Besides being the cradle of Ukrainian book-printing, Lviv used to be the major breeding ground for book-publishing. Thousands of books have been printed within the space of several centures, quite a number of them have become the property of national culture. Books published within the span of time from 1574 up to 1800 take among the printed matter a prominent place.
The origin of printing in the Ukraine is associated with the name of Ivan Fedorov, a distinguished figure of national culture, who over 400 years ago, in 1574, established a printing-house in Lviv and issued his famous “Apostle” and “The Primer”, remarkable relics of writing, printing and typography.
Ivan Fedorov, resting upon great traditions in Ukrainian book-printing and using the best achievements in West-European typography, creatively combined them in his publishing activity with the attainments of Ukrainian fine and applied arts, thus greatly promoting the development of national book-printing.
Direct followers of Ivan Fedorov’s traditions were printers of the Lviv Stauropegia Fraternity who issued a number of editions valuable for their literary merits as well as for their decorative design. They comprise “Prosphonema” (1591), the first in East Slavic literatures separately printed collection of poetic works; “Adelphotes. The Grammar of the Euphonious Helleno-Slovenian Language” (1591), the first original scientific work; “Acts of Vilnius Synod” (1614), the firstling of Ukrainian archaeography. The decorative designs of the Fraternity editions were characterized by quite a few innovatory features. In “The Grammar” (1591) Lviv Ukrainian printers made an attempt to reform the print having substituted Greek letters, similar in shape to the Latin antique and later resembling the “civil” type, for the capital Cyrillic letters. Very early (forestalled only by masters from Krylos) they began to ornament their printings with pictures and designs closely connected with the content of the book (“Book of Hours”, 1609; “Psalter”, 1615, etc.).
In the late 16th — early 17th centuries several printing-houses of short duration that functioned in Lviv issued books in Polish and Latin. The first among them, a mobile press at the royal office, began functioning in 1578, four years after Fedorov’s publication of the “Apostle”. For some time there existed an Armenian print-shop of Ter-Howhanes Karmatenyants (Ivan Muratovich) who published the Armenian “Psalter” (1616) and “Prayer-Book” (1618), the only book printed in Turkic-Armenian.
From 1616 till 1629 there was a break in the activity of the Lviv Fraternity print-shop. When the shop resumed its operation the first works to appear were not big in volume but quite meritorious by their literary value: “Verses from St. Gregory’s Tragedy Christos Paschon” (1630), a Ukrainian interpretation of tragedies by Euripides, Aeschylus, Lycophron, as well as of evangelic apocryphal texts; “Meditation about Passion” (1631), one of the earliest dramatic compositions in the Ukraine. “The Oktoechos” (1630), “The Anthologium” (1632) and “The Gospel” (1636) stand out among other books of the Fraternity print-shop for their exquisite decorative design, ornamented with skilfully engraved title framing, fine page-frontispiece pictures, illustrations and decorative adornments.
In the second quarter and in the middle of the 17th century, alongside of the Fraternity printing-house, there were private print-shops in Lviv: one of Mikhailo Slyozka and the other of Arseniy Zheliborsky. Mikhailo Slyozka, a Ukrainian printer and publisher of versatile talent, attached special attention to the decorative design of his publications. He issued his books amply ornamented with skilfully done thematic pictures, various mouldings and dichromatic print. Mikhailo Slyozka initiated the publication of small-size, miniature books in the Ukraine (“Prayers and Book of Hours”, 1642; “Psalter”, 1667) meant for reading both at home and at school.
In the second half of the 17th century the conditions for the Lviv Fraternity publishing business happened to be the least favourable. After the War of the Ukrainian people of 1648—1654 headed by Bohdan Khmelnytsky, the Western lands of the Ukraine still remained under the yoke of the Polish gentry. Moreover, men of Ukrainian culture had to work under the circumstances of ever growing catholic reaction. The Fraternity was compelled to restrict the themes of its publications, contenting itself mainly with reprinting its formerly published books (chiefly of liturgical character). Historically and artistically valuable was the panegyric “Crown of Victory” dedicated to A. D. Menshikov (in honour of the victory over the Swedish army at Poltava), a secular publication of the early 18th century, illustrated with engravings by Nikodim Zubritsky and Dionysius Sienkiewicz, the most prominent masters of the time.
The artistic property of the Lviv printing of the late 17th and early 18th centuries is associated with the activity of such Lviv engravers as Vasil Ushakevich, Ivan Glinsky, Eustakhiy Zavadovsky and, mentioned above, Nikodim Zubritsky and Dionysius Sienkiewicz who infused a fresh spirit into the decorative design of the publications.
At the close of the 17th century two Cyrillic print-shops were temporarily functioning in Lviv: one by Joseph Shumlyansky and the other at the St. George monastery. In 1700 the print-shop at the monastery issued “The Heirmologium”, a book of hymns in which for the first time in the East Slavic printing, a cast music print was used. The originator of this peculiar type, the compositor and printer of the book was Joseph Gorodetsky, a talented Lviv master.
During the 18th century the Lviv Fraternity printing-house was busy mainly reproducing its formerly issued books. Distinguished among them were: “Aristotle’s Philosophy” (1745) by Mikhailo Kozachinsky, prefect of the Kiev-Moghylyansk Academy, written in three languages — bookish Ukrainian, Latin and Polish — and “Ithika Hieropolitika” (1760), a book of moral content, reprinted from the Kiev edition of 1712. “Aristotle’s Philosophy” was artistically decorated with copper-plate engravings by Gregoriy Levitsky, a notable Kiev artist who collaborated with the Lviv engraver Ivan Philipovich. It was Philipovich who made 67 illustrations for “Ithika Hieropolitika” copied from Nikodim Zubritsky’s engravings that had been carried in the Kiev edition of the book.
The second half of the 18th century, especially its closing quarter, saw the publication of some more secular issues: “Little Reader for Elementary Schools…” (1786), “The Primer” supplemented with “A Guide of Good Manners” — a code of “decent” manners for youth (1790), “Principles of Moral Philosophy…” (1790, 1791) — a translation from Latin of Christian Baumeister’s Course of Moral Philosophy done by Petro Lodiy, professor of the Lviv University, etc. The design of the books was modest. Noteworthy is the fact that some ornamentation of the books was printed from the original boards of Ivan Fedorov which had been carefully kept in the print-shop.
In the 18th century, in Lviv, quite a few books were edited in Polish and Latin. They were published not only by Polish, but by Ukrainian printers, too. Thus, Ivan Philipovich, an enthusiast of the Assumption Fraternity and a printer, published in his print-shop a number of rather primitive, from the artistic point of view, editions: “Accessoria, statut i konstytucja”, a juridical treatise by Mikhailo Slonsky, a member of the Lviv Fraternity (1758, 1760, 1765), “Troiedya” by Donat Popelevich (1761) and “Troista Powodz” by G. Tresnevsky (1762). Most extensive publications in foreign languages in Lviv were done in the private print-shop of the Pillers. It was there that during the whole year of 1776 they were printing “Gazette de Leopol” (Lviv Newspaper), the first weekly in the Ukraine, issued in French and meant for Governmental and aristocratic circles. Beginning with the 30th issue it systematically carried announcements about the books that appeared; these publications are justly regarded to be the oldest relics of periodical bibliography.
Thus, despite the hard conditions under which the Lviv Ukrainian printers had to work, they issued quite a few books valuable for their content and interesting by their decorative design. These books, equally with publications of other printing centres in the Ukraine, played an important part in the development of Ukrainian culture.