Eyn Sendbrieff, ßo der Edel vnd Ernuest Franciscus von Sickingen seynem Schweher, dem Edlen vnnd ernuesten Juncker Diethern võ Henschuchßheym zu vnterrichtũg etlicher Artickel Christliches glaubens, kürtzlingentzu geschickt hatt. Missiue Hartmuts von Cronenberg an Franciscũ von Sickingen. Franz von Sickingen.
Eyn Sendbrieff, ßo der Edel vnd Ernuest Franciscus von Sickingen seynem Schweher, dem Edlen vnnd ernuesten Juncker Diethern võ Henschuchßheym zu vnterrichtũg etlicher Artickel Christliches glaubens, kürtzlingentzu geschickt hatt. Missiue Hartmuts von Cronenberg an Franciscũ von Sickingen.
Eyn Sendbrieff, ßo der Edel vnd Ernuest Franciscus von Sickingen seynem Schweher, dem Edlen vnnd ernuesten Juncker Diethern võ Henschuchßheym zu vnterrichtũg etlicher Artickel Christliches glaubens, kürtzlingentzu geschickt hatt. Missiue Hartmuts von Cronenberg an Franciscũ von Sickingen.
Eyn Sendbrieff, ßo der Edel vnd Ernuest Franciscus von Sickingen seynem Schweher, dem Edlen vnnd ernuesten Juncker Diethern võ Henschuchßheym zu vnterrichtũg etlicher Artickel Christliches glaubens, kürtzlingentzu geschickt hatt. Missiue Hartmuts von Cronenberg an Franciscũ von Sickingen.

Eyn Sendbrieff, ßo der Edel vnd Ernuest Franciscus von Sickingen seynem Schweher, dem Edlen vnnd ernuesten Juncker Diethern võ Henschuchßheym zu vnterrichtũg etlicher Artickel Christliches glaubens, kürtzlingentzu geschickt hatt. Missiue Hartmuts von Cronenberg an Franciscũ von Sickingen.

Wittenberg: [Johann Rhau-Grunenberg], 1522.

Price: $6,800.00

Quarto: [10] lvs. A-B4, C2

FIRST EDITION (of ten, all printed in 1522.)

One of only four works by Sickingen to be published. Modern wrappers. A fine copy with two pin-prick wormholes in the blank margin, small stain to lower corner of final two leaves, marginal blemish on penultimate leaf. Elaborate woodcut title page border.

The German knight Franz von Sickingen is a unique figure in the tumultuous saga of the early German reformation and the transformation of German society in the early 16th century. Sickingen was a staunch defender of humanists and reformers, including his close friend, the radical knight Ulrich von Hutten, and Martin Luther, whom he offered to shelter in his castle after the Diet of Worms in 1521. At the same time, Sickingen was chamberlain and counselor to Emperor Charles V, for whom Sickingen helped to secure the imperial throne in 1519 (after receiving bribes from the other contender, François I.)

A formidable soldier, Sickingen engaged in the traditional knightly exercise of deploying military might to increase his personal fortune. In 1522, Sickingen led what would become known as the “knights’ revolt”. He formed a “brotherly convention of knights” to wrest by force from the princes concessions that could not be won through the Reichstag. In the first campaign of the revolt, Sickingen led a large army of German knights against the Archbishop of Trier (whom Sickingen viewed as pro-French, anti-empire, anti-Luther). Sickingen’s plan backfired. The people of Trier did not rise up against the bishop, Sickingen was put under imperial ban, the revolt was crushed, and Sickingen was mortally wounded. He died on 7 May of that year.

To be sure, the “knights’ revolt” was in large part motivated by Sickingen’s political ambitions and pressing debts. But Sickingen was also a sincere advocate of the reformed faith preached by Luther, and this is on full display in his evangelical writings, such as the letter to his father-in-law, offered here. He instituted religious reforms within his own lands and within his own household. Moreover, his double motivation, to champion Luther’s reforms and to bring the church in German lands under the control of lay rulers (i.e. Sickingen and his fellow knights), made him the first lay individual to act decisively against the church. (See Chrisman, Conflicting Visions of Reform; and Russell, Lay Theology in the Reformation: Popular Pamphleteers in Southwest Germany, 1521-1525)


“The image of Sickingen as a rash leader who plunged into a fruitless feud against the Archbishop of Trier is not supported by this pamphlet. Its frankness, the candor of the language- all suggesting Sickingen's own hand in the writing- tell much about the quality of his mind. Sickingen was careful to differentiate between religious matters which were important and those which were not; he had arrived at his own definition of essentials. Certainly his military and political career played the major role in his life, but that does not prohibit a spiritual search. Nor does the strength of Sickingen’s political ambition, his desire to establish himself as a prince, diminish the strength of his evangelical faith. From 1520, he placed himself at risk to support the Word of God. He never turned back from that and, in the end, lost his life.”(Russell)

The German knights were the leaders in the very early years of the Reform movement. They were “the first secular follower to stand decisively and effectively behind Luther”(Schilling) and the earliest lay propagandists. The propaganda campaign waged by the knights from 1520 to 1524 “helped to establish the themes of later writers. Ulrich von Hutten’s pamphlets sharply attached the priests, monks, and Roman clergy. Other knights denounced the injustice of the ecclesiastical courts. They attacked the immense land holdings of the church. Their outcry prepared the way for the shift of power to the secular courts and the later secularization of monastic and chapter lands.

“The leaders of this campaign were Franz von Sickingen, his cousin Hartmut von Cronberg, and Ulrich von Hutten. Thirty-two, or nearly half the knights’ combined pamphlets were written at the Ebernburg, the castle Sickingen had made his primary residence [although this pamphlet is one of the very few authored by Sickingen himself]. He had used the monies received as magistrate in the Palatinate to modernize its fortifications against the destructive power of the new artillery. By 1520 he began to bring together at the Ebernberg a circle dedicated to living according to the Gospel. It was only the third evangelical community to be formed in Germany.

Sickingen’s letter to Dieter von Handschuhsheim:

“In 1521-1522, Franz von Sickingen and Hartmut von Cronberg published ten pamphlets explaining the right doctrine and the foundations of the new faith to their own families and people. The action and writing of Sickingen and Cronberg indicate that they were profoundly touched by Luther's teaching and that their beliefs and their religious lives changed. In contrast to Hutten, Sickingen addressed himself clearly and specifically to question raised by the new teaching, supporting his argument with frequent quotations from scripture. His father-in-law, Dieter von Handschuhsheim, questioned the new faith on several count. He was not sure that the Mass should be offered in both kinds nor that it should be said in a different way. He questioned whether monks and nuns should leave the cloister and marry. Finally, he did not understand why he should not pray to the saints nor why holy pictures should be destroyed.

“Sickingen addressed these doubts in a straightforward letter, beginning with a statement of faith. The foundation of the faith was "the mouth of the truth of Christ"; second came the rock on which he built his church; third came the scripture; fourth, the teaching and the works of the disciples; and fifth, the preaching and teaching inspired by the Holy Spirit. The faith, then, included the Word, the Gospels, and the church. Everything else was human fable. Responding first to the question of communion in both kinds he wrote that it was hard for him to believe that his kinsman still placed more importance in human custom than on "the mouth of the truth… Do not blaspheme the highest Godly power as a fool, as though God in his testament of his departure made an error or forgot something for our soul’s salvation.” No, Christ had spoken the word of institution with his godly mouth," thus forgiving our sins and offering us everlasting life. Sickingen cited the account of the last supper from each of the Gospels and from Paul's letters to justify the offering of the bread and the cup. Indeed, he concluded, "I can never understand why those priests were moved to forbid both elements to the laity and keep them only to themselves, except that perhaps they wished to feel superior to Christ or wanted to put aside the forgiveness of sins promised by Christ.”

“He was less dogmatic with regard to how Mass should be said. Admittedly, for a long time it had been said differently from the way Christ established it, and "few men know what the right mass is." Nevertheless, Sickingen could not understand why Handschuhsheim objected to the use of German, since Christ was never secretive and had told his disciples to spread his words to all creatures, which was why he had sent the Holy Spirit. The knight’s position on the closing of the monasteries was forthright. Christ, he said, did not establish any other order for mankind than marriage. If he had wished to elevate the status of monks or nuns, he would have been born of a nun or a young cloistered woman. Indeed, Sickingen regarded the orders as blasphemous because they set themselves up as separate sects and marked their separation from others through dress and other appearances of holiness. It was the standard argument, based on Luther's sermons and pamphlets against monastic vows.

“Prayers to the saints, Sickingen wrote, broke the second commandment as well as various statements by Christ with regard to prayer, all carefully cited. With his usual literalism. he pointed out that Christ never called on any holy persons, not even on his mother. Nor had Sickingen himself read in any histories of the saints that they had instructed anyone to pray to them. "In the true Scriptures of God we are never taught ... to call on his saints ... but in many places we are told the opposite ... and there is no need to dispute further about it.” On the final question of images in the church, Sickingen was indifferent. If they helped people to contemplate and reflect on their lives, they were fruitful. The problem was that they tended to divert people and served an artistic rather than religious purpose. The greater problem was that men had not heard the message of Christ and his disciples even though they had access to it. Instead, they had submitted to human and papal commandments: "Those who have held themselves rightly in the struggle will not know it until they come to the house of death, then the fires of hell will creep out the window.”(Russell)

With a letter to Sickingen written by Hartmut von Cronberg (1488-1549) in September 1521. “Sickingen’s friend Hartmut von Cronberg was the perfect knight, courageous, loyal, faithful to his pledged word. He placed these qualities in the service of the Reformation, sacrificing his family lands and his material wealth for hi religion. Cronberg believed the new faith required him to honor and follow the Word of God, and he set about to fulfill this in his daily life by writing to share the joy of his religious commitment, to bring others to the fountain of the pure water of the Gospel which had inspired him. The result was some 11 pamphlets, printed between 1521 and 1524.”(Russell)

In October 1522, when the knights’ revolt failed, Cronberg’s castle and lands were attacked and confiscated. Cronberg was forced into exile with his mother, wife, and three minor children.

The introductory letter is by Johan Schwebel (Schwäblin) (1490-1540) of Pforzheim, addressed to the knight Georg of Leutrum (Luthrumer). Schwebel had taken refuge at Sickingen’s Ebernburg in June 1522. In October, after the failure of the siege of Trier, he would become pastor in Landstuhl, the town below Sickingen’s castle Nanstein.

VD16 S 6316 (under Sickingen); VD16 C 5910 (under Cronberg)