BIBLE, Psalms.


BIBLE, Psalms. Liber Psalmorum Davidis tralatio duplex

[Geneva], Robert I Estienne, 1556-1557


8vo, pp. 558 (ii). Roman and Italic letter, some Hebrew, main text in double column with commentary below, fine red ink frame throughout. Printer’s device to t-p. Age yellowing, mainly marginal light spotting in three initial gatherings and six other pages (not affecting reading), early marginal repair to three ll. A very good copy in quality French red morocco c.1700, arms of Nicolas Lambert, seigneur of Thorigny and Vermont gilt to covers, spine with raised bands, floral gilt in compartments, edges and inner dentelles richly gilt, blue silk bookmark, a.e.g.

Attractive, finely printed copy of Robert Estienne’s 1556 edition of the Psalter bound for Nicolas Lambert of Thorigny and Vermont (1659-1729). French politician and bibliophile, Lambert held office as conseiller du Roy, Parliamentary councillor and then president of one of the chambers. The delicate gilt tool work on the spine is found on several bindings by Luc Antoine Boyet (active 1684-1733, see Diesbach-Soultrait I, nos. 14, 121, 140). Boyet was the official binder to Louis XIV and his works are celebrated for their beauty, elegance and quality of materials.

This charming edition constitutes an improved version of Etienne’s Psalms of 1545. It was produced as part of a larger project that culminated in the publication of a new Bible in 1557. Estienne undertook this project soon after his conversion to Calvinism and subsequent move to Geneva. The pages of the Psalter are elegantly ruled in red and beautifully designed to include, in two separate columns, the traditional Vulgate (Estienne’s text of 1540 and 1546, in Italic) and a modern Latin translation by the Italian scholar Sante Pagnini (1470-1541, Roman type). The two versions are accompanied by an extensive commentary below, in a lovely small-sized Aldine italic. Pagnini’s translation was amended and revised by the French Hebraist François Vatable (d. 1547). The commentary – which includes frequent passages in Hebrew – is by Paganini, Estienne and Vatable, and it was described in Estienne’s sales catalogue as “more detailed and expanded than that appearing in the bible” (cf. Renouard Estienne 87:2). This edition features the first appearance of the tiny ‘Estienne’ Rabbinical Hebrew type.

Son of Henri, founder of the Estienne printing firm, Robert (1503-1559) was an extremely successful printer and one of the greatest humanists of his time. Appointed ‘printer to the King’ for his editions in Latin, Hebrew and Greek, he was an accomplished philologist and grammarian in these languages and in French, as well as the first scientific lexicographer of modern and ancient languages.

USTC 450423; Ren. Estienne 87:2; Adams B1435; BM STC Fr. (Supplement), p. 12; GLN-1961. Not in Brunet. V. de Diesbach-Soultrait, Six siècles de literature française, XVII siècle, Bibliothèque Jean Bonna (Genève 2017).
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