Some Christian songs, hymns of praise, and psalms, in accordance with the pure Word of God, composed from Holy Scripture by a number of highly learned men, to sing in the Church, as is already to a certain extent being practiced in Wittenberg.
Also known as the “Achtliederbuch,” or “Eight-Song Book,” this is the first Lutheran hymnal ever published. It included eight hymns, some of which had already appeared in earlier small-scale publications. Though billed as an “official” Wittenberg hymnal, it is likely that Luther himself was uninvolved in its preparation, since it was actually printed outside Wittenberg, and its contents reveal that it was based on previously published broadsheets, which had in fact been printed under Luther’s direction. The first hymnal printed under Luther’s auspices was not a hymnal proper, but a choir book, the Geystliche gesangk Buchleyn, which was printed in Wittenberg in 1524 with five-part polyphonic settings by Johann Walter. Nevertheless, the “Achtliederbuch” remains the earliest extant source for some of the chief hymns of the Reformation.
The “Achtliederbuch” was printed three times in the same year. A scan of the second printing, nearly identical to the first, is available at the City Library of Worms. Scans of the third printing are available at the Berlin State Library and the Bavarian State Library in Munich.
Etlich Christlich lider | Lobgesang, und Psalm, dem rai- | nen wort Gottes gemeß, aus der | heyligen schrifft, durch mancher- | ley hochgelerter gemacht, in der | Kirchen zu singen, we es dann | zum tayl bereyt zu Wittenberg | in ubung ist. || wittenberg. || M. D. Xiiij.
- 12 leaves in quarto. Printed on the back of the title page; last page blank.
- No page numbers; the signatures B and C.
- The title is surrounded by four decorative border-pieces.
- The date “M. D. Xiiij.” (1514) is a printer’s error; the date should be “M. D. XXiiij.” (1524).
- The orthography maintains the distinction between “ú” and “ü” and makes use of “ů” and “ai,” though “heylig,” “geyst,” “ein,” and “nein” remain.
- It is an upper-German printing, actually from Nürnberg, despite the claim to have been printed in Wittenberg.
- The first hymn, by Luther, is followed by his name with the date 1523. Each of the three hymns by Paul Speratus is followed by his name, then by a demonstration of those Scripture passages on which it is based, of which the first and second take up two pages, the third only one page. The first of Speratus’s hymns is dated “Wittenberg 1523,” the other two “Wittenberg 1524.”
- Five of the hymns are furnished with melodies, under which the first line of the hymn is printed. The melody for “Ach Gott vom Himmel, sieh darein” is the same as that for “Es ist das Heil uns kommen her” and is instructed to be sung with all three of the psalm settings.
- The hymns are not divided into lines. The stanzas of the three hymns by Paul Speratus are listed with capital letters, as are the supporting Scripture passages. The stanzas of the other hymns are listed with the sign ¶.
- The music is printed with no time signature. The pattern of rests indicates that it is alla semibreve.
Etlich Christlich lider | Lobgesang, und Psalm, dem rai- | nen wort Gottes gemeß, aus der | heyligen schrifft, durch mancher- | ley hochgelerter gemacht, in der | Kirchen zů singen, we es dann | zum tayl bereyt zů Wittenberg | in ubung ist. || wittenberg. || M. D. XXiiij.
This printing is identical to the first, with the following exceptions:
- The date is given correctly as M. D. XXiiij. (1524).
- All of the dates given after the first four hymns are 1524, not 1523.
Etlich Christliche | lyeder Lobgesang, und Psalm, | dem rainen wort gotes gemeß, aus | der hailigen gschrifft, durch manch | erlay Hochgelerter gemacht, | in der Kirchen zů singen, | we es dann zům tail | berayt zů Wit | temberg in | yebung | ist. || Wittemberg. M. D. XXiiij.
- Printed by Melchior Ramminger in Augsburg, despite the claim on the title page.
- 12 leaves in quarto, back of title page blank, last page blank.
- Title page follows a different design from the first two printings.
- Leaves are numbered on the front page, listed by signature letter followed by number within the signature.
- Music is printed alla breve.
- Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein | Tune: Nun freut euch
- Es ist das Heil uns kommen her | Tune: Es ist das Heil
- In Gott gelaub ich, daß er hat aus nicht | Tune: In Gott gelaub ich (1524a)
- Hilf Gott, wie ist der Menschen Not
- Ach Gott vom Himmel, sieh darein | Tune: Es ist das Heil
- Es spricht der Unweisen Mund wohl | Tune: Es ist das Heil
- Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir | Tune: Es ist das Heil
- In Jesus Namen heben wir an | Tune: In Jesus Namen heben wir an
- Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice (Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g’mein)
- From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee (Aus teifer Not schrei ich zu dir)
- Hilf Gott, wie ist der Menschen Not
- In God Do I Believe, Who Hath From Naught (In Gott gelaub ich, daß er hat aus nicht)
- In Jesus Namen heben wir an
- O Lord, Look Down from Heaven, Behold (Ach Gott vom Himmel, sieh darein)
- Salvation unto Us Has Come (Es ist das Heil uns kommen her)
- The Mouth of Fools May Well Confess (Es spricht der Unweisen Mund wohl)