PRAISE TO THE BOOK
translation by: Ștefania Haraga
"The book not only accomplishes the wonder of getting us in touch with our fellow men from distant ages and places ; the book also carries out the wonderful deed of making us live beyond lies, injustice and prejudices. In these sacred urns, in which poets and thinkers locked their hearts, we find the immortal power that moves humankind forward in its continous ongoing...". These phrases written by Mihail Sadoveanu eulogize the book, defining its role in the spiritual life of humankind, its superior social function, its moral and cultural commitment, in an exemplary manner.
In his turn, the great scholar Nicolae Iorga used to write: "oh, my sacred books (...) which were revealed to me by favourable chances, how I owe you myself as a true human being just as the true human beings of those countries where culture never ceased to exist". Nor did it cease to exist on the Romanian territory for the history of writing is 2000 years old, from the clay slates of Tartaria up to the computerized typographies of today.
As early as the first alphabets, echoes from the great cultures which flourished in the Southern-European space were penetrating our land. The Dacian writing disappeared at a certain moment of history, yet other writings carried the messages of the people inhabiting these regions. Writing was performed in Greek, Latin, Slavonic, until the Romanian language took perfect shape, finding its most appropriate form of expression.
Favouring progress, Romanian culture adopted printing years before other cultures in the European neighbourhood did. In this respect, evidence is provided by the fact that after only 50 years since the appearance of printing, invented by Gutenberg in the middle of the XV-th century, the first book was already being printed in the Romanian territory.
Once introduced in the Romanian space, printing could not remove the manuscript book, often illustrated with highly artistic miniatures, the art of miniature-painting enjoying a long life here, up to the modern times. The emergence of printing is connected to the main cultural centres and if, for different reasons, especially political, one of the centres had ceased its fervent activity of book issuing and distribution , another one would have taken its place, another printing establishment would have flourished through the passionate work of its masters, so that the continuity of the Romanian printing was never interrupted.
Prince Matei Basarab, during whose reign the Romanian printing craft fully developped, wrote in the foreword of The Slavonic Psalter, the 1638 edition: "I therefore ask you, fellows co-inhabiting our country and mostly you, our brothers, who will be here after we're gone and rule upon this land by God's will, to preserve this carefully, this printing house I mean, as an honourable gift, keeping it forever in your hold, safely and uncorruptedly, for it is the treasure above any earthern treasures, for the gold and the silver and the precious stones are valuable treasures that beautify the bodies temporarily, but this treasure beautify the human souls".
In the Romanian territory there were various and complex typographical patterns and books were equally printed in Romanian, Old Greek, Slavonic, German, Hungarian, Hebrew, even Arabian. The Romanian printing eased the integration of our culture in the great reforming trends of the continent, beginning with the first books printed in Romanian by Filip Moldoveanul and Coresi. Through book printing the literary language would soon enough reach perfection, the paramount of the artistic and philosophical expression.
Not only the reforming ideas were spread by means of printing, here. The book always represented the noble vehicle of all generous ideas, of progress, but at the same time it was a flame and a fighting device for the assertion of our national consciousness and of our unity and Latin origin. Despite any obstacles, the uninterrupted circulation of the Romanian book, both older and recent, in all the Romanian territories, kept the national consciousness alive. The temporary and arbitrary borders separating those of the same blood could not stop the flow of ideas carried by the Romanian books.
In order for the Romanian book civilization to be known better, I have composed these pages depicting the multiple aspects of the Romanian book, from its origins to the present.
Prof. dr. doc. DAN SIMONESCU
(from: Simonescu, Dan și Buluță, Gheorghe -- Scurtă istorie a cărții românești. București : Editura Demiurg, 1994).