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Christianity The First Polyglot Psalter

Psalterium, Hebraeum, Graecum, Arabicum, Chaldaeum [The Psalter in Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, and Aramaic]. Ed. Agostino Giustiniani, O.P. (1470–1536).  Genoa: Petrus Paulus Porrus, August and November 1516.   NYPL, Rare Book Division.

The Psalms appear in Hebrew, a Latin paraphrase, the Vulgate Latin, the Septuagint Greek, Arabic, Aramaic ("Chaldean"), a Latin paraphrase, and the editor's scholia or gloss. Known from these eight parallel columns as the Psalterium octaplum, this first multilingual Psalter is a great scholarly and typographical achievement. Bishop Giustiniani, profound linguist and friend of Sir Thomas More and Erasmus, personally financed this Psalter as a precursor to a polyglot Bible; however, the Psalter was a commercial failure, and he abandoned his great project. But his learning was widely noticed, and François I brought him to Paris to teach Hebrew and Arabic from 1517 to 1522.

A proto-American footnote occurs in Giustiniani's gloss to Psalm 19, where he reports the voyages of Columbus "to the ends of the earth" as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Handsomely printed in red and black, The New York Public Library's copy is fully rubricated and illuminated, the initial letters of the various languages historiated in gold and colors.

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