[PSALMS]. Pseaulmes de David, Tant en Latin, qu\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'en François

Lyon, Balthazar Arnoullet, 1554


16mo. in eights, pp. 79 [i]; 419 [xiii]: aa-ee8, a-z8, A-D8. Roman letter, Psalms in double column with the French translation in Roman letter, the Latin in Italic, printed in red and black throughout, entirely ruled in red. Woodcut printer’s device on title, small white on black criblé initials, metal-cut ornaments. Light age yellowing, rare marginal thumb mark or spot. A very good copy, crisp and clean in beautiful contemporary calf gilt à la cire, covers gilt ruled in a complex strap-work design painted in black, green and blue, gilt scrolled tools with fleurons painted in white, all within a gilt ruled black painted border, spine with gilt ruled raised bands richly gilt in compartments fleurons painted white and blue, upper joint worn in a couple of places, lower very slightly rubbed, extremity of corners very expertly restored, all edges richly gilt and gauffered.

Extremely rare books of Psalms in a stunning, and remarkable preserved contemporary polychrome strap-work binding ‘á la cire’, with the translation of the Psalms, made directly from the Hebrew into Latin by Santes Pagnini, printed opposite the French translation, also made directly into French from the Hebrew. The Dominican Sante Pagnini, a pupil of Savonarola, studied both Greek and Hebrew, and became one of the leading philologists and Biblicists of his day. His new Latin translation of the Bible was published in Lyon 1528. Pagnini was the first to divide the text into chapters and verses, and his division of the Hebrew Bible has become standard. His Latin translation of the Psalms was constantly reprinted, often with parallel texts in French or in Hebrew. His main work, the “Veteris et Novi Testamenti Nova Translatio”, was the first Latin translation of the Pentateuch using the original Hebrew since the late 4th-century scholar Jerome’s work. Pagnini prefaced it with his Latin translation of the book of Psalms. Notably, he also incorporated rabbinical commentaries into his version. His translation arrived as the both the Protestant Reformation and the advent of printing amplified the Catholic Church’s concerns with the translation of Scripture into vernacular languages other than Latin. The printer Balthazar Arnoullet had been arrested the previous year in 1553, along with Michael Servetus, for having printed clandestinely at Vienne, Servetus’ work, heretical to both Catholic and Protestants, “The Restitution of Christianity.” Arnoullet was released after three months of detention claiming that he has been misled in the affair by his brother in law and fellow printer Guéroult who had set up the clandestine press. Servetus escaped from Vienne but was captured in Geneva several months later and was burned at the stake after having been judged a heretic by Calvin. Arnoullet returned to Lyon where he was able to continue printing until his death in 1556.

This binding was most likely made in Lyon, where, with Paris, the best such bindings were executed during the reigns of Francis I and Henry II, often for the likes of Grolier and the English collector Thomas Wotton – the quality of this binding certainly matches those made for Wotton. Originally influenced by Islamic models, this type of strap-work decoration came from Italy to France, where it reached new heights of artistic creation, making some of the finest bindings of the period, with the additional use, as here, of painted onlays. They represent one of the most charming manifestations of the elegance of the Renaissance in France. Goldschmidt stated that these bindings were “great artistic creations” that represent “the highest achievements in the art of bookbinding in the Renaissance period”. This copy is particularly well preserved with only very minor restoration to the corners, and the paint work mostly intact.

Extremely rare: USTC gives two locations only, one at Copenhagen and one at the Württembergische Landesbibliothek, and we have found no other. We can find no copies in North American libraries.

USTC No. 14481. Gültlingen, vol. 9, pp. 125, no. 132. Baudrier, vol. 10, pp. 145.
Stock Number: L3429 Categories: , , , ,