The Bible of the Embroider 

Hans Plock (1490-1570)

Methods of Exploration

Hans Plock AND his Bible


With Luther's two volume edition of the Bible, printed by Hans Lufft in Wittenberg in 1541, the City Museum of Berlin (stock number XIII 387) is in the possession of a unique testimony of the Reformation period.


Hans Plock was born in Mainz in 1490. He is assumed to have completed his apprenticeship in silk and pearl embroidery in his home town. Between 1509 and 1512, he spent the time of his apprenticeship in Trier, where he (as it is quoted in his Bible) experienced the exhibition of the Holy Robe on the occasion of the assembly of the imperial estates in 1512. Due to his artistic talent, he was able to receive an employment at the court of Cardinal Albrecht of Brandenburg (1490-1545), whose retinue he was a member of for many years. His long-standing friendship to Matthias Grünewald can also be dated back to that period of time. In 1521, Plock accompanied Cardinal Albrecht to Halle / Saale, where he designed marvellous beaded sets of vestments and figurative reliquaries for his employer and his relic in Halle / Saale. His works of art comprise among others the embroideries for the famous beaded altar named after the ancient lineage of Lobkowitz of Hassenstein. Plock's occupation at the court of Albrecht of Brandenburg can be proven until 1532; pilgrimages and official trips in order to purchase precious stones and pearls in Antwerp were part of his professional duties as well. After that, the relationship to Albrecht of Brandenburg came to an end, as Plock did not accompany him to Mainz in 1541. He rather stayed in Halle, whose citizenship he acquired in 1525. At that time, Plock turned his attention to Luther's doctrine and became a passionate follower of the reformer and his religious ideas. It is also remarkable that Plock was not only in the possession of reformation pamphlets, but also of a pre-Lutheran Bible translation of 1478 (today Marienbibliothek / Halle).


In 1541, Plock bought his two-volume luxury edition of the Luther Bible, which would be his companion for nearly thirty years. Within his personal examination of the religious and political upheavals of the Reformation period and his personal use of the book, he included countless marginal and side-notes by his own hand as well as colored materials in the volumes themselves. So far, the contemporary paintings, copperplate prints and illustrations included in the Plock Bible have been given a wide attention especially by art historians; besides the art of Schongauer, Dürer and Cranach, four art works of Matthias Grünewald, an important painter and draftsman, can be found.


The most extensive historic value of the Luther Bible can be attributed to Plock's handwritten notes, (critical) comments and diaristic memories, which can be considered an astoundingly authentic historical testimony, allowing us to gain an insight into Plock's life, his theological endeavors and the political, religious and artistic context of the Reformation period.


Luther's two-volume Bible translation contains about 1600 pages. About 800 pages are covered with Plock's handwritten annotations, and 23 pages (formally empty pages) were completely covered with his notes. Plock's systematic overall concept, created by his handwritten marginalia, has only been evaluated selectively until now. His handwritten notes, partially difficult to read, have neither been analyzed linguistically nor have they been examined from a comprehensive, global perspective, for example from a cultural intertextual and functional point of view. A joint project in cooperation with the City Museum of Berlin (Albrecht Henkys) and Trier University / Trier Center for Digital Humanities and the Department for German Studies (Claudine Moulin) will now explore the Bible, the world of Hans Plock and his marginalia in an interdisciplinary perspective, especially with regard to the field of cultural and historical history and with the implementation of a multimodal, digital edition.