National Library of the Czech Republic

  • our website
  • main catalogue
  • eds katalog
You are here: Home About us Cultural events Exhibitions Exhibit of the Month - January 2022

Exhibit of the Month - January 2022

January 5 - February 1, 2022 Ante-room to the General reading Room (gate A), open Monday to Saturday 9 am - 7 pm (see opening hours of the NL)
Admission 10 CZK (free for the NL readers)

Bible of Halle

It is the evangelical redaction of the biblical text in Czech. The first edition of the Bible of Halle was published as early as 1722, the third edition followed in 1766. The Bible was printed abroad, exactly in Halle, Germany, in the Printing Office of the Orphanage (Waisenhaus in German) at the expense of Silesian bookseller Samuel Trautmann (active 1727-1751). It was impossible to print the Bible in Bohemia, since from 1628, when the Renewed Land´s Constitution was enacted, all non-Catholic confessions were prohibited in the Czech lands. The Bible of Halle was intended especially for protestants who fled from Bohemia and settled in today´s Germany or Poland. Apart from that, it was also secretly distributed to the Czech territory, where it belonged to prohibited literature and there were severe punishments for its reading. It could be used legally in Bohemia as late as after 1781, when religious freedom was declared by the Patent of Toleration.

The exhibited copy probably shared the similar fate of „a prohibited book“. Hower, its „biography“ is even more colourful. The original owner of the Bible was an unknown Evangelical from Hrubá Vrbka. This village is situated in South Moravia close to the border with Slovakia, not far from the town of Strážnice.

In spite of all period Counter-Reformation measures, a numerous minority of secret non-Catholics survived in Hrubá Vrbka. They joined the Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in 1781 and shortly after Czechoslovakia was established in 1918, they merged into the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren.

It is also interesting that Hrubá Vrbka is located in an ethnographic region called Horňácko (Upper Moravian Slovakia). To this day, the region is well-known for its rich folklore tradition, reflected in local folk customs, songs and especially traditional costumes. Characteristic of the Horňácko region is, among other, the textile embroidery featuring itself by different abstract ornamental motifs and moderate colours, combining predominant yellow and, to a lesser extent, black or blue with white. It was this specific ethnographic affiliation and historical religious conditions in their birthplace that the non-Catholics from Hrubá Vrbka decided to draw attention to in the donation for President Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. Aware of his inclination to Evangelical faith and family ties to the South Moravian region, they reached for the Bible of Halle. They made a cover with six tassels for it, which they richly decorated with embroidery featuring patterns, in Czech popularly called na půł růže, lubina, na makové vršky a okładky. Then they wrote the following dedication into the book „Prvnimu Prezidentovi Česko Bratrska Evandělicka Cirkev v Hrubnj Vrbce“ /To the First President the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren in Hruba Vrbka/ (see picture 2). The Bible may have been handed over to Masaryk in 1919, when a delegation from Horňácko region in folk costumes visited him at Prague Castle, or between 1924 and 1928, when Masaryk visited the town of Hodonín and the region of Břeclav and also met representatives of nearby villages. The Bible was then kept in Masaryk´s private library that later went into administration of the Institute of T. G. Masaryk. From there it was donated to the then National Library of the CR.  The new shelf mark 54 S 284 was assigned to the unique copy, which was written down into the general card catalogue by librarian and bibliographer Bedřiška Wižďálková in 1961.

NK ČR shelf mark 54 S 284 (for the title leaf see picture 1), 2nd edition, 1745

Jan 16, 2022
Facebook Twitter Google+ RSS