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The Baptism of the Lord in Old Printed Books

The Baptism of the Lord in Old Printed Books
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January 19 is the feast of the Baptism of the Lord Jesus Christ. The collection of the National Library of Belarus contains unique Cyrillic old-printed books dedicated to the oldest and most important Christian holiday - Easter.

In ancient times, there was no division into two holidays, and Christians celebrated the holidays of Christmas and Epiphany on the same day under the general name of Epiphany. You can read about the Epiphany in biblical and liturgical books: Gospel narrations, festive texts of liturgical books, accompanied by illustrations - engravings and headpieces. The texts are printed in Orthodox, Uniate and Old Believer printing houses.

In the "Teaching Gospel" (Vilno, 1580) by the printer Vasily Garaburda, there are several teachings: "on the week before Epiphany", on the day of the holiday and "on the week after Epiphany."


One of the books has an interesting history. On the last sheet there is a supplementary entry of the 16th century, in which it is written that about the fate of the book.


In the XVII century. on the Belarusian lands one of the main printing centers where the Cyrillic script was used was the Kutein printing house at the Epiphany Monastery (Kuteino - now Orsha). The books were first published under the leadership of the founder of the printing house Spiridon Sobol, and then Ioil Trutsevich. Spiridon Sobol's school of engraving had a significant impact on the development of Belarusian book graphics. Kutein illustrations are characterized by decorativeness and connection with folk art. On the engraving from the "Triphologion" (Kuteino, 1647) we see the image of John the Baptist, who raises his hand over the Savior and is baptized in the Jordan River. The Holy Spirit descends from the sky, depicted as a dove. Two angels are standing nearby.


The Mogilev printing house worked at the Epiphany Church, therefore the engraving with the Epiphany plot was placed on the back of the title page, as well as on the headband at the beginning of the book.


In the "Lives of the Saints" by Demetrius of Rostov, 1702, this sequence can be traced. This valuable specimen was donated to the library by the Slodych confectionery factory.


In the "Trifologion" (Mogilev, 1748) an engraving of the Epiphany, decorated with a typesetting ornament, is placed next to the liturgical text. It depicts John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, an angel with an obrus in his hands and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove flying from heaven.


In the Uniate Liturgikon, or Service Book (Pochaev, 1791), there is a copper engraving entitled Theophany. In total, this edition contains 17 beautiful engravings with plots for various church holidays. Their authors are Adam Gochemsky and Ivan Strelbitsky.


Author: Tatiana Kornilova, the Head of the Section for Organizing and Scientific Processing of Collections at the Bibliology Research Department.


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