Lot 21
  • 21

Bible. Polyglot

50,000 - 70,000 GBP
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  • Vetus testamentum multiplici lingua nunc primo impressum. Et imprimis Pentateuchus Hebraico Greco atque Chaldaico idiomate. Adiuncta unicuique sua latina interpretatione (Secunda pars veteris testamenti; Tertia pars veteris testamenti; Quarta pars veteris testamenti; Novum testamentum grece & latine; Vocabularium hebraicum atque chaldaicum). [Alcalà de Henares: Arnao Guillén de Brocar, 1514-1517]
  • Paper
6 volumes, Royal folio (340 x 246mm.), woodcut arms of Cardinal Jiménez printed in red on title-pages (those in vols 1 and 5 printed in black), titles within woodcut border, woodcut initials, woodcut printer's devices at end of vols 4-6, early annotations, vols 1-5 in uniform early eighteenth-century blue morocco gilt for Prince Eugene of Savoy, gilt arms on covers, spines gilt in compartments with monogram EE and crest, edges gilt, volume 6 bound later to style, slight marginal damp-staining, occasional slight spotting and browning, small tears to title-pages of vols 1 and 2 where inscription struck out; vol.1: lacking [cross]8, hole at foot of final leaf; vol.2: second leaf strengthened with some loss of text; vol.3: small tears at head of title, bbb4 torn with loss of text, lacking leaf of errata; vol. 4: lacking 2 leaves of errata, vol.5: lacking a-f6 g4 at end ("Introductio ad grecas litteras" and glossary); vol.6: lacking first two leaves (one blank) with title supplied in facsimile; bindings slightly scuffed, some wear to joints, spines slightly faded with some wear at head and foot


Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663-1736), armorial binding; Adam Clarke (the Wesleyan Methodist minister and scholar, 1762-1832), note in his hand in vol. 1 and letter from him to Joseph Mendham dated 1822 describing his purchase of the book from R. Ogle and his subsequent sale of it to a bookseller, Priestly, who then sold it to William Roscoe (1753-1831), the Liverpool merchant and historian, his sale, Liverpool, 19 August 1816, lot 552, £35-14-0; bought by Joseph Mendham, with a note in his hand "Roscoe, Liverpool. £36. J.M. 1816".

Prince Eugene of Savoy, considered by Napoleon to be one of the only military strategists whose campaigns were worthy of study by posterity, served under three Holy Roman Emperors in campaigns in central Europe and the Balkans as well as in the War of the Grand Alliance (1689-1697) and the War of the Spanish Succession (1701-1714). His library now forms the core of the Austrian National Library.

A note in Mendham's hand describes his addition of the sixth volume (possibly bound by him to style) to the five-volume set he had bought at the sale of William Roscoe's books in August 1816.


Darlow & Moule 1412; Norton, Printing in Spain 1501-1520, 27; Mendham B143


Condition is described in the main body of the cataloguing, where appropriate
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

A complete set of the Complutensian Polyglot, the first polyglot Bible and one of the finest monuments of the art of printing. Although printed from 1514 to 1517, its papal privilege is dated 1520 and it only appeared for sale in 1522, four years after the Aldine Septuagint and six years after Erasmus's Greek New Testament.

The project was initiated in about 1502 by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, who had founded in 1498-1500 a university at Alcalà dedicated to the three biblical languages of Hebrew, Greek and Latin. The editing was coordinated by the great scholar Antonio de Nebrija, who in fact only joined the project around 1513, with the help of Alfonso de Zamora, a converted Jew, and others. Six hundred paper copies and six on vellum were produced, of which over 150 are still attested in various libraries. It was well-received by the scholarly community and used for many later printings of the Bible, including the Plantin Polyglot of 1569-1572.