Plantin's 1583 Latin Bible

[Latin Bible]. Biblia Sacra, quid in hac editione a theologis Lovaniensibus praestitum sit, eorum praefatio indicat.
Antwerp: Christophe Plantin, 1583. (Prothro B-28)

The Antwerp press of Christophe Plantin (c. 1520–1589) was known for the high quality of its well-illustrated books. For this Latin Bible of 1583, Plantin provided a rich program of engraved illustration. Produced from incised copperplates, engravings added detail, subtlety, and depth to pictorial illustration, but these prints were also more costly and difficult to produce than woodcuts. Whereas the pages of books with woodcut illustrations were printed in a single operation, printing pages with engravings required two different presses, one for the moveable type and one for the engraved plate. Although engraved illustration required extra time, labor, and expense, and sometimes resulted in uneven page design or faulty registration, the artistic effect was often far superior to that of woodcuts.

No expense was spared in the production of Plantin’s 1583 Bible. It features nine full-page engraved plates, three double-page maps, two double-page diagrams, and eighty-two smaller single-column illustrations. Several engravings in the Old Testament were designed by Pieter van der Borcht (1545–1608) and Pieter Huys (1519–1581), while most of the engravings in the New Testament were designed by Crispin van der Broeck (1524–1591). The engravers, who sometimes signed the plates, included Jan Wierix, Jan de Sadeler, and Abraham de Bruyn. The exhibited full-page plate, signed “P. Huys,” depicts a high priest of Israel wearing the traditional vestments described in Exodus. The letters within the illustration are keyed to the table below, which provides the Latin and Hebrew names for each element of the priestly vestments.


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Later Sixteenth Century
Plantin's 1583 Latin Bible