5151 Côte-Ste-Catherine, Montreal | T 514.345.2627
Jewish Public Library

Sefer Tehilim, Mishle, Kohelet ve-Shir ha-Shirim
(Paris : Sébastien Cramoisy, 1632)

About The Book

Printed in Paris in 1632, this copy reprints portions of the 2nd earliest printed multilingual Bible, dating from the late 1500s, known as the Plantin or Antwerp Polyglot. It contains interlinear Hebrew texts, Latin translations and marginal commentaries for the books of Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs. Two 16th-century Hebraists and Bible scholars wrote the Latin translations and commentaries, which were widely consulted and well regarded at the time. This copy also includes a dedication to Cardinal Richelieu, chief minister in French King Louis XIII’s royal government and patron to Sébastien Cramoisy, the book’s printer.

About The Translators/Commentators

Lucca (Italy)-born Santes Pagnini (1470-1536) entered the Dominican order at age 16 or 17, and studied Hebrew under Spanish convert Clement Abraham. These studies resulted in his becoming one of the leading Hebraists of his time, with a reputation so elevated that Pope Leo X himself requested that he teach in Rome. Pagnini subsequently relocated to Avignon and then to Lyon, where he worked against French heterodoxy for the last 12 years of his life.

His works include Veteris et Novi Testamenti Nova Translatio (Lyon, 1528), for which he created the first Latin translation of the Pentateuch using the original Hebrew since the late 4th-century scholar Jerome’s work. Pagnini prefaced it with his Latin translation of the book of Psalms, which is included in our collection’s 1632 interlinear Latin/Hebrew edition of the same Biblical book. Notably, he also incorporated rabbinic commentaries into his version. Veteris arrived as the both the Protestant Reformation and the advent of printing amplified the Catholic Church’s concerns with the Biblical canonization of Scripture, and the translation of Scripture into vernacular languages other than Latin.

The Protestant Reformation challenged the supremacy of the Church and the Vulgate, as did the discovery of new scriptural texts and text sources and their availability through the new medium of printing. In 1543, the Church convened its Council of Trent – an ecumenical response to these and other issues. The Council lasted until 1563, and along with the need to clarify all doctrines contested by the Reformation, it debated the necessity of a standardized, authorized Vulgate.

As part of that discussion, the Council favorably compared the now-deceased Pagnini’s work as a far more accurate, well-researched translation following the tradition of Jerome’s work, to the numerous Vulgate editions they considered careless and deeply flawed. This was a neat way of working around the new translations into regional vernacular, but meant that only recently were new translations into vernacular done from the Hebrew instead of Latin in the Catholic tradition, with the sole exception being the 1554 Ferrara Spanish Bible, ironically introduced through converso channels.

The Council then formally decreed the Vulgate as the exclusive Latin authority for the Bible. However, it declined to incorporate Pagnini’s translations in the Vulgate edition, finally authorized by Pope Clement VIII in 1592, that served as the Church’s official Bible until 1979.

Pagnini’s other writings include Institutionum hebraicarum abbreviatio… (Lyon, 1528; Paris, 1556); the Hebrew lexicon Thesaurus linguae sanctae… (Lyon, 1529); and Isagogae ad sacras literas… (Lyons, 1536).

Fregenal de la Sierra (Spain)-born Benito Arias Montano (1527-1598) became one of his country’s foremost Bible scholars. He pursued his theology and Semitic languages studies at the University of Alacalá de Henares. Ordained shortly thereafter, he joined the Spanish monarchical-affiliated religious and military Order of Santiago. A devoted Catholic, his outspoken opposition to Lutheranism led him to help compile the Index Auctorem (1559) – the Catholic Church’s first definitive list of banned books, many of which promoted the Protestant Reformation.

In 1568, Spanish King Philip II named Arias the first director of the royal library located at his residence, the Monasterio del Escorial. He subsequently appointed Arias as chief editor of the Biblia Regia (Antwerp, 1569-1572). Also called the Antwerp or Plantin Bible, the work – intended to replace the first Polyglot Bible (Alacalá de Henares, 1514) – comprised the Hebrew Old Testament and the Christian New Testament in their original languages, along with inset translations.

Despite these two considerable honors, however, Arias’ rigorous and intensely scholastic editorial approach towards the Biblia made him a target for Leon de Castro, a noted contemporaneous Hebrew professor and Hebraist at the University of Salamanca. Largely out of professional jealousy, Castro went before the Inquisition to denounce Arias for his “Judaizing tendencies” in allegedly preferring the Masoretic text and Jewish translations, rather than the Latin Vulgate, to produce the Biblia. The resulting trial lasted years, only ending in Arias’ acquittal before the Roman Inquisition after Juan de Mariana – a significant Spanish Jesuit historian and economic/political theorist – convinced it that Arias had not contravened Catholic Doctrine.

With his reputation as a theological expert largely intact, Arias attended the Church Council in Toledo in 1582 as King Philip II’s representative. He subsequently declined a bishopric and chose instead to spend his last years in isolation, sequestered in a monastery in Seville.

Arias’ other writings include Rhetorica (1569), Benjamini Tudelensis judaei itinerarium…(1575); Antiquitatum judaicarum libri IX (Leyden, 1593); Aaron Sive sanctorum vestimentorum ornamentorumque descriptio (1593); Nehemias sive de antiquae Jerusalem situ (1593); Hymni et Secula (1593) and Historia naturalis (1601). He also composed numerous rhymed Latin translations of the Psalms and various prophetic books, and a Spanish version for the Song of Songs, as well as several commentaries for other biblical books.

Madrid’s Institute Arias Montano de Estudios Hebraicos, established in 1939, is named after him.

The JPL’s Copy

At face value, one might think this is just another old copy of some translated Hebrew Biblical books. However, it also contains many clues that allows one to track its journey from a royal printer, to a cloistered 18th century abbey; from a 19th century crime family, to Quebec City’s first English-language higher educational institution; and ultimately to our library, with several stops along the way through other private and public libraries’ collections.

As noted in the “About The Printer” section, Sébastien Cramoisy, the book’s publisher, became one of his era’s most successful printers. After obtaining his bookseller and printer licenses, Cramoisy took over his grandfather’s bookstore, and used it to sell popular religious works printed by his press. His prestige and success attracted Cardinal Richelieu’s attention; Richelieu requested that Cramoisy print his memoirs. Eventually, the French monarchy appointed him as exclusive printer for many of its departments.

Elsewhere on the title page, one can find the next clue as to the book’s travels and owners. It bears a partly legible handwritten Latin inscription dated 1704 or 1714. That inscription refers to either the communal dining hall – or a member – of the Jesuit Order of Saint Clement of Metz, a Benedictine monastery in France’s Lorraine region. In the wake of the Revolution of 1789, the Order had abandoned the monastery, which became a military and industrial site.

We cannot ascertain where the book traveled, or who owned it during the following half-century. The Revolutionary government confiscated all private and religious library collections to establish a state-run municipal library system, so perhaps the book resided for a time in Metz’s new library, founded in 1803. Certainly, our trail picks up about 40 years later, with a signature inside the book.

That signature belonged to Thomas Cushing Aylwin, a Quebec City-born judge who – ironically, as it turns out – began his career as a criminal defense lawyer. By the mid-1840s, he had become a politician described as “short, nearsighted, and never quite sober, charming, genial, bluff, with a gift for words”.

Only a few years later, Aylwin likely employed several colorful phrases in light of the circumstances surrounding his ownership of this book – a claim that the JPL librarians can reasonably state after some serendipitous research and a bit of luck.

On the page facing the title page, another signature appears to resemble ‘Samuel Simon’ or ‘Simons’; a similar signature appears on the last page’s verso. Simons happens to be a chain of clothing stores established by the eponymous family based, like Aylwin, in Quebec City; therefore, Samuel might possibly have proven one of that family’s members. The company’s archivist, however, confirmed no such person in their records. Nevertheless, one of our librarians pointed out the embossed initials on the book’s spine: “S. L.” – meaning the signature probably indicated “Lemon” or “Lemons”.

Our search for a “Samuel Lemon” or “Samuel Lemons” bore no fruit until, by chance, we found a Facebook post advertising walking tours of Quebec City`s Irish emigrant history. The post included scanned articles, taken from the Quebec City Mercury newspaper, that provided some of these emigrants’ backstories.

The first article, dated August 21, 1847, reported the arrest of one Samuel Lemon, his wife Sarah Bowen, and various family members on suspicion of stealing goods from the guests at several hotels where Samuel worked as a waiter. A follow-up article listed those items, including “2 books belonging to Mr. Aylwin” – our copy, likely one of them.

Lemon cleverly tried establishing his ownership of this book by backdating his signatures with the year “1832”, besides having the book rebound with his initials on the spine. Furthermore, the lining underneath the spine binding appears to be taken from a Paris-published French book on ‘Great Criminal Trials of the 19th century’, which may have been the 2nd book stolen from Aylwin.

Lemon was swiftly brought to justice. On August 30, 1847, he was convicted and sentenced to 9 months of hard labor on 1 felony count, held over for 3 others, and eventually was released on bail in mid-April 1849. His wife and accomplice Sarah Bowen was convicted of receiving stolen goods, and was released on bail in early February 1848.

This book was returned to Aylwin. Upon his death in 1871, he bequeathed his personal library – including this book – to Morrin College, Quebec City’s first English-language institution of higher education which operated from 1862 until 1902. The College’s Library was renamed in Aylwin’s honor; one can see the accession stamps on the front inside and rear inside covers noting “No. 2862 Aylwin Library, shelf N. 3”.

When Morrin College closed, the Quebec Literary and Historical Society took over its buildings and library. In 1966, the Society shipped 9 tons of books to Montreal for auction, and our library likely acquired the book at that point.

About The Printer

We know little about the early life of Paris-born Sébastien Cramoisy (1584-1669), one of his era’s most powerful printers. His grandfather Sébastien Neville owned the bookstore Aux Deux Cigognes (At The Two Storks), whose emblem designated the shop’s location and also, as shall be discussed further on, served as a symbol of respect for heritage. In 1606, Cramoisy apparently obtained his bookseller and printer’s license, and then took ownership of the bookstore.

He specialized in printing Bible texts, breviaries, religious tractates and Jesuit pedagogical texts as well as the works of other religious orders, including the Cistercians. Cramoisy also published the reports of New France’s Jesuit explorers – which eventually led to a Northern Quebec lake being named for him.

These publications’ success and profitability helped raise Cramoisy’s profile in Paris to the point where Cardinal Richelieu asked him to print his memoirs in 1614. By 1629, Cramoisy had also secured the privilege to print all of the acts of the Cour des monnaies (currency courts) charged with enforcing the French monarchy’s control of the entire coin-making process. A decade later, he became one of only 5 imprimeurs de roi (King’s Printers) authorized to print royal proclamations, as well as the inaugural director of the monarchy’s own printing house. By 1656, King Louis XIV appointed him the sole agent for legal deposit of books to the Bibliotheque du Roi (King’s Library), the National Library of France’s precursor.

With such a resume, it is no surprise that Cramoisy earned the monikers architypographe (“arch-printer”) and roi de la rue Saint-Jacques (“the King of Saint-Jacques Street”), the latter referring to the location of most of Paris’ printers. Given Cramoisy’s professional success, amassed wealth, and royal favour, his civic involvement is also unsurprising: he was head of Paris’ community of printers, booksellers, and bookbinders in both 1628 and 1643, a judge-consul in 1636 and 1652, and an alderman starting in 1639.

Nevertheless, despite his lofty financial and professional standing, Cramoisy barely avoided bankruptcy in 1658 although the circumstances leading to it remain unclear. Still, by his death he had recuperated his fortune and left a large inheritance to his grandson Sébastien Mabre-Cramoisy, who took over Cramoisy’s businesses as well as his position as the royal printing house’s director. After Mabre-Cramoisy’s death, his widow continued his press imprint for a decade before the firm was ultimately liquidated in 1698.

Cramoisy used a complex, ornately-designed printer’s device featuring two storks flying above a cityscape, while holding a worm between them. This stylistic choice had established roots: Antwerp booksellers had employed it from 1550 onwards. To them, it appropriately symbolized the honoring and cherishing of one’s heritage: legend held that when an enfeebled or aged stork could no longer move or feed itself, its child would give its own food to the elder. Soon, printers also adopted the motif – the first being Cramoisy’s grandfather in 1555; later, Cramoisy’s grandson also used a variation on the emblem. As for Cramoisy himself, he paid further homage and tribute to this notion by including a banner, on his title pages, with the Latin translation of the Biblical commandment to honor one’s parents.

Copyright © 2023 Jewish Public Library | Privacy Policy
Federation CJA Logo