This six-volume folio polyglot Bible is commonly known as the “Complutensian Polyglot.” Volumes one through four contain the Old Testament, volume five is the New Testament, and volume six contains indices, Hebrew and Aramaic dictionaries, a Hebrew grammar, and interpretations of Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic names. The four Old Testament volumes combine, side by side, the texts of the Latin Vulgate, Hebrew, Aramaic, and the Greek Septuagint. The Hebrew is printed in the outside column with root words in the margin, the Latin Vulgate appears in the middle column, and the Greek Septuagint is in the inside column, with interlinear Latin translation. In the Pentateuch volume, the Aramaic paraphrase appears at the foot of the page, accompanied by a Latin transcription. In the New Testament volume, the Greek fills a wide column on the left with the Vulgate on the right.
This great polyglot Bible may be likened to a monumental edifice of print, one which took as long to build as did some of Europe’s grandest churches. Its chief architect was Archbishop (later Cardinal) Francisco Ximénez de Cisneros of Toledo (1436–1517), Grand Inquisitor, Regent of Castille, and founder of the trilingual University of Alcalá. This town, known in Latin as "Complutum," gave the Bible its name. Ximénez, who financed the project out of his personal fortune beginning in 1502, compiled a team of eminent Biblical scholars under the editorial leadership of Diego López de Zúñiga († 1531). This included the Greek scholar Demetrios Ducas, Elio Antonio de Nebrija, Fernando Nuñez de Guzman, Juan and Pedro de Vergara, and three converted Jews, Alfonso de Zamora, Alfonso de Alcalá, and Pablo Coronel.
This team worked from the best available Old Testament manuscripts, some of which were lent by the Vatican Library and Cardinal Bessarion’s (1403–72) library in Venice. However, no evidence suggests that Ximénez borrowed the Codex Vaticanus or any other New Testament manuscript of noteworthy antiquity. Although Ximénez may have been overly eager to assert the veracity of the Vulgate version, the Greek was not generally "corrupted" from the Latin as is sometimes claimed. The editorial work began in 1502 and was largely complete by 1514, when the New Testament volume was printed. Although the printing of all six volumes (consisting of more than 3000 pages) had been completed by the time of Ximénez’s death in 1517, the work was not published until 1522, due to Pope Leo X’s delayed approval and the four-year exclusive privilege granted by Emperor Maximilian I to Erasmus’s editio princeps of the Greek New Testament in 1516 [5.2a]. Although Erasmus’s was the first Greek New Testament ever published, the Complutensian version was the first to be printed (Pelikan 1996, 20).
The monumental task of printing the Complutensian Polyglot was awarded to Spain’s first important printer, the imperial typographer of Charles V, Arnaldo Guillén de Brocar († 1524). His achievement must be noted not only for the sheer weight of his assignment, but also for the logistical and technical challenges he resolved. He not only needed to set the Biblical text in four languages, which required type fonts for distinct alphabets in various sizes, but he was required to coordinate the texts so that the relevant passages always appeared alongside each other on the page, regardless of the differences in the column length they might require. Considerable technical aptitude was needed to register the Latin interlinear translation within the body of the Greek text. This meant that the Greek column contained more text than the others, and had to be printed in the smallest type with the widest columns, while the Hebrew text had to be enlarged correspondingly.
Cardinal Ximénez’s prologue offers a symbolic meaning to the format of this Bible. He compared the position of the Latin text between the Greek and Hebrew as a metaphor for the Roman Church standing triumphantly between the Eastern Church and the Synagogue, and he further likened this arrangement to that of Christ’s cross between the two crucified thieves on Calvary. The format of his polyglot Bible, therefore, was meant to bring visual expression to the idea that the Vulgate was the word of the Savior and the victorious essence of the Catholic Church itself.Literature: Hall 1969, 50–52; Hefele  1968; Hotchkiss and Price 1996, 109–110; Lyell 1917; Merton 1934, 137–38; Norton 1966, 38–40; Olin 1990, 4–7; Pelikan 1996, 20.