The Brest Bible


The Brest Bible is one of the most precious monuments of Polish literature – the so-called also Bible Radziwillowska. Brest Bible was published in Brest in 1563, it was the second (after Leopolita Catholic Bible) translation whole Bible into Polish, made by Polish Calvinists. On the recommendation of John Calvin , the Bible had to be read in their native language. For this reason, the Polish Protestants needed their own translation of the Bible. The New Testament  printed in 1552 by John Seklucjana in Königsberg was insufficient. Few exact (because based on the medieval translation) was the Catholic Bible Leopolita (Szarffenbergów) in 1561 . The Bible translation has been completed after 3 years (since 1557 ) the translation of the Pentateuch.   Work on the translation from May 1560 was financed by Prince Nicholas Radziwill Black (cost was about 3,000 red-gold), and sponsored by the owner Pińczów -Nicholas Olesnicki . The Bible was printed in Brest-Litovsk with a circulation of about 500 copies. The bible was released in September 1563 by Bernard Wojewodka with a circulation about 500 copies and bible was dedicated to King Zygmunt August (     ). This was the first complete edition of the protestant bible.  It has become an essential piece in the churches evangelical in the Grand Duchy and the Crown (it was the 720 churches of the Reformed and 64 251 Brethren ).  The project was financed by Prince Nicholas Radziwill. The Bible has dimensions of 255 to 401 mm, contained 786 cards and weighs about 5 kg.  The bible has contained carefully crafted woodcuts on the title page and in the Old Testament . Text was printed large Gothic font, and footnotes and explanations (on the edges and bottom of pages) – in smaller font sizes.  When the son of the founder of the Bible Brest, converted by the Jesuits to Catholicism Nicholas Krzysztof Radziwill (Orphan) , as penance for the “sins of the father-heretic” decided to buy and destroy all copies of the Bible Brest. Despite the issue for this purpose a large sum of 5,000 ducats (red gold) he managed to destroy them all, but most of the bible, which ceremonially burned on the market in Vilnius . The remaining copies were destroyed during the Counter- Reformation , survived only 20 to 40 pieces. This example was discovered in the basement and the book condition was extremely deteriorated condition and recommended to the conservation in 1993.  Regardless of the lack of binding, the textblock printing has survived to our time in full. All leaves of the textblock had been heavily soiled from repeated handling over the years and also from dirt and water damage. Generally the state of preservation was varied, the biggest damage occurred at the start and end block mainly.


The goal of conservation intervention was stop the process of the book degradation and recover the usability and aesthetic value corresponding to time when the item came into being. Before starting the maintenance bible was disinfected in the book Rotanox gas in a vacuum chamber. After disinfection, microbiological tests were carried out confirming purity of the object.  Next the conservation foliations pages was made (numbers written in pencil applied to lower margin of the left side of the column of text), condition assessment with chemical research and photographic documentation was made. On the basis of research the information found that the handmade paper on which it was printed incunabula was made of rag mass consisting of fibres of flax and hemp. The results of the measurement of pH and were quite unusual  because some pages were slightly acidic pH of 6.2 to 6.6 and streaks of yellowing in  places the  measurements were more acidic pH 5.5 to 5.7. Most of the pages be more alkaline or pH between 7.1 -9.6 The first stage of the work textblock was split. All pages have been separated and dry cleaned.


About conservationwithella

Hello, I'm Ella, Art on Paper Conservator & Preservation Manager at Glasgow University Archives and Special Collections. This blog is a walk through my daily life, work, arts & crafts history, my discovery that everything in my life is enough to be a continuous source of reflection. I started blogging to entertain myself but I hope you enjoy it too. I'm sure you agree, that Life without art is nothing. :)

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