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The Complutensian Bible

One of the most famous early printed Bibles is known as the “Complutensian Polyglot,” a multi-language Bible published at the Complutense University in the early 1500s (the University is now the University of Madrid, but in the 15th and 16th centuries the university was located in Alcalá de Henares, which was called Complutum in Latin). This Bible was the first of its kind, containing the text of the Bible in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, with a separate volume of dictionaries and study aids. Scholars, under the direction of Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, began preparing the text in 1502. Their work culminated with the printing of the New Testament volumes in 1514 and the Old Testament volumes in 1520. The Complutensian Bible, and later polyglot Bibles inspired by it, ushered in a new era of Biblical scholarship in the Renaissance by allowing theologians to compare the Biblical texts in multiple early versions.

complutensian-tpThe original Complutensian Bible is extremely rare! A Spanish publisher produced a facsimile of the Bible in the 1980s, but even those are not widely distributed, with only a handful of copies in North American libraries. Special Collections recently acquired a copy of this facsimile (along with a leaf from the original Complutensian Bible) and it is now available to consult in our reading room. The call number is Vault Collection Quarto BS 1 1514z — the title page of the fourth volume is pictured here.

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