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1619 issue of the 1591 first edition of the Gospels in Arabic and Latin

Arba`at Anajil Yasu` al-Masih Sayyidina al-Muqaddasah. Sacrosancta quatuor Iesu Christi D. N. Evangelia. Arabice scripta, Latine reddita, figurisq[ue] ornata.
Rome, Typographia Medicea, (1591)-1619. Folio (26 x 36.5 cm). Title-page printed in red and black, with the woodcut Medici coat of arms 81 woodcut illustrations in the text (plus 68 repeats), some initialled LP for the block cutter (Leonardo Parassole or less likely Lucas Pennis) and some also AT for the artist (Antonio Tempesta). Set in naskh Arabic type with the interlinear Latin text in roman. Contemporary Italian flexible boards with manuscript title on spine. [4], 9-462, [2] pp.
€ 18,000
One of two simultaneous 1619 issues of the first edition of the four Gospels in Arabic with the interlinear Latin text, containing all leaves of the 1591 first issue, but adding two preliminary leaves. The main text was prepared at the same time and printed by the same press as the first edition of the Gospels in Arabic only. These were the first books produced by the Typographia Medicae Orientale established by Cardinal Ferdinando de Medici (from 1587 Grand Duke of Tuscany) in 1584, initially under the auspices of Pope Gregory XIII, to spread the word of Christ in the Orient. Supervised by the able scholar Giovambattista Raimondi (1536-1614), its strength lay in oriental, especially Arabic, printing. The press printed 3900 copies of the Arabic and Latin Gospels, intending for missionaries to distribute most of them in non-Christian lands. There were four issues, the first in 1591, two in 1619 (the distinction between these two seems to have gone unnoticed in the literature) and the last in 1774, the four differing only in their preliminaries. The wording of the two 1619 title-pages is identical line for line, but one shows the woodcut coat of arms of Cardinal Carlo Madruzzi, while the present issue shows the Medici arms (the present Medici issue also has "Evangelia" in black and "Arabicé ... ornata." in red, while the Madruzzi issue has the colours the other way round, probably because the cardinals hat in the Madruzzi arms is printed in red). Few catalogues indicate which coat of arms appears on the title-page, but the Bibliothèque Nationale and Bibliothèque Mazarine in Paris have the Medici issue and the Plantin-Moretus Museum has the Madruzzi issue.
The great French punchcutter Robert Granjon cut the famous large Arabic type, the third and perhaps the best of his five naskh Arabic types, for the Typographia Medicae in 1585 but the press allowed another press to use for a 1586 book before it produced its own first books. It is a remarkable technical achievement, cleverly adapting the cursive joined Arabic script and its vowel points to the constraints of movable type with ligatures and alternate characters, and it served as the model for most of the types that followed for more than a century. Like all early printed editions of the Arabic Gospels, the text is based on the Alexandrian Vulgate (cf. Darlow & Moule 1636). Leonardo Sionita prepared the Latin text (some sources say Gabriel Sionita, but he would have been only 14 in 1591). As issued in 1591, the book begins with page 9, leaving room for four preliminary leaves that were never printed, so it has only a drop-title in Arabic and Latin on the first page of text: Evangelium Iesu Christi quemadmodum scripsit .... The 1619 issues normally contains 2 preliminary leaves: the title-page and the printers note to the reader, both versos blank, but some copies of the Madruzzi issue add a dedication to him and his portrait. The two 1619 issues, even counted together, remain rarer than the 1591 issue.
Occasional browning; a good, untrimmed and hence wide-margined copy in its original temporary binding. Darlow & Moule 1643; Mortimer 64 note; Philologia Orientalis 374a note; Streit XVI, p. 866, no. 5138; USTC 4022712; for the Arabic type: Vervliet, Palaeotypography, p. 454 (type 5).
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Book history, education, learning & printing  >  Greek & Non-Western Types
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