Friday, September 25, 2009

Cracking the Code: Editions of Luther's Works

If you've come across obscure Luther quotes and can't understand the documentation, this entry is for you. Often, those who cite Luther polemically can't provide a context, and the references they provide look like an unknown code. Below is a bit of the code book, so to speak. The above graphic comes from Luther's own statements concerning his teaching and its results by Henry O'Connor, page 164. It's typical of the anti-Luther books that Roman Catholics put out in the late 1800's- early 1900's. The sources O'Connor refers to are usually out of reach for a typical English speaking blogger. Google Books has made it somewhat easier to locate some of these type of old sources, but even if you find them, there's still the question of reading German and Latin.

Sometimes O'Connor will mention a specific treatise title, often he won't. It makes tracking down Luther quotes and putting them in context very tedious and difficult. Of course, if your typical Roman Catholic Internet warrior would read the actual sources available now, and quote Luther via those sources.... ah, never mind. That's wishful thinking.

Below are some of the main collections of Luther documents referred to by friends and foes of the Reformation. This is only a brief look. Citations in older books like O'Connor's and Patrick O'Hare's are often sparse, cryptic, fragmented, or in a foreign language. If you come across someone using an obscure Luther quote with a reference you don't understand:

1. If you're aware that it's a primary source from long ago, let them know you're in awe that they have had access to such a rare book. Tell them it's an honor to dialogue with someone who's read things like de Wette or Walch, and you look forward to being their pupil.

2. Ask them what the reference means. Chances are, they might not be able to tell you. That's a good sign they have swiped the quote from a secondary source, and haven't a clue as to the context.

3. If they can identify the reference as coming from an actual collection of Luther's works, ask them what specific treatise it's from and if they know any of the background as to the writing of the treatise.

4. If they do link you to an old Google Book in German or Latin, ask them if they can read either German or Latin.

5. Remember, if someone uses a quote, it's their responsibility to provide the context, not yours. If they can't provide an actual context and an historical context, their conclusions and interpretation are worthless.

Luther's Works
Usually referred to as LW. English edition, published by Concordia Publishing House. You can usually find this set (54 volumes with the 55th book index) in a good library. Single volumes are relatively inexpensive and can bought new or used. There is also a CD ROM of this set. I've had this CD ROM for a number of years, and it's proved invaluable. Concordia is also releasing new volumes of Luther's Works.

Works of Martin Luther: With Introduction and Notes
Often referred to as PE. The Philadelphia Edition (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press). Sometimes called the Holman Luther, since it was originally published by A.J. Holman Co. This is an English set in 6 volumes. No need to go out and buy these, you can find them on line. They were published in the early 1900's.

WA: Weimar Edition of Luther's Works. 1883-.
Usually referred to as WA. D. Martin Luthers Werke. Kritische Gesamtausgabe; Weimar, 1883. This is the largest set of Luther's works, in German. It's arranged in four parts: Writings (WA),11 volumes of Letters (WA Br, or Briefe), 6 volumes of Tabletalk (WA TR or Tischreden) 9(or 12?) volumes of the German Bible (WA DB). This set was supposed to follow a chronological sequence, but more Luther material was found after the set had been put in motion. When newer items are found, or better source documents of previous material, they are be released in volumes entitled, Archiv zur Weimarer Ausgabe (AWA). The numbering of the Weimar set can be very confusing, like "WA 10, I, 2".

The Erlangen Edition
Usually referred to as EA. 1826-1857. Sometimes this set is referred to as "Dr. M. Luthers Samtliche Werke" or "E". The set includes German and Latin writings from Luther. The 68 German volumes were published 1826-1857, and revised later that century. The 38 Latin writings are specific to biblical interpretation (Exegetica Opera Latina, sometimes referred to as E op ex and Opera latina varii argumenti). They likewise were published in the 19th Century. This set includes 18 volumes of Luther's letters edited by E.L. Enders, and were also published separately. It also includes Luther's commentary on Galatians in 3 volumes.

Walch: The Walch Edition
1740-1753. 24 topical volumes. This was a set of Luther's works published 1740-1753 by Johann Georg Walch. This set is German, and Walch translated many of Luther's Latin writings into German. Sometimes this set is referred to as the St. Louis version, the St. Louis-Walch version, or the Halle edition, or Luthers Samtliche Werke, herausgegeben von J. G. Walch. It may be Abbreviated as "St.L" This set also includes writings by others, friends and foes of Luther. The set was revised from 1885-1910 (in St. Louis), and may not match up with the earlier set. Sometimes the revision is referred to as St.Lb. Volumes 15-17 contain rare Reformation history texts, and contemporary letters.

Dr. Martin Luthers Briefe, Sendschreiben und Bedenken (Dewette)
5 volumes of Luther's letters in German edited by Dr. Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette. "The best collection of his Letters was edited by De Wette (5 vols., Berlin, 1825-8), with a supplementary volume by Seidemann (1856)" (source). "The Letters of Luther were separately edited by De Wette, Berlin, 1825, sqq., 5 vols.; vol. VI. by J. C. Seidemann, 1856 (716 pp., with an addition of Lutherbriefe, 1859); supplemented by C. A. H. Burkhardt, Leipz., 1866 (524 pp.); a revised ed. with comments by Dr. E. L. Enders (pastor at Oberrad near Frankfurt a. M.), 1884 sqq. (in the Erl. Frankf ed.). The first volume contains the letters from 1507 to March, 1519. For selection see C. Alfred Hase: Lutherbriefe in Auswahl und Uebersetzung, Leipzig, 1867 (420 pages). Th. Kolde: Analecta Lutherana, Briefe und Actenstücke zur Geschichte Luther’s. Gotha, 1883. Contains letters of Luther and to Luther, gathered with great industry from German and Swiss archives and libraries" (source).

Br:The Braunschweig Edition. 10 volumes of devotional writing, published 1889-1905.

The Clemen (ClL) or the Bonn Edition (BoA). 1825-1828. 8 German volumes. The first four contain complete treatises, 5-8 are selections from early lectures, letters, sermons, and tabletalk. The text is said to be superior to WA.

The Munich Edition (Mu). 6 German volumes, with 7 supplement volumes (Mu Erg), published in the 1900's.

Luther Deutsch (LD). 11 volumes, with 3 volumes of commentary.

The New Calwer Edition. 12 volumes in modern German.

Martin Luther Studienausgabe. 6 German volumes.

The Wittenberg Edition. 1539-59. contains 12 German and 8 Latin volumes. The material was topical, at the request of Luther. This volume contains some of the writings of Luther's opponents as well.

The Jena Edition. 1555-1558. 8 German and 4 Latin volumes, 2 supplementary volumes. John Aurifaber, one of the chief collectors of Luther's Tabletalk was one of the editors of this set.

The Allenburg Edition. 1661-1702. A poorly edited 11 volume German set.

The Leipzig edition. 1729-1740. 23 volumes in German, arranged topically.


Rev. Paul T. McCain said...

Very well done, thank you for this.

Black Sheep said...

Good afternoon James,
A few months ago I saw that you requested a translation for a document from German to English.
Whilst my knowledge of German is limited, a fellow Engineer in my department is impressively fluent in modern German, but maybe not in mid/high 16th century German, nonetheless he says he would "Have a stab at it" for free, as reciprocation for a favor I done in the past.

If you would like an attempt at translation, direct me to the document you wish to be translated, and I will print it and pass it on to my colleague.

Kind Regards
Black Sheep

James Swan said...

Pastor McCain,

Will the new LW volumes be available electronically to be intergrated with the LW CD ROM? If so, does Concordia have a date set for this?

James Swan said...

Thanks for the offer Black Sheep. At the moment currently, I don't have anything on my plate in terms of translation, but I'll definately keep you and your kind offer in mind.

R E Langford Jr said...

J. Swan, Many thanks for your fine summary of English and German print copies of Luther's works. I've been trying to learn some Latin, but as it is not even taught in High Schools I've little hope of coming to any reading ability. Are the Latin biblical commentaries available in English? I also have the CD version of the 55 book American Edition, but it does not seem to have Luther's prefaces to each of the canonical books. I admit to clumsiness in respect of computers.
Again, many thanks for your efforts in preparing this handy summary. :-) It's rather like trying to compare the numbering in Tappert, in the Triglot (Concordia), and in Die Bekenntnisschriften, Goettigen, 1963. :-)
Your work will attenuate many a headache!
With appreciation and applause,
R E Langford, Jr.

James Swan said...

I also have the CD version of the 55 book American Edition, but it does not seem to have Luther's prefaces to each of the canonical books.

The prefaces are on the CD. See vol. 35.

R E Langford Jr said...

J. Swan, 10,000 thanks for putting me on the right track! Your guidance is very kind.
R E Langford, Jr.

James Swan said...

No problem- I've been using the Luther's Works CD ROM for over 10 years, feel free to ask me any questions about it.

Charbel Bteich said...

Hello, thank you for this interesting blog.
May I ask for an assistance in the following:
Is there any way to get help in decoding the characters of the alphabet in the Calligraphy used in Luther's Works of the Weimar Edition. I am working on the "Vom Abendmahl Christi Bekenntnis", 1528, in WA 26, 261-509. I am fluent in modern German, but I have a difficulty in recognizing all the characters in this 16th century text.
I would be grateful for any help or tip about this.
Thanks a lot!

James Swan said...

Is there any way to get help in decoding the characters of the alphabet in the Calligraphy used in Luther's Works of the Weimar Edition.

Yes, there are charts online that decode the characters. Use google and search for "lettering of old German text" or something like that.


Charbel Bteich said...

@James Swan: Many thanks for your kind answer and the useful tip that you gave. I had actually tried some hits on Google Search with other keywords, but had not gotten any direct results. Now I did. Thank you!

James Swan said...

I've spent many hours dealing with those old characters. What's interesting to me is that a Google search appears to have some sort of filter that at times is able to understand the old characters in it's search results and will present modern textual characters in its results instead of the old characters. Hope that makes sense.

redbrickparsonage said...

I would like to thank you for this post, to which I've referred more than once over the past several years. If you're interested, it finally inspired me to publish a series of two to three posts with links to each of the volumes of past editions of Luther's works, for editions where such a page does not already exist (that I have found), and to publish a sidebar of links to those pages. Here's the first post: I hope to publish the remaining links in the not-too-distant future.

James Swan said...

with links to each of the volumes of past editions of Luther's works, for editions where such a page does not already exist

Thank you so much for the link! Very useful, I'll be adding it to my sidebar. Somewhere on my blog I have a post dedicated to links to the Wittenberg and Jena volumes... but what is weird is that, if I recall, the page numerations from the different editions of each set does vary sometimes, so if some contemporary sources cites either, sometimes it depends on which year of publication is being utilized.

I put this post together back in 2009. If I were to do it now, it would be a lot different. So much is now available online, so I'm grateful for your efforts!