Luther spent time at Auerbachs Keller

The inn belonged to a friend of the reformer (Photo: Auerbachs Keller)

Printing and the Reformation

Flugblatt Luther
Pamphlet (Photo: German Museum of Books and Writing of the German National Library)
The Saxon centre of book printing and publishing was of great importance for the progress and stabilization of the Reformation movement. It was here where the Lutheran writings as well as numerous evangelical hymn books were printed in large numbers to be then distributed throughout the country. Luther knew the power of the printed word and skilfully deployed this mass medium for his own purposes. At the time, Leipzig was one of the leading printing centres in the German-speaking world. Accomplished printing houses such as those of Wolfgang Stöckel, Jacob Thanner or Melchior Lotter were known far and wide for the quality of their work. They were also amongst the first to print the 95 theses in the form of a poster.

It is interesting to note, however, that the Leipzig printers not only printed Reformation writings but also increasingly Counter-Reformation posters and books. Among the reasons for this was the hostile attitude of Duke George of Saxony, who took extreme action against the dissemination of Reformation literature. In 1527 he had the Nuremberg accountant, Hans Hergot, executed in the market square in Leipzig for publishing the work “On the New Transformation of the Christian Life”.

Melchior Lotter

Melchior Lotter stands out amongst the Leipzig printers, having published more than 160 of Luther’s writings. He was a friend of the reformer and sympathised with his ideas. When Martin Luther came to the town in 1519 for the Leipzig Disputation, he stayed at Lotter’s house on Hainstrasse. In the same year Lotter set up a branch of his business in Wittenberg, managed by his sons Melchior and Michael.

The Luther rose

Book cover/title page 1559
Book cover by W. Stöckel (Photo: Leipzig Museum of City History)
In 1519 Leipzig master printer Wolfgang Stöckel published Luther’s speeches from the Leipzig Disputation, with a woodcut depicting the reformer on the front page. This first picture of him also includes a rose. From then on the rose was known as Luther’s emblem, and from 1530 he used it (with a heart and a cross at its centre) as his seal. At the same time the rose came to be seen as the symbol of Protestant Lutheran teaching and its church and formed part of many coats of arms.