Luther's commentary on the Psalms

One of the SLUB's most precious manuscripts is Martin Luther's own handwritten manuscript of the first lecture on the Psalms, which the reformer gave at the University of Wittenberg in 1513-1515 as a newly graduated professor of biblical interpretation. This Latin scholastic manuscript contains explanations of 88 of 150 Psalms in the version of the Biblia vulgata common at the time. Luther commented on individual verses or expressions on the basis of and in discussion with ancient, Church Fathers' and medieval authorities as well as common biblical glosses. The detailed commentary on the first and fourth Psalms, prepared in 1516, suggests that Luther intended to publish his commentary. A printing did not come about during Luther's lifetime.

"The SLUB has an outstanding collection of Martin Luther's manuscripts. We preserve this extensive collection of autographs from the Reformation period with gratitude and pride. At the same time, we are very aware of the great responsibility for the preservation and conservation of the cultural tradition."

Prof. Dr. Thomas Bürger, retired Director General.

The manuscript came to the Electoral Library in Dresden at the end of the 16th or beginning of the 17th century through the Zeitz canon Johann Ernst Luther (1560-1637), Martin Luther's grandson and son of the Saxon elector's personal physician Paul Luther (1533-1593). Johann Ernst wrote on the first leaf of the volume, lost since 1945, that he had kept his grandfather's commentary on the Psalms like a cinnamon. Today, the manuscript has an extent of 261 leaves in the format 21.7 x 16.3 cm, which are very closely inscribed (on average 40-45 lines per leaf) and are provided with numerous marginal notes by Martin Luther, some of which were unfortunately trimmed during the binding of the 16 quires once used separately. According to the first record of the manuscript in the book inventory of the Electoral Library from the years 1595-1628, the manuscript was once bound in black silk. This binding was so badly damaged by water in 1945 as a result of the destruction of the Japanese Palace, the former seat of the Saxon State Library, that it had to be replaced by a leather binding in 1966 after the supposedly lost manuscript was found again.

The text of the Dresden manuscript was first edited in its entirety by Karl Seidemann (Dresden 1876; 2nd edition Dresden 1880, digital). For the critical complete edition of Martin Luther's works (so-called Weimar edition, vol. 55, 2nd dept., Weimar 2000), a new edition with a detailed codicological description was undertaken.

The Dresden manuscript is not the only document for Luther's first lecture on the Psalms: the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbüttel owns Luther's hand copy of a Psalter printed at Luther's instigation in 1513 by Johannes Grunenberg in Wittenberg(Cod. Guelf. 71.4 Theol. 4°). The volume contains numerous autograph glosses on all 150 psalms.

These two extensive autographs by Luther, along with twelve other sources significant for the early period of the Reformation, have been part of the UNESCO World Documentary Heritage since October 2015. The SLUB also owns one or even several copies of five of the designated prints: "Von der Freiheit eines Christenmenschen" (Wittenberg, Johannes Grunenberg, 1520), "Das Newe Testament Deutzsch" (so-called. September Testament, Wittenberg, Melchior Lotter, 1522), "Biblia das ist die gantze Heilige Schrifft Deudsch" (Wittenberg, Hans Lufft, 1534), "An die Radherrn aller stedte deutsches lands: das sie Christliche schulen auffrichten vnd hallten sollen" (Wittenberg, Lukas Cranach and Christian Döring, 1524) and "Deudsche Messe vnd ordnung Gottis diensts" (Wittenberg, Michael Lotter, 1526).

A virtual exhibition initiated by the Leibniz Institute for European History (IEG) in Mainz shows all 14 objects on the early Reformation originating in Wittenberg that have been included in the UNESCO World Documentary Heritage: Key documents of Martin Luther's early effectiveness.

Martin Luther's First Psalm Lecture, Wittenberg 1513-1515 in the virtual exhibition 95 Autographs of the Reformation Period, in which 95 original manuscripts of the Reformation from the SLUB's holdings are digitally presented and described.