Armenian Psalter

Simultaneously, David narrowly misses being murdered by Saul [foreground], and escapes from an upstairs window [background]

Simultaneously, David narrowly misses being murdered by Saul [foreground], and escapes from an upstairs window [background]

Newly catalogued from the Sion College collection is this Armenian Psalter (or ՍԱՂՄՈՍ Դաւթի մարգարէի որ և Սաղմոսարան յորջորջի։ Ամստերդամ, տպագր., if you prefer), printed in Amsterdam in 1661-2. This attractive edition is extremely rare. It is illustrated with a large number of engaging full page woodcuts, and also has printed decoration in the margins of some pages. The blind tooled binding appears contemporary to the text, and even retains clasps with miniature hands to grab the book closed.

Before its arrival at Sion College Library, the book was owned by the Dutch Orientalist and mathematician Jacobus Golius (1596-1667). He was chair of both mathematics and Arabic at the famous university of Leiden for almost 40 years, and produced an Arabic-Latin lexicon which remained the standard Arabic dictionary in Europe for nearly two centuries. Another major and more esoteric achievement lay in publicising the much doubted fact that China, which had been newly ‘discovered’ by Europe in the early 16th century, was not new even to Europe, but was in fact synonymous with Marco Polo’s Cathay, ‘discovered’ hundreds of years earlier.

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