• September 14, 2012
  • 25

Cultural relations in Vilnius between 16th and 17th century

Fot. Marian Paluszkiewicz

The Radziwill family printing house to a certain extent influenced the development of the Vilnius literature. It was working between 1576 and 1586. The Polish-Latin printing house belonged to Mikołaj Radziwiłł, who maintained it with his own money. It was used also by the Jesuits. The printing house produced such works as “Artes Duodecym Sacramentariorum Seu Zwinglioclvinistarum quibus oppugnant Contra Andream Volanum… Authore Petro Scarga. Vilnae. A.D. 1582” and “The seven pillars on which stands the doctrine of the Blessed Sacrament… Vilnius 1582”.

It is probable that during the first three years, Daniel Łęczycki (Lancicius, ca. 1530-1600) managed the printing house, during the next two years it was directed by Jan Slęcki. After 1586, the printing house was managed by Vilnius Academy. The exact location of the Radziwill family printing house remains unknown. After the Academy had taken it over, it was located at the Świętojańska Street, next to the Jesuit College.

After the establishment of Vilnius Academy, the printing house of Vilnius Academy played an extremely significant role in the dissemination of the Catholic religious literature. It was working between 1575 and 1805. Vilnius Jesuit College was established in 1570 by Bishop Walerian Protaszewicz-Szuszkowski (1505-1579). Thanks to the Privilege from July 7th 1678, King Stefan Batory upgraded the College to the status of academy, and in 1579 he made it equal to Krakow Academy by granting it the right to award a degree. At the beginning, the Academy had three faculties: the Faculty of Philosophy, the Faculty of Theology, and the Faculty of Liberal Arts. In the middle of the 17th century, not for long the Faculty of Law was added, and after the dissolution of the Jesuit Order, the Faculty of Medicine was established. The Academy had three main tasks to perform: firstly, it would become the pillar of the Counter-Reformation in Lithuania and the neighbouring countries; secondly, it would support the Polonisation process among Russian people; finally, it would become the foundation of the political expansion towards Moscow and Sweden.

The activity of the academic printing house can be divided into four main periods. The first period: 1575-1648 – it is the oldest Jesuit printing workshop in Lithuania. It comes form the printing house of Mikołaj Krzysztof Radziwiłł (1549-1616) which have worked in Vilnius since 1576. It seems that in 1586 Radziwiłł gave it to the Jesuit College. At the beginning, the publishing house was in interior crisis because there are only few publications dated between 1587 and 1589. The time between 1590 and 1591 is completely unproductive. Not until 1591, the Jesuits managed to get a printer Daniel from Łęczyca, who converted to Catholicism. In 1592, the work titled “Ewangelik…” was published which was the first publication with the new name of the publishing house printed on it: “w drukarnie Akademii Societas Jesu”.

In 1596, the signature of Krzysztof Patro was present on four printings, the famous printers form this period were Wolbramczyk and Gołda. Between 1595 and 1597, Prefect Walenty Rusconius supervised the publishing house. It started to work normally in 1616 and published over 15 titles each year. It published the works of Piotr Skarga, Marcin Śmiglecki, Mikołaj Łęczycki, Emanuel Vega, and later the writings of Mateusz Bambus and Jakub Olszewski.

The time between 1648 and 1749 is the second period of the printing house development. The beginning of this period was difficult, the publishing house was not very active. Not until 1665, Jerzy Białłozór, the Bishop of Vilnius, offered his help and made a donation to the printing house. Thanks to that, Brzozowski, the contemporary rector, was able to provide the printing house with a new printing press and types. About 1690, a new building was added where the printing house was situated on the first floor and the chemist’s on the ground floor. During this period, the historical writings of Wojciech Wijuk Kojałowicz were printed: “Miscellanea rerum ad statum ecclesiasticum In Magno Lithuaniae Ducatu pertimentia“ (1648); the history of Radziwiłł family titled “Fasti Radiviliani gesta illustrisimae domus ducum Radzivil compendio continentes 1653”.

The Statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was the biggest publishing success of this period. According to the information provided by Załęski, a historian, during the great fire in Vilnius in 1737 the building of the new college and the printing house were completely destroyed. However, the authors of “Former Polish Printers” [Polish: “Drukarze dawnej Polski”] claim that in that year, the production did not stop but increased. The works of Jakub Wujek, Piotr Skarga and Jan Poszakowski were published. Lithuanian and even Latgalian writings were printed as well.

The time between 1750-1773 is the third period of the printing house development. During this period the Academy became more active, it took greater care of the printing house, and consequently, the scientific authority was entrusted to Franciszek Paprocki, a historian (ca. 1760-1764?), and Kazimierz Naruszewicz, a mathematician (1764-1766?). The publishing profile changed as well: in 1750, Hylzen’s “The History of Livonia” [Polish: “Historia Inflant”] was published, a popular textbook of K. A. Hołówka titled “Domowe wiadomości Polskie i W.X.Litewskiego” (1753, 1763, 1771), W. A. Łubieński’s „Historia polska z opisaniem rządu i urzędów polskich…“ (1763).

This period marks the beginning of the magazine publishing action: “Nowiny Wileńskie”, “Kurier Litewski” (since 1759), and “Gazety Wileńskie” (1761-1791) were printed. In 1773, the Jesuit Order was dissolved and consequently, the publishing house did not belong to the Jesuits any more.

The time between 1774 and 1805 is the fourth period of the printing house development. The Commission of National Education took control of the Academy and began its reorganization. The Faculty of Medicine was established and the Faculty of Law was expanded. New textbooks and lecturers were gradually introduced. However, the publishing profile remained the same. After the dissolution of the College, the king wanted to reward Poczobutt for his achievements and gave him the publishing house for life. That caused certain problems.

Wanting to be the first before the inspectors who were taking over the Jesuit property, Antoni Tyzenhauz took possession of the Academic Printing House. It happened in 1755. Poczobutt was left with a personal apartment situated near the printing house and 7000 of the total income form the press. The year 1794 marked the beginning of the worse period for the printing house. Together with the reorganization of the Academy and renaming it as “University”, the renovation of the press was started. However, all these efforts did not produced any effects. In 1804, Rev. Rafał Daniłowicz, who had managed the printing house of the Piarists for many years, administered the printing workshop. Daniłowicz was granted the right to print all academic publications, namely newspapers, calendars, etc. in exchange for the care, improvement, development of the printing house and the rent amounting to 1200 rs. The new administrator did not cope with the task and resigned the following year. Then the University got rid of the problematic enterprise and sold it to  Józef Zawadzki for 3000 rs. This was the end of the Academic printing house.

The printing house of Daniel Łęczycki printed Catholic books as well. It was working in Vilnius between 1594 and 1600. In October 1593 Łęczycki sold his house in Vilnius. In the bill of sale it was written that he “desperately needed money for an urgent and serious business”. It seems that he needed money to set up his own printing house, which was working between 1594 and 1600. Daniel form Łęczyca (Łęczycki) was printing works of many polemical Catholic writers: Łaszcz, Śmigielski, Jurkiewicz. In 1600 his career as a printer was finished. The later activity of the printing house remains unknown. If Łęczycki lived longer than his second wife, then the workshop became the property of the Jesuits through the agency of his son, Mikołaj, and consequently, was the part of the Academic printing house.

The Franciscan printing house in Vilnius played a significant role in the dissemination of the Catholic writings. At the beginning, it printed only few works for the Order. In 1670 King Michał Wiśniowiecki granted the Franciscans the privilege to manage the printing house. In 1671, the first prints with name of the Franciscan printing house appeared. The year 1709 marks the beginning of the break in the activity of the publishing house. According to the historians, the fires in Vilnius in 1748 and 1749, which, among other things, damaged the monastic buildings, could destroy the publishing house. In 1750 the printing house resumed its activity. In 1754 August III granted the Franciscans a new privilege on the basis of which the workshop belonged to the prestigious group of the royal printing houses. Feliks Tobiański, a regent of Vilnius college, managed the printing house between 1756 and 1769. In 1769 it was administered by Wiktor Stepurowicz who was followed by Józef Sękalski, and then by Placyd Nowicki. In 1781 Nowicki presented the condition of the publishing house on the Winnicka Chapter. As far as the typography was concerned, it was very well equipped, however, it was heavily in debt. It was decided that the publishing house would be closed and the money would be used to repay debts. The plans were fulfilled soon. The printing house was sold but the purchaser remains unknown.

According to M. Łowmiańska, the demand for books in Vilnius occurred relatively late, at the end of 16th century. Despite the 200-year long contact with Poland, the scientific life in Vilnius was slow. The spiritual needs were satisfied through religion – mainly Catholicism and Orthodox Church. In the first part of the 16th century, a new and also religious factor appeared in Vilnius, namely Protestantism. However, it covered mainly the sphere of magnates and, to some extent, urban patricians, neither it aroused wider interests nor directed Vilnius towards the scientific enlightenment which was very popular in Poland. The popularity of Protestantism in Vilnius increased the vigilance of the Catholic episcopate which changed its defensive attitude to “novelties” and began the attack. The organisation of this fight was entrusted to the Jesuits, trusted champions of Catholicism, who came to Vilnius in 1569.

Source:  http://kurierwilenski.lt/2012/09/14/stosunki-kulturalne-w-wilnie-w-xvi-xvii-wiekach-2/

Tłumaczenie Karolina Rolka w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Karolina Rolka within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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