The Book of Fridays

The Book of Fridays (in Armenian: Urbathagirq or Ուրբաթագիրք), first published in Venice in 1512

by Hakob Meghapart

On 24th April 1915 hundreds of Armenian Intellectuals: poets, musicians, publicists, editors, lawyers, doctors, deputies, were arrested in Constantinople under warrants issued by the Turkish authorities. They were all sent into exile and were horrifically slaughtered. The annihilation of the Armenian Intellectuals was the part of a systematic, fiendish plan to exterminate the Armenian people in their homeland.

My great-grandfather, Sisag Manoogian, was one of the Armenians hunted by name by in Eastern Anatolia. Thirty direct attempts were made on his life, but he made it to Aleppo and it was there that my grandmother was born in 1918.

 

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Armenian was one of the first languages to be used in the new technology of the printing press.
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Armenian metal moveable type (from a private collection in Istanbul)
The first book printed in Armenian was the Urbathagirq (The Book of Fridays), published in Venice in 1512 by Hakob Meghapart (‘Jacob the Sinner’). Little is known about Hakob Meghapart, or why he styled himself ‘the Sinner’. Armenia was at that time under the rule of the Ottoman Turks, and the Diaspora community played a critically important role in keeping alive the Armenian language and literary tradition. Many Armenians found themselves in Venice, then a melting pot of cultures.
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Venice in the early sixteenth century was the book capital of the world, and the streets were lined with bookmaking workshops. Half of all the books published in Europe were made there, surpassing even Mainz, Germany where Gutenberg’s printing revolution had begun.
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Written in Grabar (Classical Armenian), The Book of Fridays consists mainly of prayers and remedies for the sick, together with long quotations from the Narek, the collection of mystical poems by Saint Grigor Narekatsʻi (Gregory of Narek, 951–1003).
This copy, from the National Library of Armenia (home to 6.6 million books), is bound with the Parzatumar (Armenian liturgical calendar), another of the books published in 1512–13 by Hakob Meghapart. It contains four engravings. The pages have titles, which are surrounded by decorative frames. At the end of the text is the cruciform printer’s symbol in Latin letters, D.I.Z.A. The printing is in the manuscript style of bologir (rounded letters); capital letters are also used. The font is in two colours, black and red. The beginning of the book and certain sections are printed in red.
The Book of Fridays is in the World Digital Library. Click here to flick through the book.
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