Martin Luther’s Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum of 1517, commonly known as the Ninety-Five Theses, is considered the central document of the Protestant Reformation. Its complete title reads: “Out of love and zeal for clarifying the truth, these items written below will be debated at Wittenberg. Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology and an official professor at Wittenberg, will speak in their defense. He asks this in the matter: That those who are unable to be present to debate with us in speech should, though absent from the scene, treat the matter by correspondence. In the Name of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.” The document went on to list 95 clerical abuses, chiefly relating to the sale of indulgences (payment for remission of earthly punishment of sins) by the Roman Catholic Church. Luther (1483–1546), a German priest and professor of theology, became the most important figure in the great religious revolt against the Catholic Church known as the Reformation. While he intended to use the 95 theses as the basis for an academic dispute, his indictment of church practices rapidly spread, thanks to the then still-new art of printing. By the end of 1517, three editions of the theses were published in Germany, in Leipzig, Nuremberg, and Basel, by printers who did not supply their names. It is estimated that each of these early editions was of about 300 copies, of which very few survived. This copy in the collections of the Berlin State Library was printed in Nuremberg by Hieronymus Höltzel. It was discovered in a London bookshop in 1891 by the director of the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett (Museum of Prints and Drawings) and presented to the Royal Library by the Prussian Ministry for Education and Culture.
Hieronymus Höltzel, Nuremberg
Title in Original Language
Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum
Type of Item
Last updated: January 8, 2018