Jonah was the first of the prophetic books Luther translated. Others
appeared separately over the next few years, before a complete translation of
the Prophets was issued in 1532. According to Luther, Jonah was "well suited for
the present time" immediately following the Peasants' War because it taught
trust in God and reminded readers of Christ's death and resurrection. It was
printed sixteen times in 1526 alone, thirteen in German and three in Latin.
Reformation pamphlets commonly had woodcuts on their covers or title pages. The
woodcut on the title page of this unbound Augsburg printing of the pamphlet
shows Jonah at various points in his story.
The library of Leander van Ess, a Roman Catholic priest, was particularly
strong in materials on the German Reformation, and contained a number of
Luther's "Flugschriften," literally "flying writings," ephemeral pamphlets such
as this one. He kept these pamphlets in a separate part of his collection and
they have been reconstructed on the basis of numbered stickers which remain on
most of them. A man far ahead of his time, van Ess instituted a number of
reforms in his Marburg church, including the use of vernacular throughout the
service, turning the priest to face the congregation, and giving detailed
explanations of what was going on as mass was celebrated. He was a very popular
preacher and his sermons attracted both Catholics and Protestants.