New book “Francysk Skaryna’s Ruthenian Bible turns 500. Pranciškaus Skorinos Rusėniškajai Biblijai – 500”

Published in Lithuanian, in the jubilee year 2017, this collective monography is a result of the cooperation between the leading specialists in Francysk Skaryna Studies, mostly Czechs and Lithuanians, with the participation of Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences (Lithuania), the Philosophical Faculty of Charles University (Czech Republic), the Central Jakub Kolas Library of the Academy of Sciences of Belarus (Minsk) and the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania (Lithuania).

Remarkable that the authors of the collection “Francysk Skaryna’s Ruthenian Bible turns 500. Pranciškaus Skorinos Rusėniškajai Biblijai – 500” consider Francysk Skaryna’s printing activity in the whole context of the Czech book printing tradition at that time. This allows to answer the questions that rested until now unknown.

For example, it was established that Francysk Skaryna rented a printing shop in Prague from the owner known as the merchant Severin. Here, in this printing shop, Francysk Skaryna, apparently, had connections with the Czech Printer of the Prague Bible of1488 and the Jewish book-printer Gershom Cohen. At the same time, an analysis of the illustrative material made it possible to identify those engravers with whom Francysk Skaryna collaborated in Prague. Moreover, these engravers also worked for other publishers at the same time in the same printing shop. Such fact while seems to be purely “theoretical”, in reality has a crucial importance because it breaks up with traditional, stereotypic image of Skaryna. “The mustache” on Skaryna’s famous portrait proved to be a trait typical for the style of hatching / shading of the so-called “Master of the fine hatching” (Mistr jemné šrafury). This sensational discovery proves that Francysk Skaryna did not have a mustache, as it was imagined during the last century, but had a shaven face appropriate to Renaissance scholars’ fashion.

The discovery of the location of Francysk Skaryna’s printing shop in Prague and the absence of his “iconic” mustache remind us the idea that Francysk Skaryna did not publish his books in the vacuum. Thus, the “deep reading” of historical context and Skaryna’s books engravings delivers us another important nuance: the incarnation of his contemporaries in the images of his Bible. Francysk Skaryna, quite naturally, followed the tendencies of the European Renaissance, so one can find in his engravings the faces of kings Georges of Bohemia, Vladislas IV of Bohemia, Louis II of Hungary, Sigismund I of Poland, or the landscape of the Emmaus Cloister of Prague.

The Reader could find out more about these and other discoveries, for example, on cross-influences of the manuscript tradition of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Francysk Skaryna’s activities (Rima Ciceniene, Daiva Narbutene), on Skaryna as a royal gardener in Prague (Ilya Lemeshkin ), on the phenomenon of polyphonic, Lithuanian, Latin, Church Slavonic and Russian, Ruthenian cultures in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and its reflection on book printing (Sergei Temchin), on Skaryna’s collective memory phenomenon in Belarus (Alexander Grusš, Sigitas Narbutas Ilya Lemeshškin). These texts with a rich illustrative material are available on the website of the Wroblewski Library of the Lithuanian Academy of Sciences in Belarusian, Lithuanian, Czech and English.