Between 1526 and 1534, Tyndale turned from his New Testament towards Hebrew scholarship, the first fruit of which was this appearance of the Pentateuch in 1530, the first translation from the original Hebrew into English. While there is considerable uncertainty about Tyndale's command of Hebrew, the humanist movement had produced significant aids to the study of the Hebrew Bible such as Reuchlin's grammar and lexicon (1506), and the works of Sebastian Münster. Tyndale may also have used the Santi Pagnini translation (1528) which translated from Hebrew into Latin preserving some of the Hebrew syntax. But internal evidence shows that Tyndale was capable of making independent decisions about the meanings of words and phrases in Hebrew.
Tyndale aimed at clarity and accessibility: the text is printed in legible bastarda and roman types; each of the five books has a separate title-page and introduction; the text of Exodus in enhanced with woodcut illustrations (based on cuts by Hans Holbein used in an edition of the Old Testament issued by Thomas Wolff at Basel in 1524) ; and the small format made it easy for readers to carry and consult the text. Inevitably, the edition expresses its anti-Catholic militancy in the side notes, including some twenty attacks on the papacy (e.g. at Numbers 23, where the text reads “How shall I curse whom God curseth not and how shall I defye whom the Lord defyeth not?,” Tyndale’s shoulder-note remarks, “The pope can tell howe”).
The 1530 Tyndale Pentateuch is one of the great rarities of the English Bible. ESTC records just eight copies; the Ryrie copy is one of two in private hands, and the only copy to appear at auction in more than a century.
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