A Renaissance Masterpiece Returns to Antwerp after Almost 450 Years

A Renaissance Masterpiece Returns to Antwerp after Almost 450 Years

The Plantin Polyglot Bible, produced by the Plantin Printing workshop in Antwerp almost 450 years ago for King Philip II, is a monument of biblical scholarship. On 11 July, a copy will be auctioned by Christie's - London.

But before it is being auctioned, this monumental masterpiece will be on public view for two days (21 and 22 June 2018) at the very place it originated from, near the presses that printed it: the Plantin Museum (read more about the museum in this article from The Low Countries yearbook).  

Also known as the Biblia Regia, this is considered one of the greatest achievements of the Plantin printing press. Printed in five languages (Hebrew, Greek, Syrian, Aramaic and Latin), this polyglot Bible features beautiful and exotic types and exemplifies an epitome of typographical design.

King Philip II of Spain had originally commissioned 13 copies on vellum for his personal use, and only 11 of these sets survive today. Sent to him by Plantin in 1572, it remained in royal ownership until c.1788 when Charles III gave it to his son, which then followed on by descent to the present owner. This is the only copy in private hands as all other copies are owned by institutions. Seven are located in Spain, while the others reside in London, Turin and the Vatican.

Prince William of Orange donated a copy of the Biblia Regia as the first book to the Leiden University Library. It was considered to be the “fundamentum locans futurae aliquando bibliothecae”, the decisive foundation for the future library.


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