Zaharije Orfelin

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Zaharije Orfelin
Zaharije Orfelin.jpg
Born 1726
Vukovar, Austrian Monarchy
Died 19 January 1785
Novi Sad, Austrian Monarchy
Occupation Poet, writer, historian
Literary movement Baroque

Zaharije Orfelin (Serbian Cyrillic: Захаријa Орфелин; 1726 – 19 January 1785) was a Serbian polymath who lived and worked in the Austrian Monarchy and Venice. Described as a Renaissance man, he was an educator, theologist, administrator, poet, engraver, lexicographer, herbalist, historian, translator, editor, publisher, polemicist, polyglot, a prominent oenologist, and traveler.


In 1757 Orfelin became the secretary to Metropolitan Pavle Nenadović in Sremski Karlovci, the Serbian political and spiritual centre at the time. Metropolitan Pavle wanted to establish Karlovci as an independent educational centre and evade Imperial Austrian control over censorship. In collaboration with Zaharije Orfelin, he founded the "Copper Publishing House", where the first modern Orthodox literary works and a considerable number of prints were made. Soon Orfelin began publishing poems, translating books, and creating etchings and engravings, inspired by the work of his contemporaries. To fulfill his ambition to print more books, he moved to Venice where he founded and edited the first Serbian review, Slaveno-Serbski Magazin (1768). Poem Plač Serbii [The Lament of Serbia] and biography of Peter I of Russia Istorija o žitija i slavnih djelah velikago gosudarja i imperatora Petra Pervago are considered his most notable works. His Slaveno-Serbski Magazin paved the way to the Slavonic-Serbian language. He was the first to publish in the 18th century texts pertaining to Serbian social and cultural history when other European nations had yet to entertain the subjects. During this period Orfelin first began to write The Big Serbian Herbalium, in which he detailed the sanative effects of 500 species of herbs. And, in the Experienced Winemaker he listed several hundreds of recipes for preparation of herbal wines and other potions. Orfelin was fluent in Russian, Latin, German, and French.

Saint Lazar, Serbian Great Prince, a copperplate by Orfelin (1773).

The Lament of Serbia is regarded as the most notable among his poetic works of that period. He first published it anonymously in Venice in 1761. In this ode he fiercely pilloried the establishment of the Austrian Empire and the Roman Catholic Church, while also emphasizing the difficult position and unjust treatment of the Serbs under the Imperial protection. Even though the poem bore no signature, the authorship was soon discovered. It is believed that this was a reason for his hurried exit from Karlovci the following year.

After leaving Metropolitan Pavle, Orfelin moved to Timisoara, the capital of the Eparchy of Banat, where he secured employment as the chancellor of the Serbian Bishop of Banat, Vikentije Jovanović Vidak. In the years he spent in Timisoara he produced The Apostolic Milk, a catechism dedicated to his infant son in 1763.

In 1764, Orfelin came to Dimitrios Theodosios's publishing house in Venice, where he spent the next six years before moving back to Karlovci. Theodosios, who began to print Serbian books in Venice in 1758, needed Orfelin to edit and proofread the abundant material being brought to him. Theodosios remained the only outlet for Serbian literature and printed books in Russo-Slavonic until the emergence of Kurtbek's publishing house in Vienna in 1770. Orfelin's editorial work gave a special impetus to the success of this Slavic publishing house. In a span of a few years many important books – "Catechisis" by Peter Mohyla and another "Catechisis" by Jovan Rajić, "Srbljak" (a compedium of old Serbian writings) and "Short Stories" by Feofan Prokopovich – were published there. Many of the books published were either translated or edited by Orfelin himself. He also published his own, original works, including "A Melody for the Spring" and "A Historical Poem" in 1765, "Latin Alphabet" in 1767, and "Latin Grammar" and "Slavic Alphabet" in 1768. A large number of the books printed in Theodosios's shop in Venice were purposefully mislabelled as printed in either Moscow or Sankt Petersburg publishing houses. The reasoning behind it was that Serbs under the Austrian rule had more faith in books published in Russia than in the West. While still in Venice, Orfelin also printed one of the most important copper engravings, St. George with the Image of the Monastery of Sendjuradj (1767), and the first one that he signed as a member of the Imperial Engraving Academy founded by Austrian Jacob Schmutzer.


Orfelin was one of the most notable representatives of the Serbian Baroque literature (although he worked in the first half of the 18th century, as Baroque trends in Serbian literature emerged in the late 17th century); yet his writings bear certain ideas of European Enlightenment and Rationalism. Through the whole of the 18th century, Serbian literature was mostly under the sway of Russia, or rather of the Russian Orthodox Church. As the Russo-Slavonic language was not readily understood by the Serbian reading public, its form used by the Serbs came under the influence of their living dialect and began soon to approach nearer to Serbian than to Russian. This artificial literary jargon was called Slaveno-Serbski, Slavo-Serbian. (In the 19th century it was eventually superseded by the modern Serbian language owing to the efforts and reforms of Vuk Karadžić). Of the Serbian authors who followed the Russian models it is worth to mention Zaharije Orfelin, Gligorije Trlajić (1766–1811), and Pavle Solarić (1781–1821).

In Serbian eighteenth-century literature Orfelin's authorship of "The Life of Peter the Great" was recorded for the first time in 1786, by Jovan Muškatirović. The illustrations of Peter's Life had been announced by Orfelin in 1772, but he began to produce them in 1774, and the whole enterprise was not completed until 1779, when the authorship of the book had been indubitably established. All this, however, was forgotten and Dimitrije Ruvarac discovered again in 1887, on the basis of the signed illustrated copies of the "Life of Peter the Great", that Orfelin was the author of the Russian emperor's biography. This nineteenth-century discovery was accepted by both Serbs and Russians.

In 1776 Orfelin's name appears in a lexicon of Austrian artists, Des Gelehte Osterisch by de Luca, where he is listed as both an engraver and a writer, elected as an academician in the newly established Academy of Engraving in Vienna. He is the main character of a novel "Drugo Telo" by Milorad Pavić.


The illustration Creation of the World and the title page of the book Вѣчный калєндарь (Eternal Calendar) by Orfelin, 1783.
  • Pesan novosadelanuje za gradjanku gospodicnu Femku, between 1748 and 1757[1]
  • Pozdrav Mojseju Putniku, Novi Sad, 1757.
  • Hulitelj, Sremski Karlovci, 1759.
  • Kratkoje o sedmih tajinstvah nastavlenije, 1760.
  • Gorestni plač slavnija inogda Serbiji, Venice, 1761
  • Trenodija, Venice, 1762
  • Plač Serbii, jejaže sini v različnija gosudarstva rasjejali sja, Venice, 1762
  • Oda na vospominanije vtorago Hristova prišestvija, 1763.
  • Apostolskoje mleko, Timișoara, 1763.
  • Istina o Boze , Novi Sad, 1764.
  • Hristoljubivih dus stihoslovije, Novi Sad, 1764.
  • Sjetovanije naučenogo mladago čelovjeka, 1764.
  • Strasno jevandljelje, Venice, 1764.
  • Pjesn istoriceskaja, Venice 1765.
  • Melodija k proleću, Novi Sad, 1765.
  • Slavenosrpski kalendar za godionu 1766., Novi Sad, 1765.
  • Latinski bukvar, Venice, 1766.
  • Pervija načatki latinskogo jazika, 1767.
  • Pervoje ucenije hotjastim ucitisja knig pismeni slavenskimi nazivaemo Bukvar, Venice, 1767.
  • Latinska gramatika, Venice, 1768.
  • Slaveno-serbski magazin, Venice, 1768.
  • Istorija o žitija i slavnih djelah velikago gosudarja i imperatora Petra Pervago, Venice, 1772
  • Generalnaja karta vserosijkoj Imperiji, 1774.[2]
  • Položenije provuncij: Liflandije, Finlandije, Karelije, Ingrije, i Kurlandije, 1774.
  • Karta georaf. Germanije, Holandije, Danije, Poljane, 1774.
  • Karta Male Tatarije, 1774.
  • Bukvar za srpsku decu slovenski, Venice, 1776.
  • Propisi srpski, Sremski Karlovci, 1776.
  • Slavenska i vlaska Kaligrafija, Sremski Karlovci, 1778.[3]
  • Večni kalendar, Vienna, 1783.
  • Iskusni podrumar, Budapest, 1808.
  • Sedam stepenej premudrosti

Edited or translated[edit]

  • Srpska gramatika, 1755.
  • Kratkoje nastavlenije, Sremski Karlovci, 1757.
  • Ortodoksosomologija ili pravoslavnoje ispovjedanije, Sremski Karlovci, edited 1758.
  • Kratko nastavljenije, Sremski Karlovci, 1758.
  • Oda na vospominanije vtoraga Hristova prisestvija, Vienna, 1759.
  • Molitvoslav, Venice, 1762.
  • Psaltir, Venice, 1762.
  • Trebnik, Venice, 1762.
  • Propoved ili slovo o osuzdeniji, Venice, 1764.
  • Evangelija ctomaja vo sjatij i velikij cetveretok, Venice, 1764.
  • Catechisis by Peter Mohyla
  • Catechisis by Jovan Rajić
  • Srbljak (a compedium of old Serbian writings)
  • Short Stories by Feofan Prokopovich


Further reading[edit]

  • Borivoj Čalić. "Zaharije Orfelin" (in Serbian).
  • Jelena Todorović (2006). "The Artist and the Honorand". An orthodox festival book in the Habsburg Empire: Zaharija Orfelin's Festive greeting to Mojsej Putnik (1757). Ashgate Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7546-5611-1.
  • "Орфелин-Стефановић Захарије" (in Serbian). Мала енциклопедија Просвета [Little Encyclopedia Prosveta]. Belgrade: Prosveta. 1978. p. 737.
  • Milorad Pavić (20 May 2001). "Захарија Стефановић Орфелин" (in Serbian). Историја српске књижевности – Барок. Project Rastko.
  • Jovan Skerlić, Istorija Nove Srpske Književnosti / History of New Serbian Literature (Belgrade, 1914, 1921), pages 60–66.
  • Milan Đ. Milićević, "Pomenik znamenitih ljudio u srpskoga naroda novijega doba", Belgrade, 1888.
  • Jovan Živanović, "Zaharije Orfelin", Brankovo Kolo, Sremski Karlovci 1895.
  • M. Kolarić, "Zaharije Orfelin", Zbornik Matice srpske, 2, Novi Sad 1951.
  • Dejan Medaković, "Bakrorezac Zaharije Orfelin", NIN od 8. II 1953.
  • Dinko Davidov, "Srpski bakroresci XVIII stoleća", Zagreb 1962.
  • Dinko Davidov, "Barokni bakrorezi – grafičar Zaharija Orfelin", Dnevnik, Novi Sad, 11. mart 1962.
  • Tihmir Ostojić, "Zaharije Orfelin", Beograd 1923.
  • M. Kostić, "Srpski bakrorezi XVIII veka", Letopis Matice srpske, Novi Sad 1925.
  • Veljko Petrović i Milan Kašanin, Srpska umetnost u Vojvodini, Novi Sad 1927.

External links[edit]