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After Skaryna

After Skaryna. Publishing in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania / Daiva Narbutienė

Since the early days of print in the 16th century, books in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were published in a variety of languages such as Ruthenian, Polish, Latin, Lithuanian, German, Greek, Italian etc. Systematic publishing came to the GDL relatively lately. In 1522–1525, the printing house of Francysk Skaryna in Vilnius published only two books. In 1523–1553, the GDL‘s need in printed literature was satisfied by the printed publications brought to the country from abroad.

There is evidence that over 500 titles were published in the GDL in the 16th century. Most publications (about 220) were in Latin; about 200, in Polish; over 60, in Ruthenian; about 30, in German; one book each in Estonian, Greek, Italian, Latvian and Swedish. 30 books were published in Lithuanian (8, in Lithuania; 22, in Prussia).

The first printed book in Lithuanian, the Catechism by Martynas Mažvydas, came out in 1547. It was published not on the territory of the GDL, but in the neighbouring Eastern Prussia, whose ruler, Albert of Branderburg (*1490–†1568), promoted and financed book publishing in national languages. Meanwhile, in the GDL, the appearance of the first Lithuanian publications is related to the Counter-Reformation and the founding of the Vilnius Jesuit Academy in 1579. It is for the Jesuits that the printer Daniel Lancicius (Daniel z Łęczycy, †1600) is thought to have printed in 1585 the Catechism by Peter Canisius (*1521–†1597) in a translation from Latin into Lithuanian. Translations of the Catholic catechism into Latvian, Estonian and Ruthenian were published in Vilnius in the same year. In 1595, The Catechism, or Lore Requisite for Every Christian by the Spanish Jesuit Jacobo Ledesma (*1519–†1575) in a translation from the Polish edition by the priest Mikalojus Daukša (*between 1527–1538–†1613) was published in the printing house of the Vilnius Jesuit Academy. It is the first Lithuanian book printed in the GDL that is extant to these days.

The multilingual book publishing of the 16th-century GDL was dominated by religious and theological literature: publications of the Holy Scripture and its parts, hymn books, treatises on ecclesiastical practice, confessional polemics. Among secular publications worthy of notice are state law documents, schoolbooks, and belles lettres. A variety of topics and genres greatly increased in the second half of the 16th century, when a number of private and institutional printing houses opened in Vilnius.

In the mid-16th century, book publishing was taken on by magnates who did not spare any expenses on printing houses founded at their estates. In 1553, the first such printing house was established in Brest by the Voivode of Vilnius, Mikalojus Radvila the Black (*1515–†1565), who invited the printers Bernard Wojewódka and Andrzej Trzeciecki to come there from Cracow. In the late 1553–early 1554 they published the Small Catechism and the Large Catechism of Luther, or the so-called Catechisms of Brest. Since 1558, this printing enterprise had been headed by Stanislaus Murmelius (†after 1570) and Cyprian Bazylik (*circa 1535–†after 1591). Until the very end of its operation in 1570, the printing house issued about 40 publications for Reformed Evangelicals published solely in vernacular Polish.

The most significant work of this printing establishment is thought to be a translation of the Bible published on September 4, 1563. This was the first Evangelical Bible in Polish and the first edition of the Holy Scripture in the GDL in a vernacular language. Its preparation and publication was carried out with extensive involvement of international talent. The translation of the Bible from Hebrew and Greek, with an additional use of Latin texts, was made in a Calvinist centre in Pińczów (Lesser Poland). This beautifully illustrated tome, published in a print run of 500 copies, today is believed to be a masterpiece of 16th-century printing.

In 1562, Maciej Kawieczyński, (†before 1572) founded a printing house in Nesvizh, with the financial support of such dignitaries as Mikalojus Radvila the Black and the Court Marshal of Lithuania, Eustachijus Valavičius (†1587). Most publications published by this establishment were in Ruthenian or Polish. In 1562, there were published two Cyrillic books by a Reformation activist, the Kletsk preacher Simeon Budny (*circa 1530–†1593), The Catechism (Катехизис) and On the Justification of the Sinful Man before God (Об оправдании грешного человека пред Богом). The 1562 edition of the Catechism marks the re-emergence of Ruthenian printing in the GDL after four decades. A new translation of the Holy Scripture into Polish by Budny was published in 1570–1572 in Nesvizh and afterwards, in Zaslawye, the city to which a press from this printing house was brought after the death of Kawieczyński.

Before its closure in 1572, the Nesvizh printing house produced a dozen books in Polish and Latin. It is here that the first known printed Latin book in the GDL came out, a polemical treatise by the Arian theologian Gregory Paul of Brzeziny (Grzegorz Paweł z Brzezin, *1525–†1591), Antidote Against the Articles of New Faith (Antidotum contra articulos fidei novae). When Nesvizh fell into the hands of Mikalojus Kristupas Radvila the Orphan (*1549–†1616), a newly-converted Catholic, the Protestant printing house fell out of grace. Eventually it was purchased by the patron of Arianism in Lithuania, Jan Kiszka (*1547–†1592), who moved it to his Losk estate to continue publishing Arian books in Polish and Latin. The already-mentioned Lancicius, who had been working as printer in Nesvizh, continued doing so in Losk until late 1574, where he published a translation of the New Testament by Budny (1574) and other books. After the departure of Lancicius, his place at the printing press was taken over by Jan Karcan (†1611), who had recently arrived from Warsaw. When he left in his turn, the work petered out. After a few-year hiatus, the operation was taken over by Felix Bolemowski. He worked there in 1586–1589 and printed four Arian books that were to be the last publications of this printing house.

The tradition of Ruthenian printing in the second half of the 16th century continued in Zabludow, an estate of the Grand Hetman of the GDL, Grigalius Chodkevičius (*circa 1505–†1572), where the pioneers of printing in Moscow, Ivan Fyodorov (*circa 1510–†1583) and his companion, the GDL-born Pyotr Mstistlavets found a refuge. Here they printed the Learner‘s Gospels (Евангелие учительное) in 1569, and the Psalter with Horologion (Псалтирь с Часословцем), i. e. a prayer book, in 1570. Theirs was not the only Ruthenian printing house existing in the GDL at the time. This is suggested by the existence of two books, prepared for publication and published by the publisher, translator and propagator of Arian views, Vassyli Tyapinski-Amelyanovich (*between 1530 and 1540–†circa 1604), who lived in the Tyapino estate (the present Tyapino village in the Vitebsk region). These books are the Gospels (Евангелие) and the Catechism or Essential Learning for Children (Катехизис, или сума науки для детей). Of the first book, only two damaged copies survive; of the second, only one page.

In 1574, the brothers Luka and Kuzma Mamonich founded a printing house in Vilnius. Its first books were printed in 1574–1576 by the very same Mstislavets. In 1580–1582, two more Orthodox books were printed by Vassily Haraburda, who worked here during that period. In 1586, on the entreaty of the magnate Leonas Sapiega (*1557–†1633), King Stephen Batory issued a charter granting the Mamonich printing house an exclusive right to print and disseminate in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth the official documents of the GDL and Orthodox publications in Church Slavonic, Ruthenian and Greek. In 1588 these printers issued the Third Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (Статут Великого княжества Литовского), a document compiled by the efforts of Leonas Sapiega. It was later published in two more editions (1592–1593 and 1594–1595) in Cyrillic, and printed by the same printing house in Polish in 1614 and 1619.

The Mamonich printing house, located in the very same building, where Skaryna had printed his books a half of a century earlier, reflects the continuity of the tradition started by the first printer of the GDL. Before closing in 1624, this establishment had produced over 50 Cyrillic publications.

A 1580, a number of new printing houses of different size and scope began appearing in the capital. Many operated intermittently and printed few books. In 1580 the above-mentioned Karcan came from Losk to Vilnius, where he founded a private printing enterprise. His books were notable for their excellent polygraphic and editorial quality, as well as for the variety of topics, which reflected the wide range of interests held by their maker. This “Vilnius Aldus“ produced a number of masterpieces of GDL literature: scientific books (among them, the first in Lithuania medicine treatises – in 1581, in Polish, and in 1584, in Latin), fictional literature (for example, the heroic epic poem Radivilias written in Latin by Jonas Radvanas), textbooks, polemical documents etc.

The status of Vilnius as a major centre of printing was strengthened by the following important event. In 1575, Radvila the Orphan gave to the Vilnius Jesuit College a printing enterprise that he inherited from his father Radvila the Black and had brought from Brest to Vilnius. At first, it was staffed by only four people: two hired workers and two Jesuits. Among the printers working here in the 16th century, we could mention the very same Lancicius (1576–1578, 1592–1593), Jan Slęcki (Ślęcki, 1579–1580), Marcin of Kazimierz  (Kazimiriensis, 1581–1582), Krzysztof Wołbramczyk, Christophorus Patro (or Patron), and some other individuals. The first book published in this printing house, in 1576, was a polemical treatise in Latin by the future rector of Vilnius Academy, Piotr Skarga, For the Most Holy Eucharist Against Zwinglian Heresy (Pro sacratissima Eucharistia contra Zuinglianam, ad Andream Volanum). In the same year, several letters of the Primate of Poland, Jakub Uchański (*1502–†1581), were printed here in Latin and in Polish. The Polish letter is the first text in Polish printed in Vilnius. Until the 18th century, the prevailing language of the publications produced by this printing house was Latin. Before the end of the 16th century, 87 books in Latin (to compare, 40 in Polish; 2 or 3 in Lithuanian) were published here.

The printing house of the Vilnius Evangelical Reformed Society started operations in Vilnius, in 1581–1582, under the aegis of Mikalojus Radvila the Red (*1512–†1584). It was established by Lancicius, who by then left the Catholic printing house of Jesuit Academy. However, in 1591 he converted to Catholicism and returned to the Jesuit printing establishment. In 1594 he founded his own printing enterprise, but did not severe his contacts with the Jesuits. Another printing house that produced books for the Vilnius Evangelical Reformed Society was the one run by the brothers Sultzer, Salomon (*1564–†1603) and Ulrich. We know of 12 publications printed there, 11 of them in Latin.

In 1598, yet another printing house publishing Reformers‘ books was founded by Merkelis Petkevičius (*circa 1550–†1608), who, in the same year, produced the Polish and Lithuanian Catechism, a universal book that he had compiled himself and that, apart from the catechism proper, contained hymns, prayers and ritual texts in Lithuanian and Polish. This is the first book of Lithuanian Reformers printed in Lithuanian. One more Lithuanian publication, a translation of the Polish Postil by Mikołaj Rej, was published in 1600 by Jokūbas Morkūnas (*circa 1550–†after 1611), another printer working for the Vilnius Evangelical Reformed Society (in 1592–1607).

In the 16th century, an institutional Orthodox printing house entered the publishing arena in the capital of Lithuania. In 1589, the fraternity of the Holy Trinity obtained from King Sigismund Vasa a charter to publish books in Greek, Church Slavonic, Ruthenian and Polish for the Orthodox Church and schools. It began actual operations only in 1595, having already changed its name to the fraternity of the Holy Spirit. At the time of ideological battles for the union between the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, the brothers Laurentius and Stephan Zizanius were actively publishing books in this printing house. In 1595–1596, the establishment produced over 10 Cyrillic publications, of which notable is a polemical treatise by Stephan Zizanius The Teaching of the Jerusalem Patriarch Cyril on the Antichrist (Казанье Кирилла, патриарха иерусалимского, об антихристе), as well as the Slavonic Grammar (Грамматика славянская) with the Abecedary (Азбука). In 1596 the printing house of the fraternity of the Holy Spirit published the first book in Greek, A Dialogue. Its author was a fervent opponent of the union, the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church of Alexandria, Meletios Pegas (*1549–†1601).

The printing house of the fraternity of the Holy Spirit operating in Vievis (1610–1646) and in Vilnius until 1749 may be considered a successor to Skaryna‘s printing house, since the printers here, until as late as 1640, would make use of blocks with decorative elements earlier used in some of Skaryna‘s Vilnius publications.

In other words, Skaryna‘s pioneering work in the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania laid ground for multilingual, multiconfessional and multicultural publishing in the state. Until the end of the 17th century, the publishing arena was dominated by the Latin printed book. This is far from surprising, since the production of books in Latin was a European-wide cultural phenomenon in the 15th–17th century, and partly in the 18th century.