Leabhuir ná seintiomna… The books of the Old Testament translated into Irish by… Doctor William Bedel. 

London, [s.n.], anno Dom. 1685.

£4,500

FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. [ii], 1142, [ii]. [without first blank] Gaelic letter, title in Roman and Gaelic, ruled in double column. Title within double line border woodcut initials. Light age yellowing, very occasional minor spotting. A very good copy, clean and crisp in contemporary speckled calf, covers bordered with a blind rule, spine with raised bands blind ruled in compartments, edges speckled red, pastedowns (but not endpapers) renewed. 

The rare, beautifully printed and important first edition of the Old Testament in Irish, translated by William Bedell with the assistance of O Cionga, revised by Andrew Sall, Narcissus Marsh, and others. This version of the Old Testament was published over 40 years after the death of the principal translator William Bedell, Bishop of Kilmore (1571-1642), and 83 years after the first edition of the New Testament in Irish (Dublin, 1602). It was printed anonymously in an edition of about 500 copies, largely at the expense of Robert Boyle, who provided the type.

“Although the Irish Old testament was published in 1685, the Genesis of the translation dated as far back as the late 1620’s. William Bedell, whose experience as chaplain during the years 1607-10/11 to Sir Henry Wotton, English ambassador to Venice, refined his appreciation of cultural and linguistic diversity, conceived and funded the project for the Irish translation of the Old Testament. .. As early as 1628, Bedell had enlisted the expertise of Muircheartach O Cionga, a member of a midlands bardic family, first to translate the Psalms and afterwards the rest of the Old testament and Apocrypha. Bedell had ordained O Cionga and provided him with a living in Kilmore Diocese .. By 1634 Bedell reported that the translation of the Old Testament was in hand and that he was having a fair copy of the text compiled. The Irish translation was made from the King James Bible of 1611 and complemented by revisions to the text made by Bedell based on comparative readings of the original Hebrew text, the Septuagint, and Giovani’s Diodati’s Italian translation of the Bible. However the contribution of O Cionga was central to the translation process. The publication of Bedell’s Old Testament in 1685 were made possible by the financial support and evangelical commitment of Robert Boyle (1627-91) .. Boyle funded the casting of a new font of Irish type, produced by the printer and globe maker Joseph Moxon in London and modelled on the type produced by the Irish Franciscans in Louvain. Henry Jones provided Sall with the surviving manuscript of Bedell’s Old Testament in 1681. Sall in a letter to Boyle described the manuscript as a ‘confused heap, pitifully defaced and broken’. .. Although it had been planned to publish the Old Testament by public subscription, ultimately Boyle appears to have funded the entire project. The first sheet of Genesis was printed in 1682 and the Psalms were being printed by early 1685. The remaining work, with the exception of the Apocrypha, which Boyle decided not to print, was completed by the end of 1685. .. (Despite) the various editorial interventions during the preparation of the Old Testament, the printed text is essentially that translated under Bedell’s supervision.” The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, C. 1530-1700. 

A very well preserved and fresh copy of this important and rare first edition. 

ESTC R23375 Wing B2759A. Darlow & Moule 5534. 

L3093
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