Ensuring the Memory of Oral Folklore and Developing Culture

Treasures of the National and University Library of Slovenia

By National and University Library of Slovenia

Slovenian songs of the Carniola people (1839) by Emil KorytkoNational and University Library of Slovenia

Folk literature

Slovenian literature began in the early Middle Ages with short religious texts, the earliest written testimonials of Slovenian language and culture, whose formal and stylistic features already render them artistic. Slovenian folk literature had originated even before the creation of first Slovenian books and continued even during fully developed artistic literature. It was created by talented individuals and survived by being transferred from generation to generation by narration, singing, as well as transcribing. The difference between folk and artificial literature does therefore not relate to the initial creative act as much as to the manner of existence of a text, whether poetry, prose or drama. Systematic collection and publishing of Slovenian folk poetry began in the 19 century.

The first major folk poetry collection. Emil Korytko from Poland, who was politically exiled to Ljubljana between 1937 and 1839, showed a profound interest in Slovenian folk poetry and, together with associates, collected a rich collection kept in its original manuscript form.

Illyrian Folk Songs Sung in Styria, Carniola, Carinthia and the Western Part of Hungary (1839) by Stanko VrazNational and University Library of Slovenia

Poet Stanko Vraz was the most critical folklorist of his period and the most outstanding Slovenian collector of folk literature before Karel Štrekelj. This collection includes transcriptions of melodies and covers the entire area of Slovenia.

Tournament between riders Lamberg and Pegam (1807)National and University Library of Slovenia

The first printing of one of the oldest Slovenian folk poems (with parallel German translation), describing a imaginary fight between Czech knight Jan Vitovec and Slovene Krištof Lambergar.

Slovenian National Songs (1895) by Karel ŠtrekeljNational and University Library of Slovenia

The books were created with the help of older collections and with further collection of texts and tunes. It was the best and most comprehensive Slavic collection of folk literature of its time. It contains almost 900 texts; many accompanied with tunes. Its creation involved over 200 collectors.

Biblia (1584) by Jurij DalmatinNational and University Library of Slovenia

The rise of Slovenian book in the 16th century

Slovenian literature experienced its first great rise in the mid-16th century. The extraordinarily strong religious movement of the Reformation drew directly from Luther's source and established close connections with the leading European reformators of the time (Calvin, Zwingli etc.). It brought together some extremely talented and hard-working man, who created a mighty religious, linguistic and literary movement. In only a few decades, Slovenians developed their language and established the foundations of their literature practically from scratch. In 50 years, Primož Trubar, Jurij Dalmatin, Sebastjan Krelj, Adam Bohorič and others published 60 Slovenian books in beautiful and large editions, from 1000 to 2000 copies, an undoubtedly outstanding achievement.

A new song of the Carniolan peasants (1515)National and University Library of Slovenia

A leaflet containing the first printed words in Slovenian (peasant rebellion paroles). There are only two known copies preserved (Ljubljana and Berlin).

The first printed words in Slovenian language: “Stara prauda” (Old law) and “Leukhup, leukhup, leukhup, leukhup woga gmaina” (Unite, unite, unite poor peasants).

Catechismus in Slovenian language (1550) by Primož TrubarNational and University Library of Slovenia

The first printed Slovenian book, preserved as a unique copy in the Austrian national library in Vienna. The introductory section contains the author's address To All Slovenians.

The Complete New Testament (1557/58) by Primož TrubarNational and University Library of Slovenia

Shortly after the first two Slovenian books, Katekizem and Abecednik (1550), Trubar undertook the translation of the Bible.

In only a few years he succeeded in publishing the complete translation of the New Testament.

The Bible (1584) by Jurij DalmatinNational and University Library of Slovenia

The greatest and perhaps the most important Slovenian book. It contains a short German and a comprehensive Slovenian foreword, the complete Old and New Testaments, several indexes and the first Slovenian monolingual dictionary.

The work is invaluable in terms of culture and also of high material value.

Free Winter Hours / Arcticae horulae succisivae (1584) by Adam BohoričNational and University Library of Slovenia

The first Slovenian grammar book and one of the rare early European grammar books of a living language. Commentary in Latin. It contains a well-known introduction on the prevalence and age of Slavic languages and expressing pride in Slavic origin.

Whole Catehismus with psalms (1584) by Jurij DalmatinNational and University Library of Slovenia

The most beautiful Slovenian Protestant Songbook.

Dictionary of Four Languages, Hieronymus Megiser, 1592, From the collection of: National and University Library of Slovenia
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The best dictionary of the 16th century: German-Latin-Slovenian-Italian. It was reprinted right up to the 18th century. A very rare book.

House postille (Hišna Postila) (1595) by Primož TrubarNational and University Library of Slovenia

The translation of the whole Luther's postille, a collection of Sunday and festive gospels. An extraordinarily beautifully elaborated prints, richly decorated with woodcuts. Trubar's last work.

Heavenly Goal (Nebeshki zyl) (1684) by Matija KastelecNational and University Library of Slovenia

Milestones in Slovenian literature from the 17th to 20th century

Like all modern literatures, Slovenian developed all genres: poetry, fiction and drama. It gradually freed itslef from the religious, didactic and ideological tendencies and clung firmly to aesthetic principles. Artistic poetry developed first. the 17th century saw the first attempts at secular poetry, followed by the poetry almanac Pisanice at the end of 18th century. Only a few years later, in 1806, Slovenians got the first poetry collection by a single person, Vodnik's Pesme za pokušino. 

Slovenian artistic prose did not exist in a true sense until the mid-19th century; only a number of works important in terms of language, style and content, without which true artistic prose could not develop. When Janez Cigler broke the ice in 1836 with his picturesque tale Sreča v nesreči, other authors were quick to follow. Slovenian original drama is based on medieval mystery plays and passion plays. At the end of the 18th century, Enlightenment comedy brought it to stages and later in books. The cornerstone of our drama was laid by Anton Tomaž Linhart; Ivan Cankar brought it to its peak in terms of artistic value.

Italian-Slovenian Vicabulary (1607) by Alasia da Sommaripa, GregorioNational and University Library of Slovenia

Alessandro Alasia, born about 1578 in Sommariva in Piemonte, was a priest among Slovenians in Duino for about a decade. The dictionary contains over 2600 entries, a brief Slovenian grammar and some additions. Our booklet is unique in the global sense.

Collection of gospels: Evagelia inu Iystuvi, Janez Čandik, 1612, From the collection of: National and University Library of Slovenia
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The first Catholic book of Sunday gospels according to the Aquilan ceremony. The work is very important for continuing the tradition of Slovenian literary language and literature from the 16th century. The texts were prepared by Janez Candik, while publication was facilitated by Ljubljana bishop, Anton Tomaž Hren. A very rare book.

The School of Thinking (Shulla tiga premishluvana) (1643) by Adam SkalarNational and University Library of Slovenia

A comprehensive manuscript collection from a period which did not see a printed Slovenian book for several decades.

Heavenly Goal (Nebeshki zyl) (1684) by Matija KastelecNational and University Library of Slovenia

A collection of religious contemplations. The beginning of Slovenian Baroque.

The Sacred Handbook, Janez Svetokriški, 1691, From the collection of: National and University Library of Slovenia
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The most illustrious and comprehensive (2896 pages) work of the Slovenian Baroque. The sermons transcend mere formal objectives and reveal the characteristics of artistic literature.

Collection of sermons: Palmarium Empyreum (1731) by Rogerij (Mihael Krammer)National and University Library of Slovenia

A total of 126 Baroque sermons on saints, distinguished by consistently quoted sources. His sermon prose already acquires a fictional character.

The Loyal Companion (Zvesti tovarš), Mihael Paglovec, 1742, From the collection of: National and University Library of Slovenia
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Educational religious stories and reading and writing instructions. A very widespread and popular book among simple people.

The Holy Bible: Old and New Testaments (1784) by Jurij Japelj et al.National and University Library of Slovenia

The first official Catholic translation of the Bible was published for 18 years and valid for the whole century.

The Holy Bible: Old and New Testaments (1784) by Jurij Japelj et al.National and University Library of Slovenia

The translation also had great importance as a norm of Slovenian literary language of its time. Our library keeps an especially beautiful set in Zois' binding.

Almanac Colored Eggs (Pisanice) (1779)National and University Library of Slovenia

The first Slovenian almanac of artificial poetry. Three volumes were printed, two remained in manuscript form. The beginnings of programmatic creation of artistic poetry.

Comedies Molly, the Mayor's Daughter and This Happy Day, or Matiček Gets Married (Shupanova Mizka in Ta veseli dan, ali Matizhek se sheni), Anton Tomaž Linhart, 1790, From the collection of: National and University Library of Slovenia
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The first and the best Slovenian comedies up until 20th century. Still living and staged.

Poems for Sampling (Pesme za pokushino), manuscript (1806) by Valentin VodnikNational and University Library of Slovenia

The first poetry collection by a single author. Manuscript with the the author's hand.

Fortune in misfortune (Srezha v nesrezhi), Janez Cigler, 1836, From the collection of: National and University Library of Slovenia
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The first Slovenian tale. A picturesque story about twins of peasant origins whose hard work and great piety bring them social advantages and well-being.

The Carniolan Bee (Krainska zhbeliza), 1830, From the collection of: National and University Library of Slovenia
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The best Slovenian poetry almanac in the 19th century, gathering all principal poets of the time. It brought together mature artistic poetry, especially that by France Prešeren.

Poems (1846) by France PrešerenNational and University Library of Slovenia

The highest achievement of Slovenian poetry. A high Romantic lyric poetry which placed our literature on par with the acme of European literature at the time. It has been translated into all European and some non-European languages. Prešeren's original manuscript, printing basis.

Martin Krpan (1858) by Fran LevstikNational and University Library of Slovenia

An exemplary classical tale. First published in Slovenski Glasnik in Klagenfurt in 1858. The edition from 1954 contains excellent illustrations by painter Tone Kralj.

The Tenth Brother (Deseti brat) (1866) by Josip JurčičNational and University Library of Slovenia

The first Slovenian novel which constituted Slovenian artistic fiction. A romantic tale set in a castle and peasant environment. First published in Klagenfurt in 1866; the 1976 edition was illustrated by Boris Kobe.

Poems I, Simon Gregorčič, 1882, From the collection of: National and University Library of Slovenia
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One of the most popular Slovenian national books, also called a golden book. Wonderful love and reflective poetry by a poet-priest.

Jakob Ruda (1900) by Ivan CankarNational and University Library of Slovenia

Cankar (1876–1918) is considered to be the best Slovenian writer and playwright.

The manuscript of this play contains Cankar's own drawings of the main characters.

Across the Plain, Oton Župančič, 1905, From the collection of: National and University Library of Slovenia
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A modernist poet, the founder of Slovenian impressionist and symbolist poetry. This collection is one of the peaks of our poetry. A beautiful secession book design.

Poems, Srečko Kosovel, 1927, From the collection of: National and University Library of Slovenia
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A collection of impressionist lyrical poetry. The rest of his poetic work showed that he ranks among the top Slovenian expressionists, who brought expressionism to its most radical point.

Poem Zdravljica, 1944 (1944) by France PrešerenNational and University Library of Slovenia

A bibliophilic edition published during wartime on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the creation of the poem. Book was designed by Janez Vidic. Zdravljica is the national anthem of independent Slovenia.

Credits: Story

From the book Treasures of the National and University Library of Slovenia
Exhibition: Žiga Cerkvenik
Narodna in univerzitetna knjižnica, 2017

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