Dalmatin Bible

The first complete Slovenian bible

The 16th century was a momentous period in the history of Slovenian people, as it was for all European nations. Till this time Latin was the language of the educated, and all the writing including religious writing was in that language. The reformation, which was set in motion by Martin Luther and his questioning of certain church practices, is most significant period in history of European peoples, since its main emphasis was to bring religion directly to the people. This meant that books of religion had to be written in the language spoken by the people. Reformation proved to be a watershed in the history of Slovenian people.

The first cornerstone for the Slovenian literary language was laid by Primož Trubar (1508-1586), revered as the father of Slovenian written language. Priest and disciple of Martin Luther and the most influential personality of the reformation in Slovenia, Trubar wrote the first books in Slovenian language. Trubar was well aware of the importance of his translations and writings and of the first step he was taking.

"Since the creation of this world, nothing of this kind ever did happen. Never before has the Slovenian language been written let alone printed."

In 1550 he published Cathechismus and the Slovenian language learning manual Abecedarium, the first two books written in Slovenian language. This act of publication may be seen as symbolic of the times and of Trubar’s self-imposed mission towards a spiritual awakening in which independence of thinking, national identity and education were combined to bring about an intellectual revolution. By 1582 Trubar had produced an impressive volume of writings in Slovenian language and had completed the translation of the complete New Testament. The translation of these texts into Slovenian was a significant achievement. It provided the foundation for Slovenian written language for the following 200 years.

A complete edition of Holy Scriptures, known as In the first instance, the pioneering work of Primož Trubar provided the language norms for written Slovenian, which served as the basis for the life’s work of Jurij DalmatinDalmatinova Biblija. It was published in 1584 – fifty years after Martin Luther’s complete German edition. It was regarded as one of the most beautifully illustrated editions of the Bible with 222 woodcuts copied from the work of Lucas Cranach. 1500 copies were printed, fifty copies on special paper, at enormous cost. Each copy cost 4 goldinar and 30 krajcer, the price of a pair of oxen. Many copies have survived. There are 23 locations in Slovenia today, where 36 copies are kept. 42 copies are in museums and libraries in Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, UK, Finland, Croatia, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Czech Republic and USA.

Dalmatin completed the monumental task of translating the whole Bible into Slovenian in 1584. In his German foreword to the Bible, Dalmatin acknowledged his debt to Trubar and indicated pride in Slovenian language, which he saw in the context of the great Slavic family of nations.

Dalmatin’s Bible is an extraordinary feat. It accomplishes the task of dealing with spiritual, religious and literary concepts of a great range and variety in a language which had no precedents except for the pioneering foundations laid by Trubar. In its time it represented a solid protestant theology. At the same time it embodied Slovenian literary norms which stood unchallenged for the next two hundred years. In this sense it is seen by many as one of the greatest books in the Slovenian language, an all-encompassing work, which for two centuries provided for the spiritual, religious and language needs of Slovenian people and at the same time offered a wide range of narrative and poetic forms, which led to the development of Slovenian literature.

Dalmatin's Bible established  Slovenian as a mature literary language and served as a model for further translations  and original writings for the next 200 years. About  80 original copies have been preserved  all over the world. Seven copies are held by the National and University Library of Ljubljana (NUK).


Glavan, Mihael and Bratuš, Lucijan, Dalmatinova Biblija in Slovenci, Tisk in tipografija v Dalmatinovi Bibliji, Ljubljana, 1994
Kos, Janko, Pregled slovenskega slovstva, Ljubljana, 1980
NUK, Biblije na slovenskem, Ljubljana, 1996
Rupel, Mirko, Slovenski protestantski pisci, Ljubljana, 1966