Critical Editions of the Bible and their Role in the Printing of Bibles in National Languages
Printing provided a great opportunity to improve the accuracy of the text of Scripture. Created long before the invention of the printing press, the Bible did not have a standard text, it existed in numerous manuscript versions. Further frequent rewriting the Septuagint - the Greek full version of the Old Testament, and the Latin Vulgate, and their translations into national languages should cause many distortions of the text. Attempts to eliminate them, and produce better translations led to the creation of critical editions of the biblical text in original languages: Hebrew and Greek. The famous Soncino family first published the Old Testament in Hebrew (the so-called Soncino Bible of 1488), provided with the cantillation signs necessary for the chanting of readings from the Hebrew Bible during public worship. In 1494, in Brescia Gershom Soncino produced a revised and improved version of the 1488 Bible printed in small octavo format (in one-eighth of the size of the original sheet).
The complete version of the Old Testament in Greek was published in the so-called Сomplutensian Poliglot Byble of 1514. However, this publication became available to readers only in 1522. By the time, the original text of the New Testament books was prepared to publish by the outstanding humanist, writer and theologian Erasmus. In 1516, a Greek-Latin Bilingual Byble appeared in Basel, its text was verified across multiple copies and supplied with commentary. The bilingual New Testament was reissued in 1519.
The Bible published by the Italian enlightener Aldus Manutius included Erasmus' text. In 1518-1519, the famous Venetian printing house released its one-volume version printed in Greek italics. Due to its low cost and small size, the Aldine Bible was very popular, although the number of manuscript sources used in the preparation of this publication was significantly less than in the Сomplutensian.
The Erasmus text also formed the basis of the edition undertaken by the celebrated Parisian printer Robert Estienne. In its preparation, he consulted numerous additional sources to improve the text. In 1551, Estienne was the first to print the Greek-Latin New Testament divided into standard numbered verses. This system of divisions of the text came into the entire biblical tradition in all its forms and languages and today are used in modern publications. Estienne's New Testament was repissued four times: in 1546, 1549, 1550 and 1551.complete version of the Scriptures in Czech, and the year 1506 saw the publication of the Venetian Bible which Francysk Skaryna took as the model for his Bible when preparing its translation and publication.
A special attention should be paid to multilingual, or polyglot, publications. On the initiative of Pope Leo X, the first Hebrew-Greek-Latin poliglot Bible was issued in 1522 in the Spanish city of Alcala and was named the Biblia Polyglotta Complutensis, according to the Roman name of the city Complutum. The text of Septuagint from the Biblia Polyglotta Complutensis was borrowed by the subsequent editions: for exammple, in 1569-73, Christophe Plantin published the eight-volume Antwerp Polyglot Bible with parallel Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin and Syriac texts illustrated with copper engravings.
In addition to the entire Bible, multilingual versions of individual biblical books were issued. So, among other publications, the already mentioned Soncino press printed the Pentateuch-polyglotta of 1547; it contained a Spanish translation which later was included into the famous Ferrara Bible of 1553. Two editions of the Ferrara Bible were published: one, for Jews, signed by Abraham Usque; the other, for Christians, signed by Jerome of Vargas.