Abgar Tokhatetsi – The Second Armenian Book Printer

Abgar Tokhatetsi

After Hakob Meghapart’s contribution to the birth of Armenian printing in 1512 in Venice, Abgar Tokhatetsi undertook to further develop Armenian book publishing. This happened in the middle of the same century in the same city.

Abgar Dpir (“teacher”) Tokhatetsi was the second Armenian book printer after Hakob Meghapart. He was born around 1520 in Eudokia or Tokhat (Western Armenia) and is thus also known as Abgar Yevdokatsi or Abgar Safar Tohattsi.

It is known that Tokhatetsi was a descendant of the Artsruni royal dynasty. He thus was a clergyman and a socio-political figure in medieval Armenia.

In 1562, a secret council was held in Sebastia led by Catholicos Mikael I Sebastatsi where Abgar Dpir also participated. The Catholicos sent a delegation to Rome led by Tokhatetsi to negotiate the liberation of Armenia and some religious issues.

On behalf of the Pope, Abgar Tokhatetsi together with priest Alexander composes the “Scripture of the Faith.” This work was to be presented to a commission in Venice. Here, Abgar Tokhatetsi for political reasons expressed allegiance to the Pope and emphasized that the differences between the Armenian and Catholic Churches were insignificant.

In 1565, Tokhatetsi founded a printing house in Venice and published the one-page “Calendar” and “Psalter”. It is noteworthy that this work has been erroneously considered the first Armenian printed book and Abgar Tokhatetsi the first Armenian book printer until the 1880s.

By 1569, Tokhatetsi would publish several key works, including the alphabet of the Armenian language under the title “Grammar or Alphabet” (“Քերականություն կամ այբբենարան”).

In 1567, Abgar Tokhatetsi moved to Constantinople and brought his printing house along with him. In the church of St. Nicholas, he together with his son Sultanshah founded the first Armenian printing house. This house would publish five books for daily church services – “Book of Liturgies and Divine Services” (1568), “Menology” (1568, lists the holidays of each month), “Tagharan” (“Songbook”, 1568), “Simple Calendar” (1568), and “Mashtots” (1569).

Unfortunately, there is no information on the further activities of Abgar Dpir. It is known that in 1569, Tokhatetsi moved to Etchmiadzin. He would pass away in 1572.

Lusine Melkonyan

“Psalter”. Venice, 1565
Abgar Tohatetsi
In 1564, the Armenian book printer Abgar Tohatsu introduced his son Sultanshah to the Pope as delegate to the Catholicos of All Armenians Michael. They are depicted in national costumes.

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