LUTHER, Martin.


LUTHER, Martin. Der vierde teil der bücher des ehrwirdigen Herrn Docto. Mart. Luth.

Wittenberg, Heirs of Peter Seitz, 1553


Folio, ff. (viii) 607 (i). Gothic letter. Woodcut floriated and historiated initials, typographical ornaments. T-p in red and black with woodcut vignette depicting Luther and Frederick III of Saxony (1463-1525) kneeling before Christ on the cross. Occasional underlining, rare marginalia. Light age browning, rare marginal foxing, small burn to lower cover and outer blank margin of last few ll. (repaired). A very good copy in contemporary pigskin over wooden boards, covers triple blind ruled to a panel design: outer border with roll of interlacing palmettes and cross design at corners; religious roll in second border depicting Christ with DATA EST MIHI, David with DE FRUCTU VE, Isaiah with SUP SOLIUM DAV and John the Baptist with ECCE AGN9 DE; interlacing palmettes design at centre surrounded by flower and leaves tools; ‘F(rau) Margareth V(on) Hassestein G(eb.) Buggrevin Z(u) M(eissen)’ stamped in black in compartment at head. Lacking metal catchplates, part of one leather tie preserved. Spine with blind ruled raised bands, painted in grey, large shelf-mark inked to upper compartment. C20 bookplate of ‘Dr. Peter G. Kraft’ to front paste down, ms. ‘Dupl(um)’ to fly, circular library stamp ‘Regiae.Biblioth:Acad:Pragen’ to verso of t-p and very faintly to its head and verso of fol. 5. Contemporary ms. ‘15’ to fore edge.

Handsome copy of the second edition of this collection of Luther’s writings, in a beautiful contemporary German binding. The elegant blind tooled palmettes and this religious roll depicting figures of the Old Testament were both popular decorative motifs in the mid. 16th century (see EBDB 128997b and 100083n), and often used combined. Interestingly, similar examples appear on the binding of another volume of Luther works, produced in Leipzig by Thomas Stelbogen (Henry Davis Gift 335). The upper cover bears the ownership stamp of Frau Margarethe von Hassenstein (c. 1514-1555), from the house of the Burgraves of Meissen (Saxony). Born Magarethe von Plauen, she married the Bohemian politician Bohuslav Felix von Hassenstein and Lobkowitz (1517-1583). An educated woman and assiduous Lutheran, her name appears frequently in the writings of Johannes Mathesius (1504-1565). Mathesius was a German minister and Lutheran reformer who had the privilege to assist, as a guest in Luther’s home, to a series of his discourses, which he then published in the famous work ‘Table talk’.

A professor of theology and monk, Luther (1483-1546) is the initiator of the protestant Reformation. This collection contains a multitude of his writings, the majority of them being sermons. Among the most noteworthy, is Luther’s famous commentary on chapters 5, 6 and 7 of the Gospel of Matthew: in his discussion, he strongly criticised the Catholic view and wrote: “there have fallen upon this [fifth] chapter the vulgar hogs and asses, jurists and sophists, the right hand of the pope and his Mamelukes.” Another interesting chapter is concerned with the text of the ‘Donation of Constantine’ – the Roman imperial decree by which Constantine the Great supposedly entitled the pope extensive temporal privileges – translated and commented on by Luther. Although this Latin document was declared a fake by Lorenzo Valla in 1440, the Church continued to defend its authenticity for centuries. After reading Valla’s treatise in 1520, Luther frequently mentioned this as an example to condemn the corruption and greed of the Catholic Church.

This volume includes an important preface by the theologian Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560). A friend and collaborator of Luther, he wrote a fundamental systematic theology based on the reformer’s ideas. The editor, Georg Rörer (1492-1557), is one of Luther’s most reliable reporters. The volume also features the remarkable contributions of Caspar Creuziger (1504-1548), a humanist and professor of theology at the University of Wittenberg who wrote an important biography of Luther and assisted him in revising the German Bible.

USTC 634690; VD 16 L 3321; BM Ger. 16th century, p. 534. Not in Adams, Brunet, Graesse.
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