2 June 2004
LUTHER, Martin (1483-1546). De captivitate Babylonica ecclesiae. Wittemberg: [Melchior Lotter the younger, 1520].
4° (212 x 152mm). Woodcut title border with arms of Wittemberg attributed to Cranach workshop [Hollstein VI, 51], woodcut initial. (Some light spotting, small stain in first quire.) 20th-century half vellum boards by Bok & Hand, Hälsingborg. Provenance: a few early annotations and underlinings -- John Pape, Hälsingborg (20th-century inscription) -- [sale Sotheby's, 17 June 1968, lot 123].
FIRST EDITION of one of the three 'primary treatises', the most important Lutheran works. De captivitate is an attack on the doctrinal system of the Church, a virtual manifesto of ecclesiastical revolution. Luther called for reducing the holy sacraments from seven to three, to include only baptism, the Lord's supper and penance. In addition Luther propounded individual conscience in religious observance. The repercussions of its 44 leaves were quick; on 21 January 1521, after 10 editions had already been published, the pope issued the formal bull excommunicating Luther. RARE; only the present copy in 1968 has sold in Anglo-American auctions in over 50 years. Benzing 704.
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