18 April 2013, 19:34

Russian pioneer book-printer Ivan Fyodorov opened his publishing house 450 years ago

книга Апостол первая печатная книга Иван Федоров книгопечатание
Acts and Epistles of the Apostles, the first Russian printed publication that has an exact date (1564).
Acts and Epistles of the Apostles, the first Russian printed publication that has an exact date (1564).

450 years ago on the 19th of April 1563, Ivan Fyodorov’s printing house opened in Nikolskaya Street not far from the Moscow Kremlin. The first Russian books were printed there. Now they are kept in the world’s best libraries and the pioneer printer himself has been recognized as a great educator by his descendants.

Moscow became a centre of book-writing inthe first half of the 14th century. Then books were written by hand and were extremely expensive. The book-printing shop opened by order of Czar Ivan the Terrible produced a great impression on his contemporaries, maybe the same as the Internet in the 20th century.

Pioneer book-printer Ivan Fyodorov was a scholar of encyclopaedic knowledge. He knew five languages, including ancientones with the help of which he checked the texts of spiritual books. Director of the museum of the Moscow State University of Printing Arts named after Ivan Fyodorov Svetlana Morozova is speaking:“He learned theology thoroughly and when it was necessary to correct texts he always did it along with Maxim the Greek. Fyodorov was an educator. He printed a very interesting reference book, an alphabetic index to the New Testament. If we speak about Azbuka (Alphabet Book) its second part contained reading matter, such as moral instructions, aphorisms, King Solomon’s Parables and the Epistles of Apostle Paul. All that concerned the rules of behavior and advice on children’s upbringing and education.”

Fyodorov printed three books in Moscow and later another ten in Belarus and Ukraine. Some of them were printed in over 1,000 copies. Books printed at Ivan Fyodorov’s printing shop are considered to be works of art, Svetlana Morozova says: “They are exquisitely illustrated andskillfully made. There were six printing types and over 500 kinds ofscrollwork. Special line engravings and ornamental ligatures were used. Each book was very thoroughly prepared.”

Ivan Fyodorov’s experience proved useful for book-printers of later centuries and books became popular with many people. However, in the age of electronic technologies printed books have numerous rivals. Larisa Vedenyeva, the head of the marketing department of the Biblio-Globus book shop is speaking: “The electronic book market has stabilized and is even stagnating. It has occupied a certain niche in the market which isabout 10-15% of the turnover. According to opinion polls taken at the Frankfurtand London Book Fairs, people point out that the printed book is alive and kicking, it is still in demand. For example, it is more difficult for children to understand an electronic text. Electronic books are easier to read on a beach or on the underground because they take up very little space. However, classical literature is usually preferred inprinted versions with good illustrations. People want to touch real books.”

About 500 books printed by Ivan Fyodorov have survived until today. Some of them only exist in one copy. For example, only the Royal Library of Belgium has Chasovnik (Book of Hours) and only the Harvard University Library has Azbuka (AlphabetBook).

In the olden days a book was considered to be a good gift. Once Ivan the Terrible gave The Ostrog Bible to the English Ambassador and this book is still kept in the British Library.

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