Gjon Buzuku
| Saturday, 07.07.2007, 12:39 PM |  


Colophon from Gjon Buzuku's "Missal", 1555
Gjon Buzuku, a northern Albanian Catholic cleric, who probably lived in or around Venice, was the author of the first book written and published in Albanian, a 188-page translation of the Catholic missal. Since the frontispiece and the first sixteen pages of the only copy of the book we possess, preserved in the Vatican Library, are missing, we unfortunately know neither its exact title nor its place of publication. In Albanian, it is known simply as the Meshari (The Missal), and was written in 1555. The scant information we do possess about the author comes from the colophon (postscript) of the missal which Buzuku wrote himself in Albanian, not unaware of the historic dimensions of his undertaking.


The first book in Albanian


I, Don John, son of Benedict Buzuku, having often considered that our language had in it nothing intelligible from the Holy Scriptures, wished for the sake of our people to attempt, as far as I was able, to enlighten the minds of those who understand, so that they may comprehend how great and powerful and forgiving our Lord is to those who love him with all their hearts. I beg of you from today on to go to church more often to hear the word of God. If you do this, may our Lord have mercy upon you. Those who have suffered up to now shall suffer no longer. May you be the elect of our Lord. He will be with you at all times if you pursue righteousness and avoid iniquity. By so doing, the Lord shall give you increase, for your harvest shall last until the vintage and the vintage shall last until the time of sowing. I, moreover, wish to finish my work if it please God. I began it in the year 1554 on the 20th day of March and finished it in the year 1555 on the 5th day of January. If perchance mistakes have been made in any part, I pray and beg of those who are more learned than I to correct them. For I should not be surprised if I have made mistakes, this being the very first work, great and difficult to render into our language. Those who printed it had great difficulty and thus could not fail to make mistakes, for I was not able to be with them all the time. Running a church, I had to serve in two places. And now I beg of you all to pray to the Lord on my behalf.

[Excerpt from the ‘Missal’ of Gjon Buzuku, 1555, translated from the Albanian by Robert Elsie, and first published in English by Robert Elsie in History of Albanian literature, New York 1995, vol. 1, p. 47]

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