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1. An original display leaf from the 1535 first edition PROTESTANT FRENCH BIBLE with Certificate of Authetitcity. NOTE: THE ABOVE ORIGINAL LEAF IS FOR DISPLAY PURPOSE ONLY. Feel free to ask for your favourite text. 

2. A fine art reproduction of the title page of the1535 first edition PROTESTANT FRENCH BIBLE 

3. Reference material from Darlow and Moule Catalogue 1903-1911.


The first French Protestant version; a revision, based on the Hebrew and Greek, by Pierre Robert Olivetan. Sometimes known as ‘La Bible de Serrieresf from the village of that name near Neuchatel, where it was published. 


P. R. Olivetan was born at Noyon, in Picardy, in 1500, and was a kinsman of J. Calvin. At the conference of Angrogne in Piedmont (Sept. 1532), ‘ rencontre momentanee des Réformes d’avant la Réforme avec les enfants de la renaissance littéraire et biblique,’ the delegates urged the necessity of preparing a revision of the French Bible, based on the original texts, and of printing a large edition of such a work. In seeking a fit translator, the Reformers’ choice fell on Olivetan, a competent Hebrew and Greek scholar, who accepted the task only after the repeated solicitation of leaders like Farel and Viret. Calvin, in his Latin preface (see below), while enumerating the qualities which fitted Olivetan for this labour, alludes to his modesttu, or rather unrnoclieus pudor, quo pene eb hoc td sencto Zctbore susctpiedo ctbstrctctus est, nist hortatu ee etid ftegitattone sue vtctu sdcti vtri . . . Gusemeth ef} Ohlorotes [Fare] and Viret—see below] tddem menus dere coegissent. Olivetan died at Ferrara in 1538.


In basing his revision of Le Fevre’s version on the Hebrew and the Greek, Olivetan appears to have followed generally the guidance of Pagninus and Erasmus, using their Latin translations of the O. T. and the N. T. respectively; and he also consulted versions such as those of Luther and Bruccioli. Some of his notes are borrowed from Nicolaus de Lyra and from Erasmus’ Paraphrase. To Olivetan is due the introduction of the French' term L’Eternel as an equivalent for the Ineffable Name.


E. Reuss has made an exhaustive study of Olivetan’s Bible, and published his results in the Strassburg Revue cle Theologte (Series III, vols. 3 and 4). Though throughout the translator had before him Le Fevre’s Bible, yet, in the O. T. at least, his version is practically a new translation. This is shown in a marked manner in the Psalter, which is here based on the Hebrew text, and not, as in Le Fevre’s version and in nearly all mediaeval French Psalters, on the Gallican Psalter. Graf asserts that Olivetan’s marginal notes alone are sufficient to prove that he made an independent use of the Hebrew text, and did not merely rely on Pagninus. In the Apocrypha—which, like his contemporary the English translator Miles Coverdale, he separated from the canonical books—Olivetan reproduced with slight alterations Le Fevre’s text. In the N. T. he corrected his predecessor’s version by the Greek, probably following Erasmus’ edition of 1527, and was careful to print in smaller type all words not represented in the Greek text.


There seems no proof that Calvin, who in 1535 published his Institutes, collaborated with Olivetan in the original work of translation: he contributed, however, a Latin preface, and an introduction to the N. T., and afterwards took a large share in repeated revisions of the version. For other Reformers mentioned in the preliminary matter, see below. Olivetan’s amanuensis Bonaventure des Periers (c. 15104544) subsequently achieved fame as author of Oyrnbelurn Metndt, Les Nouveltes Recreations et Joyeux Devis and poems. He was a courtier of Marguerite, Queen of Navarre, whose Heptmneron is sometimes- though without warrant—ascribed to his pen.



  • Calvin, in a well-known passage, placed him in the same category as Rabelais and others, who, ‘ after having tasted the Gospel ’—i.e. the Reformed doctrine—followed the course taken by Dolet and his companions: ‘Agrippam, Villanouanum, Doletum, & similes vulgo notu est tanquam Gyclopas quospiam Euangelium semper fastuose spreuisse. Tadem eo prolapsi sunt amentise & furoris, vt no modo in Filium Dei execrabiles blasphemias euomerent, sed quantum ad animve vitam attinet, nihil a canibus & porcis putarent se differre. Alii (vt Rabelaysus, Deperius, & Goueanus) gustato Euangelio, eadem cwcitate sunt percussi. Gur istud nisi quia sacrum illud vitae seternve pignus, sacrilega ludendi aut ridendi audacia ante profanarant Paucos nomino. Quicuque eiusdem sunt farinse, eos sciamus nobis si Domino in exemplu quasi digito mostrari, vt sollicité in vocationis nostrae stadio pergamus, ne quid simile nobis cotingat . . .’ (De Scendctlis, Geneva, 1551, p. 78). However, in the inscription set on the great gate of his Abbey of Thelema, Rabelais gave this significant welcome to all ‘pure, honest, faithful, true, expounders of the Scriptures old and new;


    ‘Gy entrez, vous, qui le sainct Evangile

    En sens agile annoncez, quoi qu’on gronde.

    Céans aurez un refuge et bastille

    Gontre l’hostile erreur, qui tant postille .

    Par son faulx style empoisonner le monde :

    Entrez, qu’on fonde icy la foy profonde,

    Puis, qu’on confonde, et par voix et par rolle,

    Les ennemis de la. saincte parole.


    La parole saincte

    Ja ne soit extaincte

    En ce lieu tres·sainct.

    Ghascun en soit ceinct;

    Ghascune ait enceincte

    La parole sainctef


    Pierre de Wingle, dict Pirot Picard, had formerly been a printer at Lyons; but, having displeased the ecclesiastical authorities by producing certain German books, he was obliged to fly to Geneva, and thence to Neuchatel, where he found a refuge and became one of the leading citizens. At Neuchatel he published a folio edition of Le Fevre’s version of the N. T., with a remarkable preface (cited by E. Petavel, La Bible en France, pp. 288-290); the colophon is dated 27 March 1534 (:1535 ?). But his greatest achievement was the

    printing of this noble folio Bible of 1535.


    The cost of publication appears to have been borne entirely, or in part, by the Vaudois, who contributed 500 crowns to the expense. The initial letters of the words in the ten lines of acrostic verse printed on the last page yield the following couplet :


    ‘ Les Vaudois, peuple évangélique,

    Ont mis ce thrésor en publiquei


    As in the case of many Bibles and other books printed about this period, copies of the first French Protestant Bible often lack the title and preliminary leaves, which were torn out by their owners to delude inquisitive officials and prevent the confiscation of the book. This French Bible of 1535 exercised no slight iniiuence on the English Bible of 1537, known as ‘ Matthew’s Bible ’ (No. 17), which borrowed directly from Olivetan’s work its preface to the Apocrypha and its concordance. In its later form, as the French Geneva version, it influenced still more strongly the English Geneva Bible.