New Exhibition at ALMA Celebrates 500 Years of Printing

‘Bound for Glory: 500 Years of Armenian Printing’ Opens May 20

WATERTOWN, Mass.—This year marks the 500thanniversary of the first Armenian printed book (published in Venice in 1512), and museums and libraries around the world, including the Library of Congress, are celebrating with exhibits and symposia. Drawing on the Armenian Library and Museum of America’s (ALMA) extensive collection of antiquarian and modern publications, “Bound for Glory: 500 Years of Armenian Printing from ALMA’s Collection,” is a major new exhibit on Armenian printed books.

Armenian Bible Oil on canvas by Levon Armenius Mnazakanian  300x300 New Exhibition at ALMA Celebrates 500 Years of Printing

Armenian Bible: Oil on canvas by Levon Armenius Mnazakanian

The exhibition highlights the creation of the alphabet and literature, handwritten masterpieces, the development of Armenian printing around the world, and an examination of the types of books printed. Why were certain books selected for translation or publication? Who were the intended audience? Where were they printed? What was their impact? These, and other bookish questions, will be addressed in the new exhibit.

“Bound for Glory” includes over 60 rare published works drawn from the museum’s archives, spanning five centuries of printing. The earliest works predate printing by Armenian themselves, as Europeans developed an early interest in the Armenian language for Bible studies or to train missionaries. Armenian publishers emerged in many diasporan communities, but literacy was usually limited to the clergy and the merchant class. The population of readers was not large enough to support a commercial success, and the publishers were dependent on merchant patronage to survive. Despite these impediments, Armenian printers persisted and published a wide range of religious and secular works, although books were rare and costly. Several of the works on display have never been exhibited before in New England.

The emergence of the modern standard dialects of Eastern Armenian and Western Armenian in the 19th century, coupled with new technologies for mass production, led to an explosion of printing in the 19th century, with printing houses active everywhere. Prolific industries in the United States and the Soviet Union emerged, and are reviewed in the exhibit.

The exhibit opening will be on Sun., May 20 at 2 p.m. Admission is free on opening day only. The Armenian Library and Museum of America is located at 65 Main St. in Watertown, Mass. Parking is available in the municipal parking lot behind the Museum and in adjacent areas. For directions and more information about the program and current exhibits on display, visit www.almainc.org.

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