Skoryna, Frantsisk

Image - Frantsisk Skoryna (1517 engraving). Image - A title page from Bibliia ruska (Ruthenian Bible) published in 1517-20 in Prague by Frantsisk Skoryna.

Skoryna, Frantsisk or Georgii (aka Skaryna), b ca 1485–90 in Polatsk, Belarus, d before 1552. (Portrait: Frantsisk Skoryna.) Pioneering Belarusian printer, physician, writer, and translator. He studied humanities at Cracow University (1504–6), and received a medical degree from Padua University in 1512. He then settled in Prague, where he established a printing press and published a Church Slavonic Psalter (1517) and his translations of 22 books of the Old Testament in Bibliia ruska (Ruthenian Bible, 1517–20). This achievement marked the beginning of publishing among the East Slavs. Ca 1520 he founded a press in Vilnius, and printed in Church Slavonic the prayer book Malaia podorozhnaia knizhnitsa (Small Travel Book, 1522) and an Apostolos (1525). Skoryna's books were noted for their ornamentation, engravings, and high technical quality. The first East Slavic books with title pages, they contained extensive introductions, notes, glosses, and postscripts in the ‘Ruthenian’ (Belarusian-Ukrainian) literary language of the time, which feature makes them an invaluable source for the study of East Slavic linguistic history. The books were widely distributed and copied throughout Ukraine and may have influenced early printing in Lviv (see Lviv Dormition Brotherhood Press) and Ostroh (see Ostroh Press) by Ivan Fedorovych (Fedorov) and his successors, as well as Moscow, and even the language of Ukrainian manuscripts (eg, the Peresopnytsia Gospel).

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 4 (1993).]

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