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BULGARIAN PRINTING IN ISTANBUL / AMERICAN BIBLE HOUSE: Рѣчникъ на свято-то писанiе [Biblie Encyclopedia]



8°. [4 pp.], 620 pp. with black and white illustrations in text, 4 full page colour maps and one double-page map, contemporary red boards with black cloth corners and brown calf spine (minor wear to the binding, small cracks in the gutters of the endpapers, minor foxing, old pencil annotations on front endpapers, overall in a good condition).


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A rare Bulgarian richly illustrated Bible Encyclopedia includes chapters on history, animals, people, history of art etc. The maps at the end depict the Holy Land, Levant and Turkey.

Christian works such as this one were commissioned by American Protestant missionaries in Istanbul, many of which were published by Agop Boyaciyan (1837 – 1914), an ethnic Armenian who was one of the leading commercial publishers in the Ottoman Empire, and who learned printing in United States in the 1860s while under the sponsorship of said missionaries.

These works were the lifeblood of a subtle and very clever propaganda campaign that sought to convert Orthodox Christians in the Balkans and Anatolia to Protestantism.  It is important to remember that Christian proselytizing to Muslims was specifically illegal in the Ottoman Empire (an while this still occurred on a very limited basis, it was risky and seldom effective), thus the main objective of the American Protestant missionaries in the lands of the Sublime Porte, as well as in the newly independent as Bulgaria, was to show ‘wayward’ Christians the ‘right way’ to worship.

Books such as this present here were often accompanied by offering access to high quality education and social services support as part of integrated campaign to welcome locals ‘into the fold’.  Robert College, founded by American missionaries in 1863 in Istanbul was their crowning achievement, as it was responsible for educating an amazing number of future elites of the southeastern Balkans and Turkey.  While the missionaries never succeeded in mass conversion, they did ensure that small but highly influential Protestant communities developed in Turkey and Bulgaria.  Moreover, even those whom they educated but who did not convert to Protestantism still became ‘friends’ of the faith, while still practicing their traditional rites.  Indeed, the influence of American missionaries upon Bulgarian religious and intellectual culture was profound and enduring.


Worldcat mentions the title with no listed examples in the libraries.


References: OCLC 404202473.

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