With a Presentation Inscription to John Frederick I, Elector of Saxony


Eyn Clag und Bitt der Deutsche(n) Nation an den almechtigen gott umb erloszu(n)g ausz dem gefencknis des Antichrist.

[Wittenberg: J. Rhau-Grunenberg, 1521?]


Quarto: 20.3 x 14.6 cm. [8] pp.


Bound in modern blind-ruled calf, spine lettered in gold with title and date. The text is illustrated with a full-page woodcut illustration of the pope and the cardinals riding into hell by Lucas Cranach the Elder. A fine copy of an extremely rare book.

PROVENANCE: On the title page is a contemporary presentation inscription: "Meinem Gnedigen Hern Hertzog Hans Fridrich Zu Sachssen 1521". John Frederick I, Duke (and later Elector) of Saxony, called "John the Steadfast" by the protestants, was an early adherent (and friend) of Luther, a staunch supporter of the reform movement, and a signer of the Augsburg Confession.

This is the 
sole edition of this pamphlet, of which there are two issues. The only difference between these two being that, in our issue, the first words of line 25 of leaf A2-v. read : "Zu der tzeyt", while the other issue has "Die tzeyt ist nit". The BSB on their VD 16-site provides digital facsimiles of both issues, without indicating which of those two is VD 16 K1209.

"A Complaint and Plea from the German Nation" is an anti-Catholic satirical poem in 178 verses. It takes the form of a petition to God to rid Germany of the Antichrist (i.e. the pope), who "does not tend his sheep but burdens them with his oppressive tyranny" and, despising Jesus' commands, raises his own laws with great pomp." The book was probably inspired by –or written in connection with- the "Passional Christi and Antichristi" of Melanchthon, also published in 1521. Both are works of satire, and the full-page woodcut by Cranach was also used on leaf c2 of the "Passional". The woodcut depicts the pope and the cardinals riding into hell, led by the Swiss Guard. Demons can be swarming above the entrance, and a monk can be seen roasting in the flames. 
In the "Passional", there is a caption (not used in our book) that reads "Der Bapst magt gleych wie der Keysser reythen uñ der Keyser ist syn thrabant off das bischofflicher wirde gehalt nicht gemindert werde. Der Bapst ist volcken uñ reychen vorgesast ex. vag. sup. gentes. Johannis 22" (Johannis 22 sic !!)

The author is unknown to this day and his origin cannot be exactly determined, despite a Low German influence of the rhyme (Schade: "mehrfache Mangel des Umlauts zeigen Niederdeutsche Einflüsse"). Likewise the date of issue is unclear, 1520 or 1521 (although 1521 is stated by VD 16).

VD 16 K1209; Weller 1349; Proctor 11882; Maltzahn, p 146, I, 914 ("sehr selten"; gives 1520 as date); Köhler, 2055; Schade, I, pp 1-6 & 179-80; Grisar / Heege I, 46. Not in Adams, Borchling-Claussen, nor Edmond (Bibl. Lindesiana).