Bach's Calov Bible

Bach's Calov Bible – Van Wijnen – Concordia Seminary Library (St. Louis, USA)

Wittenberg (Germany) β€” 1681–1682

Translated by Luther, annotated by Abraham Calov, and discovered by chance in an attic in Michigan in 1934: Johann Sebastian Bach's personal Bible in three volumes with notes in his own hand

  1. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) created some of the most popular and enduring pieces of liturgical music

  2. As a Protestant, his Bible contained the famous German translation and commentary by Martin Luther (1483–1546)

  3. The Bible is named after Abraham Calov (1612–86), one of the best-known representatives of Lutheran orthodoxy whose commentary can also be found in the codex

Bach's Calov Bible

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Bach's Calov Bible

Johann Sebastian Bach was one of the greatest composers of liturgical music in the modern era, and has enjoyed sustained popularity since the revival that his work enjoyed in the course of the 19th century. One of the most important discoveries related to the great composer was made thousands of miles away from Germany in 1934: a splendid three-volume Bible with various notes from Bach’s own hand was found in a private residence in Michigan.

Bach's Calov Bible

During the 17th century, a three-volume Bible was printed containing the famous German translation and commentary by Martin Luther (1483–1546) with an additional commentary by Abraham Calovius (1612–86), a professor of theology in Wittenberg. A copy of this beautifully-printed Bible, named after the aforementioned theologian, was owned by the famous composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), which is attested to by Bach’s signature on the title page, dated to 1733.

Discovered in an Attic in Michigan

Bach’s copy of the Bible was discovered in 1934 by Christian G Riedel, a Lutheran pastor, while visiting his cousin Leonard Reichle in Frankenmuth, Michigan. Riedel immediately recognized Bach’s signature in a volume of the work and Reichle searched his attic for the other two, which the family had owned since the 1830’s and also featured Bach signatures on their respective title pages. All three volumes were donated to the Concordia Seminary Library in St. Louis, Missouri in 1938, but were not paid proper scholarly attention until after World War II. The three-volume Bible is filled with evidence of the Baroque composer’s personal use including 348 underlined sections, marks of emphasis, and marginal notes in Bach’s hand. Often times, Bach simply corrected typographical or grammatical errors in the text. This Bible represents a remarkable inside view into the mindset of one of the most important composers of church music in the West.


Alternative Titles
Die Heilige Bibel
Calov Bible
Bach's Bible
Bachs Calov Biebel
Bible text with two commentaries by Martin Luther and Abraham Calovius
Abraham Calovius
Previous Owners
Johann Sebastian Bach

Available facsimile editions:
Bach's Calov Bible – Van Wijnen – Concordia Seminary Library (St. Louis, USA)
Van Wijnen – Franeker, 2017
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Detail Picture

Bach's Calov Bible

Portrait of Abraham Calovius

Born in the Duchy of Prussia and educated as a theologian in KΓΆnigsberg, Abraham Calovius (1612–86) was a leading champion of Lutheran orthodoxy in the 17th century. Although he had few equals as a writer of polemics, his most popular work was his three-volume Bible with both Martin Luther’s commentary as well as his own. Calovius is depicted in this engraving with a Van Dyke beard, which was popular at the time, and dressed in typical Lutheran vestments with an amice draped over his shoulders.

Bach's Calov Bible – Van Wijnen – Concordia Seminary Library (St. Louis, USA)
Single Page

Bach's Calov Bible

Signed Title Page

Printed in an elegant Fraktur script with black and bright red ink, this title page presents the typical information one would expect to find including the authors, publisher, edition, and date of publication. What is less typical is the specification that the work was created 5,681 years after the creation of the world and contains β€œthe Evangelicals lone saving truth”.

However, it is the small signature in the bottom-right corner that is significant: β€œBach 1733”. The signature is easy to miss and clearly many people did because it was not until 1934, when the Bible found its way to the United States, that anyone realized this copy of the Calov Bible had once belonged to the famous Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750).

Bach's Calov Bible – Van Wijnen – Concordia Seminary Library (St. Louis, USA)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Bach's Calov Bible

Van Wijnen – Franeker, 2017

Publisher: Van Wijnen – Franeker, 2017
Limited Edition: 1000 copies
Commentary: 1 volume by Albert Clement, Christoph Wolff, Mary Greer, Tassilo Erhardt, Marcel Zwitser, and Peter Wollny
Languages: English, German, Dutch abstract, Japanese abstract
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€€
(3,000€ - 7,000€)
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