OLD PRINTED BOOKS IN ARMENIAN AND THEIR BIBLIOGRAPHY

Dedicated to the 475th anniversary of Armenian book-printing

Armenians were among the first to take advantage of Gutenberg's invention.

Armenians do not have any incunabula. The only specimen pertaining to the XV century in Armenian is the 1486 Armenian alphabet in the German book printed in Mainz (No. 1085).

In 1512—1513, Hakob Meghapart was the first Armenian who printed the first books in the Armenian language: "Urbatagirk" (Friday Book), "Parzatumar" (Simple Calendar of Armenians), "Pataragatetr" (Book of Liturgy, Missile), "Aghtark" (Collection of Astronomical and other Predictions) and "Tagharan" (Book of Songs) — the beginnings of Armenian printing. Thereafter, in all corners of the world where there were Armenian communities, Armenian printing presses were founded and Armenian printed material put out. The following is an incomplete list of where books in letters originated by Mesrop were published: Constantinople (1567), Rome (1579), Lvov (1616), Milan (1621), Nor Djugha (1638), Livorno (1644), Amsterdam (1660), Marseilles (1672), Smyrna (1678), London (1736), Echmiadzin (1771), Madras (1772), Trieste (1776), Peterbourg (1781), Nor Nakhidjevan (1790), Astrakhan (1796), Calcutta (1796). Somewhat earlier, in 1486, a German book which included an Armenian alphabet was printed in the city of Mainz.

Thereafter, in Bavia (1539), Zurich (1555), Berlin (1583), Colone (1587), Frankfurt (1593), Leipzig (1680), Padua (1690) and elsewhere many books in foreign languages were printed, which included Armenian alphabets or texts in the Armenian language.

The contents of the first books printed in Armenian are proof of the fact that the main purpose of Armenian printers and publishers was to firmly tie Armenians living in foreign lands and facing the danger of assimilation, with their native tongue, their language and literature and thus aid in promoting noble ideals of national preservation. It is worth noting that Abgar Dpir (scribe) Tokhatetsi, far from his native land in distant Constantinople, printed Armenian books in 1568; while the Turks printed their first book in that same city of Constantinople in 1729, that is 161 years later (No. 8-13). Likewise, Armenians in Iran founded a printing house and published Armenian books in 1638 (No. 31), when not a single printing press existed in the entire Middle East; the first Persian book to be printed in Iran came out 192 years after the first Armenian book, in' 1830.

If in the XVI century only 31 Armenian books were printed in all (of which 17 were Armenian, while 14 were foreign language books containing Armenian texts), in the XVII century, the number of Armenian books rose to 164, and in the XVIII century, it had already reached 825 (not taking into account 73 undated Armenian books and 60 foreign language books containing Armenian texts).

It was during this period that many valuable manuscripts of Armenian chronologists, translators, scholars and musicians were printed and were thus saved from being lost.

The number of old printed Armenian books (according to present bibliographical data) reaches 1100. Nevertheless, not all works of Armenian printing have reached the present; many books have been lost without any traces.

The best way to amass the culture of any peoples and to easily benefit from that culture is by having a general (comprehensive) national bibliography. Attempts have been made in the past to create such a bibliography of Armenian books, the most noteworthy being Garegin Zarbhanalian's "Armenian Bibliography" (Venice, 1883) and Arsen Ghazikian's "New Armenian Bibliography" (Venice, 1909—1913). However, the former has such shortcomings as insufficient use of the material, in the descriptions of books and principles of classification; while the latter, in spite of its obvious advantages, is incomplete, ending with the letter "n" and does not have any appended lists.

In 1958 the department for the bibliography of Armenian books was founded at the Alexander Myasnikian State Library (now National Library of Armenia), which was entrusted with the task of compiling a general bibliography of Armenian books to include all Armenian books from the first book printed to all those printed up to our'days everywhere in the world (besides periodicals); it was to be published chronologically volume by volume.

 

Rules used in Bibiliographic Records

The present web page includes all materials printed in Armenian up to the year 1800, among them: books, maps, calendars-amulets, licenses, pictures with Armenian titles and other kinds of printed matters, in other words, all that was printed in Armenian letters. Foreign language books of the XVI century are also included; they offer Armenian texts, alphabets or Armenian extracts (see no. 1085-1100).

Old printed books are the intermediate stage between manuscript works and books of later periods, being similar in certain respects to manuscripts (title pages, a burdensome mass of information, colophons, abbreviated words, memorandums, etc.), and differing from books of the new period.

At the beginning of the description of each book, its consequtive number is given. If one asterik is placed after the number, it means that an incomplete specimen was used for the description. Two asteriks are placed, if the description is based on a photocopy. One circle signifies that the description was based on bibliographical sources. Two circles are placed when the existence of those books are doubtful. Those descriptions which are not accompanied by any symbol, have been conducted de visu.

Brief descriptions include the names of the author, the translator, the printer and binder, the title of the book, the place and date of publication, the printing house, which edition of the book and which volume it is; in addition to Armenian, the use of foreign language texts are also given.

Sample of a Description

38. Nersês Šnorhali, Girk‘ or i mnac‘ordac‘n Visus Ordwoy groc‘n [Collection of Remnants from the Book ‘Jesus the Son’]. Constantinople: pr. Eremia Chelebi Kêomiwrchean, 1677. – 96p.

70. Movsês Xorenaci, Ašxarhac‘ouc‘-Aghuêsagirk‘ [Geography and lit. ‘Foxbook‘, a collection of fables]. Amsterdam: pr. Oskan Yerewanc‘i , St. Ejmiacin and St. Sargis Press, 1668. -312p. –Size 9.8×5.9cm

Structure

The "Hakob Meghapart" web page consists of the following sections:
1) the basic part includes descriptions of printed books of the XVI—XVIII centuries, given chronologically according to years of publication. The descriptions are arranged under each year according to the time when the printing house functioned.
2) In the undated books section, those printed books are given whose date of publication is not given in any bibliographical source or since the book was defective, it was not possible to clarify the date.
3) XVI century books printed in foreign languages and containing Armenian texts or alphabets are presented in a separate section.

We would request that any shortcomings of the Bibliography, incorrections and especially the names of such old printed books about which we were unaware and have not been included, be written to the following address:

Deparment of National Bibliography of Armenian Books, National Library of Armenia, Terian St., 72, Yerevan 375009
E-mail: nla@arm.r.am

NINEL VOSKANIAN