History books for the Lutherian Cause

By Dietrich Hakelberg

One of the oldest printed library catalogues was recently discovered at the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel. The single-leaf print from 1575 recorded a generous donation with hidden depths.

A unique catalogue in poster format: this single-leaf print from 1575 records Carl Wolfgang Rehlinger’s generous donation of books to Augsburg’s preacher [Augsburg: Valentin Schönig, 1575]. (Herzog August Library, Wolfenbüttel: Bc Kapsel 19 [7].

He was rich and they were needy; in 1575, the scholarly Augsburg patrician, Carl Wolfgang Rehlinger (1534–1588) donated a small library to the protestant preacher in his hometown. A unique catalogue in poster format testifies to this and lists the 70 printed books in 55 volumes. This single-leaf print was discovered in the Herzog August Library collection during research for the MWW’s Early Modern Scholars’ Libraries sub-project.

This is one of the oldest printed catalogues for a private or semi-public library collection and probably also the earliest catalogue printed for a specialist library. Rehlinger chose only to donate books on history: works and editions by humanist historians as well as on the Gnesio-Lutheran historiography surrounding Matthias Flacius Illyricus (http://diglib.hab.de/drucke/bc-kapsel-19-7s/start.htm).

Lock up when you leave

One year earlier, the Augsburg alderman Johann Baptist Haintzel had laid the foundations for the small preacher’s library and donated editions of the Fathers of the Church in 86 volumes. In the catalogue, Rehlinger describes the library, to which he added the history section, in Latin verse and briefly details the terms of use: books may be borrowed and must be returned in good condition. The library door should be locked by the last user.  

Single-leaf prints were used to publicise book donations by notable Protestants who were active in educational policy within their denomination. In Augsburg, the Protestants had been forced to govern together with their Catholic counterparts since 1548. As the council was dominated by Catholics, they also had a say in Protestant church matters. The history books Rehlinger donated reached far back in time, prior to the Reformation; they were intended to be read and understood as authorities on ecclesiastical history and they were staunchly Lutheran.

Book shipments from Paris

It is no longer possible to establish conclusively whether the books came from Rehlinger’s private collection or were purchased for the donation. However, due to his humanist education and his wealth, it is likely that he would have had a sizeable private library from which he could have taken the donated volumes. After completing his education at the University of Leuven in 1551, Rehlinger travelled around Italy along with Basilius Amerbach, son of the Basel humanist, Bonifacius Amerbach.

Acquaintances he had met during his studies also helped Rehlinger to procure books. In October 1561, he received 49 books from his former tutor, Johannes Lobbetius, who was working in Paris as a financial diplomat for Augsburg merchants and had acquired the books cheaply (http://dx.doi.org/10.7891/e-manuscripta-25552).

A detailed description of the collection can be found in the Gutenberg Yearbook 90 (2015) entitled Augsburg patrician, Carl Wolfgang Rehlinger’s 1575 library donation and its printed catalogue (pp 216–234).