PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF DR. CHARLES CALDWELL RYRIE
The concept of a polyglot bible was modeled after Origen's Hexapla, which had six columns of text: one in Hebrew and the rest in various translations into Greek. The Old Testament layout in the Complutensian takes the Vulgate text as the central part of each page, surrounded by the Hebrew and Greek Septuagint. In the Pentateuch is also given the Aramaic Targum Onkelos or translation (here entitled Chaldean) at the foot of the page. Both the Greek and the Aramaic versions are accompanied by literal Latin translations. For the Hebrew text, superscript letters were employed to refer to the relevant word or phrase in the Vulgate, partly so that the book could be used by those whose Hebrew was less than good.
The arrangement of the New Testament is much simpler, with the Greek and Latin texts in parallel columns. Rather than the small and unattractive Greek font used in the Old Testament, it has a splendid large type with no ligatures. This was much admired by Robert Proctor, who in his monograph on the printing of Greek sang its praises, and whose own Otter type was modeled on it. This type was used in other Greek books printed by Brocar.
One of the most important aspects of the book is the provision of linguistic apparatus, something which was also the case in the Plantin Polyglot, the Paris Polyglot, and, to a lesser extent, the London Polyglot, as well as in smaller undertakings. This apparatus, printed in 1515, comprises a Hebrew and Aramaic dictionary, the 'Vocabularium' followed by a Latin Index, the 'Interpretationes nominum' (a common feature of Bibles), two leaves on variant spellings of names, etc., and finally brief 'Introductiones artis grammatice hebraice.' Similarly at the end of the New Testament is an 'Interpretatio nominum' and a rudimentary Greek lexicon printed in three columns.
The project was initiated in about 1502 by Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros of Toledo, who founded in 1498–1500 a university at Alcalà dedicated to the three biblical languages of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin. The town, known in Latin as "Complutum,"gave the Bible its name. Ximénez financed this epic undertaking from his own personal fortune and assembled a host of eminent biblical scholars under the editorial aegis of Diego López de Zúñiga. This included the Greek scholar Demetrios Ducas, Elio Antonio de Nebrija, who was tasked with correcting the Latin text, Fernando Nuñez de Guzman, Juan and Pedro de Vergara, and three converted Jews, Alfonso de Zamora, Alfonso de Alcalá, and Pablo Coronel.
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.
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