Dusan Mrdjenovic and Veljko Topalovic holding one one of the first completed copies of the Miroslav`s Gospel - Facsimile Edition.
Editors, Dusan Mrdjenovic, Veljko Topalovic and Branislav Brkic, at work in Africa.
The editors with the crew at the 1994 photo-shoot of the Miroslav`s Gospel , at the National Museum in Belgrade. Front row Ljubisav Milunovic ( in charge of the reconstruction of the front and back covers), Branka Ivanic ( curator), Dusan Mrdjenovic (editor). Back row: Security guard, Veselin Milunovic (photographer) and Veljko Topalovic (editor).
The same group (minus the security guard) at the roll-out ceremony at SANU in 2000.
Machine minders, compositors and their assistants in front of the S. A. Litho printing press in Jo 'burg.
Master binders and assistants in front of the Haste Book Binders plant, where the binding of the Facsimile Edition was initiated in accordance with the designs of Radomir Eric.
The extraordinary story of MJ, as well as the editors' setbacks and mishaps inspired an American film crew to produce a feature hyphen length documentary, entitled The Great Adventure. The ŤEasy E Filmsť crew (directed by: Miodrag Certic; screen play: Mia Certic; camera: Zoran Hostater) filmed the roll hyphen out event of the Facsimile Edition inside the Jo 'burg Church of the Temple Faith Ministries, right in the heart of Soweto. One of the church's ministers is Desmond Lewis, also the main machinist at the SA Litho plant.
The promotion in the Serbian Academy of Science and Art (SANU)
On February 29, 2000, a gala promotion of this edition was held in Belgrade, in the great hall of the Serbian Academy of Science and Art (SANU). The speakers at the promotion were:
Academician Dejan Medakovic, president of the SANU,
Academician Miroslav Pantic, vice president of the SANU,
Academician Predrag Palavestra, secretary of the Language and Literature Department of the SANU,
Academician Niksa Stipcevic, the SANU library administrator, and, on behalf of the editors, Dusan Mrdjenovic, editor-in-chief AIZ DOSIJE.
Academician Dejan Medakovic
President of the Serbian Academy of Science and Arts
Academician Miroslav Pantic
The vice president of the SANU
Coming to the world of such monument of spirituality, language, art and culture of one nation, such antiquity, such historical and national significance for Serbs, in each and every detail similar to the original, in such splendid suit, glorious and justly eminent,
Miroslav's Gospel is more than a memorable event, and even more so remarkable that it would be regarded as a genuine holiday in every nation and celebrated with great joy all around the world. Miroslavs Gospel, made during the last decades of the distant XII century for the "great and honored duke Miroslav, the son of Zavida", the brother of Stefan Nemanja and ruler of Hum, for the first time raise the golden seed of Serbian speech and orthography between the piles of ancient Slavic language and script. Since the monks of Chilandari monastery, after centuries of keeping it with highest respect and jealousy, gave it as a gift to the Serbian king Aleksandar Obrenovic who brought it to Serbia, this sanctity of Serbian past and culture sometimes had had dramatic and tragic faith. Moreover, during the two world wars, the Gospel was in real danger of falling into wrong hands or of being lost forever. Even during the past few years it was under a threat to disappear completely, from which it was fortunately saved. Regrettably, the feeling to celebrate the issuing of such a glorious cultural monument, which should be marked as a festive day in the life of our culture, was not shared with the organizers of the Book Fair two years ago. The publication was presented in a very modest way, one could say almost timidly and stealthily, and the expected ceremony and celebration were lacking. Instead of appreciation and acknowledgement, dedicated and daring, the editors and publishers of this magnificent book were welcomed with doubts and accusations, even censures and confiscation. The edition was proclaimed a pirate copy and even banned by the Cultural Monuments Protection Law and condemned to oblivion. Some thought that this edition of Miroslavs Gospel stood in the way, precluded and disabled the state to publish its own edition, although a board of our supreme experts had worked very long on that cultural monument of the highest degree. But since it was a difficult and very long procedure to acquire the means and methods, the publishing of the states edition was nowhere in sight for years. Doubts, disapproval, prohibition - like a curse - followed this published edition, realized with enormous effort, strain and hardship. Then, few days ago, at a press conference held in the Ministry of culture, Zeljko Simic, then minister, announced the cancellation of all unjust censures and bans of this book. And today, owing to this event, Miroslav's Gospel is in our hands in all its magnitude, so we can admire it - and it is never too late for that. For the first time this book has seen the light of day in this eminent house of science and art, which, until the present day, has contributed not only to the research of Miroslav's Gospel, but also to its publishing. On that occasion, it is good to remember the first printed segments from the gospel that Ljubomir Stojanovic, honored member and secretary of the Academy at that time, brought from Mt. Athos, despite the unreasonable distrust of Chilandari elders, and later published in the Academy's journal Monument. Owing to Stojanovics care and concern, the only facsimile edition we had until the present was pressed in a printing-office in Vienna at the expense of the last ruler from the Obrenovic royal family. Stojanovic's edition of Miroslav's Gospel is in fact photolithographic and has a facsimile form only to a minor extent. It mainly consists of black and white photographed pages, reduced in size, and done in inferior technical quality. However, even if those were the only changes, we would have always remembered and referred to Miroslav's Gospel by the name given by Stojan Novakovic, one of the greatest presidents of SANU, a historian and Serbian official.
Yet in this moment we have a replica of Miroslav's Gospel that is literally identical to its original. This book reproduces with utter authenticity every page, every characteristic of ancient manuscript, every letter, initial, its size and shape, color and shade, every detail of its content, even the binding. It required a lot of effort, hardship and admirable ability of the editors. Let us say their names with gratitude: Dusan Mrdjenovic, Veljko Topalovic, and Branislav Brkic. Let us also mention their numerous associates and assistants, printers in Johannesburg in faraway South Africa with their outstanding skills and abilities. Only they know how much hard work and self-discipline and hardship this must have cost, how much invested effort and pain, how much suffering and inevitable misunderstandings with everyone, even with themselves, how many long and exhausting trips to Johannesburg and back, and how much sweat. Only they know and only they will remember I am sure, for as long as they live. But I am also very sure that they will find consolation in their work, consolation in the awareness and knowledge about the quality of the work they have performed, for the cultural and national benefit of the people, and, I am sure, for their own souls.
In this precious and solemn moment for all of us, all we could do to recompense for their genuine and great accomplishment is to congratulate them with all our hearts, and thank them for the blessed effort they put into such a great work, honoring Serbian publishing.
Academician Predrag Palavestra
Secretary of SANUs Department of Language and Literature
If our nation and culture had had more luck, this day today would have been the festival of Serbian civilization. The first and the oldest written monument of Serbian language and literature, Miroslav's Gospel, from the XII century, in the technically most modern facsimile edition, is accessible again to science and to a wide range of readers and users. We would regard this hard and splendid work as a national accomplishment, especially as it could help the religious awakening and mutual self-recognition of todays population. No better moment than when all the Serbs need self-consciousness, when they need to regain their self-esteem, when they need to come to their senses and see who they are, where they are from and how long they go back. We would set aside all misfortunes, mistakes and wanderings, clashes of competence that occurred while working on this edition, since they were neither the only ones nor the worst in a damaged society and an unsettled country, and try to use what we have in our hands to support our weary cultural self-conscience and our fallen national dignity. We could add the whole perplexed and obscure story about this book and this edition to already obscure dramatic and tangled history of the first Serbian Gospel writer. It seems, however, that even for eight hundred years the Serbian nation could not learn anything from the Gospel.
There are two major reasons why we should act this way. The first reason is that Miroslav's Gospel is the proof of long duration and significance of Serbian religious culture in the Middle Balkans. With its orthographic and calligraphic characteristics, the Gospel links the important origins of old literacy of Zeta and Hum - the Glagolitic tradition from Macedonia with Cyrillic orthography of Raska, which extended across Zahumlje to Bosnia, with solid traces of ethnic language in it. It connected Bosnia with "other Serbian states and literary centers", which "stretched across Ras or Prizren in Kosovo to monasteries spread north and east from Skopje, even all the way to Mt. Athos in the south". Due to the influence of national speech, which could be easily recognized in the manuscript of disciple Grigorije and other creators and rewriters of Miroslav's Gospel, Serbian religious culture adhered equally on all Balkan regions with Serbian as the dominant language, in historical continuity of Serbian literacy, undoubtedly conceived before the oldest preserved monument of XII century, and finally, through different forms of literature preserved to this day.
The other motive to support and appreciate this cultural accomplishment, this technically immaculate edition of Miroslav"s Gospel, is implied in the beauty and rarity of the book. This facsimile edition of Miroslav"s Gospel is the perfect copy of an invaluable manuscript from XII century. More so, by adjoining the long detached and alienated page of Petrograd, the edition restored its original form known and kept for centuries, perhaps even from the time of St. Sava, at Chilandari monastery. Thanks to computer processing and state of the art technology, the edition reached the highest boundaries of modern publishing, and as far as the perfection of press and equipment is concerned, one can only compare it with the most expensive bibliographic editions that are still made today only in Italy and Switzerland. It took a lot of skill, effort, patience and persistence, severe renunciation and preparedness to bitter tolerance to sit in the unknown printing house in faraway Johannesburg, half way across the world, like once in the quiet script-room of the St. Peters church in Bijelo Polje, and try to put the pieces together, all the colors and shadows, blots and spills on frail parchment, lines of harshly printed Cyrillic letters, gilded initials, decorations, overlaps and miniatures. They all shine now in front of our eyes with the sacred divine peace and tranquility, which we need today more than ever, so we can return to ourselves and regain our self-conscience in the time of new temptations. Miroslavs Gospel gives itself to the Serbs for the third time, and will prove again who they are, where they come from, and what they are like.
The editor in chief of AIZ DOSIJE
It seems that replicas also share the faith of their original in some particular way. The facsimile double, like Miroslav's Gospel itself, experienced adventures none of the participants in this work ever dreamed of. Now the year 1993 seems so distant, when we initiated this work in Belgrade by starting to collect material for the additional books.
Out of various reasons, for more than one century we had to anticipate this complete and authentic facsimile edition of the oldest Serbian book written in Cyrillic (we know that Miroslavs Gospel was brought to Belgrade in 1896). At the end of this millennium, the book finally came out for the first time, genuinely reproduced, with color pages, guided initials and a reconstructed existing binding.
It was destined to carry out the technical part of the job on the other side of the world. In early 1997, we found ourselves under the unknown sky of Africa, where the only thing we could recognize was the Southern Cross. Like an iceberg that hides its true shapes and dimensions in the water, so one could not presuppose and perceive them until one plunges into the ocean's depth, the greatness of this project appeared in front of us in its true size, bigger each day, as we sank deeper into the assignment.
Printing preparation alone lasted more than a year. We worked practically without break, 24 hours a day. The printing alone started after that (facsimile, additional books, ownership agreement), then the binding arrangement (buying of leather, wooden panels, founding of metal ornaments and buckles) and finally binding of first copies
Many years passed and we crossed thousands of kilometers with the Gospel. During these seven years we were the characters of a novel and the hero was our book that was creating its own destiny and that started with the verse: "In the beginning there was word "
We crossed over 300 thousand kilometers, which is in fact the distance between the Earth and the Moon, and here we are, at the end.
And what was our goal?
We made three hundred authentic replicas of Miroslav's Gospel. Some of them already found their place on three continents, in special collections of the greatest libraries in the world, such as the Congress Library in Washington or the British National Library; in libraries in Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, together with the facsimiles of Leonardo da Vincis Codex and Guttenberg's Bible
I have the honor of thanking all of those that helped us achieve this goal. I do so in the name of the publishers, the AIZ Dosije and Sluzbeni list SRJ, and especially in the name of the editors, Veljko Topalovic, Branislav Brkic and myself. A time limit and the protocol of this promotion do not allow me to mention everyone, a couple of hundred names, from the most respectable scientists, the finest craftsmen, to all those "ordinary" people, who provided us with their services for all these years.
Like so many times before, we received invaluable help and precious support from this venerable institution, the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Art, the SANU. The Academy recognized the importance of such an edition from the beginning, despite different and sometimes malicious interpretations of our work. Strangely enough, such comments came from those who did not have any rational reason to provide interpretations, and we will forget them soon so we can promptly concentrate on new editions.
I would use this occasion to express my satisfaction for successful overcoming of all the problems that finally proved to be just misunderstandings. To our mutual satisfaction, the agreement with the Ministry of culture has been signed at last, and we hope to work together on the world promotion of Serbian culture in the future. Due to the suggestion of the editors, and the compliance of the publishers and sponsors, issue No. 001 will be displayed at a public auction. All the funds collected on that occasion will be used for the purchase of a protective cabinet, in which the original Gospel would be kept in the future. At least this is something we owe to this magnificent book for a long time.
I have the enormous pleasure, before this assembly, to sincerely thank the reviewer of this whole project, Academician Dejan Medakovic, as well as the proficient advisors - academicians Miroslav Pantic and Predrag Palavestra. Their help was of great importance to us in every moment. It consisted of friendly advice and guidance, specific appendages, texts and documents, so our additional books acquired the significance of a very valuable and future compulsory professional volume about the oldest Serbian book written in Cyrillic script.
In conclusion, allow me, on behalf of the editors, to acknowledge our colleagues journalists. They monitored our work for years and all of them, almost without exception, objectively and honestly informed their readers, viewers and listeners about everything. And finally, I thank you all for giving this edition your support today.
Academician Dejan Medakovic, president of the Serbian Academy of Science and Art (SANU), delivering his address during the Facsimile Edition's roll-out ceremony at Academy Grand Hall;
Seated (left to right): On behalf of the editors, Dusan Mrdjenovic, editor-in-chief AIZ DOSIJE; Academician Miroslav Pantic, vice president of the SANU; Academician Predrag Palavestra, secretary of the Language and Literature Department of the SANU; Academician Niksa Stipcevic, the SANU library administrator.
Academician Medakovic introducing the accompanying book of Commentaries. Academy members Pantic, palavestra and Stipcevic also spoke on this occasion.
Veljko Topalovic at the roll-out event at the Vukova Zaduzbina.
Veljko Topalovic and Dusan Mrdjenovic, presenting Miroslav`s Gospel Facsimile Edition to H..R .H. Aleksandar II Karadjordjevic, at The White Court, in Belgrade.
Roll-out event during the International Book Fair in Belgrade 1998. Despite great interest in the first Serbian Facsimile, the Ministry of Culture did not issue a permit to display Miroslav`s Gospel Facsimile Edition at the International Book Fair. In the event it was displayed at the far end of Hall #14, thanks to the kindness of fellow publishers, who closed their eyes to the Ministrys omission.;
Veljko Topalovic and Mira Adanja at one of the roll-out events during the 1998 Book Fair. Throughout the Fair, fellow publishers frequently offered the use of their stands so that MJ could be displayed for several hours a day.
Mr. Steva Ognjenovic, whose experience helped us a lot during very begining of printing process in Africa.
Academy member Pantic together with Mr. Dragomir Acovic, a member of the Facsimile Edition editorial board, at the Fair event. For hours on end, visitors ranging from renowned historians to small children queued to view the Facsimile Edition.
Ana Topalovic carefully studies the reason for her fathers long absences.
The monks of the Hilandar monastery receiving a copy of Miroslav`s Gospel Facsimile Edition during a ceremony at the National Museum in Belgrade.
Roll-out events in Kotor (left) and San Francisco.
The roll-out events at the Bijelo Polje and Ostrog monasteries.
The roll-out events at the St. Sava Church, in London.
Publishing accomplishment of the century
THE PATRIARCHS BLESSING
Dr. Dimso Peric
Professor of Church Law at the Faculty of Law, University of Belgrade
On September 18 of this year, in the Patriarchal Palace in Belgrade, His Beatitude Patriarch Pavle admitted Veljko Topalovic, the director, and Dusan Mrdjenovic, editor in chief of the AIZ Dosije from Belgrade, who published the facsimile edition of Miroslav's Gospel.
The printing of the facsimile edition of Miroslav's Gospel was finished this year on Vidovdan, in Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa, in the most modern graphic technique that exists in the world today.
The editorial work of this publication started back in 1993 and Veljko Topalovic, Dusan Mrdjenovic and Branislav Brkic generously embarked on it. They put a lot of effort into preparing this glorious edition, and obviously they did it out of passion for work of their glorious ancestors.
The editors wrote: The life path of this book, which acquired the status of a relic since its creation, was unusually rough. It appears that only with God's help it managed to avoid the destiny of many burned, lost and stolen Serbian valuables. It seems as if the echo of ancient times reaches from its name and the very notion that Serbs preserved a precious relic from thieves, fire, enemies, oblivion, themselves, enraptures us
The Magna Charta Libertatum+, written in 1215 in the Latin language is only few decades younger than Miroslavs Gospel. Vuk Karadzic was right when he wrote: And we are not even aware of what we have in our own house.
It is not a coincidence that the facsimile edition of this sacred book has appeared in this moment. Regardless of price, every national institution should obtain this edition.
August 12, 1999
Almost a year after it was completed in Johannesburg [South Africa], the facsimile edition of Miroslav's Gospels has not been granted entry into Serbia, although it has already found home in some of the best known libraries in the world.
Serbian culture will enter the next millennium with the ban of the facsimile edition of its oldest book in the Cyrillic script and its best known written relic - Miroslav's Gospels. This takes the first place in the history of our disgrace, which, for years, has been held by the ban of the books by the writer of such national stature as Slobodan Jovanovic. An attempt, in 1985, to publish his [Jovanovic's] selected works, was thwarted by a personal intervention of the then boss of the Belgrade Communists, as well as the trainee for the future Serbian leader - Slobodan Milosevic. (In Belgrade, he said, we cannot print the books of a war criminal. However, Jovanovic's books were published five years later [when Milosevic was the president of Serbia].) The facsimile edition of Miroslav's Gospels was imprisoned in 1998 by Milosevic's Minister of Culture, Nada Popovic-Perisic, while her successor, Zeljko Simic, has seen to it and that the ban is not lifted to this day and seems intent on keeping it into the next century. In this case, the person who actually ordered the ban [Milosevic], remains anonymous. (We say who "actually ordered" because Mrs. Popovic-Perisic did not even have enough political clout to replace the then director of the National Theater.) The Milosevic-Markovic family began their career with the Party anathema of the alleged anti-communist books [those by Mr. Jovanovic], and are ending that career by putting on the index librorum prohibitorum . . . the facsimile edition of the book which has all earmarks of a sacred national treasure.
Two reasons compelled us to return to the story of Miroslav's Gospels, which we reviewed upon its publication at the end of last year, when we reported that the experts in the field overwhelmingly agreed that this was a cultural feat without comparison and, quite likely, the publishing venture of the century. The first is the recent proud announcement that the conservation of the [original of] Miroslav's Gospels, thanks to the efforts and expertise of Dr. Vera Radosavljevic, was (finally) completed. The second reason was the news that such well known libraries as the ones in Princeton and Harvard, as well as the British National Library have either already acquired the facsimile edition of Miroslav's Gospels, or put in an order for it, which means that the book is being distributed in the rest of world; the only place where it is denied entry is the Republic of Serbia. Since, thanks to its cultural bureaucracy, in [Serbia] the book is treated as a pirate edition, its publishers and editors (three young men from Dosije -- Dusan Mrdjenovic, Veljko Topalovic, Branislav Brkic -- could get up to three years in prison. That is, the distribution of this book would be considered illegal and treated by the law as if it were the distribution of an illegal drug. This, of course, means that every copy brought into the country would automatically be impounded.
In our previous article [published at the end of last year], we did not dwell on the sad and ugly story about all the things that [the government] had done to prevent this . . . edition. We . . . hoped that there would be no reason to return to it, that the Serbian cultural government would somehow understand that the publishers of the impeccable facsimile edition of Miroslav's Gospels had completed a job of the greatest national and cultural importance, awaited for more than hundred years.