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Henry VIII, King of England (1491-1547)

Assertio Septem Sacramentorum adversus Martinum Lutherum  1521

22.5 x 17.2 x 2.1 cm (book measurement (conservation)) | RCIN 1006836

  • Martin Luther (1483- 1546) was the German monk and theologian whose ideas shaped the Protestant Reformation. One of his many pronouncements was that there were only two sacraments (the solemn rites considered to have been instituted by Christ to confer grace) rather than the traditional seven. Henry VIII's assertion of the seven sacraments ('Defence of the Seven Sacraments against Martin Luther') was published in the summer of 1521. The book provided the impetus for Pope Leo X to award Henry the title 'Fidei Defensor' (Defender of the Faith). In 1543 the title was given by Parliament in perpetuity, and thus forms part of The Queen's style today. This copy is signed by Henry and was probably one of those he sent to cardinals in Rome.

    The title page has a wood-block border which is a copy of a design by Hans Holbein the Younger for the Basel printer Froben. It illustrates a children’s triumphal procession above, and the story of Mucius Scaevola before Porsenna below. During the siege of Rome by the Etruscans, the Roman Mucius mistakenly stabbed a scribe instead of murdering the enemy king. He burned his right hand to show his indifference to threats of torture from Porsenna. The assassination is shown on the right, and the hand burning on the left. The wood cutter for the original block was Hans Herman, but it is not known who made this English copy.


    Presented by Cardinal William Allen to the English College at Rome, c.1590, passing in 1846 to the library of M. Yemenis of Lyons. Acquired for the Royal Library for £600, December 1900.
  • Dimensions

    22.5 x 17.2 x 2.1 cm (book measurement (conservation))

    22.5 x 32.5 cm (open) (book measurement (conservation))

    23.0 x 2.0 cm (book measurement (inventory))

  • Alternative titles

    ASSERTIO SEPTEM SA=/ cramentorum adversus Martin. / Lutheru, ædita ab inuictis=/ simo Angliæ et Fran= / ciæ rege, et do. Hy= /berniæ Henri=/ co eius no/ minis/ o=/ ctavo.

    Assertio septem sacramentorum


    Taken from Provenance Statement before it was tidied up for COL: 'Presented by Cardinal William Allen to the English College at Rome in 1521, passing in 1846 to the library of M. Yemenis of Lyons (see RCIN for the Royal Library for £600, December 1900.' Unknown Person , 8 Feb 2011

    The Vatican Library catalogue lists 4 copies of the London 1521 edition of this book. One of these was presented to Leo X by Henry VIII. The catalogue notes for that volume are as follows: 'This copy is on parchment. Front with engraved border, hand coloured. The rectos of the first two sheets have illuminated [hand-illustrated presumably] borders; the rest of the sheets have border decorations in violet ink. Autograph signature of the king at the bottom of the first and last pages of the text. At the end of this [the last page/text?] is handwritten the couplet: “Anglorù Rex…[Latin]”. The couplet also bears the autograph signature. On the verso of the front (cover?), at top, is handwritten: “Summo pontifici[Latin]”. Binding in red leather.' The couplet in full is "Anglorù Rex Henricus, Leo decimo, mittit. Hoc opus et fidei esté et amicitie". (Roughly “English King Henry gave it to Leo X in friendship”). Elizabeth Clark , 25 Nov 2011