Treasures from Eastern Europe: The Vicious Proofreader

04 December 2020

The University of Warsaw Library stores a unique copy of the first printed translation of the Gospel of St. Matthew into Polish.

Initiative of Jan Seklucjan

The book was published in 1554 in Królewiec (Konigsberg; today Kaliningrad) on Jan Seklucjan’s (ca. 1510-1578) initiative, with the financial support of duke Albert Hohenzollern. Seklucjan was famous Polish Reformation writer, Lutheran theologian and promoter of Evangelical religious literature in Polish. He entrusted the task of Gospel translation to Stanisław Murzynowski (ca. 1528-1553), Polish author, editor and translator. Murzynowski prepared his translation, meant to be used especially for Evangelicals in the Duchy of Prussia, basing mainly on the Greek version by Erasmus Roterodamus.

Traces of Severe Proofreading

The special value and uniqueness of the book stored in the University of Warsaw Library are evidenced by numerous traces of the severe proofreading.

On the title page we can see the handwritten dedication left by editor, Jan Seklucjan: “Lege et candido pectore iudica” (“Read and judge with a pure heart”). The dedication was addressed to Jan Malecki (ca. 1482-1567), theologist, translator and printer, who was chosen by duke Albrecht  to be the proofreader of Murzynowski’s translation. Unfortunately, Malecki (who competed with Seklucjan in the publishing and translation field for many years) did not comply with the request for an honest judgement of the text. Due to the fact that Malecki was in the middle of preparing his own translation of the New Testament, the proofreading of Murzynowski’s work was extremely critical and severe. Having added extensive Polish and Latin marginalia including numerous, sometimes malicious comments, Malecki send the book to the duke Albrecht.


This unique copy from the Königsberg Royal Castle library was acquired in 1823 by Samuel Bogumił Linde, the first director of the University of Warsaw Library.



– Martyna Osuch, University of Warsaw Library

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