‘A bible used by Martin Luther 1522’

Bound in tooled leather with clasps, this quarto Latin Vulgate bible dating from 1522 contains copious annotations, some of which are alleged to be in the handwriting of Martin Luther. It appears to have once been owned by Waldassen Abbey, a Cistercian monastery in Bavaria sacked during the German Peasants’ War in 1525. The title-page and final fly leaf are inscribed with two short verses in German, together with a signature, said to be the autograph of the reformer, which has been partially blotted out. After his death, Luther’s disciples preserved textual and bibliographical remnants of him. Although this practice resembles Catholic veneration of hallowed remains, it also had humanist precedents. Evidence of an evolving culture of Lutheran memory, the collection and possession of such items was a marker of religious belonging. Whether or not this particular volume has a genuine link with Luther, it has certainly acquired the status of a ‘grapho-relic’ in the half-millennium since. Accompanying pencil notes by a Victorian bookseller reveal that it was sold as such to a private purchaser in 1856. The inscribed box in which it is now kept seems to have been made in the nineteenth century. Bought by Lambeth Palace Library in 1963, it offers insight into the distinctive reading practices that fundamentally shaped the Reformation. AW

Biblia cum summariorū apparatu pleno quadrupliciq[ue] repertorio insignita: cui vltra castigationem diligentissimā … addite sunt marginales additiones annales: & gentis cuiusq[ue] … historias notantes: canonum quoq[ue] ad sacram scripturā cōcordātia … (Lyon: Jacques Sacon, 1522).

LPL: E75 1522**

Further Reading

Brian Cummings, The Literary Culture of the Reformation: Grammar and Grace (Oxford, 2002), ch. 2.

Ulinka Rublack, ‘Grapho-Relics: Lutheranism and the Materialisation of the Word’, in Alexandra Walsham (ed.), Relics and Remains, Past and Present Supplement 5 (2010), pp. 144-66.

C. Scott Dixon, ‘Luther’s Lost Books and the Myth of the Memory Cult’, in Kat Hill (ed.), Cultures of Lutheranism: Reformation Repertoires in Early Modern Germany (Past and Present Supplement 12, forthcoming, 2017).

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