B. Some old and Rare Books in the Francisk Skaryna Library in London



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B. Some old and Rare Books in the Francisk Skaryna Library in London



When the Francisk Skaryna Byelorusian Library in London was opened on 15 may 1971, it contained about 10,000 books, dealing directly or indirectly with Byelorussia. In particular during the last years the Library has succeeded in building up a small collection of early printed books, i.e. books published before 1800.

The oldest of these early printed books is a small fragment of the Francis Skaryna Bible. It consists of two sheets printed in Prague in 1518. An interesting point to note about this fragment is that it has never been part of a bound book. It is not unique, for there are two fragments identical with it in Cambridge, one at the University Library and the other at Trinity College.

One of the most important Byelorussian early-printed books is Statut Velikoho Knjazstva Litovskogo, the first printed code of civil and criminal law in the Byelorussian language. Promulgated in 1588, it was printed in Vilna by the well-known printing press of the Mamonic brothers who used for this purpose a particular and elegant typeface of a design based on contemporary Byelorussian cursive handwriting. The Statut appeared in three Byelorussian editions – in 1588, 1592 and 1594-95, - which differ from each other only in minute details. The Francis Skaryna Library copy is the third edition. It is a defective copy, having only 10 out of 40 initial unnumbered ff., and lacking the first two pages and all pages after p.492 (out of total of 554) of the main text. Also missing are a few pages in the middle of the book. Nevertheless it appears to be the only copy of this particular edition of the Statut in the West. The University Library in Uppsala has a near-perfect copy of the first edition of 1588.

Early in the 17th century Statut was translated into Polish under the title Statut Wielkiego Xiestwa Litewskiego. The Francis Skaryna Library has a copy of the 1619 edition, printed also in Vilna by the Mamonic Press. It is bound together with a copy of Trybunal obywatelom W.X.Litowskiego (Vilna, Mamonic press, 1616).

The next book is an example of the printing of the Orthodox confraternity of the Holy Spirit in Vilna. It is Novyj Zavet of 1623, and is one of the ‘pocket editions’ (format 80) for the use of laymen, which became very popular in Byelorussia in the 17th century. Its contents consist of the Psalter and the New Testament, preceded by a dedicatory article to the confraternity’s benefactor, Theodorite Sapieha, together with an introduction to the reader. There are fine wood engravings of the evangelists and original designs of initial letters, printed in red, at the beginning of each Gospel. The Francis Skaryna Library copy lacks all the introductory part and the Psalter. There is a perfect copy of this book in the British Library (formerly the British Museum).

 


PART III

Unit I

Britain

 

Preview

 

1. What stage of social development were people living in Britain at in comparison with the ancient civilizations?

2. How did we get our information about primitive man?

3. What tribes inhabited ancient Britain?

4. What brought about important changes in the living conditions of primitive man?

 

Reading

 

Text 1. Primitive Society on the territory of the British Isles

Read the text and do the tasks that follow.

At the dawn of their history the peoples on this planet lived in primitive societies. These primitive peoples, wherever they lived, began their long path of progress with stone tools, but they did not reach the same level of civilization at the same time in different countries.

The ancient civilizations of Greece and Rome were already in existence when the people living in Britain were only at the first stage of social development.

The Earliest Men

In some parts of Britain one can see a number of huge stones standing in a circle. These are the monuments left by the earliest inhabitants of the country. The best-known stone-circle named Stonehenge dates from between 1900 and 1600 B. C. It is made of many upright stones, standing in groups of twos, 8.5 metres high. They are joined on the top by other flat stones, each weighing about 7 tons. No one can tell how these large stones were moved, or from what places they were brought. Stonehenge is still a mystery to scholars. What was it used for? – As a burial-place or a sacred place where early man worshipped the sun?

About three thousand years B.C. many parts of Europe, including the British Isles, were inhabited by a people, who came to be known as the Iberians because some of their descendants are still found in the north of Spain (the Iberian Peninsula). We do not know much about these early people because they lived in Britain long before a word of their history was written, but we can learn something from their skeletons, their weapons and the remains of their dwellings which have been found. The Iberians used stone weapons and tools. The art of grinding and polishing stone was known to them, and they could make smooth objects of stone with sharp edges and points.

The Celts

During the period from the 6th to the 3rd century B.C. a people called the Celts spread across Europe from the east to the west.

More than one Celtic tribe invaded Britain. From time to time these tribes were attacked and overcome by other Celtic tribes from the Continent. Celtic tribes called the Picts penetrated into the mountains on the North, some Picts as well as tribes of Scots crossed over to Ireland and settled there. Later the Scots returned to the larger island and settled in the North beside the Picts. They came in such large numbers that in time the name of Scotland was given to that country. Powerful Celtic tribes, the Britons, held most of the country, and the southern half of the island was named Britain after them. Today the words Briton and British refer to the people of the whole of the British Isles.

The Iberians were unable to fight back the attacks of the Celts who were armed with metal spears, swords, daggers and axes. Most of the Iberians were slain in the conflict.

We know more about the Celts than about the earlier inhabitants of the island, because of the written counts that exist. The Celts did not write down the events themselves. Other peoples who knew them described them in their books.

The Greeks were the first to mention the British Isles. It is from the Greek books that we know about the Phoencicians, who were great sailors and traders even before the Greeks and who travelled as far as the shores of Britain. The ancient Greek historian Herodotus who is called the Father of History wrote that in the 5th century B.C. the Phoenicians used to come to the British Isles for tin which was used in making bronze. They called the British Isles the Tin Islands.

The earliest writer from whom we have learned much about the country and its inhabitants was Julius Caesar, the famous Roman general, statesman and writer. In his Commentaries on the Gallic War, a book written in Latin, Julius Caesar describes the island and the Celts against whom he fought. He tells us that the Celts were tall and blue-eyed. In their mode of life the British Celts differed little from the Celtic tribes of the Gauls who lived on the Continent. In the 1st century B.C. They lived in tribes, and were ruled by chiefs whom all the tribesmen obeyed. The chiefs were military leaders. The military leaders of the largest tribes were sometimes called kings.

The Celts had no towns: they lived in villages. They were acquainted with the use of copper, tin and iron and they kept large herds of cattle and sheep which formed their chief wealth. They also cultivated crops, especially corn. They used light ploughs as well as hoes, and grew their crops in small, square fields. The Celtic tribes of the Britons who inhabited the south-eastern parts of the island were more civilized that the other tribes. Their clothing was made of wool, woven in many colours while the other Celts wore skins.

Some of the Celtic tribes were quite large and fighting was common among them. In war-time the Celts wore skins and painted their faces with a blue dye to make themselves look fierce.

The Celts worshipped Nature. They imagined the sky, the sun, the moon, the earth and the sea, to be ruled by beings like themselves, but much more powerful. They also believed in many nameless spirits who lived in the rivers, lakes, mountains and thick forests. They sacrificed not only animals, but also human beings to their gods. Sometimes these victims were placed into a great wicker basket and burnt, sometimes they were slain with knives. The Celts believed in another life after death. They were taught by priests called druids that their soul passed after death from one body to another. The druids lived near groves of oaktrees which were considered to be sacred places. No one was allowed to come near without permission. The druids were very important and powerful, sometimes, more powerful than the chiefs. The Celts believed in their magic power. They believed that the druids were able to foretell the future and the druids very often acted as prophets. The tribesmen often called upon the druids to settle disputes. The druids could give orders to begin a battle or to put down arms and stop fighting. The druids were also teachers and doctors for they were wiser than the other tribesmen. Wise women were also considered to be very important. There were women prophets, and women warriors who trained young men in arms; some women were made tribal chiefs and called queens.



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