Epistola divi hulderichi augustensis episcopi, adversus constitutionem de cleri coelibatu.

Wittenberg, [Melchior II Lotter, 1520].


FIRST EDITION. 4to. 4 unnumbered ll., A4. Roman letter. Very light age browning, t-p and verso of last dust-soiled, a couple of light marginal spots. Avery good copy in modern boards, the odd early marginal annotation.

Very good copy of the first edition of a pamphlet on clerical celibacy. Purportedly written by St Ulrich (890-973), Bishop of Augsburg—an authorship now identified as ‘Pseudo-Ulrich’—’Epistola’ first appeared in C11 Germany during debates on clerical celibacy raised by Gregory Vii. The addressee, named ‘Pope Nicholas’, was probably Nicholas II, supporter of a controversial policy on clerical chastity in the mid-1050s. ‘Epistola’ explained that the Pope’s duty was to recommend and praise but not to impose celibacy—hence its frequent use during early C16 debates on this topic. A useful authority, in addition to St Augustine, was Paphnutius of Thebes (4th century) who, at the First Council of Nicaea, criticised the decision to forbid clerics who had been ordained after marriage to abstain from their wives. The short preface stating that ‘celibacy is an excellent thing, not as much when it is imposed’ was written by Martin Luther. Important English Reformers like John Foxe apparently owned manuscript copies. Melchior II Lotter was responsible for printing Luther’s Old and New Testament in 1522-24.

USTC 651268; Benzing 818a; WA Br. 12, Nr. 4217; BM STC Ger., p. 878; Proctor 11917; Knaake III, 1055.