Biblia cum concordantiis veteris et novi

Lyon, Jacques Sacon expensis Anton Koberger, 1516


Folio, ff (xiv) 317 (i), (xxxv), lacking final blank. Gothic letter, double column. Title, summaries at the beginning of Genesis, the New Testament and parts of the Canticle of Canticles printed in red, printer’s device to verso of fol. 317. Large architectural woodcut to t-p depicting Christ triumphant surrounded by putti and saints, two full-page woodcuts of the six days of creation and the adoration of the Magi, one half-page woodcut of Solomon, many smaller vignettes illustrating text, floriated initials. Light age yellowing, t-p a little bit soiled, minor rare waterstains and sporadic soiling to blank margins, large, light ink stain affecting one page. In places contemporary Latin marginalia. A very good copy, original wooden boards (cleaned) rebacked in quarter deerskin, double blind ruled diaper pattern to covers, spine with blind ruled raised bands, cracked at joints, decorated brass clasps and anchor plates (probably c.1800). Contemporary ms. passages derived from ancient authors and church fathers on fly (recto and verso) and t-p, 11-line quote from ‘Historia aliquot martyrum Anglorum maxime octodecim Cartusianorum’ by M. Chauncy concerning the Carthusian martyrs of London to t-p verso. Bookplate of the businessman and book collector Louis Kossuth Comstock (1865-1964), and English bibliographer and art historian Gilbert R. Redgrave (1844-1941) with 7-lines ms. in his hand concerning this volume to front pastedown. Printed page from ‘Galerie Des Peintres Flamands’ (1792) pasted face-down to inner lower cover, some lettering visible in relief.

Finely printed and beautifully illustrated Latin Bible, with interesting and extensive contemporary annotations.

This edition, in a handsome gothic type, was produced by Jacques Sacon for the famous Anton Koberger (c. 1440-1513), the renowned German printer of the Nuremberg Chronicle. Koeberger employed the presses of Lyons for a series of illustrated Latin bibles between 1506 and 1522: this edition is the first to contain additional references in the margins (‘concordantiae’) to the ‘Jewish Antiquities’ and ‘Jewish Wars’ by Titus Flavius Josephus, arranged by Johannes de Gradibus. Appended at the end, as customary, is the ‘Interpretationes nominum hebraicorum’ – a lexicon of Hebrew names found in the Bible. This edition is embellished with more than 100 exquisite vignettes of various dimensions, vividly depicting key moments in both the Old and New Testament. The large woodcuts depicting the six days of Creation and Solomon, as well as the lovely numerous smaller illustrations, were originally cut for a Latin Bible printed by Sacon for Koberger in 1512. They were copied from the charming Venetian woodcuts appearing in the celebrated Bible of Malermi published by Ragazzo for Lucantonio Giunta in 1490. However, the identity of the artist has not been ascertained.

Another attractive feature is the contemporary annotations, which provide an insight into the study of Scripture in the 16th century. Extensive marginalia in a small and clear cursive hand belong to a diligent student, from the Netherlands or Flanders – can be inferred from a few manuscript words in Dutch translating the Latin text. Frequent brief annotations summarise or clarify the content of paragraphs (occasionally indicated by manicules), other explain the meaning of obscure words, sometimes specifying Greek or Hebrew etymologies. The most curious notes are those describing unfamiliar animals mentioned in the Genesis, for example: “the crocodile is an animal in Egypt both terrestrial and marine”. More structured comments derive from ancient authors and church fathers, which appear on the fly and throughout the volume. These include citations from St. Gerolamus and Gregory praising God and the creation, Aristotle, Socrates, Theophrastus, Boetius and Augustine on women, marriage and health, St Bernard on obedience, Seneca and Plato on death, John Chrysostom on penitence, and many more from Ambrose, Cyprian, Primasius and the Psalms. Such meticulous study of the Bible, the access to an impressive library and a long quotation concerning the martyrdom of the Carthusians in London suggest that the annotator was a monk, and possibly a Carthusian. An important 16th century Carthusian monastery in the Netherlands with a substantial library (remarkably preserved) is the Chartrehouse of Nieuwlicht near Utrecht.

A few rare marginalia in a different hand are less systematic and quickly written. This second reader was interested in specific passages and his approach is more critical: the most interesting annotations are those pointing out how certain passages are interpreted in a different way by the Lutherans (cf. annotations in the book of Judith, whose veracity was rejected by Luther, f. CXXV). In a couple of instances, this annotator wrote comments in charming bubbles with a tail pointing to the printed text.

A fascinating example of Renaissance biblical exegesis.

USTC 616595; BM STC Fr. 16th century, p. 53; Adams B992; see Graesse I, p. 393; Brunet I, p. 874; Baudrier XII, p. 339.
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