FIRST ITALIAN PROTESTANT BIBLE –
A GERMAN MUSICIAN’S COPY
La Bibbia cioè i libri del vecchio e del nuovo testamento.
[Geneva, [n.p.],] 1607.
FIRST EDITION thus. Large 4to. pp. (iv) 847 (i) 178 (ii) 314, lacking final blank as often. Roman letter, little Italic, double column. Fine woodcut vignette to t-p, decorated initials, head- and tailpieces. T-p dust-soiled, early ex-libris below title cut out, and repaired, lower edge of t-p and last few ll. little frayed, uniform age yellowing, couple of marginal tears to pp. 249-52, ancient repair to one lower outer corner. A good copy in C17 probably German deer skin, traces of ties, rebacked, covers gilt to a panel design, outer border single gilt ruled to a floral decoration, centre panel with gilt fleurons to corners and large gilt floral centrepiece, C18 gilt stamped oval wreath with arms of the Duchy of Bavaria (post-1777), few very minor repairs to edges. C19 ex-libris ‘J.D. Glennie, Green Street, Grosvenor Sq’ to front pastedown, C18 inscriptions ‘Collect. Biblior.’ and ‘C.F. Hurlebusch à Stockholm 1725’ inked to fep, erased early ex-libris ‘Giovanni (?) and autograph ‘C.J. Hurleb:’ to t-p, stamp ‘Duplum Bibliotheca R. Monac.’ to verso of t-p, armorial bookplate ‘C.T. Bibliotheca Palatina’ to rear pastedown, occasional French, Italian and Hebrew annotation.
First edition of the first Italian translation of the Bible expressly devised for exiled Protestant Italian communities. Its translator, Giovanni Diodati (1576-1649) was an Italian-born Calvinist whose family fled to Geneva to escape persecution. After studying theology, Aramaic and Hebrew with some of the greatest Protestant intellectuals including Theodor de Beza and Casaubon, he was appointed professor of Hebrew at the Geneva Academy; he represented Geneva at the synod of Dordrecht of 1618-19 and was admired as a theologian by James I of England. Italian translations, based on the Vulgate, had first appeared in the late C15; during the Council of Trent, one of their translators was burnt on the stake. The ‘Bibbia diodatina’ provided a reliable vernacular text, very successful among the few, small Italian Protestant communities gathered in Switzerland. Unlike other vernacular translations like the King James Bible, it was the result of individual rather than group work and reflected not so much the contemporary language but the dated vernacular of Protestant exiles, more reminiscent of C16 Italian, due to their linguistic isolation (Fiume, ‘Giovanni Diodati’, 95-96, 98). Through the addition of section introductions and marginal commentary, Diodati created a powerful instrument for the individual reading of the Scriptures (including the Apocrypha), as expressed by the prefacing quotation from Timothy 3:16-17: ‘All Scriptures are divinely inspired and useful to teach, reproach, correct and instruct in justice.’ A beautifully bound theological masterpiece of intriguing provenance.
This copy belonged to the German composer, organist and harpsichordist Conrad Friedrich Hurlebusch (1691-1765). In 1723, upon the invitation of the King of Sweden, he moved to Stockholm—hence the ex-libris on this copy—where he was appointed chamber musician; he returned to Germany in 1725 after failing to be appointed court organist (‘The Cambridge Companion to the Harpsichord’, 79, 229). In the course of the C17, it was probably in the hands of an Italian—a Giovanni whose ex-libris was erased and who wrote the Italian marginalia; it was also owned by a French speaker—probably a contemporary Swiss Protestant—occasionally adding French translations of Italian words. It was acquired by the Bibliotheca Palatina (Royal Library) of Bavaria during the reign of the Elector Charles Theodor (1777-99), whose initials appear on the bookplate; the gilt arms of Bavaria also reflect his revisions. Founded in the mid-C16 by Duke Albrecht V, the Bibliotheca Palatina in Munich (later Bayerische Staatsbibliothek) reached 17,000 volumes by 1600 and included major collections such as that of Johann Jakob Fugger. With the secularization of Bavaria in 1803 it acquired half a million volumes from Bavarian monasteries, many of which, like this copy, were later sold as duplicates. In the C19, this copy was acquired by the English Rev. J.D. Glennie of Grosvenor Square.
BL STC It. C17, p. 107; Brunet I, 894-95 (under 1641 ed.); Darlow-Moule 5598. E. Fiume, ‘Giovanni Diodati:
Il creatore della Bibbia evangelica italiana nel XVII secolo’, in Bibelübersetzung und (Kirchen-)Politik, ed. M. Mülke and L. Vogel (Gottingen, 2015), 95-104.