An Admonition to Christendom against the Turks


In the aftermath of the capture of Constantinople by the Turks under Sultan Mehmed II on May 29, 1453, numerous writers in Europe called on the rulers of Europe to defend Christendom. The new art of printing lent itself to the propagation of such calls. Accordingly, it was in the workshop of Johann Gutenberg, the printer of the famous 42-line Bible that bears his name, that the first political pamphlet in the German language on this topic was printed with the title Eyn manung der cristenheit widder die durken (An admonition to Christendom against the Turks). The pamphlet survives in a single copy in the collections of the Bavarian State Library. It is the oldest completely intact print produced with the movable printing type known as Gutenberg’s “Urtype” or the “Donat-Kalender-Type.” The small booklet containing six leaves in quarto format is also known as the Türkenkalender (Turkish calendar), as Gutenberg presented it in the form of a calendar structured in accordance with the 12 new moons of the year 1455. After an introductory prayer, for each of the months the calendar exhorts a clerical or secular prince to resist the Turks. The concluding verses for the month of December announce news of a recent victory against the enemy, spread through a letter written by Pope Nicholas V on October 25, 1454, to the Diet in Frankfurt, the intent of which was to encourage the assembly to join arms against the Turks. However, the letter failed in its purpose since it arrived in Frankfurt too late for the Diet session and was instead read on December 6, 1454, to the assembly of towns and cities which had subsequently gathered in Frankfurt. The Türkenkalender ends with a prayer and a New Year’s wish for the year 1455—the first such salutation known. Because in Mainz the New Year was reckoned to begin on Christmas Day, the production of this print can be determined with relative exactitude as having taken place in 1454, after the 6th and before the 25th of December. The unique copy of the Türkenkalender originally belonged to the humanist Konrad Peutinger (1465–1547). It was discovered in the Jesuit college in Augsburg in 1806, from where it subsequently came to Munich.

Last updated: October 27, 2016