Beautiful story of the three living cultures of the Georgian alphabet. Centuries-old Georgian alphabet and peculiarities of the most important developing epochs of Georgian writing, printing and script .
Many old and precious manuscripts were created in the Asomtavruli alphabet. Among them manuscripts from the IX-X cc. preserved in the library of St. Catherine's Monastery, on Mount Sinai are especially significant. In the modern Georgian ecclesiastical architecture and iconography the Asomtavruli alphabet still maintains its significance.
The name Asomtavruli means "capital letters". It is also known as Mrgvlovani because of its round letter shapes. Despite its name, this "capital" script is unicameral, just like the modern Georgian script, Mkhedruli.
The graphic structure of the Asmotshvili letters is simple: they are made through circles and straight lines; all letters are of equal height and they are written with several hand strokes.
Like Asomtavruli, Nuskhuri is still a living alphabet. The Georgian Orthodox Church still uses Nuskhuri script for liturgical books.
Interestingly, the transitional period of the Georgian Alphabet can be best seen in manuscripts where the text is copied from Asomtavruli and words lost or damaged in the text are restored using the Nuskhuri script.
Among the unique manuscripts dated the X century, it is very interesting that in some, after damage, Asomtavruli letters are replaced by Nuskhuri.
The most famous legal document written using Nuskhuri letters is the testament of David IV of Georgia (1089-1125), which the king gifted to the Shio-Mgvime Monastery.
Published in Rome in 1629, the Georgian-Italian dictionary was the first book printed in Georgian using moveable type. The dictionary was compiled by an Italian, Stefano Paolini, with the assistance of Niceforo Irbachi Giorgiano. (portrait on the previous slide)
The dictionary was published by the Sacred Congregation of Propaganda, which was established in Rome in the early XII c. for the purpose of spreading Catholicism in non-Catholic countries. From 1628, the congregation sent missionaries to Georgia, and the dictionary was intended for use by missionaries who needed to learn Georgian.
THE FIRST GEORGIAN GRAMMAR
The Italian missionary Francisco-Maria Maggio was one of the first who commenced scientific study of the Georgian language, when the young man received an extraordinary assignment from the Pope and was sent to Georgia for the missionary work.
Maggio's work is the first known grammar of the Georgian language. At the same time, it is the first grammar in the Ibero-Caucasian linguistic world. On the first page of ‘The Georgian Grammar’ is written: “The work on Eastern languages which are used in Georgia". The first edition contains grammatical rules of Georgian or Iberian colloquial.
Compiled in Rome in the printing press of the ‘Sacred Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith’ under the Supreme’s permission, the book consists of 143 pages. The first part of the book refers to the orthography, the second part to etymology, the third to syntax, the fourth to prosody, the fifth to Christian catechism, and the sixth part refers to the prater of the Mother of God.
THE FIRST PRINTING PRESS IN GEORGIA
The history of the Georgian printing press and typography starts from 1708-1709. This is the time when the first Georgian printing house was established by Vakhtang VI in a specially constructed building on the left bank of the Mtkvari River in Tbilisi. The King appointed Hungarian-Romanian typographer Mikheil Ungrovlakheli as a director of the printing house.
After the Gospel, in 1709-1712, the printing house published eleven books. Among them the most notable editions were 'The Knight in the Panther's Skin' of Rustaveli, with the basic scientific research accompanied by scholarly commentaries from the King himself (1712).
In 1712, Vakhtang left for Persia, after which the working process of the printing house slowed. Only five books were published in 1713-1720. In 1721-1722, the printing house experienced some kind of revival when Bakar, son of Vakhtang and Vakhushti Bagrationi, published a scientific textbook ‘Faith of Man’ or ‘Yayati’, which was translated by Vakhtang VI.
The printing house’s last publication was ‘The Book of Hours’ (1722). In 1723, it was closed due to an Ottoman invasion.
Since 1876, every Georgian has learnt to read and write in their native language using the book - a children's primer - ‘Deda Ena’ (Mother Language). The type, which the author Iakob Gogebashvili used while working on his ‘Mother Language’ and textbooks, was created in 1837, in the printing house of St. Petersburg’s Imperial Academy. The font was known as "Academical" and it was created by the French painter De Lapour according to the handwritings of Teimuraz Batonishvili (1782-1846).
Georgian State Museum of Theatre, Music, Cinema and Choreography - Art Palace
Special thanks to Archil Gelovani, Chairman of the Art Palace’s Board of Trustees.