November 8, 2011
This week’s post highlights a different type of Bible found in Special Collections: the polyglot. Polyglots present the text of the Bible in multiple languages, side-by-side on the page, in order to facilitate study and scholarship.
Special Collections’ earliest example of a polyglot Bible is the “Genoa Psalter” of 1516. This polyglot presents the text of the Psalms in Hebrew, Latin (Vulgate), Greek (Septuagint), Arabic, and Chaldee, with literal Latin translations of the Hebrew and Chaldee and a Latin commentary. Besides its rarity (400 copies were printed, and the Genoa city council ordered them destroyed), the Genoa Psalter is also famous because the commentary for Psalm 19 contains a short biography of Christopher Columbus.
Special Collections owns over a dozen polyglot Bibles, including Henri Estienne’s polyglot of 1569, the eight-volume polyglot printed by Christopher Plantin in 1571-72, and the London polyglot issued by Brian Walton in 1657. Polyglot Bibles in Special Collections, as well as modern editions in the circulating collection, can be found by searching the library catalog for the title “Bible polyglot.”