In Armenian, Before 1287
The first Armenian manuscript to enter the Vatican collection in the fifteenth century, this finely illuminated thirteenth-century codex may have been donated by the Armenian delegates at the Council of Ferrara-Florence (1438-45). It contains a vast miscellany of texts. These are mainly ecclesiastical--the liturgical sections are particularly important for the history of the Armenian church--but there are also texts on chronology, geography, astronomy, mensuration, philosophy, and history. Shown here is the second part of the fifth of the Eusebian canon tables designed to indicate which passages in one of the Gospels are in agreement with the other three Gospels. Their use is explained in the epistle that Eusebius of Caesarea wrote to Carpianus early in the fourth century. The canon tables are a fine example of Armenian manuscript illumination in its heyday between 1250 and 1290, when the center of Armenian art was in Cilicia, between the Taurus mountains and the southeastern coast of Anatolia. Thanks to the presence of the crusaders and their alliances with the Mongols, the Armenians had become acquainted with both western and eastern art, and much of their work is an intriguing combination of the different styles. Among the Cilician illuminators, however, western influence prevailed and their ornamentation acquired a delicacy and refinement which allowed them to compete with some of the best illuminators in Europe.
Vat. arm. 3 fol. 9 recto orient03 AH.03
In Arabic, Cairo, A.D. 993
This tenth-century Egyptian codex was donated to Pope Eugene IV by the Egyptian delegates at the Council of Ferrara-Florence. Translated from a Coptic original, it is one of the earliest Arabic versions of any part of the New Testament, none of which can be dated before the late eighth or ninth centuries. The text displayed is from Luke 20.
Vat. ar. 18 fols. 79 recto orient04 AH.05
In Ethiopic, Fifteenth century
How this Ethiopic Psalter came into the Vatican Library in the late fifteenth century is still a matter of uncertainty. According to one hypothesis it was brought by the Ethiopian delegates at the Council of Ferrara-Florence, probably from the Ethiopian convent in Jerusalem, but according to another it was donated by Giovanni Battista Brocchi from Imola, who accompanied a Franciscan mission to Ethiopia in 1482. The first folio of the codex shows the First Psalm between two strapwork bands. The manuscript is widely held to have inaugurated Ethiopic studies in Europe and to have been borrowed by Johannes Potken in 1511. It would thus have provided the text on which he based his "Psalterium," published two years later.
See Renato Lefevre, "Su un codice etiopico della `Vaticana,'" _La Bibliofilia_ 42(1940):97-107.
Vat. etiop. 20 fol. 1 recto orient05 AH.06
In Ethiopic, Rome: M. Silber, 1513
This Psalter, probably based on the preceeding manuscript [Vat. etiop. 20], was the first book ever to be printed in Ethiopic, the first book to be printed in Rome in any oriental language other than Hebrew, and the first Psalter to be printed in any language other than Hebrew, Greek, or Latin. Having learned Ethiopic from Thomas Walda Samuel, an Ethiopian pilgrim from Jerusalem staying at Santo Stefano Maggiore in Rome, Johannes Potken had Ethiopic types cut at his own expense by the printer Marcellus Silber from Regensburg. On his departure from Rome two years after the publication of the Psalter, Potken took the fonts with him to Germany.
Potken's edition includes canticles from the Song of Solomon and ends with an Ethiopic syllabarium and a brief comment on it. In the foreward Potken describes how he learned Ethiopic, which he insistently but erroneously calls Chaldean. He goes on to tell of his decision to publish the Psalter and to inform the reader about the land of Prester John. The page on display shows the First Psalm and the beginning of the Second Psalm under a woodcut lacework headpiece.
R.G. Bibbia IV 936 fol. 2 recto orient06 AH.07
Genoa: P.P. Porro, 1516
Agostino Giustiniani, the member of a patrician family from Genoa, was a Dominican who became bishop of Nebbio in Corsica. A gifted scholar, he was invited in 1517 to France, where he taught Hebrew and Arabic at the University of Paris for five years. During that period he visited England and made the acquaintance of Erasmus. Giustiniani's "Psalterium" was dedicated to Pope Leo X in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic, and Arabic. It was originally intended as part of a multilingual edition of the entire Bible, but the project was thwarted by the limited commercial success of the psalter. Nevertheless, the book was much in demand among orientalists and biblical scholars throughout the sixteenth century and remains a work of remarkable scholarship.
The pages displayed here bear the text of the First Psalm. In parallel columns from left to right, spread across the two leaves, we see the Hebrew text; a literal Latin translation by Giustiniani himself; the text of the Latin Vulgate; the version in the Greek Septuagint; an Arabic version based on at least two manuscripts owned by Giustiniani, one from Egypt and one from Syria; the Aramaic "targum;" a Latin translation of the "targum;" and, finally, Giustiniani's own scholia, or notes, in Latin. These notes show how well he was acquainted with the Midrash and rabbinic literature, from which he quotes extensively. Later in the work his glosses on Psalm 19:4 contain the earliest reference in print to the discoveries of his compatriot Christopher Columbus.
R.G. Bibbia II 94 sigs. A iv verso - A v recto orient07 AH.08
In Syriac, Vienna: M. Zimmermann, 1555
Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter, who was born near Ulm in Bavaria in about 1506, was a man of singular versatility. Not only was he a scholar, bet he was also a diplomat, a lawyer, and a statesman who spent some time in the papal service and, in 1552, was appointed chancellor of Lower Austria. He learned Syriac from Teseo Ambrogio and in Rome from the Jacobite (Christian) Moses of Mardin, who showed him a manuscript of the Syriac New Testament. After trying in vain to set up a Syriac press in Rome, Widmanstetter and Moses went to Vienna. There, with the assistance of the French orientalist Guillaume Postel, who was teaching at the university and also possessed a Syriac translation of the New Testament, they had Syriac types cut, in imitation of Moses of Mardin's handwriting, by Kaspar Kraft. The first edition of the New Testament in Syriac ever to be printed, the "Liber Sacrosancti Evangelii" contains a long introduction by Widmanstetter in which he recounts the history of oriental studies in Europe. It was published by Michael Zimmermann.
The undertaking was encouraged and subsidized by the ruler of Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, and Burgundy, Ferdinand I, who began to act as Holy Roman emperor after the abdication of his elder brother, Charles V, in 1555, and truly succeeded to the imperial crown four years later. In addition to increasing the prestige of the Austrian Habsburgs, the edition was also intended to lend support to the Christians in the Ottoman Empire.
The emblematic woodcut shown here is found opposite the end of the Gospel of Luke. It bears the motto "In hoc Signo vinces, et conculcabis Leonem et Draconem," translated into Syriac on either side of the cross. The first part of the motto, "In this sign wilt thou conquer," refers to the alleged dream or vision of the fiery cross of the Roman emperor Constantine just before his conversion to Christianity and to his victory over Maxentius in 312. The second part, "the lion and the dragon shalt thou trample," is taken from Psalm 91:13 and frequently referred to triumph over heresy. On the left of the cross is the emperor's helm surmounted by a panache of peacock feathers; on the right are the arms of Austria. Around the foot of the cross hand the insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece founded by the duke of Burgundy in 1430 and always closely connected with the Habsburgs.
R.G. Bibbia IV 517 p. 125 orient08 AH.10
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