Luther Bible of 1534

Luther Bible of 1534 Facsimile Edition

Wittenberg (Germany) — 1534

The most famous book in the Anna Amalia Library in Weimar: the first printed complete translation of Martin Luther's Bible with a title page by Lucas Cranach the Elder and 128 masterful colored woodcuts

  1. The two-volume Weimar Luther Bible includes a title page by Lucas Cranach the Elder (ca. 1472–1553)

  2. 128 woodcuts by monogramist MS were masterfully colored with opaque blue, green, and red paints

  3. It is a wonderful specimen of early printed books decorated according to their patrons’ tastes

Luther Bible of 1534

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  1. Description
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  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Luther Bible of 1534

The two-volume Weimar Luther Bible stands out as the finest of the 60 surviving copies of the 1534 printed edition of Martin Luther’s famous and influential vernacular German Bible. Its 128 woodcuts, including a splendid title page by Lucas Cranach the Elder, were masterfully colored shortly after they were printed with opaque blue, green, and red paints. Gold leaf was also used to illuminate some of the splendid woodcuts. It is a wonderful specimen from the early days of book printing when an artist would be employed to customize the décor according to the tastes of the patron.

Luther Bible of 1534

Few historical figures have had as far-reaching of an impact as Martin Luther (1483–1546). The most important figure of the Protestant Reformation is one of the most important figures in the history of Germany and the German language because of his translation of the Bible so that it could be understood by the laity. After the New Testament was first published in 1522, a complete edition containing the Old and New Testaments with Apocrypha followed in 1534. Of the 60 surviving copies of the first complete edition, the specimen housed in the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar is unquestionably the finest. Its 128 woodcuts have been richly colored with blue, red, and green; some have even illuminated with gold. The splendid print must have been commissioned by a wealthy patron, but none has been identified and nothing is known about its ownership history before it was acquired by the library in 1815.

Luther’s Historic Translation

Luther was not the first to translate the Bible into German but what distinguishes his translation is that it did not use the Latin Vulgate as a source but drew from the original Hebrew and Greek. He also spent time in various towns and markets listening to the language of the common people to ensure that they, his target audience, would be able to comprehend his translation. His German language Bible inspired other theologians across Europe to create their own vernacular translations, but also doomed the continent to generations of religious warfare. Nonetheless, Luther’s translation is considered by many to be his greatest work with far-reaching religious, linguistic, and cultural significance.

A Luxury Print

The Luther Bible would never have had the influence it did without the recent invention of the printing press and about 200,000 copies were printed during Luther’s lifetime. However, the era of cheap printed books was a long way off and even an unbound copy of the complete Bible cost a month’s wages for the average laborer. As such, the common man only encountered the Luther Bible second hand through churches, pastors, and schools. The first complete edition from 1534 was printed by Hans Lufft (1495–1584) in Wittenberg, who also produced this special unicum and would print 100,000 copies of the Bible altogether. Aside from a title page for the Old Testament depicting Joshua created by Lucas Cranach the Elder (ca. 1472–1553), a close friend of Luther’s, the rest of the 128 engravings originated from the so-called Master MS. 62 of are illustrations measuring 10.8 x 14.7 cm, 41 illustrations for the Old Testament and 21 for the New Testament, while the rest consist of decorative and historiated initials. Luther is reported to have personally participated in the design of the woodcuts.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Luther Bibel von 1534
Biblia, das ist, Die gantze Heilige Schrifft deudsch
Bible de Luther de 1534
Origin
Germany
Date
1534
Language

Available facsimile editions:
Detail Picture

Luther Bible of 1534

The Destruction of Jericho

In the Book of Joshua, the Israelites’ conquest of Canaan begins with the city of Jericho, which is defended by mighty walls. To overcome this obstacle, God instructs all the men of war to parade around the city with the Ark of the Covenant and seven priests blowing rams’ horns once a day for seven days. Furthermore, all the people are supposed to join together in a great shout at the blasting of the horns, and that when they did so on the seventh day the walls would fall. This detailed woodcut with rich colors and gold shows the moment when Jericho’s defenses crumble before the host of the Israelites and the Ark is given the central position it deserves.

Biblia, das ist, Die gantze Heilige Schrifft deudsch
Single Page

Luther Bible of 1534

Frontispiece

This frontispiece not only offers a sample of early-16th century publishing but also a detailed depiction of a late medieval suit of armor. The title itself is introduced by a golden “D”, but the decision to split the word “alten” with a hyphen is difficult to understand when there was plenty of room on the second line for the complete word. Nonetheless, it provides the bare minimum of information, the location of its publication – Wittenberg – and the year – 1534, written in Roman numerals.

The knight is a middle-aged man with curly brown hair, a full beard, and the wrinkles of someone who has seen many military campaigns. He has removed his helmet, the golden visor of which has already been pulled up for visibility. Other gilded pieces of armor include his gauntlets, couters, pauldrons, poleyns, and sabotons. He carries a ceremonial baton to indicate his rank as a general or field marshal of the Army of the Holy Roman Empire, but there is nothing to identify him as an individual.

Biblia, das ist, Die gantze Heilige Schrifft deudsch
Facsimile Editions

#1 Biblia, das ist, Die gantze Heilige Schrifft deudsch

Taschen – Cologne, 2002
Luther Bible of 1534 – Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek (Weimar, Germany) Facsimile Edition
Luther Bible of 1534 – Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek (Weimar, Germany) Facsimile Edition Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Taschen – Cologne, 2002
Commentary: 1 volume by Stephan Füssel
Language: German
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.
Price Category: € (under 1,000€)
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