fol. Bbb3r (detail), Revelation 16
fol. Aaa4v-Aaa5r, Revelation 6-7
We are accustomed to thinking of Luther’s translations of the Bible as being "for the people." However, most of the early printings of the Luther Bible were not designed to be inexpensive and within the financial reach of common people. Usually, they were in folio and had substantial programs of woodcut illustrations, which would have increased a volume’s attractiveness but also added heavily to its cost.
Heinrich Stayner designed this Bible as a deluxe edition with fine page layouts and numerous woodcuts. Eleven of the surviving copies were, in fact, printed on vellum. The Ryrie copy is one of these. Vellum printing adds enormously to the material cost of the book and also to the difficulty of the printing process itself. The vellum copies have an additional colophon at the end of volume two that identifies the artisan who handled the printing on vellum: Peter Aprell ("Jnn verlegunge Maister Peter Aprellen, Pergamenter").
Stayner was well positioned to produce such a luxurious edition. Publisher of some twenty Bibles or partial Bibles in Luther’s version between 1524 and 1541, he obviously understood the market well enough to be able to calculate the financial risks of printing a Bible on vellum.
The pictorial program is derived from several sources. Three title-page designs are very close copies of the title page created by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553) for the first edition of the complete Luther Bible in 1534. Thirty-three of the thirty-five woodcuts for the Old Testament first appeared in a Bible of 1524 by a lesser known Augsburg printer, Simprecht Ruff. For the New Testament, Stayner was able to re-use woodcuts from an edition he had produced in 1531. In the Ryrie copy, the woodcuts were colored in during the sixteenth century.
Woodcut designs for the Bible in the sixteenth century typically had long pedigrees, as many examples in this book show. Among the New Testament illustrations are twenty-one woodcuts for the Book of Revelation that are copies after Hans Holbein’s designs (first printed by Thomas Wolff in Basel). Holbein’s designs, in turn, had been inspired by Cranach’s designs for the Septembertestament, and Cranach’s had been profoundly influenced by Albrecht Dürer’s Apocalypse (two editions in 1498 and reprinted in 1511). Holbein’s versions were to have more direct influence than did Cranach’s pioneering effort because of their smaller format. The size of his woodcuts allowed compositors to create much more attractive layouts, in particular to arrange the illustrations on pages printed in two columns.
The illustrations for the Book of Revelation show a number of attempts, several attributable to Holbein’s efforts, to conform the images as closely as possible to the details of the text. Cranach himself altered many features in Dürer’s dramatic pictures to achieve a greater degree of "pictorial literalness," but many features still contradicted the text. For example, in Revelation 16:13, Cranach had five "unclean spirits like frogs" instead of the three required by the text ("drey unreyne geyster gleich den frosschen"). Holbein "corrected" that oversight. The illustration is important in the Luther Bible because it emphasizes the polemical allegory that Luther affixed to the text: "Dise frösche sind die plauderer/ die yetzt den Fürsten heucheln/ vnd wider das Euangelion keren/ vnd doch nichts außrichten, etc." [These frogs are the prattlers who are hypocrites to the princes and turn them against the Gospel and yet accomplish nothing.]
The notes are set in the textblock at the ends of chapters, as is the example from Revelation 16. Many of the notes for the New Testament survive, with few alterations, from the Septembertestament of 1522. The note at the end of John 13 on justification—a central message of Luther’s teachings—first appeared there.Literature: Reinitzer 1983, 216; Schmidt 1962; WA DB 2:572–76.