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Letter to the Councillors

The Worms City Library owns the pamphlet "To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation Concerning the Reform of the Christian Estate" (printed 1524 in Wittenberg) and has therefore been listed in the Memory of the World Programme since 9 October 2015.

Cover of Martin Luther's Letter to the Councillors, photo: Worms City Library  
Cover of Martin Luther's Letter to the Councillors, photo: Worms City Library

The City Library in the Memory of the World Programme

It has been official since 9 October 2015: A UNESCO Conference held in Abu Dhabi resolved to include early Luther writings held by German libraries and archives in the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. They included the copy of Luther's letter 'To the Councillors of all Cities on German Territory' (Wittenberg 1524; see the information box for a digital reproduction), which is kept in the Worms City Library. This example of Luther's writing was included on the explicit wishes of UNESCO (as a supra-national educational organisation), as it is here the Luther demands a humanist education of all boys and girls (!) of all classes – with the principal goal of enabling them to read the Bible. 


In his letter, Luther called on the councillors to build schools and libraries; Worms complied in 1527 by erecting the municipal Latin school – today the Rudi Stephan Grammar School. – The early print of Lucas Cranach and Christian Döring with a Renaissance-era woodcut cover and two cherubs clasping a Luther rose in a medallion beneath the title, belongs to the inventory of the Luther Library, which Maximilian Heyl donated to his home city of Worms to mark the 400th anniversary of the Reformer's birth. This unique collection of early prints – Bible translations and pamphlets by Martin Luther and his compatriots alongside some writings by his opponents – was compiled by Julius Stern, a Jew, leading bookseller and antique dealer in Worms, on behalf of Max Heyl. Scouring the antique books market, Stern managed to assemble the collection in just a few years.

The other writings by Luther that were included in the Memory of the World Programme: Luther's lecture on the psalms (1513-15, lecture notes; manuscript owned by the Saxon State and University Library in Dresden, also the print with the handwritten margin notes and apostils; copy owned by the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel); Luther's lecture on the Epistle to the Romans (1515/16; manuscript owned by the State Library of Anhalt in Dessau); Hebrew Bible (printed in Brescia in 1494; copy with handwritten annotations by Luther owned by the State Library in Berlin); the 95 theses against the sale of indulgences (single page print, 1517; copy owned by the State Library in Berlin); a sermon on indulgences and mercy, Wittenberg 1518 (copy owned by the Anna Amalia Library in Weimar); On the Freedom of a Christian, Wittenberg 1520 (copy owned by the Research Library Gotha), Luther's hearing before the Diet of Worms (manuscript of Luther's speech on 17/18 April 1521, Thuringia State Archive Weimar); Luther's letter to Charles V (manuscript dated 28 April 1521, Lutherhaus Wittenberg); the so-called September Testament, Wittenberg 1522 (copy owned by the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel); Luther Bible (Wittenberg 1534, copy owned by the Anna Amalia Library in Weimar);  Luther's hymn 'Dear Christians, One and All rejoice' (single page print, 1523/24, copy owned by the University Library of Heidelberg); Luther's German Mass, Wittenberg 1526 (copy owned by the Thuringia University and State Library in Jena). The Academic City Library in Worms therefore belongs to the crème de la crème of German research libraries that own historical inventories. It is also noteworthy that Luther's German manuscript of the speech he gave before the Diet of Worms is included in the ensemble!

The Luther writings were selected by the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz, which for this purpose organised a colloquium in February 2012 before submitting a detailed documentation with descriptions of the copies last year: Dingel, Irene / Jürgens, Henning P. (Ed.), Meilensteine der Reformation. Schlüsseldokumente der frühen Wirksamkeit Martin Luthers, Gütersloh: Gütersloher Verlagshaus, 2014 (Worms City Library: -Mag- W Gs 576).

To the digital reproduction of the Letter to the Councillors

See the Letter (german only)