The Story of a First Edition 1580 Book of Concord
I have an interesting story to share, well, at least it is interesting to me. If you are a book geek, like me, you’ll may find this interesting too. If you are not, stop reading now.
A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from Dr. Robert Kolb and in the midst of a back/forth e-mail discussion that day, somehow the matter of finding copies of old printings of the Book of Concord came up and we were discussing how it is rather interesting to notice that in most of the 17th century and into the 18th century, the most commonly found copies of the Book of Concord printed are only copies of the Latin Book of Concord. Latin, of course, was the language of the schools and scholars, so it makes sense. But finding German printings of the BOC beyond the 16th century is more difficult. I have one printed in the 1700s, and the first German/Latin diglot edition, printed in the 1700s as well, but a German edition from the 1600s is much less frequently found.
Then conversation in the e-mail discussion turned to the “holy grail” of Book of Concord collectors. I told Dr. Kolb that I had been on the “hunt” for a first edition of the 1580 German Book of Concord for nearly ten years, and had found one about five or six years ago, bound with a copy of the Saxon Church Order, but it was going for around $4,500 and so I had to pass. Well, after our e-mail exchange, I was poking around again looking for a first edition of the 1580 Book of Concord and to my amazement, found one listed by a German rare book shop. Talk about eerie! The next day I e-mailed Dr. Kolb and told him he was my good luck charm.
The book arrived a couple weeks ago. I was able to purchase it for a considerably lower price because it is missing the title page and a few pages of the foreword. I suspect, but can not prove, that it fell victim to an unfortunate practice out there of removing key pages from rare books and selling them as separate pieces. Egads! But, if so, it only benefited me, for I was able to obtain a first edition of the BOC for a lot less than the other one I had found.
I’ve posted a few photos here for you to see it. The first photo is the book as it now sits in my office, surrounded by some other Luther related items, and sitting under the Cranach Weimar Altar painting. The close up below is a shot of the most important page in the book for establishing its authenticity, the printer’s colophon. You’ll notice the date on it is 1579, not 1580. Here’s why. The Formula of Concord was printed in 1579, but was bound up into the whole book only in 1580, so that is why you will find in first editions of the 1580 Book of Concord, this kind of printer’s colophon with a date of 1579 on it.
So, there’s my 1580 Book of Concord story. Sorry about the quality of the photos, I just used my iPhone camera.