THE VULGATE PROJECT

We are currently putting back into print this beautiful edition of the Latin Vulgate, so that this work of art can be read and appreciated by all. There are a handful of editions of the Bible in Latin available today. None are as beautifully illustrated and formatted as this particular one. During our years of collecting Vulgate texts printed in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we have found that this edition seems to be one of the last ones printed with all of the beauty and elegance that is due to such a venerable text. It seems that all of the editions printed after this one (by this publisher and by others) present the text only without any illustrations and do not use the same wonderful typography. 

It seems that we live in an age where only the bare-minimum is done when publishing. In these days it seems that only the text is provided with little or no illustrations. But the typography and illustrations are not the only reason why we want to reprint this particular edition. It is also because of the editorial quality of the text itself. 

 

 

Below is an English translation of the “To the Reader” from the original work.

 Receive, dear reader, from the St. John the Evangelist Press of Tournai (Belgium) the Holy Bible in Latin, most diligently corrected and in faithful accordance with the Vatican edition authorized by Clement VIII and published in 1598. Since many have expressed the wish that, following the excellent work of the eminent scholar Charles Vercellone, there might be a new edition in more elegant form which, while based on his outstanding scriptural studies, could be produced at a lesser price, we decided that it would not be uncalled-for to create this edition of ours. 

Moreover the method which the editors decided to follow in this effort are with pleasure derived from the important guidelines Pope Clement VIII laid down for his edition. That is, he ordered that no one should undertake to publish this edition of Holy Scripture without first consulting a copy of it printed at the Vatican press. The form of this copy should be inviolably followed without the least particle of the text being changed, added or subtracted, unless something is found which is clearly ascribable to typographical negligence. 

If one investigates the reasons for this precept, it becomes easily apparent how useful and wise it was. For the Pontiff was looking for nothing else than to put an end to that enormous discord among innumerable editions through which, by ignoring tradition and the authority of the Church, everyone had been wont to indulge his own inclinations.

Thus it is impermissible for anyone to change anything in the text of the Vulgate edition in any way. It is forbidden by the very notion and sacredness of an authorized text, one having been established as such by the authority of the Church. Since it is the business of this authority to see to the integrity and unity of the Scriptures, the text it has established as the noblest document of tradition must be preserved with utmost care and vigilance. So no matter how much it may seem to us that, in the light of critical scientific reasoning and rules, some things ought to be changed, there is a fear that they might involve those things which were left unchanged deliberately. (Preface to the Reader) 

Finally, since, in the judgement of the foremost theologians and best scholars, the current readings of the Vulgate edition merit being treated cautiously and with prudent reverence even in matters minute and of small importance, our decision was never to depart from the Vatican — that is, the authorized — edition, unless by chance there was clear evidence of a manifest error on the part of the typographers. Hence we thought it best to safeguard that edition with utmost reverence as the definitive norm of the sacred text; we have striven to follow the precepts of the Holy See. 

The authors of the Vatican edition had not taken it upon themselves to print anything new and recently discovered, nor, likewise, did we ourselves undertake to do anything other than render with utmost exactitude the edition of 1598 (of which a copy lay before us). That edition is the last one of the three published under the auspices of Clement VIII, and through it the authorized text, with three appended lists of corrections, has been perfectly preserved. 

In no way could we be unaware of the weight with which certain readings are typically supported, like the famous proficiens [“advancing, making progress”] for proficiscens [“departing”] of II Samuel 3, 1, or the affigentes [“affixing, nailing” (to the cross, i.e., crucifying)] for affligentes [“striking or smashing against, striking down”] of Acts 2, 23. But no matter how much they appeal to us — in our private judgement preferring a different reading than the one presented by the Vatican text — we have not ventured to accept them. But because there are praiseworthy scholars — as the Venerable Cardinal Bellarmine has proved — who, well equipped with scholarly knowledge and other aids, devote their efforts to examining and confirming original readings even in all the smallest particulars, we did not think we should reject the emendations contained both in the publications of the best authors and in other, modern editions. Among the latter, we have put much effort into comparing especially the edition which the famous Charles Vercellone oversaw under the auspices of the most holy Pius IX; and in addition to other editions, those of greatest authority in France, Italy and Germany. We have employed these and others in figuring out obscure passages; in determining punctuation — whenever, that is, we feared that the sense might be altered or where it seemed to us that greater clarity might be obtained; and, finally, in correcting the addition of so-called citations, and other things of this kind. Quite often, for example, in the Vatican edition you will find a period followed by a lower-case letter; in Vercellone’s edition you will find this unchanged, even though he did not hesitate to alter some elements in many things of easily greater importance. So it had to be determined — often from the sources or from other editions or publications — whether the sentence in the preceding phrase was completely finished. Besides this it is clear that, due to printer negligence, one of two periods has sometimes been lost. All these things are found to be of small or, rather, no importance, if you look at the matter itself; however in issues of greater importance we have never rejected the Vulgate edition on any pretext whatsoever, as we have stated. 

It remains for us to explain certain other things we did in preparing this edition. 

The prefaces of St. Jerome according to the Vallarsi edition, generally included as one might expect, have been emended. — As for proper names, whose spelling in the Vulgate edition is by no means consistent, we have deliberately refrained from changing and rewording them in accordance with a fixed standard. — We have corrected and expanded so called biblical concordances or crossreferences of parallel passages (placed in the margin according to ancient custom), since they are largely erroneous in the Vatican edition; for the hard work of those who have inserted these kinds of things and other items of the same type in other editions is not condemned by the Apostolic See. — For the same reason we thought the captions, too, which head individual chapters, should be retained as aids for ease of use by students. — We have not shrunk from the incredible labor of cleaning up biblical indices, which the famous Vercellone left out, as though it were intolerable drudgery and labor to correct them properly, given that many preachers, students of theology and others have earnestly desired them. 

May, finally, this edition of the Sacred Bible be published, and may it bear exceedingly rich fruits of knowledge and piety; we humbly pray that St. John the Evangelist, our great patron, who drew his stream of divine eloquence from the sacred font itself of the Lord’s breast and, inebriated with the grace of the Holy Ghost, more deeply revealed to others the hidden things of Divinity, might obtain these results for us through his kind intercession with the most sacred Heart of Jesus.
 

Tourai, Belgium, on the feast of our holy father Benedict, 1885

A book review from 1886...

Here is an interesting article I found in the January 1886 edition of the Dublin Review.

Biblia Sacra Vulgata Editionis Sixti V Pont. Max. jussu recognita et Clementis VIII auctoritate edita. Tornaci Nerviorum : typis Soc. Sancti Ioannis Evangelistae, Desclee, Lefebvre et Soc. 1885.
IN the DUBLIN REVIEW of October, 1883, I brought before the notice of its readers several liturgical publications of the Tournay Liturgical Printing Press of St. John. The same publishers have just brought out a new edition of The Vulgate. As appears from the preface, it is arranged exactly on the same critical principles as that of 1883, except that the size is different and the ornamental adjuncts are changed. The present is a most handy volume in small octavo, printed on stout paper, in double columns. It has two maps, one of Palestine in the time of Our Lord, the other of the journeys of St. Paul. A very useful index of lessons, epistles, and gospels of the Sundays has also been added. The cheapness (frs. 7-50) of the volume, which extends to nearly a thousand pages, will no doubt be an additional recommendation of it to students.
A. BELLBSHEIM. 

If you would like to view a complete copy of this beautiful Vulgate Bible online, click here for a link to my downloads page.

You can download a .pdf of scanned images of the black and white edition courtesy of Google Books.

UPDATE 4/22/11- As mentioned in an earlier update, the beautiful 2-color first edition (1881 A.D.)  will be reproduced instead of the black and white last edition (1901 A.D.) I have spent the last year or so doing a considerable amount of discernment and research on several aspects of this project. After much consideration, I have decided to do all of the scanning myself. Quality control and attention to detail are important in this step. You can pay for that but it is expensive. Editing was never an issue. I knew that I would have to do it myself but I did not know how. In a short amount of time I have been able to get a firm grip on this process. I have learned that there is a science to the scanning and image editing process. I have tried my best to learn this science both through personal research and the help of professionals. I have also been researching into the history of the publishing company of Desclee under the name of The Society of St. John the Evangelist which originated in Tournai, Belgium. It has led me on an email chase from the Abbey of Maredsous to the Historical Society of Tournai. I have learned a lot and the research is not finished. I plan on sharing this fascinating story at the time of printing.

 I have begun the scanning/editing process and provided some sample images below.  I have uploaded examples of the raw scans and the edited image which is close to what the end product will look like. Click on the links below to open a pdf file of each.  I am still perfecting the editing process, so please consider these samples as a work-in-progress. I am very reluctant to set any dates or deadlines as to when copies of the work will be available.  My schedule is very fluid and unpredictable. I will use all available time for this project and I'll try to post updates when prudence allows them.

 

                                                                                       Raw Image Sample         

                                                          Edited Image Sample        

      

                      

UPDATE 1/3/2014- A major milestone has been reached in the Vulgate Project. Each and every page of the entire tome (all 979 of them) has been scanned at high resolution and are waiting to be edited and digitally enhanced for reprinting. I spent over 60 hours standing at my scanner waiting patiently for each cycle of the scan head to complete its journey from one end of the scanning device to another. I'm glad it's done and I can move on to the next tedious step. Adobe Photoshop will be my new friend, where each individual page scan will be opened and edited with the utmost care. The goal is to create sharp, vivid page images that are ready for the modern printing press yet still preserve the original historical nuances of a 133 year old Bible. Another goal is to make this reprint accessible to all who desires it by making the price reasonable. I could easily charge hundreds for such a book but I vow that I will not. It is not about and will never be about profit. It is about the preservation of beautiful work of art and making it available to those who appreciate beauty and aesthetics. It is about the Holy Bible in the timeless sacred Latin language. My motivation for the completion of this project has never lessened. It increases as I reach my goal. But one thing that I cannot control is the time available to work on this project. I appreciate all those who have emailed me over the years and have remained so patient with my slow progress. I hope that this year is a productive one! Stay tuned for more details.

UPDATE 1/6/18- The original churchlatin.com website was shut down. This project was on hold.

UPDATE 6/15/19- Thanks to a generous offer from an individual, the editing process has been taken from my hands! I had to come to the realization that I simply do not have the time available according to my state in life to edit all of the scans. All of the raw scans are currently being processed. More updates to come.

UPDATE 3/11/20- New website launched! Editing of the scans is still ongoing. Stay tuned......

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