Jewels in Her Crown: Treasures of Columbia University Libraries Special Collections

Exhibition Themes > Theology & Religion > 128. Martin Luther

128.  Martin Luther (1483-1546).  Der Prophet Jona. Augsburg: Johannes Knobloch, 1526. Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary, Leander van Ess Collection

Jonah was the first of the prophetic books Luther translated. Others appeared separately over the next few years, before a complete translation of the Prophets was issued in 1532. According to Luther, Jonah was "well suited for the present time" immediately following the Peasants' War because it taught trust in God and reminded readers of Christ's death and resurrection. It was printed sixteen times in 1526 alone, thirteen in German and three in Latin. Reformation pamphlets commonly had woodcuts on their covers or title pages. The woodcut on the title page of this unbound Augsburg printing of the pamphlet shows Jonah at various points in his story.

The library of Leander van Ess, a Roman Catholic priest, was particularly strong in materials on the German Reformation, and contained a number of Luther's "Flugschriften," literally "flying writings," ephemeral pamphlets such as this one. He kept these pamphlets in a separate part of his collection and they have been reconstructed on the basis of numbered stickers which remain on most of them. A man far ahead of his time, van Ess instituted a number of reforms in his Marburg church, including the use of vernacular throughout the service, turning the priest to face the congregation, and giving detailed explanations of what was going on as mass was celebrated. He was a very popular preacher and his sermons attracted both Catholics and Protestants.

Purchased with the Leander van Ess Collection, 1838

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