Remarkable 16th century binding and bookplate. 1552 Le Nouveau Testament


A beautiful 16th century Estienne (French) printing of the New Testament, ruled throughout in red, wearing a contemporary (and documented) binding and early bookplate of the le Begue family. Also includes several fun examples of marginalia, including a manicule pointing to a handwritten note with a heart.

This binding also holds Estienne's separately titled and paginated glossary to the Bible, at the rear (although missing the last two leaves).

About the Provenance -

The tools used on the binding, and the bookplate pasted on the endpaper, reveal this New Testament to be from the library of the Le Begue family of Bourges. Perhaps the best description of these is in the French work, Memoires de la Societe historique, litteraire et scientifique du Cher (H. Ponroy, p.277, 1918), where they describe two similar le Begue bindings (tooled in the same method), mention that ex libris plates migrated from Germany into France and the Le Begue examples are some of the earliest known French bookplates, and describe the bookplate present here as being the second state of the family's bookplate:

"His son (Claude le Begue), lord of Dornon and Grossouve, like his father a lawyer in the Parliament, then second king's advocate in the bailiwick and presidial seat of Bourges, was appointed in 1588 by the Third Order of the province of Berry, to attend in the same year the States-General held at Blois. He died in 1611. It was probably this character who had the bookplate engraved on which his coat of arms is engraved, supported by two standing angels."

Delon Houbanx and Associes sold a similar binding, Lot 120, Tuesday June 22, 2021 (sale price 2,600 Euro). The labelled the binding an "olive morocco".

About the Printer -

Robert Estienne (1503 – 1559) was a 16th-century printer in Paris. He was the proprietor of the Estienne print shop after the death of his father Henri Estienne, the founder of the Estienne printing firm. Estienne published and republished many classical texts as well as Greek and Latin translations of the Bible. Known as "Printer to the King" in Latin, Hebrew, and Greek, Estienne's most prominent work was the Thesaurus linguae latinae which is considered to be the foundation of modern Latin lexicography. Additionally, he was the first to print the New Testament divided into standard numbered verses.

Bibliographic Details -

Universal Short Title Catalogue reference number of the Nouveau Testament - 5631. Not rare, found in many of the world's best libraries.

Nouveau's reference in Pettegree, Walsby and Wilkinson - 5404

Bettye Thomas Chambers, Bibliography of French Bibles - no. 167

Universal Short Title Catalogue reference number for the Claire Declaration du Contenue au Vieil et Nouveau Testament - 14164. Eleven copies recorded.

Physical Attributes -

Measures approx. 13.7 x 9 x 5 cm, Octavo. Sheep skin binding; boards tooled with double gilt fillet frame, corner florets, and central Le Begue arms medallion. Spine divided into four compartments by gilt fillets, each with a central gilt tool from the Le Begue arms. All edges gilt. Printer's mark of Estienne at the title pages and at Les Epistres S. Paul (three total).

Pages - xvi, (missing leaf 1, signed a1), 2-235, blank leaf, 68, 152, 88. Second book not paginated but 38 of 40 leaves; USTC notes that leaves 39 and 40 were blank, so no printing missing.

Collation - *8, **8, a2-a8, b-z8, aa-ff8, gg4, A-H8, I4, AA-TT8, Aa-Ll8. Claire...- a-d8, e6 (again, e7-8 missing, USTC states "blank")

Condition -

See pictures. Mostly very nice, the binding still feels soft. There's a tiny wormhole at the joint of the front board, a V shaped scratch on the front board, and the bottom corner is worn through. The rear board has a few tiny knicks. The spine has a little crazing and one worm hole. There is some loss of gilt from time. Text block edges are darkened and gilt a little rubbed. A little cracking at hinges, revealing manuscript fragments used as crash material.

Bookplate trimmed at fore-edge, mounted to blank front endpaper. Title page with toning, thumbing, ink marks, ex libris inscriptions, etc.. Inking at bottom of title page caused a small hole (2 cm). Toning, thumbing, occasional annotations, etc. throughout. Occasional dog-eared page, candle ember mark, moisture mark from edges, etc.

Leaf a1 missing from Nouveau, a prefatory leaf to Matthew. Last two (e7-8) leaves of the second work, Claire Declaration... not present.

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