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The ‘Luther-bible’ of Groningen (1527)

Dániel Moerman

One of the most precious pieces of the Special Collections in the Groningen university library is the so-called ‘Luther-bible.’ The title ‘Luther-bible’ is, however, rather deceiving. In reality, it concerns a 1527 version of the New Testament edited by the famous humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536). Yet among the many people who owned the book prior to its arrival in the university library was no other than reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546). In the margins, Luther left behind many marks of anger directed at Erasmus, whose translations and interpretations he did not always agree with. One of these comments contains the simple, though direct accusation ‘du bist nicht from’ (you are not pious), carved in the margins in thick black pencil strokes. Luther’s numerous notes and comments made this not so special book a collection piece renowned for one of its past owners.

But in reality, the book has a history which goes well beyond Luther. Its journey into the university library would continue a few hundred years after Luther’s death. In 1555, the book passed through the hands of Groningen humanist Regnerus Praedinius (1510-1559), whose characteristic humanist marginal notes in red ink were meant to defend Erasmus against Luther’s harsh comments. After the death of Praedinius, the book went on a long journey once again, until it arrived in the university library of Groningen in 1724. Its arrival, however, was a silent one, as no note was made concerning its acquisition in the Syllabus.

The book would not receive the title of ‘Luther-bible,’ however, until 1883, when it was referred to as such in an article celebrating Luther’s four-hundredth birthday. This full story makes the “Luther-bible” an even more interesting and noteworthy piece of the Groningen collection.

This virtual exhibition was made as part of the Summerschool Things That Matter 4.

Last modified:14 May 2019 11.54 a.m.
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