BIBLE, in German

THE CATHOLIC GOSPELS MEANT TO COUNTER LUTHER’S BIBLE, IN VAIN

EMSER, Hieronymus (ed.). Das new Testament durch hochgelerten Hieronymum Emser seligen verteutscht.

Freiburg, durch Stephann Graff, 1551.

£4000

8vo. Text in Gothic, glosses in Italic. Title-page, ff. 16, 399 (=407), 7; lacking initial blank. Woodcut vignette on title showing Christ at the Column with the Instruments of the Passion relating to his flagellation and the editor Emser kneeling before him, with his coat of arms at his feet. Between Jesus and the theologian, a cartouche with a motto made up of two verses from the Book of Psalms (Nos 118 and 26): “iniquos odio habui, lege[m] aut[em] tua[m] dilexi. Odi[vi] eccla[siam] malignantium, etcu[m] impiis no[n] sedebo”. Several charming woodcuts by Anton Woensam of Worms throughout, at least one for each Gospel, illustrating the Evangelists, and any other epistolary section. Decorated initials in 3 sizes, the largest ones particularly beautiful. Capital spaces with guide-letter, many printed maniculae and side-notes. Printer’s mark on colophon; without the final blanks, a few marginal repairs in first quire, some waterstains at beginning and light spotting at end. Bound in contemporary blind-stamped pigskin over bevelled wooden boards, later metal clasps, remains of leather tabs (upper joint split at head, tail of spine slightly defective, some light stains). A very good, clean copy of this scarce edition.

Born of a prominent family at Ulm, Hieronymus Emser (1478-1527) was the most ardent literary opponent of Luther’s “pestilential heresy”, as Protestantism is defined in the present volume. George “The Bearded”, who was the very Catholic Duke of Saxony, encouraged the churchman and theologian Emser to undertake this German translation of the New Testament in order to counter the fast-spreading success of Luther’s vernacular Bible. The present book is an uncommon edition of Emser’s work, which was first published in 1527 (ABPC/RBH list just one copy in auction records). Emser compares Luther’s so-called “September Testament” (1522), which was his first translation of the Gospels from Greek, with the 1527 edition of the Reformer’s Bible, in order to prove the arbitrariness of his interpretation.

Anton Woensam was a German painter and graphic artist specialising in woodcuts. Forty-five paintings and over 500 woodcuts are attributed to him. He was a contemporary of the great artist Albrecht Dürer. Woesam’s woodcuts depict the four Evangelists (Merlo 1016, 338-341) the suffering Saviour, worshiped by the priest Emser (Merlo 1014, 330), and the authors of the Apostolic Letters.

Provenance: Bavaria, Rottenbuch Abbey (early inscription on title) – Schweinfurt, Otto Schäfer (pencil monogram on rear pastedown with library no.).

VD 16 B 4446.