Small Travel BookSkaryna, Frantsysk, near 1522

Printing on paper; Size: 15×10,5×6,5 cm Purchased in 2016 from a Belarusian private collector
Published in Vilna; fullness of this specimen - 18 from 25 books

About the artwork

The Small Travel Book, which was printed by Francysk Skaryna in Vilnius around 1522, is considered to be the first book published in the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania that comprised Belarusian lands. Today the only copy of this book in Belarus is kept in the corporate collection of Belgazprombank.

The Small Travel Book represents collected church books of small size (22 books collected under one cover) with services for each day of the week. They were intended for believers who were travelling and, according to researchers, for itinerant monks as well, to enable them celebrate a monastery service. The books are decorated with unique engravings, headpieces and initial letters. 9 books have afterwords written by Skaryna himself.

Around 1520 Francysk Skaryna arrived in Vilnius and, with the support of burgomaster Jakub Babič, published the Small Travel Book around 1522 and the Apostol in 1525. It is assumed that Skaryna’s printing house in Vilnius was situated in a building at 19 Didžioji St., where a memorial plaque dedicated to the Belarusian printing pioneer is installed.

There is a consensus among researchers of Skaryna’s activity that constituent parts of the Small Travel Book are separate editions because each of them has its own foliation (pagination) and most of them have their own title pages. Thus, F. Skaryna printed at least 23 books in Vilnius: the Psalter, the Book of Hours, 18 akathists and canons, the Hexameron, the Triodion and the Apostol.

No full copies of the Small Travel Book survived. The most complete copies are kept in the Russian National Library in St. Petersburg (22 books), the corporate collection of Belgazprombank in Minsk and the Royal Library in Copenhagen (18 books in each).

Apart from the copy from the corporate collection of Belgazprombank, engravings ‘The Baptism of Our Lord’ and ‘Christ Teaching Judaic Religious Teachers in the Temple’ survived only in one variant in the University Library in Kraków.