utriusque Testamenti[Geneva], Robert Estienne, 1556-1557
In 2 vols. Fol., ff. , 188, 316, , 436, 336, 41, . Predominantly Roman letter, some Greek and Hebrew; large printer’s device and decorative head-piece with vine and peasants on title and half-title, a few detailed illustrations, one full-page; title slightly dust-soiled with torn outer lower corner, a few leaves age yellowed, occasional light foxing mainly to margins, small marginal waterstain to final gatherings of vol. 2. A stunning, well-margined copy in exceptional morocco by the King’s binder of Geneva (cf. M. M. Foot, The Henry Davis Gift, pp. 279-285, nos 226-229), elegantly tooled with gilt and painted black border with panel of interlacing ribbons, painted black, and gouges, unpainted, on background powdered with dots, one mask at head and one at foot, some elements carved after gilding; spine similarly tooled, all board edges gilt with horizontal, vertical and diagonal lines, all edges gauffered with gilt floral and grotesque motifs; joints possibly strengthened, a little rubbed at corners; eighteenth-century English annotation on front pastedown of vol. 1, quoting from the 1732 English translation of Calmet’s Dictionnaire historique, critique, chronologique, géographique et littéral de la Bible; c19 stamp of ‘G. W. Oxenham’ on front pastedown of both vols, Magg’s acquisition labels (March 1940) on rear pastedown of vol. 2.
Splendidly bound copy of the fifth edition of the renowned Latin Bible of Robert Estienne (1503-1559). It was the first to include Theodor Beza’s translation and commentaries on the New Testament, following Estienne’s conversion to Calvinism and subsequent move to Geneva. The book retains the detailed woodcut illustrations of the 1540 edition and the Latin version of the Old Testament by Sante Pagnini. Although this was not exactly the first attempt to separate and number biblical verses, the vast influence of the edition made this practice accepted once and for all.
The extraordinarily rich and detailed binding on both volumes can be attributed with certainty to the King’s binder, who was arguably the best in Geneva in the second half of the sixteenth century and probably a Parisian craftsman who emigrated due to unorthodox religious belief (I. Schunke, ‘Die Genfer Einbände in U. Fuggers Bibliothek’, in Die Einbände der Palatina, I, Vatican, 1962, pp. 218-236 and M. M. Foot, ‘The Geneva King’s binder and other 16th-century bindings decorated with masks’, Association International de Bibiliophilie: XXIVe Congrès 2005, pp. 17-29). His elaborate style, influenced by Parisian models, is characterised by lavish gauffering and use of grotesque and bizarre masks (here a sad-looking king and a staring ram) as decorative elements at head and foot of covers, from which the rest of the interlacing decoration usually springs.BM STC Fr., Supplement, 11; Adams, B 1055 ; Darlow & Moule, 614; Renouard, 87 (‘depuis long-temp fort rare’); Schreiber, 113; Brunet, I, 876; Graesse, I, 394.