History of Armenian Printing
While Europe was experiencing a renaissance, Lenk Temur and Shah Abbas were invading Armenia and neighboring countries, leaving devastation and destruction in their wake.
The Armenians had heard about Gutenberg’s invention and believed that the only way to disseminate literacy and have any hope of saving the nation was through printing.
Hakob Meghapart chose Venice to print a book in the Armenian language for the first time ever for good cause. Gutenberg’s invention had come to Italy in 1464. By 1510 there were close to 200 printing houses in Venice that were printing many books in a variety of languages. This reality did not go unnoticed to Armenian merchants. To begin printing Armenian books, Venice also had another favorable condition – there was an Armenian community there.
Hakob Meghapart printed five books in 1512-1513: Urbatagirk, Parzatumar, Pataragatetr, Aghtark and Tagharan. Because the printed versions of these books were unfamiliar to Armenians and handwritten books were perceived to have great value, Hakob Meghapart strove to give the printed books the look and style of being handwritten.
Following Hakob Meghapart’s footsteps, it was Akbar Tokhatetsi who printed the Saghmosaran (Book of Psalms) for the first time in the Armenian language in 1565-1566. He would go on to publish other books in Armenian in the following years.
In the 16th century 17 Armenian books were published, six in Venice, three in Constantinople, three in Rome and five in Amsterdam.
Unique phenomenon in the history of civilization was that in absence of state from 1512-1918 more than 20 thousand books were published. Until 19th century 1095 antique books were published. Currently, 22 Armenian printing houses are located in 22 countries.
Armenian printing houses
The first Armenian printing house in Armenia was established in Vagharshapat in 1771 and the first book was called “Zbosaran Hogevor” (Spiritual Promenades); it was published in 1772 by Catholicos Simeon I of Yerevan.
The first Armenian printing house in Yerevan was established in 1876 by Z. Hakobyan. The first book printed there was E. Ter-Grigoryan’s “Trchnik” (Small Bird) collection.
The first Armenian printing house in Persia was established in New Julfa (Isfahan, Iran) in 1636. The first book to be published in this printing house was ”Sagh-mosaran” (Book of Psalms); it was published in 1638 by Khachatur Kesaratsi, while the first Persian book in Persia was published 192 years later in 1830. In St. Petersburg, Russia, the first Armenian printing house was set up in1781. Under the sponsorship of the Bishop Hovsep Arghutian, Primate of Armenians in Russia, Grigor Khaldariants edited the first Armenian book to be published in the Tsarist realm, “Tetrak Aybbenakan” (ABC Reader) in 1781.
In addition to Venice, Madras and Polis, in 17th century Armenian books were published in Lvo, Rome, Paris, New Jugha, Amsterdam, Smyrna, Leipzig cities. Furthermore, Armenian printing houses were created in England (1736), India (1772), Venice St. Lazarus Island (1788), then in Shushi, Bakou and Aleksandria. In 1920 2 printing houses were functioning in Shushi and 20 Armenian newsletters were published.