The beginnings of print in the Polish lands date back to the mid-15th century and are associated with the arrival of itinerant German printers who had reach the land situated along the Vistula river in their search for work. The main centre of their activity was Kraków and the first well-known printer to operate there was Kaspar Straube.
It was at his workshop in 1473 that the Almanach Cracoviense ad annum 1474 (Kraków Almanac for the year 1474] (a wall calendar), recognised as the first extant print from the Polish lands, was published. In total, four works are known to have been printed at his workshop, of which three can be seen at the exhibition: Opus restitutionum, usurarum et excommunicationum by Franciscus de Platea, Expositio super toto Psalterio by Joannes de Turrecremata (alternately: Torquemada), and Opuscula by St. Augustine. These are the oldest prints originating from Kraków which are in the Library’s collections.
The books and prints presented here comprise works of philosophy, religious texts, legal, medical and musical works originating from Cracovian printing workshops of the 15th and 16th centuries. The selection of items for exhibition aimed to illustrate the diversity of typefaces used and the development of these over the course of more than 100 years. Apart from well-known works, visitors can also see titles which rarely appear in libraries as well as some completely unique pieces (for instance Stanisław Grochowski, Szczodry dzień Je[go] Królewskiey Miłości, 1600; Stanisław Niegoszewski, Xenium in expeditionem contra Moschos [Xenium in an expedition against Moschos], 1581, or The Puławy Hymnal, 1545-1567). The Puławy Hymnal comprises 18 parts containing unique Polish religious songs, of which the vast majority (16) are from the printshop of Łazarz Andrysowic. The other two were printed by Hieronim Wietor and his wife.
Among the 26 items presented at the exhibition, well-worth a second look is the work of the outstanding physician and rector of Cracow Academy, Maciej of Miechów entitled Contra seuam pestem regimen accuratissimu[m]. At primum ad diuos Sebastianu[m] [et] Rochum deuote premittunt orations This short guide including instructions on how to combat the plague was created in 1508 at the request of Jan Haller. The contents of the book are reflected in a woodcut print on the cover featuring Christ on the cross and the saints Roch and Sebastian, patron saints of the plague, standing beside.
One of the oldest books printed in the Polish language is Żywot Pana Jezu Krysta as translated by Baltazar Opeć, and published by Hieronim Wietor in 1522. This work was highly popular and was reprinted several times.
The exhibition is complemented with two maps with views of Kraków from the Civitates Orbis Terrarum T. 6 [Cities of the Earthly Globe, vol. 6], published in 1618 in Köln by Georg Braun and Abraham Hogenberg. All of the books presented in the exhibition are the property of the Library of the Princes Czartoryski and were published in the years 1475-1600 by printshops of Kraków, including the workshops of Kasper Straube, Kasper Hochfeder, Jan Haller, Florian Ungler, Hieronim Wietor, Łazarz Andrysowic, Jan Januszowski, Marek and Maciej Szarffenberg, Mateusz and Jakub Szarfenberg, Maciej Wirzbięta, and Aleksy Rodecki.
The exhibition is a celebration of the 550th anniversary of the beginnings of print in the Polish lands.
Curator: Paweł Wierzbicki