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The Great Statute of the Grand Duchy

The exposition will present edition of the Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from the collections of the National Library and the Mogilev History Museum.

The Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL) is the top of old Belarusian legal thought of the 16th century. It is a remarkable monument of European legal culture of the Renaissance.

The Statute of 1588 was valid almost 250 years. It was established by such prominent figures of Belarusian history as Chancellor Astafy Volovich and Court Chancellor Lew Sapieha. All 14 chapters and 488 articles of this code of laws have an idea to create the jural state, in which all the organs and workers must act strictly in accordance with the standards and requirements of the Statute, which mush be followed by both residents of the Grand Duchy and foreigners.

The Statute of 1588 determined the idea of religious tolerance and protected the citizens’ interests regardless of their religion. In contrast to the codes of other European countries in the Latin language this Statute was written and published in plain Old Belarusian language which was understood by overwhelming majority of the residents of the Principality.

The main exhibit of the exposition is the Statute of 1588 in the Old Belarusian language. It was printed in the printing Mamonichy in Vilna, in 1594–1595. This is the only copy in Belarus. This Statute is stored in the Mogilev History Museum and temporarily transferred to the Library for display. There are only about 30 copies of this edition in the world.

The National Library of Belarus is the repository of the largest collection of incunabula in Belarus. The exhibition will include editions from the Library’s collections which have been reprinted: the most accurate and high quality translation into Polish of the Vilna printing Mamonichy (2nd edition, 1619), the Warsaw edition of the Royal printer P. Elert (1648), Vilna reprints prepared by the Jesuit Academy (1744, 1786) and a copy of the translation into Russian published in St. Petersburg (1811), and other legal collections of the 16th and 19th centuries.