A Page From A Medieval Greek Bible Is Now Mine – Huzzah!

See those two images up there? Those are scans of my latest acquisition, and I’m so excited about it. It’s a page from a Greek Bible that was printed in 1526. If you don’t want to do the math, that’s 484 years ago. According to the seller,

This is a leaf from a Biblia Graeca, Old Testament (Septuagint), printed in Strassburg by W. Kopfel in 1526. Originally from volume 2 of a 4 volume set and is the third edition of the complete Greek Bible by Johannes Lonicerus (Lonitzer). The octavo paper measures 162 x 99 mm. in totality and contains 30 lines of Ancient Greek script printed single column. The verso contains the same amount of lines and type.

I found this on eBay about two weeks ago, and I just had to have it. It’s nothing really special, as old documents go, but it’s the oldest thing that I have ever owned, and it fits in nicely with my Greek hobby. It contains bits of two chapters of the book of Esther. It starts partially through chapter 6, verse 1, on the front and goes through about half of chapter 7, verse 8, on the back. I can read some of it, but since it’s in Ancient Greek, and I am a student of Koine, it will take some extra effort to actually translate it.

One thing that is very interesting about it is the typography. There are symbols that I’ve never seen before, and weird ligatures that make it quite hard to read in places. I don’t know if this is typical of printing in the 1500’s or not.

What I really like about this piece is thinking about what the world was like when it was printed. Think about it: it was printed in 1526. That was only 34 years after Columbus set sail in 1492. The first British colonies in what would eventually become the United States would not be founded for another 81 years. It was printed 9 years after Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of All Saints’ Church in Wittenberg, Germany, and only 5 years after he was excommunicated from the Catholic Church. It was the same year that William Tyndale first published a version of the bible in English.

This thing was printed a long time ago. And now it’s mine.

7 thoughts on “A Page From A Medieval Greek Bible Is Now Mine – Huzzah!

  1. That is so awesome! I’m very jealous. The oldest item I own is 1780’s so you have me beat by a mile! Plus yours is a piece of Christian history!

  2. I noticed several things about this text.
    1) It’s not in Ancient Greek, but Koine.
    2) It’s marked in chapters and verses. Chapter 7 is clearly marked with an Arabic numeral, but the verses correspond to anywhere from one to several of ours.
    3) In 7:5 there appears to be a textual variation from the present LXX text where OSTIS is written as OS, but with what looks like a d superscribed over the O.

    • Interesting. I thought that the Septuagint was in Ancient Greek as opposed to Koine. As to the Arabic 7, I hadn’t noticed that until you pointed it out, but it clearly is a 7. That superscript ‘d’ you mention to me looks like a rough breathing mark and an acute accent sort of mashed together, with the acute essentially straight up. That’s the kind of thing I was talking about when I said “interesting” typography. 🙂 Thanks for your comments. I really appreciate your observations.

    • Right now, it’s inside a mylar bag, similar to what comic book collectors keep their comics in. I was planning on framing it and hanging it on my wall.

  3. I guess it is too late now, but isn’t the purchase of book fragments creating perverse incentives — just like buying ivory products does harm to elephants?

    An ancient book is often worth more (in terms of short term financial gain to the seller) when it is broken into pages and sold page-by-page, but in doing so, the long term cultural value of an intact artifact is being destroyed.

    • I had not thought of it that way, but you have a valid point. After I bought it, it occurred to me that the seller had the book and was just selling it a page at a time, and I wished I had the whole thing. I hadn’t thought of it as a negative, though.

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