The September Testament

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The September Testament

vomiting dragon - biblical scene - 16th cent. New Testament k

dragon from Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament zg

Lucas Cranach dragon woodcut

Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament ze

Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament zf

Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament j

Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament a

Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament l

Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament za

Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament u

Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament s

Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament z

Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament w

Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament x

Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament m

Martin Luther - 16th cent. New Testament zi

"Luther’s first translation of the entire New Testament ['Das Newe Testament Deutzsch'] from the Greek original was published by Melchior Lotter the Younger in September 1522, with woodcut illustrations by Lucas Cranach. The so-called September Testament was received so enthusiastically that a second edition with corrections by Luther was printed as early as December of the same year.

Not only is the September Testament regarded as a milestone in the history of German Bible translation, but also it had an unequalled hand in the promotion of the Reformation, as well as in the dissemination of the High German language. Numerous reprints bear witness to its success: 12 editions were published in Basel, Augsburg, Grimma and Leipzig during the year 1523 alone."

The quote above comes from the Dr. Jörn Günther • Antiquariat site. That summary is relevant here but I'm fairly confident that their edition is a much more valuable, gold-highlighted work by a superior artist. However, the woodcut designs are indentical in both versions and were produced by the artist, Georg Lemberger {his initials are seen in that final image above}.
"For the Apocalypse, Lemberger took Cranach’s compositions as models, complementing them with new illustrations. With a total of 44 full-page images [printed from 34 blocks] plus 27 larger initials and the border decoration of the title page, this edition is lavishly illustrated. The Gospels are introduced with portraits of their authors, the Epistles with images of the apostles, and thus each book of the New Testament begins with a woodcut.

The artist renders the evangelists as hermits placing them in a wilderness setting, while he shows the apostles in the act of handing over their letters to messengers who depart into wooded, mountainous landscapes. The halos of the apostles are rendered as spectacular, luminous apparitions.The figures are depicted in close-up before landscapes featuring low horizons and woody or rocky mountains. A typical element is the large conifers stretching out their long branches."
  • The book is owned and hosted by Mälardalen University in Sweden [trans.]. BE WARNED: the only way to view this book is to load the whole thing, all 66Mb in Shockwave format, which will probably require a plugin/upgrade and maybe a restart as well. {Link: "Das newe testament deutzsch - Luther, Martin"}
  • All of the images above were spliced together from screencaps. Obviously the selection is skewed in favour of the more twisted/sensational/monstrous, as is my want. The balance of the illustrations has been saved in this set. Of particular note: the title page; full double-page appearance: with illustration & without illustration; a duet of St Paul depictions (I erroneously thought this was evidence suggesting that the illustrations were painted miniatures rather than hand-painted woodcuts; I was to lose a bet to Laura over this, who happily supplied the Antiquariat site link to reveal my foolishness.)
  • Thanks to Klaus from Archivalia for posting a multi-headed monster image: I 'pretend' I can read German (and Spanish and Dutch and ...) but the truth is, without the occasional visual alert, I'm much more likely to miss the quality material, such as the striking illustrations found in the September Testament.
  • Wikipedia: Luther Bible; Martin Luther.
  • New Advent: Martin Luther.
  • UPDATE - just a few days after posting this entry Taschen books announced a new publication of a Luther bible ['The Bible in Pictures'] based on an edition from the Lucas Cranach workshop (1534) - the illustrations are different than those seen above. [click 'Leaf through!' to see zoomable pages and commentary] {Amazon}

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