Vizsoly Bible


The Vizsoly printing house and publication of the Bible

The establishment of the printing house and the printing of the Vizsoly Bible

The publication of the Hungarian Bible was originally planned by Gáspár Mágócsy, and the project was continued after his death by Sigismund Rákóczi. The Bible was initially intended to be printed in one of the existing Hungarian or Transylvanian printing houses in the centres of Protestant magnates, but this was not possible due to the government regulations issued in 1579 and 1584 prohibiting the establishment of printing houses and the printing of works without permission. Nevertheless, in addition to the Catholic printing house in Trnava, a total of 14 itinerant Protestant printers were active in this period. Sometime prior to 1588, Rákóczi had likely already made an agreement with the printer Valentin Mančkovič to relocate his printing house from Hlohovec to one of Rákóczi’s residences. This decision was helped not only by the landholdings of the patron himself which were far from the territories under the permanent control of the monarch, but also by the decision of the editor Károlyi to sacrifice all of his possessions to publish the Bible following the death of his family. Due to the great importance of the Bible, other Protestant patrons almost certainly contributed to its publication. Some of the equipment from the Hlohovec printing house was eventually used in Vizsoly, including four presses and around fifty thousand lead type pieces and other templates. Thanks to Vizsoly's convenient location on the important “Via Regia” trade route between Poland and Hungary and contacts with Polish paper traders, up to 160 carts (about 7 tonnes) of paper for printing were reportedly procured from paper mills in Krakow and Lesser Poland. It is noteworthy that Rákóczi's warehouses in Košice on the nearby Kováčska Street also helped in the transportation of this paper.

The printing of the Bible itself took place from 1 February 1589 until 20 July 1590. Interestingly, the printing process began before Gáspár Károlyi had completed the translation of all of the texts. Handwritten translations from the clergy house in Gönc were carried by students or workers to Vizsoly, allegedly in broad daylight and often on foot. Additional translations were also made by Albert Szenci Molnár the editor of the later corrected publication of the Bible which dates from 1608.

In addition to the chief printer, several other masters and workers collaborated on the process of printing. The activity of the printing house was threatened in March 1589 by the order issued by the Austrian Archduke Ernest to confiscate all books and typesets from the printing house due to the alleged publication of copies of the old Julian calendar. A Papal Bull of 1582 had decreed that all Catholic countries should begin to use the newly reformed Gregorian calendar, and the new calendar was introduced in the Kingdom of Hungary in around 1587. Although Mančkovič is known to have printed copies of the Julian calendar between 1580 and 1582, it remains uncertain whether he also printed copies in Vizsoly. Similarly, it is unclear how the Vizsoly printing house was granted permission to continue with its activities and the printing of the Bible, although it may partly be ascribed to toleration granted on the basis of Rákóczi’s military achievements. In addition to the constant danger of Ottoman raids, the process of printing was also complicated by the high turnover in workers which was common in printing houses of this period.

An estimated total of 700 - 800 copies of the Bible were printed, and the print run certainly did not exceed 900 copies. The translator and editor of the work Gáspár Károlyi died shortly after the Bible was published in 1592, but he had managed to draw up registers called Index Biblicus for the bible, which were published in Vizsoly in 1593 only a year after his death. The printer Mančkovič printed a further ten copies in Vizsoly and his heirs in produced six more between 1597-1599, but the printing house was closed shortly thereafter. Two other works printed in Vizsoly also relate to Košice: one of them is a salutatorian speech made for the birth of the daughter of the urban notary Sebald Artner from Košice in 1598 and the other, which was also the final work to be printed in Vizsoly, is a polemics of the Calvinist István Gönczi against the evangelical rector of the University of Košice Albert Graver from 1599. At the beginning of the 17th century, several matrices, type pieces, and ornament blocks from the Vizsoly printing house became part of the Bardejov printing house of Mančkovič’s son-in-law, Jakub Klöss. Some of this equipment finally ended up in Košice, when the local Jesuits bought the contents of the Bardejov printing house in 1715. The “XX.” ornament piece, which had first appeared in Hlohovec in 1588, was still in use in the Košice printing house until 1738.