Five centuries ago, on September 21, 1522, Das Newe Testament Deuzsch, Martin Luther’s New Testament in German was published in Wittenberg. The text did not bear the name of the translator, the printer, or even the year of publication. Some 3,000 copies were published and met with extraordinary success. It was quickly sold out, so a second edition – entirely revised – was published in December. The volume acquired the name Septembertestament (September Testament), to distinguish it from the following version, Dezembertestament. Three reprints came out in 1523. Meanwhile, in Basel, the publisher Adam Petri had already reproduced it without permission. Since the demand was great, there was a steady stream of reprints.
By 1546, the year of Luther’s death, there had been 22 in Wittenberg, not counting the numerous reprints in various German cities. The importance and value of the text are such that even Catholics described the work as “monumental,” and it has been described as a major achievement in the history of the German language.