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

The power of the image

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Officiolum di Francesco da Barberino (Tab.b.932-933)

The Tuscan poet and lawyer Francesco da Barberino(1264-1348) may not be as familiar today as his Florentine contemporaries Dante and Giotto, but he occupies a unique position at the intersection of poetry and painting in Italy at the dawn of the fourteenth century. He knew Dante – indeed the earliest reference to the still incomplete Divine Comedy is in one of Francesco’s works of c.1313. He also collaborated with Giotto, providing him with visual ideas for the Arena Chapel in Padua. Francesco’s cultural experience stretched beyond Italy: he travelled widely in France to the court of Philip the Fair in Paris and the papal curia in Avignon, acquiring a deep familiarity with Provencal poetry during five years of exile.

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Lukas Cranach the Younger 500

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Portrait-medallion of M. Luther by L. Cranach d.J. on title page of P. Melanchthon’s biography of Luther (F*.12.44(F))

500 years ago, on October 4, 1515, the Renaissance artist Lukas Cranach the Younger was born. To mark this anniversary a number of major exhibitions are being put on in Germany. The main exhibition is being held in Wittenberg, the town associated with Luther and the Reformation and where Luther famously nailed his 95 theses to the church door. Wittenberg was also the location of Cranach’s workshop which he took over from his father, Lukas Cranach the Elder. Both father and son were closely linked with the Reformation as they created portraits of the main protagonists of the Reformation and painted altar pieces with images that served the cause of the Reformation.

The exhibition in Wittenberg is unique as it is the first one to be solely devoted to the work of Lukas Cranach the Younger. Until now scholars have considered his work mainly in the context of the work of his father. The exhibition and related publications aim to consider Cranach the Younger as an artist in his own right. The exhibition has been designated as “State Exhibition Saxony-Anhalt”, thus giving it further significance.

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A mirror on to Rome

Speculum Romanae Magnificentiae, [speculum image number, A29], Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library. (Click on the image to enlarge)

The current exhibition at the Courtauld Gallery, Bruegel to Freud : prints from the Courtauld Gallery, which runs until September 21st, gives an introduction to the Courtauld’s wonderful collection of prints. Just one book is on display, the Courtauld’s copy of Speculum Romanae magnificentiae, open at a splendid view of the Colosseum by Ambrogio Brambilla. Occasionally nowadays – but only rarely – an exhibition curator has the opportunity to digitise lots of images from a volume, so that the visitor is given the chance to view all the content. More usually – as here – the visitor has to be content with one opening. Jotting down details of the publication, it was very satisfying to return to Cambridge, investigate on LibrarySearch, and find I had the opportunity to examine another copy of the Speculum Romanae magnificentiae at my leisure, and several related publications, albeit scattered across several of the University’s library collections. Continue reading