Greek. Tēs Kainēs Diathēkēs apanta. Novum Testamentum.

Paris, ex officina Robert Estienne, typographi regij, typis regijs. 1546


16mo. 2 parts in 1. pp. 528, 361 [vii]. a-z8, A-K8; 2a-2z8, (2z7-8 blank). Greek Letter, some Roman on titles, preface in Italic. Both titles with Robert Estienne’s woodcut basilisk device as Royal printer for Greek, fine floriated and grotesque woodcut initials and head-pieces, verso of last with Robert Estienne’s woodcut ‘Noli Altum Sapere’ printer’s device, “1559, S E T, Joachim a Sÿntzendorff” iin ms. at head of first title, marginalia and some interlinear translations in the same hand, Latin notes in an early hand on penultimate blank titled ‘Durandus De Coena’, two line epigram, in a slightly later hand on fly, modern bookplate below. Light age yellowing, small, mostly marginal stain on a few leaves, the odd very minor marginal splash or spot. A very good copy, crisp and clean, with good margins in excellent contemporary South German pigskin over thin boards, covers triple blind ruled to a panel design, outer panel with blind roll of heads in medallions with small arms, central panels with blind fleurons, with ‘I § A §’ ‘1548′ stamped on upper cover, inner panel with arms gilt over-stamped at centre, spine with raised bands, double blind ruled in compartments, scrolled fleurons, contemporary mss title and shelf number ’60′, title ms. on outer edge, spine a little rubbed.

A lovely copy of the most beautifully printed and important first Estienne Greek New Testament, the first book printed in Claude Garamond’s second and smallest ‘grecs du roi’, in a fine contemporary binding; both a masterpiece of early Greek printing and biblical scholarship. It is the first of four important editions of the Greek New Testament published by Robert. The third edition, the first with a critical apparatus, with variants of the readings, was used as a basis for the Geneva Bible, of such influence in England, and was also the principal foundation for the New Testament in the King James Version. The text of the editions of 1546 and 1549 was a composition of the Complutesian and Erasmian Novum Testamentum. “The Royal Greek types which appear for the first time in the Eusebius of 1544, and which were followed by a smaller fount and finally a large one, used for the text of the 1546 and 1549 Greek Testaments and the 1550 folio Greek testaments respectively. These types were executed by Claude Garamond; they were based on the Hellenic script of the Cretan Angelo Vergecio, a well known calligrapher employed by Francis I and Henry II as scribe and cataloguer in connexion with the royal collection of Greek manuscripts at Fontainebleau. When Estienne began to print Greek texts with these types, he used a set of decorative Greek initials, with head-pieces in the same style; smaller and less elaborate material of the same kind was used with the texts in small type. Examination of Greek manuscripts from Angelo’s hand shows that these woodcuts are based on the illuminated head-pieces and initials with which he embellished his texts, exactly as the text is based on his script.”  Elizabeth Armstrong. Estienne was forced to flee Paris in 1550 the year he produced the third edition under pressure from the Sorbonne doctors against him. “It is curious to note that the three editions of the Greek Testament (1546, 1549, 1550) are without privilege, though printed with the King’s types and from manuscripts in the King’s library; the original contribution of Estienne here as editor, in correcting the text and offering variant readings, evidently was not thought sufficiently important to constitute a new work, although Robert Estienne the younger reprinting his father’s 1549 edition obtained a royal privilege for nine years.” Elizabeth Armstrong.

“The first Estienne Greek Testament and the second of 1549…are commonly known as the ‘O mirificam’ editions, from the opening words of Robert’s preface to François I, praising him for commissioning the second Greek font in order to provide Greek texts in pocket format” Schreiber.

Unfortunately we have not been able to find the identity of the first owner who annotated the book, nor the arms on the binding, though they are certainly German or imperial. Neither have we been able to identify the arms on the roll on the binding which might indicate the binder or at least the place of fabrication. This is the second issue of the first Estienne edition, with November in colophon. A lovely copy of this important and beautiful work.

Adams B1657. Darlow and Moule 4616. Mortimer, French, 74; Renouard, Estienne, 66:2; Schreiber 90.


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