Quincuplex Psalterium. Gallicum, Romanum, Hebraicum, Vetus, Conciliatum.

Paris, Henri Estienne, 1513.


Folio. ff. (xii) 293. Roman letter in red and black, little Greek or Hebrew, triple column in parts. Woodcut t-p with border of floral tendrils, putti, angels and French royal arms, decorated initials and ornaments. Intermittent slight age yellowing and light water stain towards fore-edges, t-p and blank verso of last a bit soiled. A very good copy, on thick paper, in C17 mottled calf, rebacked, corners repaired, stamps of the Bibliotheca Puseiana Oxoniensis and Fürstl-Leining Hof-Bibliothek to lower blank margin of t-p.

A very good copy of the second edition of this ground-breaking comparative commentary of St Jerome’s Psalms—a major influence on Luther. Jacques Lefèvres d’Étaples (1455-1536) was a theologian and humanist who studied at Rome, Padua and Venice. After teaching at Paris, where he met supporters of the movement for church reform, and writing renowned commentaries on Aristotle (praised even by Thomas More), he entered the Benedictine Abbey of St Germain de Près, thanks to his patron, bishop Guillaume Briçonnet, to whom ‘Psalterium’ is dedicated. Based on painstaking philological work on manuscripts, ‘Psalterium’ presented, followed by a commentary, the three versions of the psalms attributed to St Jerome: the ‘Romanum’, a revision made upon request of Pope Damasus; the ‘Gallicum’, incorporated in the Vulgate; the ‘Hebraicum’, newly translated into Latin. The triple column layout, in red and black—a typographical challenge masterfully overcome by the Estienne press—was based on the structure of medieval manuscripts he consulted (Graf, ‘Essai’, 23). In the second part were added, in parallel, the ‘Vetus’—an earlier version of obscure origin—and the ‘Conciliatum’, d’Étaples’s own adaptation of the Gallicum and the Hebraicum. Rather than an alternative to Jerome, ‘Conciliatum’ provided ‘a way to solve philological and theological discussions raised during his own commentary…a pedagogical presentation which allows the reader to consider the various approaches of the first part’ (Bedouelle, ‘Quincuplex Psalterium’, 51). D’Étaples’s ‘Psalterium’—most of all the ‘Hebraicum’—was ‘especially important’ and ‘integral’ to post-Reformation translations of the Psalms undertaken by Luther and other Wittenberg reformers (‘Luther’s Hebrew’, 23). An excellent, fresh copy of this milestone of biblical philology, influential on the Reformation.

Renouard, Estiennes, 13:1; Brunet IV, 933. Not in BM STC Fr. C.H. Graf, Essai sur la vie et les écrits de Jacques Lefèvre d’Étaples (Geneva, 1970); G. Bedouelle, Le ‘Quincuplex Psalterium’ (Geneva, 1979); A.J. Niggerman, Martin Luther’s Hebrew (Tübingen, 2019).


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