Hooked on Phonics: Dr. “Fartin'” Luther and the Gun Wad Bible

This one has absolutely nothing to do with fencing and swords.

It only goes to show what can happen to a historical text if insufficient diligence is applied reading and transcribing it.

As in the following example from a spiffy catalog, sent to me by a reputable seller of expensive-as-sin antiquarian books…

—by J. Christoph Amberger

Baltimore, MD—My wife thinks I have a medieval sense of humor. (Alright, the word she uses is “juvenile”.) So bear with me as I share a pensive Easter story with you…

I just received the glitzy, four-color catalog of a New York purveyor of antiquarian books whose children I helped put through college many years ago, purchasing a few of his top-of-the-price-range volumes on fencing.

Among other offerings, mostly of a spiritual nature, I discovered a $6,000 copy of a 1776 American German-language Luther Bible, also known as the “Gun Wad Bible,” after its use in the American Revolutionary War as cartridge paper during the Battle of Germantown.

Short or flatulent? It's all in one letter. (Click for a larger view...)

Not my cup of tea. Until I read the transcription of the German Fraktura title in the lot description… especially the center:

Biblia, Das ist: Die ganze Göttliche Heilige Schrift, (…)  mit Jedes Capitels Furtzen Summarien…

Now, the actual word in the title is kurzen,” the dative form of the German adjective kurz, meaning “short”.

Furzen (or furtzen, in its older spelling not occurring in the title), however, means “to fart”.

The good Doctor Luther offering farting summaries of Holy Scripture, instead of short summaries, for each chapter? That I’d like to see!

It wouldn’t be entirely out of character, as his second most famous (and entirely apocryphal) quote, supposedly from his Tischreden, is “Warum rülpset und furzet Ihr nicht, hat es Euch nicht geschmecket?” (Why aren’t you burping and farting, didn’t you like the food?”

Or, better documented: “Wenn ich hier einen Furz lasse, dann riecht man das in Rom.”—If I rip one off here, they’ll be smelling it in Rome.

Anglophone friends of historical fencing are no strangers to epic transcription fails from the verbose offerings of certain Renaissance and Medieval Swordsmanship dignitaries who brought us “Domingo” Angelo and other sillinesses…

2 responses to “Hooked on Phonics: Dr. “Fartin'” Luther and the Gun Wad Bible

  1. Bwahahaha!!! Awesome!!!

  2. Great blog! Do you have any suggestions for aspiring writers?
    I’m planning to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you propose starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many options out there that I’m completely overwhelmed .. Any ideas? Thank you!

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