[GOSPEL FROM 1600] Evangelie Naprestolnoe [i.e. The Altar Gospel]
Vil’no [Vilnus]: Tip. Mamonichei, 1600. 391 leaves. 33x19 cm. XVIIIth century combined leather-cloth binding. First two dozens of pages with the oil stain at the top, that doesn’t affect the integrity of the paper. 5 metal pieces with miniatures contemporary to the binding, on the front cover. Leaves 175 and 176 are supplied in contemporary manuscript, leaf 390 is missing, otherwise complete. Few leaves are restored with paper over the different periods of the book’s existence. The most recent restoration is the beginning of the 20th century.
Overall in good condition for a book of the type, used in service and in high demand by Old Believers since mid-17th century, who used this text as a canonical sacred text for the liturgy.
Four full-page woodcuts of the evangelists as well as the woodcut of the cross on the margin of one leaf. Together with numerous woodcut headpieces and initials, this edition is considered to be among the most decorated books of the 16th century in Cyrill, printed in Russia or Grand Duchy of Lithuania.
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 XVIth century – the main religion in the region was Orthodox Christianity and the main language was Russian, Belorussian and their dialects. In the middle of the XVIth 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 influence. The book publishing in Poland at the end of XVIth 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, few voices were raised in Lithuania in support of 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 in Vilnius (Vilna) many confessions coexisted. 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.