BIBLE, Pauline Epistles -- Epistola ad Rhomanos, etc. Edited and with commentary by Jacques Lefèvre d'Etaples (c.1460-1536). Paris: Henri Estienne, 1512.
PRINTED ON VELLUM. 2° (324 x 211mm). Roman and Greek types. Vulgate text and Lefèvre's revised text in parallel columns. Full-page woodcut title border with figures of SS. Peter and Paul, repeated on K6v, half-page woodcut Tree of Jesse, woodcut architectural frame to canon tables. FINELY ILLUMINATED FOR GUILLAUME BRIçONNET, THE DEDICATEE: dedication letter by Lefèvre within full border with floral extensions, Briçonnet arms in lower margin, first 16 major initials in mauve with white modelling on gilt ground with floral sprays (3 painted over woodcut base), 13 initials opening parallel commentary in gold on blue ground with white modelling, remaining initials from several sets, including criblé and historiated initials, 2 initial spaces left blank. (Briçonnet arms partially erased, tiny vellum flaw affecting a few letters.) 18th-century English plum morocco, sides with narrow rolls, one of snakes, insects, snails and boars, gilt spine, lettered in two compartments, marbled endpapers, gilt turn-ins, gilt edges (slightly scuffed). Provenance: Guillaume Briçonnet (1472-1534, arms on dedication leaf); [Robert/Edward Harley, 1st and 2nd Earls of Oxford]; Thomas Osborne (Catalogus Bibliothecae Harleianae, 1745, no. 600, 'in membran'); Montagu family, Dukes of Manchester, Kimbolton Castle (shelflabel); William Robinson, bookseller (catalogue 77, 1948, no. 1, £180).
DEDICATION COPY ON VELLUM OF THE FIRST EDITION of Lefèvre's translation of the letters of St. Paul and his important commentaries on them, and the FIRST EDITION of the apocryphal correspondence between St. Paul and Seneca and of the apocryphal account of the martyrdom of SS. Peter and Paul, which Lefèvre believed to be by Linus, Peter's successor as bishop of Rome.Lefèvre accepted both the correspondence and the accounts of the martyrdoms as genuine.
Lefèvre was one of the most important French Christian humanists, applying the Renaissance dictum 'ad fontes' to Scripture in order to rid it of its medieval accretions. Lefèvre took the liberty of revising the Vulgate text because he believed that the text of the Epistles had been established not by Jerome, but by an earlier editor; he was therefore following in the tradition of Jerome, rather than opposing him. 'This version, or paraphrase, is noteworthy as having been made four years before 1516, when the first edition of the Greek N.T. was published' (Darlow & Moule, 6094n). Lefèvre applied historical and philological principles, combined with mysticism, to his commentaries on the Pauline Epistles. In the opinion of his contemporary, Johannes Murmellius, Lefèvre ranked as one of the two greatest living theologians/philosophers, based on his commentaries on St. Paul, the Psalms, and on Aristotle.
Guillaume Briçonnet, Bishop of Lodève and later of Meaux, was Lefèvre's chief patron, first at the abbey of St. Germain-des-Prés in Paris, of which Briçonnet was abbot, and later at Meaux, where he installed Lefèvre as vicar-general 'in spiritualibus'. Another copy of this edition, printed on vellum and illuminated with Briçonnet's arms, is in the Bibliothèque Nationale. VELLUM COPIES OF ESTIENNE PUBLICATIONS ARE EXTREMELY RARE ON THE MARKET. Brunet IV, 449; Mortimer, Harvard French, 61; Renouard Estiennes, 10:1; Eugene Rice, The Prefatory Epistles of Jacques Lefèvre d'Etaples and Related Texts (NY: 1972), pp.295-304; Schreiber, Estiennes, 14; Van Praet Vélins du Roi, 32.