NAASR’s Mardigian Library contains innumerable works of literature translated into Armenian from many languages. The works translated span from ancient to contemporary writings, and the focus of this feature will be on the 19th and first half of the 20th century when tremendous efforts were made to make non-Armenian (mainly western) literary works accessible to the growing Armenian readership in Eastern Armenia, Western Armenia, and throughout the diaspora.
In this, the second part of our Treasures of NAASR's Mardigian Library feature on vintage Armenian textbooks, grammars, and readers, we present 9 publications spanning from the early 1920s through 1950, published in Lebanon, Turkey, France, the U.S., and Argentina.
Over the course of decades—indeed, centuries—innumerable Armenian textbooks have been published for the purpose of providing instruction in the Armenian language or more general topics to young readers. A substantial number of such books have made their way into NAASR’s Mardigian Library. Although no longer used for instruction, they are informative sources of information on past pedagogical practices, as well as frequently being charming and beautiful objects in their own right. Many, if not most, of these books show signs of being heavily used and are well worn. Far from diminishing their importance, this evidence of use, likely, in some cases, by multiple generations, has become part of the meaning conveyed to us today by these books.
May 28 marks the establishment of the Republic of Armenia in 1918, providing us with the opportunity to look back on two monuments to the short-lived but historically important republic: Hayastani Hanrapetutʻiwn (ՀայաստանիՀանրապետութիւն = The Republic of Armenia), by Simon Vrats‘ean (ՍիմոնՎրացեան, also Vratsian or Vratzian; we will use the spelling Vratsian in this piece), published in 1928 in Paris, and the second revised edition published in 1958 in Beirut; and Richard G. Hovannisian’s 4-volume The Republic of Armenia (1971, 1982, 1996). We will also touch upon the very direct connection between these two landmark publications and their respective authors.
NAASR's Mardigian Library has over 30,000 books published over the past three and a half centuries. This includes titles published almost everywhere Armenians have lived in any significant numbers, including major centers of Armenian life (and publishing) such as Yerevan, Etchmiadzin, Tiflis, St. Petersburg, Jerusalem, Constantinople, Smyrna, New Julfa, Beirut, Cairo, Sofia, Venice, Paris, Marseilles, New York, Boston, Fresno, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires and many others. In a way, these books contain the story of the Armenian diaspora itself.