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The Bible was the first book printed in Europe, and has been issued in more editions, and in more translations, than any other book in the world. An edition of the Bible or a biblical commentary was almost invariably the first book published by the earliest Hebrew printers. Indeed, editions of the Bible and its commentaries constitute more than one third of all Hebrew books printed in the incunable period. Displayed here are some of the oldest and rarest editions of the Bible published in Hebrew, Latin, Greek and other languages during the first three centuries of printing in Europe.

Bible. Latin (editio princeps)
Biblia Latina
Mainz: Johann Gutenberg, ca. 1455.

Gutenberg of Mainz is generally considered the inventor of printing by movable type. His famous 42-line Bible in Latin was the first book printed in Europe, of which this is a single leaf (Exodus 29:5-30:20, on the consecration of Aaron and his sons, and the construction of an altar for incense). Of the fewer than 50 surviving copies of the Gutenberg Bible, no complete copy is found in Canada.

Bible. Pentateuch. Hebrew
Graphical element
[ Hamishah humshei Torah ]
Lisbon: Eliezer Toledano, 8 July -
6 August 1491.

This edition of the Five Books of Moses was the first published in the city of Lisbon. The biblical text, considered to be particularly accurate, is accompanied by the Aramaic Targum of Onkelos in the outer margins, both in square characters and with vowel points and accents. The medieval commentary of Rashi appears in Spanish rabbinic type both above and below these texts.

Bible. Pentateuch. Hebrew
Graphical element
[ Perush ha-Torah le-rav rabenu
Mosheh bar Nahman ]
Constantinople: Samuel b. David
Nahmias, 1522.

The Nahmias family, exiles from Spain, set up the first printing press in the Ottoman empire at Constantinople, before the end of the 15th century. Before 1530, over 100 Hebrew books were published by their press, among them this early "rabbinic" edition of the Pentateuch and Targum surrounded by the commentaries of Nahmanides, Ibn Ezra, and Rashi.

Bible. Former Prophets. Hebrew
Graphical element
[ Nevi'im rishonim ]
Soncino: Joshua Solomon Soncino,
15 October 1485.

The Pentateuch, the Pslams, and the Five Scrolls were the first books of the Bible printed in Hebrew in Italy and Spain. This first edition of the complete text of the former prophets, together with the commentary of David Kimhi, was issued in an apparent effort to fill the gap of the missing books.

Bible. Latin. Vulgate
Biblia Latina
Venice: Johannes Herbort,
de Seligenstadt, 30 April 1484.

Johannes Herbort published this edition of Jerome's Latin Bible during the last year of his life. The Gothic-character text leaves spaces with guide letters for initial capitals, whose rubrication was later added by hand.

Bible. Hebrew
Graphical element
[ Hamishah humshei Torah ]
Antwerp: Christopher Plantin, 1566.

One of the greatest printers and publishers of the Renaissance, the French humanist Plantin issued his first Hebrew Bible in three different sizes, of which this is the smallest (sextodecimo). Many copies of Plantin's Bible were sold to Moroccan Jewish scholars through his agent in North Africa.

Bible. Hebrew
Graphical element
[ Hamishah humshei Torah ]
Antwerp: Christopher Plantin

Pocket books were not an invention of the 20th century. This petite edition of the Hebrew Bible, in tiny print without vowels, displays the elegance characteristic of Plantin's press.

Bible. Hebrew
Graphical element
[ Derekh ha-kodesh ]
sive Biblia sacra ...
Hamburg: Johann Saxo, 1587.

Edited by the Christian Hebraist Elias Hutterus, "Hutter's Hebrew Bible" was intended as an aid to students of the original text: the root letters of words are given in solid type, and the inflectional letters are in hollow type.

Printer's mark Robert Estienne
Bible. Hebrew
Graphical element
[ Torah nevi'im u-ketuvim ]
Paris: Robertus Stephanus, 1539-1544.

Robert Estienne, the most eminent scholar-printer of his century, was appointed royal printer of Hebrew in 1539. This is his first edition of the Hebrew Bible, each of whose parts has a separate title page in Hebrew and Latin bearing his olive tree device. François Vatable, professor of Hebrew at the University of Paris, edited the commentary of Kimhi that accompanies the Twelve Prophets.

Bible. Hebrew
Graphical element
[ Arba'ah ve-esrim ]
Basel: Hieronymus Froben and Nicolaus
Episcopius, 1536.

Sebastian Münster, the foremost Christian Hebraist of his day, edited this first complete edition of the Hebrew text of the Bible by a Christian. Like many of Münster's Hebrew works, it was issued by the Froben press, the leading humanist press in Germany.

Bible. Hebrew
Graphical element
[ Hamishah humshei Torah ]
Geneva: Petrus de la Rouvière,

P. de la Rouvière's editions of the Hebrew Bible are in fact reprints of the Venetian editions of Giustiniani published in the middle of the 16th century. The imprint, entirely in Hebrew, gives the equivalent "Cephas Elon" as the printer's name, and the place of publication is sometimes mistakenly read as Genoa.

Bible. Hebrew-Greek-Latin
Biblia Universa et Hebraica ...
Leipzig: Christian Kirchner, 1657.

This Christian Bible includes the Old Testament in Hebrew and both the Apocrypha and New Testament in Greek, all with interlinear Latin translation. The Latin version of the Hebrew Bible, prepared by the Dominican Santes Pagnini, was the first since that of Jerome based directly on the original Hebrew.

Bible. Latin. Vulgate
Biblia. Hebraea, Chaldea, Graeca &
Latina nomina ... restituta, cum
Latina interpretatione
Paris: Robertus Stephanus, 1537-1540.

Stephanus' third folio edition of the Bible, this edition incorporates numerous revisions and is based on a larger number of manuscripts. Although a Latin Bible, it includes the first printed version of the apocryphal Prayer of Manasseh in Greek, entitled Greek Title
inserted after II Chronicles.

`Great He Bible� 1611
Bible. English. Authorised
The Holy Bible, Conteyning the Old
Testament, and The New: Newly
Translated out of the Originall
tongues: & with the former
Translations diligently compared
and revised by his Maiesties
speciall Cõmandment
London: Robert Barker, 1611.

This is the first issue of the first edition of the King James Version of the English Bible. Known as the "Great He Bible," it includes many textual errors, and renders Ruth 3:15: "and he went into the citie" (not necessarily an error).

`Great She Bible� London 1611 (1613)
Bible. English. Authorised
The Holy Bible, Conteyning the Old
Testament, And The New: Newly
Translated out of the Originall
Tongues: and with the former
Translations diligently compared
and revised by his Maiesties
speciall Commandment
London: Robert Barker, 1611 (1613).

This second issue of the first edition of the King James Version is known as the "Great She Bible," rendering Ruth 3:15: "and she went into the citie." Although the "she" version became generally accepted in later English editions, the original Hebrew actually employs the masculine.

Bible. Psalms. German
Psalterium Davidis, Auszlegung aller
Psalmen des Königliche Propheten
Davids / Richtig abgetheilet / und
nützlich erkleret
Leipzig: Henning, 1594.

One of the last German Psalters published in the 16th century, this very rare and worm-eaten edition follows the arrangement of the preacher Hieronymous Mencelius (Menzel), whose commentary accompanies the text.

Bible. German. Luther
Biblia, Das ist: Die gantze Heilige
Schrift Altes und Neues Testaments
Nürnberg: In Verlegung Johann
Andrëa Endters seel. Erben, 1736.

The appearance of Martin Luther's German translation of the Bible, a landmark in European literary history, was one of the most significant events of the Reformation. A classic of Neuhochdeutsch, the translation of the Old Testament was based on an early printed Hebrew edition, with some reliance on rabbinic interpretation.

Bible. English
The Holy Bible, Containing the Old
Testament and the New: Newly
Translated out of the Original
Tongues: And with the former
Translations Diligently Compared
and Revised. By His Majesty's
Special Command
Oxford: John Baskett, 1717.

A magnificent edition in two volumes, large type, and with many misprints, Baskett's "Vinegar Bible" is also commonly referred to as "A Baskettfull of Errors."

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