#OnThisDay: Martin Luther and the Reformation

*Post written by James Wethington, library assistant of the University Archives and Special Collections.

Front paper of the German Bible belonging to Gertrude Rapp, from the Talley-Nix Family collection (MSS 173), 1805. Source: University Archives and Special Collection.

On this day in 1517, Martin Luther nailed Ninety-Five Theses at Schlosskirche in Wittenberg in the Holy Roman Empire, in present-day Germany (Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninety-five theses). Today, this is the start of the Reformation. Luther did not believe his theses would cause a call; however, it caused a major schism in Christianity between Catholics and newly created “Protestants”. Luther posted his theses because of his disagreement with the concept of indulgences friars sold them to the masses because they were used for “… the forgiveness of sins” (Hillerbrand, Martin Luther). This was Luther’s protest and it caught on throughout the Holy Roman Empire and eventually Switzerland and England (Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, Reformation). The focus between Catholics and Protestants’ disagreement was over the concept of “… the perversion of the church’s doctrine of redemption and grace” (Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, Reformation).

Because of the Reformation, numerous sects came out of the movement such as the Lutherans, Anabaptists, Calvinists, Anglicans, Mennonites, just to name a few (Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, Reformation).

Inside of the German Bible from the Talley-Nix Family collection (MSS 173), 1805. Source: University Archives and Special Collection.

This particular Bible is located in the Talley-Nix Family collection. It was published in 1805. Martin Luther, the influential figure in the Protestant Reformation, translated and published the first German Bible with the New Testament in 1522; however, the publication of Old and New Testament did not occur until 1534 (Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, Biblical translation).


Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica (2017, January 20). Biblical translation. Retrieved from

Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica (2016, May 13). Ninety-five theses. Retrieved from

Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica (2017, February 15). Reformation. Retrieved from

Hillerbrand, H. J. (2017, August 3). Martin Luther. Martin Luther. Retrieved from