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Stephan Füssel is director of the Institute of the History of the Book at the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz, and holder of the Gutenberg Chair at the same university. He has published prolifically on the early days of printing, the sale and publication of books between the 18th and 20th centuries and the future of communications.
I was elated to own a copy of Taschen's facsimile edition of the 1534 Luther Bible, complete with its colour illustrations. These illustration offer a window into the historical and theological thought of Luther who so stronly influenced their content. Cranach was a master artist and engraver. This book collects all these 117 illustrations together and reproduces most in larger format for greater and more detailed study. This allows Stephen Fussel to comment on each and offer explanatory notes to accompany an extended essay. My only complaint is the binding is a little cheap. However, the print quality is very good and vivid.
I hope Taschen publishes many more in this valuable genre.
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I find myself halfway between the previous two reviewers, hence the four stars. I heartily agree that it is great to have all of the pictures from Lucas Cranach's workshop, for the Luther Bible, all in one place, in a large format. It is important to remember that these works were done largely by Cranach's apprentices, because the artistic quality is more on the level of commercial illustration than of fine art. This fact is obvious due to the very large full page folio or even double page folio, with no margins. Compare the faces in these pictures to those in Cranach's famous portraits of Luther, Elizabeth von Bora, his wife, and especially the portrait of Anna Cuspinian, and you will be impressed by the contrast of fine art versus illustration.
But that does not detract from the historical interest of these illustrations. Cranach shows that like Durer before and Blake afterwards, pictures of the Devil and Hell are some of the artist's most interesting subjects. Cranach's illustrations of Revelation (and there are many) come in just behind Durer's famous woodcuts from Revelation as the best known illustrations of that book in the Bible. And what other New Testament book, aside fromt the Gospels, offer such a rich subject.
The double page illustrations have one virtue and one failing. They are worthwhile because you can see all the details, especially on those very busy illusrations from Revelation. From Revelation 4:8, for example we get " 8 And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and inside. Day and night without ceasing they sing, "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God the Almighty, who was and is and is to come." The illustration shows the four creatures, covered with eyes.Read more ›
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Several years ago Taschen, to whom readers in so many fields are indebted in so many ways, published a facsimile copy of the Bible as translated into German by Martin Luther in 1534 under the title "Biblia." It is difficult to know what motivated this particular project. Taschen had previously published a facsimile copy of the so-called Nuremberg Chronicle from the 15th century and the work was well received--but the Nuremberg Chronicle has illustrations on nearly every page of a vast variety of subjects both Biblical and secular, including the earliest map of the world published in a widely available book and depictions of a number of European and Near Eastern cities, some certainly more accurate portrayals than others. I don't know a lot of people who have read the Nuremberg Chronicle from cover to cover--it purports to tell the history of the world from its creation by God (gorgeously illustrated in a startlingly modern format) to the year of the book's publication, with some thrusts forward to the future in a vividly illustrated depiction of the apocalypse. But I know a number of people who regard the text of the Nuremberg Chronical as gibberish and can't read German anyway and yet keep the Taschen facsimile next to their bed and periodically peruse it, recognizing its importance and wildly ambitious purpose. But Luther's German translation of the Bible is a horse of a different color. The facsimile contains page after page of Luther's text in two hefty tomes with the occasional illustration here or there, all the same size, approximately one half the size of the page or about the size of a postcard.Read more ›