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1550 John Marbeck First Bible Concordance in English



“A concordance, that is to saie, a worke wherein by the ordre of the letters of the A.B.C. ye maie redely finde any words conteigned in the whole Bible, so often as it is there expressed or mencioned.”

The first edition of the first complete Bible concordance in English. Engraved title page, engraved initials and printer’s devices. Full page woodcut of Henry VIII on final leaf (frequently lacking).

Collation: A^6, A-Z^6, Aa-Zz^6, Aaa-Vvv^6, Xxx^1. Lacking Bb4.

Text in three column black letter font. Woodcut title page with portrait of King Henry VIII above title and printer’s device below. Dedication to King Edward (3 pp.) with engraved woodcut initial. Introduction to the Reader (2 pp.) with engraved woodcut initial. A Table Expressing By Plaine Letters (1 pp.) and a full page woodcut of the printer’s device (1 pp.). A blank leaf (A6). Text ends on colophon. A full page woodcut portrait of Henry VIII by his favorite artist Hans Holbein the younger, first published in 1548.

STC 17300, ESTC S114449

John Marbeck (or Merbecke) was a musician at St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle for over 50 years. In addition to his many musical accomplishments, Marbeck had a keen interest in theology. He was unable to afford a printed English Bible and thus created a manuscript copy of his own by hand. He also began work on a Biblical concordance during a time when King Henry had just passed The Act of Six Articles, reasserting traditional Catholic doctrine. His house was searched, books and manuscripts were found, and his nearly completed work of the concordance was taken and now placed his very life in jeopardy. He was sentenced to death in 1543 but received a royal pardon, enabling him to return to St. George chapel and begin his work anew. He completed the first concordance of the whole Bible in 1550, though this printed version is somewhat abbreviated to conserve paper.

Provenance: The signature of William Kythe appears on the final leaf. This is very likely William Kethe – a Marian exile, scholar who translated the Geneva Bible, and musician who contributed with influential verse translations of the Psalms.

Bound in a contemporary dark sheep and recently re-backed. Blind paneled covers with faded gilt ornaments to corners. Spine with five raised bands and a red gilt lined label with the words “A Concordace – J. Marbeck.”

Overall condition is VERY GOOD. Pages are quite crisp and clean with minimal staining. Wide margins. Minor staining to title page. Tiny worm hole to tail of first and last few leaves. Small tear in Ii3. Ppp3 – Vvv6 shows damage to foot of gutter which has been reinforced and repaired at corners. Bookplate of collector Robert J. Hayhurst. Sheep on covers is beginning to delaminate.

A scarce copy of a first edition English concordance with woodcuts and great provenance.


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