Gospels in Arabic
RAIMONDI, Giovani Battista. Evangelivm sanctvm Domini Nostri Iesu Christi conscriptvm a qvatvor Evangelistis sanctis idest, Matthaeo, Marco, Lvca, et Iohanne. (Rome, 1590). Provenance: Thomas Phillips, 1837.
In 1584, Giovani Battista Raimondi (ca. 1536-1614), professor of mathematics and philosophy, founded in Rome the Medici Oriental Press The first great Arabic publication of the press was this edition of the Gospels, bearing the date 1590 on the title page, and 1591 at the end. The Arabic types were made by outstanding type-cutter, Robert Grandjon of Lyon, who manufactured moveable metal type.
The cursive Arabic script reproduced in the works of the Medici Press bettered all previous attempts in Europe, and would remain unsurpassed long after the press had closed. The 149 woodcuts with which the book is illustrated were probably made by Leonardo Parasole (born c. 1570) after designs by the Florentine artist Antonio Tempesta, known for the frescoes he painted in the Vatican and numerous palaces. Six other Arabic texts were printed by this press over the next four years, including five scientific texts by Muslim scholars.
In the 18th century, amazingly enough, many of the books printed by Raimondi were still in Rome in the Palazzo Vecchio stacked in wardrobes. An inventory taken at the time shows that 1,039 copies of the Arabic-Latin Gospels, 566 of the Arabic Gospels, 810 of the Avicenna, 1,967 of the Euclid, 1,129 of the Idrisi, still remained unsold, along with several other titles. But early in the 19th century the government sold the remaining books for a derisory sum to a bookseller who destroyed the bulk of them to increase the rarity of the remainder.
The remaining type and matrices wound up in the Pitti Palace, where Napoleon was able to loot them at his ease when he conquered Italy. In 1808 Napoleon ordered the punches and matrices to be taken to Paris, where they were used to print Arabic proclamations for distribution in the Near East. Eight years later, after Napoleon's exile, they were brought back to Florence"