Images & Video
An extract from John Evelyn’s diary recording his visit to London
After the Restoration in 1660 (just a few years after the Polyglot was printed) Walton went on to be consecrated Bishop of Chester – no doubt for his support of the Royalist cause throughout the period of the Commonwealth. “A.D. 1652. November 22. I went to London, where was professed to me the promoting that great work, (since accomplished by Dr. Walton, Bishop of Chester) Biblia Polyglotta, by his passion that most learned divine.”
Frontispiece of the Polygot Bible: Dr Brian Walton
Walton is featured in his finest academic robes and showing himself to be working in direct continuation of the other great Polyglots of history. Some of those featured include: the Hexapla (compiled by Origen c.240), the Complutensian Polyglot (printed in Spain in 1517), the King’s Bible (printed in Antwerp in 1573) and the Paris Polyglot (a near contemporary of Walton’s Polyglot, printed in 1645).
Title page of the 1657 Polyglot
On the contents section of this title page, there is a clear distinction between the ‘original’ biblical languages (Hebrew and Greek) and those from later antiquarian sources.
Because the Polyglot was printed during the Commonwealth, the space in the dedication usually reserved for the king is instead occupied by Cromwell’s name (D.PROTECTORE). Due to a petition to Parliament, Walton managed to secure tax free duties on the paper used during printing, and this is mentioned alongside Cromwell’s name. After the Restoration of Charles II, and just a few years after printing, Walton tried to recall as many copies as possible to edit out Cromwell’s name – this copy with the original dedication intact is very rare.
The ages of the Prophets
One of the many contributors to the Polyglot was Archbishop James Ussher (Primate of All Ireland from 1625-1656) who was a prolific scholar and who famously published a chronology purporting to show that the world began in the year 4004BC, on the night before Sunday 23rd October. Ussher came to this rather specific date for threefold reasons: firstly, because the Jewish New Year began in the autumn (so God would have chosen to start the world to coincide with this), secondly, because the Jewish day began in the evening (so God would have begun work in the evening too) and lastly, because the day of rest was on a Saturday (so God would have created the world from Saturday night and finished six days later on Friday night – to coincide with the start of the Jewish Shabbat). In a similar effort to ground these Holy Scriptures in real history, the Polyglot Bible aims to analytically prove the assumption that the world began 6,000 years ago by totaling up the Biblical ages and dates in a series of charts – even giving three differing calculations depending on which version of the Bible one reads.
Images of the Holy Land
These three fairly inaccurate maps show the general areas of the Middle East in which the Bible is set and framed in. To the top left is a depiction of the area of Greater Syria, covering the lands west of the river Euphrates. The top right is a depiction of the Saini peninsula and the ‘route’ of the Israelites through the desert. The large image at the bottom is of Israel/Palestine (with the top facing east) depicting those sites associated with ancient Israel and the life of Jesus. Again, these maps, along with the rest of the appendices of the Polyglot, aim to ground the scriptures in geographical reality – even though these maps are very inaccurate of the areas they are describing.
The Journey of the Israelites through Saini
The phonetic alphabet
Although the Polyglot uses an unprecedented 8 languages in its biblical translation, in its appendices it cites an even broader range of languages from across the Middle East and Central Asia, showing the huge breadth of linguistic knowledge the compliers of the Polyglot possessed. These phonetic alphabets would have aided scholars who wanted to read the Polyglot in how to correctly pronounce the languages printed.
The first page of Genesis
The first 14 verses of Genesis chapter 1. The left hand page (working from top to bottom) shows the Hebrew, Greek and Syriac versions. The right hand page (again, working from top to bottom) shows the Chaldee, Samaritan and Arabic versions. All the languages featured have their own Latin translation to show the nuances within each segment of text.