The use of woodblock printing started in China during the T’ang Dynasty. This type of printing was done by carving an image out of a wooden block, covering the block with ink and then pressing it down on a surface to create a reproduction. The Diamond Sutra was printed like this in 868 and is regarded as the first known, full-length book. This was all done by hand and people had to become apprentices and learn the skill over time. Interestingly enough, the apprentices did not have to be literate.
However, Johannes Gutenberg and his invention of the printing press, that was in operation from 1450, was the person who made printing affordable and available. He used basically the same techniques but created a structure that would hold all the etched blocks and rollers to apply an oil-based ink over the blocks automatically. This reduced the cost and sped up the process and for the first time printed material started becoming available to the general population.
Printing presses were soon being installed all over Europe including Cetinje, the then capital of Montenegro. The Crnojević printing house was operational between 1493 and 1496 and is considered to be the first state press in the world.
Đurađ Crnojević, an academic that was acquainted with astronomy, geometry and science was instrumental in applying this printing press to print religious texts. Đurađ was the Lord of Zeta during 1490 and 1496 and his family, the Crnojević family, ruled Zeta from 1431 to 1498. The Zeta territory consisted of Montenegro and parts of Albania.
This press was operated by Serbian Orthodox monks and some of the Orthodox religious texts that were printed then are still available today. The Cetinje Octoechos (religious hymnals) consisted of the “The Octoechos of the First Tone” and was the first illustrated book printed in the Cyrillic script and was completed on the 4th of January 1494. It was a high quality print using black and red ink. According to Wikipedia there are still 108 copies of this book in existence today. The second volume was called the Octoechos of the Fifth Tone. There are only fragments of this volume that remain today but it was especially famous for its detailed illustrations. Both these volumes consisted of hymns that could be sung.
Two of the other books that are known from the time is a Psalter, which is a book containing extracts from the Psalms of the Bible. According to Wikipedia there are 36 copies or parts of copies still available.
This tradition in printing was continued by the Njegoš Printing House, which was in operation from 1833 until 1839. There was also a state printing house that was founded in 1858 and that was renamed the Obod Printing House in 1952.
Centinje printing houses are a major contributor to the cultural history of Montenegro with over 3 000 books printed. Magazines and newspapers have also been popular. “The Montenegrin” newspaper was printed in 1871 followed by more than 60 newspapers and 30 magazines. In 1914 there were six daily newspapers in Centinje, which equated to about 1 daily newspaper for every 1 000 occupants. Today Montenegro still has a large variety of publications in print including 3 daily newspapers.
You can also read “Top 11 Historical Sites In Montenegro”