The first publisher of books in Armenian was the priest Hakob Meghapart (Jacob the Sinner). It was between 1512 – 1513 when his publishing house published the first Armenian books.
Meghapart’s first book called “Urbatagirk” (“Book of Friday”) was published in Venice in 1512. By this time, an Armenian community had already existed in Italy for centuries. The year 1512 is considered to be the year of the beginning of the history of Armenian book printing.
This book written in Grabar (Classical Armenian) mainly consists of prayers and recommendations for the treatment of diseases, as well as long quotes from the book “Narek”, a collection of mystical poems written by St. Gregory of Narek (951-1003).
The book features four engravings. Its pages contain headlines ornamented with decorative frames. The text is printed in two colors – black and red, with red used in the book’s beginning and some of its sections.
“Parzatumar” (Armenian liturgical calendar) was the second book printed in Armenian.
“Parzatumar” is also written in Grabar. This book is a synaxaria – a collection of short hagiographies (biographies of saints). The hagiographies were read as teachings on the commemoration days of the saints featured in the book.
The headers in “Parzatumar” resemble those in “Urbatagirk” in their design. A total of sixteen header designs were used: two for each of the eight headings.
Similar frames in a slightly modified form were used in Meghapart’s next book “Pataragatetr” (“The Liturgy Book”). The text of the book is decorated with a combination of red and black inks. At the end of the book, there is a publishing mark.
“Pataragatetr” described the canons of liturgies in the Armenian Apostolic Church. A memorial record can be found at the end of the book: “These sacred letters were written in the year 962 (1513 AD) in the blessed city of Venezh – which is Venice – in Frankistan by the hand of the sinful Hakop. Let whoever reads this book ask God for the absolution of my sins.”
The next book printed by Meghapart’s publishing house was “Aghtark”, a collection of astrological treatises, omens, and articles about medicine and healing.
The fifth book was “Tagharan” (“Songbook”), a collection of songs for “the body and the soul.” It featured the works of prominent medieval Armenian authors such as Nerses Shnorhali (12th century), Frik (13th century), Mkrtich Naghash (15th century), Hovhannes Tlkurantsi (16th century), and many others.
This book borrowed the decorative frames from the earlier books of Meghapart, including the 16 frames from the book “Parzatumar”, as well as several frames from the books “Aghtark” and “Pataragatetr.”
Many of its pages contain decorative letters, and the text of the book is printed in two colors – black and red – just like it was in the previous books.
The end of the book features a publishing mark, as well as a cross-shaped sign with the acronym D. I. Z. A. written on top. According to K. Basmadjyan, this acronym was formed from the words “Dei servus” – “God’s servant”, “Iakobus” – “Hakob”, “Zanni”, and “armenius” – “Armenian”.