Bible in Latin, 1720

Venice: Nicolaus Pezzana, 1720

In April 1546 the Council of Trent reaffirmed the authority of the Latin version of the Bible known as the Vulgate and prescribed that a new and reliable edition of its text be released immediately. The Vatican published the authoritative edition 44 years later, in 1590, under the pontificate of Sixtus V. Although expected to be a definitive edition, the Sixtine Bible was corrected and revised two years later by order of the new Pope, Clement VIII. The Clementine Vulgate remained the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church until the Second Vatican Council held between 1962 and 1965. It was reprinted countless times in a variety of formats.

The Latin Bible described here was published by Nicolaus Pezzana, a Venetian printer who produced at least five editions of the text between 1706 and 1765. The Nicolaus Pezzana who issued a Latin Bible in 1669 was probably his father. All the Latin Bibles printed by the Pezzana family were profusely illustrated with woodcuts printed from blocks reused or recopied over the years. They also share an engraved title page designed by Isabella Piccini (1644-1734), the daughter of a Venetian engraver and an artist in her own right. Born Elisabetta Piccini, she entered the Franciscan convent of Santa Croce in Venice after the death of her father, in 1666, and had a long and productive career as an engraver and illustrator of religious books. On the title page she designed for the Pezzana Bibles, Moses and Peter stand on both sides of an open Bible. Moses wears a horned headdress and holds the Tablets of the Law and a staff while Peter wears the triple crown of the Popes and holds a large cross. As Professor James W. Watts pointed out, two similar figures are labeled Synagoga and Ecclesia, the Synagogue and the Church, on the title page of a Latin Bible published in 1680 in Lyons.  The Dove of the Holy Spirit hovers between Moses and Peter. Christ’s initials engraved on Peter’s breast send rays to a globe at the bottom of the image and the symbols of the Four Evangelists (angel, eagle, bull, and lion) are depicted to the right of Peter. The lower register includes, in addition to the globe marked with the names of Europe and Africa, a menorah and an enigmatic image that appears to show blood flowing from Christ’s hands, feet, and heart.