At the beginning of the 1500’s Jean Mareschal began his own company for editing and printing in Lyon; over the years Mareschal’s work expanded and developed to the point where it was considered second only to that of Parisian printing. A true cultural entrepreneur influenced by the spirit of his time, Mareschal did something unprecedented: in hopes of restoring the original pureness of the ancient version of the Bible, he prepared a Bible using a collection of antique sacred texts.
The "Third book of the Maccabees"
Mareschal’s Bible compiles texts, comments, preambles, explanations, and comparisons from various sources. Because of his meticulous resolution to complete the material, the Lyonais publisher included the “Third Book of the Maccabees”, translated by himself, in the volume for the first time. This text was probably composed in Greek by a Jew from Alessandria in the centuries between BC and AD who wanted to encourage his own community to endure the persecutions, just as the Jews under Tolomeo IV Filopatore (221-203 BC) who then received help from the Omnipotent.
In addition to being an exemplary item edited in that epoch, the 1541 Bible of Lyons represents a unicum in the history of this sacred text. The courageous publisher surely sensed the impending Counter-Reformation and the risks of his decision not to put the publisher’s name on the volume. In fact only five years later the Council of Trent declared the “Third Book of the Maccabees” apocrypha and put this edition of the Bible on their list.
To escape from the Inquisition, Mareschal was forced to seek asylum in Switzerland and then definitively in Heidelberg, Germany. All of the remaining copies of the Bible were confiscated and destroyed. Today only a few copies of the Bible of Lyon are still in existence: five in France, two in Germany, one (incomplete copy) in Spain, and two in Italy, in addition to this specimen.
Hans Holbein’s Icons
Sixteen engravings contemporary to the Lyonais Bible, from the 1543's edition. The engravings (“Icones” is the Latin title) are by Hans Holbein Junior, one of the greatest artists of the 1500’s. These reproductions depicting biblical episodes are borrowed from a unique exemplary conserved at the Marciana National Library of Venice.