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1698 Heptateuchus


  • Version: Non-English Bibles
  • Age Range: 1640 to 1699
  • Size Range: Standard Quartos (8”-11” Tall)
  • Appraisal Value: $5,000
  • Title Page: 1698
  • Actual Size: 9.25 x 6 x 1
  • Font: Anglo Saxon, Roman
  • Other Features: End Papers: Cotton


Heptateuchus, Liber Job, et Angelium Nicodemi;
Anglo-Saxonice. Historiae Judith Fragmentum; Dano-Saxonice
Oxoniae: E Theatro Sheldoniano … typis Junianis, 1698. 8vo (22.6 cm, 8.9″). Frontis., [8], 168, 32 pp.

First edition: A landmark work of Anglo-Saxon scholarship, edited by one of the most prominent early Oxfordians in the field of Old English literature. The Heptateuch (i.e., the Pentateuch, Joshua, and Judges) and the Book of Job, believed to have been translated into the vernacular by Aelfric, Abbot of Eynsham, are followed by the Gospel of Nicodemus and a fragment of the poem “Judith.” Thwaites’ inclusion of “Judith” marked the first printing of Anglo-Saxon poetry from an English press. Additionally, this only the fifth work to print a portion of the Bible in Anglo-Saxon.

While Wing claims that there was a previous Sheldonian edition in 1696, identical except for the absence of the “typis Junianis” on the title-page, all other sources we consulted give the publication date as 1698, and no institutionally held copies of a 1696 edition could be located (ESTC gives a “place-holder record” based on the Wing number). In addition, The History of Oxford University Press, which agrees with 1698 as the first appearance of the work, notes that due to alarm over Thwaites’ having dedicated it to the nonjuring George Hickes, it was almost suppressed and had to be issued with a new title-page removing the Vice-Chancellor’s imprimatur — which might well explain the confusion.

This production was modestly but beautifully embellished with engravings done by Michael Burghers, being a dramatic engraved frontispiece and a pairing of large headpiece and decorative capital opening both the preface and the text, all of which preserve Burghers’ attribution.

Darlow & Moule 1606; Wing (rev. ed.) B2198; NCBEL, II, 1792; ESTC R4371. See Terry, Poetry & the Making of the English Literary Past, p. 114. Contemporary mottled calf, covers framed and panelled in blind with blind-tooled corner fleurons, rebacked