[Bible. Gospels. Arabic].
Evangelium sanctum Domini Nostri Iesu Christi conscriptum a quatuor Evangelistis sanctis idest, Matthaeo, Marco, Luca, et Iohanne. Rome, Medici Oriental Press, 1590 - 1591.
Folio (309x203 mm). Collation: [1-46]4. 386 pages. Text in Arabic. Title-page in Arabic and Latin. Title-page and text within frame of woodcut fillets. 149 large woodcuts (130x100 mm), from sixty-eight blocks, some executed by Leonardo Parasole after Antonio Tempesta. Woodcut head- and tailpieces. Contemporary limp vellum. Title inked in Latin and Arabic by contemporary hands. Losses to the outer lower corners, and to the top of spine. A very good, unsophisticated copy, a few leaves uniformly browned. Some small spots and waterstains to the margins of the title-page, and a heavier waterstain on the last leaf. First and last leaves partially detached.
Provenance: two seventeenth-century ownership inscriptions on the title-page, the first, partially erased, '[...] die 20. Maij. hab. Romae 1668. ex Biblioth. Medicea'; the second one refers to the Franciscan monastery of Trecastagni in Padua ('Pro Conventum S.ti Antonij da Padua Mgr. Trium Castanearum'; inscription repeated with slight variations on the verso of the last leaf).
Rare and finely illustrated first edition of the Gospels printed in Arabic. It is the first book printed by the Typographia Medicea Orientale, established by Gregorius XIII in 1584 specifically for printing in oriental languages, and financially supported by Cardinal and future Grand Duke of Tuscany, Ferdinando de' Medici. The Medici Oriental Press was the first printing press in Europe dedicated to printing books in an Arabic font, and the mathematician and orientalist Giovanni Battista Raimondi (1540-1610) was commissioned with its direction. The text of the Gospels was edited by Raimondi himself, and set in the fine types cut by Robert Granjon. The 1590 edition of Arabic Gospels is also highly praised for its exceptional illustrative apparatus, including numerous woodcut vignettes, some of which were executed by the woodblock carver Leonardo Parasole (1570-1630) after the renowned painter and printmaker Antonio Tempesta (1555-1630). The presence of these illustrations – which include the figural representation of the divine – suggests this publishing initiative was intended for a European market, rather than as an effort to convert Muslims, for whom such figural representation is proscribed.
This copy belongs to the issue bearing the title-page set in Arabic as well as in Latin types, and including the date of publication.
Adams B-1822; Mortimer Italian, 64; Tinto, La tipografia medicea orientale, p. 79; Darlow & Moule 1636; Philobiblon, One Thousand Years of Bibliophily, no. 168.