Vatican Croatian Prayer Book
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Written between 1380 and 1400 in Dubrovnik as a transcript and transliteration from older texts composed in a mixture of Church Slavonic and čakavian idioms and written down in Glagolitic and Bosnian Cyrillic scripts, it retained a few phonological and morphological features found in the original manuscripts. The book contains the following parts: Offices of the Virgin Mary according to the rites of the Roman Church; seven penitentiary psalms; Offices of the Holy Cross; Offices for the dead; Offices of the Holy Spirit as well as numerous prayers. The script is the Roman Gothic, embroidered with luxuriantly outlined initials and miniatures. The name of the prayer book reflects the fact that it is held in the Vatican library. The text has become widely known from 1859, when influential Croatian historian Franjo Rački drew attention to it, but the first critical edition did not appear until the 20th century: Croatian literary historian and philologist Franjo Fancev published «Vatican Croatian prayer book» in 1934.
The book's central importance lies in the fact that it is the first major štokavian vernacular text. Although proto-štokavian and mixed Church Slavonic-štokavian manuscripts are known to have appeared a century or two before the «Vatican Croatian prayer book», this is the first text in what can be termed a vernacular-lingua vulgaris. Analyses of the manuscript have shown that recorded morphological and phonological features are transient forms in the development of the shtokavian dialect, while its syntax is pretty much archaic- especially when compared to the idiom of later prayer books (the Croatian prayer book from 1450s, also from Dubrovnik and held in the library of Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Zagreb), or the syntax of Držić's dramas (early 16th century).