Kessler Collection at Candler's Pitts Theology Library marks 30 years

Aug. 7, 2017

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"Passional Christi und Antichristi" (1521), part of the Kessler Reformation Collection at Pitts Theology Library, was a collaborative effort between Lukas Cranach and Martin Luther, with Luther’s German texts accompanying Cranach’s woodcuts. One of the more famous pieces of propaganda circulated during the Reformation, it contrasts the life and actions of Christ and those of the pope. 

A fall exhibit at Candler’s Pitts Theology Library will highlight the library’s renowned Kessler Reformation Collection, recognizing the collection’s 30th anniversary as well as the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

“From Wittenberg to Atlanta: The Richard C. Kessler Reformation Collection at 30 Years” will be on view in the Pitts Exhibit Gallery from Aug. 7 through Nov. 27 during regular library hours, with opportunities for guided tours on six Fridays this fall at 1 p.m. Learn more and sign up for a tour on the exhibit's webpage.

In 1987, Richard and Martha Kessler donated their private collection of Reformation imprints and manuscripts to Emory University, which was then combined with Reformation holdings at Pitts. This launched an effort to enlarge and sustain a collection that documents the German Reformation, including 16th century publications by Martin Luther, his friends and associates, and his opponents.

After three decades, the Kessler Reformation Collection holds 3,800 works — a statistic approached by only two other libraries in North America. It also contains over 1,000 publications by Luther himself, more than any other library in the United States.

The new exhibit will present the most significant pieces of the collection, including the first printing of Luther’s translation of the New Testament from the original Greek into German, printings of the 1530 Augsburg Confession, the first published edition of Erasmus’s Greek New Testament, a 15th-century Book of Hours, and illuminated medieval manuscript leaves.

The collection also will be the focus of the 30th annual Reformation Day at Emory on Oct. 26, which will explore the question, “Did the Reformation fail?”

Speakers for the program include Katherine Museus, associate pastor at St. Andrew Lutheran Church, who will preach at the morning worship service in Cannon Chapel; Julian Gordy, bishop in the Southeastern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA); Larry M. Goodpaster, bishop-in-residence at Candler; and Wilton Gregory, archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta.

The event also includes a luncheon musical program featuring the Candler Singers, and an evening Kessler Reformation Concert featuring the Emory University Chorus and Orchestra. More information, including how to register for the event, can be found on the event's webpage.

More information about the exhibit can be found in the exhibit's online catalog on the Pitts website.