October 4, 1518
Frame,12 × 10 × 1/4 in. (30.5 × 25.4 × 0.6 cm) letter, 8.1 × 7.2 in. (20.5 × 18.2 cm);
Not on view
On October 4, 1518, Martin Luther stopped in Nuremberg on his way to Augsburg and a meeting with Cardinal Cajetan. He wrote this letter to his supporters back in Wittenberg to describe the situation. Johann Eck’s pamphlet, Obelisci, had stirred up fierce opposition to the 95 Theses. Luther’s supporters feared the cardinal, who would ultimately recommend Luther’s excommunication from the Catholic Church. Luther dismisses his supporters’ fears, saying “nevertheless, I stand firmly fixed.” He concludes with a paraphrase of Romans 3:4, saying that although he is going “like a lamb to the wolves,” he trusts in God, for “God is true, but man is a liar.” The paper backing contains a transcription of the letter in a later hand, perhaps from the 17th or 18th century.
Letter written on October 4, 1518 by Martin Luther in Nuremberg, Germany, probably to a friend or friends in Wittenberg. The letter was lost to scholars for almost 250 years. Acquired by a Boston family for several generations. Acquired at an auction by 1960 by H. Spencer Glidden. Acquired by Antiquariaat Forum BV; Purchased in 2010 by Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Donated in 2012 to Museum of the Bible.
Notes:  Because there is no envelope and the letter is pasted to a paper backing, it is unclear who the intended recipient was. Since the 1745 publication of a German translation of the beginning and end of the letter lists the recipients as “An die Wittenberger Freunde. (?),” the letter may have already been attached to the backing by this time.  The letter disappeared sometime after a publication in 1717. Christian Eberhard Weismann said in the second edition of this work, Introductio in memorabilia ecclesiastica historiae sacrae Novi Testamenti etc., (Halae Magdeburgicae, 1745) vol. 1, 1465, that he had read the manuscript letter recently (“quas manuscriptas non ita pridem legi”). This could refer to the date of either edition. This publication was quoted by other sources during the intervening centuries.  H. Spencer Glidden says in his article about the letter, “How it came to this country is obscure, but we do know that it had been in the possession of a Boston family for many years and had been a household item through several generations down to the last owner.” H. Spencer Glidden, “Lamb Among Wolves: Martin Luther,” Manuscripts XIV, no. 2 (1962): 23.  According to Roland Bainton in “II. Luther and Spalatin Letters Recovered in Boston,” Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 53 (1962): 197, Glidden acquired it at “an auction disposing of a Boston garret.”  It is uncertain what happened to Glidden’s collection upon his death in 1982. He may have sold all or part of it earlier. Catalogs from Kotte Autographs erroneously give his death as 1978, which may be when he sold his collection. See https://www.kotte-autographs.com/TOOLS/content/wp-content/uploads/download/40.pdf, Lot 886, p. 318.
Roland H. Bainton, “Luther and Spalatin Letters Recovered in Boston,” Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 53 (Berlin: Degruyter, 1962): 197. Accessed at https://www.degruyter.com/view/j/arg.1962.53.issue-jg/arg-1962-jg10/arg-1962-jg10.xml
H. Spencer Glidden, “Lamb Among Wolves: Martin Luther,” Manuscripts XIV, no. 2 (Chicago: The Manuscript Society, 1962): 20–23.
Johann Georg Walch, Dr. Martin Luthers Saemmtliche Schriften, Band 21, Briefe Teil 1, von 1507 bis 1532 incl., no. 93 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1903), 112–113. Accessed at https://archive.org/stream/Dr.MartinLuthersSmmtlicheSchriftenBand21BriefeTeil1Von1507Bis/Dr.MartinLuthersSmmtlicheSchriftenBand21BriefeTeil1Von1507Bis1532Incl.VonJoh.GeorgWalch#page/n95/mode/2up. Beginning and ending of the letter translated into German, based on the Latin text.
Christian Eberhardt Weismann, Introductio in memorabilia ecclesiastica historiae sacrae Novi Testamenti etc., 2nd ed., vol. 1, 1465 (Halle, Germany: Sumptibus Orphanotrophei, 1745). Accessed at https://books.google.com/books?id=aupaAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA1497&lpg=PA1497&dq=Chr.+Eberh.+Weismanni+introductio+in+memorabilia+ecclesiastica+historiae+sacrae+Novi+Testamenti+etc.&source=bl&ots=rMt23k-qr4&sig=ACfU3U1nCYDGYhCmTKhTCvdQjdSPZJIWmQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi9pPX0s4LgAhURPN8KHRdpBgMQ6AEwC3oECAUQAQ#v=onepage&q=Chr.%20Eberh.%20Weismanni%20introductio%20in%20memorabilia%20ecclesiastica%20historiae%20sacrae%20Novi%20Testamenti%20etc.&f=false
Museum of the Bible Publications
Roland S. Werner, Unser Buch: Die Geschichte der Bibel von Mose bis zum Mond (Our Book: The Story of the Bible from Moses to the Moon), (Göttingen, Germany: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht GmbH & Co. KG, 2017).