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date: 29 January 2020

Skaryna [Skorina], Francysk [Francis; Frantsisk] locked

(b Połack [Polotsk], c. 1485; d Prague, c. 1552).
  • Guy Picarda

Extract

[Francis; Frantsisk]

(b Połack [Polotsk], c. 1485; d Prague, c. 1552).

Belarusian printer, woodcutter, scholar and Mystic. After early schooling in Połask, he graduated from Kraków University in 1506 and gained his doctorate in medicine at Padua University in 1513. In the interim he became secretary to John of Denmark (1481–1513) and acquired a grounding in the liberal arts, Classical languages, botany, astronomy, law and heraldry, as well as the mysticism of Pico della Mirandola (1463–94), whom he quoted. He mastered the south German style of woodcut and studied printing in northern Italy. There he moved in circles frequented by Albrecht Dürer, Johann Reuchlin, Paulus Riccius and Agrippa of Nettesheim and, like them, enjoyed the protection of the Habsburg emperor Maximilian. He shared the prevailing interest in allegory and the cabbala that had its centre in Prague, with its erudite Staronová (Old-New) synagogue. There, between 1517 and 1519, Skaryna translated and printed, in a Belarusian version of Old Slavonic, the Psalter and some 22 books of the Old Testament in a handsome typeface interspersed with rebuses and illustrated with a series of woodcuts and arcane decorated initials. Skaryna continued his work in Vilnius (...

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