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date: 22 February 2024

History of Publishing in Lithuanialocked

History of Publishing in Lithuanialocked

  • Aušra Navickienė, Aušra NavickienėDepartment of Book Science and Publishing, Vilnius University
  • Alma Braziūnienė, Alma BraziūnienėVilnius University
  • Rima Cicėnienė, Rima CicėnienėVilnius University
  • Domas Kaunas, Domas KaunasVilnius University
  • Remigijus MisiūnasRemigijus MisiūnasVilnius University
  •  and Tomas PetreikisTomas PetreikisVilnius University


The history of publishing in Lithuania begins with the early formation of the Lithuanian state in the 13th century. As the state was taking shape over many centuries, its name, government, and territory kept changing along with its culture and the prevailing language of writing and printing. Geographically spread across Central and Eastern Europe, the state was multinational, its multilayered culture shaped by the synthesis of the Latin and Greek civilizations. Furthermore, the state was multiconfessional: both Latin and Orthodox Christianity were evolving in its territory. These historical circumstances led to the emergence of a unique book culture at the end of the manuscript book period (the late 15th and the early 16th century). In the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL), writing centers were formed that later frequently became printing houses; books were written in Latin, Church Slavonic, and Ruthenian, with two writing systems (Latin and Cyrillic) coexisting, and their texts and artistic design reflected the interaction of Western and Eastern Christianity in the GDL. During the period of the printed book, the GDL, though remote from the most important Western European publishing centers, was affected by the general tendencies of the Renaissance, Reformation, Baroque, and Enlightenment culture through the Roman Catholic Church and integration processes. During the 16th–18th centuries, publications in Latin, Ruthenian, and Polish prevailed in the GDL. In the 16th–17th centuries, about half of the press production were Latin books that spread along with Renaissance ideas and the Europeanization of the state, while the Ruthenian written language (one of the official state languages) was developed. After the Union of Lublin was signed in 1569, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth promoted the integration processes in public life, manifested by the emergence of the Polish language and the spread of Polish books as well as the growth of publishing in the 18th century.

In the 16th century, several Lithuanian writers emerged in Prussian Lithuania (or Lithuania Minor), the region of the Prussian state populated by Lithuanians. A unique tradition of writing and publishing had flourished there until the start of World War II. In 1795, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth disappeared from the map of Europe and a larger part of the GDL lands was annexed to the Russian Empire. However, Vilnius, a seat of old printing and book culture traditions, managed to survive as an important publishing center of the eastern periphery of Central Europe, and as a city fostering publishing in the Polish, Hebrew, and Yiddish languages. In the early 19th century, the main forces of authors, publishers, book producers, and distributors of Lithuanian books began to concentrate in Lithuania. In 1918, after the restoration of an independent state of Lithuania, new conditions arose to benefit the development of book publishing. The Lithuanian tradition of publishing, owing to a renewed printing industry and the expansion of a publishing house and bookstore network, significantly strengthened.

Between 1940 and 1990, the country suffered a half-century occupation (the occupation of the Nazi Germans in 1941–1945; the rest was the Soviet occupation) during which the Jewish national minority was destroyed, the Poles were evicted from the Vilnius region, the Germans were expelled from the Klaipėda region, and Sovietization and Russification were enforced in the sphere of civic thought. In Soviet Lithuania, although all the publishing houses belonged to the state and were ideologically controlled, a core of publishing professionals emerged who, after Lithuania regained its independence in 1990, readily joined the publishing industry developing under free market conditions.


  • Slavic and Eastern European Literatures

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