Christophe Plantin moves to Antwerp in 1549 as a bookbinder and becomes a printer in 1555 in that city.
The Bible of Alcala was out of date. It was criticized for being unequal, due to the difficulty of the publishing team to master the four languages. Moreover most of the copies had disappeared in a shipwreck and it had not been reissued.
Plantin has the idea of creating a new polyglot Bible based on the Alcala Bible. He exhibits some models of pages at the Frankfurt Fair in 1566 to find sponsors, putting in competition Catholics and Protestants. The project fascinates the King of Spain Philip II who is also the sovereign of the Netherlands. The king sends in 1568 his chaplain Benito Arias Montano to create a team of philologists and supervise the edition.
In the four languages as well as for the Syriac that has been added, the printer manages to choose the most beautiful available types, including the Hebrew characters used by Bomberg and Greek by Aldus. In the workshop four presses are used for five years.
For his personal use and to present to dignitaries, the king orders thirteen copies on vellum. These very luxurious books are finished in 1572 in folio 42 x 30 cm. Two volumes of thesaurus are not ready but their paper version may be added later.
Philip II had kept five copies for his personal use. They will remain grouped in the royal collection for more than two centuries, until King Charles III shares them among his sons. The youngest son's copy, 6 volumes bound in 11 books, is estimated £ 400K for sale by Christie's in London on July 11, lot 152. It is the last copy on vellum remaining in private hands. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
SOLD for £ 490K including premium