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28 Aug 2018

Belarus’ National Library presents facsimile edition of world’s first primer

MINSK, 28 August (BelTA) – A facsimile edition of the first primer was presented in Minsk on 28 August in anticipation of Knowledge Day (1 September) and the Belarusian Written Language Day, BelTA has learned.

Belarusian First Deputy Culture Minister Irina Driga said: “Primers are the kind of books, which enjoys the greatest number of copies and the happiest readers. Not a single student can do without a primer even if he or she learns how to read before going to school. It is an eternal book, the kind, which will exist as long as schools, the education system, and science exist.”

Director of the National Library of Belarus Roman Motulsky said that the library had implemented the project to publish a facsimile edition of the first primer with assistance of the ministries of foreign affairs, culture, education, the embassy of Belarus in the UK, the embassy of Belarus in Latvia, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and Belinvestbank. The international association of Belarusianists, the London-based Middle Temple Library, and the Belarusian State University contributed to the project.

“Textbooks are destined to a hard life, all the more so the first textbook. There are virtually no textbooks dating that far back in storage these days because libraries are interested in giving as much access to readers as possible. The first primer has managed to survive for 400 years because it found its way into the Royal Library in Denmark and the Middle Temple Library in London where access to the vaults is restricted. An intact primer stayed in very good shape in the Middle Temple Library where Alexander Susha, an employee of the National Library of Belarus, was able to see and examine the book,” said Roman Motulsky.

The world’s first book titled Primer turned 400 on 24 July 2018. The primer of Slavonic language was published in 1618. Belarusians helped print it. The first primer was printed using Church Slavonic language in the town of Vievis near Vilno of the Vilno Orthodox Holy Spirit Monastery.

The primer is a pocket-sized book 52 pages long. It contains Slavonic alphabet, examples of syllables in two or three letters, simple words in Church Slavonic language, a list of punctuation signs, numerals (in Cyrillic tradition) as well as basic grammar and texts for reading, including religious hymns, prayers, commandments, and sermons. The National Library has been celebrating the anniversary with various events since the beginning of the year. So far a number of exhibitions have been held to demonstrate the 400-year-long history of primer books and ABC books from around the world.

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