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14 posts categorized "Croatia"

04 June 2014

Marko Marulić and the Croatian Latin Heritage

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The Balkan Day Seminar at the British Library on 13 June will celebrate among others the life and literary accomplishments of Marko Marulić (Marcus Marulus Spalatensis, 1450-1524)  who was the central figure of a humanist circle from Split and the most highly-praised Croatian personality of his time. Marulić has remained an inspiration to many generations in Croatia up to the present day, an author of considerable international influence and standing.

Marulić wrote mainly treatises on Christian morality drawing on the scriptures, and as a lay person of wide interests he found inspiration for his work in ancient scholarship and in humanist literature. Marulić’s significant and long-lasting legacy consists of Latin and Croatian epic poetry.

De Institutione
 Title page of De institutione bene uiuendi per exempla sanctorum  (Basle, 1513), British Library 1412.f.30. (1.).

De institutione bene uiuendi per exempla sanctorum (‘Instructions on How to Lead a Virtuous Life Based on the Examples of the Saints’), is a collection of moral tales and anecdotes from the Old and New Testaments. The first edition was printed in Venice in 1507. During the 16th and 17th centuries it was printed in 15 known editions, giving proof of the popularity of this book. The above is a title page of the printer Adam Petri’s exquisite 1513 edition.

Title page of Euangelistarium (Cologne, 1529) 843.k.13.

Euangelistarium (Evangelistary) is a seven-book treatise on Christian ethics, considered as Marulić’s main theological work and printed in 15 known 16th century editions. The copy pictured above, printed by Eucharius Cervicornus in Cologne in 1529, belonged to Henry VIII and contains his manuscript notes; it came to the British (Museum) Library as part of the Old Royal Library.


Henry VIII’s annotations in his copy of the Evangelistary (843.k.13.), with marginal notes and a drawing of a pointing hand to highlight the printed text, which reveals the king’s interest in theology.

De Humilitate
Title page of Marulić’s De humilitate et gloria Christi (4805.b.28.)

De humilitate et gloria Christi (‘Christ’s Humility and Glory’) is Marulić’s third major work on moral theology, printed with the aim of providing useful examples for a virtuous life. The copy pictured above  was printed in Venice by Bernardino Vitali in 1519.

Latin was used in the Croatian lands until the mid-19th century, when the vernacular gradually replaced it in administration and as a literary language. Šime Jurić’s Latin bibliography, Iugoslaviae scriptores Latini recentioris aetatis: Pars 1, Opera scriptorum Latinorum natione Croatarum usque ad annum MDCCCXLVIII typis edita (Zagreb, 1968-71, ZF.9.b.735), lists over 4500  Croatian Latin works and works about Croatia to 1848. Croatiae auctores Latini, a digital collection of Croatian Latinists and Latin texts about Croatia, provides information on about 180 authors and Latin texts from a 10th-century epitaph to Ton Smerdel’s collection of poems Pontes lucentes (Zagreb, 1962, 11566.a.10.) and Ivan Golub’s Latin poems published in 1984. Over 50 Croatian Latin writers of all periods are represented in the British Library collection in the original and in subsequent editions and reprints.

‘Carmen de doctrina Domini nostri Iesu Christi pendentis in cruce’ (‘A Dialogue between a Christian and Christ hanging on the Cross’) is a poem originally printed in the first edition of Marulić’s De institutione (Venice, 1507) and reprinted afterwards in all the Latin editions as an appendix. It was translated into English by Philip Howard (St Philip Howard), 13th earl of Arundel (1557-95)  and serves as an introduction to his translation of An Epistle in the person of Christ to the faithfull soule by Johannes Justus Lansperger, which was secretly printed in England some time before 1595; the British Library’s copy (1019.c.35.) is pictured below. 

Carmen de doctrina

In the late 15th and early 16th century poetry evolved in Croatian  in addition to  Latin. Marulić is the author of the first printed secular work in Croatian, an epic, Judita, based on the Book of Judith, ‘u versih hrvacki složena’ (‘in Croatian verses’), printed in Venice in 1521. Judita is written in the Ikavian variant of the Čakavian dialect (čakavsko-ikavski). Marulić wrote this epic for people who couldn’t understand Latin: ‘Tuj historiju čtući, ulize mi u pamet da ju stumačim našim jazikom, neka ju budu razumiti i oni ki nisu naučni knjige latinske aliti djačke.’  

A digital version of Judita (Venice 1522, 2nd edition) is available from the Croatian National and University Library digital heritage.

Vita Divi Hieronymi (Life of St Jerome) is an autograph work by Marulić dating from 1507. This is the title leaf of a codex on fine vellum which comprises 42 folios held in the British Library (Add. MS 18.029).

For further information about Marulić, his bibliography and digital versions of his works, visit The Marulianum Marko Marulić Institute in Split, Croatia. For the British Library’s holdings see our Marulić catalogue.

Milan Grba, Lead Curator Southeast European Studies


Marko Marulić, Judita. S drvorezima i inicijalima iz drugog izdanja, 1522. Predgovor napisao M. Kombol. Tekst Judite i tumač Marcela Kušara revidirao V. Štefanić. (Zagreb, 1950) 11588.g.10.

Branko Franolić, Works of Croatian Latinists recorded in the British Library General Catalogue. 2nd, enlarged ed. (Zagreb, New York, c1998). 2719.e.3669.

A. Clarke, ‘Henry VIII and Marko Marulić’s Evangelistarium’ Colloquia Maruliana 20 (2011), pp. 167-175.  ZF.9.a.2999

M. Grba, ‘Marko Marulic and the British Library’ Colloquia Maruliana 20 (2011), pp. 197-226.

30 May 2014

A collection of Primož Trubar Slovenian and Croatian Protestant books in the British Library

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Woodcut portrait of Primož Trubar by Jacob Lederlein printed in Trubar’s translation of the New Testament, (Tübingen, 1582; 2nd edition, British Library C.110.b.7.).

Primož Trubar (or Primus Truber, 1508-1586) was the founder of the Slovenian literary language, a Protestant priest and a leader of the Protestant Reformation in the Slovenian lands. Trubar was the author of the first printed book in the Slovenian language, a Catechism and Primer (Tübingen, 1550) intended for the education of all Slovenians.

Trubar’s literary and cultural legacy will be celebrated at the forthcoming Balkan Day seminar at the British Library on 13 June 2014.

As a Protestant priest Trubar believed that religious books should be written in a language that people could read and understand. He based the Slovenian literary language on the central Slovenian dialect spoken in his birthplace near Ljubljana, the provincial capital of Carniola. Trubar’s literary engagement becomes all the more important knowing that before him the Slovenian literary tradition was virtually non-existent and the German language was progressively introduced in administration and in church services in place of Latin. Trubar’s literary and educational activities aimed at the Slovenian people had achieved a long-term impact on the Slovenian national written heritage and cultural tradition during and long after the suppression of Protestant church activities in the Slovenian lands.  

New Testament_1557
Title page of Trubar’s New Testament (Tübingen, 1557-77; C.110.e.6.), featuring the emblem of Trubar’s Tübingen printer Morchart: a lamb standing on a defeated dragon, holding a ‘Victoria’ banner.

The image above is a title page of Trubar’s main work, a translation of the New Testament, which he accomplished over a period of 20 years from 1557 to 1577. Trubar used Latin for the Slovenian alphabet which most people could read and write. The only differences between Latin and Slovenian scripts were the new characters in the Slovenian Latin script for Slovenian sounds which did not exist in Latin and German languages. On the title page above, sh represents Slovenian sounds š and ž.

Trubar’s total output as an author, translator and editor consists of 26 Slovenian books; his last work was printed posthumously in 1595. His heterogeneous work included catechisms, primers, poems, prayers, devotional books, parts of the Old and New Testaments, theological interpretations, and a book of Protestant regulations. His opus is nearly a half of the total Slovenian Protestant book production of about 56 books. The Slovenian and Croatian Protestant books which survived the Counter-Reformation period are very rare today,  preserved in  only a small number of copies.

The British Library holds 13 of Trubar’s most important books, including the complete New Testament and the Catechism (Tübingen, 1575; C.110.b.6.) in Slovenian Latin, and in the Croatian Cyrillic and Glagolitic  alphabets. Some of Trubar’s books (C.110.a.15.(1- 4)) came to the Library in 1753 as part of the foundation collection of Sir Hans Sloane, but the majority were acquired in the 1840s and the last acquisition of an original edition by Trubar, a complete New Testament in Cyrillic (Urach, 1563, C.51.e.8.), a valuable and extremely rare book, was in 1953.

The Library’s collection of Trubar’s books is also very important for the study of Croatian Protestant literature and culture in the 16th century. Baron Hans von Ungnad, Freiherr von Sonnegg (1493-1564), a former provincial governor of Styria (Štajerska in Slovene), established a Bible Institute with a printing press in Urach near Tübingen (1560-1564). Trubar was appointed as a director of the Institute which employed nine people. Its  main aim was to produce Protestant books and to spread the Gospel to people of all faiths in Croatia, Dalmatia, Slavonia, Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria, and as far as Constantinople. To achieve this goal Trubar employed two Croatian Protestants, Stjepan Konzul Istranin (1521-1579) and Antun Dalmatin (d.1579), who translated his religious works into Croatian in the Glagolitic and Cyrillic alphabets. To complement this South-Slavonic enterprise, two Serbian Orthodox monks from Serbia and Bosnia, Matija Popović and Jovan Maleševac, were employed to proofread the Cyrillic script of Konzul’s and Dalmatin’s translations.

 A Glagolitic alphabet presented in four slightly different forms for study and spelling of the alphabet (Urach, 1561, C.110.a.15.(3.))

A Cyrillic alphabet presented in four slightly different forms for study and spelling of the alphabet (Urach, 1561, C.110.a.15.(2.))

The British Library holds nine items from the Urach press in Glagolitic and Cyrillic scripts, all the Konzul and Dalmatin translations of Trubar’s works: Catechism and Primer (1561, C.110.a.15(1-4)), translations of Liturgical Epistles and Gospels (1562, C.65.l.9.), a compilation from the Augsburg Confession (1562, C.27.e.8. and C.27.e.10.), and the translation of the New Testament (1563, C.24.a.18. and C.51.e.8.). The books of the Urach press which bear the Tübingen imprint are of great bibliographic rarity and, although printed in about 25,000 copies, only about 250 are known to have survived to the present day in some 50 European collections.

Tabla za dicu
 The title page of Trubar’s Primer which included a small catechism, Tabla za dicu, in Dalmatin’s translation and transcription into Cyrillic in the Ikavian (ikavica) variant of the Čakavian dialect of the Croatian language in Cyrillic script, considered also as Western Cyrillic.

Istranin and Dalmatin
Trubar’s collaborators ‘STEPHAN, CONSUL, ISTRIANUS : 41:’ and ‘ANTONIUS, DALMATA, EXUL’; images from from the binding of of the 1563 Urach New Testament (1563, C.24.a.18.).

The Library also holds a significant collection works about Trubar and Slovenian Protestant books and culture in the 16th century, acquired over a period of 170 years from 1844 to the present day. The collection includes works about Trubar in Slovenian, German and other languages; reprints and facsimile and bibliophile editions of Trubar’s works; and other primary source materials such as correspondence; there are transcriptions into modern languages and translations, collections and anthologies, fiction and poetry, biographies and bibliographies, exhibition catalogues,and anniversary books including the most recent celebration of the 500th anniversary of Trubar’s birth in 2008.

Milan Grba, Lead Curator of Southeast European Studies


Bibliography of Trubar’s works in German and Slovenian.

Digital versions of Trubar’s books and further references from the Memmingen city archive.

Digital version of Trubar’s posthumous book published by his son in 1595 from the Slovenian Digital Library.

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19 May 2014

Christian Doctrine for Slavonic People: an early Bosnian and Herzegovinian printed book

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Nauk krstjanski za narod slovinski
(Venice 1611) British Library C.38.e.40.

Nauk krstjanski za narod slovinski (‘Christian Doctrine for Slavonic People’) is an early Bosnian and Herzegovinian printed book, printed in Venice in 1611 by the Bosnian Franciscan Matija Divković (1563-1631). The book is a compilation from the catechisms published by Jacobus Ledisma (1519-1575) and Roberto Bellarmino, translated from Latin into Bosnian, arranged and interpreted by Divković. Divković’s typographical achievements and his Christian Doctrine will be discussed at the forthcoming Balkan Day seminar at the British Library on 13 June 2014.

On the title leaf above Divković explains that he wrote his book to be useful for both clerics and lay people. Under the image of the resurrected Christ, the imprint gives the place and the year of printing, the name and address of the printer, “Pietro-Maria Bertano by the church called Santa Maria Formosa”. The title leaf bears the ownership stamp of the British Museum Library, now the British Library, dated 10 January 1849, the date of purchase from the London bookselling firm of Rodd. This is the only known copy in Britain and the only edition from Bertano’s press in the British Library.  

Jesus preaching_C38e40

The image above shows Jesus preaching to his apostles. The text on this leaf and the rest of the Christian Doctrine identifies Divković’s book as a typical work of the Counter-Reformation aimed at the revival of the Roman Catholic Church.

Here Divković explains that he translated the sacred texts into a “real and true Bosnian language” and further on he mentions “Slavonic language as in Bosnia Slavonic is spoken”. For Divković Bosnian, Slavonic and “our language”, the term he uses throughout the book, are synonyms for one language which is spoken by the people in Bosnia.

The Cyrillic alphabet in the book  is printed, in Divković’s words, using “Serbian characters” but Divković’s Cyrillic has at least ten specific characters of this minuscule Cyrillic alphabet, sometimes referred to as Bosnian Cyrillic (Bosančica); for example Divković uses a vertical rectangle symbol for the Cyrillic character ‘в’ (v).  

Divković writes mainly in the Jekavian (jekavica) variant of the Štokavian dialect with some Ikavian (ikavica) words added to it. In the Italian imprimatur printed in the Christian Doctrine the language and the alphabet are referred to as Illyric: “in lingua Illirica, & carattere Illirico di Fra Mattheo de Bossna”.

Divković’s Štokavian dialect was widely spoken in the lands which are today Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia, representing one linguistic entity between Slovenian in the west and the Bulgarian  in the east.

Sto cudesa_t.p_C38e40

The above image shows Divković’s other work Sto čudesa (‘One Hundred Miracles’) bound together with the Christian Doctrine but foliated separately. The British Library has an intact copy in octavo format (Venice, 1611; C.38.e.40.). Both parts of the book have numerous misprints, which is understandable since Divković had his Cyrillic letters moulded in Venice by printers who didn’t know the language or the alphabet. A list of corrections is given at the end of the volume.

The One Hundred Miracles is Divković’s free translation of Johann Herolt’s  Sermones Discipuli de tempore et de sanctis, cum exemplorum promptuario, ac miraculis Beatae Mariae Virginis.


Divković’s book contains 12 woodcuts, 10 in Christian Doctrine and two in One Hundred Miracles. The  image of the Annunciation shown here is printed on the verso of One Hundred Miracles’s title leaf which has the motif of a stork feeding with the inscription “Pietas homini tutissima virtus” (Piety is the surest virtue of man).

Divković’s significance lies in the fact that his works have been widely researched and studied as part of the Bosnian and Herzegovinian, Croatian and Serbian written heritage to the present day. Most recently, to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first imprint, the Bosna Srebrena Cultural and Historical Institute in Sarajevo published a critical edition of Christian Doctrine and One Hundred Miracles transcribed into Croatian as Nauk kristijanski za narod slovinski and Sto čudesa aliti zlamen'ja Blažene i slavne Bogorodice, Divice Marije. This critical edition was published together with a facsimile of the edition of Divković’s book printed by Pietro-Maria Bertano in Venice in 1611.

The language of his book, the Štokavian dialect, became the basis of the literary languages developed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia in the 19th century.  In Bosnia and Herzegovina, Divković’s importance goes beyond the religious doctrine and church teachings that he spread in his homeland. His main legacy is his reputation as the first Bosnian typographer who printed the first Bosnian book in the language spoken by the people in Bosnia and in an alphabet that anyone in Bosnia could read.  


Divković is the author of four books; all are compilations from Christian literature popular in his time. The above image is a title-leaf of Christian Doctrine known as a “little Christian doctrine” (mali Nauk) printed in Venice 1616. The current research has identified 25 editions of this hugely popular small (16°) format of the work.

The British Library holds a copy printed by Marco Ginami (Venice, 1640-41; C.52.a.7.). It consists of 15 different religious works in prose and verse collected in one volume; one of them is Christian Doctrine, shown here as a constituent part of the work that bears the same title. This copy is one of two copies known to be in existence in Britain. It was acquired in 1889 from Nikola Batistić, a theology scholar and professor from Zadar, Croatia.


Đorđe Đorđević, „Matija Divković: prilog istoriji srpske književnosti XVII veka“. Glas Srpske kraljevske akademije LII (1896), LIII (1898), pp. [30]-139 and [1]-135. Ac.1131/3.

Ralph Cleminson. Cyrillic books printed before 1701 in British and Irish collections :a union catalogue. (London, 2000). 2708.h.903.

Matija Divković. Nauk kristijanski za narod slovinski : Sto čudesa aliti zlamen'ja Blažene i slavne Bogorodice, Divice Marije. Uvodna studija, rječnik i tumač imena Nauka kristijanskoga Darija Gabrić-Bagarić, Dolores Grmača, Maja Banožić. Uvodna studija, transkripcija, rječnik i tumač imena Sto čudesa Marijana Horvat. (Sarajevo, 2013) YF.2014.a.10503.

Matija Divković. Naūk karstianski za narodʹ slovinski /ovi naūkʹ Izdiačkoga iezika ispisa, privede i složi ū iezikʹ Slovinski Bogoćliūbni Bogoslovat︠s︡ʹ P.O. fra Matie Divkovićʹ.  (Sarajevo, 2013) YF.2014.a.10504  [Facsimile of the 1611 edition printed in Venice]

Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections

Milan Grba, Lead Curator South-East European Collections - See more at:

03 July 2013

Chiaroscuro of a Croatian master

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On 1 July 2013 Croatia  joined the European Union. One of the events in the Welcome Croatia Festival  held in the run-up to 1 July was Neven Jovanović’s lecture at the BL on Croatian Latin Heritage (3 June), where I picked up Flora Turner-Vučetić’s Mapping Croatia in United Kingdom Collections.

Turner-Vučetić shows very effectively how many Croatian artists are hidden under Italian names, one among them Giulio Clovio,  more correctly Juraj Julile Klović (1489-1578), and points out his illuminations in the Stuart de Rothesay Book of Hours (British Library Add. MS. 20927).

Clovio portrait BT
Portrait of Giulio Clovio (Juraj Julile Klović) by El Greco. Picture from Wikimedia Commons)

 But there is another British Library connection: the Rt Hon. Thomas Grenville. As is well known, the politician and diplomat bequeathed his collection of over 20,000 volumes of printed books to the British Museum Library in 1846, thanks to the Machiavellian machinations of Anthony Panizzi. What is less known is that he also donated fifty-nine manuscripts (now Add. MSS. 33733-33791). 

Add. MS  33733 is a volume illustrating a Spanish text on the Triumphs of Charles V over Suleiman the Magnificent, Pope Clement VII, Francis I, the Dukes of Cleves and Saxony, and the Landgrave of Hesse.  Grenville bought it some time before 1817, in London (as he did all his books).  The binding is by Charles Lewis,  whom Grenville often employed: presumably he made for Grenville, it incorporates a magnifying glass.
Clovio Charles V BT
Charles V triumphing over his enemies (BL Add. MS  33733)

Grenville died on 17 December 1846; on 28 January 1847, Assistant Librarian W. B. Rye, with the help of eight Museum attendants and three of Grenville’s servants, set about transferring the 20,240 volumes from Grenville’s home at 2 Hamilton Place, Piccadilly, to Great Russell Street. They numbered the shelves, put the books on trays and placed them in a horse-drawn van which had been fitted with planks to form shelves. Each van was accompanied to the British Museum by an attendant who walked close behind it.  There were twenty-one vanloads. The book-move took five days. 

Rye took the most valuable item, the Clovio manuscript, in a cab: an indication of the importance which attached to it. Modern scholarship has downgraded it to the work of a pupil or follower of Clovio. One wonders if Clovio suffered a dip in appreciation after Grenville’s time: the British Library online catalogue  has five books on him from 1733 to 1894, nothing from 1895 to 1961, and thirteen from 1962 to date.

Grenville is not famous for his love of manuscripts, or for his love of visual culture in general, though he did have a Valuable and Unique Collection of Rare Oriental, Sevres, Dresden, Berlin and Chelsea Porcelain (auctioned at Christie & Manson, 15 June 1847).

The Clovio MS is rarely mentioned in the accounts of Grenville’s library, which focus on the printed books. Like the Croatian identity of Juraj Julile Klović, it has stayed in the shadows. Until now.

References:  Barry Taylor, ‘Thomas Grenville (1755-1846) and his books’, in Libraries within the Library: the Origins of the British Library’s Printed Collections, ed. Giles Mandelbrote and Barry Taylor (London, 2009), pp. 321-40 [BL shelfmark YC.2010.a.1356]

Barry Taylor, Curator Hispanic Studies