The Wittenberg Bible

The examples below in German, printed 1572

Hans Lufft (1495-1584) was a German printer and publisher, commonly called "the Bible Printer," because in 1534 he printed at Wittenberg the first complete edition of Luther's Bible, in two quarto volumes with illuminations in gold and colours by Lucas Cranach. Lufft printed in the 40 years following more than 100,000 copies of the German Bible. He also printed most of the other works of Luther.

Some time after the publication of his 95 Theses in 1517, Martin Luther set to work on a translation of the Bible into German. His New Testament was published in 1522 and the complete Bible in 1534 making it available to the ordinary people and consolidating the Reformation.

Luther started work on the Bible soon after his clash with imperial authorities at the Diet of Worms in April 1521. He was ordered to leave the city, and was taken to the Wartburg, a castle above Eisenach in what is now Thuringia. He changed his appearance and took on the identity of a landowner, Junker Georg.

A month into his stay, he had already begun to translate the Epistles and the Gospels, and by March 1522, he had completed it. His first New Testament translation was published in September 1522, and has come to be known as the September Testament. It sold 5,000 copies in its first two months in print.

After working in isolation, Luther now formed a translation committee of colleagues, visiting scholars and rabbis to help as he revised the first draft and turned his attention to the Old Testament. The Wittenberg Bible, containing the complete Old and New Testaments, was published in 1534. Luther's last revision of this mammoth work was published a year before his death, in 1545.

Luther's translation became a bestseller. The Wittenberg Bible sold about 100,000 copies between 1534 and 1574. It helped shape the way people spoke and wrote German for generations to follow. Luther's translation remains the most widely used version of the Bible in the German-speaking world today.

Wittenberg Bible Page 43 "front"

This is the Second Book of Moses. This page describes and illustrates the 6th plague of Egypt (Plague of Boils).

From the King James Bible:
"And the LORD said unto Moses and unto Aaron, Take to you handfuls of ashes of the furnace, and let Moses sprinkle it toward the heaven in the sight of Pharaoh. And it shall become small dust in all the land of Egypt, and shall be a boil breaking forth with blains upon man, and upon beast, throughout all the land of Egypt." "Behold, the hand of the LORD is upon thy cattle which is in the field, upon the horses, upon the asses, upon the camels, upon the oxen, and upon the sheep: there shall be a very grievous murrain."

Wittenberg Bible Page 43 "rear"

This is the continuation of the Second Book of Moses. This page describes and illustrates the 7th plague of Egypt (Plague of Thunder and Hail).

From the King James Bible:
"Behold, tomorrow about this time I will cause it to rain a very grievous hail, such as hath not been in Egypt since the foundation thereof even until now."

Clearly the artists who made the woodcuts knew nothing of Egypt.

Early Printed Books - Introduction
1493 Nuremberg Chronicle (Schedel's World History)
1572 The Wittenberg Bible [THIS PAGE]
1588 Michael Eytzinger: Of Leone Belgico, eiusque topographica atque historica..
1617 Theodore de Bry: Grand Voyages to the New World -Introduction and pages on Raleigh, Drake and Pizarro
1617 Theodore de Bry: Grand Voyages to the New World -Florida and the French: le Moyne's pictures
1617 Theodore de Bry: Grand Voyages to the New World -Mexico