Božidar Vuković (Serbian Cyrillic: Божидар Вуковић, Italian: Dionisio della Vecchia, Latin: Dionisius a Vetula; c. 1460 — c. 1539) was one of the first printers and editors of Serbian books in Montenegro. He founded the famous Vuković printing house in Venice. His printing house was operational in two periods. In first period 1519–21 three books were printed (Psalter, Liturgijar and Molitvenik or Zbornik). In the second period 1536–40 two books were printed (2nd edition of Molitvenik or Zbornik, and praznični Minej or Sabornik).[1]

Božidar Vuković
Божидар Вуковић
Bornafter 1460
Diedc. 1539
Resting placeMonastery of Starčeva Gorica, Lake Skadar
CitizenshipRepublic of Venice
Known forFounder of the Serbian Venetian Printing House.
Notable workSlužabnik (1517)
SpouseDella Vechia
ChildrenVićentije Vuković
Božidar Vuković's Festal Menalon, 1538, Venice.



Early life


According to his own books, Vuković was born after 1460. In his 1519/20 Psalter, Vuković had signed himself as "Božidar Vuković of the Đurići, of Podgorica" (Serbian: Божидар Вуковић од Ђурића, Подгоричанин). He was most likely born in the town of Podgorica, where he did own a house and several parcels of land in its vicinity, as recorded even after his emigration to Western Europe when he grew up - the lands he owned were probably family heritage. This seems to be confirmed by the fact that his sister remained behind in Podgorica, probably in their family property. The origin of the Đurić family he belonged to is a bit more blurry, but it is possible that they hailed from the east, the Shkodër region, where it is known that Vuković also possessed some property, as well where he had very close living cousins.

Vuković and his family were subjects of the Republic of Venice, which had established a corpus of off-shore possessions along the Adriatic coastline – along its eastern reaches, the Venetian possessions cut deeper into the territory of the Balkan peninsula, engulfing eastern portions of Montenegro and northern parts of Albania. The Serbian Despotate had lost its last possession in the region with the fall of Medun to the Ottomans; the regional cities had found salvation in the patronage of the Venetian Republic, an important Mediterranean naval factor. The expansionism of the Ottoman Empire might have been the cause of Vuković's family's decision to seek shelter in the more safe and fortified home that Podgorica offered - or the reason might have been more practical; namely the expansion of trading services - his family was later frequently practicing trade in Venice.

As the Ottomans were pushing through even the last remains of the independent Christian feudal states in the Balkans, Božidar Vuković had migrated to Venice during the late 15th or early 16th century, along with his brother Nikola. Podgorica fell into Ottoman hands in 1474, during the Ottoman-Venetian War; there are indications that Vuković might have fled the Balkans in the refugee waves fleeing from the Ottomans, in particular after the fall of the Cetinje, the seat of Zeta, in 1496 and the subsequent flight of its last ruler Đurađ Crnojević to Venice across Budva.



When Montenegro (Zeta) fell to Ottoman occupation in 1496, Vuković fled with Crnojević to Venice, where he earned his living as a merchant. He joined the Eastern Orthodox Christian community and became a member of the Scuola dei Greci, enlisting as "Bozhidar of Veche, a Serb" after paying his fee, signing himself as such on every occasion.[2] He later also became the chairman of the Brotherhood.

At the time, Venice was one of the centers of European printing, and there was a lack of Serbian liturgical books in the lands conquered by the Ottomans. Therefore, Vuković decided to use his personal earnings and open a printing press with Serbian letters in 1519 or 1520.

Vuković married a noblewoman of the Della Vecchia family, whose surname he added to his; he was known by this name in Italy. On some occasions, he used the title vojvoda ("duke", or "palladin"), given to him by Emperor Charles V in 1533. In accordance with his last wish, his body was carried back to his homeland and buried in the monastery of Starčeva Gorica in Lake Skadar. His son Vićentije Vuković inherited the press and continued doing the work that his father started. In 1597 the Serbian Venetian Printing Press passed into the hands of an Italian named Giorgio Rampazetto, who printed two important books of Stefan Paštrović – the Collection of Travelers and the earliest Serbian primer. In the 1570s Jerolim Zagurović, a native of Kotor, was active in Venice as a printer. The Vuković printing house would continue working for another century.


Oktoih (1537, in serb-slavonic) from the Venetian printing house of Božidar Vuković

The oldest printed book in Serbian-Slavonic was first issued in 1483, from the printing-press of Andreas Torresanus, de Asula (1451–1529) in Venice. A few years later the Serbian nobleman Božidar Vuković bought a printing-press in Venice and established it at Obod in Montenegro, from which he issued in 1493 the first church book—the Oktoih—printed on Serb territory. There is a copy of this book in the British Museum. Vuković's printing press operated in two phases. In the first one (1519–20), he printed Služabnik (1517) and Psaltir sa posledovanjem i časlovcem (Psalter, 1520). In the second phase (1536–40), which came after a long break, he published five more books in Serbian Cyrillic: Zbornik (1536), Molitvenik (Prayer book, 1536), Oktoih petoglasnik (1537), Minej (The Book of Months, 1538), Molitvenik trebnik (1539 or 1540). All of his editions are printed versions of liturgical works in Serbian redaction of Church Slavonic that have long been in use in the Serbian Orthodox Church. In addition to remedying the dearth of Serbian books, he also wanted to produce books which were printed in smaller letters, making them more compact and easier to carry. His editions were intricately prepared, with well-proportioned letters and fine miniatures. Vuković collaborated with other Serb refugees in Venice such as hieromonk Pahomije from Rijeka Crnojevića in Montenegro (ot Crne Gori or Reki), hierodeacon Mojsije of Budimlje (ot serbskije zemlji, otčstvom že ot mjesta naricamego Budimlja) and priests Teodosije and Genadije from the Mileševa monastery. Vuković was a ktitor of the Mileševa monastery.[3]

His venture is explained by reasons of sale, his care for his soul's sake, and of patriotism ("I saw the compiling of the printing presses of Godly scriptures in Greek, French, and other languages, and I wished eagerly to compile in printing press also our Serb and also Bulgarian ones").[4]

He distributed his books to monks via Kotor and Dubrovnik. The books influenced not only Serbian printing, but also Bulgarian, Romanian and Russian printing. In his first testament, Vuković left his printing press to the monasteries in Lake Skadar, his homeland. He later revised it and left it to his son Vićentije Vuković, who carried on the enterprise of his father, and their printing-press continued to work up to 1597, issuing several church books in the Serbian-Slavonic language. During the first half of the 16th century the Serbs had printing-presses in Belgrade, Shkodër, Bojana river, Goražde, Mileševa and elsewhere. However, printing ceased in the Serb lands under the Ottoman rule and was only resumed in the mid-18th century. Most of the printing during the Ottoman period, however, was produced in Russia, and Serb-inhabited lands of the Habsburg Monarchy, but only under special license. Books for ecclesiastical and educational use had to be imported from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Venice, Trieste, or Vienna, depending on the political circumstances of the day.



He later revised his will and left the printing house to his son Vićentije Vuković, who carried on the work. After a Kotoran nobleman by the name of Jerolim Zagurović, the printing house slowly declined, subsequently being taken over by the Venetians.

In 2012 Serbian writer Katarina Brajović published a novel about Božidar Vuković titled 'A Printer and Veronika' (Serbian: Штампар и Вероника, чудесна повест Божидара Вуковића Подгоричанина).[5]

Inventor Nikola Tesla's most prized book was the 236-page Služabnik, printed in Venice in 1517, by Božidar Vuković. This rare book is now on display in the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri.

See also





  • Aćimović, Dragoljub; Đorđević, Milivoje (1987). Štamparstvo u Užičkom kraju, 1537-1987: povodom 450 godina Rujanske štamparije (in Serbian). Dimitrije Tucović.
  • Brajović, Katarina (2012). Uljarević, Radomir (ed.). Штампар и Вероника, чудесна повест Божидара Вуковића Подгоричанина [A Printer and Veronika] (in Serbian). Štampar Makarije Oktoih.
  • Ćirković, Sima (2004). The Serbs. Malden: Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 9781405142915.
  • Pantić, Miroslav (1990). "XVI vek: Doba humanizma i renesanse". Književnost na tlu Crne Gori i Boke Kotorske od XVI do XVIII veka (in Serbian). Rastko.
  • Tadić, Jorjo (1963). "Testamenti Božidara Vukovića, srpskog štampara XVI veka". Zbornik Filozofskog fakulteta (in Serbian). VII (1). Belgrade: 337–369.
  • Vujović, Dimitrije-Dimo (1982). Prilozi izučavanju crnogorskog nacionalnog pitanja (in Serbian). Nikšić: Univerzitetska riječ.
  • Matica srpska (1991). Recherches sur l'art (in Serbian). Matica srpska.
  • Prednjegoševsko doba (in Serbian). Podgorica. 1963.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)

Further reading

  • Pavle Ivić; Mitar Pešikan (1995). "Serbian Printing". The History of Serbian Culture. Project Rastko.