January 13, 2015

Shorthand Notes and Excerpts of Martin Kukučín

These shorthand notes and excerpts are in the hand of Martin Kukučín, pseudonym of Matej Bencúr (1860−1928), an important representative of Slovak literary realism. Kukučín worked as a physician in Prague, Croatia, and later in South America. In his literary estate are found, in addition to his original manuscript works in Slovak, records in shorthand script. Kukučín used several different types of shorthand fonts which he enriched with his own shorthand characters. His notes thus were incomprehensible to other readers. In 1943, cryptographer and librarian Ladislav Lorenc undertook to decipher Kukučín’s notes. By the time of his death in 1964, Lorenc was able to rewrite most of Kukučin’s stenographic records. It is assumed that Kukučín started using stenography in 1910 in his medical practice, while writing prescriptions and documenting medical procedures. Eventually, this type of handwriting came so naturally to him that he used it while writing his literary works, excerpts, and notes.

Workbook Exercises in English

Martin Kukučín, pseudonym of Matej Bencúr (1860−1928), was an important representative of Slovak literary realism. He worked as a physician in Prague, Croatia, and later in South America. Presented here is a workbook of exercises in English from the time of his studies at the gymnasium in the Hungarian town of Sopron. The workbook is now preserved in Kukučín’s literary estate, held at the Slovak National Library. Biographers and critics have inferred from the fact that Kukučín began learning English already during his time at the gymnasium, prior to beginning his university studies, that already at that time he was planning to settle outside the country after finishing medical school.

Passbook of Martin Kukučín

Presented here is the bank passbook of Martin Kukučín (1860–1928), the most distinguished representative of modern Slovak realist literature. Kukučín worked as a physician in Prague, on the island of Brač (Croatia), and in Chile and Argentina, all of which are reflected in his literary work. The passbook, containing the record of the royalties Kukučín earned for his literary work, was opened for him on December 31, 1910. At that time Kukučín was living in South America and did not even possess Hungarian citizenship. Kukučín’s real name was Matej Bencúr, but the passbook was issued in his literary pseudonym of Martin Kukučín. The transactions in the passbook were conducted for seven years in the absence of, and without the signatures of, the owner. The passbook was opened as document number 3050 by the Turčianska Participatory Savings Bank (Martin, Slovakia), and is now preserved as a unique artifact from the life of this important writer. The man who opened and maintained the passbook was probably Dr. Jozef Škultéty (1853−1948),  a friend of Kukučín and later the administrator of the Matica slovenská (Slovak Foundation). The document came to the Slovak National Library from Škultéty’s estate.

Pressburg, Posonium, or Pisonium, a Hungarian City as Depicted by Wolfgang Lazius

This colored copperplate view of Bratislava (Posonium in Latin, known as Pressburg during the period of the Austrian and Austro-Hungarian Empire) is the oldest and best-known popular depiction of the city. The creator of this edited copy of the print was the German master Franz Hogenberg (1535−90). At the time the print was made, Bratislava was the capital of Hungary and was also a coronation city of the Habsburg rulers. The view depicts the Danube River, dominated by Bratislava Castle, which was a seat of the Hungarian part of the Habsburg monarchy until 1780. An interesting note in the upper-right part of the view mentions Wolfgang Lazius (1514−65), who was an important Hungarian humanist and cartographer and the author of the second oldest map of Hungary (1556). In 1593 this view was used in the book Civitates orbis terrarum. Liber quartus urbium praecipuarum totius mundi (The cities of the world. The fourth book of the principal cities of the world), published in Cologne by Georg Braun and Franz Hogenberg.

Catechism, that is: A Brief Overview and an Exposition of the Foremost Articles of Faith and the Christian Religion, Which Catechumens, and Especially Children in Schools, Learn Initially. D. Martin Luther

Katechysmus, To geʃt: Kratičke obʃazenij a wyklad přednich Cžlankůw Wyrij a Náboženʃtwij Křestianského čemuž ʃe Lidé Křestianʃʃtij a zwlaʃʃte Dijtky w Sʃkolách počátečné wyvčugij (Catechism, that is: a brief overview and an exposition of the foremost articles of faith and the Christian religion, which catechumens, and especially children in schools, learn initially), published in 1581, is the first work printed in the territory of Slovakia in the Slovak language. It is the famous “small catechism” by Martin Luther (1483−1546), the great leader of the Protestant Reformation in Germany. The book was produced in Bardejov, in the print shop of David Gutgesel (1540–99). Gutgesel was born in Bardejov and lived and worked in the town virtually his entire life. A printer, publisher, and bookseller, he founded his printery in 1577. Over the course of the next 20 years he printed approximately 80 titles, all now very rare, including, for example, some of the works of the Slovak poet and scholar Ioannes, or Ján Bocatius (1569–1621).

Letter by Mahatma Gandhi Addressed to Slovak Dušan Makovický

Presented here is a letter by Mahatma Gandhi (1869−1948) received by Dušan Makovický (1866−1921), a Slovak who was personal physician and secretary to Russian novelist Count Leo Tolstoy (1828−1910). Makovický lived with Tolstoy at his estate Yasnaya Polyana, located some 200 kilometers from Moscow. In the letter, Gandhi thanks Makovický for his explication of Tolstoy’s views on the concept of passive resistance. Probably the only original Gandhi manuscript preserved in the collections of any Slovak institution, the document is a testimony to the unique contacts the Slovaks had with this eminent thinker and politician of India and his philosophy of nonviolence.

A Song of Blood

Krvavé sonety (A song of blood) is a collection of 32 sonnets by Pavol Országh Hviezdoslav (1849−1921), the pseudonym of the Slovak poet, writer, and lawyer Pavol Országh. Hviezdoslav was an important writer and one of the leading personalities in Slovak literature and culture at the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century. This cycle of poems is the poet’s protest against World War I. The book is a strong reaction to what Hviezdoslav saw as the oppression and humiliation of humanity brought about by the war and is a summary of the poet’s social, philosophical, and moral views. In the final sonnets, Hviezdoslav expresses his desire for peace and his belief in a more just world order. Although the author wrote the poetic cycle in 1914, shortly after the outbreak of the war, the book could be published only in 1919.

Portrait of Milan Rastislav Štefánik

Shown here is a portrait of the young Milan Rastislav Štefánik (1880–1919), a Slovak politician, astronomer, and general of the French army. Together with the Czech political leaders Tomáš G. Masaryk (1850−1937) and Eduard Beneš (1884−1948), Štefánik founded, in Paris in 1916, the Czechoslovak National Council, the supreme authority of the Czechoslovakian exiles during the World War I. The present-day Czech Republic and the Republic of Slovakia were at that time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and many exiles sought to advance the cause of an independent Czechoslovakia after the war by supporting the Allied Powers (Britain, France, and Russia) against Austria-Hungary and its ally Germany. Štefánik organized Czechoslovak legions in Serbia, Italy, Romania, and Russia to fight on the side of the Allies, and he became the first Czechoslovak minister of war. He died in a plane crash while returning to Slovakia shortly after the end of the war. The identity of the photographer is unknown, but the process used is a ferrotype (also called tintype), which involved taking a positive image on a thin iron or tin plate.

Music for the Feast of Saint George

During the 1432 session of the General Court of the Principality of Catalonia, held in Barcelona, it was decided that a chapel to Saint George should be constructed at the Palau de la Diputació del General (Palace of the Principality of Catalonia, now called Palau de Generalitat de Catalunya, or Palace of Government of Catalonia). Saint George is the patron saint of the Diputació del General. At the end of the 16th century, the new chapel—today known as Saint George’s Hall—was built in order to accommodate the mass of people who would gather on the days of great celebrations, such as April 23, Saint George’s Day. This manuscript contains the collection of polyphonic religious compositions intended to be sung in celebrations at the chapel. The composer is Joan Pau Pujol (1573−1626), who presented the works to the ecclesiastic, civil, and military deputies of the Diputació del General in 1623−26. According to musicologist Higini Anglès (1888−1969), the manuscript is in Pujol’s hand. A composer and organist, Pujol was a key figure in Catalan music of the 17th century. He is regarded as the link between the later Renaissance and the early Baroque in Catalonia. He was chapel master at the cathedrals of Tarragona (1593−95), El Pilar de Zaragoza (1595−1612), and Barcelona (1612−26) and wrote many religious and secular works, using polychorality with impeccable technique featuring the combination of solo voices and choirs with a rich counterpoint. Pujol was also known internationally, and many of his works were found in outstanding songbooks in different countries. In spite of this, Pujol’s compositions were not published, and only at the beginning of the 20th century were his works recovered by the musicologist Felip Pedrell (1841−1922). This manuscript is distinguished by the accuracy of its musical notations. The first four initials are illuminated in the incipit of each voice, the first one having the figure of Saint George. The binding is made of brown leather with gilts, with the Cross of Saint George (the coat of arms of the Diputació del General of Catalonia) engraved on the front cover. The document is from the magnificient collection gathered by the composer and bibliophile Joan Carreras i Dagas (1828−1900). Subsequently, Pedrell designated it number 389 in the first volume of the collection catalogue, published in 1908.

Five Books of Poems by the Hungarian Royal Poet Laureate Master Ján Bocatius

M. Ioannis Bocatii Poëtӕ Laureati Cӕʃarei Hvngaridos Libri Poematvm V (Five books of poems by the Hungarian Royal Poet Laureate Master Ján Bocatius) is a collection of occasional poems in Latin by the historian, diplomat, and poet Ioannes, or Ján, Bocatius (1568–1621). The five books in the work are (1) martial and war poems; (2) encomiastic poems (poems of praise); (3) nuptial poems; (4) miscellaneous poems; and (5) funerary poems. Bocatius was a Lusitanian Serb (i.e., Sorb) who, after completing his studies at the end of the 16th century, became a teacher in the Slovak towns of Banská Štiavnica, Prešov, and Košice. In Košice he was also a member of the city council, a notary, and later the mayor. He helped to spread the Protestant Reformation in eastern Slovakia and took part in the uprising of the Hungarian Calvinist nobelman Štefan Bočkai (also seen as István Bocsai) against Hapsburg and Roman Catholic authority. Bocatius was imprisoned in Prague in 1606−11 for his part in the uprising. In 1611−18 he again taught in Košice. In 1618 he became a librarian in Alba Iulia (Romania). He also acted as a diplomat in the service of Gabriel Betlen. Bocatius’s collection of occasional poems was published in 1599 by the printer Jakub Klös (died 1618), founder of a printery in Bardejov (1598–1618), which focused on the publishing and printing of literary works, small prints, and religious treatises by contemporary Slovak authors.