NP: NP, (1525 in handwriting on title page; attributed to Josef Klug, Wittenberg). First edition. Hardcover. Octavo. (4) 12pp. (Benzing, Lutherbibliographie, 2168). Bound in decorative brown paper-covered boards. Title within historiated woodcut border. Decorative initials. The ornate woodcut border on the title page depicts the judgment of Paris at the bottom, a motif unrelated to the content of this pamphlet but a popular theme for 16th Century printers. Our copy is a rare variant only held by the Staatsbibliothek Berlin (there attributed to Josef Klug) but the text was published a number of times in various locales by different printers in 1525, i.e. Michael Blum, Leipzig, Jakob Schmidt, Speyer, Stöckel, Leipzig, Heinrich Steiner, Augsburg, Friedrich Peypus, Nürnberg, and others. The designs and the layout, even spelling of the text vary from printer to printer, including variant copies of the same printer. Considering the rebellious, inflammatory situation in Germany it can be assumed that this publication devised by Luther was a pamphlet to be distributed extensively to help quell the insurgence of the peasants.
The polemic pamphlet by Martin Luther was directed against Thomas Müntzer and published in 1525, the year of Müntzer's death. Müntzer was an fellow Christian and follower of Martin Luther's. As early as 1519 he started to develop his own teachings considering Luther's reformation not radical enough. "The study of the Theologia Germanica recommended by Luther, and of the works of Tauler and other mystics exercised a not inconsiderable influence upon him" (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia). Müntzer became instrumental in the Anabaptist movement and a major leader in the peasant uprising in Germany, a revolt against feudal oppression during the 1520s. He was captured at the Battle of Frankenhausen in 1525, tortured and executed. Luther cites letters of Müntzer to prove his blasphemous and radical influx going as far as arguing that Müntzer's execution represented God's judgment.
In the introduction of this pamphlet Luther identifies Thomas Müntzer as schismatic claiming he speaks with the devil's tongue in God's name. Luther offers proof of Müntzer's ways in publishing some of Müntzer's letters wherein, according to Luther, he defies God and commits blasphemy, describing the poor peasants following Müntzer as lost souls for all eternity. Two of the letters published here were addressed to Albrecht VII. von Mansfeld who participated in the Battle of Frankenhausen in 1525, defeating the revolt to end the so-called Peasant Wars.
The first letter by Müntzer is a blatant appeal to peasants to engage in armed revolt against the ruling miscreants ("Lasst euer schwerd nicht kalt werden von blut" - don't let your swords get cold from blood); it contains geographical and personal references, quotes various passages of the Bible and promising the help of God in this struggle, dated 'Mühlhausen, Im XXV, Jar. - 1525, Thomas Müntzer A servant of God against the godless.' The other letters address Count Albrecht VII. von Mansfeld. Quoting a number of Biblical sources, Ezekiel 34, Daniel 39, Matthew 3, etc., Müntzer pleads to stop the tyrannic rage and torture of the Christians calling Albrecht a martyr for the devil. Two letters are dated Frankenhausen, Freytags nach Jubilate. Anno XXV, respectively 1525 (Friday after Jubilate, Sunday after Easter), the third letter Donnerstag nach Jubilate. Anno 25 (Thursday after Jubilate). The pamphlet closes with Luther's elaborate appeal addressing the captured and revolting peasants to repent and submit to the grace of God and believe that God will lead them to the blessed peace.
Text in German, Gothic script. Some wear along edges of binding with paper stickers at head of spine and lower corner of front cover, this with year and reference number, some scuffing of boards. Small library sticker on inside font cover with stamp and color exlibris of The Woodruff Collection at Emory University. Front free endpaper age toned with chips along edges, loose. Title page with minor loss of illustration (2 mm) at bottom right of woodcut and small scuff at upper right corner. Circular stamp on verso of title page. Page B2 with printed heading "Allen lieben Deutschen" trimmed with loss of top half of the line and verso of page A3 with slight loss of lettering of last three words of first line. g- to good condition. g. Item #43041