ARMENIAN BOOK'S DIVINE BREATH THROUGH THE AGES
Posted 09 February 2013 - 11:25 AM
by Georgiy Saakov
Published: Friday February 08, 2013
An Armenian manuscript.
TASHKENT, UZBEKISTAN - ?he very first hand-written Armenian book that came to be known as "Astvatsashunch" ("The divine breath") was the Bible translated 1600 years ago by Saint Mesrob Mashdots, the creator of the Armenian alphabet and the beginner of the native literary tradition. That was followed by original religious, historical, philosophical, scientific, medical, and literary milestones engraved by the legendary authors Agathangelos, Pavstos the Byzantine, Koriun, St. Movses Khorenatsi, Frik, Lazarus Barbedzi, David the Invincible, Eznik of Koghb, Nerses Shenorhali, and multitude of others. "It is better to have blind eyes than blind reason", said chronicler Yeghishe about romantic time of the fifth century when "Armenian Wisdom" was born in the dark monastic cells. Thanks to the manuscripts hand-copied by monks we today know of our past first-hand. Under the pressures of time Armenian statehood fell into decay but for many centuries hand-written thoughts were still appearing both inside the medieval universities of Gladzor and Tatev and in such Armenian scholarship centers as Haghpat, Sanahin, Van, Akhtamar and Karin monasteries up till 1512 when "Urbatagirk" ("Book of Fridays"), the first printed Armenian book came off the printing press in Venice. In 2012, to mark the 500th anniversary of the work of Armenian printing pioneer Hakob Meghapart (Jakob the Sinner) UNESCO designated Yerevan as the Book Capital of the World. With this milestone the Armenians were if not "ahead of the entire planet" then not too far behind Johannes Gutenberg, who introduced the printing press in 1439. In the way of comparison, the first book in Arabic was printed in 1514, in Persian in 1546 and in Russian in 1564. In subsequent decades and centuries most of Armenian books were published in the Diaspora. Such patrons as Abgar Dpir Tokhatetsi, Yovhannes Jughayetsi, Khachatur Kesratsi appreciated the significance of the revolutionary discovery and continued the Armenian printing literary tradition. It offered means to produce multiple copies of diverse texts faster and less expensively than by hand-copying manuscripts. The eighteenth century is considered a period of Armenian enlightenment. With the support of the wealthy Armenian merchant class literary and printing activity began to flourish in many centers of the expanded Diaspora, including London (1736), Madrid (1770), Calcutta (where the first Armenian newspaper Azdarar was published in 1795), St. Petersburg (1781), Nakhichevan (1790), Astrakhan (1796), Moscow (at the Lazarev Institute of Oriental Languages) and Constantinople became the Armenian Book capital. 260 years after "Urbatagirk" was printed in Venice, the first printing press was established in the Armenian homeland in Vagharshapat (Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenia) in 1772 thanks to the efforts of the Catholicos Simeon Yerevantsi. During the nineteenth century scholarly and literary Armenian periodicals were being published throughout the Armenian world including Bombay (1810), Vienna (1812), Tiflis (1823), Shushi (1828), Jerusalem (1833), Cairo (1865), Baku (1872), Alexandria (1888), Geneva (1891), Athens (1892), Tehran (1894), Boston (1899). The first Armenian press in the United States was set up in 1888. Printing of the Armenian thinkers' works was continued by Sargis and Mardiros Dpir, Chichin Hovhannes, Stepanos Petrosyan, Poghos Aranian, Shahamir Shahamiryan, Grigor Khaldareants (for many decades he was the main book publisher of the Ottoman Empire) and in the monastery on the Venetian Island of San Lazzaro, founded by Mkhitar of Sebastia. The Soviet heritage and beyond There are various ways to assess the 70-year Soviet heritage for Armenia. However there is no doubt the "great power" had successfully cultivated the printed word. Inhabitants of then the "most read" country got acquainted with the multinational Soviet literature, including the widely released Armenian authors. Works of such prominent writers as Raffi, Khachatur Abovyan, Hovhannes Toumanyan, Avetik Isahakyan, Yeghishe Charents, Paruyr Sevag, Hovhannes Shiraz, Misag Metsarents, Levon Shant, Derenig Demirchyan, Hrant Matevosyan were translated into Russian, telling the often tragic story of the people that combined both masculinity and tenderness. That all is now in the past and the read-reread Armenian novels, which became a great addition to the global Armenian printing culture, are on the shelves as "literature without the reader." The work of a literary translator is little paid and the profession is gradually dying. In the post-Soviet period, as the focus on the classical language was lost, the aesthetic and ethical degradation happened. There has already grown an accomplished generation that is familiar not with the fundamental authors but with the producers of the manufactured "fast-read" products. Books and reading are no longer an attribute of life and the incomparable book page rustling has been substituted by flickering screens of virtual games. Armenian publishing faces the same challenges as all the other countries and is essentially fighting for survival. State and philanthropic support is so necessary both in Armenia and Diaspora. On the eve of Armenian printing 500-th anniversary a new version of the original "Urbatagirk" printed by "Zangak" publishing in original black and red text, was at the center of the celebration events. "Preliminary work and translation into the modern Armenian Ashharabar lasted about two years and my goal was to introduce the publication to a wide range of readers", a young philologist Lusine Avetisyan said. "Book of Fridays" consists of prayers and spells which were used long ago by the Armenians who visited temples on Fridays to heal their suffering relatives. Such content once made by the pious Hakob Meghapart ("the Sinner") for the collection was justified. Henceforth, people saw every book written in the Mesroibian alphabet became a healer of the human spirit. Letters of Mashdots in the electronic age Life goes on and even major American editions like "Newsweek" switch to electronic format. Electronic publications are steadily replacing the printed ones. Now the third stage in the chronology of the Armenian book begins. The modern authors, not immune from temptation to do what is fashionable, face a choice to work for the mass market or for their conscience. Thankfully, young talented writers, such as Hrach Saribekyan and Aram Pashyan, poets Ashot Gabrielyan, Gevorg Toumanyan, Hayk Hambardsumyan and Karen Antashyan, among others, carry the torch of contemporary Armenian literature. Ashot Gabrielyan, a young member of the Armenian Writers' Union initiated the Granish project. Since January 2011 this web-edition has been offering information on writers working in Armenia and Diaspora. During last year in Diaspora the Iran-born Khatchig Khatcher presented his large-scale work of forty-two German writers' translation into Armenian. Original publications included "The Sandcastle Girls" by American writer Chris Bohjalian, "Story of the Book from ?ush" by Antonia Arslan of Italy and "The Book of Whispers" by Romania's Varujan Voskanian. Most of these books are focused on the past, the historical memory, genocide, committed during the World War I. Significantly the book entitled "1915 Armenian Genocide" by Turkish journalist Hassan Cemal who is the grandson of Jamal Pasha, one of the key figures in the Government of the Young Turks has become a bestseller in Turkey. In her novel Arslan narrates "Msho Charantir", the story of the largest surviving Armenian manuscript. It became the basis for the creation of the "Life of Eternity" monument, devoted to two women who saved the 12th century manuscript weighing 30 kilos. Its opening ceremony took place in Yerevan when the Armenian printing celebration started. There's a saying that human beings may stop thinking if they stop reading. For that reason all the newly created high-quality literature, based on the national literary tradition, is still in demand and takes its rightful place in the book series. It can protect contemporary culture from the onslaught of globalization. "Diverse as the stars, A comet alike or the planet, I love books, intimate and simple Talking with me about everything... In the spirit of Yeghishe Charents let us bow our heads to the Armenian book, our eternal spiritual attribute, our sacred value. Even in the electronic form it'll retain its unique look, national pattern and healing power. It will remain an Armenian national literature conductor in the world literary space and in the very heart of Armenian spiritual memory, at the National State Repository of Ancient Manuscripts. "Matenadaran is our everything, our language, literature, history, science, the anchor of our future victories, our constant and eternal benchmark", President Serge Sargsyan recently. There it stays under the protection of its first founders. The keepers of time and memory, the sage authors of the Armenian "golden age" continue to protect the human thought and creativity starting with ancient manuscripts to printed - physically and electronically - books today.
Posted 27 February 2016 - 12:29 PM
FIRST PRINTED ARMENIAN BIBLE IS 350 YEARS OLD
Society 19:19 26/02/2016
This year marks the 350th anniversary of the first printed Armenian
Bible. It was published in 1666 in Amsterdam with the efforts of
Archbishop Voskan Yerevantsi. Printing began on March 11, 1666 and
was completed on October 13, 1668, according to armchurch.info website.
The Bible by Voskan Yerevantsi consists of 1462 pages presented in two
columns (2924 columns) and 159 images. It was published in 5000 copies.
The basis for the Bible by Voskan Yerevantsi was the one copied
in 1295 by the order of Hethum II, King of the Armenian Kingdom of
Cilicia. Yerevantsi edited this copy according to Vulgate, the Latin
translation of the Bible. During printing he translated and added
several books of the Old Testament missing from the Armenian Canon.
Voskan Yerevantsi asked famous artist-bookbinder Albert Magnus for
a splendid example of the Bible, which he then gave to Louis XVI
Posted 16 February 2017 - 12:34 PM
UNESCO supports Matenadaran to celebrate 350th anniversary of Bible’s first edition
In 2017 Matenadaran, the Institute of Ancient Manuscripts, with the support of UNESCO will organize a series of events to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the first edition of the Armenian Bible. The Director of Matenadaran Vahan Ter-Ghevondian told NEWS.am, that Matenadaran received that assistance at the end of 2016.
According to him, the publication of the Bible in Armenian is a remarkable event not only for Armenians but also worldwide. The celebration program has three components: exhibition of antique books, publication of the research dedicated to 350th anniversary of the Armenian print Bible, and a conference. The main events will start in June and will last until the end of the year.
The first Bible printed in Armenian was published in Amsterdam in 1666-1668 by Voskan Yerevantsy. This is one of the best examples of the ancient books published in Armenian and one of the most valuable publications of the Bible in the world.
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