. 229.—Of stalls in the circus: qui in circo totas tabernas tribulium causā compararunt, Cic. Mur. 35, 73.—

II. In partic.

A. Of a merchant, mechanic, taverner, etc., a booth, shop, workshop, stall, inn, tavern (class.): "instructam ei medicinae exercendae causā tabernam dedit", Cic. Clu. 63, 178; cf.: "instructam tabernam sic accipiemus, quae et rebus et hominibus ad negotiationem paratis constat", Dig. 50, 16, 185: taberna libraria, i. e. a bookseller's shop, Cic. Phil. 2, 9, 21; "so simply taberna", Hor. S. 1, 4, 71; Mart. 1, 118, 10: "vinaria", Varr. L. L. 8, 55 Müll.; cf. Hor. Ep. 1, 14, 24: "cretaria, unguentaria, Varr. l. l.: casearia", Dig. 8, 5, 8, 5: "argentaria", ib. 18, 1, 32; Liv. 26, 11, 7: "purpuraria", Dig. 32, 1, 91: "sutrina", Tac. A. 15, 34; cf.: "ut Alfenus vafer omni Abjecto instrumento artis clausaque taberna Sutor erat", Hor. S. 1, 3, 131: Liparea, Vulcan's shop, Juv. 13, 45: "deversoria", an inn, tavern, Plaut. Men. 2, 3, 81; id. Truc. 3, 2, 29; Varr. R. R. 1, 2, 23: "cauponia", Dig. 33, 7, 13; cf.: "cum in eandem tabernam devertissent", Cic. Inv. 2, 4, 14: "occlusis tabernis", id. Cat. 4, 8, 17: "concursare circum tabernas", id. ib.: "occludere tabernas", id. Ac. 2, 47, 144: "salax", Cat. 37, 1; cf. Prop. 4 (5), 8, 19: "prope Cloacinae ad tabernas", Liv. 3, 48, 5: "tabernam exercere", Dig. 33, 7, 15; Suet. Aug. 4: "tabernam vel officinam conductam habuit", Dig. 5, 1, 19. —

B. Tres Tabernae, the Three Taverns, a place on the Appian Way, near Ulubrae and Forum Appii, Cic. Att. 1, 13, 1; 2, 10; 2, 12, 2; 2, 13, 1; Vulg. Act. 28, 15. —

C. A passage, archway in the circus, Cic. Mur. 35, 73. —

D. Poet.: "quae colis Durrachium Adriae tabernam", the market, Cat. 36, 15.

  • 1
    Thanks Cerberus! I didn't know whether it'd be appropriate to deal with the Latin on the English StackExchange, but this is very helpful.
    – awmckinley
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 17:13
  • While we're at it, it's boutique in (Calvin's) French, which is closer to his Latin than magazine. My translation is also the Beveridge one, so I can't check against any other English versions. Commented May 23, 2011 at 19:43
  • The question is about English, but of course the answer can be about anything that actually answers the question. Of course Latin is fair game—Latin is extremely important to English, along with other languages.
    – iconoclast
    Commented May 8, 2020 at 21:12
  • @iconoclast: Quite so! Commented May 8, 2020 at 22:03

"Magazine", around the time, can mean weapons cache. I would propose spiritual weapons could be the 'treasure' alluded to.

The term certainly comes from its older meaning of some sort of storage.

  • 2
    I don't think Calvin is referring to "spiritual weapons" here. That wouldn't be consistent with the greater context of his argument in this and preceding chapters. He's rather referring to the general blessings which God bestows on all men (likely including those aspects of our nature which come from having been created in the image of God). This is actually a part of the reason my wife and I were curious about the meaning of magazine... We knew it sometimes has a military connotation, but that didn't make sense here.
    – awmckinley
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 5:40
  • I suppose this is rather similar to what I take from spiritual weaponry. Really 'weapon' is pushing it, more like equipment. "Though they have in themselves a factory where innumerable operations of God are carried on..." gives me that impression somehow. As far as I know a magazine, in a military sense, can also hold armor and other gear. Perhaps it is merely storage in this context though. Commented May 23, 2011 at 6:09
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    I'd really enjoy continuing this conversation with you, Garet, though I'm not sure this is the right place to do so. I'll only say that in Calvin's worldview (namely that of early Reformation Christian theology), the spiritual weapon that God provides is the Holy Scriptures with which we may fight against "arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God" (2 Cor. 10:4 ESV) (also see Eph. 6:10-20 and Heb. 4:12). As I read it, the magazine here is given as a part of the inherent nature of humanity, whereas the Scriptures are given externally. Hope this is helpful!
    – awmckinley
    Commented May 23, 2011 at 17:31

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