Language
Fact-checked

At LanguageHumanities, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.

Learn more...

What is Oktoih?

Oktoih is a revered liturgical book in Eastern Orthodox Christianity, containing chants and hymns for eight tones of the liturgical week. It's a spiritual treasure, guiding the faithful through a rich tapestry of sacred music. Its historical and cultural significance is profound, resonating with believers for centuries. How does Oktoih continue to influence modern worship practices? Join the conversation and share your thoughts.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Oktoih is the Slavic version of the English Book of Psalms. Oktoih was the first book that was printed in the Slavic Cyrillic language. It was originally printed as an incunabula in 1494. An incunabula is a very rare kind of printed material that was printed before 1501. The volume was printed in present-day Montenegro. At the time, however, the area was known as Zeta.

It is known that five books of Oktoih were printed by an educated ruler in Montenegro. The name of the printer was Durad IV Crnojevic' in the Printing House of Crnojevic'i. The book was printed in five volumes from the years 1490 to 1496. Currently, the Serbian Orthodox Church museum is home to the only two known remaining books of Oktoih. These two volumes of Oktoih were printed in 1493 and 1494.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

The two surviving volumes are Oktoih Provoglasnik and Oktoih Petoglasnik. These titles mean “Oktoih, the first voice” and “Oktoih, the fifth voice” respectively. The book of the first voice was printed on January 17, 1494. A total of 108 copies of this book still exist tody. This book contains a total of 538 pages. The book of the second voice was printed in the same year. Only fragments of this second book still exist. The longest complete fragment is 37 pages long.

One of the most incredibly things about Oktoih is how expertly crafted they were. Although they are of the oldest printed matter, they are full of incredibly beautiful design, some of which incorporates two colors. Many historians have noted the incredible quality of the books’ craftsmanship and design. Like many ancient texts, these documents have been scrutinized by many academics for specific information about the time in which they were developed and created. It is the survival of documents like the first and fifth voices of this hymn that we know about the printing capabilities in Montenegro during those years.

Although only five books are known to have been printed, it is understood that Oktoih was a book of religious hymns which were intended for eight singers, or eight “voices.” These hymns were intended for religious serviced in the Orthodox church. Although the original printed matter no longer exists, the content of them was not lost. It was transcribed many times over and widely distributed in other formats and languages. In fact, the content of Oktoih is still used in ecclesiastical cycles in Orthodox services today.

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for LanguageHumanities, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

Learn more...
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for LanguageHumanities, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

Learn more...

You might also Like

Discuss this Article

Post your comments
Login:
Forgot password?
Register:
    • Woman standing behind a stack of books
      Woman standing behind a stack of books