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The Story of a First Edition 1580 Book of Concord

January 30th, 2010
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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.

Printer's Colophon Page in 1580 German Book of Concord

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Categories: Book of Concord, Books
  1. Doug Pack
    January 30th, 2010 at 07:26 | #1

    Wow! That is so cool, Pr. McCain! Wish I could see it (in person, i mean :-))! A rare find indeed. Congrats!

  2. Norman Teigen
    January 30th, 2010 at 11:34 | #2

    Congratulations! Great find. Great story.

  3. January 30th, 2010 at 11:38 | #3

    What a find! Have you read The Golden Book: The Story of Fine Books and Bookmaking–Past and Present by Douglas C. McMurtrie? It’s a delight for book geeks.

  4. Deaconess Pam Nielsen
    January 30th, 2010 at 13:54 | #4

    I feel special, he let me touch it an turn pages. :) Very cool, much larger than I expected and the binding is very interesting. Not being a book geek but interested in classic and traditional decor, I think it makes a fine decorative piece in Paul’s office. Very scholarly and warm and inviting all at the same time. :)

  5. Randy Bosch
    January 30th, 2010 at 15:40 | #5

    a. Lock the door;
    b. Invest what you “saved” on cameras and alarm systems;
    c. Share photos (even if iPhone camera) of the illustrations;
    d. Check for margin notes – may give a clue to the original/previous owners!

  6. Tressa
    January 30th, 2010 at 21:31 | #6

    It is beautiful! I wonder whose hands held it in 1580?

  7. January 30th, 2010 at 22:12 | #7

    This is way cool. What makes it way cooler is how you were able to tell us about your wonderful find. Here you have a book from a Reformation that would have failed without moveable type and we’re able to see it because of your iPhone. God is so good!

  8. Josh Hayes
    February 2nd, 2010 at 10:41 | #8

    Congratulations! I remember the first time I touched a 1580 in the CSL library; I can’t imagine the excitement of actually owning one.

    That’s an interesting tidbit about Latin BoCs, btw. It sort of validates my existence as a Latin geek.

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