by Hugh Cahill, Senior Information Assistant, Special Collections.
Title page of:Psalterium, Hebreum, Grecum, Arabicum, & Chaldeum : cum tribus Latinus interpretationibus & glossis. Genuæ: Petrus Paulus Porrus, 1516. [Marsden Collection R2/7]
The Genoa Psalter or the Psalterium Octaplum, as it is also known, is a masterpiece of typography and scholarship. The editor of this beautiful book, Agostino Giustiniani (1470-1536) was from a patrician Genovese family. He joined the Dominicans in 1487 and eventually became bishop of Nebbio in Corsica. Giustiniani was an acquaintance of Erasmus and Thomas More and throughout his life he was a dedicated student of Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic and Arabic. Giustiniani intended this Psalter to be a forerunner to an entire polyglot Bible.
Yet the importance of the Genoa Psalter does not rest on its novelty but on its beauty and its scholarship. The main text is attractively laid out in eight parallel columns across facing pages. The first seven columns contain the Psalms in Hebrew, a literal Latin translation of the Hebrew text, the Vulgate version of the Psalms, the Greek Septuagint version, an Arabic version, an Aramaic version, and a Latin translation of the Aramaic text. Giustiniani was helped in the preparation of the Greek text by Jacobus Furnius. The Arabic version was prepared from two manuscripts owned by Giustiniani (one Egyptian and one Syrian) with the help of Baptista Cigala and is one of the earliest examples of Arabic printing using moveable type. Only one earlier extant example is known, the Kitab salat al-sawa'i, a Christian prayerbook printed in Fano, Italy in 1514 for export to the Christian community in Syria. The title of the Psalter is printed in red and black in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic and is contained within a magnificent woodcut arabesque border. The dedication (to Pope Leo X) and the colophon are also printed in these languages.
Portrait of Christopher Columbus, from:Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas. The general history of the vast continent and islands of America ... Translated into English by Capt. John Stevens. London : Printed for Jer. Batley, 1725-1726. [Rare Collection E18 H43]