Erfurt, Matthes Maler, 1523.
Quarto: 19.8 x 13.8 cm.  p. Collation: A-B4
An early edition (1st ed. 1522). Modern wrappers. A fine copy, with a large, satirical woodcut on the title page, which shows members of the clergy performing marriages of priests and monks (and a nun!) while musicians play. The woodcut is based on the original by Heinrich Vogtherr, made for the Augsburg edition of 1522.
A rare Erfurt edition of Eberlin's popular work on the dangers of celibacy and the advantages of priestly marriage. As the title makes clear, Eberlin saw unmarried priests as a danger to the common weal: “How it is Extremely dangerous for a Priest to be without a Wife. How Unchristian and Destructive of Public Order are Those Men who prevent Priests from entering the Estate of Marriage.” The book shows strong affinities with the views of both Luther and Karlstadt, despite the Wittenbergers’ disagreements on the subject.
Eberlin had himself been a Franciscan monk – and a troublesome one. He left the Franciscan Order in 1521, a year before publishing this work, and became an adherent of Luther’s reform. While Eberlin promoted marriage among the monastic orders and clergy, he cautioned nuns and monks who had left the monasteries not to rush immediately into marriage with “whores and rascals”, warning them that bad marriages could be unendurably long.
“The first half of this work deals with the issue of clerical celibacy on a theoretical level and opens by denouncing it as a teaching of the devil. Eberlin's basic premise is that God commanded marriage for humanity and has not exempted the clergy from this command. The Old Testament priests from Abraham to the prophets and Levites had wives. So, too, did some of the Apostles, and Paul's statements on church organization indicate that he envisioned the ministers of the Word as married men. On the other hand, the practice of celibacy by pagans is most evident from heathen sources. Celibacy is a special gift of God, and to attempt it without this special grace is to fight against heaven and nature.
“This theoretical discussion provides the background for Eberlin's subsequent treatment of the social issues involved in clerical celibacy. Identifying this practice as a great threat to the common good, Eberlin denounces the moral example provided by womanizing priests; even heathens know enough to guard the sanctity of marriage. Not only the priest's conduct, but also his sermons will improve with the experience of family life. Against those who maintain that, as a result of marriage, the priest's prebend will be over-taxed and his wife will offend the parishioners, Eberlin argues that the priest will administer his finances more carefully and grant his former concubine an honourable position in the life of the parish. Eberlin warns the bishops that, in maintaining clerical celibacy, they participate in the sinful lives of priests under their jurisdiction, and the pamphlet closes with a supplication to the bishops to do away with this practice.”(Dipple, Antifraternalism and Anticlericalism in the German Reformation: Johann Eberlin von Günzburg and the Campaign Against the Friars, p. 98 ff.)
“Eberlin's origins are shadowy and disputed. Purportedly born sometime between 1460 and 1470 to a Swabian family of peasant stock from the village of Kleinkotz near Günzburg, the first sound textual traces of his life appear in 1489. He matriculated at the University of Basel as an ordained priest from the diocese of Augsburg. The next reliable information as to his whereabouts does not surface until 1517, when it becomes clear that he had entered the Franciscan order, probably serving in an Alsatian monastery; his writings evidence a strong familiarity with Strasbourg. By 1519, he had spent time at the university of Tubingen; at the beginning of 1521, after a conflict with his superiors, he was transferred to Ulm. He quickly gained a reputation as a troublemaker and.. Not coincidentally, he left the order at that time and openly came out in favor of Luther’s evangelical movement.”(Letterer, “Welfare Land: Johann Eberlin von Günzburg and the Reformation of Folly”.).
VD16, ZV 4830 (title variant of E-158); USTC 706895;Von Hase, Erfurt Nr. 498; Peters, Eberlin von Günzburg Nr. 31 & p. 55 ff.; Katalog Rosen, Sammlung Neufforge 1960 Nr. 72