2 works in one volume, 4to (204 x 146 mm). 1) New Testament: 4 parts, , 129, , 38, , 80, , 11,  leaves. Without quires Aa* and Aa**, the 8 preliminary leaves to Mark (as often, see below). Title in red & black, occasional red printing throughout. Syriac and roman types. Zimmerman’s woodcut arms on title verso. 6 full-page mainly emblematic or allegorical woodcuts repeated to 16. 2) Widmanstetter:  leaves. Title in red & black, text in Syriac, Hebrew, and Latin, multiple column layouts. Full-page armorial woodcut at end. The volume ruled in red throughout. First title soiled, first few leaves a bit frayed, small hole in fol. s1 affecting a couple of letters, outer blank corner of L3 torn away; occasional staining. A few words in the Widmanstetter heavily crossed out or abraded, possibly by a censor.
Binding: Contemporary blind roll-tooled alum-tawed pigskin over wooden boards, possibly a Cologne binding: sides with fillet frames enclosing two roll borders, the outer roll with a coat-of-arms of oak branches signed I W and spiraling arabesques of blossoms and oak leaves, and an inner Muse and Apollo roll (Apollo - Calliope - Eucterp [sic] - Terpsichore), pair of brass fore-edge clasps, later morocco gilt lettering-pieces on spine (binding rubbed).
Provenance: this copy used as a Stammbuch or autograph album by an early owner, probably Michael Hortin, who may have been a student at Heidelberg: front [Syriac style] pastedown with six pasted-in autograph notes or inscriptions of humanists (detailed below); Jean Guibaud, 16th-century signature on last leaf, Joh. Guibaudij, his purchase note on front pastedown; a few early faint marginal notes (numbering) in red ink; F. J. Sebley, collector and bookseller, Cambridge (ca. 1907, see article cited below); label of the US emigré bookseller William Salloch (1906-1990). ***
A milestone of printing and of scholarship, in a contemporary binding: first edition, second issue, of the New Testament in Syriac, and the first book printed in Syriac, bound with the only edition of Widmanstetter’s Syriac grammar. The first owner of this copy, probably a student of theology at Heidelberg, adorned the inside front cover with handwritten notes by eminent contemporary scholars and theologians, evidently as a memento of and tribute to his honored teachers and scholars with whom he corresponded.
The text, which is the so-called Peshitta version, was edited by the philologist and orientalist Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter (1506-1557), whose “Elements of the Syriac Language” is bound after the New Testament, and whose book collection formed the basis for what is now the Bavarian State Library. Assisted by a young Syrian priest named Moses, legate in Europe of the Jacobite Patriarch of Mardin (in Mesopotamia), Widmanstetter (or Widmanstadt) used at least three different codices. The printer Michael Zimmermann, already the first printer in the German-speaking lands to print in Arabic (in 1554), commissioned the design of the Syriac types from the great French orientalist Guillaume Postel, who came from France for the project, and who allegedly based the design on the hand of the co-editor Moses of Mardin. The punches were engraved by a Swabian named Kaspar Kraft, and the types were cast in tin.
Financed by future Kaiser Ferdinand I, the book was printed in 1555, largely for presentation. The second issue, of 1562, is composed of the same sheets, with the title reset (or the first quire, though comparison of our copy to the digitized Austrian National Library copy of the 1555 edition reveals no difference in the setting of the first quire, other than the title-leaf). This copy is one of some copies of the 1562 issue with the Syriac letters printed in red and the vowel points in black; most copies are the reverse. There are several other variants. In this copy the word Quemadmodum at the foot of fol. a****2r is correctly spelled. The preliminary leaves originally intended for the third and fourth Gospels, Luke and John, listed as parts V and VII in the table of contents ( on fol. a*2v) are absent from all copies, while the prelims to Mark, quires, Aa* and Aa**, listed as part III in the table, are present in some copies and not in others; they are absent from this copy.
Five unusual emblematic or allegorical full-page woodcuts are repeated, for a total of 15 impressions. One cut, showing three crowns atop crossed branches, is composed of several small blocks, including a winged angel’s head which is used separately on the final page. A cut of an Evangelist writing gazing up at the crucified Christ, below a mandorla filled with emblematic orbs, appears at the beginning of Mark with typographic captions printed in red and a small armorial element also in red. The only woodcut appearing only once is a Pietà.
Widmanstetter’s short Syriac primer was printed at the same time as his New Testament and is often bound with it, as here. Less a grammar than a guide to reading the language, it includes the Lord’s Prayer and the Magnificat; part of the text is printed in four columns across two pages, in Syriac, Hebrew, transliterated Syriac, and Latin.
The binding roll signed I. W. has been associated with the 16th-century Cologne publisher or librarius (Buchführer) Johann Willich the elder: cf. Ilse Schunke, ““Der Kölner Rollen- und Platteneinband im 16. Jahrhundert,” in Beitrage zum Rollen-und Plateneinband im 16. Jahrhundert. Konrad Haebler zum 80. Geburtstag … 1937, p. 376, roll 4. Whether Willich was the actual binder or simply owned the rolls is not clear, but if the other roll-tool on this binding, showing Apollo and 3 Muses with their instruments, also belonged to his shop or to his binder, it certainly conforms to Schunke’s description of his decorative rolls and plaques as being “unusually beautifully cut” (hervorragend schön im Schnitt, ibid, p. 330).
An early owner of this copy mounted on the front pastedown, opposite the NT title, six clipped inscriptions by contemporary Reformist humanists, theologians and philologists, including: Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562), Italian-born theologian and authority on the Eucharist; Immanuel Tremellius (1510-1580), Hebraist and translator of the Bible from Hebrew and Syriac, King’s Reader at Cambridge from 1549, and Professor at Heidelberg from 1561, his inscription partly in Hebrew; Caspar Olevianus (1536-1587), German Reformist theologian, Professor at Heidelberg in 1560, before becoming a preacher in the same city, his inscription written for the “optimo adolscenti” Michaelus Hortinus; and Petrus Colonius or Peter van Keulen (ca. 1530-1571), a Calvinist refugee from Metz, who preached at Heidelberg before 1561 and after 1569, his note in French (En Dieu ta fin) and Greek; the fifth clipping is entirely in Hebrew and the sixth is torn and lacks the signature.
These inscriptions were transcribed and translated by F. C. Burkitt, who noted that the book then belonged to Mr. F. J. Sebley, in “A Note on some Heidelberg Autographs,” Cambridge Antiquarian Communications, Vol. XI, 1907, 265-268. Burkitt seems to have solved the mystery of the book’s provenance: “The slips contain texts, etc., such as might accompany a presentation book from Professors of Divinity to one of their pupils on his departure to parish or evangelical work. The note from Peter Martyr was inserted last, while that from Olevianus must definitely locate Hortinus at Heidelberg, for it speaks of him as an ‘excellent youth’. With this comes the circumstance that the book itself is a Syriac work and that it contains the signature of Tremellius, who about this time re-edited the Syriac Bible. We may therefore conclude with reasonable certainty that Michael Hortin was a student at Heidelberg about 1562 under Olevianus and Tremellius, and that Peter Martyr Vermigli, then nearing his end at Zurich, sent him a friendly message, which he pasted in the place of honour in his Syriac Testament, along with similar testimonials from those under whom he studied at Heidelberg” (p. 266). The purchase note at the foot of this pastedown was transcribed by Burkitt as Vendidit Johan[n]es M. F. .2. ducat. Joh Guibaud (the last two names are now, 110 years later, no longer legible), and, reading the M. F. as “Michaeli filius,” he interpreted it to mean that Jean Guibaud bought the book from Hortin’s son John.
VD16 ZV 1928 and W 2490; Adams B-1800 & W-138; Darlow and Moule 8947, issue B. Item #3181