16th – 18th Century

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The cover page of the Exhibition Catalogue




Early Books of Lithuania

16th–18th Century

Exhibition catalogue


baltos lankos

Author of the exhibition  and compiler of  the catalogue Alma Braziūnienė
Board of editors: Birutė Butkevičienė (chairperson), Prof., Ph D. Domas Kaunas, Irena Krivienė
Designer  Eugenijus Karpavičius
This edition was financed by the state committee for the commemoration of the  450th anniversary of the first Lithuanian book

©Vilnius University Library, 1997
©Baltos lankos, 1997


Anniversary of the publication in  The exhibition “Early Books of Lithuania. 16th–18th Century” commemorates the 450th Königsberg in 1547 of the first Lithuanian book (Martinus Mosvidius). To Martynas Mažvydas“Catechism” – written by Lithuania's first printed book prepared by Vilnius canon Martinus (1499) – mark this date in Lithuania, carried out by  a program of events is being Parliamentary approved The programm is made up of  State Commission. works to perpetuate the memory of Mažvydas, anniversary events, a special program of publications which include material about and by Mažvydas, as well as monuments of and research on literature from the 15th–18th centuries, exhibitions, etc.
This anniversary is being celebrated not only in Lithuania, it has been included in the UNESCO register of commemorative dates. During 1997, commemorative ceremonies have taken place in Prague, Torun (Poland), in the Library of Congress in Washington, and elsewhere. This exhibition is one of a series of international events.
The exhibition attempts to reveal Lithuania’s culture in the period from the 16th to the 18th centuries via the cultural treasures which have been gathered together at the Vilnius University Library. Since its very founding in 1570, Vilnius University and its Library have been a cultural center not only for Vilnius, but also for all of Lithuania and its neighbouring countries. It was a gathering place for intellectuals, and a source of scientific ideas. Vilnius was a crossSlavic, Jewish, and Germanic cultures. Both the - roads for Lithuanian, University and its Library travelled the road which symbolizes that of our entire country the heights of greatness and the convolutions of history: war, plunder. The Library suffered particular losses – fire, and during the fires which ravaged Vilnius in 1613, 1737, and 1748, during the wars in the midespecially when the Russian – dispersed the contents of the Library throughout 17th century, and government closed the Vilnius University in 1832 and various cities in Russia (Petersburg, Kiev, Kharkov). Some part of the early treasures of the Vilnius University Library has been recovered in our time the sixth decade of this century.– during
Now there are over five million publications gathered together at the Vilnius University Library. Among them are approximately 180,000 printed early works from the 16thabout and manuscripts, –18th centuries, more than 200,000 8,000 old engravings. This cultural heritage is of significance not only for Lithuania, but for all of Europe as well, especially Eastern and Middle Europe. It is an integral part of the cultural life of 16th–18th century Europe.
Efforts were made in the “Early Books of Lithuania. 16thexhibition Century” – 18th to reveal  the sources of the books which appeared in print in Lithuania, to review the origins of the publication of Lithuanian books both in Lithuania Minor as well as in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and to show their development. Attempts have been made to represent Lithuania’s printing houses and the variety of theme, artistic design and binding which appeared in the books printed here. Examples of both the most extravagant as well as the most typical publications have been presented. There are also exhibits of books written by the intellectuals of Lithuania, which were printed in other European cities.
As mentioned, the absolute majority of the exhibits (both original and reproductions) come from the Vilnius University Library. And thus it has not always been possible to achieve a complete thematic comprehensiveness in laying out the material: what is shown is what was available to the organizers of the exhibition at this time. Attempts were made to keep to a chronology whenever possible. In defining the themes of Lithuania’s books, the inclusion of certain in one or another branch of the sciences is conditional. The term “book” is used in the catalogue in the broad sense of the word, and refers not only to a type of publication, but indicates periodicals and calendars as well. The Vilnius University Library call number is given at the end of each description.
In the catalogue personal names are presented in the form that has been used in the original work. Exceptions are the authors who wrote in Lithuanian:Dogiel, Mathias. Codex diplomaticus regni Poloniaeet Magni Ducatus Litvaniae..Vilnae: typ. Scholarum Piarum, 1759. their names are presented in the standard Lithuanian spelling (e. g. Mikalojus Daukša, Konstantinas Sirvydas and others). Sometimes both forms of a personal name (original and Lithuanian) are given.
Bearing in mind that the exhibition is an historical one, oriented to a foreign audience and reader, the listing of works includes only the principal and most significant publications.
This exhibition and catalogue is the result of the work of all of the staff of the Department of Rare Publications at the Vilnius University Library; the editor is especially grateful to Asta Krakytė who prepared the section on “Printing houses in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania”, to Sondra Spiečiūtė who computer printed the text, and to Virginija Galvanauskaitė who carried out much of the organizational work for the exhibition. A sincere thank you also to Dr. Eugenija Ulčinaitė, Dr. Sigitas Narbutas, Domas Kaunas Ph. D., for their valuable comments and recommendations.


  1. Agenda, sive Exequiale..., 1499. Lithuania's first printed book prepared by Vilnius canon Martinus, 1499.
  2. Budaeus, Guliemus. De transitu hellenismi ad christanismum... Parissiis: Rob. Stefanus, 1535, 132 p. (A typical example of the art of Renaissance bookbinding in Lithuania).
  3. Dogiel, Mathias. Codex diplomaticus regni Poloniae et Magni Ducatus Litvaniae...Vilnae: Scholarum Piarum, 1759. (Code of Acts of the Kingdom of Poland and the GDL).


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