500th Anniversary of Armenian Printing Celebrated by TCA


By Kevork Keushkerian

ALTADENA, Calif. — The Tekeyan Cultural Association (TCA) Pasadena-Glendale Chapter hosted a lecture on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of Armenian printing. It took place on Sunday, March 4, at the Beshgeturian Center. Rev. Dr. Zaven Arzoumanian was the guest lecturer. Very Rev. Kegham Zakarian and George Mandossian, vice president of TCA’s Central Board of Directors, were among the attendees.

Kevork Keushkerian, who made the opening remarks, noted that a unique exhibition dedicated to the 500th anniversary of the first Armenian printed book will be held in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC for three months, starting in April. He then introduced Arzoumanian, who spoke next.

Arzaoumanian was born in Cairo, Egypt. In 1949, he went to the seminary of Antelias in Lebanon and was ordained a celibate priest in 1954. After serving in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for two years as the parish priest of the Armenian Church there, he went to London to further his studies.

Arzoumanian came to the United States in 1962 and served as parish priest in the Eastern Diocese for 40 years — first in Philadelphia and then in Boca Raton, Fla. He was then invited to the Western Diocese, where he served as the parish priest of St. Gregory Armenian Church in Pasadena for three years. He is now retired and lives with his wife, Joyce, in Glendale.

Arzoumanian received his doctorate in eastern languages and history from Columbia University in 1983. He is well known for publishing the History of the Armenian Church from 1900 to 1995. This is considered to be the continuation of Patriarch Malachia Ormanian’s famous Azkabadoum.

Arzoumanian began his lecture by discussing the origin of Armenian printing. The first Armenian book was printed in 1512 in Venice, Italy, by Hagop Meghabard. It was a secular book called Ourpatakeerk. This was followed by five other books, including the Liturgical Book, which is placed on the alter and used by the priest during Divine Liturgy. Arzoumanian noted that Venice should not be confused with the Mkhitarian Monastery on St. Lazarus Island, which came into existence some 200 years later.

The first Armenian Bible was printed in Amsterdam, Holland, exactly 150 years after the printing of the first Armenian book in Venice. It was printed by Vosgan Vartabed Yerevantsi and commissioned by the Holy See of Echmiadzin.

After Amsterdam, the printing of Armenian books continued in Istanbul, Turkey, before a print shop was established in the Holy See of Echmiadzin. Arzoumanian concluded his lec- ture with a short question-and-answer session.

Afterwards, Keushkerian recited related sections from a poem dedicated to Mesrob Mashdots by Siamanto. Khatchig Nahabedian then performed a song dedicated to the Armenian language. The evening ended with a light reception for the audience.

TCA Pasadena-Glendale chapter’s next event will be the commemoration of the Armenian troubadour Sayat Nova’s 300th birthday. It will be held on Sunday, May 20, at the Beshgeturian Center; guest lecturer will be musicologist-conductor Vatsche Barsoumian, the director of Lark Musical Society.