Summary: Radical reformers such as Karlstadt believed that education was unnecessary for faith. Luther argued against such a position, asking all cities to set up schools to teach correct doctrine. He also emphasized the need for teaching Latin and Greek as part of Christian education. This is the first printing of this important tract.

Reformation Counterfeits

How 16th Century Printers Counterfeited the Works of Martin Luther


Martin Luther, the Catholic priest who started the Protestant Reformation in 1517, was a prolific preacher. Crowds gathered in Wittenberg, Germany to hear his sermons about his new, evangelical ideas. But Luther was also a talented writer. By taking advantage of the printing press, developed about 70 years earlier in Mainz by Johannes Gutenberg, Luther was able to spread his message much further than he could from the pulpit.

In only a few short years, Luther became the most published author in history. Because shipping was difficult and expensive in the 1500s, instead of shipping books long distances, printers would reprint Luther’s books in other towns to sell locally. Printers across the Holy Roman Empire—as much of the German speaking world was known at this time—reprinted Luther’s books as fast as they could for a public eager to get their hands on Luther’s newest writings. However, many printers sought to cater to public demand by counterfeiting Luther’s books. Printers across the Empire would falsely print that their books came from Wittenberg, the home of Luther’s movement. The Richard C. Kessler Collection at Pitts Theology Library has many counterfeits of Luther’s works from the 1520s. This exhibition will teach you how to identify counterfeit books and why printers undertook such manufacturing tactics.