[Augsburg]: [Jörg Nadler], 1522.
Quarto: 18 x 14 cm.  p. Collation: A4, B2, C4
ONE OF FIVE EDITIONS, ALL PRINTED IN 1522.
Bound in quarter vellum and paste-paper over boards. Title page with a pretty historiated woodcut border. 16th c. foliation in red at upper corners, small marginal tear on final leaf, little brown spots in the lower margin. Extremely rare. Two copies (of any edition) traced in North America (Columbia and Luther Seminary.).
First edition of Zwingli's second publication, his first major programmatic political document, directed against mercenarism. Zwingli’s thoughts on warfare, the life of a soldier, and the work of mercenaries -in particular the Swiss professional mercenary soldiers ("Reislaufen"), were complex and evolved over time. In 1513, Zwingli served as military chaplain to the Swiss forces at the battle of Novarra. In 1515, he again served as chaplain, this time at the disastrous battle of Marignano, where forty percent of the Swiss were killed. In 1531, while waging a war of his own making against the Swiss cantons that resisted his Reformation, Zwingli would lose his life fighting on the battlefield.
“As a witness and survivor of the brutal battles in Italy, Zwingli’s view on war and mercenary service evolved. His personal experience of war in northern Italy led him to question the morality and economic viability of the Swiss mercenary service:
‘Everybody should imagine being in a war zone and imagine how he would be treated, how he would treat other Christians. Imagine how it would be if foreign soldiers invaded your land, destroyed your meadow, your field, your vineyard, took away your cattle and livestock, collected and robbed your possessions, having just slain your sons because they tried to protect you, raped and dishonored your daughters and kicked your wife, who begged on her knees to spare them, and finally stabbed you, old man, having taken you out of your hiding place in your house, without consideration for your age or the laments of your wife. And finally burned down your house. You would doubt the existence of God if the heavens would not open and spew fire and the earth would not open up and swallow such evil men. If, however, you would do such things to others, you would consider it part of the laws of war. Think about what a stalwart warrior is if such are the acts of war.’
“The Old Swiss Confederacy was reasonably secure from invasion, having come to an accommodation with both France and Habsburg Austria. War thus became a choice and an evil profession. While the heyday of the Swiss infantry was already coming to a close, foreign kings were willing to pay a premium for their services… Mercenary service remained an important career option, both for the sons of prominent families and the destitute, escaping from agriculturally disadvantageous regions. Defeats at Marignano (1515), Bicocca (1522) and, later, Pavia (1525) made it plain that mercenary service had become far more costly than in earlier times. The increasing risk of being maimed or killed in battle, of dying from strange diseases and poor sanitation, made foreign service a bad trade, at least for developed urban areas.
“In 1522, Zwingli enumerated five reasons why mercenary service was bad. Firstly, it attracted the wrath of God because mercenaries acted in unjust wars. Secondly, mercenary service bred violence and corruption. Thirdly, it led to moral decay and consumerism. Fourthly, mercenary service was a constant source of discord within the Old Swiss Confederacy. Fifthly, the foreign monies bought political influence and dependence.
“Zwingli had survived the plague of 1519, which killed 20 percent of the population. For months, Zwingli himself was cared for by a widow (his future wife). The plague had disrupted social and economic life. Young men were needed at home to restore the economy, instead of sending them to die on foreign battlefields. Under Zwingli’s direction, Zurich did not renew its agreement with the French King to provide mercenary soldiers, and forbade its citizens to become mercenaries. Offenders risked loss of citizenship, confiscation, fines and the death penalty. While Zurich did not manage to completely root out mercenary service, it fatally drained its reservoir of experienced soldiers.
“In the late 1520s, Zwingli urged Zurich to go to war against the five Swiss cantons (Uri, Schwyz, Unterwalden, Lucerne and Zug) that had stubbornly resisted Zwingli’s push for Reformation throughout Switzerland. “Ever since his 1524 memo ‘Plan for a Campaign’ (Plan zu einem Feldzug), Zwingli felt that Zurich was under threat from invasion by the five cantons. He had threatened to resign if Zurich did not go to war. This was his war.” In 1531, Zwingli got the war that he wanted. In response to a food embargo levied against them by Zurich and her allies, the five Catholic cantons went on the offensive.
“Despite having pushed for war for so long, Zurich was surprised and was not ready to mobilize its forces. Zurich’s purge of experienced commanders and soldiers in foreign service meant that it now lacked both. The militia, led by green commanders but true believers, was inexperienced and unmotivated to fight.
“On 11 October 1531, Zurich’s advance guard of 1500-1800 men under Jörg Göldli took up a strong position on a hill at Kappel, covered by artillery. Zwingli and Zurich’s hastily-assembled main force, numbering only 1000 troops instead of the customary 4000, marched through the night to relieve its advance guard at Kappel. At 3 in the afternoon, part of the main force with the banner of Zurich, as well as other allied contingents, joined the advance guard in its position, bringing Zurich’s total force present to 3500 soldiers. Part of the army recovered from the night-march at a stream nearby in the rear.
“Also in the afternoon, 7000 men from the five cantons went into position opposite Zurich’s advance guard. Individual groups of soldiers started skirmishing with the enemy. The commanders from the five cantons formed a war council to discuss their plan of attack. Given that evening was approaching fast, they wanted to postpone the battle until the next day. The issue was decided for them by a group of enterprising warriors under Hans Jauch from Uri. Among them was Caspar Göldli, brother of Jörg Göldli, commander of the advance guard on the opposite side. Around 4 in the afternoon, the 400 men advanced onto the flank of the Zurich force and plunged into battle. While the battle-line of Zurich, motivated by Zwingli, valiantly defended itself, Zurich’s rear crumbled and fled, crying “they want to kill us.” (according to Zurich’s commander Lavater.)
“The main force of the five cantons soon attacked the remaining pockets of resistance. Zurich’s flag-bearer managed to carry the banner back to the stream, but died there. Others managed to return it safely to the city. Zurich lost around 500 men, among them Zwingli and 24 other church leaders, a high toll that showed the ideological element of the men mobilized. It is said that Zwingli’s dead body was quartered and burned. His ashes were strewn to the winds. His helmet and arms were collected as trophies by the victors and only returned to Zurich in 1848, after the Catholic cantons lost the Swiss Civil War of 1847.”(Jean-Claude Brunner, “Huldrych Zwingli”, in Medieval Warfare , 2013, Vol. 3, No. 2).
VD16 Z 853 - Pegg, Swiss libraries, 5526 Finsler 2e.