Geistliche Lieder auffs new gebessert

Joseph Klug
Wittenberg, 1529

Luther had this hymnal printed as a definitive collection of his own hymns (and some by others), to combat the rampant piracy that was threatening the integrity of his hymnic corpus. Though the original 1529 edition has been lost, Klug’s hymnal was reprinted and expanded throughout the following fifteen years. The 1531 Erfurt reprint by Andreas Rauscher is the earliest extant example. A 1533 Wittenberg reprint is available in a facsimile edition, Das Klug’sche Gesangbuch, 1533, ed. Konrad Ameln, Documenta musicologica, 1st series, no. 35 (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1983). A new edition was printed in 1535, entitled Geistliche Lieder zu Wittemberg, a scan of which is available here. An expanded edition published in 1543 was further reprinted in 1544 (a scan of one printing is available here, with the date 1543 given on the title page and 1544 on the colophon) and 1545 (a scan of one printing is available here).

Though the original 1529 printing is now lost, an exemplar was described by Georg Ernst Waldau in the Journal von und für Deutschland, 1788, vol. 5, part 10, pp. 328–329. Having recounted how the scholars of his day tended to view this supposed hymnal as a chimera, Waldau claims to have in his possession a copy, which he describes as follows:

It is printed in sextodecimo, with a bordered title: “Geistliche Lieder auffs new gebessert zu Wittemberg D. Mar. Luth. M. D. XXIX.” The quires run from A through U, but with each letter printed on only eight pages. After the title follows first “Eine newe Vorrede Mar. Luth.” It begins thus: “Nu haben sich etliche,” etc., [which has been included in many edition of Luther’s Works]. Thereupon follows the old “Vorrede Mar. Luth.” The songs themselves, with the notes for the melodies and concluding with an alphabetical index, are 54 in number. Luther observed the following order. At the beginning are the old Latin hymns that had been translated into German by him. Then come some Psalms rendered by Luther into spiritual songs. Among these, on Page F iii, under the heading “Der xxxxvi. Psalm. Deus noster refugium et virtus,” is the hymn “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” … Hereupon follow hymns by Justus Jonas, Erhard Hegenwald, Johannes Agricola, Lazarus Spengler, Adam von Fulda, the two counts of Brandenburg, Casimir and Georg, Andreas Knöppen, and Elisabeth Cruciger. It closes with the hymns of the saints from the Holy Scriptures, which the patriarchs and prophets had composed aforetime. These are divided into verses and set with notes, but unrhymed. On the last page is found, “Gedruckt zu Wittemberg durch Joseph Klug. 1529.”

Luther’s Preface

Now there are certain who, by their additions to our hymns, have clearly shown that they far excel me in this matter, and may well be called my masters. But some, on the other hand, have added little of value.

And inasmuch as I see that there is no limit to this perpetual amending by everyone indiscriminately according to his own liking, so that the earliest of our hymns are more per-verted the more they are printed, I am fearful that it will fare with this little book as it has ever fared with good books, that through tampering by incompetent hands it may get to be so overlaid and spoiled that the good will be lost out of it, and nothing be kept in use but the worthless.

Thus we see in the first chapter of St. Luke that in the beginning everyone wanted to write a gospel, until among the multitude of gospels the true Gospel was well-nigh lost. So has it been with the works of St. Jerome and St. Augustine, and with many other books. In short, there will always be mouse dung among the pepper.

In order as far as may be to avoid this evil, I have once more revised this book, and put our own hymns in order by themselves with name attached, which formerly I avoided for fear of boasting, but am now constrained to do by necessity, lest strange and unsuitable songs come to be sold under our name. After these are arranged the others, such as we deem best and most useful.

I beg and beseech all who hold dear the pure Word that henceforth without our knowledge and consent no further additions or alterations be made in this book of ours; but when it is amended without our knowledge, that it be fully understood to be not our book published at Wittenberg. Every man can for himself put together his own book full of songs, and leave this of ours alone without additions; as we here beg, beseech, and testify. For we like to keep our coin up to our own standard, debarring no man from making better for himself. Now let God’s name alone be praised, and our name not sought. Amen.