The first Polish Bible print was issued in 1561 by Cracow’s “Dziedziców” Publishing House under the title of The Leopolita Bible.
Basically, it was a translation of the Latin Vulgate, based also on Czech language translations, and, to a minor extent, on the Greek New Testament. The author and editor of the translation was Priest Jan Nicz of Lemberg (called Leopolita, meaning “Inhabitant of Lemberg”), lecturer of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. He had to use the nickname due to the fear of the Church Authorities that did not allow publishing the Bible in national languages at that time. The translation is also known as the Szarffenberg’s Bible (as it was commissioned by Marek Szaffenberg and his son, Stanisław). A hand-written copy of the New Testament translation based on this Bible edition had been popular earlier (from 1556). The Leopolita Bible was not a very accurate translation and its language was considered as out-of-date already in the 16th century. The Bible was dedicated to the King Zygmunt II August and contained 284 woodcuts presenting various Bible-related scenes. An interesting fact is that the Catholic Bible of Leopolita included a series of illustrations coming from the Luther Bible, issued in 1534 in Wittenberg. The copy of the Leopolita Bible kept at Cieszyn’s Historical Library from 1561 comes from the collection of the People’s Reading Library.
In 1563, translation of the Bible was completed by the Protestants, more specifically – Calvinists. The edition was financed by the Prince Mikołaj Krzysztof Radziwiłł “Czarny” and it is called the Brest Bible (after the name of the printing location), Pińczowska Bible (after the place of translation) and Radziwiłł’s Bible after the name of the founder. The Main Historical Library includes two copies of this Bible (one of them is incomplete); both of them were transferred from the People’s Reading Library. The Brest Bible soon became a rarity, as the son of Mikołaj Radziwiłł, who was referred to as Radziwiłł the Orphan and was converted by the Jesuits, bought almost all of its copies and burnt them in the market of Vilnius. The Brest Bible was distinguishable for its excellent philological management and its typographic side was an absolute novelty in Poland in fact. Translations from original languages were made by the outstanding theologians designated by the Synod of Pinczów in 1559: Orsatius, Rector of the School of Pinczów, Piotr Statorius from Thionville and Jan Thenaudus from Bourges in France, as well as a few other scholars. They applied a new, for that time, method of Bible translation based on the idea to provide the same meaning of the translated text instead or literary translation of individual expressions and words of the original. Numbered verses were used in sections for the first time.
This Bible was dedicated to Zygmunt August as well. The text was printed with large Gothic types, and smaller fonts were used for the notes and explanations located on sides and bottom of pages. The entire book was 255 x 401 mm and included fine woodcuts on the title page and in the Old Testament section. Circulation of the Brest Bible included approx. 300 copies.