Novum Instrumentum omne

Chrzanowski 1516bIn 1498 Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536), the brilliant Dutch Renaissance humanist and theologian, took on William Blount, Lord Mountjoy, as a Latin pupil in Paris. The Cambridge-educated student provided him a glimpse into the circle of English humanists. Soon after, Erasmus traveled to England for the first time and made the acquaintance at Oxford of Thomas More, John Colet, and Hugh Latimer, each of whom became his lifelong friend. He was especially impressed by Colet’s “new learning” approach to the study of the epistles of St. Paul. Upon his departure from England, Eramus took on the task of learning Greek to move study of the Scripture beyond scholastic arguments over subtleties in the interpretation of the St. Jerome’s (Vulgate) Bible in Latin.

After Erasmus had mastered Greek, he made a second trip to England (April 1505 to May 1506). While there he began preparing a new Greek-to-Latin translation of the Gospels and Epistles. Colet lent Erasmus manuscripts from the library at St. Paul’s, where Colet was dean. Altogether he would use four partially complete Greek New Testament manuscripts in Cambridge and five in Basel for his translation. Erasmus returned again to England in the summer of 1509; newly translated Latin manuscripts of Matthew and Mark that he gave to Colet about that time are now in Cambridge University Library. He finished his work, which included an extensive set of critical notes, while in Cambridge from 1511 to January 1514.

Novum Instrumentum omne, Erasmus’s New Testament in Greek—side-by-side with a Latin revision of the Vulgate version and accompanying critical notes—was published by Johann Froben in 1516. The Greek New Testament was actually first printed in Alcalá, Spain, in 1514 as part of the Complutensian Polyglot Bible. The other volumes were not finished until 1517, and because Froben secured from the Pope exclusive publication privileges for four years, the rival Greek New Testament would not appear until 1522. Erasmus’s Greek text is clearly inferior to that published by the scholars at Alcalá. However, Erasmus’s international reputation and the fact that his edition was first and comparatively inexpensive, led to wide distribution of Novum Instrumentum omne. The book had immediate impact and long-lasting influence on Biblical scholarship. It helped spark the Reformation and formed the basis of the Martin Luther’s New Testament in German and the English translations by William Tyndale and later Protestants.

The present copy is in an early pigskin binding with clasps (one broken). About 1/4 of pp. 403-4 (folio ll5) is not present and the corner of the last page (errata) is repaired with missing text in both cases.

Chrzanowski 1516b *

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675