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1. Karataev I. “Description of Slavic and Russian books” v. 1 St.Petersburg, 1883, № 13.

2. Stroev P. “Description of old printed Slavic and Russian books being in the library of the Tsarkiy” Moscow, 1836/ №№ 5-9.

3. Stroev P. “Description of old printed Slavic and Russian books being in the library of the count F.A.Tolstoy” Moscow, 1829/ №№ 5-11.

4. The book of Byelorussia. United catalogue. Minsk. 1986. p. 44.

The common title for all of 22 books of the Bible published by Skorina and compiled for the book “Genesis” sounds like “Russian Bible compiled by Dr. Francis Skorina from the glorious city of Polotsk, for the glory of God and for noble man for good knowledge”. Under such title of the Bible there are known 22 books of the Old Testament, translated into Byelorussian dialect by Dr. Francis Skorina from city of Polotsk and published separately in Prague (Bohemia) between 1517-1519 on ¼ of the page. We know from contemporaneous write-ups, which some of the books contain, that they were published by support of Vilnius counselor – Bogdan On’kov. In the beginning of each book Skorina put in his own preamble, and before each chapter – the content thereof, in the end of the book he put in the epilogue and mentioned the place and year of publishing (the year is not mentioned in our book of “Exodus”). The full page contains 22 lines and incomplete page consists of 10 lines. The initial and small letters are of the same size in all books and differs from the other Slavic scripts that were used after or before. On some pages of these books gravures are inserted into the text and the portrait of Skorina (in the Book Syrah), as well as a lot of miniatures of different size; all of them are carved on the wood, like initial letters and are put into the quadrupled frames on the black background with figures. These books are not signatured and Cyrillic numbers are placed on the top of the page in such books as: Book of Job, Kings, Josh, Judith, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Ruth, Deuteronomy, Judges, Esther, Lamentations, prophet Daniel – on the right side, on the other books – on the left side. Only Canticum canticorum contains cinnabar for upper letters. Dr. Skorina published the books which he translated not in the same order as they are in the Bible, but at random. The books were published in the printing-house on Stare Mesto (Old Town) in Prague. It is unknown if he had published all books of the Bible. But it was his Great Dream… The birth of Byelorussian book-printing in the 1st quarter of the 16th century is connected to the activities of great humanist, enlightener Byelorussian and east Slavic printing pioneer Francis Skorina (about 1490 – not later 1551). There is few information about conscious and eventful life of Francis Skorina. There are well known only separate periods of his life. He was born on about 1490 in a rich merchants’ city of Polotsk in the family of merchant Luka Skorina. His farther was skinner (in Byelorussian it means “skorina”), he sold furs and leather and has business relations with Vilnius, Riga, Poznan and other cities. It’s obvious that as he belonged to merchant family, the activities of which overpassed as the borders of the city as even of the country, influenced the character of young Skorina, elevated his mind, strengthened his eager for the knowledge. Some historians consider his family was rich but such opinion contradicts to many documents: one of such documents calls Skorina poor (pauper), as Skorina himself as his brother Ivan had always been in difficulties. If there had been no financial assistance of the of the rich burgers, Skorina would have never been able to realize his wide ideas related to book-printing. By his ethnic identity Skorina was Byelorussian, but his native language was Russian. In the preambles of the books published by Skorina he underlined that he appealed “to his Russian brothers” and that “the God has brought him into the world with that (i.e. Russian) language”. His Byelorussian roots had been testified by many documents, in which he was called “Ruthenus”. His Byelorussian origin permits to suppose that his family was Christian orthodox. But the name – Francis is obviously catholic. Orthodox name of Skorina has not been revealed yet. Some historians said that his name was George. But it seems unbelievable. All original documents call Skorina as Francis. Only just one copy of a Latin privilege contains the name – George. Polish historic H. Lovmanskiy expressed the opinion that the name George – is the result of copyist error, who wrongfully wrote the word “egregus” (“distinguished”, “honorable”). Probably, for the definite resolution of this question an additional research should be made. Remarkable, that in the Krakow University matricula Skorina is named as Lithuanian. Probably it is caused that “catholic” and “Russian” are incompatible. Also he was born in Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and this gave him the right to call himself Lithuanian. After he left Krakow, he became “Ruthenus” one more time. Some historians consider that Skorina was baptized and took the appropriate name, for the purposes to enter the Krakow University. Howbeit he published his books for “the Russian brothers” and always underlined that such books are completely conform with the impositions of Eastern Orthodox Church. However, there is no doubt that his mind had been affected by the ideas of Reformation and humanism. Not long ago, a well-known philologist Golenishev-Kutuzov N.N. has written that “first Byelorussian humanist” belonged to catholic Church, and well-grounded this fact by some arguments. But Skorina himself had never mentioned about his religion and had never intervened into the argues between Catholics, Orthodoxies and Protestants. The aims of his activities he put above the narrow confessional interests and considered his aim –as the enlightenment of the people, and education of high morality in the people. The primary education Skorina received in orthodox church school, when the reading skills were trained by reading Book of Hours and where he knew the Church Slavonic, which he spoke very fluently as it may be judged by his further literature activities. It’s obvious that in the primary school his talents has been revealed, which incentivated his parents to give him further education. In Polotsk, there was possible to continue the education only with monks – of Bernardino order, which opened the church of St. Bernard and St. Francis on 1498. As Bernardino Order had very straight relations with Krakow academy (University), a well-known university, the monks could have enticed the talented young man by the possibility to continue studying in this higher school which was the only one in the Polish and Lithuanian state at that time. In 1504 Skorina was called as “Francis from Polotsk, Lithuanian” in the Krakow University lists of students. On the philosophy faculty of Krakow University he studied so called seven free arts (sciences) – grammar, logics, rhetoric, music, arithmetic, geometry and astronomy. But Krakow University has suffered the twilight period, the level of teaching and the spirit of theological scholasticism could not satisfy Skorina, a lickerous for knowledge. After he got the bachelor of free sciences degree on 1506, he left Krakow. But in the University he knew the masterpieces of the great ancient authors, such as: Aristotle, Sallustrius, Vergil, Seneca. Skorina’s teacher was a great scientist and humanist Jan from Glogov, who translated, in the opinion of Starovolskiy, a literator of the XVII century, the Bible into Church Slavonic. A fervent bibliophile and idolater of the printing art, Jan from Glogov instilled the sense of love therefor in his students. Studying in Krakow, Skorina must have known the pioneer of Slavonic Cyrillic script printing – a Krakow typographer Shwaipolt Feol. That’s why Skorina could have the aim to finish the work of Jan from Glogov – to translate the Bible and to renew the Cyrillic script printing that has ceased after the death of Sh. Feol. There is no information about Skorina’s activities between 1506 and 1512, but it’s obvious that he continued the academy studies as he received the degree of Master of free sciences. Young scientist visited Czechia, Denmark, Germany, learned Polish, Czech, Slavic Greek and Latin, ancient Hebrew. The hunger for knowledge has brought Skorina to far Italy, in the glorious Padua University. The most popular at that time were the faculties of free sciences and medicine. Nicolas Copernicus studied in Padua for five years. There is no exact data about Skorina’s study in the University. The only data that contains the university documents is related to the end of such studies. There is very interesting document guardered in the Padua archive dated by 1512 year, which states that “master Francis Skorina from Polotsk, Russian, has passed the exams in the University of this city. Signed by Danish Royal secretary” From the other document of Padua archive we can find out that on November 15, 1512 a Council of Doctors of medicine and sciences has met on the Church of St. Urban, and the Council has permitted to “poor young scientist Francis, the son of Luka Skorina from the city of Polotsk, Russian” to pass the exams “free of charge, for the benevolence of God”. The exam lasted for two days: the probationer had to prove in public all of his thesis and to wear down the arguments of his opponents. Skorina has come through with flying colours: all of 14 professors of the council and other scientists from Padua and Verona have unanimously recognized him deserving to receive the degree of Doctor. Since that time Skorina called himself Doctor of free sciences and medicine – “Frantishek Skorina - Doctor of free sciences and medicine”. Neither free sciences nor the medicine became the sense of the life of Byelorussian humanist. Skorina’s name has left in the history forever due to his achievements in enlightening, printing and distribution of books. A question appears why Skorina, being a merchant by his roots and a doctor by education had chosen very different sphere of activities and became translator, publisher and printer. He gave a definite answer for this question. In the preambles to the books he published, he underlines that the aim of his literature and publishing activities – to serve to the benefit of simple Russian people, to help them “to know wisdom and science”, educate simple people, “as being educated, they would live well”. Nearby, in Krakow, the printing-houses existed since the end of XV century, but Skorina has chosen another centre of Slavic culture – Prague, capital of Czechia. We do not know exactly when Skorina went there, but it happened earlier than 1517 – the date of the beginning of his publishing activities. It’s clear that before that he had to finish the translation of the Bible and to prepare it for printing. Prague has been very good key point for the purposes of printing as it was situated near such publishing centers as were Nuremberg and Augsburg, as well as Venice, where the Slavic books has been printing since the end of XV century. In these cities Skorina could purchase all necessary equipment, scripts and paper. His books published in Prague are printed on good paper and watermark shows that the most part of such paper was purchased in Germany. The foundation of printing-house and realizing the plans – all of this required expenses. Skorina was not rich. He asked for the help the people whom he devoted his books – “noble Russian people”, Russian citizens of Vilnius. His book-printing beginnings were supported by merchants and members of the city Council. Many books printed in Prague contain the imprinting “this book has been printed on account of Bogdan Onkov, the son of the member of the City Council”. Then Skorina was supported by “senior burgomaster of the Vilnius city” Jakob Babich. Skorina’s family had very straight commercial relations with Vilnius city and it was famous. After Skorina married Margaret, the widow of member of the City Council Juriy Odvernik, he became the citizen of Vilnius. The first steps of book-printing activities Skorina made in “the glorious city of Prague”. Ancient cultural and commercial relations between the Czech Kingdom and the Great Duchy of Lithuania, some particularities of spiritual and cultural life of Czechia (influence of Hus’ Reformation), as well as the privileges which the book-printing had there (as it was not restricted by guild regulations), facilitated the organization of book-printing undertaking in Prague. Like many European book-printers F. Skorina began his publishing activities from the Bible. It’s known that books that the Bible contains (a complicated by its composition, heterogeneous and conflicting by its social motives complex of masterpieces of ancient literature) in the Middle Ages were used not only by church and higher classes, but also by oppositional heretic, radical and reformists movements, revolutionary opposition to feudalism. Secular renaissance editions by Skorina sharply contradicted to the religious canons and orthodox conceptions related to “holy Bible”. Free translation of the Bible texts into the Byelorussian literature language, humanistic interpretation of the content, author’s preambles and comments to the texts which were far from the traditional Christian world view of the Middle Ages, were very close to the heresies from the point of view of the Church. And the Duke Andrey Kurbskiy, an Orthodox, who exiled to the Great Duchy of Lithuania during the Livonian war, considered the books of “Skorina from Polotsk” – as blasphemous and heretic editions, like Bible by Luther. Enlightening and humanitarian ideas of F. Skorina were revealed in his relationship to the secular sciences, knowledge and spiritual achievements of ancients. In his books he published on his native language, he popularized the necessity of wide humanitarian education, study of seven free sciences (or arts), moral perfection, active personal and social life “for the purposes to achieve good being, multiply the wisdom, skills, knowledge, mind and sciences” (second preamble to the book Jesus Syrah, 1517). Opinion and comments made by Skorina in his relation to the book-printing, enlightening and political activities may be seen his patriotic and civil position, his eager to help the education of his nation. The patriotism of F. Skorina is harmonized with his great respect to the other nations, to their traditions and culture, to the cultural and historic heritage. It’s the fact that in Prague printing-house F. Skorina has edited 23 books of the Old Testament (including Psalter), of total volume 1200 lists, and decorated them with 49 gravures and hundreds of miniatures, initials and letters – it’s a great work. But for today it’s impossible to establish the total number of his books printed in the Prague printing-house because of different historical circumstances, which influenced the destiny of eastern Slavic, including Byelorussian, books. It could be firmly ascertained that F. Skorina had the plans to publish all the books of The Bible in Prague “as to be published all the books on Russian”. This is testified by the common title-sheet, vast preamble to the whole Bible, comments made to the published books. Particularizing the books prepared to be printed, F. Skorina named some unknown to us or not found books, such as – “Ezra”, “Tobia” etc. F. Skorina wrote “About all these books, which I had translated into Russian and I told about in preambles, everybody should know”. There is no data concerning to who has been working in Prague printing-house of F. Skorina. Scripts, materials for illustrations and ornaments of the books of that period published by Skorina have no any direct relations to czech and other incunabula and palaeotype known for today which relate to the end of 15th – first decade of 16th century. We may suppose that in Prague printing-house there have been working Czech masters of printing and compatriots of F. Skorina. Some years after his printing activities F.Skorina moved to Vilno – a big political, economic and cultural centre and the capital of Great Duchy of Lithuania. In Vilno printing-house of Skorina, which was situated in the house of burgomaster Jakub Babich there were printed “Little travel book” (about 1522) and “Apostle” (1525). Both books were published in wording which was close to language and religious traditions of Byelorussian and Eastern Slavic literature. But by its social destination and definitely by its content they differ from rare written books that were spread mainly amongst noble people. “Little travel book” was giving knowledge to wide mass of Byelorussian people about several ideas of Ptolemy astronomy. Enlightening tendencies of F. Skorina has obviously revealed in perspective prognosis of eclipses of the Sun and of the Moon for the period of 1523-1530. It’s the first example of exact prognosis of eclipses in eastern Slavic literature, as such phenomenon had been called not subject to human mind and unforeseeable by the church. “In the glorious city of Vilno” F. Skorina participated in the activities of printing-house more actively than he used to participate in Prague, which is marked in his books as “translated and printed”, “translated and printed by Doctor Francis Skorina” etc. In the books printed in Vilno (Vilnius) were used new gravures, most part of the ornament renewed, the miniatures are made very artfully, little initials are printed with different decorative background, different forms of script are used in the end, the technique of two colour printing is improved. As V.V.Stasov noted and other art critics, the books printed by F. Skorina – are matured, perfect masterpieces, they have bright and unique artificial and printing layout. They organically composed the traditions of Byelorussian and eastern Slavic art and literature with European book-printing, including Slavic one, developing and improving thereof. Innovatory artificial and polygraph traces of his books related to the understanding of artificial and social meaning of the printed book as synthetic phenomenon, which need adequate form of expression. The cozy little format (1/4 or 1/8 of the list), wide use of gravures, title-sheets, particular scripts, typesets, ornament, comments and glosses, all internal architectonic of his editions were devoted to democratize and sublime the book, to make it esthetic and in the same time clear to the “simple and good people”. Unlike the European humanists of the époque of late Renaissance, whose masterpieces were usually printed by professionals, F. Skorina performed double feat: he created manuscript which deserved to be published and printed them. We may be just surprised by the short time and high level as the abovementioned goals had been achieved. Despite the lack of special preparation and ways of distribution, shortage of means and opposition of the church, he managed to create highly arty-crafty and harmonized masterpieces, which anticipated the final victory of book-printing machines over handwriting copying of the books.

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