Ukraine’s Museum of Books and Book Printing

Read a novel on your PDA. Check out the next installment of a memoir online. Peruse the local bookshop for the latest bestsellers. Books in any form are an integral part of world culture, even if declarations surface each year about their impending demise. Imagine for a moment a world where books are not only printing one at a time but are read only by the powerful.

The Museum of Books and Printing in Kiev is a feast of the senses for any committed bibliophile. The Museum, established in 1973 – the same year that UNESCO proclaimed the year to be the International Book Year – opened to the public in 1975. Over thirty years later, the museum is a cornucopia of treasures and rarities, books printed in Ukraine during the 16th and 17th centuries, and volumes printed in Latin and Cyrillic scripts.

Book publishing in Ukraine began with the first printing press at the Pechersk Lavra Monastery in the early 17th century. High quality and exquisite design marked the early volumes and were in demand all over Slavic Europe. Monks were part of the educated classes in early Ukraine and spreading the Christian gospel propelled the printing press into the limelight.

Indeed, among the priceless books in the Museum of Books and Printing is a source of ancient spiritual inspiration entitled Pateryk Pechersky. Printed in 1661 at the Lavra Monastery, the book was considered ‘a golden book’ for literate Ukrainians and disseminated the ideas of Christian ethics, humility, and moral education. The word, Pateryk, is loosely translated as “Stories of Church Fathers.”

Meant to be read aloud, the lavishly illustrated book features allegorical images and ancient chronicles of monks and Christian parables. Only thirty editions are said to have been printed during the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Among the famous readers of the text, Alexander Pushkin and Taras Shevchenko are said to have lost their imaginations between the brittle pages.

The Museum of Books and Book Printing’s collection continues to swell, preserving the written word from many countries. If you want to see a book as some traditionalists believe should be seen, why not visit one of Kiev’s most popular and remarkable museums of literature.