Page:Cambridge Modern History Volume 1.djvu/640

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page needs to be proofread.

various editions of Erasmus, of Aldus, of Simon de Colines, and of the Estiennes is beyond the scope of this chapter. We must be content with noticing that in Robert Estienne's third edition, that of 1550, known as Editio Regia, a considerable advance in textual criticism is perceptible. Estienne employed not less than fifteen manuscripts for the correction of his text. Most of these have been identified: eleven are at Paris, and two at Cambridge.

Since the original text of the New Testament had been allowed to remain so long unprinted, it was hardly to be expected that the older oriental versions should be very quick in making their appearance. Indeed it was not until just after the middle of the century that one of the most important-the Syriac-first saw the light. In 1555 the Austrian Chancellor of Ferdinand I, Johann Albrecht Widmanstetter, enabled a native Syrian priest, Moses of Mardin, to publish an edition of the Peshitta Version of the New Testament at Vienna. Widmanstetter had himself been interested in Syriac before this: a rather famous Syrian monk, Theseus Ambrosius, had been his teacher. It is commonly said that the eccentric and possibly insane Guillaume Postel had a hand in the production of this first Syriac New Testament, of which three hundred copies were sent to the Maronite patriarch and him of Antioch.

It is our task to deal chiefly with beginnings: but it is impossible to pass entirely unnoticed the Roman edition of the Septuagint Version which appeared in 1587. Its text was based mainly on the great Vatican manuscript, and the committee of scholars who superintended its production included the Cardinals Sirleto and CarafFa, as well as Latino Latini, and Pierre Morin. This was not an editio princepa, but to Biblical scholars it was of enormous importance. The version had been already twice printed, first in the Complutensian Polyglot, and next by Aldus in 1518; but in the Roman edition a manuscript of first class value was for the first time utilised. Until the nineteenth century, indeed, the text of the Vatican manuscript was only known by means of this book. The attempts of Sixtus V and Clement VIII to supply the Church with an authoritative text of the Latin Vulgate, were, as we know, not brought to a satisfactory issue; but the fact that the attempt was made deserves at least a passing notice.

With the translators and expounders of the Bible it is simply impossible to deal. With regard to the first, it can only be said broadly that the sixteenth century saw innumerable new versions of the Scriptures; many were in Latin (e.g. that of Sanctius Pagninus) and attempted either fidelity or elegance of style, or both. Others were in the vernacular of this or that country, and these were naturally in most cases the offspring of the reforming movement. The high standard of knowledge which was attainable can be most readily indicated to Englishmen by reference to the "Authorised Version" of 1611. The scholars whose work we see in this were essentially men of the sixteenth century.