January 01, 2015

First Book

First Book

For centuries, the Russian Church strove to shield Muscovy from foreign influences, believing that they would weaken faith and put the kingdom in peril. In the seventeenth century, during the Time of Troubles, Russia was awash in foreigners, with their odd customs and faiths. For a while, the Polish king even ruled over the country. For the Church, this influx of things new and foreign was unquestionably evil.

On January 6, 1615, the first book was published in Moscow since the Time of Troubles, during which the city’s first publishing house, the Pechatny Dvor (Print Yard), had burned down. The book was a teaching psalter that included an introduction stressing the importance of the book for all Christians and telling the story of the Time of Troubles, when heretics had come from around the world to try to destroy the Orthodox faith. Now, it proclaimed, the faith had endured and it was important to print as many religious books as possible.

There is an interesting irony here. Before the Time of Troubles and the “flood of foreign influences” it had unleashed in Russia, the very printing press that produced the psalter had been considered evil, since books were clearly meant to be produced by hand. But time passed, technology marched on, and the printing press was now viewed as a tool for promoting religion.

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