Lot 44
  • 44

Bible in English. Tyndale's Pentateuch

300,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • The Firste Boke of Moses called Genesis [−Fyfte Boke of Moses called Deuteronomye.] Colophon to Genesis: Emprented at Malborow in the lande of Hesse, by me Hans Luft, the yere of oure Lorde. M.CCCCC.xxx the xvij dayes of Januarij, [but: Antwerp: Johan Hoochstraten, 1530]
  • paper, ink, leather
8vo (6 x 3 5/8 in.; 154 x 93 mm). Gothic letter (with roman). First 9 leaves (π1—8, B1) and three divisional titles in facsimile. Full-page woodcut illustrations in Exodus, one 8-line historiated woodcut initial, a few smaller woodcut initials; approximately 36 leaves remargined at fore-edge with shoulder-notes supplied in excellent pen and ink facsimile, a few leaves supplied from a shorter copy and remargined at foot. Nineteenth-century English blue morocco.


Thomas Shaw (sixteenth-century signature in the margin of second leaf) — Lord Amherst of Hackney (Sotheby’s Wellington Street, 3 December 908, lot 97) — Robin Howard, C.B.E., bequeathed to — The Contemporary Dance trust Ltd (Sotheby’s London, 1 March 1976, lot 14), sold to — Alan G. Thomas, acting as agent for Dr. Ryrie


Formatting the Word of God 7.2; Herbert 4; STC 2350; ESTC S1193; Price & Ryrie, pp. 39-60, passim; cf. David Daniel, William Tyndale: A Biography (Yale, 1994)

Catalogue Note

The extremely rare first edition of any portion of the Old Testament to be printed in English, and the basis of all subsequent English versions.

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.