fol. o6r, Chronicles
Biblia Latina. Venice: Nicolas Jenson, 1476.
Chancery folio. 467 of  leaves, 11½ x 7½ inches. Printed on paper, semi-roman, double column, 52 lines + headline; initial spaces, some with guide letters; large red and blue initials. Bound in 18th-century polished red sheepskin; spine gilt; edges gilt. Lacking 2 blanks and register leaf at end. § Copinger 3061; BM V 176 (IB.19695); GW 4222; Goff B-547; ISTC ib00547000. § CD-ROM: 11.2, fol. I3v.
Nicolas Jenson, like Johannes Gutenberg with whom he may have studied, was trained as a metal worker. He was not a goldsmith, however, but rather a cutter of dies for coinage, working for a time as the master of the royal mint at Tours. He was born in Sommevoire in the Champagne region of France. After studying in Mainz, he moved to Italy where he set up shop in Venice in 1470. In the ten years he operated his own press in Venice, he published over one hundred and fifty books, including Greek and Latin classics, ecclesiastical texts, and Bibles. He also perfected the roman typeface developed by Italys first printers Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz. Jensons books, whether in his distinctive roman face or one of his other fonts, are valued for their typographic beauty as well as their scholarship.
This Bible of 1476 is the first Latin Bible printed by Jenson. He had produced a curious edition of the Bible in Italian in 1471, two months after the appearance of the editio princeps of the Italian Bible. In the middle of printing that Bible, he shifted from using his own translation to that of Niccolo Malermi (142281), the version that had just been published. The 1476 Bible presents the traditional Latin text of St. Jeromes Vulgate, set with wide margins and no commentary or notes.
Chapters are marked with printed roman numerals and alternating red and blue initials added by handperhaps while still in the print shop or bindery (a practice that was beginning at this time). Printers left blank spaces next to the text for the addition of these colorful chapter markers. If a rubricator worked too quickly or if his Latin was a bit shaky, however, mistakes could occur. On signature o6r of this copy we see where such a mistake has been corrected. The scribe had inserted an "H" next to orro instead of the proper "P" for Porro [now] in the sentence "Now these are the sons of Aaron." The mistake Horro has no meaning in Latin, but the similarity to the words horreo (to be afraid) and horror (terror) might have made the casual reader wonder about Aarons sons. It is not surprising that printers began to print small letters in the spaces intended for rubricated initials. These guide letters could be covered over with the decorated capital. (For an example of guide letters that are still visible, see 2.2).
The reference to folio o6 above could not have been made for an earlier Bible. Jensons 1476 edition seems to be the first Bible printed with signatures, those precursors to page numbers that appear at the bottom right of the page, marking quires and helping printers keep the pages in order before binding. The idea caught on, and two other Bibles appeared with signatures in the same year: one from the press of Matthias Moravus in Naples and the other in Venice at the shop of Leonard Achates of Basel. In the second of these, however, signatures were added after the printing with punches.
Literature: Berkowitz 1968, 95; Doheny Collection, I (1987), 89.