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"Psalterium Graeco-latinum cum Canticis", the Earliest Printing of Any Book of the Bible in Greek


In 1481 printer Bonus Accursius of Milan issued Psalterium Graeco-latinum cum Canticis. Edited by Johannes Crastonus, a Carmelite lexicographer, this liturgical psalter, publishing the Septuagint version of the Psalms with parallel Latin transation, was the earliest printing of any book of the Bible in Greek. Appended canticles, including the Benedictus and the Magnificat, represented the first texts of the New Testament printed in Greek.

"The type in this psalter is similar to the very first Greek type ever cut. That first type was designed by calligrapher Demetrios Damilas, a Cretan of Milan. it was perhaps modelled on the hand of Michael Apostolis [Apostolios] (b. ca. 1422) a prolific scribe whose script was notable for its lack of ligatures (unlike, for example, the Greek types that would become favored by Aldus Manutius), making it an easy and readable handwriting to render into type. The type appeared first in an edition of Constantine Lascaris' Epitome (Milan, 1476), the first book printed entirely in Greek, and soon thereafter in two works issued by Bonus Accursius: a dictionary by Crastonus and an undated edition of Aesop. In about 1480, Accursius' books featured a new type, presumably because the earlier types were unavailable. This new type is a variant of the older one, but remains an upright cursive, relatively free of ligatures. The letters are larger, and there are many new letterforms introduced in this second version. This psalter is the fifth and last book Accursius printed with this type" (John E. Mustain, Monuments of Printing: Gutenberg Through the Book Arts Revival [2013] p. 30).

In 2012 Cornelia Linde published "Johannes Crastonus's 1481 Edition of the Psalms," The Library, XIII,Issue 2 pp. 147-63. doi: 10.1093/library/13.2.147.  In this paper she argued that Crastonus issued this edition of the Psalms for facilitating the learning of Greek. "On the basis of Psalm 1 and some additional examples, it explores how he employed the layout and changed the Latin text in order to achieve his goal. Furthermore, this article argues that the combination of works produced by Crastonus and his publisher Bonus Accursius were designed to provide a complete corpus for self-instruction in Greek." 

ISTC No.: ip01035000

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