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Capital letter D. Joshua 2:15

CAT 43 Capital letter D. Joshua 2.15. Taferelen.  BA 40.jpg

CAT 42. Capital letter D. Printed as the first letter of Tableau 1 (from Joshua 2:15) in Taferelen der voornaamste geschiedenissen van het Oude en Nieuwe Testament. The Hague: Pieter de Hondt, 1728, 2:149. Melville Memorial Room, Berkshire Athenaeum.

Joshua 2: "[1] And Joshua the son of Nun sent out of Shittim two men to spy secretly, saying, Go, view the land, even Jericho. And they went, and came into an harlot’s house, named Rahab, and lodged there . . . [15] Then she let them down by a cord through the window: for her house was upon the town wall, and she dwelt upon the wall. [16] And she said unto them, Get you to the mountain, lest the pursuers meet you; and hide yourselves there three days, until the pursuers be returned: and afterward ye may go your way.”

Outside the stem of the letter D we see Rahab and a companion letting the two spies down the wall with the cord. The light from the crescent of the moon casts a clear shadow of the man on the ground.  Rahab’s house is seen on the part of the wall bisected by the stem of the D. With this image Melville’s sequence of Biblical block letter engravings moves from the heroic age of Noah and the desert wanderers into the world of domestic intrigue. In the Taferelen this shift is echoed in rococo headpiece that Picart has placed immediately above Rahab’s letter D in this first Tableau from Joshua in volume 2; Saurin, however, omits Rahab from his commentary on this Tableau.

Melville does refer to Rahab in “The Night in Jericho” in Clarel: she is “that lass which hid / The spies here in this Jericho” (NN C 2.16.87-8). He compares the hiding she does with that of Armida in Tasso’s Jerusalem Delivered (see CAT 105).