[Biblia Hebraica: Old Testament]

Paris: Robert Estienne, 1544-1546.

17 volumes, 16mo (110 x 70 mm); printed in Hebrew type throughout with the exception of the brief Latin titles in roman letter accompanying Hebrew titles on title-pages, which have Estienne's olive tree device (Renouard 298); simple calf bindings, modestly decorated in blind with volume numbers and initials gilt on spines; contained in a purpose-made wooden box with brass inlay commemorating its gift in 1812 (see provenance statement).

Estienne's superb Hebrew Old Testament of 1544-46: "Vraiment un bijou typographique, et peut-être ce qui a jamais été imprimé de plus beau en langue hébraique" (Renouard)

A fine set of Robert Estienne's celebrated printing of the Hebrew Old Testament, only rarely seen complete and even rarer in anything approaching good condition. This beautiful example has survived from the mid-sixteenth century in perfect condition, with an exemplary visible history of ownership from the eighteenth century onwards (see provenance statement).

A fine set of Robert Estienne's celebrated printing of the Hebrew Old Testament, only rarely seen complete and even rarer in anything approaching good condition. This beautiful example has survived from the mid-sixteenth century in perfect condition, with an exemplary visible history of ownership from the eighteenth century onwards (see provenance statement).

The bibliographer Renouard described Estienne's achievement as truly a typographic jewel, perhaps never surpassed as a printing in Hebrew.

The publication runs to 17 separate volumes (though a number of surviving sets have been bound in 8 or 9 volumes). They are as follows:

1 "Quinque libri legis" (Genesis & four other parts of Pentateuch): 146 ff.

"2 "Exodus": 124 ff. including final blank

3 "Leviticus": 88 ff.

4 "Numeri" (Numbers): 122 ff.

5 "Deuteronomium" (Deuteronomy): 108 ff. including final blank

6 "Iosue & Iudices" (Joshua & Judges): 152 ff. including 2 final blanks

7 "Samuel": 176 ff.

8 "Reges" (Kings): 184 ff.

9 "Prophetia Isaiae" (Isaiah): 132 ff. including final blank

10 "Prophetia Ieremiae" (Jeremiah): 168 ff.

11 "Prophetia Ezechielis" (Ezekiel): 144 ff.

12 "Duodecim Prophetae" (i.e. Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, & Malachi): 120 ff. including final blank

13 "Psalterium" (Psalms): 160 ff. including final blank

14 "Proverbia Salomonis & Iob" (Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Job): 114 ff.

15 "Canticum canticorum, Ruth, Lamentationes Ieremiae, Ecclesiastes, & Ester" (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther): 80 ff.

16 "Daniel & Esdras" (Daniel & Ezra): 120 ff.

17 "Liber Paralipomenon" (Chronicles): 184 ff. including final blank

We have traced just four full sets sold at auction this century, only two of them in good condition: (Sotheby's New York, 13 December 2002, lot 12, $32,000, and the Helmut Friedlaender set, Christie's New York, 23 April 2001, lot 134, $55,000). The other two were unsatisfactory (Christie's Paris, Oct 29, 2012, lot 53: modern binding, ex-library, lacking 3 leaves, €8,000; and Swann Galleries, 9 November 2010, lot 27: worn, Contents bound out of order, 1st 2 tps hand-colored, $11,000).

Provenance: Reverend John Till, vicar of Hayes, Middlesex from 1777 to 1827 (his ownership inscription "J. Till 1777 Fenchurch Street" in each volume); presented by him in 1812 to M.M. Fraser (with neatly written inscription "To M.M. Fraser, Hayes, June 29th 1812" in each volume and the wooden box with brass plate inscribed "M.M. Fraser Hayes 1812"); subsequently in the Fraser family library at Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire, Scotland; private collection by further descent.

Adams, B1224; Brunet I, 856 ("jolie ├ędition"); Darlow & Moule, 5089 note; Mortimer French I, 73 (2 sets, incomplete); Renouard, p.65; Schreiber, 82. Not in Fairfax-Murray.

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