Josip Jurčič (1844-1881) is one of the key names of the Slovenian literature. His work Deseti brat (The Tenth Brother) is considered to be the first original novel in our cultural space.
Material in the Manuscript Collection (1865-1881) by Josip JurčičNational and University Library of Slovenia
The Manuscript Collection of the National and University Library keeps Josip Jurčič's legacy, which includes his personal documents, manuscripts, correspondence and some editorial and ephemera material. The Library Pictorial Collection holds many Josip Jurčič's portraits, and photographs related to him.
Map of the Duchy of Carniola (1843) by Heinrich FreyerNational and University Library of Slovenia
Muljava is a small hamlet in the Dolenjska region rich in history. Already in prehistoric and Roman times, important routes passed through it. Its oldest remains date back to around 800.
In the 19th century, Muljava was known as Obrhek. Under this name it is mentioned also in the works of Josip Jurčič, who was born there on March 4, 1844.
The house in which Jurčič was born was built in 1826 by his grandfather. Before, the writer's ancestors had lived in a wooden cottage - pajštba, so they were called Pajžbarji. The old postcards kept in the Pictorial Collection show the original image of the homestead, a characteristic house in the central Slovenian territory of the 19th century.
Josip Jurčič's family comes from Jablanica in the Dolenjska region, where his father Marko Juršič (Jurčič) was born. In 1840, he married Marija Jankovič, a daughter of a cottager Pajštbar in Muljava. As evidenced by a preserved document, they had three children Marija, Jožef and Anton.
In his work Spomini o Josipu Jurčiči (Memoirs of Josip Jurčič, 1888), a literary historian Fran Levec writes that Jožef (Josip Jurčič) was called "Jožek" at home. He was a favourite of his grandfather, his mother's father, who could write and read. He told stories to his grandson and inspired his interest in literature. Using the fictional name J. Zavojšek, Jurčič described parts of the stories in the Novice journal entitled Spomini na deda (Memories of Grandfather, 1863). Now, the stories can be read in Jurčičevi zbrani spisi (Jurčič's Collected Essays, 1884).
Public school certificate (1855) by s.n.National and University Library of Slovenia
Jurčič showed great talent at an early age.
In the school certificate written in the Gothic script, his grades of most subjects were defined as excellent (sgut, meaning sehr gut, very good).
Jurčič's diaries, found by Fran Levec in Jurčič’s legacy, testify of the author’s passionate reading of literature, as he meticulously wrote down summaries of texts. During the holidays, Jurčič preferred to spend time talking with older villagers rather than to play with his mates. He loved to read in the garden under a pear tree and wrote in his father’s beehive.
Application for exemption from tuition fees (1858) by Josip JurčičNational and University Library of Slovenia
Because his unenviable social status, Jurčič had to put a lot of effort into his education, despite of his intelligence. This is also evidenced by his request for exemption from tuition fees.
His condition encouraged him to start publishing when he attended a high school, so he recovered financially to some extent.
Josip Jurčič: Pripovedka o beli kači (1861) by Josip JurčičNational and University Library of Slovenia
Jurčič began writing publicly in 1861. At the age of 17, his first published work was Pripovedka o beli kači (A Tale of a White Snake, 1861) in the Slovenski glasnik journal which was published in Klagenfurt; its editor was Anton Janež. Due to its publishing activity Klagenfurt was one of the most important cultural centers for Slovenes.
Jurčič's talent for writing was already apparent in his high school years. His interest in literature was supported by his teachers, who regularly introduced him new literary works.
Jurčič's writing career was marked by the works of Fran Levstik, especially by his discussion Napake slovenskega pisanja (Errors of Slovene Writings, 1858). In all his works, Jurčič was guided by Levstik's doctrine that Slovenian writers should learn from modest people.
The Kravjek Castle was situated north-west of Muljava. In the summer of 1864, Jurčič was visiting the family Otto from Darmstadt who lived in the castle between 1861 and 1880. He was teaching Johanna Otto, the daughter of the castle owner, Slovene language. He felt love for her, but did not express his sentiments because of differences in social class. In 1878 Johanna returned to Darmstadt. Although their paths divided, they remained friends and continued to correspond in later years.
Jurčič paid tribute to Johanna Otto in his novel Deseti brat by dedicating her the character of Manica, while he took on the role of her admirer Lovro Kvas.
Deseti brat (The Tenth Brother, 1866) is a ground-breaking work in the Slovenian space, as it is considered our first novel. Until then, people read short stories, often with moral doctrine. The novel introduced a love topic, a mystery and a variety of complications. In Deseti brat, the bourgeois language spoken by the castle characters, is intertwined with the lively, original and witty language of the village people.
Josip Jurčič - editor of the Slovenski narod journal Josip Jurčič - editor of the Slovenski narod journal (1871-1881) by Josip JurčičNational and University Library of Slovenia
Josip Vošnjak in Spomini o Josipu Jurčiči II (Memoirs on Josip Jurčič II, 1889) writes that on the occasion of the death of Ivan Tomšič (May 24, 1871), the first editor of the Slovenski narod newspaper, the Styrian patriots invited Josip Jurčič to Maribor. Since then, his work has been inextricably linked to this paper. In addition to his editorial work, Jurčič published in the newspaper articles dealing with political, social and literary issues.
Map of Ljubljana from 19th century (1860) by Emil LuterottiNational and University Library of Slovenia
In 1872, the editorial board of the Slovenski narod newspaper moved to the then Wiener Strasse (today's Slovenska cesta) in Ljubljana.
Postcard of the Evropa café (1880-1918) by s.n.National and University Library of Slovenia
Slovenski narod newspaper was first printed in the Narodna tiskarna (The National Printing House) near the Evropa Hotel, situated next to the former Evropa café. The editorial room where Jurčič worked was also in the printing house.
During this period, Jurčič was meeting up Marička Schwentner, who walked past the window of the newspaper's editorial office between five and six o'clock every afternoon. Jurčič excused himself to his colleague Josip Vošnjak, saying to have some business, left the office and joined her.
In 1874, he planned to marry her, but her father did not consent to the marriage.
Josip Jurčič's fellowship in the Evropa Hotel (1877) by s.n.National and University Library of Slovenia
Prominent men who significantly marked the development of the Slovenian cultural space were gathering in the Hotel Evropa café, in the literary club during the winter. On Saturdays they organized singing and music after their evening lectures.
Josip Jurčič was an important member of the society, which included Valentin Zarnik, Josip Vošnjak, Fran Levec and Janko Kersnik.
Postcard of the Ljubljana Kongresni trg (1880-1918) by Stengel&Co.National and University Library of Slovenia
In 1875, the National Printing House and the press moved to a house next to the Slovenian Philharmonic, which was owned by the wholesaler France Kolman.
The printing house and the editorial office were on the ground floor of the house. Jurčič hired an apartment on the first floor of the same house and lived there until his death.
In Jurčič's legacy, a printed invitation to the Lawyers' Ball has been preserved. It was organized on 5 February 1876 in the luxuriously lit hall of the Kazina palace during the carnival season.
On 7th February 1876 Laibacher Tagblatt reported that in spite of bad weather 72 couples gathered at the Lawyers' Ball and danced graciously to the sounds of a military band playing quadrille and cotillions. They were offered tea, well-liked punch and sweets. The palace lobby which was beautifully decorated with flowers left the reporter speechless.
In 19thcentury, balls were considered to be important social events. At a ball, interesting discussions usually evolved and they could last until the early morning hours. Balls were also a good opportunity for a making new business connections. It could very easily be that Josip Jurčič responded to the invitation as he only had to cross Kongresni trg to reach the Kazina palace.
In the novel Mej dvema stoloma (Between two chairs, 1876), Jurčič vividly described one of such events: "Then they danced, flirted, observed each other with affection and jealousy, hate and interest, they rambled and stood, yawned behind the fan or topper, and went like this all night long, before and after each cotillion."
Old Postcard with Kazina palace in Ljubljana (1880/1918) by s.n.National and University Library of Slovenia
The ballroom of the Kazina palace could accept around 150 couples. The peak of the ball was a social dance. Among organizers, there was rivalry as to who will host a greater number of dance couples.
"Rokovnjači had a good old organization, relying on strict discipline and a superstitious faith. They had formal commanders, they knew how to expand their networks all over the country, and those who were fully accepted into the companionship even had their own language, that is, many words they created themselves, whose meaning no one else understood." (excerpt from the novel Rokovnjači).
Rokovnjači (The Bandits, 1882) is a historical novel set in the time of the Illyrian provinces. Jurčič outlined his first drafts for the novel during his holidays on Brdo. Friendly talks with Janko Kersnik were important for his writing, so Jurčič set the main events of the novel at Brdo.
Jurčič wrote almost all of his drafts for the novel on small pieces of paper. The arrangement of his legacy required a great deal of concentration, which can also be read in the Ljubljanski zvon article.
Jurčič wrote the novel Rokovnjači for the newspaper Ljubljanski zvon (1881), but due to illness he completed only 11 chapters.
Josip Jurčič's fellowship in the Evropa Hotel (1877) by s.n.National and University Library of Slovenia
Just a few days before his death, Jurčič told Janko Kersnik how he imagined the continuation of Rokovnjači. In accordance with his idea, Kersnik wrote 13 more chapters after Jurčič's death, thus he completed the novel.
The news of Jurčič's death, on May 3, 1881, was much-noticed. It was reported by several newspapers, and a large number of respected personalities of the time attended the funeral.
"If you say what your heart gives to your tongue, you can't speak wrong!” (Josip Jurčič)
About the Legacy of Josip Jurčič
Documents of Josip Jurčič legacy are generally written in iron-tannin ink, which was throughout history the most widely used written medium in the Western culture. It was in use from the first century AD until the twentieth century. Its production is simple, the ink is durable and binds well to a writing base, and consequently it is very difficult to be erased. Its bad characteristics only became apparent over time.
Due to its composition, iron-tannin ink is extremely corrosive and causes oxidative decomposition of cellulose, particularly in combination with a poor quality of paper, on which documents from Jurčič's legacy are written.
Damage is manifested by paper colouring around texts, by passing over of texts to the back of the documents, and in extreme cases, letters may even "fall out" of the documents. The ink can be stabilized by chemical processes, which are time consuming, and unfortunately not applicable to all documents. The most we can do is to keep documents in an appropriate protective equipment, in suitable climatic conditions and protected from light.
Project coordination: Mojca Trtnik
Text: Urša Kocjan, Meta Kojc, Matjaž Lulik, Lidija Podlesnik Tomášiková, Mojca Trtnik
Photography: Meta Kojc
Proofreading: Urška Drofenik
Translation: Janja Korošec, Janez Žumer
Exhibition: Eva Malalan
National and University Library of Slovenia, 2021