Delft Bible

Printing the first Bible in Latin caused serious financial problems between Johannes Gutenberg and his financier Johannes Fust. Yet there was no lack of interest in his major two-volumed work when it appeared in 1455: almost one hundred other Latin editions of the Bible subsequently appeared in the fifteenth century.

The first Bible in Dutch was published in Delft in 1477 and is much smaller, as only the Old Testament was printed. Yet its almost 1,300 pages required publication in two folio volumes. The text is an anonymous adaptation of an - again anonymous - translation: the ‘History Bible of 1368’. It was the first book to be printed by Jacob Jacobszoon van der Meer and Mauricius Yemantszoon van Middelburg, but the printer-financier relationship between the two is not very clear. The colophon gives their names as well as their coats of arms, the red escutcheon with the three water lily leaves are Van der Meer's, the other belonged to Yemantszoon. This joint printer's device is also found in two other editions, but from 12 February 1480 onwards the arms of Delft are used together with Van der Meer's, and Yemantszoon disappears from sight. This might be an indication that the Delft printing house, which published so many editions without a printer's name, had several different financiers.

A complete Bible in Dutch must have been considered too great a risk by the Delft printers, and this also applied to a reprint, for they did not reprint the Old Testament, and neither did any other printer in the fifteenth century. No other editions have come down to us, and it may be taken for granted that, while more than 50 copies of the 1477 edition have been preserved, another edition would not have disappeared without a single trace. So far, unknown editions of Dutch incunabula are still found, usually in libraries, but the majority are school books, or at any rate not very sizeable books. For their religious reading the Dutch-speaking readers preferred the Epistelen ende evangelien, the Leven van Jesus, and the Legenden der heiligen by Jacobus de Voragine. The printers ensured a steady flow of these texts by reprints at regular intervals. The Epistelen ende evangelien even ran into 23 editions in Dutch, six of which were published in Delft.

Old Testament. Delft, Jacob Jacobszoon van der Meer and Mauricius Yemantszoon, 10 Jan. 1477. 2º, 2 vols, 302+340 leaves. - Provenance: Jacob Visser collection, 1809. - 169 E 55-56, vol. 2, colophon

Old Testament. Delft, Jacob Jacobszoon van der Meer and Mauricius Yemantszoon, 10 Jan. 1477. 2º, 2 vols, 302+340 leaves. - Provenance: Jacob Visser collection, 1809. - 169 E 55-56, vol. 2, colophon

Literature

De vijfhonderdste verjaring van de boekdrukkunst in de Nederlanden. Brussel 1973, no. 117
De Delftse bijbel van 1477. Amsterdam 1977.