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Monday, November 26, 2012

Luther's Letters – largest cross reference available?

[2020-04-11: added new link to; 2017-06-14: added 3 missing sources to list below. in red; updated/added links] 
About 10 years ago, I compiled an extensive database of practically all of Luther's many letters.  The prior cataloging of Luther's works done by others – Aland, Vogel, Weimar Ausgabe – were not complete enough for my needs, especially as an English speaking Lutheran.  And the American Edition of Luther's Works is almost laughable in it's puny (although helpful) collection of Luther's letters translated into English.  The New Series will offer more letters, about 200 more according to it's Prospectus, (pages 29 - 38) which begins to fill out the English collection.  But that pales to the over 3000 letters published in the St. Louis Edition, even though not all are Luther's letters.  And the Weimar Edition has over 4000 letters, although I consider those in the St. Louis Edition to be largely complete.
My database was intended to help me
  • find published English translations and 
  • cross-reference all publications in all languages.
I used Microsoft Access and have an .MDB data file (5 MB!) – here.  I wish I could figure out how to publish this to the web, but I don't know how.  So I have decided to output the data to a 478-page file with 4,400 records.  As I said, it is extensive.  Download the different versions below:
I have decided to make this information available for anyone interested.  Below is an image of page 13 with some explanations in the form of arrows and callout boxes (click on it or download hi-res PNG here).

You can click on the above image to expand the size for more readability.

Because I was hungry for English translations, I scoured all the books that I could find.  Here is a list that I cataloged, some with links that have free copies or downloads:
(listing last updated October 17, 2017)

I did not compile my database to be a cataloger of Luther — I did it so that I could fully understand the Reformer and his correspondence.  My downloadable report can be best used by scanning through the pages and following the paraphrasing I made of many of the most important letters.  If a paraphrased letter strikes your interest to read more, look through the listed publications and find one that you can download for free.

C.F.W. Walther (and Franz Pieper) highly prized Luther's letters because Luther bares his soul and his heart for the lost and for weak Christians in them.  Even those who are not Christians are fascinated by them.  I made a brief mention of this in this blogpost about "The Fruitful Reading of Luther's Writings", but Pieper's quote from Walther should be brought out in more detail here (as also Harrison does in his book, pgs 333-343):
On Luther's letters Walther says: "As for Luther's letters, let him read especially on the preparation for the Diet of Augsburg (1530), and during that as well, and those dealing with the proceedings of the Diet, indeed all letters relating to church events. No better letters have been written. Such courage of faith, such boldness and assurance of victory is unequaled. You get just the right sense of the events if you read what Luther wrote about it."
This high praise of Luther's letters can be seen in Pieper's article during the 400-year celebration of the Augsburg Confession that I translated in an earlier blog post.  It can bring one to tears as the birth of the Lutheran Church is brought before ones eyes.

From Luther's Letters, one can quickly see the progression of Luther's faith through his life and what was happening... and when.  In the above MDB database file is also a Timeline table of events surrounding Luther's time. I will publish this Timeline in my next blog post.


  1. The links to the two files for Luther's letters don't work.

    1. Thank you for the notice! The links are fixed now.
      Please continue to advise of any problems or anomalies. Sometimes I find these as I re-read my own blog posts... I make corrections of mis-spellings etc. And many times I will improve old posts with added reference links (e.g. HathiTrust or
      One of the problems I'm researching now is that my markings (e.g. red boxes) on PDF scan copies of pages may not show in some PDF readers, especially on mobile readers. If you are having any problems (or know of solutions), let me know. I'm contemplating offering PNG image alternates to PDFs for this reason.
      Thanks again.

  2. The link to the database does not work either.

  3. Replies
    1. Sir, you flatter me!

      I have been thinking of a post for the near future that I think now I will publish in honor of you. (regarding Schaff and Warfield)


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