"LUTHER MADE THE EXPOSITION OF THE PSALMS THE CORNERSTONE OF HIS EXEGETICAL WORK": FIRST EDITION, FIRST ISSUE IN ENGLISH OF LUTHER'S COMMENTARY ON THE GRADUAL PSALMS, 1577, BEAUTIFULLY BOUND
LUTHER, Martin. Commentarie Upon the Fiftene Psalmes… Translated out of Latine into Englishe by Henry Bull. London: Thomas Vautroullier, 1577. Small quarto (6 by 8 inches), contemporary full vellum gilt, yapp edges, three (of four) original silk ties, title in ink on spine and text block fore-edge. Housed in a custom clamshell box. $19,500.
Rare first edition, first issue in English of Luther's classic commentary on the gradual psalms, in a beautiful contemporary vellum binding.
The 15 "gradual psalms," or "songs of ascents," in the psalter (Psalms 119-133, or, according to the Hebrew enumeration Luther here follows, 120-134) were likely sung by pilgrims in ancient Israel as they journeyed to annual festivals in Jerusalem. "Martin Luther made the exposition of the Psalms the cornerstone of his exegetical work" (Seybold, 251), and his "lifelong preoccupation with this biblical book, totaling about 2500 printed pages, culminates in the lectures on the gradual psalms" (Mowinckel, xxiii) in 1532-33. Theologian Henry Bull "translated from Luther's Latin A Commentarie on the Fiftene Psalmes called Psalmi Graduum… with a preface by [John] Foxe the martyrologist. In this preface Foxe says that Bull, now 'departed,' made a vow to do this work, that he received much spiritual consolation from it, and that 'it pleased the Lord to continue his life till this vowed work was fully finished" (DNB). Foxe is best known as the author of the influential ecclesiastical history and martyrology Acts and Monuments (first published 1563), "one of the key texts through which popular Protestantism in England recognized itself and its heritage" (Folger Shakespeare Library). With woodcut printer's device to title page, initials, head- and tailpieces. Majority of text set in Gothic type. First edition in English, first issue, with "To the Reader" signed "John Fox" (as opposed to "Foxe"). STC 16975. Bound for "Da. Wall," David or Daniel Wall, with his gilt initials on covers and a manuscript 12-line presentation poem in his hand on the front flyleaf. There may be a connection with Emmanuel College, Cambridge and the Mildmay family. Emmanuel was founded in 1584 by Sir Walter Mildmay to train "godly ministers" along puritan lines. With manuscript paper ownership label of General John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmoreland (1784-1859), and probably from the Fane family library at Apethorpe Hall, Northamptonshire. Sir Walter Mildmay's granddaughter and heiress Mary married John Fane, later 1st Earl of Westmoreland, in 1599 and brought Apethorpe, and a number of Mildmay family books, to the Fane family. It probably remained at Apethorpe until the late 1880s or early 1890s, when the library was dispersed at auction. With pencil notes on front pastedown of James Stevens Cox, bookseller and bibliophile, identifying the owner as David Wall.
Interior generally fine, with occasional faint dampstaining to top edge, marginal wormholing (not affecting text). Contemporary binding beautiful. An exceptional copy of an important work.