Adrian Virginius

Adrian Virginius (30./20. XI 1663 – 08. VII / 27. VI 1706) was a Baltic German clergyman, translator and linguist. He edited and published Wastne Testament (‘The New Testament’, 1686), written in the South Estonian dialect, which is the first complete Estonian language print of the New Testament and also the first book that is completely in Estonian.

Virginius’ grandfather Adrian Virginius senior was born in Pomerania (nowadays in West Poland), worked as a pastor at the St John’s congregation in Tartu and at Nõo, and also taught at the University of Tartu. Virginius’ father Andreas Virginius was born in Estonia and served as a pastor in Kambja for 41 years. Adrian Virginius junior was homeschooled but also studied at Tartu county school, Riga Lyceum and Tallinn Gymnasium. His theology studies at the University of Kiel remained unfinished as his father sent for him after Adrian had sustained an arm injury at a duel. Johann Fischer, the superintendent-general of Livonia, had Virginius begin translating church literature along with other South Estonian pastors, including Adrian’s father Andreas. From 1686-1694, Adrian worked as a pastor in Puhja and in 1964, he relocated to Otepää to continue working as a pastor. In 1702, after the Great Northern War had broken out, he sent his family to safety in Tartu but stayed in Otepää with the local farmers to organize a resistance to Russian plundering raids. After Tartu was taken by Russian forces in 1704, Virginius was arrested for spying because he had not notified the authorities of some private letters he had sent. It is likely that the true cause for arrest was organizing the resistance in Otepää. Many people spoke out in his defense – Tartu city authorities, Otepää farmers and estate owners – but he was still beheaded in front of Tartu city gates (currently, on the riverside part of the town hall square of Tartu) in 1706.

Adrian Virginius’ work as a translator and editor came at a very turbulent time in terms of the development of the Estonian language. At the time, there were two schools of thought on the Estonian written language. The first consisted of Tallinn based clergy of the consistory of Estonia, who favored the German way of writing Estonian language that was described in Heinrich Stahl’s grammar (1637). The second school included the consistory of Livonia, led by Johann Fischer, who supported the younger language innovators such as B. G. Forselius, according to whom the writing should follow the oral language. Virginius was also a follower of the latter school. The sometimes heated disagreements of the two schools have been referred to as the “Spelling War”. Ultimately, Forselius’ orthography won and was in use until the mid-19th century, when it was replaced by the “new writing” based on Finnish orthography.

Adrian’s father Andreas was considered a good speaker of Estonian. Both men could speak both North and South Estonian which was uncommon among pastors of the time. The main translator of the South Estonian ‘New Testament’ was most likely Andreas Virginius, but the final editor was Adrian. The Testament still uses a mix of H. Stahl’s and Forselius’ writing, yet in later publications, Virginius is consistent in using only the Forselius’ variant. The father and son also compiled the four part church handbook Tarto-Ma Kele Kässi Ramat (‘The Handbook in the Tartu Language’, 1690-1691), written in South Estonian. It also included Adrian’s description titled Jerusalemmi-Lina hirmsast Ärrähäetämissest (‘Of the Awful Destruction of Jerusalem’), which is considered to be the first secular work of prose in Estonian. It is an adaptation of ‘The Jewish War’ by Josephus. Adrian’s adaptation in turn probably inspired the famous lament Oh! ma vaene Tardo-liin (‘Ah Me! Poor Tartu Town!’) by Käsu Hans, written at the beginning of the 18th century.

Adrian Virginius’ most important contribution to the development of the North Estonian dialect is the four part church handbook Ma Kele Koddo ning Kirgo Ramat (‘The Domestic and Church Book in Estonian’, 1964-95) compiled by him, Reiner Brocmann, J. D. von Berthold, M. de Moulin and J. Hornung. After the clergy in Tallinn protested, its use was forbidden by the Swedish king. It was published again in 1700. From 1687-1690, the Virginiuses were also translating the Old Testament into North Estonian, but due to the Tallinn clergy’s resistance, the work was left unfinished after the Book of Job. The first complete North Estonian language Bible, supervised by Anton Thor Helle, was published much later in in 1739.

S. V. (Translated by A. S.)

Books in Estonian

Meije Issanda Jesusse Kristusse Wastne Testament, Echk Jummala Pöhä Sönna, Kumb Perräst ISSANDA JESUSSE KRISTUSSE Sündmist pöhist Ewangelistist nink Apostlist om ülleskirjotetu. Cum Gratia et Privilegio S[acrae] R[egiae] M[ajestetis] Sueciae. Riga: 1686, 483 lk. [Kättesaadav: 2. trükk: 1727.]
Esimene Moosese raamat; Iiobi raamat. Tõlkinud 1687-1690 Andreas ja Adrian Virginius. Koostanud Kristiina Ross; ümber kirjutanud Johanna Ross. Tallinn: Eesti Keele Sihtasutus, 2003, 445 lk.

Önsa Lutri Laste Oppus, Lühhidelt Pühhä Kirja perrä ärräselletetu, nink Küssimisse nink Kostmisse kombel kokkosäetu, Jummalalle Auwusz, nink temmä Tarto-Ma Koggodusse Tullusz. Rian: 1684, 112 lk. [Järgnevad trükid: 1694, 1700, 1724, 1741, 1755.]
Wastne Tarto Mah Keele Laulo Rahmat, Kum[m]an egga suhre, kah töiste Puha- n. muh Saisusse Laulo, sahwa löitus, kumma ennemuste sest önsast Luterussest, n. muist pöhist Mehist omma tettu n. ülleskirjotetu, nühd monnest Tartomah Kerk Issandist Sönna ütte sündmisse kombel kokkosäetu n. üttewihdu, Jummala Auwusz n. temma Koggodusse Tullusz. Rijan: 1685, 244 lk.
Tarto-Ma Kele Kässi Ramat Kumma sisse I. Kik Ewangeliumma- nink Epistli-Lu, kumbe eggäl Aig-Pühhäl Suril- nink muil Pühhil, kumma Ajastan tullewa, loetas nink selletetäs; II. Issanda JEsusse Kristusse Kannatamisse- nink Koolmisse Luggu; III. Meije Issanda JEsusse Kristusse Üllestösseminne nink Taiwa-Minneminne, neljä Ewangeliste Kirjotamisse perrä; IV. Jummala Pühhä Waimo Tullemisse Luggu, kuitao sesamma näggewäl kombel eesmätsel Wastse Testamendi Suwwiste-Pühhä-Apostlide päle om lähhätet; V. Jerusalemmi Lina hirmolline Ärrähäetus. VI. Tarto-Ma Kele Sönna üttesundmisse kombel kokko kirjotetu Laulu-Ramat; VII. Palwusse Ramat. VIII. Önsa Lutri kristlikko Oppusse Pätükki Katekismus, ehk Laste Oppus; üttekokko omma pantu nink ilmotetu. Jummalalle Auwusz nink Tarto-Ma Koggodusselle Tullusz. Riga: [1690-]1691, [18]+264+[12]+238+[22]+88+[68] lk. [Kättesaadav: Järgnevad trükid: 1698, 1732, 1743, 1756-1757.]
Ma Kele Koddo ning Kirgo Ramat, Kumma sisse. I. Keik Ewangeliumme ja Epistli Loud; II. Issanda JEsusse Kristusse Kannataminne- ning Surm. III. JEsusse Kristusse Üllestousminne ning Taewaminneminne. IV. Jummala Pühha Waimo näggew Tulleminne Apostlide päle. V. Jerusalemma Linna Ärrahäwwitaminne. VI. Ma-Kele Uus Laulo-Ramat. VII. Ma-Kele palwe Ramat. VIII. Önsa Lutri Katekismus, ehk Laste Öppetus, ühte ommad kirjotetud. Jummala Auuks, ja temma Koggodusse Öppetusseks. Riga: 1694-1695, [18]+284+[8]+208+[8]+96+[8]+84 lk. [Kättesaadav:]