El Testamento Nuevo de nuestro Senor y Salvador Iesu Christo. Nueva y fielmente traduzido del original Griego en romance Castellano. [Geneva: Jean Crespin], 1556.
Small octavo. 772 pages (, 746, , from 353 on, numbers appear on one side of leaf only), 5 x 3¼ inches. Roman, italic notes, 31 or 32 lines. Title page woodcut and large initials. Bound in contemporary vellum over wooden boards; traces of one fastener. § DM 8468, var. B. § CD-ROM: 6.5, fol. L3v.
The name of the translator of this rare New Testament of 1556, the second edition in Castilian Spanish, does not appear within the book itself. However, external evidence indicates that it was the work of Juan Pérez de Pineda (ca. 150067). Before he joined with Calvinists in Geneva, Pérez had been secretary to the Spanish Embassy in Rome and then rector of the Colegio de la Doctrina at Seville, where he came under the influence of the reformers Egidio and Constantino Ponce de Fuente. His effort to spread the Gospel in vernacular Spanish faced a great obstacle in the Spanish Inquisition, which forbade translations of the Bible into Castilian or Catalan.
Although vernacular translations of the Bible in Spain existed in the thirteenth century, the first such printed Bible was Bonifacio Ferrers translation from the Vulgate into Catalan, printed in Valencia in 1478 and suppressed into extinction soon thereafter. A Castilian New Testament was published at Antwerp in 1543 by Francisco de Enzinas (ca. 151552), a young student in Wittenberg befriended by the reformer Philipp Melanchthon (14971560). Despite its dedication to Emperor Charles V, this work was found to contain objectionable "Protestant" features, and Enzinas was arrested, his books seized and all but a handful destroyed. This was followed a decade later by the Duarte Pinels "Ferrara Bible," a Castilian version of Hebrew Scriptures printed in Italy for expatriate Spanish Jews. The New Testament of 1556 was intended for Spanish Protestants in Spain and abroad. Although several editions of Castilian Bibles were produced outside of Spain during the Reformation, it was not until 179093 that royal permission allowed the first Castilian Bible to be printed on Spanish soil.
The unusually diminutive format of this pocket-sized New Testament finds a ready explanation in the historical factors that surrounded its production. Such banned books had to be hidden away by their owners, and they could only be brought into Spain by smugglers. One of the most adventurous of these was Julianillo Hernandez, who arrived in Seville in 1557 with two huge wine casks filled with Perézs New Testaments. Upon the discovery of this crime, the Inquisition put the smuggler to death, burned Pérez in effigy, and destroyed the illegal cargo. This accounts for the scarcity of these books.
In addition to omitting the identity of the translator, the title page of the 1556 New Testament supplied the Inquisition with some false leads. The translation was not a new work of Greek scholarship as claimed, but merely a revision of Enzinass banned 1543 translation. Moreover, although the imprint reads "En Venecia, en casa de Iuan Philadelpho," the work was printed at Geneva, not Venice, and the printer was actually Jean Crespin.
The allegorical woodcut on the title page depicts a believer pointing heavenward to a wreath of laurel while a non-believer falls toward a hellfire. These figures are situated on either side of a large letter Y, the arms of which are symbolically wide on one side and slender on the other. The accompanying legend, a paraphrase of Matthew 7:1314, translates as "Narrow is the way of life, and wide is that of perdition."
Literature: Boehmer 1904, 2:5779; Wilson 1969, 12529.