Tuesday, August 22, 2006

John of Placenta

Can anyone tell me anything about John of Placenta, mentioned in C.R. Gregory, Canon and Text of the New Testament (T & T Clark, 1907), p. 438, as having been the first person to print part of the Greek NT (The Magnificat and Benedictus; 20 September 1481, Milan). Considering the nature of the step he made it is rather surpring that Google appears to know nothing of the man. Does he go under another name? Anyone have any piccies of the edition?


  1. Google doesn't know everything. For instance, it doesn't yet seem to be aware of a six-chapter selection of John (without the Pericope?) printed in Greek & Latin by one Aldus Manutius of Venice in 1504. This was the same printer who produced a pirated edition of Erasmus, typos and all.

    So much for the theory that Froben needed to wait for Ximenes to develop a Greek typeface before he could print Erasmus' diglot in 1516.

    Actually, Nicholas Jensen had developed a simplified Greek character set for printing the works of Cicero in Venice way back in 1471. This, rather than the much more complicated Aldine, was the typeface Ximenes used for the Complutensian polyglot.

  2. Here's an advertisement, with photo, of a 15th-century Aldine Greek OT, with reference to a Milan Greek Psalter of 1481:

    text of the ad:
    ( VENICE: ALDUS MANUTIUS), [BEFORE OCTOBER 1498] 4to (200 x 140mm.), 150
    leaves, 20 lines, Greek type, printed in red and black, illustration: a3 and k1 with
    woodcut border, woodcut initials and dividers, binding: eighteenth-century calf,
    spine gilt in compartments black morocco lettering-piece, speckled edges, missing
    text at head of i1 supplied in manuscript, woodcut borders shaved, upper joint weak
    Literature & References: Delaveau & Hillard 2213; HCR 13452; BMC v 563;
    Renouard p.260; Sander 5944; UCLA 19; Goff P1033 Catalogue Note: The third
    appearance of the Psalter in Greek, following editions of 1481 (Milan) and 1486
    (Venice). Decadyus, from Corfu, was one of the early collaborators of the Aldine
    press and was also associated with Ermolao Barbaro. The production of the
    Psalter, a more commercially viable enterprise than other Greek texts published by Aldus, was aimed at Greeks living in Venice and elsewhere (the preface is headed
    "toiV en elladi graikoiV"). In the preface Decadyus states Aldus' intention to publish
    an Old Testament in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, a project never realised beyond one
    trial leaf. The date of 1498 is assigned from the typeface (which was not used after
    this date), the work's appearance in Aldus' 1498 list of publications, and a letter to
    Aldus from Giovanni Francesco Pico, dated 1 October 1498, requesting a missing
    leaf for his copy of this work. Estimate - 35,000-40,000

  3. I guess the date of September 20th is incorrect (corresponding to a Milan Psalter by Bonus Accursius).

    The correct date is 15 November 1486. I found an entry in WorldCat (which everyone can easily reproduce by searching on "py=1486 and la=greek").

    The Psalter is also mentioned by Gregory in Tischendorf's Octava, Vol. 3 p. 203 (with references).

    No trace of a "John of Placenta" though. My conjecture would be that a "John of Placentia" (Giovanni di Piacenza) is meant. Still not connected with the Psalter, but at least a real name.

  4. Some additions and corrections to my previous comment (it is now morning here in Amsterdam). It concerns a 1481 Milan Psalter, Greek and Latin, but I do not know whether it contains any New Testament hymns. It was edited by Johannes Crastonus Placentinus (better known as Johannes Crastonus; in Italian: Giovanni Crastone; many other forms), indeed from Piacenza. The Psalter was published by Bonus Accursius (Francesco Bonaccorsi (da Pisa)). There seems to be a copy in Manchester (found through COPAC).

  5. There is an entry in the Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society by Darlow and Moule, p. 574:

    1481. (The Psalter in Greek and Latin.) Mediolani. 1481

    The earliest book of the Bible to be printed in Greek. A liturgical Psalter; the LXX text with a Latin translation. Edited by Johannes Crastomus (or Chrestonus). The appended Canticles include the Magnificant and the Benedictus—the earliest portions of the N.T. to be printed in Greek.

    Colophon dated 20 Sept. 1481

  6. Thanks for these informative responses.

  7. Textcritically interesting is the word 'Elizabeth' in the following quote from Metzger, Text (2nd ed. 1968), p. 85 n. 1: 'In 1481 the Greek text of the hymns of Zachariah and Elizabeth (Luke I) was printed in Milan in an appendix to a Greek Psalter' (still found in Metzger/Ehrman, Text, p. 137 n. 1).

  8. That is interesting. Perhaps the Magnificat excerpt begins with v. 42 instead of v. 46.

    But I doubt it.

    Catholic Encyclopedia Index:
    "Elizabeth - The wife of Zachary, mother of St. John the Baptist, and relative of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Some believe that it was Elizabeth who proclaimed the Magnificat."