Polyglot Bible leaf. Latin, Greek, Syriac & Arabic. 1657

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A pinnacle of polyglot scholarship

and  letterpress printing.

The last great polyglot Bible, compiled by Brian Walton, was published in 1657 in 9 languages (Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, Persian, Ethiopic and Samaritan. The Book of Ecclesiasticus, also known as The Wisdom of Sirach, from which this leaf comes, was rejected by St. Jerome when he was translating the Bible into Latin circa 450 and Protestants also rejected it during the Reformation - hence the use of only four languages used by Walton for Sirach. (See Notes below).

RECTO:  Text printed by letterpress on watermarked rag paper. There are multiple fonts used for the languages - Latin, Greek, Syriac (a dialect of Aramaic) and Arabic with Latin translations of the last three.

VERSO:  As Recto.

ORIGIN:  London.

DATE: 1657.

CONTENT: The text is from the Book of Ecclesiasticus, (not to be confused with Ecclesiastes). Ecclesiasticus is also known as The Wisdom of Sirach.

CONDITION:  The leaf is in very good/excellent condition, with full margins and sharply printed text. The edges are lightly browned but the high quality rag paper has preserved the text perfectly. The leaf is unconditionally guaranteed genuine.

SIZE:  Leaf: approx. 445x280 mm.

NOTES. A 'polyglot' is a book that contains side-by-side versions of the same text in several different languages. Some editions of the Bible or its parts are polyglots, in which the Hebrew and Greek originals are exhibited along with historical translations. Polyglots are useful for studying the history of the text and its interpretation. This last great polyglot Bible came out of the English Civil War. Brian Walton, an Anglican priest and scholar, was one of many intellectuals loyal to the British monarchy who lost his ecclesiastical position after the victory of the Parliamentary forces under Oliver Cromwell. Eventually, Walton found refuge at Oxford University, where he decided to create his polyglot Bible. Walton was convinced that providing the people with the Bible in its original languages and most ancient translations was the best way to bring order to a faith in chaos. In collaboration with other scholars most of whom were also displaced after the war Walton led the production of the most ambitious polyglot yet, featuring 9 languages (Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Arabic, Persian, Ethiopic, and Samaritan). Walton believed that all these versions together would make the truest glasses to represent the sense and reading of Scripture. Although not as aesthetically pleasing as its predecessors, the London polyglot bettered them all in terms of its scholarly impact; Walton's edition and his introductory material were indispensable texts for biblical studies well into the 19th century. Syriac is a dialect of Middle Aramaic that is written in the Syriac alphabet, a derivation of the Aramaic alphabet. Having first appeared in the early first century AD in Edessa, classical Syriac became a major literary language throughout the Middle East from the 4th to the 8th centuries, preserved in a large body of Syriac literature. Indeed, Syriac literature comprises roughly 90% of the extant Aramaic literature. Sirach, or Ecclesiasticus is one of the Deuterocanonical books that Jerome rejected when he was translating the Bible into Latin circa 450 AD. This was because no Hebrew version of these texts could be found, even though they were present in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint). However, they were eventually accepted by the Church, and most of them remained part of the Bible. Protestants rejected these books during the Reformation as lacking divine authority - hence the use of only four languages used by Walton for Sirach. Interestingly, most of the Hebrew text of Sirach was found in three Dead Sea scrolls uncovered at Qumran in 1946/47.

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