Many polyglot Bibles are monumental examples of both scholarship and size. Some were produced in a pocket-sized volume, as with this small book of Biblical excerpts from 1554. Here, the selections are presented in four parallel columns of Greek, a literal Latin translation, the Latin Vulgate, and Hebrew. It was printed by Martin Le Jeune, a Parisian printer known for his elegant impressions in Hebrew and Greek type. We do not know who its earliest owners might have been, but it eventually came to be owned by William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania, and was passed down in the family to great grandson Granville Penn, himself a Biblical scholar, who bequeathed it to his daughter, Isabella Maria Penn.
Bound here with Philipp Melanchthon’s Vita Lutheri, Martin Luther’s translation of the Apocrypha—books that were not considered canonical—is presented in a highly portable octavo size, 1555. Luther characterized the Apocrypha as “books not regarded equal to Holy Scripture and yet useful and good to read.”
During the reign of Queen Mary I over 800 Protestants fled England, many settling in Geneva, where John Calvin and Theodore Beza led an Académie for the study of theology and law. Chief among the activities of the Académie was the translation of Biblical texts from original languages. An English edition was begun in 1557. While the Catholic reign of Queen Mary ended in 1558, those employed in the production of the Geneva Bible remained abroad to finish their work in 1560.
The Geneva Bible was produced in quarto size, weighty enough for use in church but small enough to be conveniently carried. Other innovative devices included the highly readable Roman type, numbered verses, book summaries, and extensive notes in the margins containing definitions, variant translations, cross references and doctrinal notes. Also included are tables, concordances and 33 illustrations.