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Imprinting Identities

Illustrated Latin-Language Histories of St. Stephen’s Kingdom (1488–1700)

Karolina Mroziewicz

The book demonstrates how illustrated printed books played an active role in identity-building processes in the Hungarian Kingdom. It shows the influence of Latin-language histories of Hungary in the areas of imagery of the Hungarian political community, visual representations of Hungarian patron saints, rulers, nobility and aristocracy. These books were and still are influential carriers of messages about the shared past. They were used as an important means of communication and as objects through which models of self- and collective identifications were imprinted. Their long afterlives, due to numerous editions, translations, adaptations and transpositions into other media, gradually unified the historical imagery, thus forming a key component for the identifications of the books’ recipients.
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7. Final Conclusions

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The main objective of this work was to demonstrate the active role of the illustrated books on history in the identity-building processes between 1488 and 1700. This work discussed the ways in which illustrated volumes participated in reinforcing individual and collective identifications among the community of their recipients and showed that the visual and literary content of the books exerted a long-lasting impact on generations of readers and viewers. More specifically, the work analysed the Hungarian case in order to show that in a cultural environment in which a richly illustrated book was a rarity, it represented an exceptionally influential means of visual and literary communication by which the main power-holders attempted to conjure a national sentiment among the upper strata of their polity. This process, which, to use the words of Anthony Smith, can be called a ‘pre-modern “preparation” for the development of nationhood,’657 required operating on historical imagery and modifying the prevailing visual and literary narratives. Therefore, to show on the one hand the general mechanisms behind these processes and on the other to explore more particular features which differentiate the Hungarian case, an examination of the relationship between the stories told in the texts and images was conducted along with an exploration of the prevailing themes which these narratives brought to the fore.

The printed medium gave the Latin-language histories broad publicity and successfully ‘imprinted’ the visual and literary narratives in the collective imagination. It disseminated accounts concerning shared and individual past...

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