"I AM BURNING TO WRITE ABOUT THE THREE GOSPELS": A GREAT RARITY, FIRST EDITION IN ENGLISH OF CALVIN'S HARMONIE, 1584, HIS MONUMENTAL COMMENTARY ON THE THREE SYNOPTIC GOSPELS ALONG WITH THE GOSPEL OF JOHN, THE CULMINATION OF HIS WORK ON THE NEW TESTAMENT
CALVIN, John. A Harmonie vpon the three Euangelists, Matthew, Mark and Luke, with the Commentarie of M. Iohn Caluine; faithfullie translated out of Latine into English, by W.P. Whereunto is also added a Commentarie vpon the Euangelist S. John, by the same authour. Londini [London]: [By Thomas Dawson] impensis Geor. Bishop, 1584. Thick quarto (5-1/2 by 7-3/4 inches), contemporary full brown calf rebacked and recornered, raised bands, gilt-ruled boards with gilt arabesques: (48), 806, (2), (8), 464, (22). Housed in a custom chemise and clamshell box. $17,500.
First edition in English of Calvin's commentaries on the Gospels of Mathew, Mark and Luke—"with it Calvin's New Testament commentaries were complete"—as issued in one rare volume with his commentary on the Gospel of John. "I am burning to write about the three Gospels," Calvin once wrote, "Indeed, once this book is published, I will turn to silent meditation." An exceptional copy in contemporary gilt-stamped calf boards.
"Calvin is one of the best theologians the Christian tradition has to offer" (Cambridge Companion, 266). Calvin began his work on the historical books of the New Testament with Acts, "but his commentary swelled to such proportions that he had to divide it into two volumes. The first was published in 1552. Before the second could make its appearance in 1554, St. John's Gospel had come out in 1553. Acts and St. John were swiftly followed by the very large volume of the Harmonie… This consisted of the first three Gospels arranged to make a single narrative. With it Calvin's New Testament commentaries were complete, for there is none on the Revelation of St. John" (Parker, John Calvin, 135). Calvin early "explained that his main task was to comment on the harmony of the three Gospels: 'I must not be kept away from what I am burning to write about the three Gospels. Indeed, once this book is published, I will turn to silent meditation''" (Gilmont, John Calvin, 51). The structure of Harmonie reflects his belief "that none of the three Gospels can be interpreted without comparison with the other two. To prevent having to page back and forth, therefore, it seemed to him that it would be helpful to place the three Gospels side by side" (Greef, Writings, 84). First published in 1555 in Latin. Translated in English by "E.P." for Eusebius Pagit (alt. Paget): "one of the most uncompromisingly radical of Elizabethan Puritan ministers" (Puritans and Puritanism, I:191). Gospel of John separately paginated, with translation by Chistopher Fetherstone. Colophon with printer's name. Containing woodcut-engraved title page, ornamental initials, head- and tailpieces. Mispagination as issued without loss of text. ESTC S102561. Lowndes, 354. See PMM 65. Preliminary blank with a lengthy appreciation in an unidentified cursive. Title page with small owner inscription. Rear blank with early owner signatures.
Interior generally fresh with light scattered edge-wear, occasional marginal dampstaining, a tiny bit of marginal wormholing, several leaves roughly opened without loss of text. An excellent and rare copy of one of Calvin's most seminal and defining works.