BIBLE, Hebrew. Paris: Robert Estienne, 1544-1546.
17 volumes, 16o (108 x 69 mm). Titles in Hebrew and Latin, with printer's woodcut device (Renouard 298). Text in Hebrew throughout, vocalized. Book titles in Hebrew type set within woodcut cartouche head-pieces. (Some occasional pale spotting and dampstaining.) Mid-17th-century Parisian gold-tooled crimson morocco by Florimond Badier, sides and spine decorated with gouges, fillets, a roll, pointillé tools and solid tools, edges gilt (a few spines with some tiny wormholes).
Provenance: 17th-century bifolium with letterpress title and list of the books of the Hebrew Bible as divided over these 17 volumes, inserted at the beginning of each volume: Bibliorum Hebraeorum, juxta Plantinianam editionem, series, in tomos septemdecim, quot insunt olivae Roberti Stephani, distributa -- I. Itzigsohn, of Havelberg (Prussia): 19th-century inscriptions, library-stamps -- [Swann Galleries, 22 June 1977, to Lathrop Harper]
Robert Estienne's second Hebrew Bible, called "un bijou typographique" by Renouard, is considered one of the finest examples of Hebrew printing. Estienne's first project upon his appointment as Royal Printer in Hebrew was a Hebrew Old Testament in quarto, 1539-1544. In this he employed a large square type for the text and a form of the more cursive Rashi type for the notes. The large type is known to have been cut by Jean Aroul, called le Picard, and there is reason to suspect that the other two fonts may also be attributed to him.
While the quarto edition was still in press, Estienne began printing this "pocket" edition. The Rashi type was used on the title-pages of this 16o edition, but the square text type is new and only slightly smaller than that used in the quarto edition. The book was most often bound in 5 to 8 volumes, rather than the more expensive system found here, with each of the 17 individual parts bound separately. Complete sets are rare; bound in early gold-tooled morocco, they are EXTREMELY RARE. Armstrong 51, 120-21; Brunet I, 856; Harvard/Mortimer French I, 73; Renouard Estienne 65, no. 1; Schreiber Estiennes 82. (17)