The First Iranian Printing Press Was Made by Armenians in the 1630s

The First Iranian Printing Press Was Made by Armenians in the 1630sThe Armenian language was one of the earliest languages to use the technology of printing presses. Quite surprisingly, it took over 250 years after the introduction of printing for the first Armenian book to be published in Venice in 1512. In Armenia itself, the first book was published in Etchmiadzin in 1771. This was dictated by the reality of the Armenians whose homeland has been overwhelmed with political and economic instability in the 16th-18th centuries. Plus, the limitations set by the Ottoman and Persian rulers played their own, significant role.

However, it cannot be said that the mentioned kings and sultans outright prohibited Armenian printing in their countries. After all, both the Turkish and Iranian capitals have been big centers of publishing in Armenian. Moreover, the first printing press in Iran was set up in New Julfa, an Armenian district that is now a part of Isfahan, in 1636, though the first Armenian book would be published in 1638.

Khachatur Kesaratsi and his team had to make the parts for the printing press from scratch and without any consultancy from Europe or any blueprints. They even made their own paper (quite an achievement from the standpoint of technology), which reflected how the Armenian Diaspora was at the forefront of the progress at the time. This hard work was the reason behind the 2-year delay between the establishment of the printing press and the publication of the first Armenian book in Iran.

For the next one-two centuries, the wealthy Armenian-Persian community helped fund books around the world, including the first Armenian Bible that was published in Amsterdam in the 1660s.

Constantinople and later Smyrna, both key Ottoman ports, became a hub of the Armenian printing, vying and even restraining the work held in Venice by the Mekhitarist Congregation. The first Armenian printing press ran in Constantinople in 1567. There, Armenians published at least one book every year since 1698, except for five different occasions. The first printing press in Jerusalem (a part of the Ottoman Empire at the time) was set up by Armenians as well much later in 1833.

The 19th century was also remarkable due to the Armenian publishing being established in the United States, started by American missionaries in the 1850s. Haygag Eginian established the first Armenian printing press in the US in New York in 1890. Boston would shortly take over the role of the American hub of Armenian printing, though now, California is the leader of the Armenian-language publishing in the US.


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