The first page of the first printed Armenian Bible, known as Oskan Bible in 1666.
In April 2012, the Library of Congress will open an exhibition in commemoration of the 500thanniversary of the first printed Armenian book and the first printing press dedicated to the publication of works in the Armenian script [Urbatagirk, The Book of Fridays, printed by Hakob Meghapart in Venice, Italy]. The exhibition will also celebrate the designation by UNESCO of Yerevan, as the Book Capital of the World, 2012.
Located at the Library of Congress across from the United States Capitol, the exhibition will display 50 items from the Library’s Armenian language collections held by the Near East Section of the African and Middle Eastern Division and in other custodial divisions tochart not only the birth of Armenian publishing but also the continuity and expansion of its literary tradition in the land of the Armenians and in its far-reaching ancient Diaspora. The magnificent collections of the Library of Congress, numbering at present over 144,000,000 items, are justifiably famous. In addition, given the extreme rarity of Armenian incunabula, that is, books published between 1511/12 and 1695 A.D., three items will be borrowed from public and private collections to augment the breadth and depth of the exhibition.
The exhibition will be mounted in the Northwest gallery off the Great Hall of the historic Thomas Jefferson Building. This exquisitely decorated space has been the site of several recent exhibitions such as the immensely popular Voices from Afghanistan. Its proximity to the Great Hall and the natural flow of traffic to it guarantees a steady stream of visitors to the exhibition during three of the busiest tourist months in the nation’s capital.
The exhibition will begin by displaying manuscripts and early imprints to
illustrate the natural evolution from the hand-copied to the printed book.
Fonts and engravings traveled from place to place in early printing, with European influences on display in both the printed and manuscript traditions .Armenians in the Diaspora published works on all subjects and in a variety of formats. Armenians in the Ottoman Empire published numerous works in Turkish using the Armenian script.
The manuscript tradition continued to co-exist with extensive publishing wherever the
Armenians were located, in the first Republic which ended in 1920, throughout the
Diaspora and in the United States.
The exhibition will be designed and installed by the Library’s renowned Interpretative Programs Office that is responsible for the Library’s award-winning exhibitions. Dr. Levon Avdoyan, who has been at the institution for 33 years and ha spublished widely on Armenian history and culture and on the Library’s collections, will curate the exhibition. Dr. Avdoyan has been the Armenian and Georgian Area Specialist at the Library of Congress since 1991 and oversees the expansion of the Armenian custodial collection.
To Know Wisdom and Instruction: 500 Years of the Armenian Literary Tradition, written by Dr. Avdoyan based on the Library of Congress’s collections, will be published both in book form and as an eBook that will be available on the Library’s web page. This highly illustrated work will examine the Armenian literary tradition in its entirety.
In addition to the availability of the companion volume, an illustrated brochure will be provided as a handout in the exhibition. Drawing on its central themes, the brochure will summarize the content of the exhibition and the materials presented in it and acknowledge the exhibition’s sponsors.
An online version, following the themes of the physical exhibition, will be made available in perpetuity on the Library’s website. The Library of Congress’s online exhibitions have been viewed by tens of millions of people around the world. This exhibition will take its permanent place among the many acclaimed exhibits on the Library’s Web site, www.loc.gov/exhibits, which receives five billion hits a year.