After Bach’s death, an inventory of his personal library recorded Calovii Schriften, but for nearly two centuries it was not certain which writings of the Wittenberg theology professor Abraham Calovius Bach had owned. Only in the 1930s was it discovered that it was the seventeenth-century Calov Bible, containing Martin Luther’s German translations and commentaries, along with Calov’s annotations, that had been among Bach’s possessions.
Luther’s direct translation of the entire Bible from the original languages into German was first published in 1534, and its widespread circulation facilitated the emergence of a standard language for the German-speakers of the Holy Roman Empire. His vernacular Bible soon found its way into most Protestant homes and helped stimulate educational reform and the creation of a German national identity.
Bach’s copy of the Calov Bible is in three volumes, which he signed with a monogram and the date of 1733 on the lower right hand corner of each title page. These volumes contain 348 underlinings, marks of emphasis, and marginalia in Bach’s hand that give us a glimpse into his personal beliefs and how he understood his vocation. In many instances Bach simply corrected typographical or grammatical errors, but in other places he noted, “This chapter is the true foundation of all God-pleasing church music” and “Where there is devotional music, God with his grace is always present.”