The Erasmian Heritage of Humanist Printers
The philological methods that the Italian humanists of the early Renaissance had used in their restitution of classical texts from Latin Antiquity were applied to Biblical texts a few years after the printing of Gutenberg’s 42-line Bible. Basel printers such as Johann Froben thus proposed a version of the Vulgate “ex fontibus Graecis” (literally “from the Greek sources”) as early as 1476. Erasmus of Rotterdam, a friend of Froben, published with him the first printed edition of the Greek New Testament in 1516. The Parisian printer Robert Estienne, like the Venetian Aldus Manutius, was himself also a humanist who did not only publish Biblical texts in Hebrew, Greek and Latin, but edited them from the best manuscripts at his disposal in the Royal Library or in the great Benedictine monasteries of Saint-Denis or Saint-Germain-des-Prés. His revision of the text of the Vulgate was so authoritative that it was immediately reproduced by other Parisian printers and, in spite of his conversion to Protestantism and his flight to Geneva in 1555, served as the basis for the Roman edition published under the aegis of Pope Clement VIII in 1596. The 1550 Estienne editio regia (“royal edition”) of the Greek New Testament was considered as the received text during the second half of the 16th century. The expression textus receptus itself, applied to the Erasmian text, appeared only in a 1633 edition published in Amsterdam by the Elzevirs.