The history of the printing press in Košice
In the 16th century, book printing in the Kingdom of Hungary was initially carried out by itinerant printers who worked in several different locations for shorter periods of time. The Kingdom of Hungary had been split into several states in this period and was still subject to Ottoman raids, and these conditions were not ideal for the establishment of permanent printing houses. Itinerant printers helped in the spread of the ideas of the Reformation across Hungary as much of their work consisted of theological works with Reformist tendencies.
The printing press in Košice was also established by an itinerant printer but it would go on to leave behind a relatively long and remarkable history.
The first recorded itinerant printer in Košice was Gál Husár (Lat. Gallus Anaxius, Hun. Gál Huszár; 1512-1575) who had already worked in Šintava, Plavecký Castle, Hlohovec and Mosonmagyaróvár. Husár was a prolific figure: he had first served as a Catholic priest but later became superintendent of a Reformed Congregation. He was also involved in spreading Reformation ideas; he translated the Heidelberg Catechism into Hungarian and edited a religious hymnbook. Husár had learned about book printing in the Viennese workshop of the famous printer Raphael Hoffhalter, and during a brief stay in Košice in 1560, he printed a hymnbook, the oldest known and the first Hungarian written non-Catholic printed work to be produced in the territory of present-day Slovakia. Husár also cooperated with Peter Bornemisz, the founder of the printing houses in Šintava and Hlohovec in which he had he worked, the latter of which was then taken over by Valentin Mančkovič, the future printer of the Vizsoly Bible.
The name of Ján Fischer from Bardejov (the son-in-law of the printer Jakub Klöss from Bardejov) is closely associated with the establishment of the first permanent printing house in Košice in 1610. After his death in 1614, the workshop in Levoča House was run by Ján Festus. A book from 1620 which was printed by Ján Festus, is the oldest work from Košice print in the historical collection of the State Scientific Library in Košice. Ownership of the printing house changed regularly throughout the 17th century. According to the printer Marek Severin, the workshop operated a single press, and also possessed font casting equipment and matrices, printing plates (printing casts) and used type letters in Gothic, Latin and Greek script to print books in Latin, Hungarian and German. This “urban” printing house remained in operation until around 1694.
The Jesuit College played a significant role in the expansion of the printing press in Košice. In addition to a university, library, pharmacy and boarding school, the Jesuits also operated a printing house in the second half of the 17th century in oder to support their own activities, briefly becoming the only Catholic printing house in Upper Hungary. After the Jesuits were expelled during the Anti-Habsburg uprising, the activities of the printing house came to an end. In 1716, the restored Academic Jesuit Printing House of the University of Košice (Typis Academicis Societatis Jesu) was one of the most important and longest-running printing houses in Košice, issuing around 24 printings per year during its peak period of 1736 to 1745, many of which are represented in the historical collections of the State Scientific Library in Košice. After the abolition of the Jesuit Order in 1773, the printing house ended up in the hands of the state. In 1755 it was bought by the book printer Ján Michal Landerer who worked in Košice until 1821. The Landerers were successful printers who also operated printworks in Bratislava and Budapest.
In the subsequent period, the techniques of book printing underwent fundamental changes and gradually developed into the modern industrial form. As in other parts of Europe, several new printing houses were established in Košice, and some of them were transformed into publishing houses during the 19th century. Printers were esteemed citizens in city society and served as members of the city council in this period.
Among the more important workshops of this period is the Ellinger printing house (1787-1876) which was founded by Ján Jozef Ellinger from Vienna. The Werferow family (1822-1910) expanded typography in Košice with the new technique of lithography. In addition to books, the Werferow family also published calendars, newspapers, magazines, official forms and playing cards. The Landerer, Ellinger, and Werferow families also operated bookstores in Košice. In the late 19th century, the Košice printing house Pannonia (1872-1884) was one of the most important printing houses in Upper Hungary. It initially focused on publishing German-language newspapers but later moved into the production of other newspapers in Košice and Prešov. The printer and journalist Ľudovít Ries first worked for Pannonia, and he later established his own printing company focusing on the publication of economic and political periodicals and magazines. In the 20th century, other printing houses were created in the city, such as that of Anton Adolf Vitéz, the printing house of St. Elizabeth, the Samuel Matzner printworks, and the Slovak Printing House, all of which contributed to the modern chapter of the history of book printing in Košice.