What books did Johann Sebastian Bach have on his shelves at the time of his death?

We have a list of them.
Most of the books themselves were lost.

But not all of them.

Fortunately the book that for Bach was the most important, his three-volume Bible, has been preserved and found its way to a library in St. Louis, USA.


The discovery of Bach's Bible in 1934

When Bach died, a list of all the books in his library was made.

On top of the list was: "Calovii Schriften" - writings of Calovius.

For centuries we did not know exactly which books were meant - until a very special discovery was made in 1934 in the American town of Frankenmuth.

In June 1934 a Lutheran minister, Christian G. Riedel, attended a session of the Missouri Synod of the American Lutheran Church in Frankenmuth, Michigan. He was staying with his cousin, Leonard Reichle. His cousin showed him a Bible in which Riedel immediately recognized Bach's signature on the title page. Reichle then found the other two volumes in his attic. His family had bought the three-volume Calov Bible in Philadelphia in the 1830s.

Reichle donated the three-volumes to the Concordia Seminary Library in St. Louis, Missouri, in October 1938, and the Calov Bible is there still today.

The Bible contains hundreds of underlinings and marginalia in the hand of Bach, an attribution that is proved by handwriting analysis and chemical analysis of the ink.

The Calov Bible, Die Heilige Bibel / nach S. Herrn D. MARTINI LUTHERI, appeared in Wittenberg in the years 1681-92. It is a Bible with commentary written by the Wittenberg theologian Calov(ius) and founded on the writings of Luther, as the subtitle states. Its six parts have been bound in three-volumes. Because of Bach's notes and underlinings, the Bach/Calov Bible is of great importance for Bach research.

"The depth of Bach's Luther-study can be proved on the basis of this source, e.g. in his treatment of Gen. 3 (the Fall). Calov quotes Luther extensively, especially regarding Gen. 3:7, a key verse for the doctrine of original sin. Calov, however, shortens Luther's comment with a sentence; Bach carefully writes down the missing words in the margin." (Albert Clement).

Dutch publisher Uitgeverij Van Wijnen laid the first contacts with Concordia Seminary Library in 1997, in order to produce a complete and full facsimile reissue of Bach's Bible. After more than 20 years, this edition has now become available in 2017, in a unique collaboration between companies in the Netherlands, Poland and the United States.


You can now acquire this unique publication.

The price for this unique, handbound and numbered facsimile edition is €5.500,-.