PSALTERIUM. Psalterium Hebreum, Graecum, Arabicum & Caldeum cum tribus Latinis interpretationibus et glossis

Genoa, Petrus Paulus Porrus in aedibus Nicolai Iustiniani Pauli., October 1516

Folio (333 x 228 mm.), 200 unnumbered leaves, text printed in columns across double pages in Hebrew (literary), Latin translation from the Hebrew, Latin Vulgate, Greek Septuagint, Arabic, Chaldee or Aramaic Targum, literal Latin translation from the Chaldee, title printed in red and black within an elaborate woodcut Islamic-style border, thirteen woodcut initials, first opening of text with headings printed in red, woodcut printer's device at end. Bound in XVIII century stiff vellum, gold lettering piece on spine. Usual light browning on same pages, overall a very good copy frome the library of the great Italian collector Giacomo Manzoni (ex libris).First rare edition of this famous polyglot psalter by bishop Agostino Giustiniani, also known as the Octaplum Psalterium, “the second book printed in Arabic, and the first polyglot printing of any section of the Bible, preceding by four years the publication of the Complutensian Polyglot” (Schäfer Collection, 149).This is the first work published in Genoa in the 16th century, and, after its publication, another seventeen years had to pass before another work was printed in the city. This important editorial undertaking is also remembered for the unusual scholium on Psalm 19:4 (Their music goes out through all the earth, their words reach to the end of the world), containing a description of Christopher Columbus' voyages to the New World and a praise for his deeds, which is to be considered the first biography ever published of the Genoese explorer. “In this interesting sketch of the life and voyages of his fellow-townsman, Bishop Giustiniani gives an interesting account of the discovery of the new world, and states some facts not mentioned elsewhere” (Sabin). “Giustiniani's sources are unknown and the reasons for mentioning Columbus unclear. He was obviously proud of the accomplishments of a fellow Genoese. And he may have seen Columbus as God's instrument, who revealed more of God's creation and found new peoples to be brought to Christ” (Grendler, 237).Member of a prominent family who had formerly undertaken important diplomatic charges for the Republic of Genoa, Agostino Giustiniani (1470-1536) was a renowned Hebrew biblical scholar with a pronounced humanistic education. He studied for a doctorate in theology in the Dominican studium generale in Bologna, but also studied Greek, Hebrew and other languages. Short after being appointed bishop of Nebbio, in northern Corsica (1514), he decided to publish at his own expense a polyglot version of the Psalms as a first step of a more complex project which he had been preparing for many years: a polyglot Bible in Hebrew, Latin, Greek, Aramaic, and Arabic. Giustiniani dedicated the psalter to pope Leo X, probably in order to win the papal support for the publication of the entire polyglot Bible; unfortunately, his hopes would have finally proved to be vain.“Giustiniani could not find a printer with the necessary expertise and fonts in Genoa, a very minor publishing center, so he brought in a Milanese printer, Pietro Paolo Porro, and they probably labored over the book for much of a year”. “Eight parallel columns of text are spread across every two pages, verso and recto. The Hebrew text appears in column one, Giustiniani's Latin translation in column two, Jerome's Vulgate translation in column three, the Greek text from the Septuagint in column four, Giustiniani's Arabic translation in column five, the Aramaic Targum paraphrase in column six, Giustiniani's Latin translation of the Targum in column seven, and his Latin scholia and commentary in column eight. In addition, Giustiniani's commentary sometimes runs across the bottom of the two pages and continues at the top of the next two pages before the presentation of a new verse in eight columns. The complex volume must have tested Porro's skills and had to have been expensive. Nevertheless, Giustiniani printed 2,000 copies, double the size of the normal press run at that time, in paper and fifty in vellum. But he sold only a quarter of them” (Grendler, 234-235).References: Adams B-1370; Bibl. Am. Vet. 88; Brunet IV, 919; European Americana 516/4; Leclerc 1212; Sabin 66468; Sander 5957; P.F. Grendler, Italian Biblical Humanism and the Papacy, 1515-1535, in E. Rummel (ed.), Biblical Humanism and Scholasticism in the Age of Erasmus, 2008, 227-276.

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