Over the past few weeks, speculation has been abound regarding the identity of Pitts 4,000th addition to the Richard C. Kessler Collection, following the overwhelming success of Kessler in 4K fundraising campaign. Pitts is thrilled to reveal that the wait is over; the 4,000th item has arrived from a partner in Germany, and it is spectacular! Please watch this video to learn about an unbelievably rare first edition that we are now privileged to hold and share with the world. As you watch, please know that it is because of the generous support of our donors that we are able not only to acquire this important book, but to also digitize it, to share it with students around the world, and to foster research about church reform.
This landmark acquisition further cements the Richard C. Kessler Reformation Collection’s reputation as North America’s premier collection of printed books and manuscripts documenting the religious and cultural reforms in Europe in the 16th century. Pitts commits to continuing our work not only to grow the size of the collection beyond 4,000, but, more importantly, to grow its impact through research and teaching.
This week marks the final Kessler Conversation of the Fall 2021 semester, taking the theme “Luther and the Other.” Join Dr. Dean P. Bell (Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago) as he rehearses some of Luther’s thoughts on Jews and Judaism, comparing it with other reformers of the period. Dr. Bell will help us think together about the implications of and opportunities for considering how we think about Others, other religions, and engage in interreligious discussions. This event is free but registration is required at pitts.emory.edu/bell.
The first two Kessler Conversations of the Fall 2021 Series on “Luther and the Other” with Dr. Anthony Bateza (St. Olaf College) and Dr. David Grafton (Hartford International University) will be available on-demand in the coming weeks—stay tuned on the Pitts Librarians’ Blog, or sign up for Pitts’ weekly newsletter at pitts.emory.edu/prospectus!
Are you curious about what a donation to the Kessler in 4K campaign might support? Each year the Richard C. Kessler Collection adds dozens of rare and unique items to Pitts’ rare book and archival holdings, but we are excited to make the 4,000th one of our most significant additions in recent years!
As an example of the amazing items in the collection, consider the Kessler Collection’s copy of the first printed collection of the works of Martin Luther (1483-1546), printed by Johann Froben in Basel in 1518. This is important work documenting the early debates of the Reformation, and the Kessler Collection copy has been owned and inscribed by important figures throughout the centuries, including one of Luther’s own friends, Johannes Lang (c. 1487-1548). See the anatomy of this annotated title page in the catalog from a recent Kessler exhibition, More Precious than Gold, curated by Dr. Armin Siedlecki.
Pitts’ Richard C. Kessler Reformation Collection recently acquired an early Italian response to Martin Luther’s reforms, the only copy known to exist outside of Europe. The work, published in 1532 as Jesus Maria. Opera Utilissima vulgare co[n]tra le p[er]nitiosissime heresie Lutherane per li simplici, was written by Giovanni Pili da Fano (1469-1539), and it is the first known vernacular Italian attack against Luther. This work is sometimes known by its alternative title that appears on the first page of the text, “chiamata incendio di zizanie lutherane [called the burning of the Lutheran discords].” Fano, a member of the Observant Franciscans, writes for the uneducated reader and presents Luther as violently anti-Roman and a threat to all tradition. The spine title on the Pitts copy reads “Contro gli Ebrei / Contro Luther” suggesting that the work was received not only as a refutation of Luther, but also of Jews and non-Catholic Christians in general. The work concludes with the printing of a satirical Latin song, presented as Luther’s friends “praising” him. Riffing off the classic hymn “Te Deum Laudamus,” the song, which begins “Te Lutherum damnamus” is series of condemnations against Luther and his work. The lyrics were later set to music by the French composer Maistre Jhan (ca. 1485-1538). The Kessler Collection also contains an earlier printing of the Latin hymn by itself (1530 DIRE). This beautiful octavo volume (1532 GIOV), bound in 17th-century vellum with gilt spine titles, will live in the Pitts vault, but it will be available for research, exhibitions, and teaching.