The first polyglot Bible (Part 2)

It is very likely, and widely accepted, that Nebrija recommended the printer Arnaldo Guillén de Brocar to Cisneros. Brocar had a good reputation and had exclusive rights to print Nebrija’s works, so he had been printing his books since 1503.

Page of Mark's Gospel in volume 5. Click on image to see enlarged.

Page of Mark’s Gospel in volume 5 (Young.5). Click on image to see enlarged.

The typography of these volumes is also a great achievement. How to present a complex distribution of the different texts was a problem solved ably by Brocar. He cast new types for several of the alphabets used in the project. The Hebrew and Aramaic types are particularly appreciated; they have, as stated by the incunabulist Julián Martín Abad: “clearly more beautiful designs than those we find in the Iberian Hebraic incunabula”. Brocar cast two different Greek types: one in the Aldine style, and the most remarkable, used in the New Testament; “undoubtedly the finest Greek font ever cut” according to the typographer Robert Proctor. The illustration below shows the distribution of the texts in the first volume. The inner column has the Greek text (Septuagint) with an interlineal Latin translation, the central column has the Latin Vulgate, while the Hebrew text is in the outer column. Continue reading

The first polyglot Bible (Part 1)

The Complutensian Polyglot Bible was the first printed polyglot Bible, and as a result the one that set the model for the following polyglots. 2017 is the 500th anniversary of both the end of the printing process of this Bible and the death of Cardinal Cisneros, promoter and sponsor of the project.

Title page of volume 1 (Sel.2.69)

Title page of volume 1 (Sel.2.69) including Tunstall’s inscription (click on image to see enlarged)

The University of Cambridge has eight complete sets of the Complutensian Polyglot catalogued (four at the UL, two at Trinity College and one each at Corpus Christi and St John’s College libraries). F.J. Norton recorded several more complete or partial copies. He states that one of the UL copies has perhaps the longest history of use in the same library, exceeded only by those in the Vatican and Colombina (Seville) Libraries. It was presented by Bishop Cuthbert Tunstall (1474-1559) when he was still bishop of London; that is to say, no later than February 1530 (see inscription on t.p.). Continue reading