Lexicon Heptaglotton

BIBLE   |   Edmund CASTELL

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“MARKS AN EPOCH IN SEMITIC SCHOLARSHIP”: CASTELL’S 1669 SEVEN-LANGUAGE BIBLICAL LEXICON, HANDSOMELY BOUND

(BIBLE—LEXICON) CASTELL, Edmund. Lexicon Heptaglotton, Hebraicum, Chaldaicum, Syriacum, Samaritanum, Aethiopicum, Arabicum, Conjunctim; et Persicum… London: Thomas Roycroft, 1669. Two volumes. Folio (12 by 18 inches), 19th-century full crimson morocco gilt, gilt coat of arms on covers, raised bands, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt.

First edition of Castell’s important seven-language Biblical lexicon, with engraved frontispiece portrait. A handsome copy in full morocco decorated with the gilt coat of arms and motto of Guillaume Pavée de Vendeuvre, peer of France and renowned bibliophile.

Castell devoted 18 years of his life to his great Lexicon, “filled with unremitting toil of seldom less than 16 or 18 hours a day, with constant vigils, with bodily suffering, with loss of fortune, and finally all but the loss of sight” (DNB). The Lexicon grew out of Castell’s work in assisting Brian Walton in the preparation of his renowned Biblia Polyglotta, “in which Castell was especially responsible for the Samaritan, Syriac, Arabic, and Ethiopic versions, as Walton himself admits; though it appears that Castell was credited by Walton with a much smaller share in the work than he really accomplished. While the Lexicon’s appearance “marks an epoch in Semitic scholarship” (DNB), it was never destined to be a popular work. At the time of Castell’s death about 500 copies remained unsold; these were put in storage, but carelessly, “where for some years the rats played such havoc with the learned pages that when the stock came to be examined scarcely a single copy could be made up from the wreck of the sheets” (DNB)—making complete copies very scarce today. Originally issued as a single, very thick folio volume, this copy has been bound in two, with no title page in Volume II (none issued). Castell’s Lexicon is at times found paired with Walton’s six-volume Polyglot Bible, which was also published by Roycroft, but issued separately 12 years prior, in 1657. Finely printed in three columns in Roman, Italic and a variety of exotic types. Wing C1225. See Darlow & Moule 1446. Covers of each volume decorated with the coat of arms and motto (Ardeo, Persevero, Spero—I burn, I persevere, I hope) of Guillaume Pavée de Vendeuvre, 19th-century member of Parliament and peer of France, who was also a renowned bibliophile.

Occasional foxing. A few minor rubs to handsome binding. A near-fine copy of this important lexicon, with distinguished provenance.

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