Maggs Bros Ltd

A commentarie upon the fiftene Psalmes, called Psalmi Graduum, that is, Psalmes of Degrees: faithfully copied out of the lectures of D. Martin Luther, very frutefull and comfortable for all Christian afflicted consciences to reade. Translated out of Latine into English by Henry Bull.

LUTHER Martin.; FOX John. Ed (1577)

£7500.00  [First Edition]


First Edition in English. Small 4to in 8s. [Binding: 204 x 145 mm]. [12], 303, [1 (blank)] pp. Printer's device on the title. Some intermittent light foxing throughout, light worming to the blank upper right corner that is most pronounced on E7-F8, I6-K6 and S4-T4; the wormtrack at its most severe is no more than a few mm in width and 10 mm in height but a beautiful large [Text: 140 x 195 mm], fresh copy. Contemporary English limp vellum with yapp edges, sewn on four vellum covers with a gilt ornamental roll border, in the centre a gilt lozenge of arabesque floral tools flanked by the initials "D" and "W" of the original owner (see Provenance); spine divided into five panels by the gilt ornamental roll; endleaves with narrow guards cut from a 15th-Century musical manuscript on vellum with three of the original four green fabric ties (very frayed); manuscript title "Luthr. on 15 Psalmes of Degrees" on the fore-edge in a contemporary hand and another (later) at the head of the spine (a few minor stains on the rear cover). Modern green cloth drop-back box.

London: by Thomas Vautroullier,

Superb copy of the first edition in English of Martin Luther's commentary on the the 15 Psalms of Degrees, or Song of Ascents; translated by a stalwart of the English Reformation, Henry Bull, and with a preface by John Foxe.


STC 16975 (+ in UK; UCLA, Chicago, Illinois, Huntington, Library of Congress, Newberry Library, NYPL, Princeton [Sir John Harrington's copy], Texas, Trinity College Hartford in USA). First edition, with the preface signed "John Fox"; Pages 154 and 177 numbered 144 and 717 respectively. STC 16975.5 has the preface signed "John Foxe"; it is a close, line-for-line, reprint, but it is entirely reset and there are numerous variations in spelling. Reprinted in 1615, 1637 and 1819.


Translated by Henry Bull (d. 1577), theological writer and physician, who from 1560 onwards "joined [John] Foxe in the challenging undertaking of finding and editing the documents that were left behind by the Marian martyrs" and was "a frequent visitor at the house of Foxe's collaborator and printer John Day" (ODNB).


Bull's translation of Luther's commentary on the fifteen Psalms of Degrees (Psalms 120-134) was published posthumously. The preface by John Foxe describes how "he once made his vow unto the Lord for certeine causes, to turne this booke from latine into English, so with no lesse fidelitie did well performe the same. Blessed be the Lorde therefore, which both put him in mind first to take this worke in hand, and also graunted him life to the accomplishment thereof: for so it pleased the Lord to continue his life so long, till this vowed worke was fully finished. And not onely that, but also after his travell taken, gave him such swetenes thereby, as in never thing more in all his life." (*3v).


The title-page of the 1819 edition noted that "among many other interesting things, the Scriptural Doctrine respecting the divinely instituted and honourable state of Matrimony is explained and defended, in opposition to the popish errors of monastic seclusion and inforced celibacy."


The French Protestant emigré bookbinder and printer Thomas Vautrollier otherwise has no connection with John Foxe's publications, but he did have a speciality in translations of Luther: "More singular still was Vautrollier's initiative in publishing a series of the work of Martin Luther, in most cases the first editions of Luther's biblical commentaries for many years. To Vautrollier falls much of the credit for keeping Luther in the public eye during an era when Calvinist theology ruled the roost." (ODNB). As Foxe noted of Luther's works in his preface, "many hitherto either hath not bene redde, and so not throughly knowne, or of a great number hated and maligned, or of some lightly regarded, or peradventure misiudged."


Late 16th-century English gilt-tooled vellum bindings are unusual but not unknown. It is possible that the binding is slightly later than 1577 but it is certainly the volume's primary binding. 


Provenance: 1: Bound for "Da. Wall", David or Daniel Wall, with his gilt initials on covers and a manuscript 12-line presentation poem in his hand to the front flyleaf; a few pencil dashes and brackets in the margins (only up to p. 24). Wall remains unidentified - noone fitting his name matriculated at Oxford or Cambridge or was admitted to the Inns of Court but he was clearly a competent poet. There may be a connection with Emmanuel College, Cambridge and the Mildmay family. Emmanuel was founded in 1584 by Sir Walter Mildmay to train "godly ministers" along puritan lines.  2: General John Fane, 11th Earl of Westmorland (1784-1859), with manuscript paper label "The Earl of Westmoreland / 1856", on the front pastedown. Probably in the Fane family library at Apethorpe Hall, Northamptonshire, from a very early date. Sir Walter Mildmay's granddaughter and heiress Mary married John Fane, later 1st Earl of Westmorland, in 1599 and brought Apethorpe, and a number of Mildmay family books, to the Fane family. Probably at Apethorpe until the late 1880s / 90s when there were large dispersals at auction. 3: James Stevens Cox, F.S.A. (1910-97), bookseller and bibliophile, with his pencil note on the front pastedown identifying the owner as David Wall and with price £7/7/-; thence by descent.


The poem is an original composition and does not appear in the online Union First-line Index of English verse.


The [?gramed (grieved / vexed, Obs.)] faythe graven in ye harte

of her whom you yor selfe dothe move

continually by Just desarte

can not lyghtly thence remove

and as the vertues that I fynd

hathe only butt this faythfull knott

So surely tyed nothinge shall unbynd

& thinke that waver will I not

thoughe hap in pease shall us denyd

mistrust not till just cause you fynd

let it suffyces that I am bent

on to remane & so to end

yor assured in all goodwill

Da. Wall.


Stock Code: 218895