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Book, in the Lithuanian Language


BOOK, in the Lithuanian language. The first book to be printed in the Lithuanian language was the Protestant catechism prepared by Martynas Mažvydas and called Catechismusa Frosty Szadei (in modern literary Lithuanian Paprasti katekizmo žodžiai=The Simple Words of the Catechism). The Hans Weinreich press in Konigsberg, East Prussia printed it in 1547. The appearance of this book was closely connected with the expansion to the Reformation, which - replaced Latin in church services with the vernacular. For that purpose in the Duchy of Prussia, which included Lithuania Minor and still had some Old Prussian inhabitants, a Prussian catechism was published in 1545 and a Lithuanian one in 1547. Martynas Mazvydas, the author of the Lithuanian Catechism, besides purely religious aims, tried also to meet a national need; he sought to encourage Lithuanians to read and write in their own language. With this in view a brief primer of writing was included at the beginning of the book; this was followed by the catechism and 11 hymns with musical notation attached. This work was printed in Gothic type and took up79 pages ot small size. The two prefaces, one in Latin and one in rhymed Lithuanian, mentioned some social features and customs of Lithuanian life. To philologists the work provides material for studying early Lithuanian linguistic forms. Mazvydas published several other minor works and prepared a large book of hymns. It was published after his death in two parts, (1566 and 1570), under the title Gesmes Chriksczioniszkas (that is, Giesmės krikščioniškos= Christian Hymns). Baltramiejus Vilentas, the cousin of Mažvydas, was responsible for its publication. Vilentas also was the first writer to translate the Gospels and the Epistles into Lithuanian; these were published in 1579. Jonas Bretkūnas prepared two volumes of commentaries on the Gospels; these were called the Postilla and published in 1591. He translated the entire Scriptures into Lithuanian for the first time, but this remained in manuscript. A second complete translation of the Scriptures was made by a committee of translators and published in 1735. The New Testament was published rather earlier, in 1701, the translation being made for the most part by Samuel Bythner. (See Bible.) These and other Protestant books, mostly collections of hymns, were printed in Gothic type by German presses in Konigsberg. They were distributed not only in Lithuania Minor but also in Lithuania Major.
Roman Catholic religious literature in the Lithuanian language was printed in Vilnius. One of the first books to be published was a translation of the catechism of P. Canisius in 1585, but no copy of this work has been found and its author is not known. Mikalojus Dauksa translated from Polish the catechism of J. Ledesma (1595), and J. Wujk's commentaries on the Gospels under the title of Postilla Catholica (1599). In the introduction to the latter work, a major translation comprising632 pages, Dauksa stressed the value and importance of the native language in these words: "Through all ages people have spoken in their native tongue, and striven to preserve it, to enrich it, to perfect it and to make it more beautiful. .. Nations live not by the richness of their soil, not by the diversity of their dress or the beauty of their countryside, not by the strength of their cities and castles, but mostly by preserving and using their native language." He directed these words especially towards the Lithuanian nobility and clergy, who had largely succumbed to Polish influence, and he urged them not to abandon Lithuanian language and nationality. Both of Daukša's translations were published in Vilnius by the Jesuit press. The Jesuit Konstantinas Sirvydas wrote the first original work in the Lithuanian language, Punktay Sakimu (which bore on its title-page the Polish name Punkty Kazan = Points of Sermons). The book consisted of the outlines of his sermons, preached in Vilnius and accompanied by a Polish translation. The work was published in two parts in 1629 and 1644. A second important work of his was the Dictionarium trium Unguanim (1629), a dictionary of Latin, Polish and Lithuanian, intended for the students of the Vilnius Academy. There are grounds for believing that Sirvydas also wrote, in Latin, the first handbook of the Lithuanian language, Clavis linguae lituanicae, but the book has not yet been discovered. The first known grammar of the Lithuanian language is the Orammatica Litvanica, prepared by Daniel Klein and published in Konigsberg in 1653. Among other 17th century religious books published in Vilnius, mention should be made of the book of church hymns and psalms Giesmės (The Hymns). These were original translations from Latin and Polish. The book appeared under the name of Salomon Mozerka Slawoczynski, a Roman Catholic priest of Samogitia, but it is not clear whether he prepared the hymnbook himself or merely published it. In virtue of its linguistic purity and elegance the hymn-book stands as a continuation of the efforts of Daukša and Sirvydas to develop Lithuanian as a literary language.
The earliest known work of imaginative literature in Lithuanian is a translation of Aesop's fables, published in Konigsberg in 1706 under the German title of Die Fabuln Aesopi. It was translated by Johann Schuiz, a Protestant pastor at Gumbine in Lithuania Minor. The translator kept as close as possible to the language spoken by Lithuanian country people and avoided Slavic and German expressions. This in itself showed that interest in Lithuanian language and folklore had increased considerably. During the 18th century in Lithuania Minor Lithuanian grammars and dictionaries written in Latin and in German appeared and Lithuanian folksongs began to be written down. The first collection of folksongs was published by Liudvikas Rhesa under the title Dainos oder Litauische Volkslieder (1825). He also prepared the first edition of the poem Metai (The Seasons), 1818, by the Lithuanian classic writer Kristijonas Donelaitis. After the appearance of these two books edited by Rhesa publication of Lithuanian books in Lithuania Minor almost ceased. This was partly due to the intensified Germanization of the territory.
In Lithuania Major, in spite of the Russian occupation beginning in 1795, publication of Lithuanian books increased from the beginning of the 19th century. According to data compiled by Vaclovas Biržiška, 34 Lithuanian books were published in the 16th century, 58 in the 17th century, 304 in the 18th century, and 926 in the first part of the 19th century (1801-64). Most of these 19th century books were published in Vilnius. The more important of them included Giesmės svietiškos ir šventos (Secular and Religious Songs), 1814, by Antanas Strazdas; Naujasis Testamentas (The New Testament), 1816, translated by Juozapas A. Giedraitis; and the first histories written in Lithuanian, Būdas senovės lietuvių (The Character of the Ancient Lithuanians), 1845, by Simanas Daukantas, and the two volumes of Žemaičių vyskupystė (The Diocese of Samogitia), 1848, by Motiejus Valančius. In 1846 Laurynas Ivinskis began to publish the famous editions of Kalendorius (The Calendar), which included literary supplements. In 1860-61, for example, the poem AnykSSiu Silelis (The Grove of Anyksciai), by Antanas Baranauskas, was published in The Calendar for the first time. During this period a considerable number of Lithuanian poets and writers were active, but most of their writings remained unpublished when the Russian government adopted repressive measures.
From 1864-1904, in accordance with a decision of the Russian administration, the printing of Lithuanian books in Roman characters was forbidden; the aim of this prohibition was to enforce the use of the Russian alphabet. A few primers, calendars and religious books were printed in the Russian alphabet, but although these books were distributed free, they did not become popular; Lithuanians regarded them as tools of Russification and destroyed them. (See Press Ban.) For .scholarly purposes permission was given to print a few books in Roman characters; the most important among them were Lietuviškos dainos (Lithuanian Songs), 3 volumes, 1880-83, edited by Antanas Juška (Juškevičius), and Lietuviškos svodbinės dainos (Lithuanian Wedding Songs), 1883, by the same editor. In practice Lithuania Minor (East Prussia) again became the main center for printing Lithuanian books. Most books were published in Tilžė (Tilsit) and were transported secretly across the border into Lithuania Major. For this purpose an extensive net of so-called "book - smugglers" (Lith. knygnešiai, q.v.) came into existence. Motiejus Valančius, bishop of Samogitia from 1850-75, was one of the first to print and distribute his writings in this way. During the first decade of the prohibition (1864-7A) 214 books were published. A particularly large number of books and periodicals was published at the end of the 19th century because of the increased development of the Lithuanian national movement. Books published in this period included Pavasario balsai (The Voices of Spring), 1895, by Maironis, the poet of the national revival, and Laisvos valandos (The Spare Hours), 1899, a collection of poems by Vincas Kudirka, the author of the Lithuanian national anthem. During the entire 40 years of the prohibition 3320 books were published. Some of them were printed in the United States and reached Lithuania surreptitiously. From 1891-1903 the Russian government confiscated about 200,000 copies of Lithuanian books, which had been brought into the country illegally.
In the United States the printing of Lithuanian books began at the end of the 19th century. Books were published by private persons, periodical presses and organizations. A considerable number of books of popular science was published, as well as handbooks of various kinds and plays. Works published in the United States included the first Lithuanian historical novel, Algimantas by Vincas Pietaris (1904), and the extensive folklore collections of Jonas Basanavičius (1898-1905). The writings of Vincas Kudirka were printed in Tilžė (Tilsit) 1909 and financed by the American Lithuanian Association (Tėvynės Mylėtojų Draugija), established 1896. This Association was responsible for financing the greatest number of Lithuanian books published in the United States.
When the Russians raised the ban on the press in 1904, several publishing houses and printing presses were established in Vilnius and Kaunas, and these became the chief centers of publication. The publishing house of Martynas Kukta in Vilnius and those of Saliamonas Banaitis and of the Society of St. Casimir in Kaunas were among the most important. Until the restoration of Lithuanian independence in 1918, 4734 books were published in Lithuania and abroad.
In independent Lithuania 16,721 books were published between 1919-39. During the early years of independence only 180-200 books were published each year; from 1925 the annual number of books published was about 800-900. Publication was financed both by government organs and privately. A Commission for Publishing Books (Knygų Leidimo Komisija) was established at the Ministry of Education in 1919, and it was responsible for 525 publications. At first it concerned itself mainly with publishing textbooks for schools; later it also published imaginative literature, both original works and translations. Scientific works and journals were published by the University of Kaunas. Numerous collections of folklore were prepared and published by the Lithuanian Folklore Archives (Lietuvių Tautosakos Archyvas). A considerable number of books was published by newspaper and magazine presses, by organizations, libraries and private persons. The most important publishing houses were in Kaunas; they included The Society of St. Casimir (Šv. Kazimiero Draugija, established 1905), The Lighthouse (Švyturys, 1919), The Bell (Varpas, 1922), The Publishing Fund (Spaudos Fondas, 1922), The Falcon (Sakalas, 1924), The Collection of Knowledge (Žinija, 1925), and Progress (Pažanga, 1928). Provincial publishing houses included The Field (Dirva, 1918) in Marijampolė, and Culture (.Kultūra, 1920-27) and The Society for Cultural Education (Kultūros Švietimo Draugija, 1927^40), both in Šiauliai. The publishing house Sakalas concerned itself almost entirely with original works of imaginative literature; it helped many of the more notable writers of independent Lithuania in their development and it was the first publishing house to award prizes. The state prize for literature was established in 1935. Book editions were not large. In 1939-40 better prose works were published in editions of 2,000-3,000. For this reason-publishing houses were not economically secure and the royalties paid to authors were small. Publishers found an important source of support in libraries, which bought books with state iunds.

Text from the ENCYCLOPEDIA LITUANICA I-VI.  Boston, 1970-1978