The Pioneers of Armenian Printing

Collection presents the first published works in Armenian: rare and valuable books, periodicals. The exceptional exhibition aims to arise for the world the history of 500-year-old Armenian printing, its path, as well as to underline the value of printing heritage.

The Museum of Printing

Urbatagirk - Friday Book (16th century) by Hakob MeghapartThe Museum of Printing

Urbatagirk – Friday Book is the first printed book in Armenian dedicated to the Holy Cross symbolizing Christ and starts with the following explanation, “On Fridays or Wednesdays the sick are taken to the church. Prayers and sermons are read until healing effects”. The content is both religious and secular, consists of cures and prayers for the sick, ancient writings, sermons, myths. Comprised of 62 sheets (124 unnumbered pages) it features a collection summarizing passages from the four Gospels. Urbatagirk is printed in red and black ink, including 24 illustrations. The red is used in specific sections. The ornamental script by Hakob Meghapart imitates the original manuscript writing. Urbatagirk enhances the effect of prayers and has an important role in religion and in church clergy.

Urbatagirk - Friday Book page, Hakob Meghapart, 16th century, From the collection of: The Museum of Printing
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Printer's Mark, Hakob Meghapart, 16th century, From the collection of: The Museum of Printing
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Saghmosaran - Psalter (16th century) by Apkar Tebir TokhatetsiThe Museum of Printing

Saghmosaran - Psalter

Apkar aims to continue the traditions set by Meghapart by remaining as close as possible to the Armenian manuscript deposits. He prepares fonts imitating the manuscript of that period, that’s why at first sight the Psalter leaves the impression of a  manuscript rather than a print. The Psalter doesn’t have a title page. The following second and third pages depict Apkar’s reception by the Pope and the Duke of Venice and were considered to be the title page of the Psalter

J. Alishan interprets these two scenes at the beginning of Psalter as Roman permission and implementation of printing in Venice. The same scenes are printed in Apkar Tebir’s one-page Calendar.

Saghmosaran - Psalter page 187, Apkar Tebir Tokhatetsi, 16th century, From the collection of: The Museum of Printing
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Saghmosaran - Psalter page 252, Apkar Tebir Tokhatetsi, 16th century, From the collection of: The Museum of Printing
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Kharnaypntur Tumar - The First Printed Armenian Calendar (16th century) by Apkar Tebir TokhatetsiThe Museum of Printing

Kharnaypntur Tumar - The First Printed Armenian Calendar

Kharnaypntur tumar is considered to be the first edition of Apkar Tebir. During his wanderings from Rome to Venice, as he didn’t succeed to find the printed letters of the first Armenian printer, he set about making new fonts imitating Armenian manuscript deposits of that period. The first edition shows how carefully he prepared to continue the interrupted work of Hakob Meghapart. The calendar was published in Venice in 1565, fifty-two years after the cessation of Hakob Meghapart’s publication.

Astvatsashunch - Bible (17th century) by Voskan YerevantsiThe Museum of Printing

Astvatsashunch - Bible

The Voskanyan Bible of 1666 is the first complete printed Bible in Armenian and is considered one of the finest examples of early Armenian printing. The base material for the Bible text is the manuscript copied in 1295 for King Hetum II of the Cilician Kingdom  of Armenia. The manuscript is now preserved in the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts (Matenadaran), Yerevan. Due to the professional and detailed approach to ensure the fine layout of columns and titles, the printing process lasted 2 years and 7 months (from  March 11, 1666 to October 13, 1668). The Bible was issued in 3000- 5000 copies. The book consists of 1462 two-column pages with 159 illustrations by the Dutch artist Christoffel van Sichem (1581-1658).

Astvatsashunch - Bible pages 430-431 (17th century) by Voskan YerevantsiThe Museum of Printing

Matthew the Apostle was, according to the New Testament, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus. According to Christian traditions, he was also one of the four Evangelists and thus is also known as Matthew the Evangelist, a claim rejected by the majority of  modern biblical  scholars.
Mark the Evangelist is the traditionally ascribed author of the Gospel of Mark. Mark is said to have founded the Church of Alexandria, one of the most important episcopal sees of early Christianity. His feast day is celebrated on April 25, and his symbol is the winged lion.

Luke the Evangelist is one of the Four Evangelists—the four traditionally ascribed authors of the canonical gospels. The Early Church Fathers ascribed to him authorship of both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, which would mean Luke contributed  over a quarter of the text of the New Testament, more than any other author. Prominent figures in early Christianity such as Jerome and Eusebius later reaffirmed his authorship, although a lack of conclusive evidence as to the identity of the author of the works has led to discussion in scholarly circles, both secular and religious.
John the Apostle was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus according to the New Testament. Generally listed as the youngest apostle, he was the son of Zebedee and Salome. His brother was James, who was another of the Twelve Apostles. The Church Fathers identify  him as John the Evangelist, John of Patmos, John the Elder and the Beloved Disciple, and testify that he outlived the remaining apostles and that he was the only one to die of natural causes. The traditions of most Christian denominations have held that John the  Apostle is the author of several books of the New Testament.

Word Paradise in Armenian means garden full of fragrant flowers. The concept of Paradise was so called due to the Tree of Life as well, which God made to grow in Garden of Eden. The Man and Tree of Life are inseparable. The idea of the Tree of Life is  to that of Family tree, which shows the origin of the given family or race, i.e., ethnology and genealogy.
The palm symbolizes Kingdom of Heaven and the righteous. The Tree of Jesse is a depiction in art of the ancestors of Christ, shown in a tree, which rises from Jesse of Bethlehem. In this page are depicted Jesse, asleep on the base, the tree as the stem, St. Marry with Christ and twelve ancestors arranged around the holder for the host.

Arhest Hamaroghutean - Art of Arithmetic (17th century) by Soghomon LevonyanThe Museum of Printing

Arhest Hamaroghutean - Art of Arithmetic

The first printed mathematical book translated into Modern Armenian Arhest Hamaroghoutean -Art of Mathematics. It was published by Soghomon Levonyan (cousin of Voskan Yerevantsi) in 1675 Marseille. The preface and ending of the book are in Classical Armenian, the whole text in Modern Armenian. The book is the translation of the work of German mathematician Christopher Clavius (1537-1612). The book doesn’t contain math definitions and evidences, but the options of practical calculations, which are presented with size and weight units of different countries (Italy, France, Iran). At the time the book was perfectly fitting to practical requirements of Armenian merchants. 

Hamatarats Ashkharhatsuyts - The World Map (17th century) by Tovmas VanandetsiThe Museum of Printing

Hamatarats Ashkharhatsuyts - The World Map

In 1695 in Amsterdam, in the Armenian printing house founded by Tovmas Vanandetsi was published a unique work, the first printed map of the world Hamatarats Ashkharhatsuyts (Geographic Map of the World). The first large-scale map of the both hemispheres in  Armenian was considered the best and one of the most reliable maps at the time. The world map was designed in the style of Western cartography. The best masters, the Schoonebeek brothers were hired to engrave the copper plates of the map. The map has eight sections, with the total dimensions of 150 x 120 cm. To prevent damage while folding, the separate pieces of the map were attached to a thin canvas. Each of four corners of the map depicts mythical, astrological and traditional symbols related to four seasons. 

On the upper left corner is the Spring legend representing mythological name of Phaeton, the planets Venus and Mars and the Zodiac signs of Aries and Gemini. 

On the upper right – Summer that depicts Artemis, Evening, Rainbow, Mercury and Saturn planets, the Zodiac signs of Cancer, Leo and Virgo. 

On the bottom left corner we read Autumn legend with the mythological Pomona, Chloris, Pan and Bacchus, and the Zodiac signs of Libra and Scorpio. 

On the bottom right is the legend Winter representing Thetis, Poseidon, Aeolus and Boreas, and the Zodiac signs of Capricorn, Aquarius and Pisces.

Below the stellar circles the planetary system is shown as a geocentric one, with all the planets, the sun and the moon revolving around the central Earth. The sequence of the celestial bodies in the circle is as follows: Earth at the center followed by Moon, Mercury, Venus, the Sun, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.

The two maps of the South and North Poles are at the bottom. The South Pole remains blank as it hasn’t been explored yet. The North Pole is incomplete as Canada and Alaska are concerned. 
Here is the only foreign language note on the map which means World Map in Persian.

Underneath the hemisphere, surrounded by plant wreath, is the key to the briefings of the map, as well as the verse explanation about map engravers.

Vorogayt Parats - Snare of Glory (18th century) by Hakob ShahamiryanThe Museum of Printing

Vorogayt Parats - The Snare of Glory

In 1773 in Madras, India, Snare of Glory – the first draft constitution in Armenian reality was published by Shahmir Shahmiryan. The book consists of two parts. The extensive preface condemns the feudal-monarchical orders, substantiates the ways of liberating Armenia from Turkish-Persian tyranny and the principles of establishing democratic orders there. The second and the main part of the book comprise the draft constitution (total amount of 521 articles) which represents the social and state structure of the future Independent Armenia along with the procedure of establishment of state bodies and defining the  scope of their authority. It also sets forth the citizens’ rights and liabilities, discusses the organization of economy, education, armed forces and other issues. Numerous articles were devoted to issues of enlightenment, economy development and family relations. Education was to become obligatory for all citizens, without gender discrimination. The state was to provide for education and healthcare for orphans and the needy. State security was to be ensured by permanent military forces with 90,000 soldiers.

Azdarar - The Monitor (18th century) by Harutyun ShmavonyanThe Museum of Printing

Azdarar - The Monitor

The first printed Armenian periodical was issued in 1794-96 in Madras city of India (18 issues) under the editorship of Harutyun Shmavonian. The Monitor had a popular-scientific and social-literary value. The main language of Azdarar was Grabar (Classical  Armenian), some texts i.e. news and announcements are in Ashkharhabar (Modern Armenian).  The Monitor also addressed issues of enlightenment and national self-awareness of the Armenian people, as well as liberation of the motherland. In addition, Azdarar covered the political events in Transcaucasia. A number of pieces of prose and poetry were published in Azdarar, along with commercial, political and economic news, moral fables, philological studies, specimens of Armenian bibliography, as well as The History of Persia by Khachatur Jughayetsi.

Aybuben - Alphabet (21th century) by Ararat SargsyanThe Museum of Printing

Aybuben - The Armenian Alphabet

Mesrop Mashtots - the founder of Armenian school, the first Armenian teacher, the early medieval Armenian linguist, theologian, statesman and hymnologist, with the active support of King Sahak Partev and Catholicus Vramshapuh invented Armenian alphabet of 36  letters. The most valuable fact of Mashtots’s writing was that each sound had its own corresponding letter. At the end of the 12th century, the Armenian alphabet was supplemented by three more letters. In ancient times, 36 letters of the Armenian alphabet were  also used as numbers. The first row contains letters from Ա to Թ, which express units (1-9), the second row contains letters Ժ-Ղ expressing tens (10-90), the third row contains hundreds (Ճ-Ջ, i.e. 100-900), the fourth row is thousands (Ռ-Ք, i.e. 1000-9000). Mashtots combined the heritage of the past with spiritual and cultural features. The Armenian alphabet except of being means of writing also contained a number of mysteries and cosmic knowledge. It is necessary to note the numerical value of the letters, because according to Pythagoras, numbers regulate the world, and all the truths can be found in numbers. If we try to place the Armenian alphabet in an equilateral triangle, the letters Ա, Ս, Ք (a, s, k’) will be on its three corners, where the letter Ա (a) symbolizes the Creator, the letter Ս (s) is the Holy Spirit, and Ք ( k’) – Christ.

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