The Vizsoly Bible is a translation of the entire Bible into the Hungarian language which was carried out by Protestant clerics during the Renaissance. The Bible was published in the Abaúj region by the printer Valentín Mančkovič in 1590. It is now widely recognised as one of the treasures of literary culture in Hungary.
The Vizsoly Bible is unique for a number of different reasons. From a linguistic point of view, it is the oldest printed translation of the complete Bible into Hungarian and, as such, is an important reflection of the state and development of the Hungarian language at the end of the 16th century. Upon publication, the Vizsoly Bible was the most extensive book which had yet been published in the Kingdom of Hungary and in the Hungarian language, with a total of almost 2500 pages. Compared to other books published in the Kingdom of Hungary in the second half of the 16th century, the Bible contains the widest range of typographic elements used in a single book.
An estimated 700 to 900 copies were produced in the first publication of the Bible, of which only around 60 copies survive today in collections around the World.
In 2015, the 1590 edition of the Vizsoly Bible was included into the highest list of the intangible national cultural heritage known as the Hungarikum and protected by special law.
Books published in the 16th century are characterised by a greater emphasis on graphical aesthetics and details in addition to the use of typical functional elements. Books in this period were mainly decorated using the technique of woodcut printing, and this technique was also employed in the Vizsoly Bible.
In the Vizsoly Bible we can find several graphical decorative elements: the printer’s mark on the title page, an ornamental-figural printer’s mark, ornamental-figural vignettes, ornamental labels and lines, decorated initials with an ornamental background both in the open spaces and within the spaces themselves, capital letters, printed marginalia, typographical decorations and catchwords. The majority of these decorations were also used for to separate or highlight individual sections of the book – the title page, dedications, the foreword (or preface), publishing data (such as an impressum or colophon) or individual chapters.
The main title page was the only page in the book that was printed with a combination of red and black ink. The signet on the title page consists of a small image of the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Hungary decorated with an anonymised royal crown and with griffins as shieldbearers. In the centre of the printer’s mark is the allegorical figure of Pheme with a branch in her hand, enclosed in an oval ornamental frame.
Text on the title page
Szent Biblia Az Az: Istennec Ŏ Es Wy Testamentvmanac Prophe´ta´c Es Apostoloc által meg iratott szent kŏnyuei. Magyar Nyelwre Fordittatott egészlen és wijonnan, Az Istennec Magyar országban való Anya szent Egyházánac epŭlésére. Lvc: XVI. vers: 29. ¶ Vagyon Mosesec és Prophétáioc, halgassác azokat,(et)c.
The Holy Bible, consisting of: the Holy Books of God´s Old and New Testaments, written by the Prophets and Apostles. Completely and newly translated into the Hungarian language in order to strengthen God’s Holy Mother Church in Hungary. Luke 16: 29: They have Moses and the prophets, let them hear them, etc.
Publication data in the impressum of the book
Visolban. Nyomtattatott Mantskovit Balint Altal. M D XC. Bódog aßßony hauanac 10. napián.
In Vizsoly. Printed by Valentín Mančkovič. 1590, 10th day of the month of January.
Scope of the book
The book consists of volumes each of which include individual title pages. The first volume is the Old Testament (686 pages), the second volume is the books of the Prophets (275 pages), and the third volume is the New Testament (236 pages). The book is supplemented by eight unpaginated lists with an introduction and a large-scale diagram.