Vilna: Mamoniči, . Item #1221
 leaves. 31x18 cm. Full leather 19th century binding with later spine and later leather bands for the clasps. The clasps are present and contemporary to the binding. New endpapers. Several leaves are framed and occasionally the missing bits of text supplied in manuscript. The last page is backed. Overall the block of the book is in a very good condition for the book of this period.
Extremely rare imprint from the Great Duchy of Lithuania, the so-called ‘Gospel Without Foliation’. The complete copy, with all the leaves present.
This edition is known in 26 copies which are located mostly in Russia, with 1 copy located outside of Russia in Cambridge in private collection and incomplete (see ‘Cyrillic Books printed before 1701 in British and Irish collections’. #48). The book came out without publishers’ information and identified by its printing materials.
The gospel which was printed in the same year as ‘Gospel With Foliation’ but likely in the smaller print run (as it appears to be scarcer), was intended as a reprint of 1569 edition of the same text - the edition, printed by Ivan Fyodorov and Pyotr Mstislavets in Zabludov upon their escape from Moscow.
Mamonichi’s typography was one of the first private presses in Western Russia. It was established in 1574 by Pyotr Mstislavets who in 1564 printed the first book to be produced in Moscow alongside Ivan Fedorov.
The context of this book gives an interesting insight into Orthodox-Catholic battle over the territories of modern Lithuania and Belarus. At the start of the 16th century – the main religion in the region was the Orthodox Christianity and the main language was Russian, Belorussian and their dialects. In the middle of the 16th century the Grand Duchy signed an agreement with Poland to create a unified state (Rzeczpospolita). After that the influence of the Catholic Church gathered in Lithuania and its capital, Vilno, in particular. The first university in the country was founded by Jesuits in 1579. Book printing became an important tool in the battle for the influence. The book publishing in Poland at the end of the 16th century was already very well-developed, their numerous printers started to produce liturgical and polemical books to convert the population of Rzeczpospolita – starting with the noblemen. Yet, initially, a few voices were raised in Lithuania in support of the Orthodox Christianity. The answer was to print polemics and several Orthodox books - which were allowed by the state until the 1620s. The most successful typographers in this field were the typography of the Mamonichi brothers. They printed around 85 books in Russian, Greek and Polish. The brothers were successful in their publishing business - a lot of the books were sent and sold in Moscow.
This edition represents the period in Lithuania’s history when many confessions coexisted in Vilnius (Vilna). Starting from the 14th century Jewish population of Vilnius was granted the freedom of conscience that didn’t exist in other parts of Eastern Europe.