Estonian-language Bibles and historical graphic art at the Mikkel Museum
Art Museum of Estonia
Press release no. 102
1 November 2013
On Saturday, 2 November, the exhibition In the Beginning Was the Word. Historical Bibles from Jaan Parusk’s Collection opens at the Mikkel Museum and marks the 275th anniversary of the publication of the first Estonian-language Bible. Besides Estonian-language ecclesiastical writings, Parusk’s collection also includes a re-published edition of the Luther Bible in German and rare examples of Orthodox ecclesiastical and liturgical literature.
“The Estonian-language Bible is the root text of Estonia’s book, literature and art cultures. Along with its spiritual and cultural history significance, this exhibition reveals the aesthetic world of the historical publications’ typography and binding art,” said Kerttu Männiste, the curator of the exhibition.
The exhibition invites the viewer to see the great value of historical publications as works of applied art. The exposition provides the opportunity to observe the development of leather-working techniques and ornamental motifs, and to better understand the volume of work and the master craftsmanship that these publications require, and the position held by books in readers’ homes. A selection of early Western European Bible-themed graphic art from the collections of the Art Museum of Estonia and the University of Tartu Library is also included in the exhibition, which illustrates the process of translating words into visual art.
“The Mikkel Museum is perfectly suited for exhibiting Jaan Parusk’s Bible collection because, just like the collector Johannes Mikkel, who surrounded himself with works of art that carried the spirituality of Western Europe, Jaan Parusk’s collection is an oasis of traditional Western cultural values and a record of the development of the Estonian language and culture,” commented Aleksandra Murre, the Director of the Kadriorg Art Museum.
Jaan Parusk started collecting historical Estonian-language Bibles in the late 1960s. The first acquisition for the collection was a copy of the second edition of an Estonian-language Bible published in 1773. During the next thirty years, volumes from almost all the numbered editions of Estonian-language Bibles were acquired for his collection from antique shops in Tallinn, Tartu and Viljandi, along with a rich selection of sermon books and songbooks. The collector himself has said that his motive for collecting was the desire to provide safer preservation conditions for culturally valuable publications during the Soviet period.
The exhibition was organised in collaboration with the University of Tartu Library. The exhibition is supported by the Cultural Endowment of Estonia.