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Hans Lufft and Luther's Bible

November 30, 2017

 

The Luther Bible is a German language translation from Hebrew and Ancient Greek by Martin Luther. The copy illustrated is of the third edition, printed in 1536 by Hans Lufft (1495-1584), a printer and publisher who was described as "the Bible Printer" due to his prolific output. His printing house in Wittenberg produced the first editions of Luther's New Testament in 1522 and the complete Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments, in 1534. 

 

The Luther Bible was published in two quarto volumes, with original woodcuts by the painter and printmaker Lucas Cranach (1472-1553); the inclusion of these images reflected an emerging trend for using illustrations to reinforce the message carried in the text.

 

Over the next 40 years, Hans Lufft printed more than 100,000 copies of the German Bible, along with editions of most of Luther's other works. While the Luther Bible was not the first German translation, it was undoubtedly the most influential. Its widespread circulation permitted the development of a modern, standardised literary language for German-speaking peoples throughout the Holy Roman Empire.

 

The title page of this copy has, like so many woodcuts from this period, been coloured by hand and its endpapers bear the flamboyant painted coat of arms of its C16th German owner. It is bound in contemporary blind-stamped pigskin over wooden boards, with brass bosses, clasps, and leather page-markers. 

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