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University of Groningen Library More heritage Exhibitions

The ‘Luther Bible’ of Groningen (1527)

Dániel Moerman

One of the most renowned items in the Special Collections of the University of Groningen Library is our so-called Luther Bible. This name is, however, rather deceiving. In reality, it concerns a copy of the New Testament translated and edited by the famous humanist scholar Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536). 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 wrote many words of anger directed at Erasmus, whose translations and interpretations he did not always agree with. One of these comments contains the simple, but 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 make this average copy a collection piece renowned for one of its past owners.

Obviously, the book has a history which goes well beyond Luther. Its journey into the university library would continue for 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 continued on its long journey, until it arrived in the University of Groningen Library in 1724. Its arrival, however, was a silent one, as no note was made concerning its acquisition in the Syllabus.

The book was not named Luther Bible until 1883, when it was referred to as such in an article celebrating Luther’s 400th birthday. Its full history makes this Luther Bible an interesting and noteworthy part of the Special Collections at Groningen.

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

Last modified:26 May 2021 11.23 a.m.
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