The Nevv Testament of Iesus Christ, translated faithfully into English, out of the authentical LatinRheims, [Douai] by John Folgy, 1582
FIRST EDITION. 4to. pp. [xxviii], 745, [xxvii]. a-c⁴, d², A-5D⁴, 5E². Roman letter, some italic, woodcut initials, woodcut and typographical head and tail pieces, title within ornate typographical border, floriated and historiated woodcut initials, wood and metal cut head and tail pieces, early mss. autograph crossed out on title. Mostly light age yellowing, title dusty, lower blank margin replaced, last two leaves of table re-margined and mounted, occasional light marginal waterstain, mark or spot. A good, unusually clean copy, with good margins, in C17th calf, covers with unidentified later monogram S. H over a cross gilt at centres, rebacked, raised bands a.e.r., brass clasps and catches, corners and edges restored.
Rare first edition in English of the Roman Catholic version of the New Testament, with extensive commentary and notes. It remained the standard and virtually the only English Catholic bible for some four hundred years. (The Old Testament followed in 1609-10; although it was finished considerably earlier it was not published for lack of funds). “The work of preparing such a version was undertaken by the members of the English College at Douai, in Flanders, founded by William Allen (afterwards cardinal) in 1568. The chief share of the translating was borne by Dr. Gregory Martin, formerly of St. John’s College, Oxford. His text was revised by Thomas Worthington, Richard Bristowe, John Reynolds, and Allen himself — all of them Oxford men. A series of notes was added, designed to answer the theological arguments of the Reformers; these were prepared by Allen, assisted by Bristowe and Worthington.The object of the work was, of course not limited to controversial purposes; in the case of the New Testament, especially, it was meant for pious use among Catholics. The fact however, that the primary end was controversial explains the course adopted by the translators. In the first place they translated directly, not from the original Hebrew or Greek, but from the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome. This had been declared authoritative for Catholics by the Council of Trent; but it was also commonly admitted that the text was purer than in any manuscripts at that time extant in the original languages. Then, also, in the translation, many technical words were retained bodily, such as pasch, parasceve, azymes, etc. In some instances, also where it was found difficult or impossible to find a suitable English equivalent for a Latin word, the latter was retained in an anglicized form. Thus in Phil., ii, 8, we get “He exinanited himself”, and in Hebrews 9:28, “Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many”. It was considered that an ordinary reader, finding the word unintelligible, would pause and inquire its meaning and that this was preferable to satisfying him with an inadequate rendering.” Catholic encyclopaedia.
“Following in the counter-Reformation tradition of Catholic polemical Bibles dating back to Luther’s early Catholic opponents, this version of the New Testament included not just a vernacular translation from the Latin Vulgate but also copious annotations denouncing Protestant heresies, alleging that false and heretical corruptions had been deliberately made in Protestant English translations of the Bible.” Torrance Kirby. ‘Paul’s Cross and the Culture of Persuasion in England, 1520-1640. “The appearance of a Catholic Bible in English undermined traditional protestant criticism that the Roman church kept scripture out of the hands of the laity. Instead protestant theologians such as Thomas Cartwright, William Whitaker, and William Fulke attacked the credentials of the translators and denounced their work as filled with error. Despite such criticism, revised versions of Martin’s translation remained extremely popular throughout the English-speaking world for nearly four hundred years” (ODNB)
The notes take up a good deal of the volume and have both a polemical and patristic character. They also offer insights on issues of translation, and on the Hebrew and Greek source texts of the Vulgate. From the point of view of scholarship, the Douay-Rheims Bible is seen as particularly accurate. Although not officially mentioned as one of the versions to be consulted, it is now recognized to have had a large influence on the King James Version. The Douai version was printed in very small quantities for export to England, and suffered from persecution whilst there, not to mention centuries of use; complete copies in good condition are rare.