fol. a1r, Genesis
La Bible Qui est toute la Saincte escripture. Translated by Pierre Robert Olivétan. Neuchâtel: Pierre de Wingle, 4 June 1535.
Folio. 426 leaves (, clxxxvi, lxvi, lx, cv, ), 14½ x 10½ inches. Gothic, title in roman and modified gothic, double column, 61 lines. Small crown and heart device on Apocrypha title page and below the colophon. Bound in 18th-century speckled calfskin; new spine gilt, red morocco title label. § DM 3710. § CD-ROM: 6.4, title page.
In 1532 the leaders of the Protestant movement in Switzerland chose Olivétan (ca. 150638), a twenty-six-year-old scholar of Greek and Hebrew, to produce a new French translation of the Bible based on the original languages. Three years later, the first French Protestant Bible appeared at the press of Pierre de Wingle in Neuchâtel, the town where Olivétan served as pastor. The stated goal was to revise Jacques Lefèvre dEtapless edition of 1530, correcting that French translation of the Vulgate to reflect the Hebrew and Greek originals. But Olivétan worked directly from the Hebrew for the Old Testament. Although later revised by Calvin and others, Olivétans version remains the basis for the Protestant Bible in France today.
Olivétan, whose real name seems to have been Pierre Robert, was a cousin of John Calvin (150964). And, indeed, Calvin contributed a preface to the first edition of his kinsmans translation in which he praises the notion of a vernacular Bible, thoughoddly enoughhe does so in Latin.
To aid his readers, Olivétan included tables of the Greek and Hebrew alphabets and translated the traditional glossary of biblical names into French. References are made to chapter and section, for the convention of verses was not yet developed. Instead, the Bible is divided into chapters and then marked off in sections labeled A, B, C, D, etc., which are then used for citation in the index.
Olivétan died at the age of 32, but his place among the most important French reformers had been ensured by this monumental and influential work.
Literature: Chambers 1983, 8892; Engammare 1991; Hotchkiss and Price 1996, 155.