[Basel:]: [Andreas Cratander], 1521.
Quarto: 20.5 x 15.5 cm.  p. Collation: a-d4
SECOND EDITION (1st ed. Wittenberg, 1521).
A fine, fresh copy with broad margins, in modern marbled wrappers. Title-page with the woodcut “Indian border”, dated 1519.
Karlstadt’s controversial critique of monasticism and his condemnation of clerical celibacy. In many instances and on many important matters, Karlstadt’s work and actions anticipate those of Luther (although the political and theological positions that motivated both men often differed). Karlstadt was the first of the reformers to publish his stance on the central problem of clerical celibacy; he himself married in January of 1522.
“With the breakdown of the monastic system, there arose the question of what to do with and for those men and women who had been under such vows. The larger philosophical questions of the meaning of those vows for Christians under the ‘new dispensation’ was also frequently raised. Karlstadt here addressed the dual problem of vows of celibacy, and what to do with and for widows who desired remarriage.” (Kessler Catalog)
The marriage of three priests in the dioceses of Magdeburg and Meissen touched off a lively debate on the subject of clerical celibacy. Karlstadt quickly published a number of theses and a book, ‘On celibacy, monasticism, and widowhood’ in which he proposed that all priests should be married. As he interpreted I Tim. 5:9, no one under the age of sixty should be permitted to enter the monastic life, and those monks and nuns under the age of sixty should be permitted to marry, chastity being a free gift of God. He also maintained that no priest without wife and children should receive an appointment. In these works Karlstadt admitted that it was a sin to revoke one’s vows, but at the same time he held that to do so was less sinful than to engage in secret impurity. He also called for an academic discussion of the subject.
Karlstadt himself joined the small ranks of married clergy when he wed Anna von Mochau in January 1522, shortly after he had performed his reformed Christmas Mass at Wittenberg and just days after he had given up his vestments and had taken to wearing ordinary clothes. He gave improper notoriety to this act by inviting the whole university and the magistrate, and by publishing a book in justification of it.
Although Luther professed substantial agreement with Karlstadt’s views, he was uneasy over the scriptural evidence mustered by Karlstadt and over his exegesis. Ultimately, Luther would make his definitive statement on the matter in his ‘De Votis Monasticis.’
During Luther’s stay in the Wartburg, Karlstadt became the head of the reform movement at Wittenberg. Over the course of a year, Karlstadt instituted radical changes in all aspects of religious life. As the leader of the Wittenberg movement and the head of the Wittenberg theological faculty, Karlstadt was in a unique position to both pronounce and enact changes within the church. He instituted most of his larger reforms with the support of the theologians and the city magistrates. These changes to established forms (particularly the institution of the reformed mass) displeased the Elector of Saxony, however, and by March 6th 1522, Luther would return (at the Elector’s request) to take control of the Wittenberg movement. Prior to Luther’s reform, however, Wittenberg would see troubling public manifestations of the new reforms, as a radicalized populace took to the streets in the infamous “Wittenberg disturbances.”.
Freyes/ Barge 60; Zorzin 32 A; VD16 B 6123; Jackson 1739